§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £168,374, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1913, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board." [Note.—£115,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I beg to move to reduce Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) by £100 in respect of the salary of the President of the Local Government Board.
I move this reduction with the object of calling attention to the administration of the Housing Act. I think there is nothing of greater importance in the view of the nation than the character of the homes in which the working classes dwell. At the same time there is a very general feeling abroad that very little is being done, that a great deal more might be done, and that a great deal more ought to be done. The present state of the law is not satisfactory, and its administration is not satisfactory either. I wish particularly to ascertain from the Government, if I possibly can, what is their real intention and policy with regard to housing. We have had the most conflicting views expressed by different Members of the Government. We know that the President of the Local Government Board thinks everything is all right. He has told us that no more legislation is wanted, and he is quite convinced the present administration of the Acts is perfect. Only the other day, at the dinner of the Association of Municipal Corporations he used these words:—Not another Act of Parliament was needed. They had sufficient powers to carry out such a housing reform within the next two or three years as would remove the disgrace that was in some cases upon the ratepayers, and in some cases upon the local authorities.The President of the Local Government Board evidently does not think that anything needs to be done. When we turn to the Chancellor of the Exchequer we find an entirely different state of affairs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is constantly holding up to the country the great and 138 urgent need of housing reform. He is constantly telling us or hinting of some great housing measure which is to figure in the programme of the Government in the immediate future. On 13th May he said:—We must clear out the slums, whether in city or in village, or mining urban district. We cannot tolerate the slums any longer.Again, only last week, speaking on Welsh Disestablishment, which does not appear to have very much to do with the question, at Swansea, he told his audience that a great part of the industrial population was condemned to livein miserable dens, the crevices of which are seething with disease and death.I must say that when I read those words I was rather reminded of "hands dripping with the fat of sacrilege," as it seems they are very much the same kind of turgid eloquence. What I want to know is this: If a great part of the population are living in "miserable dens, the crevices of which are seething with disease and death," what a frightful condemnation that is on the present administration of the Local Government Board. What are they trying to do to get rid of those miserable dens. Are the Housing Acts sufficient? If they are sufficient and yet this state of affairs prevails, the administration of them must be very bad indeed. Therefore I want to ask the President of the Local Government Board to what extent he agrees with his most important colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is right, how is it that he has so administered the Housing Acts, and he himself says no more Acts are necessary, or failed to administer them, that this state of affairs prevails to which I have drawn attention. We all know there are various phases of the housing problem. There is the rural difficulty, and there is the urban difficulty. I desire to say one or two words about the rural housing problem, though I beg to assure the right hon. Gentleman that I do not confine my observations solely to rural housing. We all know the facts, and the Local Government Board is cognisant of them. The facts are these. That in a great part of England it is quite impossible to obtain decent sanitary cottages. It is absolutely true that young couples cannot marry and settle in their own village because the houses are not there for them to settle in. It is absolutely true that in many villages there are large numbers of insanitary dwellings which might 139 be cleared away, and might be closed and demolished under the Act passed by the right hon. Gentleman, but that cannot be done for the reason that if those houses are demolished there are no others for the people to live in. The result is that we keep people living under those insanitary conditions because it is impossible to get other houses for them to live in. I was staying only a little while ago in a small town in Herefordshire, the centre of a large agricultural district, and I happened to be dining with the local doctor, and. as is my wont, I asked about the housing conditions. He said, "They are very bad, as bad as bad can be. We have got a very large number of insanitary dwellings." I said, "Why do you not close them. Why do you not make use of the powers given by the Housing and Town Planning Act." He said, "We cannot, for if we did we should drive the people into the streets and the fields." There is the rural housing difficulty.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what is the Local Government Board doing. Are they taking steps to meet this difficulty? If so, those steps are not very-apparent up to the present. The difficulty is there, and I want to know if there is any intelligent guidance of housing policy as regards country districts to deal with the difficulty? I must say the facts we have found up to the present are not very satisfactory. There are those figures published in the White Paper, to which reference has been made before in the House, as to the number of closing orders issued under the Housing and Town Planning Act, and the number of new cottages that have been erected by the local authorities also. Since that Act was passed the figures are, in rural districts, 1,344 closing orders have been issued and 116 cottages built. If you are going to issue closing orders at that rate and only build 116 cottages to 1,344 houses closed the result can only be to accentuate the rural housing scandal in the future. I know the right hon. Gentleman has contested the point. He has said that those closing orders were not made effective. What I want to know is what really did happen. Were the houses closed? He says a large number were patched up, but were they closed pro tern, and the people turned out, because if the people were turned out and there was no other accommodation for them the only result could have been a great accentuation of that overcrowding which is doing 140 so much harm, both in the towns and in the villages. Then take the figures that have been quoted before of the amount advanced in the way of loans for building purposes under Part III. of the Act of 1890, as subsequently amended by the Act of 1909, and what do we find? We find incontestable evidence of this, that whereas far too little was always done, a great deal more was done under the administration of the last Unionist Government than has been done under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman. The figures are perfectly clear. In the five years after the year 1900 about £240,000 per year was being advanced under Part III. for building purposes. For the first five years after 1906, when the present Government came into power, only £100,000 per year on the average was being advanced for the same purposes, and in the year 1910–11 the total amount of loans sanctioned for rural districts, amounted to the paltry sum of £250. It seems to me that there is a complete policy of drift as regards rural housing on the part of the Local Government Board. There is no direction, and there is no attempt really to deal with the problem, and yet that is not in accordance with the views, not only of Members on this side, but also of Members on the other side. I fully recognise that they are quite as anxious to press on the housing problem in many cases as we are. I will give one quotation, not from a Tory organ, but from the "Daily News" of 14th March of this year, as follows:—The improvement in rural housing can not wait. The cost we pay in discomfort, debility, disease and depopulation, is incalculable. Nor is the question one that concerns particular parishes or districts alone. It concerns the Nation, and the Nation must take it in hand.It is because I want the Nation to take it in hand a little more vigorously and because I want a little more intelligent direction on the part of the central authority that I am asking leave to draw the attention of the House to this question at the present time. There is another aspect of the question. A great deal has been said in the papers about the town-planning portion of the Act of 1909. I do not suppose there was ever am Act better advertised in the Press or more boomed than the Housing and Town Planning Act, and yet the amount which has been done in the way of town planning under he provisions of that Act—I do not know whether it is the fault of the Local Government Board or whose fault it is—is extraordinarily small. Up to the present time, 141 although the Act has been in operation nearly two and a-half years, not a single town-planning scheme has been sanctioned. On the Easter adjournment the President of the Local Government Board contested that statement; he said that I was perfectly wrong, and that he had sanctioned fourteen. Having looked up the facts, I find that I was right and the right hon. Gentleman wrong. He has not sanctioned fourteen schemes; he has only sanctioned the preparation of fourteen, which is quite another matter. Even if he had actually confirmed fourteen schemes, what a ridiculously small result that would be of the Act of 1909, when you consider the very large number of local authorities there are all over the country under this Act, which was to give us a new heaven and a new earth and new town-planning schemes for the whole country. The whole fact seems to be that the Local Government Board have taken no trouble whatever to push this Act. Let me give an example. Under Section 55 the Local Government Board are to issue general provisions as to the nature of town-planning schemes, which provisions are to be inserted in the plans brought forward by local authorities. As far as I can ascertain, up to the present moment the Local Government Board have not issued any general provisions at all. Why have they not done so? Why have they been so negligent of their duty? The only explanation I can give is that here again, as in the case of rural housing, there is no intelligent policy at the Local Government Board. It is the same policy of drift, and nothing is done to carry out even the Act passed by the right hon. Gentleman himself.
Let me turn to the urban problem. After all, it is in the big towns, especially London, that we have these terrible slums of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has spoken, and which I agree we must stamp out. It is quite true that a good deal has been done by slum clearance schemes by the London County Council, Liverpool, and other enlightened authorities in the past. But a tremendous lot still remains to be done. What is the Local Government Board doing in the way even of stimulating the local authorities to carry out their duties under the Act of 1890? I am fully aware that a big slum clearance scheme is a very expensive operation, and for my part I would never advocate a big clearance scheme unless it 142 was absolutely necessary. I would very much sooner proceed by such methods as are employed in Birmingham, of making use of Part II. of the Act of 1890, abolishing a house here and a house there, letting in fresh air, and thereby clearing the smaller slums which abound in so many towns. But I cannot see that the Local Government Board have been really assisting or directing the local authorities in any way to deal with the slums. My own experience in connection with a big clearance scheme in London is that they inter-posed every possible delay, and the clearance of the slum would have begun very much sooner had it not been for the action of the Local Government Board.
I wish to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to one specific problem. Nothing does more harm, especially in the towns, than overcrowding. It is computed that about 200,000 deaths in this country are every year attributable solely to overcrowding. Overcrowding in the villages may be due to the fact that there are no other houses for the people to live in; but that is not the cause of overcrowding in the towns. The right hon. Gentleman, who knows London better perhaps than any other Member of the House, knows that this happens in London. You constantly get terrible overcrowding in places where there is any amount of vacant accommodation close by. I could point to streets in Bermondsey and Southwark where there is horrible overcrowding, and where at the same time there is a large amount of vacant accommodation close by. All that is necessary to put an end to one of the greatest of our national evils is to enforce the law against overcrowding. It may be asked how it is that this extraordinary state of affairs prevails, that you have overcrowding and also vacant accommodation. The answer is quite simple. Overcrowding, although it does a great amount of harm to the nation, presents an immediate advantage both to the owner of the property and to the occupier. The owner gets more in the way of rent, and the occupier pays less for his accommodation, because so many other people live in the same house. One of the greatest difficulties in London is that the authority that ought to deal with overcrowding is not the London County Council, but the borough council. There are twenty-eight borough councils in London, with varying views on overcrowding, some with no views at all, and the result is that nothing or very little is 143 done. The laws against overcrowding are not carried out.
There is a point where the Local Government Board, if intelligently directed on the housing side, could do a vast amount of good. The first thing they ought to do is to set up a standard as to what constitutes overcrowding. There is no standard at present. We talk about overcrowding, but nobody knows exactly what overcrowding means. It is not difficult to arrive at a standard. We have a standard on the London County Council. In the council's dwellings no overcrowding is allowed. We allow two adult persons to each room. Children between five and ten years of age are counted as half-persons, and children under five are not counted at all. It is a very low standard. It simply means that in the case of adults, not more than six persons are allowed to live in a three-roomed house. If only the Local Government Board would set up a standard of that sort and compel the various local authorities to live up to it, they would take a long step towards removing one of the greatest national evils of the present day. In matters of this sort it seems to me, notwithstanding the optimism of the right hon. Gentleman, there is practically no intelligent direction, but merely a policy of drift, on the part of the Local Government Board. Let me give another example of a very serious matter. Look at the development of outer London. It is a most terrific problem. You have got growing up all around the county of London an immense population, and the county of London before long will be left in the centre, just as the county of London railed round the City originally. You have these vast areas, stretching from Croydon in the South to Tottenham in the North, stretching out in every direction, all being rapidly peopled with an immense population, chiefly industrial. Surely there ought to be some attempt to co-ordinate the local authorities, and to get a regular system of town planning whereby these outer districts can be filled up properly! They are filling up very rapidly.
By the last Census we are shown one of the most remarkable examples that I know of this tendency of population. For the first time, I believe, since censuses were instituted in this country there has been an actual diminution in the population in the county of London. In the outside part of London there has been an enormous increase. How are these districts being 144 built upon and filled up? There is no central authority. There are endless local authorities. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that in what may be called the county of London and outer London there are no less than 158 separate local authorities which are housing authorities. There is, of course, the City of London; there is the London County Council. There are twenty-eight Metropolitan borough councils, sixty-eight urban district councils, or urban districts, including big corporations like Croydon, and there are sixty rural districts. This makes 158 authorities altogether, all with different by-laws, all with different building regulations, none of them having any real idea of co-operation with the others in order to see that main roads are made, houses properly distributed, and districts planned upon scientific bases! Go into some of these districts now, and you can see that immense mistakes have been made. If these are allowed to continue, they will perpetuate and reproduce many of the worst housing evils of central London. I ventured some time ago to put to the right hon. Gentleman a question as to whether he was prepared to recommend the formation of some central board, or similar authority, representing all these different districts with a view to getting some system in the way of building in this outer London. The right hon. Gentleman practically said "No."
It is the same with this as it is with overcrowding, as it is with rural housing, and with everything else. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds. I have great respect, personally, for the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not want to be unduly severe upon him in my criticism, but I tell him that not only on this side of the House, but on the other side, there is the greatest dissatisfaction at the absolute want of housing policy on the part of the Local Government Board. We all feel that something more is needed than what we have got. We all feel that some special expert department is needed. It is quite true that in a Bill which I brought in I proposed the formation of a special expert department. I do not care whether such special expert department is to be called a Housing Committee or a Housing Board, or what; but I do emphatically say that we want a real expert department with an intelligent policy, a policy which does not merely wait to see what local authorities are going to do, but that goes 145 about the country seeing what ought to be done and making suggestions to the local authorities. Because the right hon. Gentleman has persistently refused even to consider the formation of such a department, and because I feel there is very general dissatisfaction with the present administration, or want of it, in connection with the Housing Acts, I move the reduction of which I have given notice.
§ Mr. HILLS
I rise to support the Amendment for the reduction of the Vote. Though I agree with all that my hon. Friend has said, I wish to support the reduction for somewhat different reasons. I want to say a few words on the administration of the Poor Law. I feel a great deal of diffidence in approaching this subject again. I have spoken rather often in the House on it, but we who want a reform in the Poor Law feel that nothing is being done, and therefore year after year we feel obliged to criticise the right hon. Gentleman with the view of trying to get what we consider a more enlightened administration of the Poor Law. A discussion took place in March last, and we had then what I may call the usual speech from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. He assured us that in all departments of the Poor Law he was extremely active, and he gave the impression—certainly to my mind—that all was well, and that no changes were needed. I want to ask him certain plain and specific questions. One point came up for discussion in March, and that was the question of vagrants. In answer to a question put on 15th April by my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh Boroughs, the right hon. Gentleman stated that an Order had been made transferring the casual wards in the Metropolis to the Metropolitan Asylums Board, that it had come into force on 1st April, that before that a register was kept of homeless persons, and that he did not propose to issue a further Order on the subject of vagrants and casual wards. I want to know what the policy of the right hon. Gentleman is in regard to the able-bodied poor. He has transferred the casual wards to the control of the Metropolitan Asylums Boards. That may be all right, but all that that means is that a certain administrative change has taken place, though it must be the prelude to some new policy in regard to the able-bodied poor, for, after all, the starting of a register is not the "be-all" and the "end all" of reform.
146 4.0 P.M.
The right hon. Gentleman must require the register for some purpose. I hope he will tell us when he replies with what object he has started this register, and what is the idea he has in his mind as to dealing with this large class of persons. He has told us often in this House that he himself is opposed to the institution of labour colonies. He said last March that he felt a doubt as to the advisability of asking for further money for labour colonies. I do not deny that there are evils in labour colonies—still, we must do something, and if labour colonies are ruled out, what is the alternative? Last March the right hon. Gentleman spoke somewhat vaguely as to curative and preventive methods. We feel that the time has come when we should like to know what those methods are. The scheme in the Minority Report proposed to deal with the unemployed question under three main headings. Of these three headings, two are now in force. The first division was the establishment of the Exchanges. That has been done. The second was the establishment of insurance against unemployment, and that will soon be in operation, and the third division is the establishment of training colonies, day training centres, and in the last resort detention colonies. It is difficult to see how you can deal with the unemployment problem without establishments of this sort. Surely, after you have worked and classified your unemployed, you find a certain residuum and all you can do in the future is to prevent the manufacture of the same class. You also find a large number of people who have fallen out of industry, and whom you can reinstate in industry. They cannot get back themselves, and for them you must establish some form of training centres or training college. I think on all these points we are entitled to some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman.
The next point dealt with was the question of the feeble-minded, and in answer to a question of my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh Burghs, on the 15th April, the right hon. Gentleman said that the number of feeble-minded in workhouses on the 1st January, 1906, was 8,000 odd people and he did not propose to issue a fresh Return. My question is where are these 8,000 feeble-minded? Are they in the general wards of the workhouses; and how many of them? It is common knowledge that in a large number of the smaller workhouses in the country the feeble 147 minded are mixed with the sane paupers. Here, again, we have no figures. The Report of the Local Government Board does not show the allocation of these 8,000 people, and in fact we have no figures later than those which are six years old showing the total number. Again, in this respect I ask for information. I am afraid we shall find when we get these figures that there has been a very large increase in the number of the feeble-minded. I see the number of pauper lunatics in five years has increased from 111,000 to nearly 121,000, showing an enormous increase of 10,000 people in five years, a far larger proportion of increase when compared with the increase in population. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his decision and will cause a Return to be made, for I believe we shall find the number is now much greater than in 1906, and, therefore, I would point out now that the Home Secretary has introduced his Bill it is very important we should know the number of paupers that will come under the purview of that Bill.
