asked the President of the Local Government Board if he is aware that the Ecclesall guardians, Sheffield, are offering relief work to applicants for work to perform which a journey of three or four miles has to be taken twice each day, and that Mr. Bagenal urged the Wakefield guardians, at their meeting on 18th March, to adopt a similar policy, and so reduce the applications made to them for relief; and, if so, will he say whether this policy of preventing applications for relief is the recognised policy of the Department?
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Burns)
I understand that some moor land was hired by the Ecclesall-Bierlow guardians at some distance from Sheffield, and that able-bodied men applying for relief were engaged upon its reclamation, the time taken by the men in getting to and from the work being regarded as part of their working hours. This case was, as I learn from my inspector, merely quoted by him as an illustration, and no suggestion was made by him that the Wakefield guardians should procure remote land for the purpose of applying a labour test.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in a published report of that meeting it was stated definitely that Mr. Bagenal had complained that the Wakefield guardians were too easy, and had put before them the example of the Ecclesall guardians, telling them that if they adopted their methods they would not have so many applicants?
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I desire to ask the President of the Local Government Board a question of which I have given him private notice, namely, whether his attention has been drawn to the opinion given by the clerk to the Merthyr board of guardians on Saturday last to the effect that, owing to a decision of the Court of Appeal in 1899, guardians have no power to open relief works during a strike, and whether he accepts this as a correct interpretation of the law, and whether he proposes taking any action in the matter?
§ Mr. BURNS
I have only just received notice of the hon. Member's intention to put this question to me. I have seen a fragmentary report, which it would be unfair to the clerk to the guardians to fasten-upon. If the hon. Member will put the question down on the Paper, I shall be pleased to give him a prompt and considered reply. This might be done without any prejudice to the persons or the authority concerned.