§ Motion made and Question proposed,
§ "That a sum, not exceeding £189,988, 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, 1914, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board." —[NOTE.—£105,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I beg to move, "That Sub-head A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100.
I need hardly say that I do not make this Motion out of any personal hostility to the President of the Local Government Board or to the Under-Secretary. Indeed, I am sure many of those who sit upon this side of the House share with me feelings of great admiration for the strong common sense and unfailing courage with which the President of the Local Government Board has dealt for many years with the problems with which he is confronted during his long period of office. When the President of the Local Government Board first assumed office, I think on the first occasion when the reduction of his salary was moved he made a long and very interesting speech covering a great deal of ground, and he wound up with a peroration which greatly impressed the House. He said, "There are all these things to be done"—I am paraphrasing his peroration—"never mind, leave it to me. This Amendment is for the reduction of the salary of the President of the Local Government Board. Give me salary and I will do the work. In the years which have passed the President of the Local Government Board has been true to the text with which he concluded his speech at that time. He has shown great good sense, great courage in facing many a difficult question, but almost invariably when it comes to the suggestions of a solution, he has fallen back upon the old statement of seven years ago, and says, "Leave it to me and I will make things all right." He has had a long tenure of office, and he has had on the whole, I think, a very free hand, and it is rather interesting to some of us who 1810 have been so many years in politics, and who are rather interested students of what goes on within the walls of this Chamber, to reflect upon the fact that it is left to what we are told is the most Radical Government we ever had, to find in more than one of its Ministers a most determined autocrat. I think without offence I might say tyrant, that was ever found sitting upon the Treasury Bench, and while I do not think that you can take courage and common sense too far, I think you can take even the most benevolent autocracy too far. My main object in moving this reduction is to ask the Committee to consider whether it does not look as if we had in a great deal of the administration too much of the individual and too little of the Department of which he is the head.
I had the very great honour and advantage of being for eleven years connected with the Local Government Board as Under-Secretary and as President, and I can safely say that though the distinguished Civil servants of the Crown are as a body capable and efficient, there is no Department in which men have been found during the years that have passed since I went there, now more than twenty-five years ago, who are more devoted to their work and have a more thorough knowledge of their business, or bring to the solution of the problems with which they have to deal more valuable experience or a more thorough fund of knowledge. I have no. personal knowledge of what goes on within the Department now, but I know the Department very well, and many of the prominent officials, and the views they take of those social problems; and looking back as I can over a long period of years, and remembering as I do the various stages of the work of that Department, I cannot help thinking that if to-day they were given a free hand, they would take the same course which they took in those days gone by, and would recommend that this House in regard to certain reforms should ask for subventions or for loans. The part the Local Government Board plays in our local life is very important, very close and may be of great usefulness. I suppose the two sets of laws which are more valuable to our people than any other, and with which the Local Government Board have been most closely connected, are the laws which govern our public health and the laws which govern the erection of houses for the working classes. Now with regard to laws affecting our public health, 1811 the Local Government Board has always been since 1875, the supreme, as it is sometimes called, though I think often wrongly, the directing or controlling authority. But anybody who remembers the past, will, I am convinced, agree with me that what really gave the Local Government Board power in regard to the administration of the public health, was the determination of the State to make certain contributions in respect to the salaries of certain local officials, and to give the Local Government Board power to exercise discretion in the appointment of those officials, taking at the same time the responsibility of paying portion of their salaries. It was one of the greatest steps ever taken in connection with this most important branch of local government.
In regard to the second question, namely, the housing of the working classes, I really think that the President of the Local Government Board has been guilty of a very great failure in the discharge of his duty as President of the Board. I am not going, of course, to discuss legislation or anything that the President cannot do without legislation, but I am going to call the attention of the Committee to the actual part he has taken with regard to this most pressing question. We have had quite recently introduced into this House two measures from different sides of the House which proposed to enact that certain wages should be paid to agricultural labourers. I do not agree with these proposals. I entirely oppose them, whichever side of the House they come from, not because I regard them as socialistic—I do not care in the least about that kind of objection, if I thought they would effect the object they had in view I would not be opposed to them—I am opposed to them because I believe if enacted they would cause mischief to the working classes. But when you come to housing, there you are on very different ground. I am one of those who believe that the existing condition of things is, and has been for some time, wholly unsatisfactory. I agree with the view put forward by hon. Gentlemen speaking in one of our Debates this Session, that at a very moderate computation you want probably something like 100,000 more decent houses and cottages for the working classes in the country districts than you have now. What about the towns? You have in the towns, notwithstanding all the legislation you passed 1812 and all the work done by the municipal authorities, and all the work done by charities, and all the work done by various industrial associations formed for this purpose—you have at the present moment a vast number of homes—it is almost desecration to use the word homes in this connection—there are an enormous number of cottages or dwellings in which it is impossible to expect men, women, and children to live and do their duty by their country and their locality. How is this evil to be remedied? It was suggested in a Bill which my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset brought forward that there should be certain alterations in the law and that local authorities should be charged with powers to do certain work, and the State should contribute towards the cost. I know many hon. Members opposite cannot hear a question of this kind discussed without immediately talking about the landlords, and they say, "This is another proposal to give doles to the landlords and an attempt to take a burden which ought to rest upon the shoulders of the owners of the land and place it upon the shoulders of the State." I have said before, and I repeat it now to hon. Members who really hold those views and believe they are well founded, that I should be delighted to support them in asking for the appointment of a Committee, not composed of landowners, but to be drawn from the critics of landowners entirely, to inquire that the true state of the case is as regards the landowners of this country.
I do not pretend to know precisely and accurately what are the facts throughout the whole of the country, but I have some small knowledge of the country, and I have been a close observer and student of this particular question for a great many years, and I firmly believe that if you take those who are generally called landowners, I mean the large owners, who have perhaps several thousand acres of land in particular districts, if you take their properties you will find two facts are established, one that there are enough cottages for those employed on or about those estates; and, secondly, that those cottages are, as a rule, of an extremely good character. Therefore I deny altogether that any proposal to lighten the burden in connection with cottage building by the local authorities will necessarily involve giving relief to the owners of the land. This question, like almost every other question of social reform which we have 1813 now to consider in this House, has altered entirely during the last twenty years by the ordinary progress of events. There is one thing which has done more to alter the conditions than anything else, and that is the invention and cheapening of the bicycle. The bicycle has had more to do with the change in modern rural life than probably anything else that has been invented. What happens now in an ordinary country village? Some hon. Members opposite say that we ought to try to bring the men back to the land and prevent the depopulation of our country villages. I am all for the extension of the ownership of land in small quantities, but you are not going to bring back the labourer by simply telling him you will help him to become the owner of a small quantity of land. The villagers leave the country for the same reason as other men leave, because they think they can better their position and obtain a more cheerful life, and in other ways obtain advantages.
But some of them do not leave the village in which they were born, and in which they are very glad to live. They continue to live there, and they find an occupation in some neighbouring town eight or nine miles off, and it is the bicycle which has enabled them to do this in the rural districts. A man can now be at his employ easily at six o'clock in the morning some six or seven miles away from his residence, and in this way those living in the villages can find more agreeable employment in the adjacent towns. Not long ago I stood on the outskirts of one of our towns, and I noticed no less than 130 men pass on their bicycles going away to their homes in adjacent villages. Is there any hon. Member opposite so prejudiced against the whole landed system and all landlords as to be prepared to get up and say that it is the duty of the landowners to build cottages for these men who work seven or eight miles away from the villages. The thing is preposterous. If you like to make the building of cottages a remunerative investment, then I have no doubt the landowner will do it as readily as other people; but as things are, and so long as you cannot get an economic rent for the ordinary cottage which you build in the country village, you have no right to expect the men who own the land to build cottages for those who work for other people. This is the problem you will have to deal with. You have to face in this House this changed condition of things. You have 1814 got this considerable section of your country population who desire to continue to live where they were born, and where their presence is most desirable for many reasons. You have these men necessarily requiring cottages in which to live. There is not only these men who find their occupation in adjacent industrial centres, but other changes have taken place. Let any man who remembers what the country roads were years ago compare them with what they are now. Our roads are maintained in a totally different way, and I should say that there are eight or ten times the number of roads maintained by the central authority than were maintained under our system of local government thirty years ago. This means that you have a large number of road men employed by the county council who have to be resident in the country villages, for whom houses have to be provided. Is there any justification for asking the landowners to provide these men with cottages?