I am told that in the case of certain unions, and especially in the case of the nine unions in the county of Wiltshire, a scheme for the amalgamation of all these unions for the purposes of segregation of the feeble-minded has been provided, and that the Local Government Board have issued their Order. I believe they do that under certain statutory powers, but I wish to call attention to the difficulty of these matters. I quite approve of the step, and I think it is a step in the right direction, but the Committee must bear in mind the Local Government Board cannot move until the unions themselves combine and, moreover, it cannot compel a minority of unions in the same district to come in and form part of the scheme, and, further, it cannot compel the scheme to be permanent. Supposing that after a few years one Union or more wants to break away from the amalgamation, the Local Government Board have no power to compel them to remain. While I welcome the scheme I think it shows the inherent difficulty of the system under which we work. First you have to wait until the local authorities move, then you have to get a large number of unions into line, and if all are not very progressive bodies, yet until they move, the Local Government Board cannot make an Order, and even after the Order is made it is not permanent. You will find great reluctance 148 on the part of unions to move and incur expenditure when they know they cannot compel several unions to remain in the amalgamation. Therefore it is no answer to say that the Government Bill will meet all these difficulties. In the first place, the Government Bill is not yet law; and, in the second place, many good judges think its money provisions are inadequate, and when you say that 7s. a week is the Government allowance for the support of a feeble-minded person, you are specifying a sum which is totally insufficient and that will make it almost insuperably difficult for the local authorities to work the Bill.
I come now to the last point to which I want to call attention, and that is the presence of children in mixed workhouses. We are very glad to have the White Paper circulated this morning by the right hon. Gentlemen, though some of us would rather it had been circulated sooner. Still we do not complain of that. Looking at this White Paper, we find that in the last six years, that is from 1906 to 1st January last, the number of healthy children of school age in mixed wards of workhouses and not in infirmaries has been reduced from 11,072 to 8,779. That is a reduction of 2,300 children in six years. I do not want to minimise it. Still, the fact remains that nearly 9,000 healthy children of school age between three and sixteen, are still in mixed workhouses. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman. He has used all his powers of persuasion which we know he possesses. I believe he has used them to the full, but the fact remains that he cannot get the children out of the workhouses until he can compel the unions that will not board them out to fall in with his views. What is happening is that all the progressive unions are doing it and the unprogressive unions are not.
I see from the report of his inspector (Mr. Duff), for the counties of Chester, Shropshire, Stafford, and Worcester, that there are nearly 1,000 healthy children over the age of three, and in workhouses, and so in a large number of cases there are children still in the mixed workhouses. I am certain the right hon. Gentleman, if he had the power and could compel the local authorities, he would place these children in scattered homes or cottage homes or would board them out. I want him to recognise that, although he is moving, he is moving much too slowly. Two thousand children in six years is not such a very large amount, especially when 149 you leave behind 9,000 children. I should like to point out also that, from the figures that appear in the same White Paper, it will be seen that while the number of healthy children in the workhouses has been reduced by more than 2,000, the number of children in the workhouse infirmaries has increased in the same period by exactly the same figure. I do not know why that is so. I know very well the total number of pauper children is higher this year, and when compared with six years ago is higher by some 10,000 or 11,000. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to explain this very large increase in the number of children in the workhouse infirmaries. I do not in the least want to go on criticising the right hon. Gentleman year after year. We all respect his energy, but I want to make some suggestions to him of a very practical kind. I know he does not like the mention of the Minority Report, and he has said very hard things about it; but surely he must admit that the Minority Report at any rate gave us three great principles. It gave us first of all the principle of different treatment of different cases; secondly, it gave us the principle of larger areas for the administration of the Poor Law, and lastly, it gave us the principle of attempting to take people out of the Poor Law and deal with them as part of our normal population and remove what is known as the pauper taint. For these three principles, if there was nothing else in the Minority Report, it will go down to posterity. It puts in clear form, which anyone can understand, these three main principles. The Local Government Board have tried to carry out the first two—they are trying to carry out the principle of differentiation of treatment, and they are trying to enlarge the areas. I quite agree that in certain questions, like the amalgamation of unions for treating the feeble-minded, they are enlarging the areas, because they recognise the union area is too small for differentiation of treatment, but all the same they are moving much too slowly. They have taken out of the workhouses 2,300 children in six years, which is at the rate of about 400 a year. There are still 9,000 children left, and a very simple sum in division will show that in twenty or twenty-five years they will have the last child out.
I do not think the process will be so quick because the right hon. Gentleman is starting upon the most favourable ground, and he, will find when he comes to the 150 smaller unions he will meet a different question, and, although he is moving on the lines of reform, he is moving much too slowly. He twitted me for having in my speech last March charged him in one breath for not accepting the reform I advocated and in the next breath for saying that all his efforts were in the direction of that reform. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman both statements are true, because, although he does not reject reforms, yet he carries them out in a slow and halting way. What we want is to move on quicker, and get these reforms carried out with greater speed. When we come to the third principle, the removal of the pauper taint, the right hon. Gentleman does not move at all, because even if you take children from the workhouse and put them in scattered homes they are still inside the Poor Law, and though this may not seem to be a very practical question to certain people, it has got a very important bearing upon their future life. I want to see the children taken right out and given a fair start as part of the normal population. May I make a suggestion to the President? Why should he not try and go further by seeking powers to give the charge of all these children of school age to the education authority? Why should they not be the supervising authority for all children of school age? Why not give them the workhouse schools and let them say whether a child is sufficiently fed or sufficiently clothed or not, and allow the actual relief to be carried out by the smaller authorities?
The great line of attack upon the Minority Report has been that by its recommendations you break up a family. May I point out that in all reforms there must be a Poor Law authority, which must necessarily remain. In the case of the children, why should not the Poor Law authority act under the supervision and the direction of the larger authority? Give to the education authority the general control of the child's life, and let them say on what principle they wish the children to be taught and brought up, and when it comes to the actual relief in the homes of the pauper child then let the smaller local authorities who know the circumstances do the actual relieving. Until we adopt some move of that sort I do not think we shall settle the problem of the pauper children. As a last suggestion I wish to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that in the three years that have gone by since the publication of the Report of the Royal Commission a large amount of assent has 151 obtained among the different schools of Poor Law reformers. When the Report was first published we had nothing but controversies and quarrels between the different bodies of reformers, but now the ground has been largely cleared, and if the right hon. Gentleman looks below the surface he will see that nearly all reformers are practically agreed upon this question. It has now been shown that all the quarrels which raged very fiercely around this question did not mean very much, and that behind all those differences there is a large amount of assent. I believe the time is now ripe for some move, in fact, I believe that if the President of the Local Government Board would summon to a conference Lord George Hamilton, Mrs. Sidney Webb, and himself, they would find a common measure of agreement. I think the time has come when some real reform may be carried through, and I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the question is urgent. I can also assure him that there is a large consensus of opinion in favour of a solution of this question, and when it is solved the party or the Minister entrusted with the solution will find that the ground is clear in a way in which he did not suspect, and that the solution is really easier to carry through than appears at first sight.
§ Mr. ARTHUR ALLEN
I wish to express my sympathy with the last speaker in regard to his desire to get the children out of the workhouse at the earliest possible moment. I agree that the President of the Local Government Board has done a great deal in the last two years in this direction, but the fact that so many thousands of children still remain in the workhouse shows that a great deal still remains to be done. I think something ought to be done to deal with those boards of guardians which have adopted a recalcitrant attitude in regard to this question. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how many workhouses at the present time are being used as places of detention under the Children Act, and whether he can give any idea as to the number of children received in workhouses as places of detention. I think it is nothing short of a scandal that a great city like Sunderland should be still using the workhouse as a place of detention under the Children Act. That can only be done with the sanction of the President of the Local Government Board.
152 A further point I wish to raise is the administration of Part I. of the Children Act which has to do with what is known as baby farming. The inspection under that Act, almost universal throughout the country, is done by the male relieving officers, and I cannot help thinking that that is not the right way in which such inspection should be carried out. It is essentially a woman's work to go round to these different homes to inquire into the general conditions of living bedding, food, and all the rest of it, and a woman can do that far better than a man is able to do it. The Local Government Board themselves have recognised that principle because by the Order of October, 1911, they have ordained that as regards boarded-out children the inspection shall be carried out by women. If it is necessary to carry out that inspection by women in the case of children up to fourteen years of age, how much more necessary is it to carry out such inspection by women for babies under seven years of age, who are often boarded out for a lump sum and subjected to every possible kind of mischance to which childhood is liable. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to carry out the same principle which governs the Order of October, 1911, and institute women superintendents and press upon boards of guardians that they should appoint women visitors to these children who are farmed out.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
The Debate has, I fear, rather strayed away from the question of housing, and I want to allude to that subject again in order to ask one question of the President of the Local Government Board, and that is why so little action has been taken by his Department under Part I. of the Housing and Town Planning Act of 1909. I have just looked up in "Hansard" what the right hon. Gentleman said as to the provisions of Part III. of the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890, during the Second Reading Debate of the Housing and Town Planning Bill. The right hon. Gentleman laid very great stress on the amount of benefit which would be brought about by making Part III. of the principal Act no longer adoptive but compulsory on the authority. He stated that—The main and essential feature of the Bill was that Part III. of the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890, which enabled local authorities to build new houses for the working classes (which was then only adoptive) should be put in force throughout the country. That was an important, serious, and necessary provision, and he believed the practical step that housing reformers had been asking for for some years.153 How does the right hon. Gentleman justify in face of those words his persistent negligence to take any step to compel local authorities to carry out their duties under Part III.? We were told then, and we have been told continually since, that there is a great deal of slackness on the part of local authorities in taking this action, and in putting upon the rates the risk of housing schemes not proving remunerative. But if this change was an essential feature of the right hon. Gentleman's housing proposals three years ago, how is it that three years have elapsed without anything being done? The White Paper which I hold in my hand deals briefly with the question of Clause 10, and it shows absolutely that no action has yet been taken in the way of coercing local authorities in this matter. It is agreed that in rural areas there is a very great shortage in accommodation, and after the very interesting speech which we have listened to from the hon. Member who moved a reduction of this Vote, I do not think it is necessary for me to labour that point. Undoubtedly vindictive taxation and threats of further attacks on the landed interest have brought about a stagnation in building in a great many districts and on a large number of estates. Naturally, if a man feels that the burden of the land is too great and he has to put his estate in the market, he is not going to sink any more money in the erection of working-class dwellings. All this means that you have knocked out the individualist solution of this problem. The Local Government Board, however, have in their hands the means of securing proper accommodation, where it is proved to be wanting, by Clause 10 of the Housing and Town Planning Act. Why have they not taken any action? It is quite easy for them to do so. Under that Clause it is only necessary for four inhabitant householders or for any authority not responsible to make out a case to the Local Government Board that the authority responsible for housing has failed to carry out its duties. The Local Government Board then hold a public local inquiry and they are empowered to have the work carried out, if necessary, by the county council. We have been told that there have been no default Orders. Is that due to the fact that none of these complaints have yet reached the right hon. Gentleman, or is it due to a definite line of policy on his part? If a case is shown that in a certain rural district there is such a shortage of accommodation as that 154 which has been described by the Mover this afternoon, is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to put into action these default powers where it is necessary to coerce the authorities to do the work?
§ Mr. BENTHAM
With a great deal off what the hon. Member opposite has said. I am in hearty accord, but when he proceeds to lay the whole of the blame on the Local Government Board I can hardly find myself in agreement with him. My opinion is that the local authorities, and more especially the county councils, are extremely slow to move in this matter, and many of them do not desire to provide suitable accommodation, because they have an idea that some of the dwellers in the large cities near might come into the villages and so rob those villages of their rural aspect. I should like to thank the President of the Local Government Board for what he has done in the town of Gainsborough. We are extremely badly off there for houses I dare say Gainsborough is unique in one respect. Trade is always good there. I will not go into the reasons, because it would not be strictly in order on this Vote; but there are some large employers; of labour who repeatedly employ men from other places. When they have been there for a few days these men find they cannot possibly get houses, and they have to go away, although employment has been found for them. The local authority made application for a housing scheme, and, I am glad to say, the Local Government Board, with commendable celerity, sanctioned the application. It is a very small scheme and should be very much larger—indeed, the Local Government Board said they only regarded it as a tentative scheme—and I hope the local authority will go in for a still more ambitious scheme. There are one or two points; I do not understand, and which I hope the right hon. Gentleman when he replies will endeavour to explain. I represent a large agricultural constituency with nearly 100 villages, and I think I may say without fear of contradiction that in not one of those villages are the housing requirements anything like adequate, and in many of them they are a perfect disgrace to civilisation.
I want to give a little of my own personal experience, because I think it is the sort of thing which perhaps weighs not only with this Assembly, but also with others, A few months ago I took a residence in a village in the East Riding of 155 Yorkshire and acquired a lease. I desired to have two gardeners and a chauffeur. I found it almost impossible to get houses for them. The landlord in one case was good enough to put a house into something like repair—in fact, he did very well—and I was enabled to have the chauffeur. I engaged a gardener, a married man, and fortunately for me, or for him, he has no children, because, if he had any children, he could not possibly have lived in the only house that could be got in the village for him. It only had one bedroom. A door or two off an agricultural labourer and his wife have brought up a family of ten in a similar house, and then we wonder sometimes why some of the poor workers in our large agricultural constituencies are not quite so moral as we should like them to be. So far as the second gardener is concerned, it is impossible to get a house for him, and I have had to do with one. Many of the houses in the village are a perfect disgrace to civilisation and would be condemned by the medical authorities, but there are no other places to which they can go. I have in my mind a long row of houses with scarcely any sanitary convenience at all. Nobody would want to live in them, but they are always full, and, if one tenant goes out there are twenty ready to come in. The fact of the matter is the people dare not complain, because, if they did, they would be turned out, and their last state would be worse than their first.
I want to know where is the link between this village where I live and the right hon. Gentleman himself. This village is typical of hundreds and thousands up and down the country, and I want to know why it is this state of affairs does not get to the right hon. Gentleman's ears. I wish he would come down and spend a week-end with me. I would open his eyes in this village, and, if he came with me into my Constituency I could show him a hundred more villages which are neither better nor worse, and in which the housing conditions are really abominable. Why is it this state of things is not altered? It is no use the medical officers condemning the houses—not a bit. It would be inhuman if they did, because the people have nowhere else to go. Who are these people? They are the flower of our land, and they are going out in their thousands to Canada and other places every year. Next week one of the finest families you could find in the agricultural 156 districts is migrating to Canada from that very village. This is going on all over the country, and we are losing the best life-blood, because the agricultural labourer is the backbone of the country. Nobody works harder, and nobody gets less for his toil. These people get low wages, and they have to live in houses which are a perfect disgrace, not only to the Local Government Board, but to every one of us, and we want to know where is the link between these pigstyes, and the Local Government Board. I do sincerely hope brighter days are going to dawn for us. If we could only get proper and suitable houses for the people in the country the congestion in the cities would be greatly relieved, and there would be less people clamouring for work at the dock gates in our large cities.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I wish to be perfectly fair and just to the right hon. Gentleman, and to admit there is a certain amount of activity in certain parts of the country under the Housing and Town Planning Act, but there are also a great many parts of the country where the Act is simply a dead letter. There is no other part of the country where the housing conditions are worse than in the county of Norfolk. I hold in my hand an extract from the report of the County Medical Officer of Health for Norfolk, and he says:—Not every local authority had taken action during 1910 to put their powers under the new Act into force, and a few of the District Medical Officers' reports made no reference to the Act.That is an admission that in a great many parts of Norfolk they have probably never heard of the Act. There are, however, other reasons than mere negligence why this Act is a dead letter. Here is an extract from the Swaffham Rural District Medical Officer's report:—One finds that many of the houses are really unfit for habitation, and feel inclined to apply forthwith for closing Orders, but immediately the question arises. Where are the displaced tenants to find fresh houses?Again, the Thetford Rural District Medical Officer of Health reports his hesitancy to condemn houses—until better houses can be provided at rents within the means of the former inhabitants. There are no building by-laws.There are other reasons beyond this incapacity to face an almost impossible situation. I see from the "Manchester Guardian" that—A White Paper which has just been issued is a collection of Local Government Board Reports on sanitary administration in certain districts. Here is an extract from one of them. The place is Tredegar:157'Unhealthy slum areas containing houses unfit for human habitation: considerable number of cellar dwellings and back-to-back houses; some slum property owned by members of the district council.''This is an instance of bad conditions; other reports offer explanations as to why bad conditions are allowed to continue. Here are some of them:So long as you have that state of things the Act is bound to be a dead letter in the country districts. The right hon. Gentleman says he has given a great deal of advice and encouragement of all kinds to rural district councils in facing this problem, but his advice and encouragement have not influenced those districts to which I have referred. I read in the report of the Essex County Medical Officer of Health that the Billericay Rural District Council are of the opinion that they have received no assistance from the right hon. Gentleman, because they passed a resolution to say the requirements of the Local Government Board in matters of house building are such that houses erected in accordance with them could not possibly be let at a, rent within the reach of the agricultural labourer. It is only fair to admit the Billericay Rural District Council are building some houses. The medical officer says there is not a village in which cottages are not wanted. I would like to quote from the report of the County Medical Officer of Health for Essex. He says that during recent investigations statements have been made to him, which he has been able to verify, of gross immorality due to insufficient bedroom accommodation. He would not like to print them. The details would shock the most callous opponent of improvements in rural housing. Cottages should be built to let at 3s. 6d. a week. This might be done, and not until it is done can any real improvement be effected by closing the wretched old places that are at present allowed to be occupied. The right hon. Gentleman said he has got an army of experts at his beck and call, and also a special department organised to deal with housing. How is it the Local Government Board during the last twenty years, with all its army of 158 experts, has only been able to get 200 cottages built, while the Board of Agriculture in the last three years has got over 1,000 built? What use was the great army of experts at the Local Government Board in the Chertsey case? There were gross insanitary conditions at Chertsey, and an application was sent to the Local Government Board for an inquiry. I believe it cost £100 to get that inquiry. The Local Government Board, however, held an inquiry, and a great number of houses were ordered to be closed, and the rural district council, much against its will, was ordered to build twelve cottages. The people were turned out, but the rural district council have done nothing at all. They did offer a site for houses between two sewage farms, but from that day to this no cottages have been built. What is the good of this large army and this special department at the Local Government Board? What good have they been to Chertsey? I should like to say a few words now about the administration of the Poor Law. I should also like to say a word or two about the inadequate relief which is granted, as well as upon the question of children in workhouses. I am sorry to have to refer to these subjects again, but, to my mind, they represent some of the worst phases of our system. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded with pride to the reduction of the number of children in workhouses. But why should there be any children n workhouses at all? A reduction of 2,000 is not sufficient. There are, I believe, sixty or seventy children in the workhouse at Don-caster. Why should such a state of things be permitted to continue there? Then what happened in Pembroke? The Local Government Board asked why the Pembroke Guardians had taken no notice of a letter sent to them; and in reply they passed a resolution that it was not to the advantage either of the guardians or of the children that the latter should be boarded out in cottage homes. They not only merely took no notice of requirements of the Local Government Board, but they refused to appoint a committee to deal with the subject. It is not surprising to learn that the Pembroke Board of Guardians have the greatest difficulty in dealing with their children. When they place them out they run away. I believe, as a matter of fact, there is a very serious outbreak of scab disease among the children in the workhouse, and some of them have actually to be lodged in the chapel attached to the workhouse.
- "'(a) Tendency on the part of the district council to place upon the county council the onus of taking action.'
- "'(b) Failure of the council to take the advice of and support their officers '
- "'(c) Systematic inspection of districts neglected by-Medical Officer of Health, who is allowed nothing for travelling expenses. Inspector of Nuisances holds a plurality of appointments which prevents him giving adequate attention to his sanitary duties.
- "'(d) "In the performance of my duties," says an Inspector of Nuisances, "I have unfortunately come into contact with the private interests of several members of the council. I have been interfered with by individual members of the council when carrying out the details of my duties."'"
159 Next, I come to the question of the inadequacy of out-relief. I am very pleased to see in this morning's paper a speech by the right hon. Gentleman, in which he said the country was sick of charity, and the time had come when we must concentrate on the children. What I want to know is when is the right hon. Gentleman going to do that with his huge army of 180,000 children on out-relief. It is no exaggeration to say that, in the majority of unions, the children on out-relief are not properly fed, clothed, or housed; and the consequence is that they are growing up to be potential paupers. Where you are spending a shilling on a child to-day, you will have to spend a pound on the pauper of the future. There is a vast pool of unemployables and inefficients in this country, and if your children are inadequately fed and clothed under your out-relief system you will be contributing to that pool. It is of no use concentrating on the children if this system is to be allowed to continue. In Norwich a committee of investigation was appointed by the Liberal Christian League to inquire into the question of out-relief in that city, and they found, after careful investigation, that the out-relief given was totally inadequate to keep body and soul together. They took many budgets of working-class women who had out-relief for their families, and they discovered that when rent and coal had been paid for the amount of 2d. per week per head only was available for food. They, therefore, came to the conclusion that there was not the slightest chance of these children growing up to be effective citizens. I do not want to discuss the point—I should not be in order if I did so—whether it is in accordance with social justice that a woman suddenly deprived of her husband should be classed as a pauper at all. What I do want to point out is that if any of these unfortunate women of Norwich were to desert their children they would have at least 5s. per week spent upon them by the guardians, and if they happened to live in Poplar then 19s. per week would be expended on maintaining the youngsters in barrack homes.
When we raise this question of the adequacy of out-relief, the right hon. Gentleman is very fond of telling us what they are doing in Poplar. I do not want to know how much money is being spent there; but I do ask what justification there is for a system under which from 1s. 6d. 160 to 2s. per head is allowed as out-relief, while under another system the cost is 19s. per head. Why should not the right hon. Gentleman put his foot down and insist on the adoption of a system similar to that enforced by the guardians of the West Derby Union at Liverpool, where they have appointed two district visitors to go round and see, not only that the relief is adequate, but that it is properly administered? The result of that system has been an enormous improvement in the condition of the children.
§ Sir ALBERT SPICER
I also should like to say a few words on the question of the care of State children—of those under Poor Law administration. There is no disagreement on this subject between the two sides of the House, and one cannot help seeing that, in addition to bringing all the pressure we can to bear on the Local Government Board as regards this branch of the subject, both sides of the House are agreed that we can do a good deal more towards influencing various boards of guardians throughout the country and inducing the backward boards to deal with this question in an adequate manner. In the first place, I desire to say a word of congratulation to the President of the Local Government Board on his new boarding-out Order. I am sure that that Order was welcomed by all who have any experience of the boarding-out system, because it brings into line with those boarded out beyond the union those who are boarded out within it. Boarding out beyond the union was always a well-administered method, because it recognised women inspectors and provided for having women on the various administrative committees; whereas, on the other hand, boarding out within the union had in many cases become merely a bad form of out-relief. Boarded-out children are-brought under the care of women inspectors. Women form at least one-third of the boarding-out committees, and boys and girls, receiving out-relief, apart from their parents, are in future to be considered as boarded-out children, and are to be afforded the same protection. I desire, therefore, to heartily congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his new boarding-out Order.
I next desire to refer to that large group of children, numbering, according to the White Paper issued this morning, no fewer than 181,000, who are in receipt of out-relief. It is clear that there are two weaknesses with regard to the treatment of 161 these children. In many cases the relief is not adequate, and in many cases, also, the supervision is inadequate. Attention has already been called to this question, but I do urge the President to give it his further consideration. I gather from the Paper issued this morning he is taking up the question of supervision. I think it will be admitted that not only should the relief be adequate, but that means should be taken to ensure a right outlay of the relief given. There is no doubt at the present time the out-relief given in many unions is cruelly inadequate, rendering it absolutely impossible for a woman to maintain her children and to bring them up properly. There was a reference in the Press the other day of the action of the Pewsey Board of Guardians, in Wiltshire. Their practice had been to allow 4d. per child per week, and two loaves of bread. That generous 4d. has now been raised to 6d.; but the chairman of the board stated that the average amount given throughout the county was 1s. 6d. per head, and no bread. We know by experience on boards of guardians which have scattered homes that their administration under the most economical methods has proved that a sufficiency of food cannot be provided for less than 3½d. per head per child where there are ten or twelve children in the home. Sufficient food cannot be given in those scattered homes under 3½d. per head except where there are ten or twelve children. We can therefore easily realise that where a widowed mother is provided with 6d. and two loaves of bread per week per child, it means that the children must suffer from semi-starvation, bad housing, and lack of firing. If we allow that sort of thing to continue we are simply creating a new generation of the unfit and unemployable.
We have also to bear in mind that out of these 181,000 children, more than one-half are the children of widows. It is an immense advantage that these widows have been allowed to keep their homes together. Too often kind and charitable people, without thinking, when the husband is taken away, at once turn to orphan asylums and other homes, and thus scatter the children and break up the home; whereas, if these kind friends would only contribute half what it costs them to get the children into the asylums and would stand by the widow, and enable her to keep her home together, it would be infinitely better, both for her and for the children in regard to their citizenship in 162 the future. If employers would only stand by the widows of employés, who have served them faithfully perhaps for many years, it is surprising at how comparatively small a cost the widow can be enabled to keep her home and bring her children up as useful citizens. It is going a little far, perhaps, but if the President has any influence with those who will have to administer the fund for the "Titanic" widows, I trust he will use his influence in the direction of not sending these children to orphanages, but that he will try to keep the widow's home about her, so that she may train her own children.
The other point I wish to deal with is with regard to the children in the workhouses. One does not desire to complain of the reduction of 2,343, or 21 per cent., in six years, but what I confess I do not quite like about the White Paper is that it is too complacent. It says that we may hope in a decade to get the children out of the workhouses altogether. I do not know how long the President expects to remain in his present position. I expect that hon. Gentlemen on the other side do not wish him to remain there long, but I should like to see him accomplish this task during his presidency, and I am sure that if sufficient pressure were brought to bear that might be done. These figures are not quite so good as they appear on the surface. It is true that the number is down to 8,729, but we must remember there are also 9,525 children, between the ages of three and sixteen, in the infirmaries and infirmary wards. Not all workhouses have children's infirmary wards, and I say that if the workhouses have no infirmary wards the children are in the wrong place, because it is not suitable or fit for them to be in infirmary wards where there are no children's apartments. We know there are a number of infirmaries with special children's apartments. While we are thankful for small mercies we want much greater and more rapid progress. Some hon. Members have already mentioned some of the backward boards. A year ago I mentioned several of them, and those backward boards I mentioned last year are now in exactly the same position to-day. They have practically flouted the Orders of the Local Government Board. For instance, there is Hartlepool, which still retains about 160 children in the workhouse, and which recently again declined to put forward any proposal for their removal. I understand that their defence is 163 that the Poor Law is in such a chaotic state that it is not worth their while at the present time to expend the ratepayers' money. There is Kidderminster, which has some seventy-two children in the workhouse; Bury, in Lancashire, with eighty, and Ashton-under-Lyne with over 100. They were practically the figures of a year ago, so that the whole influence of the Local Government Board during the year has been practically nil. There is this point also to be considered, that for another year these children have been subject to the workhouse environment and influences. It was only to-day I heard why it was that scattered homes were first started. They were first started in Sheffield. The reason was that the sister of the chairman of the guardians, who had been a visitor, came to him one day and said, "I have heard such foul language from the children between three and five, that unless you get rid of the children from the workhouse I will not remain a visitor any longer." One is thankful to know that the great majority of the inspectors are now unanimously desirous of carrying out our wishes and the president's wishes with regard to getting rid of the children from the workhouses. I do therefore ask the President in addition to what he has done to consider these matters, first, in connection with the 181,000 out-relief children, to see that they have adequate maintenance and women's supervision, and secondly, to see that some steps shall be taken by which all the children shall be removed from the workhouses within a comparatively short time.
§ Mr. ASTOR
I am glad to have this opportunity of being able to criticise the right hon. Gentleman for not having done more to improve the administration of the Poor Law and the system of Poor Law which we have in this country at the present day. The system has been condemned by numerous authorities in the past, and much that has been condemned still remains as bad as it was a few years ago. The right hon. Gentleman has two replies. The one is, "Leave it to me and give me more power." I propose to show later that when it has been left to him, as in the case of the feeble-minded, he has not done the best. His other reply is, "Wait and see. Various Acts have been passed—the Old Age Pensions Act, the Labour Exchanges Act, and the Insurance 164 Act, and each one of these will diminish: the problem I have to deal with." He claims, and rightly, that each of these measures carries out certain recommendations of the Poor Law Commission, and that therefore the proportion of the evils and of the problems he has to deal with himself will diminish. But are we to wait until every Government Department and every Cabinet Minister except himself has brought forward a measure before he himself goes ahead? I can quite understand any other Cabinet Minister bringing forward with justice the plea that as regards the Poor Law we must wait and see what the effect of the Insurance Act is before we can deal with it on a large scale. After all, the Insurance Act deals with health. We know that bad health causes pauperism. The public health of this country belongs, and has belonged in the past, practically entirely to the Local Government Board, which is the right hon. Gentleman's Department. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman obviously must have been concerned in the framing of the Insurance Act. Any other right hon. Gentleman in this House might take the line that the effect of the Insurance Act is unknown, and that we must see exactly how it deals with the various problems before us, but the right hon. Gentleman has had to deal with the public health, and he obviously must have collaborated with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in framing the Insurance Act. During those hours and days and weeks, when they worked hand in hand and with their heads together, framing the Insurance Act, all that time the right hon. Gentleman ought to have had before him the effect which the Insurance Act would have upon public health and the Poor Law system. Therefore he has no right to say that we must wait and see what the effect of this Act is before, he proposes to deal with these problems on a bigger scale.
I want this afternoon to deal with a, large section of the people who come within the jurisdiction of the Poor Law authorities. I want to deal more especially with the feeble-minded. I think it is the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission which says that one-sixth of the pauperism is due to feeble-mindedness. The Committee is probably aware of the fact that all destitute, feeble-minded persons, except special classes, such as lunatics or prisoners, come within the jurisdiction of some Poor Law authority. I was very much struck, when reading again the 165 other day the Report of the Royal Commission on the Feeble-minded, by the fact, stated in the Report sent in by one investigating inspector, that, taking four typical urban areas, 12 per cent. of the people in Poor Law institutions were feeble-minded, and that, taking four typical rural areas, 18 per cent. of the people in Poor Law institutions were also feeble-minded, that is to say, that the problem of the feebleminded in the past has been essentially a problem with which the right hon. Gentleman ought to have dealt. He will probably reply by saying, "There is a Bill now before the House to deal with the feeble-minded." But does the right hon. Gentleman anticipate that that Bill is going to pass? It may, or it may not. Taking into consideration the already over-crowded programme of the Government, I think it is exceedingly unlikely that this House will have time for the adequate discussion of that measure, but whether it passes this year, next year, or the year after, I want to deal with the administration of the feeble-minded this year, and for the past few years, by the right hon. Gentleman. We have now a system which has been condemned by all the experts who have looked into it, both by the Poor Law Commission and by the Royal Commission on the Feeble-minded. It is a system by which the feeble-minded are mixed up in Poor Law institutions with those of sane mind. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will probably have made a study of this question in a general way. They know that the system which has been condemned is a system which causes the sick, of sound and unsound mind, to be placed in adjoining beds in an infirmary; it causes unfortunate women who, owing to mental deficiency, have sunk into the lowest ranks of the immoral, to go into the same maternity wards as other women; it causes young persons of feeble mind especially to be mixed up with those of sane mind, without that adequate instruction and specialised supervision which they are entitled to, and which they ought to have. It is a system which more especially causes adults of all ages, males and females, of sound mind and unsound mind, to be housed in the same building, in the same institutions, which are unsuitable and improper and where they are insufficiently cared for.
I could quote at length extracts from Local Government Board inspectors or from guardians who are conversant with all the facts, and who have studied the 166 problem, and with their knowledge they absolutely condemn the system which has existed in the past under which those of sound and unsound mind have been housed together. It is hard on the deserving paupers, and it is bad for those of feeble mind. What has the right hon. Gentleman done to deal with this question? Has he given a lead to the local authorities? Local authorities have not fully recognised the fact that the feeble-minded require special treatment, and require to be dealt with in special institutions. Has the right hon. Gentleman given them that lead which he ought to have done? Has he made them recognise the importance and the magnitude of the problem, and that it was for them to deal with it in the right way? The right hon. Gentleman has merely waited for some other right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench to bring forward a Bill to deal with this question. He has not done anything yet to improve the classification of the feeble-minded and those of unsound mind who are now in the infirmaries and other institutions throughout the country. At the present moment he has no up-to-date information as to the number of the feeble-minded persons in Poor Law institutions. The only figures he can produce as to the number of persons of unsound mind now in Poor Law institutions are the figures which were obtained by the Royal Commission on the Feeble-minded some six years ago. He himself and his Department have not done anything that I know of to get figures up to date. They cannot tell us at present the number of feeble-minded persons in these institutions. If he had had this classification, and if he had had these figures, at all events it would have been of the greatest assistance at the present moment when we are proposing to deal with this question. Not only that, he is apparently so satisfied with our present system, which has been condemned by everyone else, that I notice in the Bill recently introduced there was a special provision saying that any feeble-minded persons in Poor Law institutions were to remain in those institutions unless permission was given by the right hon. Gentleman for their removal; that is to say, apparently he wishes to perpetuate the system which has been condemned in the past. I noticed some few weeks ago when some of my hon. Friends brought forward a measure to deal with housing, that the right hon. Gentleman jeered at them for being blue-blooded fledglings.