There has been in the last thirty years an immense extension of our railway system, and a large number of local railways have been created. This has necessitated the residence of a large number of railway men all over the country districts. Many of these men live in our country villages, and how can you ask that the landowners in those districts should provide houses for these railway men? I am willing to see such a Committee as I have suggested appointed, and I will abide by their decision on this question. I have absolute confidence in their honesty and integrity, and I am certain such a Committee will report upon the facts as presented to them, and, if they report that the landlords have not done their duty, then let them be made to do their duty. I start with the assumption that in the overwhelming majority of cases adequate provision is made for their employés by the owners of the soil, and you cannot ask them to step out into this other field and find cottages for men with whom they have no connections whatever. Who has to make this provision? What is the answer of this House? The answer has been given, through the President of the Local Government Board, that nobody is to do it, nothing is to be done, and you are to stand still. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is the answer which has been given to us. We are to stand still in the face of the present state of things. You fold your arms and say you hope for something better in the future.
1815 What was the answer given by the President of the Local Government Board the other day? It was to the effect that under the Act of 1909, which he passed, great improvements had taken place. I do not deny for a moment that that Act has done some good work. I think it has, but I think it would have done better work if some of the suggestions made by some of us had been listened to at the time. I do not know what the exact figures are. I can only get figures which are not Government figures, and perhaps the President will forgive me if I differentiate between Government figures and the figures of the Local Government Board, because sometimes we have the most startling figures produced by the right hon. Gentleman, who probably evolves them out of his own brilliant brain as the Debate goes on. There have been a great many inquiries. A great many of us have a certain amount of local knowledge, and I say and challenge contradiction, that while some good has been done, no real movement has been started to deal with this most pressing and this most important of all social problems. The reason why no movement has been initiated is, we are told, because the powers of the Department are confined to giving orders to the local authorities. There never has been a President more prolific in orders to the local authorities. I admit they have been of a peremptory and imperious character. The right hon. Gentleman issues his ukase and expects the local authorities to bow humbly down and worship at his shrine, and carry out all his orders.
The truth of the matter is that the local authorities are talked about here as if they were mere machines made of wood or steel, set in motion by turning a key, but they are composed of human beings, men very like the President of the Local Government Board. [HON. MEMBERS "No!"] I cannot join in any suggestion of that kind, because the right hon. Gentleman is a fine specimen of a rugged, determined, strong Englishman, but when these local authorities get imperative orders from Whitehall, telling them they are to do certain things, they entirely disregard those orders, and practically tell the right hon. Gentleman to go to a place far hotter than the one he ordinarily cares to occupy. It is no good the central Department issuing orders in this way. What were the powers of the old authority? There was the power of the central authority 1816 and the power of mandamus. Is there anybody in this House prepared to say that the power of mandamus was ever worth a rap to get a local authority to take their view? You have the power of superseding the local authority and of doing the work yourselves, but in how many instances has that power been exercised? What is the one thing that has answered? It is when the central authority has been able to say, "This is your duty; you are better able to do it than we are. You have the local knowledge. You not only know what is required better than we do, but you know how best it can be efficiently and economically done." The duty is a twofold one; it is partly local and partly Imperial. These cottages, for instance, are necessary not as a purely local question. It is perfectly true that these men who work in this town eight miles off might equally well live in that town or on its outskirts, and it is perfectly true that these men who work on the railways or on the roads might live elsewhere, but in the interests of the nation as a whole we want to keep up our village life, and it is to the advantage of the village, of the county, of the locality, and of the community as a whole, that some arrangement should be made by which these people should be able to work where they will, and to retain their residences in this particular neighbourhood. How is that to be done? It ought to be recognised that the responsibility, like the work, is a dual responsibility, and that while the locality should bear its fair share of the cost the State should contribute something. I do not believe that until the State is willing to make some contribution—
§ Mr. LONG
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to wait a moment. There is not the power, and I am arguing that the President of the Local Government Board failed to do his duty as President, because in the exercise of his discretion he could have got this power. That is my answer to the hon. Member; it is not that there is the power now. I know there is not. I am asking the Committee, with great respect, to blame the President of the Local Government Board, because, when faced with this great fact, he did not accept the power which he might have obtained.
§ Mr. LONG
On the point of Order, respectfully submit to you, Sir, that it has been the invariable practice on the Estimates to discuss the conduct of Ministers in the decisions at which they have arrived, and which have had their effect upon the policy of the day. If that is not in order, it is impossible to discuss the discharge of their duties by Ministers in any complete form.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman has had a long experience of the House and its Committees, and he has been in the position which he is now attacking. He said, in the opening part of his speech, I think, that he was well aware of the rule in Committee of Supply that one must deal with the Minister under his existing power, and I was all along anticipating that he would come to a question where he would show that the President of the Local Government Board had failed to do something within his powers. So far, of course, the discussion is in order, but we ought not to have to-day a renewed discussion of the Bill which was dealt with some time ago.
§ Mr. LONG
I need hardly say that I respectfully bow to your ruling which entirely conforms with the views I hold myself. In answering the interruption of the hon. Member opposite, I said that it was in the exercise of his discretion as President that I held that the right hon. Gentleman had failed to do what he might to have done. The President of the Local Government Board told us himself that he has under the Act of 1909 full power without any extra, legislation, or any extra contribution from the State, or any change of the law to do all that is required. I have said that we have no Government figures available, but we have a certain amount of experience in certain parts of the country. I have here a letter written to one of our newspapers, pointing out that cottages are badly wanted, that it has been impossible to build them, and that to condemn cottages which are not satisfactory for the purpose of housing the working-classes without building new ones, would only be to add to the pro- 1818 blem. I have here a case from a district, the Hemel Hempstead district, in which the Local Government Board inspector made it a sine quâ non that no additional burdens should be placed upon the rates. The President of the Local Government Board tells us, first of all, that he has got full power, and he then issues his orders to the local authority telling them that they cannot do this work, because if they do they will have extra burdens placed upon the rates, which is the one thing they cannot do. How can that be consistent with the declaration of the President of the Local Government, Board, that he has all the powers he needs? His own inspector goes down, and the first thing he tells the local authority is that no additional burdens must be placed upon the rates. You are confronted with the fact that you have insufficient accommodation for some of the reasons that I have given. You have men clamouring for homes, and you cannot provide them. We are told that there is power in the Department to compel the local authorities to provide these buildings. If the President of the Local Government Board has got power to force a local authority to do its duty, why is it that to-day we are in the position in which we are? Anybody who has studied this problem recently must know that under the Act of 1909 something has been done, and some progress has been made, but in reality the advance has been very slight indeed, and to-day this is the most pressing as it is the most serious problem with which we are confronted in social legislation.
The Vaccination Laws in this country have been going through considerable changes, and I for one profoundly regret to learn that there is such a large increase in the number of unvaccinated children. I think that it is deplorable, and I cannot help thinking that the result some day or other may be of the greatest gravity. I want, however, to discuss the action of the head of the Department with regard to the vaccination officers. They are paid under the old system of fees, per case. Those fees have naturally decreased as the cases have decreased, and a large number of men in the country are doing work of the most important medical character on wholly insufficient remuneration. I submit with confidence to the Committee that it was the duty of the President of the Local Government Board to have stepped in and dealt with these men as he could have dealt with them for this purpose— he has full and sufficient powers—because to 1819 have men doing work of this kind under the ever present feeling that they are insufficiently and improperly remunerated, is to run grave risks of the work not being efficiently done, and to create among a considerable class of professional men whose work is of the utmost importance to the country a spirit of discontent. I want also to say a word about emigration. I think the whole question of emigration in this country is in the most unsatisfactory condition. I know that it is customary in this House to deride emigration and to say that you have no right to drive your people out of the country. That is perfectly and absolutely true. No one wants to drive them out of the country, and no one would be better pleased than I should be if it were possible to keep all our people in the country, but, whatever we may think or say here, our people take a different view, and they are leaving the United Kingdom every day for different parts of the world. The vast majority of those who go are well able to take care of themselves and to provide for themselves, but there is a certain class of emigrant who is not in this, comparatively speaking, happy position, and I believe that the President of the Local Government Board would do well in the interests of the community if he were to enter into an alliance with the head of the Salvation Army in dealing with some of this class of emigrants, particularly to Canada. The success which has attended the work of the Salvation Army there has been phenomenal. They have hardly had a failure, and it is to these poor people who are unable to help themselves that the care of this House should be directed if we want to prevent those tragic failures which sometimes occur, owing to people having left this country for one of our Colonies improperly provided, either with financial assistance or with the guidance they require when they find themselves for the first time in a strange land.