§ Mr. ASTOR
That was the general tenour of his criticism. In any case I would rather, in dealing with questions of Poor Law reform, social reform, or any other reform, have to deal with fledglings anxious to get on, than with anyone who is hopelessly mixed up with red tape. I wish to bring before the House a case of red tape which I dare say can be repeated by many other Members on both sides. Last autumn there was an old man in Plymouth who was recommended for an old age pension of 4s. There was some doubt as to whether it should be given him, and it was referred, on 2nd December, to the right hon. Gentleman. Hon. Members opposite have, no doubt on numerous occasions and on numerous platforms throughout the country, explained the mental anguish of the aged and deserving poor in the past. They have probably taken great credit, and very rightly too, to themselves for having relieved that anxiety and therefore they, at all events, will be able fully to appreciate the anxiety and the mental anguish of this old man, aged 72, while he was waiting to know whether he was to be given his old age pension or not. The matter was referred to the right hon. Gentleman. December passed, January passed, February passed, and the old man was still waiting to know whether he was going to receive the pension or not. In March it was brought to my notice, and during March and April and May a certain amount of correspondence passed between the right hon. Gentleman and myself and between himself and his local inspectors, and the result was that at the end of May the right hon. Gentleman decided that this old man was to receive a pension of 3s. I want to put before hon. Members not the fact of the gift of a pension lower than was originally recommended, but the fact that it took him six months to make up his mind whether this unfortunate person was to receive a pension or not. No wonder that when it takes the Local Government Board six months' deliberation, as well as external pressure, to make up their minds as to whether they are going to give one person a pension, when it comes to a question of national importance they are not able to come to any decision whatsoever.
§ Sir GEORGE TOULMIN
I wish to make some remarks with regard to the continued reception of children in workhouses, but I do not wish to be quite so severe upon the right hon. Gentleman as the hon. Member (Mr. Astor). I do not think really this House would accuse the right hon. Gentleman of being tied up in red tape. So far as our experience has gone of him he has been either cutting or untying the red tape, which has been tied in knots in a thousand different places during some generations past. I daresay the House generally would desire that he should do it more rapidly, but, on the whole, during his six years' term of office he has made many notable achievements. All the same, I should like it to be speeded up. I have not heard anyone in this House defend the retention of children in the workhouses. It is not defended anywhere except amongst some unenlightened boards of guardians. Then why does it take so long to get all the children out? I cannot help thinking the right hon. Gentleman would find that public opinion would support him in fixing a time limit within which guardians ought to be compelled to make arrangements for all children being outside workhouses. There is, however, a certain class of boards of guardians who decline to move until they are compelled to do so, and on whom inspectors' criticism and recommendations and Local Government Board circulars have no effect whatever. Two years ago the President issued a circular to boards of guardians on the treatment of Poor Law children. He said:—In every union in which children of school age are still maintained in the workhouse the guardians should take prompt measures to remove them from the work-house and provide for them in some more suitable manner.I do not know what some of these guardians consider to be promptness, but many of them are in exactly the same position as they were when, they received that circular. The York Board of Guardians repeatedly refused to remove their children. The President, who was not tied up with red tape, threatened a dissolution of the union, and to-day the York children are provided for in scattered homes, which is an example of what can be done by persistent pressure. I should like very warmly to acknowledge the valuable work of the Local Government Board inspectors. They are carrying out what is in the main an enlightened policy, and they have to do it by tact and persuasion 169 against prejudice, ignorance, and frequently miserly parsimony. We have now arrived at the point of showing up the backward boards, many of them in the less populous districts. I am not quite sure that the President is going to prove to be of sufficient weight for the apathy in some of these rural districts. He must beware how he trenches on the prejudices of Little Pedlington. If not, Little Pedlington will continue to defy him. I should like to know whether his attention has been called to the state of the children in the Huntingdon Workhouse. One of his inspectors there has spoken pretty strongly. From his statement and from that of a lady guardian, we find that there are ten infants under three years in one small room, which is very hot and stuffy, and in the evening the mothers of those children, seven of them, sleep in that room as well. They are not taken out except for an airing. There is overcrowding in the girls' night-room, and in three cases two girls sleep in beds which are only three feet wide, and there is no room for a single additional bed in the room. The inspector spoke very strongly there. He drew attention also to the fact that there were not cots for the children, and that five of them sleep with their mothers, and he said he could take no responsibility for that; it was extremely unsatisfactory, and he must report it to the Local Government Board, and if there was any catastrophe—that is, if the child were killed by being overlain, I suppose—it would be a responsibility on the board of guardians, and it would be a very serious one. There is no oversight there of these infants except by a very busy matron with a pauper inmate under her. However, the chairman feels that he is able to be really contemptuous of this criticism, and endeavoured to laugh the right hon. Gentleman out of his reforming zeal. He says:—With regard to various Local Government Board circulars, all he could say was that they were drawn up by clever men in silk hats who knew no more about rural unions than the desk before him.Another member says:—I hope we shall not hear any more about this until more pressure is put on….I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not fail to reward the gentleman with the more pressure.The Local Government Board had got their back against them, and they must put their back up against the Local Government Board.There will be a trial of strength to see which has the stronger back. Amongst 170 other unions which decline to move unless they are compelled, there is apparently Weymouth, where another inspector finds his requests flouted. At Totnes another inspector finds his suggestions met with adjournment after adjournment. There are forty children there, and they are overcrowded. At Dover there are 139 children, and they say, "Wait and see what the Government are going to do in regard to moving the children out of the workhouse." At Gainsborough there are seventy-two children more than there have been in the workhouse for twenty years. A committee is appointed, but still the matter is hung up. At Swaffham a resolution to remove the children was defeated. A member said he was willing to wait until the Local Government Board compelled them to remove the children. At Colchester another indignant member considers the action of the Local Government Board iniquitous, and practically asks the President to apply the policy which he outlined in regard to York. This shows the state of mind of some boards of guardians, but such words and such conduct find no defender in this House, and I think, on behalf of both sides, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he would do well if he would continue to apply the pressure which he has applied in many cases. Another small point to which I should like to draw his attention is a proposal for a children's camp between Lytham and Blackpool by the Swinton guardians. I hope the Local Government Board will not put any obstacles in the way of that being set up. There is one point which I notice. Among the reasons given for establishing that camp is one that a considerable number of the children are suffering from ophthalmia. Surely it should not be left until 550 of the children have gone to the seaside camp before dealing with that state of affairs, and if it is true that a large number of the children are suffering from ophthalmia surely that ought to be seen to at once, and special measures ought to be taken. In regard to this matter of ophthalmia I will draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the case of the children from the Strand school at Edmonton. Six of these were transferred to another school, but were sent back from the other school because of ophthalmia. It will be worth his while to examine what appears to me to be a rather white-washing Report which the Board got which suggests that the children are in far from a satisfactory condition.
171 With regard to feeble-minded children in workhouses, so far as I can ascertain, the Government's Mental Defect Bill does not in the least degree remove from the care of the guardians defective children, and there appears to be a danger of their being immured with all classes and ages of mentally defective persons in district workhouses set apart for this purpose. There are proposals that in an area where there are several workhouses one house should be set apart for receiving all classes of mental cases. I am rather fearful that children should be sent there, and that might prove to be a very sad thing for some of them. Children who are feeble-minded and not imbeciles should be dealt with in separate homes, and very largely be under the care of some skilled person. Their development is frequently merely very backward. It is very difficult to decide when the child is young whether it is really feeble-minded or is simply an extremely backward child which has suffered very much from bad feeding and ill treatment. It would be a terrible disaster, something which no one could contemplate unmoved, if one recoverable child were sent to be permanently immured all its life amongst those who are really of the idiot or imbecile class. I hope that with regard to this matter great care will be taken to secure separate individual treatment for every feeble-minded child, and that they will not be gathered together in one great mass where recovery which might be possible becomes almost an impossibility.
§ Mr. PETO
The subject to which I want to call the attention of the Committee is somewhat removed from those which have been already referred to. This is now the third or fourth time that the case of the vaccination officers has been brought to the notice of the President of the Local Board. Last year I raised the question, and this year I want to concentrate the attention of the Committee on what is the real case of the vaccination officers. I wish also to call attention to what has been done, not only during this year, but in the years preceding, to meet the acknowledged grievances which I believe are known to every Member of the Committee, and of which, in a large measure, the President of the Local Government Board has knowledge. In answer to nearly all the questions I have put to the right hon. Gentleman on this subject he has stated that gratuities have been sanctioned in certain cases. The vaccination 172 officers' case is that what they are asking for, and what I say they have a right to demand, is not a gratuity, more or less adequate—it is generally very much less than adequate to meet the loss of actual income they have sustained—but the deferred pay which they are entitled to, the pay which they thought they would receive when appointed to their various offices, and which has been taken from them by the act of this House. They want a readjustment of their fees by General Order, and to be paid the amount of the diminution of their fees, less any gratuities they may have received up to the present time. The President of the Local Government Board told the Committee last year that in 321 cases some gratuities had been paid. In a great many other cases—the vast majority of cases—no gratuity at all has been paid. Speaking on 3rd August last year, the President of the Local Government Board, in answer to my contention, which was then the same as it is now, said:—Any general principle altering forms of compensation, would hare to apply to those who have not had their remuneration reduced, as well as to those who have, and to those between where the amount is small either way. The matter could not be dealt with as the hon. Gentleman suggests.What I ask on behalf of the vaccination officers is, why it is impossible that one general principle should be laid down of paying an officer the same fee for recording certificates of exemption as for recording certificates of successful vaccination? That appears to me a simple proposition. It is also in accordance with precedent. When the Act of 1898 was passed making exemption possible for the first time, it was recognised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin), who was then President of the Local Government Board, that this required an Order on behalf of the Board, and required also the introduction of the new principle that the payment of fees for successful vaccination alone would not meet the case. It was then laid down that a smaller fee—a fee of one-third of the amount payable in respect of the registration of a successful vaccination—should be paid on the registration of each birth, whether the child was to be vaccinated or not. There you have a principle. Then there was a General Order. But the principle underlying the Act of 1898 was to make exemption as difficult as possible. It was then no duty of the vaccination officer to call the attention of the parents to the fact that they could claim exemption. Now, I say, the position of the vaccination 173 officer is entirely changed. He is not asked or expected to be in any sense an advocate of vaccination or of exemption He ought to keep an entirely impartial position, and he does so. He is obliged to occupy an impartial position and to have nothing to do with the question whether the parents desire the child to be vaccinated or not. I have it on the best possible authority from a large number of vaccination officers that exemptions occupy more of their time, and give them more trouble than cases of successful vaccination.
Every officer has had his remuneration reduced to a greater or lesser extent. I do not agree with the President of the Local Government Board that there is any "between" in the matter. I want to point out to the Committee that this was contemplated and all foreseen when the Act of 1907 was before this House and in another place. The hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) intended to move an Amendment which would have met the very thing that has happened—namely, the diminution of fees resultant upon the great increase in the number of the exemptions. That Amendment was actually proposed in another place by Lord Camperdown, and it was opposed on behalf of the Government by Lord Allendale. I want to call the attention of the Committee to some of the statements which were made in another place. I will not trouble the Committee with the exact terms of the Amendment. It showed very clearly that this diminution of income was contemplated, and if it had been incorporated in the Act all this trouble and loss of salary to vaccination officers would have been avoided. Lord Allen-dale said:—It was hardly necessary for him to say that the vaccination officer was not the person who performed the operation of vaccination. His duties were to act as a sort of registrar of vaccination for the district for which he was appointed, to see that all the children in his district were accounted for to look up defaulters, and BO on. He was required to keep a report book and register in which were entered particulars with regard to every child coming within his cognisance.As to that, I wish to point out to the Committee that the President of the Local Government Board said that where the duties of a vaccination officer were greatly diminished the best possible way to meet the difficulty was to appoint him to some other office. I maintain there is nothing in the Act of 1907 that reduces the duties of the vaccination officer at all. That shows, to my mind—I do not say to the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, because I am sure he has really a clear idea 174 as to the respective duties—a distinct confusion of thought in putting before this House that there could be any diminution of work due to an increase of exemptions and a decrease of vaccinations. Of course, the medical officer has less work to do; but the recording angel, whose duty it is to see that these vaccination exemptions are recorded, and who sends out the necessary forms, has exactly the same work to do in either case. As was pointed out on the Second Reading of the Bill, it was not anticipated that the number of persons who would obtain exemptions on account of conscientious objections would be materially increased. I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that the first reason why the Amendment was opposed by the Government which the right hon. Gentleman represents to-day was that it was not anticipated there would be any material increase in exemptions. Lord Allendale went on to point out that after the passing of the Act of 1898 the number of applicants for exemption varied from 5 to 4.8 per cent. The numbers have gone up now to 25.7 per cent., according to an answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave me. That is a big number. The exemptions increased enormously, according to the Returns for 1910 and they, are still larger for 1911, of which we have no complete record. I will show to the Committee that the exemptions cannot possibly be less than 30 per cent. I believe they must be over 30 per cent. of the number of births these officers have to deal with.
The most important statement made in the Debate in another place was that the vaccination officers were paid by fees; but Lord Allendale reminded Lord Camper-down that, if considered inadequate, the fees might be increased by the guardians with the concurrence of the President of the Local Government Board, or by the Board itself. If that promise was made in another place, on the faith of which the Amendment proposed was withdrawn, how can the President of the Local Government Board come here in answer to questions day after day, and how could he state, in the Debate in this House last year, that it is impossible for him to make the General Order we have asked for? There is no question whatever of diminution of the work of the officers on account of exemptions. The secretary of the Association of Vaccination Officers was requested by the officials of the Local Government Board to allow his books to be 175 inspected in order to see whether there was an increase or decrease in the amount of work involved. He has since been informed by the official who made the inspection that he is of opinion the officer has no more and no less work to do than he had prior to the Act and Order of 1907. There was another suggestion made last year to the President of the Local Government Board—I think it was by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley—that, at any rate, there should be paid to the vaccination officer a fixed salary, and that he should not be dependent upon the fees from a diminishing number of registered vaccinations. The President of the Local Government Board said, in answer:—If I were to adopt that, the present district of vaccination officers, owing to the increased number of exemptions, would have to be made larger for the ratepayers to get value for their money.I think that throws a strong light on the way the right hon. Gentleman deals with this question. I think the Committee will now admit that there is no case in regard to any diminution of work; but that it is in order that the ratepayers may get value for their money. The right hon. Gentleman says if they are to be paid a regular salary, even approximating to what they were in receipt of formerly, he would have to give them a larger district to work. I wonder how trade union members would like this reason given with respect to demands on their part? The duty of the vaccination officer is simply to record vaccinations and exemptions, and therefore I say the fees paid should be exactly the same, or, if a fixed salary is to be paid, it should be determined by the average of the annual income for the years 1903 to 1907. I do not myself advocate a fixed salary, for the simple reason that it may not work with automatic fairness in the same way as the method I suggested last year. It would not allow for an increase or a decrease in the birth rate. In some cases there might be less work, and in some cases much more. Unless you have the same fee for each exemption you cannot get a salary which is exactly commensurate with the work done.
On the 25th March the President said, in answer to a question, that appointment to other offices is an excellent way of meeting this grievance. I would like to call attention to what really underlies that. The officers say that there is no saving of trouble or work to them by reason of the 176 exemptions, yet the President says that an. excellent way of meeting the grievance of an enormously and rapidly diminishing salary is to give them some other work to do for which they may be able to get some increased remuneration to make up for the remuneration which they are not paid for work which they have to do. I wonder how the hon. Members below the Gangway would regard that proposal as a solution of the difficulty as to the pay of signalmen, and what they would say if these men worked ten hours a day for 30s. a week, and if the President of the Board of Trade were to say, "an excellent way of meeting their grievance of not receiving adequate pay would be for them to give two or three hours work in the booking office when they come out of the signal box as they will get a little additional pay for that, which will make up in some measure for their not being properly paid for the work which they do during the day?" That is exactly the method suggested for meeting the case of the vaccination officers. This is not the way for the President of the Local Government Board to treat the vaccination officers who are not a trade union, and not a large body of voters, but only a small body of conscientious public servants who are doing painstaking and accurate work for which they have a right to be paid by the community.
The question is not only the one I have dealt with so far of the method of remuneration for this work, but it is also a question of the amount of the remuneration which they actually get. The right hon. Gentleman said on the 17th June—There are 1,420 vaccination officers in England and' Wales. They are all paid by fees," but he stated, "out of the 1.420. 400 give their whole time to the work and 1.020 hold other appointments such as relieving officer, registrar of births, marriages and deaths, and other appointments. Hon. Members should bear that in mind in considering their total remuneration. Vaccination, officers speaking generally, do not depend really—I think the right hon. Gentleman meant wholly—on their work as vaccination officers for their living.That is another curious line of argument, that because a man holds several different offices the salaries of which combined makeup something which may be regarded as a living wage, if the salary of one of those offices practically ceases altogether the right hon. Gentleman says that it does not matter, because they still get paid something for being relieving officers or for the other offices which they hold. The only thing in the nature of a promise that I was able to extract last year from the 177 right hon. Gentleman in the Debate of the 3rd August was this. He said:—I do say. however, that my peculiar relationship with the guardians indicates that perhaps there is something that must be done in the light of the remarkable increase of exemptions that has occurred in the last year or two.The question is not only as to whether what has been done is right in method and principle, but whether in amount of money it does in any way meet the grievance. On the 11th December I asked the right hon. Gentleman for particulars of the gratuities sanctioned in the 321 cases referred to by him and the loss that had been actually sustained in those cases by the officers. The right hon. Gentleman said that it would take far too much trouble and he could not do it. The Association of Vaccination Officers therefore have had, as far as they possibly could, to make up the deficiency. They have had to communicate with all their members and find out for themselves exactly what the position is. I can give the right hon. Gentleman some figures which will assist him in carrying out the duties of his office and in finding out what really the grievance is with which we are asking him to deal, and which will make him look on the subject in a somewhat different light from that in which he viewed it last year. We nave got the figures of thirty cases which are fairly representative cases, and not picked cases at all, in which some gratuity has been paid. In those thirty cases the loss to the officers between the years 1908 and 1911 amounted to £1,988 18s. 8d. The gratuities which have been sanctioned amount to £513 13s. 2d. The net loss in those thirty cases out of the 321 is therefore £1,475 5s. 6d. I have said that they were not picked cases, and, in proof of that, I have got the full figures here in every case, which can be shown the right hon. Gentleman if he cares to look at them, and in these cases the net loss varies from so small a sum as 14s. up to £322, and it is evident that if we wished to take out picked cases we should not have included people who lost such sums as 14s. or only £1. Then we have taken 110 cases out of those where no gratuity has been paid whatever in the same years. The loss in those 110 cases has been £3,768 10s. Again, they are not picked cases, because they vary from 15s. to £234. This not only affects the immediate salary of these officers, but it also affects their superannuation, and I would draw attention to the manner in which the President of the Local Government Board proposes 178 to deal with the cases of superannuation. On 3rd August he said:—The Local Government Board are willing and have been willing to allow gratuities to be included in estimating for superannuation.But on the 22nd November he said, in answer to a question that I put to him:—The gratuities the Board have suggested amount approximately to half the difference between the average annual amount of fees received before 1908 and the amount of those received since.What concession is that? These officers are told that the gratuities may be included when the gratuities themselves are only half the amount of the fees which they have lost, so that he docks not only their present salary, but their future superannuation, by a very large percentage of what they are absolutely entitled to. The method of the President is to deal with hard cases. I do not want to deal only with hard cases, but I might take a few. The South Hackney Guardians are perfectly willing to pay the vaccination officer, because they know that he is losing a very large amount of his salary through, the operation of the Act of 1907, fees in respect of every receipt he sends parents who ask for it for statutory declarations of conscientious objections to vaccination, so that if he moves into any other district he can show that the case has already been up, and that his child is rightly not vaccinated. The President of the Local Government Board says that that is not one of the cases that he could deal with as one of the hard cases which require special treatment. I have looked into this particular case, and find that here the exemptions from vaccination have increased in the case of one officer under the Hackney Board of Guardians from 151 cases in 1906–7 to 2,300 cases of exemption in the year 1910–11. In the case of the other officer, the numbers were 94 in 1906–7 and 940 in 1910–11. If the Committee will consider that every single exemption means the loss of a fee of 9d. to the officer, it is rather surprising that the President of the Local Government Board did not consider that one of the hard cases with which he ought to deal. What we are asking for is not a continuation of this system of gratuities for a few cases, but that these officers shall be treated fairly in every case. That can only possibly be done by devising some scheme, and I think that the only simple scheme is the one I have suggested for the President of the Local Government Board himself to advise boards of guardians that in consequence of the operation of the Act of 1907, now that we know what the increases 179 in the numbers of exemption are, the only way of dealing with the case is to pay the same fee for an exemption as for a vaccination.
The President says that he does not think he should intervene unless he is appealed to, but we must remember that, according to the President's own showing, only a small percentage of these officers are exclusively vaccination officers, and that most of them hold other offices under their direct employers, the boards of guardians. Therefore it is not fair to expect in every case where they are suffering hardships and where they cannot get any immediate relief from their own employers that they are likely to come to the President of the Local Government Board and complain of their own employers, and ask him to intervene, and have the matter dealt with over their heads. Therefore, of course, only a very small number of the cases of hardship ever reach the President of the Local Government Board at all. He said, in answer to me, he did not think that that was the case, and he added, was he expected to go about with a bell asking the vaccination officers, "What do you lack?" May I remind the President of the Local Government Board of another offender who, earlier in history, when he was called to book for a somewhat similar case, made a similar reply, and said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" I say that in the office which the President holds it is not, of course, his duty to go about with a bell, but it is his duty to deal on general principles with the whole of the cases of hardship, whether they have been expressly brought to his notice or not. I would remind the Committee of what these officers are doing. They have to prepare and keep a record which "will inevitably be wanted some day, and, as I think, if it is ever wanted in the case of an outbreak of small-pox, it will be wanted in a hurry, like a stranger's revolver in Texas. If we do not have these records properly kept now, we will not have them available when they are wanted, we will not have the right kind of people applying for these positions, and they will not have the necessary qualifications.
It is absolutely a case of sweated work. Many of these officers have had to part with their life insurance polices, they have had to part with a portion of their personal property, and they have had to raise loans at usurious rates of interest in 180 order to try to keep their families and their homes together, and in many cases the matter is really so urgent that it will not brook any further delay. Therefore I hope that this is the last time I may have to bring this matter before the attention of the President of the Local Government Board. It has been brought up now three or four years in succession, and it has always been met by the same non possumus attitude, the same attitude of the righteous perfection of the Department of which the right hon. Gentleman is in charge, and of everything that he does, the same determination to shut his eyes to the grievances of these people, the same statement that they are only a very small number of people, and that, after all, he is doing what he can to deal with a few individual hard cases brought to his notice. I hope we have reached the end of that method of dealing with the question, and that the Committee will be satisfied before the right hon. Gentleman has finished his reply that he really means to mend his ways, and intends to deal with this subject in a fair and sympathetic manner, and not in the spirit of niggling meanness that has hitherto characterised his action.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I fully sympathise with the argument of the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down, but I do not intend to follow him in that direction, because the tenour of my whole remarks will be towards sweeping away the whole system and showing how indefensible is the supposed scientific basis of vaccination at the present time. Though this subject is raised on the question of the salary of the President of the Board of Trade, it is not in the least degree applicable to himself personally, because unfortunately he is in the position of having to administer Acts which put upon him no inconsiderable burden. Vaccination may briefly be described as putting an unknown substance into the body for an ill-defined purpose—
§ Sir JOHN SPEAR
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Chairman. Is the hon. Gentleman in order in raising the general question of vaccination?
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
It will be out of order for the hon. Gentleman to deal with the general question of vaccination. The subject at present is the administration of the Act. Any allusion to the general question of vaccine material must be of a very brief character and directly and closely relating to the administration of the Act by the Local Government Board.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and I will endeavour to keep within the question of administration. It seems to me that if I am to exemplify my view before the Committee with any cogency I must, at any rate, touch on the question of the character of vaccine. I repeat that vaccination at the present time consists in introducing an unknown substance into the body for an ill-defined purpose, and supporting the results by illusory statistics. Singularly enough, of all the diseases for which vaccination is employed small-pox is the particular disease for which it is least adapted. I speak now not as an anti-vaccinist, but as a medical man, believing that we require a scientific method, and not the haphazard method which prevails at the present time. Lymph from the calf is obtained by a very uncertain process, a process which shocks anyone who has become acquainted with the particular science to which it applies, because no proper precautions are taken for sterilisation. Above all, there is an entire absence of any means of standardisation. I urge this as a reproach against the right hon. Gentleman, for he has it within his power to endeavour to have standardised material, and to institute proper experiments for discovering what are the best means of preparing the lymphs or providing substitutes for them. In all other diseases where vaccination is employed the very first essential is that the vaccine should be submitted to some kind of standardisation.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman is travelling outside this Vote. The only thing that is within his competence to discuss is the administration of the Act by the Local Government Board, and the hon. Gentleman should keep to that point.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I will endeavour to keep within the scope of the matter before the 182 Committee, but I would point out that the question of standardisation is really within the power of the right hon. Gentleman. My contention is that he should promote experiments by his staff in order to obtain some means of standardisation. Further, it is within his functions as President of the Local Government Board to prevent small-pox by sanitary measures. It is really important, with regard to the adequacy of sanitary measures, to show the weak points of the present methods of dealing with the disease. The question of dispensation from vaccination is one which will assume larger and larger proportions, and I believe it is already the custom of the Department to pass over carelessly wholesale exemptions, as for instance in Leicester. I believe the statistics show that, in so doing, it is made clear that small-pox has not increased, but has had a tendency to diminish. Since I cannot touch on the more scientific aspect of the question, I come to the definite point of administration, and I would say to the President of the Local Government Board that it would be a wise policy to be more and more lax with regard to exemptions while at the same time safeguarding the interests of the medical officers involved. I quite agree with the hon. Member who preceded me (Mr. Peto) that the medical officers do a great deal of work for which on the whole they are very inadequately paid. I myself, in regard to small-pox, believe that inoculation is an absurdity as at present practised, and that there should be very careful and more and more circumspect consideration of all questions of sanitation. I believe by that means alone you will eliminate from the community in a far greater degree not only small-pox, but other diseases and it should be the mainspring of the whole organisation of administration in dealing with these infectious diseases.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I join in the appeal made in regard to the vaccination officers, and I hope the day is not far distant when questions of this sort will be dealt with by a Committee of the House, so that all Civil servants will have one authority able to deal with their grievances in a comprehensive planner. There is no doubt about it very great hardship exists in regard to those men who are to be dealt with. I also wish to join, if I may, in the appeal made with regard to children in connection with outdoor relief. The right hon. Gentleman on the last occasion was 183 good enough to tell us of the splendid work done in the schools under the various boards of guardians. No one denies that, but I wish to bring the right hon. Gentleman's attention to bear on the Metropolitan area. Here, in London, at least one board of guardians, the Hammersmith Board, have put on record that they deliberately and of set purpose give widows in London not sufficient outdoor relief. They have been asked by care committees why it is the children who attend the elementary day schools are obliged to go to the dining centres to get their meals. The difficulty we experience in London is that the care committees have been set up to deal with these children, and the London County Council feels very strongly that where you have the board of guardians relieving the children they ought to relieve them adequately, and that the care committees ought not to be called upon to give them meals at all. Between the two authorities the unhappy children in many districts are made to suffer. As I understand, the right hon. Gentleman is thinking of appointing persons to visit outdoor relief cases. Only a week or two ago the right hon. Gentleman poured scorn and ridicule on the payment of more officials, and in this case I wonder whether the Committee realise exactly what this proposal to appoint visitors means. The widow will be visited by the relieving officer, by the visitor of the Local Government Board, and on top of that by the school attendance officer, the care committee officer, and the representatives of schools. I know that is the fact, because such persons have visited myself in Bow to inquire into the physical well-being of my children, as they do with regard to other people's children. You are going to add one more terror to the life of the widow by having her case investigated by a representative of the Local Government Board. The light hon. Gentleman is certainly a practical man, and I ask him whether it is not time to face this problem, certainly so far as London is concerned, in another fashion.
The Local Government Board claims to desire to give boards of guardians power to subscribe to any organisation which is doing work which the guardians might otherwise have to do. That is to say, they may give contributions to hospitals and homes of various descriptions. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should allow the boards of guardians in 184 London to make contributions to care committees on condition that the care committees take over the care of the child entirely. I am only making this as a temporary suggestion pending the arrival of some statesman who will sweep away all these anomalies, and who will bring in a real working scheme for co-ordinating all the various bodies that at present I think mismanage the care of the poor. At the moment we in London are faced with the difficulty that the children are not being fed, and therefore I suggest that he should take the authority set up by Parliament. Nothing can be said for making the children of widows paupers when you do not make the children of able-bodied men paupers. You deliberately say in the case of a man out of work that the children may be fed without the scheme of pauperism entering into it at all. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to allow the boards of guardians, or what would be very much better, to make a Grant from the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund to the London County Council in proportion as they spend money on the care of the children of widows, who would otherwise become chargeable to the Poor Law. I know there may be some difficulties which his Department is bound to raise, but by taking the course I suggest you will be removing the children from the sphere and care of the relieving officer, and my experience is that that would be a most excellent thing to do. You would place them under the care committees, working as they do now in a voluntary manner, and the children would thus have an infinitely better chance of being decently brought up. The thing for the Committee of this House to understand now is that these children are not being properly fed, while a great deal of public money is being spent on investigations and inquiries, and all kinds of things. This House has said that the education authority shall deal with the children of able-bodied men who are out of work through the care committees, and so take away all question of pauperism from them, and I am asking that the children of widows shall be dealt with in exactly the same manner.
There is a similar question to which I wish to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. If a woman or a man has to make application for medical relief, the new Order states that there is a document to be produced. There are fifty or sixty questions on that document going back to the time of Adam with regard to the persons, where they come from, and 185 how it comes they are in the position in which they find themselves. All those have to be kept, not merely on the first application, but have to be brought up each time though the person concerned may be in the workhouse year after year. I understood when the right hon. Gentleman was appointed that he was going to get rid of red tape, and that some other kind of tape was to be used. I venture to say that this kind of document in the case of medical relief, is too monstrous for boards of guardians to be either allowed or compelled to obtain such particulars as are required under it. In that connection there is again in London a gross waste of public money going on. In the districts where the care committees give relief to children, a similar kind of document is filled up for the educational authority, so that you have both those authorities getting exactly the same particulars about the same case. I think it is time that the right hon. Gentleman, instead of multiplying red tape with regard to the Poor Law, should get rid of some of it. So far as this House is concerned, they have over and over again broken through the old Poor Law traditions, and it is only since the right hon. Gentleman has been at the Local Government Board that we have gone back to the old idea that each person who comes for assistance, whether a widow or anyone else, must be looked on as a person less worthy than the rest of the citizens.
Another matter I wish to mention, also in this connection, is in regard to the action of the auditors. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has instructed them, or whether any of his permanent officials have instructed them, but the auditors up and down the country now are taking action in regard to whether relief, and especially outdoor relief, is legal in certain cases. The kind of case that they interfere with boards of guardians is, that of a person getting relief where the income coming into the house is considered to be sufficient to maintain the person who needs relief and the persons who are earning the money. That is a very dangerous sort of business indeed. At this moment quite close to me in Bow, there is a case where the action of the Poor Law authority is really going to break up a very nice relationship, the relationship that ought to exist between sons and their parents. The auditor has declared that because the sons are earning £1 per week, that that is enough 186 to maintain themselves and their father and mother. That leaves out of account altogether that the sons one day want to be able to get homes of their own, to save money, and set up housekeeping. The auditors in any case where there has been anything like that income, have surcharged the guardians who gave the relief. Consequently, that kind of decision having been once given has gone to the country so that the boards of guardians now are afraid to give assistance. In the case that I have mentioned, surely the right thing to do would be to help the sons to maintain their parents. The results of what the guardians have done will be that the sons will have to move a little way off, give their parents a small sum per week, and the guardians will be obliged to make it up. The idea that because they live together the whole cost of the upkeep of their parents should be put on their shoulders is, I think, a perfectly monstrous proposition, and one which I am certain the auditors would not have set on foot if they had not been prodded on to it by someone at the Local Government Board.