There is one other subject about which I want to say a few words. I admit that very few cases have come before me, and the last which came before me, I understand, has been suspended; but I have had cases brought to my attention where attempts have been made to over-ride the decision of the local authorities in the appointment of officials and to substitute for those officials men selected by the Central Office in London. I venture to say that is a wholly wrong and improper 1820 policy. If I had done it when I was President of the Local Government Board, I can imagine the chorus of attacks that would have come from all quarters of the House, and no body would have been more vehement in his attack than the right hon. Gentleman himself. He would have said, "This is your idea of local government and of representative government. You have a body elected to govern a locality and you give them powers to do their work and to appoint their officials, but, when they appoint those officials, you reject their nominations and appoint others in their places." I hope the few cases in which this has occurred will be the last. If a local authority makes an appointment which is manifestly unfair, or if it proposes to put some one in office who by his professional attainments or personal character is wholly unfit for the post, then it is obvious that there ought to be power in the central authority to supersede him and secure the appointment of somebody else; but where that is not the case, where it is merely a question of opinion as to the particular qualification or the particular characteristic of the man who would make the best official, then I say you have no right, so long as you pretend to have a popularly elected system of local government, to over-ride your local authorities and take the power of appointment in the hands of the central authority. In my judgment it is a fatal attack on the whole system of local government. It has only been done when the necessities of the case are so manifest as to make it essential that the central Department should step in.
I said when I began, that. I made my Motion from no desire to deliver a personal attack on the President, of the Local Government Board. I am happy to say he is one of those Ministers of the Crown with whom I have had the pleasantest relations during the time he has been in office, and while I have been in opposition. I do not attack hint personally, but I repeat that, though he has done much good work, he has taken too much into his own hands. He has made himself too much the arbiter of what is good or bad for local authorities or for individuals. We want, I think, a little more of the ripe experience and trained knowledge of those distinguished men with whom he works, and I believe that, given his own characteristics and the advantages of experience, the administration of this Department, which is so 1821 important to the health and happiness of the people of this country, will be more satisfactory than it is at the present time.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I want to say a few words on the administration of the Housing Act. I realise that, by your ruling, we can only discuss administration and not the effect of legislation. But my position is made all the easier on account of the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made a year—ago a statement which has been quoted by my right hon. Friend this afternoon—that not a single other Housing Act is necessary, and that he can do everything he wants under the present law. If that is so, we must look to his administration. 1f the law is sufficient, all I can say is, from my knowledge of housing in different parts of the country, the administration must be, very much at fault. The state of housing in towns and country districts, as well as in mining districts, is deplorable in many parts of the country. Let me for a few moments deal with the case of the towns. We have the continued existence in most large towns of big slum areas. Notwithstanding all that has been done, there is a terrible amount of over-crowding, I know that the right hon. Gentleman, when he talks about that, says: "Look at the empty houses." It is quite true there are empty houses, but very often overcrowding goes on in the neighbourhood of those empty houses. It suits the owner of the houses to have overcrowding because he gets more rent, and it suits the unfortunate tenant because he is able to pay less for the individual part of the house in which he lives.
Why is not the law against overcrowding properly carried out? We have been told by Sir William Lever, once a Member of this House, that there are 100,000 deaths every year from overcrowding—a bigger number than were killed during the South African war. Is that a satisfactory state of affairs? I think the Government are very much at fault. They talk of the continued existence of these slum areas, but what is being done? How many Part I. schemes are going on in the country at the present time. The Chief Inspector of the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green said there were twenty areas in London ripe for treatment under Part I. London is engaged in the great Tabard Street scheme, and cannot afford more at the present time. That is nearly true. I have seen a Return by Sir Shirley 1822 Murphy, the late County Medical Officer for London, and I gather from that that as a matter of fact not a single town is consistently dealing with slum areas except Liverpool. There are a few schemes—at Exeter, Portsmouth, and Bath, but, generally speaking, Part I is at a standstill. Why is that if the law is sufficient? Why does the right hon. Gentleman not see that more is done to clear these slums? I know he relies on Part II.—on making the owner of the house put it in repair. In a White Paper issued last August, he went fully into the matter, and apparently was very well satisfied with what was being done under Part II. But what does it come to? Out of 1,757 local authorities that made Returns, 1,048 have not dealt with the question at all, and that, the right hon. Gentleman says is very gratifying progress! What does he mean? He talks about 46,000 houses having been built under Part II. How many have not been built that should have been built? How is it that out of these 1,757 local authorities, roughly speaking, only 700 are doing this work? What about the other thousand who are doing nothing at all? Is that satisfactory? If it is not, I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he is going to do in the matter?
I know one great difficulty, and that brings me to the rural question. The difficulty is expressed in this White Paper, which says that it is impossible, very often, to close or demolish insanitary houses on account of the scarcity of suitable accommodation to which the persons displaced many remove. There is the whole question in a nutshell, and I say to the right hon. Gentleman so long as he tries to administer an Act which demolishes property or closes it, but makes no provisions for providing other property, to which persons displaced can go, the Act cannot prove satisfactory. As a matter of fact, it is well known that in many villages where the Act has been put into force it has done a great deal more harm than good, because it is better to have insanitary houses to dwell in than none at all. I read an example of that only the other day. It occurred in the Hungerford district two years ago. It was the case of a family of six, husband, wife and four children, who lived in an insanitary house. The local authorities, using the right hon. Gentleman's Act, closed the house. The family were driven out. As there was no other house they could go to, they went to live in a sheep house for a time. The 1823 local authority said that that was insanitary, and they were hunted out. That was in the middle of winter! Was it not a nice state of affairs? I say the real difficulty is this, that you are condemning people to live in insanitary houses because there is nowhere else for them to go. You must make some provision; otherwise the Act will be found to be a dead letter.
I will give an example of what happens where the Act is not carried out. Two years ago, on the 3rd August, 1911, the late rector of Pelton, a place in Durham, wrote a, letter to the Local Government Board. I do not know what the answer was, but it gave his experience. He said that there were certain houses in Pelton which were an absolute disgrace, and that the infantile mortality was appalling. The houses were, not fit for a prize dog, and he added—I got so sick of burying infants that I could stand it no longer, and I had to leave the place. What is the use of preaching the Gospel, which we clergy are paid to do, while this holocaust is going on from day to day.That is a pretty state of affairs, due to the fact that the Act cannot be carried out. The right hon. Gentleman is satisfied apparently that a great deal is being done, but the point to my mind is what building is being done now by the local authorities. Hon. Members will have heard of a Return known as the Winfrey Return, that being the name of the hon. Member who moved for it. It shows what is being done in the way of building houses by local authorities. What does it come to? In the two and a half years which elapsed between the passing of the Housing and Town Planning Act and the date of the Return, 315 houses were provided by the local authorities. We are told we want 100,000 cottages in the villages at once. At that rate of progress it would take 793 years seven months to get that 100,000 cottages ! is that satisfactory to the right hen. Gentleman? Let me take another point. Take the rents charged. This Return is very useful. It not only gives the number of houses built, but also the rents charged. We know quite well that as a rule in country districts it is impossible for a working man to pay more than 1s. 6d. or 2s. or 2s. 6d. weekly for his cottage. But what were the rents charged for the cottages built under the aegis of the President of the Local Government Board? In most cases they varied from 3s. 9d. to 6s. 4d., in eight cases from 3s. to 3s. 4d., and in four cases they were 2s. 6d.—a reasonable rent, but you must add to that 1824 the rates. Just contrast that with the case of Ireland. Three hundred and fifteen houses have been built in this country under the Local Government Board at rents which people cannot pay. In Ireland 40,000 cottages have been built at rents the people can pay. I would ask why should we not have administration—I must not talk about legislation—but why should we not have administration as good as in Ireland?
Take another point from this Return. We know that the right hon. Gentleman takes a very strong line against what he calls "charity rents." He will not have anything in the way of outdoor relief in bricks and mortar. But what do we find from this Return? In scarcely a single case of these houses, built by local authorities under the Act, Do the receipts balance the expenditure! In every single case, there is a deficit. Who pays it? It falls on the ratepayers. It is a charity rent whether the ratepayer pays the deficit or whether the taxpayer pays it. How the right hon. Gentleman can take the stand he has done against Grants-in-Aid to the taxpayer when he himself time after time has authorised that these rents should be paid partly out of the rates, I cannot for the life of the understand. The real fact is this: We are face to face with a terrible shortage of cottages in our country districts. The right hon. Gentleman says there is enough legislation. All I can say is that the administration under that legislation has not produced the desired result. My right hon. Friend says that we have no official figures. I agree that there are none. But I can quote to the right hon. Gentleman some figures which have been privately arrived at by the National Land and Housing Reform League. This body, a little while ago, circularised the rural district councils throughout the country, and these are the questions they put. They asked, first, whether there was a dearth of cottages in the districts. One hundred and eighty-seven said "Yes" and 107 said "No." They then asked whether the cottages were erected without casting a burden on the rate. Eight said "Yes" and 261 said "No." They, thirdly, asked whether they would welcome a State Grant. [HON. MEMBERS: "And they all said 'Yes.'"] I agree; they did say "Yes"; and inasmuch as they could not erect cottages without putting a burden upon the rates, they would have been great fools if they had not. The answer 1825 from 169 was "Yes" and from 39 "No." I ask hon. Members who jeer that statement how they are going to provide for this admitted deficiency in cottages unless they adopt a better system of administration than we have at the present time? The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman utterly fails to carry out what he intended by the Act of 1909. In many cases his authority is openly defied. Look at the Reigate case. Two years ago the medical officer of the Reigate district complained of the lack of cottages in certain villages in that district. There was a long delay. Nothing happened. Nothing generally does happen at the Local Government Board under the right hon. Gentleman. At last he sent down an inspector, Dr. Manley, who reported that it was absolutely necessary to provide certain cottages. That was two years ago. What has happened since? Nothing, and nothing seems likely to happen either now or in the near future. Take the Stridland Bay case. There an inquiry was held by the Local Government Board last November. What has been the result of that inquiry? I do not know.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Because the right hon. Gentleman has kept it pigeon-holed in his office, and nobody knows. Why on earth is there this terrible delay in dealing with pressing matters of this sort? The matter is very serious, and, as my right hon. Friend has said, it is growing more so. He mentioned the increase in the population in the neighbourhood of towns, in the men who go to town on bicycles, and in the railway officials and roadmen. Let me mention another class. There has been a great extension of Post Office officials in recent years. The Post Office has been pressed over and over again to provide houses for their people, but they will not do it. I am not going into that point, because it would be criticising another Department, but it adds to the difficulties of the right hon. Gentleman, and it is perfectly impossible in present circumstances to find adequate accommodation for the people in the villages. I have dealt with the state of affairs in the big towns, and I have spoken about the country districts, but I suppose there is no part of the country where housing is worse than in our mining districts. There 1826 are special difficulties there. A new pit is opened and there is a great influx of population. The life of the pit may not be long, and it is difficult to get anybody to build, but the fact remains that in some parts of the country the condition of housing in mining districts is absolutely an abomination, and nowhere is it worse than in South Wales. I have been paying some attention lately to the state of affairs in South Wales. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that this is not a new question. When the Royal Commission on the Poor Law was sitting some years ago, the Commissioners were struck by the evidence they had of the terribly bad accommodation in South Wales. They were so struck by it that they got the Local Government Board to send down a Special Commissioner to report. The right hon. Gentleman has allowed me to see the Report and has asked me not to use it publicly, therefore I will not do so. All I will say is that it reveals the fact—and I believe things are not much better now—that people in receipt of outdoor relief were living in houses so bad as to be a positive scandal to the whole country. What has been done since? The right hon. Gentleman asked me not to make use of this Report, because he says that so much progress has been made in South Wales since it was made. What do we find? So dissatisfied are Members of this House who represent South Wales with the state of things, that the senior Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Edgar Jones), who I do not see in his place to-day, last week asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would not bodily hand over the administration of the Housing Acts from the Local Government Board to some central Welsh authority. That does not look as if things were particularly good in South Wales. I remember reading last year at the time of the coal strike some most remarkable articles in the "Daily News," a leading Liberal paper. They said this:—The real problem of Glamorgan is not that of the minimum wage, but that of the housing condition of the miners.The article proceeds to give some statistics to show how bad were the conditions of miners regarding housing in that district. They took a place called Penydaren, which I believe is close to Merthyr. The figures showed that the general death rate in Penydaren was 19.7 per thousand, and that the infantile death rate was no less than 193 per thousand. If you compare that with the Garden City of Letchworth, you find that the general death rate there is 1827 only 4.8, and the infantile death rate only 54.05. I say that the condition of housing in South Wales and other mining districts is an absolute scandal at the present time. Something must be undertaken and done quickly in order to mend these conditions. I am not going into any question with regard to the action of the President of the Board in regard to proposed legislation, but I do say this: That while I join my right hon. Friend in his personal respect for the President of the Local Government Board, I do not think he in the least understands the gravity of the situation; I do not think he appreciates the terrible conditions under which so many of our people are housed, and I do not think he realises how important it is to the nation that our people should be properly housed. I think he is simply playing round the edge of the question. We want a new administration and a new law, and, I venture to think, a new President of the Local Government Board if this matter is to be satisfactorily dealt with.
§ Mr. T. RICHARDSON
I rise for the purpose of putting before the Committee and the President of the Local Government Board some matters which I suggest are worthy of his very urgent attention. 'The right hon. Gentleman who moved the reduction of the President's salary, assured him that he admired his courage, and complimented him substantially upon the line of policy that he had pursued since he went to that very important office. With the virtues and successes, real or imaginary, that have followed the administration of the Local Government Board since the right hon. Gentleman took over that office, I do not intend to deal. I imagine the Committee will agree with me when I suggest that the President of the Local Government Board himself will not allow this discussion to close to-day without in a very striking and characteristic way having something to say about the virtues and successes of the administration of his particular Department. I want to say one or two things, which, I submit, how very distinct signs of weakness, and to call the attention of the Committee to what I believe to be real and urgent grievances. The hon. Gentleman who preceded me made reference, I think for the second time, to a letter which appeared in the Press from a curate with regard to the housing conditions in the parish of Pelton, in the county of Durham. I anticipate 1828 that in that particular connection the President of the Local Government Board upon this occasion will be able to give a somewhat effective reply.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
Inasmuch as there has been a Local Government Board inquiry, and proposals have been submitted to the Board which involve an expenditure of close upon £30,000 in the direction of dealing with this housing problem.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
Arising out of that inquiry and a communication which came from the Local Government Board subsequently to that inquiry, I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I personally regret, and I am certain that the members of the Chester-le-Street Council regret, that to this day the Local Government Board should be found suggesting to the rural district council that in a mining district in particular their proposal to put in a hot-water cistern should be abandoned, with a view to reducing the cost of these cottages. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that that is a very reactionary proposal, and that the will and desire of the publicly elected representatives to make their housing scheme not only a financial success but a thorough success, by ministering to the comforts and needs of the people who will have to live in those particular houses, should be respected. I submit that miners in particular have a particular need of a hot-water supply in their house I hope it is not yet too late for the right hon. Gentleman to see his way clear to withdraw that suggestion, and to allow the original proposals of the local administrative authority to find expression not only in the estimates but in the actual houses when they are built. I have here a copy of a letter from the Local Government Board, dated 14th May. I notice that in that communication the Local Government Board request the local authority to somewhat revise their proposals with a view to reducing the cost.