Again, the circumstances under which relief has been given have been reviewed by the auditors. If it is good enough for the auditors to determine whether there is too much relief ought it not to be the duty of someone to see if there is enough relief? Instead of that being the case the auditor looks out for what is being earned and takes no account of what may have been done with the money by people living at home. On the amount of the earnings he bases the plea that the income into the home is sufficient. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remember that it is comparatively easy for him, and easy for me to lecture the poor as to their responsibility towards their parents when both of us are in fairly comfortable positions so far as money is concerned, and as most Members of this House are now. I like to face facts as I find them. I think it is the height of impudence on my part, or on the part of the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else, to lecture the poor, who have to live under infinitely harder conditions than we have, as to their duties towards their aged relations. The State up to a certain point has taken that over, and I stand here as one who believes in the duty of each of us doing our very best for our parents, but I deny the right of the Local Government Board and its auditors to penalise any man or to penalise any woman by imposing on them burdens which are 187 very much too much for them to bear, and which very often cripple them practically throughout their lives.
There is also the question of Hollesley Bay. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt will tell me that this is a hardy annual, and he will tell us of all the money he spent there, and of the good will he has exhibited there. I visited that place again about three weeks ago, and I want to say this much—that if there is one thing that will be to the eternal disgrace of the Local Government Board since the right hon. Gentleman went there, it is his treatment of that experiment down there. He rolled out figures the other day that only seventeen men had been settled in the country, and he made a statement that they cost so much per head, yet he knows perfectly well, and no one knows it better than he, that in the main that colony has had to take people when there was nothing else for them to do, and to keep their wives and children in London under quite abnormal conditions. He knows that it is himself and his Department that have prevented the extension of that experiment, which he has called merely a glorified workhouse. I put it to him as a practical man. You have money being poured out and at this moment twenty-five to thirty families who have been decoyed down to Hollesley Bay on the understanding that if they prove themselves eligible, decent people, that they should be given the chance to work similar holdings under independent conditions. The right hon. Gentleman has stopped the attempt to land those people out into the country under those conditions. He refused to allow the Central (Unemployed) Body to take another estate—told them it was no part of their duty to set out men in that business. Let us take it for granted that he is right, and what I ask is, What is he going to do with that estate, and with those twenty-five or thirty families that are down there now?
Proposals have been made over and over again that the estate and all its belongings should be transferred to the Board of Agriculture, and let them see what they could make of it. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House definitely what he proposes to do. What I and others propose to do in regard to the place is, in his opinion, foolhardy, stupid, and nonsensical. Words fail him to paint our stupidity in thinking that men could be got back on the land. I deny that, but 188 let it pass, and I ask what does he propose to do? Is Hollesley Bay to go on, with an expenditure of from £20,000 to £30,000 per year, as a sort of glorified workhouse? What proposal has he to make for dealing with the place? Our proposal, that he waives on one side, was that the Board of Agriculture should take it over. Is he going to say, "Although you want to do something, I shall not allow you to do it, and I will not allow anything else to be done, but I shall simply deal with it in such a manner that I can proclaim it to be a failure from beginning to end"? That is not playing the game in any sort of way at all. I would like to take every Member interested in this question down to Hollesley Bay, so that they might see what the whole proposition was. But perhaps many Members have been down. Public money is being poured out there, and people are being taken down under false pretences. If Members could interview the people who have been there three, four, or five years, they would know the sort of despair that has settled upon them with regard to their future. I ask again, as I have asked before, What do the right hon. Gentleman and his Department propose to do with these people? What do they propose to do to carry out the promises which have been made to them, either through the Central (Unemployed) Body or by any other means that he and his Department can suggest?
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give some consideration to the valuable suggestion of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) as to the money that might be handed over by boards of guardians to the care committees, so that the children in London, who are the children of the Poor Law at present, might be adequately fed, and, as far as possible, taken out of the meshes of the Poor Law and placed on the same level as the children whose parents have been more fortunate in life. That is a practical proposal to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give careful consideration. My purpose in rising is to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give the Committee some indication of what he and his Department are doing to carry out the duties imposed upon the Local Government Board by the Insurance Act, particularly under Section 8. I have always considered it most unfortunate that the Local Government Board should have been ousted from so much jurisdiction 189 under this Act, which appertains really to the health of the people and to local government in its truest and most practical aspects. But there it is: the House has passed the Act; it has ousted the Local Government Board from the place it might well have occupied; and the Treasury has taken upon itself duties which ought to have been carried out by the Local Government Board, and which, in my opinion, the Treasury is most unfit to carry out in any practical way. We have never been able to ascertain how much the right hon. Gentleman knows about what is going on under the Insurance Act. We have recently read in the newspapers that provisional committees are about to be appointed to carry out the main duties under the Act, and I have learnt this afternoon that a notice has been served on the London County Council asking them to nominate fourteen members out of a committee of seventy which is to be set up in London. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman was consulted on this matter, which very much concerns local government. Is he taking steps to see that these provisional committees shall be furnished with full and adequate information in connection with the sanatorium benefits, which we are told are to come into being after 15th July? That is, in less than two months from the present time these provisional committees ought to find sanatorium benefit.
Under Section 8 of the Act it is incumbent on the right hon. Gentleman, as President of the Local Government Board, to say what diseases besides consumption may be properly treated in these sanatoria, whether or not county councils may build sanatoria, and what Grants they may make towards the building of such institutions. How far is the Local Government Board co-operating with the Treasury? How far is the right hon. Gentleman kept informed of what the Treasury is doing in this matter? Is he taking care to see that the provisional committees shall be supplied with all the information which ought to be placed at their disposal? Under Section 77 there ought to be going on throughout the country inquiries as to the numbers of those who are likely to need sanatorium benefit, either as consumptive cases or as other cases suitable for sanatorium treatment, so that these provisional committees, which will have very hard work to perform, particularly during the first few months of their career, may have at their disposal all the information which the 190 Local Government Board is most fitted to obtain for them. I hope the right hon. Gentleman has been consulted at every point. Some of us are inclined to think that the right hon. Gentleman is rather a cypher in the carrying out of the Insurance Act, and that the superman is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We are very jealous for the position of the right hon. Gentleman as President of the Local Government Board in matters that concern local government. I have more than once stated in this House that the present Government were doing a great deal to destroy the power of local government in the country. I should like to see the right hon. Gentleman assert himself and insist that such powers as are given to him shall be left to him, and that he shall have something to do with providing the county councils with the information which he is able to place at their disposal. I regret that we cannot have a more adequate discussion of the very important proposal of the Government to appoint these provisional committees, which are to have such vast powers, but which they are appointing in such a haphazard way. I regret that the Government should have chosen the very moment when the London County Council were in recess to send them a notice informing them that they were expected to nominate fourteen members for this committee by a certain date before that on which the county council were to reassemble. That shows a certain amount of dilatoriness on the part of the Treasury or of the Department which has undertaken the responsibility of carrying out this measure. I cannot help thinking that if more of these matters had been left to the President of the Local Government Board the London County Council would not have been treated in this unfortunate way.
§ Dr. ADDISON
In reference to the point raised by the hon. Member opposite, one knows in connection with the Committee presided over by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Astor) that a great deal of information has been placed at the disposal of local authorities through the medium of the Local Government Board, and that the Department is exceedingly active in endeavouring to induce local authorities to submit provisional schemes. I should like to support the remarks of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto). I think the vaccination officers have a very good case for being given some security in regard to their salaries which have 191 been reduced indirectly by the action of this House and through no fault of their own. I wish to refer particularly to the question of the milk supply. Everyone "who looks into this question must confess that the state of affairs at the present time is deplorable. We have about two million cows yielding milk, and according to a report of Dr. Collingridge, the medical officer of health for the county of London, up to 1907, 45.8 per cent. of the specimens of milk examined were either tuberculous or dirty—that is to say, hundreds of thousands of gallons of tuberculous or dirty milk were being drunk every day tinder the powers which the county council obtained in 1908 they have examined 7,896 samples of country milk, and 850, or 10 per cent., were tuberculous. On examination of the cows it was found that only 1.3 per cent. of the cows were infected with tubercle, as against 10 per cent. of the milk—that is to say, the milk from tuberculous cows had been mixed with milk from cows which were not tuberculous, and had spread the infection all through the milk churns sent from the same dairy.
It is interesting to inquire where the obnoxious material comes from. A joint committee, appointed by the county boroughs of Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Rotherham and Sheffield, and the administrative counties of the East and West Ridings of Yorkshire, conducted an inquiry, and found that in 86.8 per cent. of the samples examined the dirt or tuberculous material was in the milk in the place where it came from—the milkshed or the dairy. In only a very small percentage of samples had the material been introduced afterwards—that is to say, out of the enormous volume of milk consumed by the people every day a great amount is rendered dirty or tuberculous at the place from whence it comes. One does not want to exaggerate the case. One knows very well that in a city like Birmingham, which has been tackling its housing problem lately, they have reduced the death rate from tuberculosis, for example, to a very great extent. But still 10 per cent. of their milk supply was tuberculous last year. So that the death rate has been very much reduced, while the people are still consuming a great quantity of tuberculous milk. Ten thousand children under the age of fifteen died last year from tuberculous diseases other than tuberculosis. I notice in the report of the Medical Officer of Health of the Board of Education that we have in our 192 schools at the present time 600,000 children suffering from glands in the neck. The Royal Commission which inquired into the question of the spread of tuberculosis amongst children came deliberately to the conclusion that, at all events, a large amount of the tuberculosis in children was derived from food, and that food, of course, is pre-eminently milk. In the cases which they examined most carefully they found that out of twenty-seven abdominal cases fourteen were infected by bovine tuberculosis and thirteen had glands in the neck. Some of the evidence before the Committee on Tuberculosis with respect to glands in the neck puts the figure higher than that. It means, at any rate, that there are 200,000 children with tubercular glands in the neck which are bovine in origin. According to some of the evidence which has been obtained by Mr. Stiles and the workers under him a very much higher proportion than that is due to the infection of children through milk, or, at all events, milk was the channel of infection. I do not want to spend any further time in elaborating this problem, but I want to say two or three words as to how we ought to deal with it. One thing is strikingly evident, the more we come to look into this thing, and that is the children under five have a very high death rate from tuberculosis other than of the lungs; the older they get the more it is in the lungs.
In Manchester the authorities have endeavoured within the limits of their powers to control the supply of milk, and to try to get it as clean as possible. They have been doing this fairly energetically for a few years. The point here is of great interest, because it bears out what I have been saying previously. If the obtaining of clean milk in Manchester operates generally in regard to the prevention of tuberculosis, you would have had a corresponding fall in the death rate on account of the diseases which are caused by tuberculosis. The general increase of sanitation and so forth would have caused a proportionate fall in the rate to that from tuberculosis in the chest, certainly in the case of the children. What do we find? This extra care with regard to the milk supply brings about an unusual diminution of that section of tuberculosis which prevails amongst children—that is to say, we find that these particular measures for reducing that cause of tuberculosis act apart from the general 193 influence of sanitary measures collectively. For example, take the years 1891–95 with the corresponding years 1896–10. The proportionate ratio of reduction we find was, that in children's diseases other than chest diseases which are tuberculous, the fall in the death rate in Manchester has been 2.1, whilst in the country generally it has been 1.7. In that municipality, with its limited powers for undertaking the efficient control of the milk supply, that control has been accompanied by a striking decrease in the mortality of children from tuberculosis. That is my point.
I know that it is a long and difficult business to expect to remove tuberculosis from cattle. There is not time this evening to go into that. At the same time we know that there has been, for example, attempts to remove from herds tuberculous cows. But if we did this generally we should cut off at one stroke about 250,000,000 gallons of milk, so that is impossible. We should send up the price of milk, which is the very thing we do not want to do; at the same time the process would cost enormous sums in compensation. Therefore it is evident that to deal with tuberculosis in cattle is a slow and difficult business, and will need international effort. It would not have to be done by different sanitary authorities up and down the country, with differing standards and operations and different ideas. The London County Council has been energetic in their efforts in regard to the milk supply. I believe that at the national conference on infant mortality in 1906 there was specific reference made to our lack of control in our dealing with dirty milk. The London County Council can deal with tuberculosed milk coming into this great city. They can go down into the country and inspect the cows, and so forth. But they have not the powers necessary to deal with milk that is practically so dirty as to be unfit for human food. When we think of these hundreds of thousands of gallons consumed annually, I am quite sure no one more than the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we have a right to look to his Department for bringing forward measures which will enable us to deal with this problem adequately and on proper lines.
The legislation of the London County Council has been chequered and unsatisfactory. They made various efforts in 1907, when they had a Bill; but they were mot able to deal with dirty milk. In 1908 194 the process was repeated. In 1909 we had the Government Bill of the right hon. Gentleman—which was subsequently withdrawn—since when we have seen no other. It is quite evident that no other operation, but that of a great central Department like the Local Government Board can enable us to deal adequately with the question of the national milk supply. At the same time, what has happened is this: All over the country are the sanitary authorities and others who administer our various regulations and orders. They have their inspectors. We will assume that a municipality has adopted the model milk clauses. They send their inspectors into the area from which the milk is derived. But that same area may supply ten other milk districts and you may have the unfortunate milk producer harassed by the attention of ten different inspectors from ten different places. These inspectors have not always the same ideas. Some men seem to think that the whole thing depends upon having cement floors. Some others think that the matter depends upon other things. The unfortunate milk producer really does not know where he is at the present time. I have no doubt whatever that a considerable number of men have given up the trade in despair because of the harassing interference and the regulations which exist at the present time. Again, a considerable number of sanitary authorities have adopted the Dairies, Cow Sheds, and Milk Shops' Orders deliberately, I feel sure, in order that they might not put them into operation. I have a case within my own knowledge where a sanitary authority was pressed by the Local Government Board to adopt the Milk Shops' Orders. They declined to do so for a long time. At last the pressure became so great that they adopted them, at the same time deliberately resolving that they would not carry them out. As things are now, if a cow is found by the inspector of the county council to have tuberculosis all that the owner has to do is to send the milk somewhere else, or to take the cow to a neighbouring parish where the inspector has not been.
As a matter of fact, I know a case where a cow was removed and sold to another man. It went simply across the river, and the milk of this particular cow, which proved to be tuberculous on the one side, came back to the other side of the river to the self same buyers as it had previously been going to. Of course, the reason is 195 that some authorities appoint inspectors who do the work as well as they can. Others do not appoint inspectors. The members of the various authorities in the country, that is, small urban district councils and so forth, frankly, are not enthusiastic to adopt the Cow Sheds' Orders; are not enthusiastic to secure clean milk supplies for London or Birmingham, or some place two or three hundred miles away. When one comes to study the various Public Health Acts and the enormous number of private Acts which have to do with the control and the regulation of our milk production, I think it is fair to describe them as hopeless chaos. There is not, it seems to me, in our existing legislation, anything which is a more hopeless tangle, and at the same time entirely incompetent to provide us with clean milk, than the existing state of affairs in regard to the production and control of our milk supplies. The right hon. Gentleman's Department fully recognises this, I know. They have had a Bill which was, with certain reservations, on sound lines.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am sorry for having allowed myself to wander into legislation which is not before the Committee. However, I have been able to point out that at the present time our divers sanitary authorities are, some willing and some unwilling, to regulate their milk supplies, and to endeavour to secure clean milk, with the result that there is overlapping of authorities and unnecessary interference with the milk producers, who are in despair of knowing exactly where they are. What we want is for the Local Government Board to come along and to give us a national scheme—one on simple, uniform lines, and, I hope, to take the whole thing out of the hands of the small sanitary authorities and deal with it in large areas on comprehensive lines, and not in an expensive and inefficient way calculated to produce the maximum of interference and annoyance with the minimum of useful result, which is what the existing arrangements in the country do at present.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. STANIER
We have heard from the other side a good deal about the Milk Bill. I should like to ask the right hon. 196 Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, straight out, when he is going to bring this in, because it has been for a long time wanted. Has he any information, too, regarding the draft Regulations of the Local Government Board on the question of milk and cream? He issued this draft Order and promised that the trade should receive full consideration. The trade has approached him, but I am not aware yet that he has granted any of the requests they made. We only ask, both from the traders and from the producers, for a modification of this Order. We do not ask for anything that will in any way prevent the public or the consumers being protected; but we do ask that this Order should be simplified, and we ask for certain modifications in it. We shall really like to know whether this Order is now in force or not. The date on which it was proposed to be put into force was 1st June. If these modifications and requests are to be totally ignored, I suppose the Order will be in force. I would like to call the attention of the President to one or two other matters. We asked that the percentage of fat should be reduced. In the Order it says 40 per cent. I think that the President and the Members of this Committee must know that really is too high. We also ask that hydrogen peroxide may be omitted and only boric acid used. We also want to know what he is going to call the preservative. We do not want the word "boracised." Why cannot we have the word "preserved"? We also asked to describe it only as. "preserved cream," and that it need not be set out in every single document that comes out of the shop wherein preserved cream is sold. Why cannot it be put in some prominent part of the shop marked in a way in which-the cream that is preserved now is sold at the present moment? There was one more modification we wanted, and that is that the labels should be of one size and of one standard. At the present moment the Order sets out that there should be three different sorts of labels of three different sizes, containing three different wordings. Why not have one label to do the work? I should like to have gone deeper into some of these subjects, but I shall not do so now, knowing that the right hon. Gentleman and others want to speak, so I shall leave the matter, asking on behalf of the trade and' the producers that the right hon. Gentleman will give some definite answer to 197 these questions in order to allay the feeling which exists that the Order has been even now, or will shortly be, in force without the modifications asked for by the trade.