§ Mr. BURNS
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but the reference to hot water has reference to an additional cost of £20 per cottage for a circulating system. We thought that in proportion to the wages earned and the rents to be 1829 paid, it was a disproportionately large amount, but we left it to the local authority.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
I can only speak from the communication, a copy of which I have in my hand. I respectfully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he is putting a much more liberal interpretation upon that communication than the average member of a district council would be entitled to do, and I am inclined to surmise that had they put that interpretation upon it the right hon. Gentleman would probably have been inclined to question that interpretation. However, as to the amount, I think in that connection also the right hon. Gentleman may have been just as wrongly informed, but in that communication there is a reference to a request that has been made for a modification of the plans with a view to reducing the cost. I have had some knowledge and experience of the Local Government Board in dealing with housing, and on previous occasions when I have taken part in discussions when this Vote has been before the House I have put to the right hon. Gentleman a very pertinent question to which up to the present he has not given, at least to me, a very straightforward reply. Arising out of my experience with the Local Government Board in this connection I am satisfied that, at least so far as Departmental officials are concerned, there is a distinct tendency to try and reduce the size of the room in workmen's cottages to the very lowest minimum. That is a policy that is very much to be deplored. I have before my mind a very striking experience that we had in Durham county arising out of which the Durham County Council asked the right hon. Gentleman to receive a deputation. Since I came to the House I was privileged to be one of a deputation that interviewed the right hon. Gentleman on the point to which I am going to refer. The facts and circumstances were that whilst county councils have only very limited powers, they have the prerogative and enjoy the opportunity of exercising a moral and sometimes a healthy influence, and I say, to the credit of the Durham County Council, they have exercised their influence to the advantage of not only sanitary reform, but of substantial housing reform. As illustrating my point, the Durham County Council took a very strong line that it was very undesirable 1830 that we should have tenement houses built in mining villages where there was plenty of land and plenty of open space, and land as a relatively cheap price. That policy met with a large measure of success, but there was a minor authority who not only refused to accept our advice, but in a housing scheme that they had sanctioned, by passing plans for property to be erected by a speculator, had even allowed their by-laws to be violated. A county council is in a position to report to the Local Government Board, and to our regret we found that the Local Government Board did not support the county council but supported the local authority who had violated their building by-laws.
The particular point to which I wish to call the attention of the House as indicative, in my judgment at least, of the policy of the permanent officials of the Local Government Board, lies in this fact, that just at the very moment when that violation of the local by-law was the subject of negotiation between the larger, which was the county council, and the minor authority, the urban district council, there went from the Local Government Board the plans of a specimen house, tenement property, with the suggestion that the Local Government Board considered it a very good plan for a pitman's cottage. That did not help the county council in their efforts to prevent the perpetuation of the erection of tenement cottages in rural districts where there was plenty of land, and land was relatively cheap. On the main question of the violation of the by law the right hon. Gentleman received a deputation. I well remember when we entered the room, before we began to discuss this business, the right hon. Gentleman, in a very pertinent way, asked your humble servant, the chairman of the county council, the chairman of the health committee, and the medical officer of health, what we were doing in Durham in order to improve the condition of things there, evidently unmindful of the fact that our very mission and purpose in going to that Local Government Board office to meet the right hon. Gentleman was to complain not only because he would not support us, but in a very striking way prevented us from doing work in the direction that we believed to be in harmony with the best interests of the working classes, and we called his attention to this plan of a specimen cottage, and after our conversation on the matter the right hon. Gentleman withdrew that plan and asked the local authority to give the same 1831 publicity to the withdrawal as had been given to the suggestion, because when that specimen plan was discussed the influence of that suggestion, to build tenement houses with very limited accommodation, was not confined to the area of that urban council, but in less than forty-eight hours the suggestion went forth throughout the length and breadth of Durham county that the Local Government Board were prepared to sanction the erection of tenement houses. So far as this scheme is concerned, I hope that the Local Government Board will not seek to reduce the size of the rooms to the lowest possible minimum, and that they will certainly see the utility and wisdom of the local council in the scheme that they are propounding. We not only have two, but,sometimes three, and even four shifts, where the workers and the miners' families go out in two, three, and sometimes four lots.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
I am not discussing the minimum size. I was dealing with the facts as submitted in this question.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Durham Miners' Council came down to see houses in Yorkshire that I am building, and they fixed on a certain standard of house which was very much smaller than that required by the Local Government Board.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
So far as I am concerned, I desire that a working man and his wife and children should have as much light, sunshine, fresh air and room, not only for sleeping accommodation, but for domestic comfort and convenience, as any other section of the community, and that would be a good investment, even viewed from the standpoint of the State. There are one or two observations I wish to make in connection with another Department which comes under review today, and that is in the domain of the administration of Poor Law relief. Twelve months ago when I took part in a discussion on an occasion similar to this, I heard a very definite statement to the effect that since the right hon. Gentleman's regime at the Local Government Board there has been a well directed effort on the part of officials of the Board, not only rigidly, but 1832 too frequently soullessly to insist upon a literal interpretation of the word "destitute" when administering Poor Law relief, and I asked the right hon. Gentleman, if the facts as I stated them, with some knowledge of what I was saying, were correct, were we entitled in concluding that that was in harmony with his own attitude so far as the administration of Poor Law relief is concerned. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will on this, as on previous occasions, probably succeed in influencing a very large section of the House by quoting unlimited figures pertaining to the number of recipients of indoor and outdoor relief, and the amount, etc., etc. But we on these benches have no pleasure in spending money for the sake of spending money and, whether it be in the domain of legislation or administration, we claim to be economists in the sense that we believe in the wise expenditure of money; and I want to urge upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman that it can no longer be questioned that during his regime at the head of the Local Government Board the Poor Law has been administered with rigidness and with want of soul, without due regard, not only for human consideration, but for the highest and best interests, not' only of the citizens, but of the recipients so far as the unfortunate poor are concerned. The right hon. Gentleman declined or overlooked to reply to my question when I put it to him twelve months ago, as to whether his officers, in the policy they were pursuing, whether it was the Local Government Board inspector, or the auditor of the Local Government Board, were either pursuing that policy with his full authority; in other words, they were expressing his mind and his attitude on this question?
I remember this question-being argued at considerable length, and I submitted to the representative of the Department that it would be a more economic, as well as a more sane and wise policy to give to the necessitous and deserving poor reasonable outdoor relief rather than transfer them into the workhouse; and the House may be surprised, as I was, to find even in these days, under this present Government, an official of the Local Government Board suggesting that my reasoning was wrong, and was not in harmony with the facts, and when I asked him to explain, he said, "the explanation is this: If you have three applicants 1833 for outdoor relief, and you offer them, instead of outdoor relief, admission to the workhouse, two out of the three will prefer to remain outside even though they do not have any outdoor relief. That is very inhumane, and certainly is in direct contravention of the humanity of the age and the spirit of the time, and if it expressed the will, the mind, the purpose and the policy of the right hon. Gentleman it is certainly discreditable, and ought to meet with its just reward from the public mind and sentiment of this country.
There is another matter to which I wish to call the attention of the Committee. I have before me some facts which have been sent to the Labour party in the House of Commons with reference to a controversy that has been going on for some time between the Local Government Board and the Willesden Board of Guardians. The Willesden Board of Guardians decided that it was very necessary to have their workhouse and outbuildings painted. The estimated cost was about £350. It was decided that they would do this work by direct labour. It was necessary to have the consent of the Local Government Board before they entered upon the work, and they wrote to that Board stating the facts and the estimated cost. Notwithstanding that that was the decision of the popularly elected representatives of the people, the proposal was not sanctioned. It is interesting to note in passing that in connection with the Works Department of the London County Council, one of the stoutest advocates of direct labour was the President of the Local Government Board. The Board insisted upon the Willesden Board of Guardians advertising and getting the work done by contract. They accepted that view, believing that it was no use any longer to resist the decision of the Local Government Board. Their own estimate for the work was approximately £350, but the tenders which were received in response to the advertisement varied from £558 to £1,415. The sequel was interesting. While the guardians accepted the lowest tender, as per instruction of the Local Government Board, the work had not been going on for more than two or three weeks when they were under the necessity of stopping the job because of the very unsatisfactory nature of the work that was being done by the firm that got the contract. The guardians made further appeals to the Local Government Board 1834 on three separate occasions to be allowed to perform that useful and necessary work by direct labour. I venture to suggest that from the economic standpoint that was a wise proposal, but the Local Government Board still refused to allow that. So far as we on these benches are concerned, we have no hesitation in stating that the policy pursued by the Local Government Board was neither consistent with efficiency nor sound economy, and that the local representatives ought to have had more regard paid to their expressed will and desire.
I want to lay before the Committee certain facts which have been sent to the office of the party to which I belong. They are supplied by the Bromley and District Trades and Labour Council. That Council made certain representations to the Local Government Board concerning what they believed to be the condition of things that obtain in the infections joint hospital for the district, and asked the Local Government Board to hold a public inquiry. An inspector was sent down and there was an informal meeting. The parties who had made the complaint put in an appearance, but they were respectfully asked by the doctor who represented the Local Government Board to withhold their evidence as that was just a preliminary inquiry, and they were told that there would be a public inquiry, when they would have an opportunity of submitting evidence. The information we have now is that there is to be no public inquiry, and that consequently the informants have not had an opportunity of submitting details in support of the complaint which was sent to the Local Government Board. I believe the facts to be of sufficient importance to ask the Committee to allow me to give one or two details. Assuming these statements to be facts, and I have no reason to doubt them, I have no doubt that they prove conclusively that there is need for a public inquiry, and that, so far as the administration of this particular infections diseases hospital is concerned, there is indeed great room for improvement. In the case of a family named Cricket, three children, George, Edward, and Doris, were removed to the hospital on 26th and 28th October. Doris was discharged as cured on 4th December, and on 10th and 14th December and 31st January, Marian, George, and Evelyn, were respectively, out of the same home, sent to the hospital. There were two deaths in that home, and the opinion of the local medical officer of 1835 health is that these children were sent out before they were cured, that they carried infection not only into their own home, but into an adjoining home, where the family suffered two bereavements on account of that infection. In the case of a family named Semark, four children were removed to the hospital—Elsie on 13th September, Hilda on 5th November, and Leonard and Leslie on 15th November. The first child was discharged on 20th October, the second on 28th January, and the other two on 20th December. The parents state that the first child, Elsie, was in an infectious state when discharged, and that she infected other three members of the family. I am supported in that view by the medical officer of health for Beckenham. Two children in a family next door caught the infection and died. The children who carried the infection were, when discharged, suffering from open wounds, running at the nose, and were peeling. There are other cases that I might give. These facts were sent to the Local Government Board, and Dr. Copeman, representing the Board, after holding an informal inquiry, suggested that the right hon. Gentleman ought to institute a public inquiry to ascertain the real facts. If there has been maladministration, he would be justified in insisting that there should be improvements in that hospital.
In regard to Poor Law administration, I think the time is more than due when the word "destitute" ought to be obliterated from all official documents in connection with Poor Law relief. It is foreign to the spirit of the age, it is inimical to the interests of the honest, thrifty, and deserving poor, and I think the word "necessitous" ought to replace that word. As to the question of the housing of the poor, I hold that the effects, as shown in connection with the infantile and other death rates, are certainly not creditable to this nation. Might I suggest that a substantial contribution to reform in that direction would be the appointment of full-time medical officers of health? Another reform which I think is urgently necessary, and which would be very helpful towards that end, would be if the medical officers of health in the provinces, who at the resent time have little security of tenure in their offices, were to be placed in the same category as medical officers of health for county councils, who are under the control of the Local Govern- 1836 ment Board. I feel quite certain that if in urban and rural districts our medical officers were full-time officers and had the same security as those connected with county councils, it would be a substantial move in the direction of progress and reform, which would enable us to deal more effectively with what is admitted by all sections of the House to be a very urgent and pressing problem, namely, the housing of the working classes of this country. In that way there might be established conditions which would be conducive not only to their physical well being, but to the development of the highest and best in our citizenship.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
It is inevitable that there must be a certain amount of repetition in the speeches delivered from this side of the House, but as long as the old grievances exist, the old speeches must be delivered. It cannot, I think, be objected that repetition is vain in this case, because we may claim on this side of the House without arrogance or conceit that every Debate on the housing question has led to an awakening of the public conscience, shaken the self complacency of the Local Government Board, and opened the eyes of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the fact of which they were ignorant until this time last year, that there is such a question as that of rural housing. I notice that the President of the Local Government Board considers that those who do not regard the Act of 1909 as an adequate measure are either hopeless sentimentalists or noodles who are ignorant of the first principles of political economy. But we are not the only people who are dissatisfied with the administration of the Act of 1909. The President of the Board of Agriculture has said that 100,000 cottages were necessary to be built in the next five years. I am afraid that at the present rate of building the President of the Local Government Board will not see his requirements fulfilled, at all events during his tenure of office. Loans were sanctioned up to a month ago for 3,000 cottages, and at that rate, it would take, I think, about 100 years before all requirements are satisfied. I know that the President considers that the progress under the Act is about as good as one might reasonably expect, but of the loans which have been sanctioned a very large number are for houses in semi-mining or semi-rural areas. Out of the 1,700 cottages sanctioned up to March, 1837 1912, only 398 were for rural areas. In the Return of 1st August there were only four plans with a provision of rents of less than a week. Ordinary labourers cannot possibly afford to give more than 3s. a week, and it is quite obvious that the great majority of the houses sanctioned were quite useless to agricultural labourers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has referred to the investigation conducted by the National Land and Home League, and I would like to amplify that, because I know that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us presently how much he has done, and therefore it is only right that he should have an opportunity of dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's," and knowing how much has been left undone. Take the case of the various counties. For instance, in Bedfordshire, you find five areas with a dearth of cottages and nothing done in three areas. In Buckinghamshire, there is a dearth of cottages in four, and nothing done in three. In Cambridgeshire, there is a dearth of cottages in six, and nothing done in four. In Cheshire, a dearth in seven, and no action reported in four. In Cornwall, a dearth eleven rural areas, and no action reported from nine. In Derbyshire, a dearth in five, and no action in four. In Devonshire, a dearth in thirteen, and no action in seven. In Dorsetshire, a dearth in eight, and no action in six. In Gloucestershire, the same ratio. In Herefordshire, a dearth in five, and no action in five. In Northamptonshire, a dearth in five, and no action in three. In Somersetshire, a dearth in nine, and no action in six; and so on. And the nearer you come to the orbit of the right hon. Gentleman's diplomacy the less influence he appears to have. In Surrey, for instance, there is an actual dearth in eight, and no action is taken in five. In the case of the Reigate and the Guildford District Councils, inspectors have been sent down, and the right hon. Gentleman has urged the councils to do their obvious duty; but nothing has been done. The uselessness of the Housing and Town Planning Act is not alone confined to rural areas. It is also, it seems to me, useless, for instance, in Lancashire, in the cotton towns. Some very interesting articles appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" not long ago. Here is an extract:—The Act was passed more than three years ago, and except perhaps for a little greater activity in closing and demolishing insanitary property, in those few places 1838 where it can be done, without increasing overcrowding, even the beginnings of housing reform have yet to be made. In Blackburn for instance, an employer states that from 700 to 1,000 looms are standing idle in that town for lack of houses for the working classes. In Accrington, an official census shows that only six artisan's houses are vacant out of about 11,000 or 12,000 houses. In Oldham, though there has been a large increase of population within the last ten years, there is a serious decrease in the number of houses. In Rochdale, the local health committee reports August that there is a great scarcity of houses for the working-class population, and that this scarcity prevents them from dealing with insanitary and undesirable houses by closing them. Nothing has been done in these areas.This scarcity of houses in Lancashire is interesting from one point of view. We on this side who happen to be connected with land are always being scoffed at and blamed by hon. Members opposite for our responsibility as to the scarcity of rural houses. I do not think that I have ever heard hon. Members opposite blame the captains of industry and the cotton lords for not doing something to house their own workmen. A cotton employer has complained that three or four thousand spindles are standing idle. What a howl of indignation there would be if we on this side of the House complained that our own workmen could not get houses. I turn now to the question of the Poor Law. Hon. Members opposite always remind me somewhat of the Athenians of old. They are always crying out and asking for something new. Just now they have been beseeching the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come forward with some striking programme which will get them votes at the next election, but I cannot help thinking that it would be more to the purpose if they did the work that lies under their hands. I suppose that their love for humanity is so general that they cannot condescend to particulars, and I cannot help thinking that it is a serious reflection on the Liberal Government and the Liberal party generally that there are only about 2,000 fewer children in the workhouses than there were when they came into office. When the last Return was issued there were 8,000 children in workhouse wards and 5,000 in infirmaries. It is a monstrous thing in these days of enlightenment and great prosperity and wealth that these children should be brought up in this atmosphere of gloom, depression and dependence, rather than in the atmosphere of joy and happiness, which should be the right of every child.