§ Mr. BURNS
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has pressed me to consider the questions which he has addressed to me. The first is whether the Local Government Board are going to revive the Milk Bill introduced in 1909. I agree with the hon. Gentleman and with my hon. Friend the Member for Hoxton that a Milk Bill is desirable, and that we ought to have it, and the President of the Board of Agriculture and myself are hopeful to get a Bill through this year that will deal not only with the points raised by the hon. Member, but also with the points raised by my hon. Friend behind me. An hon. Member opposite has suggested, I could not help hearing the remark, that the Bill is likely to be less contentious than it would otherwise have been. That is so, because the long interval of time has enabled the various interests that were previously almost irreconcilable to come together and to adjust some of their differences. I certainly trust that a Bill, that might have taken a very long time in 1909, may, owing to the negotiations that have taken place in the meantime, be got through in a shorter period than it otherwise would have taken. The hon. Gentleman opposite asked me, what about the milk and cream regulations? The hon. Gentleman had the pleasure of introducing one of the most interesting deputations I ever received at the Local Government Board about a fortnight ago, and I gather that—we went into the matter as practical men—he was satisfied with the outline I gave in reply. I dealt with the question of the degree of fat, whether it should be 40 or 30, and I suppose that if a compromise between the two figures were arrived at much harm would not be done.
Then as to the question of the labels and the invoices, and what the size of the labels should be, and whether it should be called preserved or boracised, or some other description, that was gone into fully, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman before our final decision is given we hope to arrive at a conclusion satisfactory to the various interests concerned, and I shall take care that the various interests affected will know what the intention of the Order is before it is finally issued. I 198 do not think it is altogether fair to suggest that undue delay has taken place, because I was asked deliberately to delay it so that the interests concerned should know how the Order affected them, and to what extent they might get it modified, and to receive their suggestions, some of which are still coming in. I think now there is no reason for any further delay before issuing the Order. The next question raised of a similar character was that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hoxton, who dealt, as he always does, in a lucid and direct manner with the question of the milk supply. He referred to the milk supplies of London, and I gather that he assumed that because no Milk Bill was introduced in 1909 therefore the local authorities were not doing what he imagines a Milk Bill alone would enable them to do. But there is a great deal that the local authorities could do under their existing powers, because many of them have got in the London area, and under special Acts for the sale and consumption of milk, powers, and if they only wanted to show what good administration under existed limited powers could do, they had only to take the various borough councils and the London County Council in London, combined, to see what could be done. Last year London had 9,000 milk shops. Oddly enough it had the same number of public-houses and beershops. I wish we had less of the latter and more of the former. There are 9,000 milk shops in London, and last year the London County Council and the borough councils and the Local Government Board, combined, struck off 1,141 milk shops out of the 9,000 because of the unsuitability of the premises for milk and dairy purposes. If that were done universally by all the local authorities considerable advance would be made even under the existing limited power. I admit that is no excuse for not producing a Milk Bill, but it indicates that if the local authorities in this and many other respects were to do their duty and to carry out their administrative and legal powers, to the fullest possible limits a great deal more good would be done under local government than is now done owing to the local authorities having the power but not always the inclination to do their duty.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham addressed one or two practical suggestions to me. He said under Clause 8 and Clause 77 and one or two other Clauses of the Insurance Act of last year the Local Government Board had certain 199 powers devolving upon it, and he trusted that I would do my best to see that these Clauses from the point of view of the Local Government Board were properly administered. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that that is so. I have many faults, tout standing up for my Department is not one of them or allowing the Department, whose jurisdiction I am in charge of in this House, to be sidetracked, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that though not altogether sharing in one of the suggestions he made in his speech, that immediately the Insurance Act not only passed, but immediately that there were signs that it was going to pass, I at once instructed my officers, even before it was put upon the Statute Book, to bring all the weight and influence and information at the disposal of that Department to see that the public health and, above all, the tuberculosis and sanatorium Clauses of the Insurance Act, were not only enforced, but to see they were enforced in full measure, pressed down, and running over. The hon. Member for Plymouth knows that from the very earliest stages when this Insurance Act had to be administered that the Local Government Board anticipated and to the fullest extent complied with every condition in the Insurance Act in ascertaining from local authorities the number of beds they have now and the number they wanted, and have placed all the information at the disposal of the Treasury and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Insurance Commissioners and the Special Committee that the hon. Member for Plymouth himself so worthily presides over. The hon. Gentleman will endorse what I say, that so far as the Local Government Board is concerned no effort is spared to see that every information is placed at the disposal of the Treasury in this particular matter. The next point was about the provisional committees. So far as the Local Government Board can help these committees, and so far as it can co-operate with them or supply them with information of any kind or assistance from whatever quarter, the Local Government Board will only be too pleased to help the provisional committees as they have helped the Insurance Commissioners and the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Public Health aspect of the Insurance Act.
I come now to other questions addressed to me from various quarters of the House, 200 and I will take them in the reverse order of time in which they were put to me. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley made one or two observations with regard to Hollesley Bay. I have dealt with Hollesley Bay so many times and I think with sufficient information as to justify me in dealing with it very briefly this afternoon. It is not my fault that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley now, in 1912, confesses that he does think Hollesley Bay is a glorified workhouse. That is the contention I started with six years ago, and I congratulate the hon. Member on his tardy conversion. If he followed my advice he might have taken this view years ago. It is true that money has been poured out upon it amounting to nearly £150,000. I have done my best to see that the ratepayers got reasonable value for their money and if I have not succeeded it is not my fault. The only way in which the Local Government interfered in regard to Hollesley Bay is that we did think that when they had an estate of 1,400 acres it was not unreasonable to say that until they got more value out of what they had from every point of view they had no right to embark upon another experiment of a similar kind. In the event of its not continuing to be used for its present purpose it is not improbable it could be used most satisfactorily for a sanatorium under the Insurance Act. It might be used for small holdings most advantageously, and I think it would give a great deal of satisfaction to a number of people if, failing its use for sanatoria or small holdings, it might be used for the feeble-minded or mentally deficient. The other point raised was the question of the outdoor relief children, and on that may I say that I am compelled in this connection to deal not only with the outdoor relief children but with the indoor relief children, and with the permission of the House I will take these questions as they were first raised. I think I have a right, considering the strong criticisms I received last year on this point, to reply to one or two of the comments made by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hills) who spoke to-day and who also spoke last year on this subject. I ask the House, coming together as the House always does on a Minister's Estimates, not necessarily to take for pure gospel every statement that is made at the moment by a Member of Parliament who may not have command of the facts and information quite so accurately as the Minister in charge. I would like to remind the hon. Member for 201 Durham that last year he made a statement which I have only now the opportunity of correcting on the same subject which he dealt with this afternoon. On 27th April the hon. Member said that—since the Poor Law Commission reported not one single child, so far as I know, had been taken out of the workhouse.The hon. Member admits that he said that. He represents the City of Durham. I only wish to say that at the time he made that statement the union he represents had removed its children from its workhouse and the Durham Union had taken two houses in different parts of the city for their thirty-one children. I think that disposes of statement number one made by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. BURNS
No, the hon. Member is wrong, because you cannot buy two houses to accommodate thirty-one children and transfer them since 27th April, and it is now only 4th June. I am not saying the hon. Member ought to have known this, but it is a fact that in the adjoining unions in Chester-le-Street, Sunderland, South Shields, and Tynemouth, children have been taken out of the workhouses into scattered homes. I only make that comment to show that an ounce of fact is worth a ton of statement, and I do think that a statement made only in April last that not a single child had been taken out of the workhouse since the Report of the Poor Law Commission was issued is wide of the mark, but I will leave the matter there. The hon. Member said he wished to refer to the administration of the Poor Law so far as vagrancy is concerned, and ho said he was concerned about what we are doing in London with regard to casuals and vagrants. My Department is sometimes charged with not moving fast enough, but it seems in this particular I have gone too fast to please some hon. Members. I thought, and I still hold that there is no place like London so fruitful for an experiment in the treatment of casuals and vagrants, and it was impossible to give an adequate treatment of this experiment so long as the twenty-eight boards of guardians in London had different methods of treating their casuals and vagrants. I trust I have sensibly unified the administration of these twenty-eight boards of guardians, because they are now centred in one Poor 202 Law authority. I have made the Metropolitan Asylums Board the authority for dealing with this unified, and, I trust, scientifically unified area. The register we set up for the unification of the administration is showing great promise. It was only done in April last, but the various authorities, public and private, are working most heartily in this particular matter, and, in the first instance, after it had only been talked about, and before the experiment was tried, a large and rapid diminution in the number of casuals took place. The number used to range between 1,000 and 1,300, but on several days during the last week they have come down to 600 or 700. It seems to me that very often when you talk about a reform it does as much good as the reform itself. We trust that by this centralisation, by the register, and unification of the casual wards we shall get an experiment from which we can produce a certain process of dealing with casuals in the country and also with vagrants, and we hope that the Home Office and the Local Government Board combined may soon apply a scheme of this kind to other parts of the country.
The hon. Member touched very lightly— I think the right way to express it is to say rather gingerly—the question of labour colonies. I am not going to give my view about labour colonies, because the House has heard it before. The more one inquires about them, the less one is enamoured of them, and the number of advocates for labour colonies to-day is considerably less than it was five or six years ago. This is due to the operation and influence of education, which is causing Members to detach themselves from the enthusiastic adherence to what they did not quite understand when they first commenced advocating these colonies. The hon. Member for Durham said there were three cardinal points in the Minority Report which were in process of being dealt with. The hon. Member for Durham is, or was, a great adherent of the Minority Report, but he talks differently about it now. He said there were three principal features of the Minority Report to which he attached great importance. First, Labour Exchanges; secondly, insurance against unemployment; and the third was the establishment of day training centres at places of detention. Those were the three cardinal principles of the Minority Report to which he attached great importance, and I find that two out of the three, and 203 the most important two, are carried out by the Department of the Government which he alleges in the next breath is making no progress at all.
Labour Exchanges referred to in the Minority Report were in the minds of the people long before the Minority Report was issued, because they were talked about by trade unionists and critics of our social and political economy long before the Poor Law Commission was instituted. Therefore, one at least of those three cardinal points has been carried out by this Government. The Local Government Board took a hand, as was its duty, in ascertaining the facts before the Bill was printed. We had a special report written by one of my officers before the Bill was introduced, and I am able to say that 300 Labour Exchanges, which the hon. Member approves of, is a solid contribution to what the Minority Report thought was progress in the right direction of dealing with the Poor Law as an industrial problem. The next point was insurance against unemployment. May I say that one of the reasons why the Local Government Board did not deal with this question is because it is only indirectly connected with that Department and other Departments are more directly concerned, and upon them rests the responsibility for introducing legislation to deal with it. But that does not mean that the Local Government Board is not doing its duty. It means that the Local Government Board, in conjunction with other Departments and in co-operation with the Ministers who are more responsible than the Local Government Board, is contributing its quota towards the solution of a problem that is in the hands of another Minister. That is true with regard to Labour Exchanges.
With regard to insurance against unemployment, we have put our proposals forward. Hon. Members seem to think we put them forward as an alternative to the proposals of both the Minority and the Majority Reports. They were certainly put forward as against relief works and labour colonies, and I still hold the view that the best way in which to help all sections of unemployed workmen is not by the charity that degrades or by institutionalism which frequently corrupts, but by providing them with the opportunity of more regular work, and if we cannot do that to provide them with the means by which they can make the best of the trade 204 unions under a scheme of insurance and provide an unemployed donation when there is no work for them. This has been done by the Government, and that is the second point of the three cardinal principles of the Minority Report. If I were not the modest man which I am, I should say on the hon. Member's own showing that his own speech answers nine-tenths of the futile criticism directed against this Government that it is making no progress in social or industrial reform, because his remarks show that two out of the three cardinal points in the Minority Report have not only been done well, but, done better than the critics opposite could do them, and done to a surprising extent by people who get no credit whatever for doing them from critics opposite.
The third cardinal point was the advisability of instituting day training centres at detention colonies. That is not the Local Government Board's duty at all, but the duty of the educational authority on the one side and the industrial and training schools on the other who have to look after the young boys. It is for the Home Office to deal with that matter by an improved method of developing the excellent Borstal system. There, again, we have made considerable progress, and I think I am justified with regard to getting the children out of the workhouses, in the establishment of Labour Exchanges and in regard to insurance against unemployment, in appealing from Philip sober to Philip otherwise. I am only referring to what the Government is doing on these particular matters. The hon. Member asked me what about the feeble-minded. Hon. Members have been pressing me for the last year or two to deal with this subject, but departmentally I am only concerned in so far as the feeble-minded come under the care of boards of guardians. Here, again, as the hon. Member knows, before the Bill was introduced by the Home Office to deal with this subject in a comprehensive way the Local Government Board had not only taken steps, but had made considerable progress in combining boards of guardians in Wiltshire, Essex, and elsewhere. Before those combinations of guardians were set up we had made considerable progress even in the workhouses and infirmaries and other buildings we had, owing to the way in which public opinion is widely and humanely playing upon this particular aspect of one side of the Poor Law question. Owing to old age pensions and 205 other reasons, the workhouses are not so full as they were, and we are using a larger amount of space in existing workhouses and infirmaries without adding to the cost of the ratepayer at all for the further segregation and the better classification and proper and special treatment of the feeble minded whom we have under our control. I think we deserve the credit of the House for anticipating the Home Office in the production of the Mental Deficiency Bill, which, I trust, will deal with this matter in a broad and statesmanlike way.
Then the hon. Member noted with regret, as we all do, that the pauper lunatics in the last five years have increased from 111,000 to 121,000. I am not a lunacy expert, but for eighteen years I was a member of the London County Council. [Laughter.] My view of lunacy is tempered by that fact, which most properly gives some amusement to my colleagues. What did I discover when I was on the London County Council? I discovered what nearly every lunacy expert is now beginning to admit, that the pessimists, who are always depreciating their own country and who from every platform talk about England being a dying race with vanishing trades and disappearing industries, every man who is not in the workhouse being either on the way to a lunatic asylum or a home, may cite a statistical increase either in lunacy or in crime, and give it too wide and at times a universal application. My own view is that the actual increase in lunacy is not commensurate with the statistical increase of lunatics, imbeciles, idiots, and feebleminded persons. Twenty or thirty years ago many imbeciles, idiots, and feebleminded persons were allowed to run about the countryside, but they are now all gathered in, and the result is the statistics indicate in my judgment a much larger increase in lunacy than the facts warrant. The population of this country is urbanising very rapidly, and, the people having to live more closely packed than formerly, it frequently happens that two sons who would have kept their father and looked after him in a small town or rural village are unable to do so in a big city like Birmingham, Manchester, or Sheffield, and they make arrangements with the local authority to keep him. He goes to a lunatic asylum, and because he goes there he is counted. Hon. Members, therefore, say there is a tremendous increase in lunacy. In my judgment that is not the fact, and lots of men are now beginning to 206 realise it. I think we have reason to hope for a diminution in lunacy. I find the drink bill has dropped down 25 per cent. in ten years, and that we are spending £40,000,000 less on liquor than ten years ago, and I believe if that continues for another ten or fifteen years lunacy will not only not increase, but will show a substantial diminution.