It is not as if it were a difficult matter to do. My right hon. Friend below me has complimented the right hon. Gentleman for being a type of the rugged and 1839 courageous Englishman. I do wish that the right hon. Gentleman would take his courage in both hands and say to the guardians, "On such and such a day you must have every child out of the workhouse." I would like to know what has become of the draft Order which was promulgated by the Departmental Committee which recommended that no child should be kept in the workhouse for more than six weeks. That draft Order was, I believe, submitted to several boards of guardians, but since then it has been withdrawn, and we cannot get any sign of it. I think that it would immensely strengthen the right hon. Gentleman's hand to have that issued and have it well known, because, though he might possibly tread on some of the guardians' toes, he would have the whole of the enlightened public opinion of the country behind him in saying that we really do insist on taking the children out of the workhouses. I come now to the children on out-relief. There is no doubt that in consequence of the criticisms levelled at the administration of the Local Government Board there has been some improvement as regards children on out-relief. Committees of ladies have been appointed to inquire whether the relief is adequate, and whether the children are maintained in proper condition, but there is still a great deal to be done. For instance, in a Wiltshire Union children on out-relief are granted the munificent sum of 6d. a week and two loaves of bread, and in such an enlightened place as Derby—which is enlightened, I suppose, because it returns a Labour Member and also a staunch Liberal, and has been selected as the future seat of the Prime Minister's son—there are a hundred widows and deserted wives who have 500 children between them, and these children only get 1s. 6d. a week on out-relief.
The consequence must be that those children are maintained in a half-starved condition. I notice that at a meeting of the Board of Guardians of the Blofield Union, in Norfolk, there was a debate as to whether the children should be granted an increase of 6d. for out-relief, and one of the guardians boasted that the union was the most economical union in the whole of Norfolk. A union which may be economical from the point of view of the ratepayers in the district may be extremely wasteful and disastrous from the point of view of the nation at large. The 1840 child who is receiving out-relief only to the extent of 1s. or 1s. 6d. a week is both a neglected child and half-starved child. A neglected child is a potential criminal, and a half-starved child is a potential pauper. I know that the right hon. Gentleman believes that it is extremely dangerous to increase out-relief, because of the fear of increasing sweating, and also the fear that husbands may desert their wives. I cannot see the reason or common justice of the position that children should be half-starved and brought up to be inadequate people for the rest of their lives simply because there is a danger that some scoundrel may desert his wife. Surely the proper remedy for that is that a husband should be followed up and prosecuted as the law provides! I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make further and better progress in the reform of the Poor Law, and, if he does, there is no section of the House which will afford him the credit clue more readily than Members on this side.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The right hon. Gentleman who moved the reduction made a twofold criticism of the Local Government Board, either branch of which seemed to me irreconcilable with the other. He first alluded to the President of the Local Government Board as a determined autocrat and complained that he had issued a very large number of Orders couched in most Imperial language, which no Englishman like himself could be expected to put up with. I have had some experience of the Orders of the Local Government Board, and I am bound to say that I do not find in their language anything which justifies the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman. It seems to me they are just the same sort of Orders in the same language and form that used to be issued by the Local Government Board in the day when the right, hon. Gentleman himself presided there. In substance the right hon. Gentleman made no criticism upon any of the Orders which have been issued; therefore, on that branch, I think his criticism has rather broken down. The main part of the attack of the right hon. Gentleman, and of those who followed him on the other side, has not been that the President of the Local Government Board has been too autocratic in his methods, or that he has used his power too widely; on the contrary, it is that he bas not made the most of the powers he has, and that he has not redressed the particular grievances which, in 1841 the opinion of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, he might have redressed if he had made a greater use of the powers he at present, possesses. A great deal of the criticism has centred upon his dealings with the housing problem. I think we have some reason to complain that in the speeches which have been made the charge has not been put more precisely and definitely. A great deal really seems to be based upon the attitude of the President of the Local Government Board in resisting alterations of the law proposed on one side of the House or the other. I am quite ready to debate that matter at the proper time, but under the well-established rule of the House it is impossible to discuss legislation on this particular Vote.
Hon Members have spoken as if the housing problem is exclusively one of a shortage, of houses in rural and urban districts. The problem is a great deal more complicated than can be expressed in the simple formula of there being too few houses in this place or that. If hon. Members could come with me to the North -of England I could take them to village after village where there is no shortage of houses. They are deserted villages, with very few inhabitants left. A few years ago they were populous villages, well equipped with every accommodation for the people—village halls, churches, chapels, club rooms, schools, and all those institutions which are associated with village life. But the people and the children are not there. That, I submit, is just as much a rural problem as the shortage of houses of which Members have been talking this afternoon. The Noble Lord who has just spoken, and other Members, complain that justice is not done to the rural landlords in the matter of housing. I cannot speak for these around me, but certainly I have never criticised the rural landlords for not building sufficient houses. I have an intimate knowledge of two or three counties in this country, and I think that the landlords there have thoroughly done their duty in the matter of putting up property. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the cottages they have built are, on the whole, good cottages. But it is not that the landlords have not done their duty; the problem is far deeper than that. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has ruled out different considerations affecting this problem as if they did not enter into it. The question of wages, I think, enters into the problem.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I do not say that wages are not an important factor, but what I said was that I objected to any attempt to set up a standard of wages by legislation.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. Member is not entitled to discuss matters of legislation.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The point I am upon does not involve legislation. The point I am endeavouring to make is that the housing question is really one of rent. I believe that if you could get a fair rent paid for houses, the houses would be very speedily forthcoming. The difficulty in rural districts is that where the landowners put up cottages they are not let at economic rents. Economic rents are not paid in the rural districts. Cottages are let at 1s. 6d. and 2s. a week which could not be put up for less than double or treble that sum. I submit that the housing question and the wages question are inextricably interwoven. While I do not object to any scheme for improving housing accommodation, such as that put forward by the other side, I do say that the root question is one of wages, and when you enable people, to pay a fair rent for houses, I believe the houses will be forthcoming in the places where the fair rents are paid. I wish to touch upon another point: It is that where good wages are paid, as in the case of the miners, the wage-earners are not ready to pay in rent a fair proportion of their weekly wage. In Durham, the mining villages we have been told, are in a condition, as to housing, as bad as anywhere in the country. I know that it is so. The mining villages in Durham are in a disgraceful condition, yet the men who live in them are not receiving small wages; they are in receipt of high wages, and I think that if the miners insist upon having better housing accommodation and better conditions they ought to be ready out of their wages, which are not small, to pay an economic rent for the cottage accommodation which they require. Miners rank high among the wage-earners, and they are able to spend a large proportion of their money on other matters, while they are unwilling to apply some reasonable proportion of their wages to house rent. If they paid economic rents, the houses would be forthcoming.
§ Mr. ALBERT SMITH
Is it not a fact that a large number of the existing houses were put up at a time when wages were 1843 not so high as they are now, and is it not a fact also, that no encouragement has been given to these men to live in better houses?
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
There is another point which has not been touched upon. I am told by my hon. Friend who knows Durham well, that there has been a vast improvement in recent times in that county. My hon. Friend below me points out that these houses were put up when wages were not so good as they are to-day, and perhaps the standard of comfort in housing was not so high formerly. I agree that all these things, working together, enter into the consideration of the housing problem. But I submit that the whole question is inevitably one of rent, and when the wage-earners are prepared to pay a fair rent for the accommodation which they require, that accommodation will be forthcoming from capitalists who are ready to make a fair percentage on their money in that, as in other directions. But there is a point in connection with this subject which touches the administration of the Local Government Board more closely. It is not only the housing question in those rural districts; it is a question of the village as a whole, and of drainage and water supply. You cannot get a high standard of housing accommodation unless you have combined with it a continuous water supply for the village with which you are dealing. And on this point I make an appeal to the Local Government Board, because I think they are open to some criticism on those two matters. The question of the drainage of villages throughout the country is left far too much to haphazard, to the good will of the local council, or to the will of the local engineer. We very much need some standard for the drainage of our country villages, and we also want a great deal more systematic attention given to this subject on the part of the Local Government Board. I speak exclusively of rural districts. In regard to urban areas, I think the bodies concerned are stronger, the populations are larger, and the resources greater, to enable them to get supplies of water, and to carry through great drainage schemes. But that is not so in our country districts. My hon. Friend below me pointed out how the standard of comfort has been rising. I agree with him that the standard of cleanliness and of sanitation is higher, and that there is 1844 a much greater demand for a Proper water supply than there used to be. The Local Government Board, I know, has done something. I have read the latest Report they have issued, and on page 79 of the Report for 1911–12 they say:—We have corresponded during the year with a number of local authorities in consequence of reports of their medical officers of health, or complaints from residents of defective water supply, and, in cases where it appeared that their allegations were well founded, we urged the authorities to secure an improvement in the supply.6.0 P.M.