The hon. Member used this statistical increase in lunacy as a medium for asking one or two questions. One was: Have imbeciles, idiots, and feeble-minded people under the Poor Law correspondingly increased? Our information is that they have. I frequently go to lunatic asylums, and the most remarkable thing about modern lunacy is that it is milder than it used to be. I often go into a lunatic asylum where there are 1,500 or 2,000 patients, and I am frequently told by the doctors that they have not had a padded-room case for four or five months. Lunacy, although more in number, is less violent than it used to be, and there is really no comparison in the treatment and the environment of the lunatic, imbecile, and feeble-minded person to-day and ten, twenty, or forty years ago. The hon. Member also said, what about the children in workhouses? I am glad to note, and I am grateful for it, that the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Sir A. Spicer), the hon. Member for Bury (Sir George Toulmin) and the hon. Member for Durham himself admitted there had been a considerable diminution in the number of children in workhouses. It is in my judgment not a bad achievement to have diminished the children in workhouses by 21 per cent. during the last four or five years. There are in London practically no children whom we can safely detach from their mothers who are in the workhouses at all. We have solved the problem so far as London is concerned, and I can give the hon. Member for Durham and the House generally this guarantee that we intend to apply the same process to the rest of the country, and we are prepared, if necessary, to adopt the same drastic remedies against all the recalcitrant boards of guardians that refuse to comply with the reasonable requests of the Local Government Board. At this moment beyond what has been done, sixty boards of guardians are either building, leasing, or hiring cottages or cottage homes for children now in workhouses, and I can assure the House I shall do my very best to press them on in that very good work.
207 The hon. Member asked why it is that, notwithstanding the number of children taken out of workhouses, there are more children taken into the Poor Law infirmaries. That on the face of it seems irreconcilable, but it is not. A great deal of this is due to London. In London, as in many other parts, owing to improved sanitation in some areas, from 50 to 70 per cent. of the infectious hospital accommodation is not only now not required, but in many cases has been empty for months; and in some cases for years. That is a waste of public money, and since I have been President of the Local Government Board I have done my best to stop it, and where infectious hospitals can be safely diverted to other purposes, such as the treatment of sick children on outdoor relief, by their conversion into convalescent homes for sick children, I have done that, particularly in London. There was a tremendous institution at Carshalton for infectious hospital patients, which cost £260,000. It was unoccupied for over a year, and we prevailed upon the Metropolitan Asylums Board two years ago to take all the sick children out of all the London workhouses and put them into this magnificent institution, which was lying derelict on Epsom Downs. In two years 5,874 sick children have gone there, and have got well in half the time they would have done in their homes or in the workhouse. That is one of the reasons the number of Poor Law infirmary children have increased. A similar thing has happened to another London infectious hospital, and in two years 9,000 children have gone through the two institutions.
The hon. Member next asked whether it would be possible for all the children of school age now under the boards of guardians to come under the Education Authorities. My answer is that there is no evidence at present that the education authorities are willing to do the work, but it is one of those things we ought to take into consideration, and we are discussing with the various authorities concerned the question how we can stop overlapping, save money, and, generally speaking, get the right authority to do the right work. The hon. Member wound up by saying he thought if Lord George Hamilton, Mrs. Sidney Webb, and the President of the Local Government Board were to have a conference we might have a concordat on Poor Law which the House would adopt. I have not the same confidence as the hon. 208 Member as to the result of that conference. I think all those three persons are rather arbitrary individuals, but I am not indisposed to act in the spirit of the hon. Member's remark, though I am not prepared to call the conference. I note the reason that induces him to make that excellent suggestion, and I note it as an indication of a change in his mental attitude towards the Poor Law problem in my Department. We are making great progress when the President of the Local Government Board can be invited, only invited, to a conference of this description. If we wait another six months I may join it, and, if I do, I hope to have the honour of converting the other two to my particular view. An hon. Member for one of the Scotch divisions made a very sensible suggestion with regard to recalcitrant boards of guardians. There is something to be said for a time limit for boards of guardians who will not take their children out of the workhouse. He asked how many workhouses are now used as places of detention. He will be pleased to know that it was with reluctance I consented to some workhouses being used as places of detention. We were compelled to do it. The law compelled us to provide some place, and it was the only place available. A year ago fifty places were being so used, but I am glad to say there are now only seventeen, and I hope they will ultimately all disappear. The hon. Member also alluded to the children who are now inspected by male relieving officers under the Children Act. We have in addition the advantage of women inspectors under the Order issued in 1911.
That brings me to the children on out-door relief. Several hon. Members have raised this point. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley said that children on out-relief ought to have more relief than is now given. Generally speaking that is true, and the Local Government Board is doing everything within its power to persuade and in some cases to compel boards of guardians to give widows— deserving widows—with children dependent on them more money per week than is now granted. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley said that in his district the amount had been increased from 2s. l0d. to 3s. 6d. per head. One or two boards have gone beyond that, and I have issued instructions—serious instructions— to my inspectors to look into this matter and to see that no deserving widow with children, and indeed that no widow with 209 deserving children—shall receive in out-relief an amount by which their physical well-being and reasonable comfort cannot be secured. I would like to put in this qualification. There are widows and widows. The overwhelming majority of widows are quite worthy people; but there are some in whose cases the more money you give for the children, the less the children get. The larger amount, the smaller proportion goes to the children, and we must be very careful to see that any increase granted does go to the children; we must also see that indiscriminate and extravagant outdoor relief to widows shall not be used as a medium—as it has been in London, particularly in the neighbourhood of Poplar, and Bow and Bromley—to employ women separated from their husbands on sweated wages, thereby subsidising the very worst kind of employers who take advantage of the increased generosity of the ratepayers to sweat and overwork the women.
The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley made one or two other suggestions. He said we should allow boards of guardians to subscribe to care committees so that they may take over children who now get outdoor relief. That seems, on the face of it, a simple and direct suggestion that one can grapple with; but at this moment we are discussing with certain local authorities the question how this matter can be dealt with. We are endeavouring to secure the overlapping shall be avoided. I will take this point into consideration in the discussion we are to have with care committees of various local authorities. Then the hon. Member dealt with case paper. That was universally asked for by all sorts of people who knew something about Poor Law relief. We instituted the case paper system, and I have only had two complaints about it since it has been instituted. I will look into the matter and if the case paper itself can be shortened or simplified, if one case paper can be made available by different authorities for the same purpose, I am quite prepared to unify that case paper. Then the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley cited the case of two sons, each earning £1 per week, while the father or mother were compelled to apply for outdoor relief. In the first place I would like to say I do not care to hear of any man in London being called upon to live upon £1 per week, and the proper thing is for the wage to be raised to a point which would enable the man to expend his pound and have something over. If you allow a subsidy of 10s. 210 per week the probability is that the wage of £1 per week would soon be reduced to 15s. I am, however, looking into the matter.
Another point was mentioned by the hon. Member for Plymouth, and he will, pardon me for saying that it is relatively unimportant. The hon. Member, with finely tempered indignation, dealt with the case of one of his constituents. It is not always an advantage for a Member of Parliament to take up the case of a constituent. It sometimes happens that the Minister in charge of the Department knows more about it and is able to tell the other side of the story. Anyone who listened to the hon. Member would come to the conclusion that the Local Government Board had been leaden-footed and dilatory, and had been taking too much, time to deal with this subject; that it had not in fact dealt with the case in a proper way. But in this case the fault did not lie with the Local Government Board, or with the pension officer. I regret the name of this man has been mentioned. I do not propose to mention it myself; but his wife's health had broken down through his misconduct, and the guardians had required him to pay 2s. 6d. per week out of his Army pension towards her maintenance. The pension officer had great difficulty in ascertaining the man's real position. He is an Army pensioner getting £21 6s. per annum, and that, of course, would disentitle him to the full old age pension of 5s. per week. But then it was found out that in addition he was earning a few shillings per week for casual labour, and finally it was brought down to 3s. per week. The pension officer has the law to carry out. On the one side we are told that the Pension Act is being fraudently used by people who have no right to a pension; but when we try and put a stop to any attempt at the improper enjoyment of a pension, we are accused of needless delay. All this trouble arose from the obstinacy of this man who did not wish the pension officer to know the real facts as to his income.
That brings me to another matter which has been raised, and that is the question of housing. The Noble Lord who represents Nottingham was very keen about Norfolk. There is another hon. Member who also is properly keen on that point; and I would ask the Committee not to be too much influenced by what the Noble Lord has said about housing in Norfolk. I am, of course, anxious to improve housing there, and five weeks ago I gave 211 one of my special inspectors instructions to go down into Norfolk and see what the local authorities are doing. I told him to enforce upon them the absolute necessity of doing all within their existing powers. My inspector reported on the condition of things there. It was not a mere rectification of sanitary defects. He inspected nineteen districts in which pressure had been brought to bear on the local authorities to exercise their powers. I am glad to say that only recently in three rural district councils with which the Noble Lord is well acquainted, we have given authority for housing orders, and several urban district councils have asked and received sanction for orders in order to carry them out. With regard to Chertsey, no objection can be raised to the action of the Local Government Board. It was a very difficult case. We had a reluctant local authority, and public spirited men who demanded that the local authority should do its duty simply found that the local authority was determined not to do so. The Noble Lord will be glad to hear that instead of nothing being done by the Local Government Board a loan has in fact been sanctioned and twelve cottages are in process of erection at this particular moment. The hon. Member for Gainsborough, with great force, dealt with housing in certain areas. The hon. Member stated that he went to live in a certain area, and he took chauffeur and a first and second gardener. I gather that one result of the chauffeur and first or second gardener being taken was that a labourer might have been displaced.
May I put this case to the hon. Member? Gentlemen go from London into the countryside, and take with them their motor chauffeurs and their gardeners. They displace thereby two or three agricultural labourers, and then they put the responsibility for the difficulty upon the President of the Local Government Board, who has no motor, and who, if he had one, would not employ a chauffeur under any consideration, because, being an engineer, he would drive himself. This is a most interesting social point, and I would make this appeal to hon. Members. There are 250,000 motor vehicles—it is an enormous number—of all descriptions in the United Kingdom, and a big number of them are taken into the country by their owners. It seems to me that housing reformers who talk about the agricultural labourer 212 being displaced by ordinary economic and social reasons, when they apprehend that their removal from London to a country district is going to accentuate the eviction of the rural labourers from the countryside, their business is to provide houses for the chauffeur and the first and the second gardener. As they are so fond of preaching to me about housing reform, let them do a little themselves and show us an example. [An HON. MEMBER: "They cannot get any land."] Oh, yes, you can. Under the Housing and Town Planning Act you have only to get yourself, the chauffeur, and the first and second gardener, and you have the four statutory persons under the Act. If you send to me, I will see that you get land by the compulsory process. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Walter Guinness) wanted to know from me the number of formal complaints under Part I. of the Housing Act. They have been twelve in number. The Board cannot take action without complaints. Of the twelve, seven have been inquired into. As regards three, houses are being provided as a result of the inquiry at Chertsey, Winterbourne, and elsewhere, and we are dealing with the others.
I come to the speech made by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen). He criticised as he always does. I hope to reply to him in a different spirit from that in which he couched his criticism. He always criticises the administration of the Housing Acts by the Local Government Board. He repeated what he has said before, and what I have satisfactorily answered, that little was being done, that more might be done and ought to be done, and he asks what is the policy of the Government. Let me once again tell the hon. Baronet that the Local Government Board never did say, and does not pretend, that everything is right in the matter of housing. The answer to his suggestion is that with accelerated pressure from the Local Government Board on all the authorities, the authorities are increasingly responding to the call of the Housing and Town Planning Act, and are increasingly doing their work. Considering the short time the Act has been in operation, and the slowness with which some local authorities act —even the one with which the hon. Baronet himself has been associated for many years—I think, on the whole, reasonable progress has been made. He 213 misquoted or misinterpreted the speech I made to the Municipal Corporations Association.
§ Mr. BURNS
I know you did, but you can quote a thing and wrench it out of its context and give it a different meaning from that which was in the mind of the speaker. What I said at the Municipal Corporations Association's dinner was that an enormous amount of housing reform could be carried out without a single new Bill, and that if all the local authorities were to carry out their housing responsibilities, as some authorities now are, almost a revolution—given an inclination on the part of the local authorities—would be carried out in this country. I said no more than that. The hon. Baronet quoted the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am going to pass over that quotation. He did not quote it for love of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor with any particular regard for myself; it was out of a desire to pit the Chancellor of the Exchequer against the President of the Local Government Board. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself understand each other very well, and when both of us are engaged in each doing his work in our respective Departments to the best of our ability—and, as I have demonstrated in my answer to the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hills) on other points, doing it very well—I am not going to allow a political attempt on a Parliamentary occasion to make bad blood between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself. My answer to his general criticism is this: The Housing and Town Planning Act is so good that in his attempt to amend it his first cardinal proposition was that there should be three Housing Commissioners appointed. I may appoint, instead of three Housing Commissioners, four or five Housing Inspectors, who will do more good in one year than three Commissioners irritating local authorities would do in five or six years. I may possibly go further than the hon. Baronet's three Commissioners, but I will call them by another name. I would not have them independent of the Board as the hon. Baronet wants them to be, but inspectors of the Board, amenable through the Minister to Parliament, directly acting in the light of publicity and not independent Commissioners, who often render themselves independent both of the Department and of Parliament. The hon. Baronet quoted 214 Hereford. He has only to ask the Member for Hereford to ask me a question in this House as to what the Hereford City Council is doing in this matter—
§ Mr. BURNS
I am sorry I did not hear the name of the town. I can assure the hon. Baronet that I will ask the medical officer for a report on all districts in Herefordshire, and if the facts are as that question indicated I will see what can be done. Rather scant justice was done to us, by saying that since I have been President only 200 loans representing £1,300,000 had been sanctioned for housing. That in no sense represents what has been done, because to assume that the measure of housing is what local authorities themselves do is to entirely ignore what private enterprise is doing, which, in regard to housing, is seventy or eighty times more than what local authorities attempt. With regard to town planning, what the hon. Member said is technically true, namely, that only one single town-planning scheme has been finally sanctioned. But what is the reason for that? One of the chief merits of housing and town planning is that you should peg out the whole of the country into possible town-planning schemes as quickly as you can. I was more concerned in getting local authorities to go on, as they have been doing in various cities, with over 100 town-planning schemes, than I was in giving final sanction to one, two or a dozen schemes. The hon. Baronet asks, what is the Local Government Board doing with regard to the urban problem of housing? The hon. Baronet cannot in one breath accuse me of not sanctioning as many loans for housing as my predecessor, and then in another capacity as Chairman of the Housing Committee come to me—I am not complaining—and very properly ask me to exempt the London County Council from its housing obligations to the tune of large sums of money. The hon. Baronet cannot have it both ways. He cannot accuse me of not pressing forward housing schemes in urban centres, of which London is one, and measure my activity, or inactivity by the amounts of loans which are sanctioned or the amount of money spent, and at the same time come to me, as he did as Chairman of the Housing Committee, and ask me to exempt, on cause shown, the London 215 County Council from housing obligations in Tabard Street and other places, to the tune of gross £211,000 for 4,000 persons, and net £162,000 for 3,257 persons.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
The right hon. Gentleman forgets the amount of voluntary housing we are doing under Part III.
§ Mr. BURNS
I do not. I know all about that. I am taking the simple facts. I am accused of not pressing forward the amount in money of housing that my predecessor did, when as a matter of fact the situation in London has absolutely changed since my predecessor was in office. Ten years ago in London you could hardly get an empty house or an empty room. In the East End poor alien tailors and others had to pay 10s. or 15s. key money. There were not any empty houses or rooms in Stepney. Now key money has gone. House rent and rent per room has declined, and there are two or three thousand empty houses and rooms in the parish of Stepney, where there were hardly any seven or eight years ago. I have said that the county council ought not to be called upon to spend enormous sums of money in a city like London, where now there are 60,000 empty houses, where rent is not rising, and where the people have the command of more houses than they had. I have nothing more to say on the question of housing. The last point, with which I will deal very briefly, is that of vaccination. I put these facts to the Committee. Of 1,420 vaccination officers, sixty-one only have made complaint. Of those sixty-one, forty-one have been compensated by guardians since the complaints were made. I have put compulsion upon two, which makes forty-three. In eight cases there is no compensation needed, and ten cases are under consideration. Beyond this, 460 vaccination officers have received fees or gratuities by way of compensation for loss of income. These men have been treated, not only fairly, but generously, and they have received more consideration than they asked for. I ask the Committee to take it from me that that consideration will be extended to the remaining ten cases. Having answered the various points made by hon. Members, I trust I have given the Committee a justification for the policy we have pursued, and I think I have justified my appeal to the Committee to vote against the Amendment to reduce my salary.
§ Mr. HUNT
The right hon. Gentleman did not answer the question with regard to over-crowding. Perhaps he will give us the answer another time. I should like to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the carts which collect refuse in London and other towns. These carts are employed during the day time, while food and milk is being distributed. The food and milk must get contaminated from the dust which comes off the refuse carts. Are not the carts employed during the daytime in that kind of work a public nuisance? I believe that in Germany and other countries they are not used at a time when the food and milk is being distributed, and consequently there is less possibility of injury to health. I hope the right hon. Gentleman may be able to find some way by which these carts can do their work at a time, either earlier or later, when food and milk are not being sent round.
And, it being a quarter-past Eight of the clock, and leave having been given to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.