I quite admit that the Local Government Board has done that. I myself, am a member of a local district council, and the Local Government Board have been in correspondence with us for many years on this subject. They have blamed us for not doing our duty in providing a water supply, and they have urged us to greater efforts. Year after year we have made efforts to find the water, but we have not succeeded. It was not from any failure of good will on our part that we could not make the villages all we would like them to be; it is because we have really had no help from the Local Government Board and the Government that we cannot achieve what the Department has asked us to do. I cannot touch upon legislation, because that is outside the scope of our discussion, but I think some legislation is required. What I want the Local Government Board to do is to tackle this water question more systematically than they have done up to the present. It is no use for them to wait until a complaint comes from a village, or until a district council suddenly wakes up to find that there is an outbreak of typhoid, or some other occurrence which calls attention to their locality. I want a large and systematic survey of the country, to have the country mapped out, so that it may ascertained what sources of water supply there are in the various districts, and somehow or other apportion the water to the places which require it. There is danger that great municipalities may take from the rural districts the water supply which ought to go for the better supply of those districts. That is one danger which may arise, unless there is a systematic handling of the whole problem of the water supply. On the other hand, you have the local district councils throughout the country unable to supply their localities with water under the present system. I want the Local Government Board to make some general survey, and to handle the problem in some broad and statesmanlike manner. 1845 I believe in the course of the Parliament of 1910 a Return was ordered to be made as to the water supplies of England and Wales. We have never seen that Return. I do not know what profit has been made with it or whether my right hon. Friend can tell me whether that Return is likely to be ready soon, and what information the Return will contain when we get it, and whether they propose to found any action on the part of their Department in regard to that Return. I would like to know what steps they mean to take to bring the facts of that Return to the notice of the localities of the country, and to make it intelligible to people of small intelligence like myself who sit upon the local boards. We do not understand great Blue Books and elaborate Government Board would tackle this question, explained to us in simple language, so that we can understand them in our councils which meet fortnightly, and when we talk to one another in the simple language which characterises the councils of the country. We want to have this information made easily available for the ordinary local district councils throughout the country. I believe if the Local Government Board would tackle this question, which is a burning and pressing one in many districts throughout the country, that they would be meeting a most general point, and would be doing that which would find general acceptance in all parts of the House. I do not say that the Government have not done their best to secure water for the villages where the want of it has been brought to their knowledge, but I do ask them to take a more general view of the question, and to deal with it more systematically, and I believe, if they will do that, that they will be, conferring an estimable boon on the dwellers in our country districts.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Herbert Lewis)
I intervene in this Debate only for the purpose of answering some of the questions which have just been put to the representatives of the Local Government Board by my hon. Friend who has just spoken. I do not propose to refer to the question of housing, with which my right hon. Friend the President will deal later on. My hon. Friend has referred to the question of drainage and water supply, and has expressed the hope that the Local Government Board will do all it can to promote those useful sanitary measures throughout the country. 1846 The Local Government Board loses no opportunity of impressing upon the local authorities the absolute necessity of providing an adequate supply of water and a proper system of drainage. Cases are constantly coming before me in which the Board are taking measures to attain those ends. My hon. Friend has referred to the desirability of the Local Government Board undertaking something in the nature of a comprehensive survey of the whole of the water supplies of the country. It was recommended by a Select Committee which sat in the year 1878, and a Joint Committee of both Houses, of which I was a member, and which sat in 1910, that a survey of the whole country from the water point of view should be made in order that we might ascertain what the available water resources of the country were. I feel sure the House will agree with me that this is a question of great interest and of great public importance. As my hon. Friend has said, the water needs of the country are continually growing. We are becoming a cleaner and more hygienic people continually. The number of baths are increasing every year, and the number of public and private conveniences that require the use of water are constantly increasing. We want more water for the drainage of our houses and for the watering of our roads. The population is growing and is continually demanding a larger supply of water. The difficulty that will arise, and which has arisen to some extent at the present time, and which will certainly be felt with far greater stringency in twenty or thirty years' time, is that the available water resources of the country are fixed, whereas the demand upon those resources is continually increasing. The great water sheds that are still available for supplying our great towns are continually diminishing in numbers. It is, therefore, of great importance that the country should have some knowledge as to the extent of the water supply that is actually available.
My hon. Friend has referred to the fact that the Return was ordered in November, 1910. I may inform the Committee that immediately after the Local Government Board set about preparing the Schedules and obtaining the information from the various authorities. They have received altogether over 3,000 separate returns of the available supplies, which are now being tabulated. The Return will show, as regards every water undertaker, the place of supply, the source of supply, the 1847 nature of the works, the quantity and quality of the water, the area, the population, and the number of houses in every district and parish in England and Wales, the number of houses supplied from piped services, the names of the water undertakers, and the source, nature and sufficiency where there is no piped service.
§ Mr. LEWIS
Information has been acquired from every available source. My hon. Friend has referred to the delay which has taken place, but the Committee will understand that the labour of preparing a Return of that kind was very great. I am glad, however, to be able to say that the Return is now in the printer's hands, and that it will be issued before long. I believe that the Return will be found to be of very considerable value. I think that it will be of special value to Parliamentary Committees, because at the present time those Committees are at the mercy of those who appear before them as to the information they can obtain about the various water undertakings and about the sources of supply. In future they will have all that information before them, not only as regards the particular scheme they may be considering at the time, but they will be able to make some valuable comparisons between one part of the country and another. My hon. Friend asked, I think, as well whether the Local Government Board were taking any action upon the returns. I may inform him that we are extracting all the information in the returns which bears on underground water, a matter of very considerable importance, that we are dividing the water among the different geological formations in every county in England and Wales, and that we are drawing up a return of the amount of water drawn by public undertakers from each geological formation in England and Wales. That is the kind of information we are obtaining at the present time. He also asked whether the Return would be made intelligible to the people. I have pleasure in informing him that a Memorandum will be prepared which, I trust, 1848 will give the public some very useful information with regard to the subject. He alluded to the difficulties of rural district councils at present owing to the fact that they are unable to obtain water supplies compulsorily. They can acquire land compulsorily, and they can construct waterworks, but they are unable to obtain water compulsorily. The question is one into which I cannot enter as it involves legislation; but I think I may say the Local Government Board did introduce a Bill last year and a more reasonable Bill, I am sure, was never presented, for the purpose of enabling the local authorities to obtain water supplies compulsorily. The Bill was defeated last Session owing to the opposition of powerful interests in this House, but I am not without hope that it will be passed in the course of the present Session.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the sending round to the district councils extracts from the Return relating to their particular districts. I think it would be extremely useful to them if they could get that information.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I think my hon. Friend will see that the Return is one of an extremely voluminous character, and I am not quite sure whether it would be necessary to send that information, much of which, at any rate, must be already in their possession. Any assistance the Local Government Board can give in regard to this matter will be most freely and willingly given, and we are always ready to do anything we can to place every possible information in the hands of the local authorities. This, I may say, is the kind of preparatory work which the Local Government Board have been doing during the past two years. It is work of a character which, I believe, will be extremely valuable in the future, and it is an absolutely essential preliminary to any general survey of the water supplies of the country. I hope that the Committee will approve of the action which the Local Government Board have taken in regard to water supplies.
§ Mr. J. W. HILLS
I am sure the Committee will welcome the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. We all know very well what is happening in the small district councils which are robbed of their water by wealthy companies. Therefore, 1849 I welcome the statement he has made; but I did not rise for the purpose of talking about that. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) made an interesting speech upon the administration of the Housing Acts. He apparently agreed with the President that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and that nothing can be done by administration. He says the housing question is a wages question. He would be a very foolish man who would deny the close association of wages and housing; but it is somewhat remarkable that as soon as we try and bring in a Bill for housing we are at once told, "You are wrong; it is not housing, but wages ought to be raised." The exact measure which my hon. Friends are supporting at the moment is never the one which commends itself to the Government in power.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not wish to do me an injustice. I certainly did not intend to say a single word deprecating either administrative action, or any scheme which hon. Members opposite might bring forward. I only said that they must not lose sight of the wages question.
§ Mr. HILLS
I quite accept the statement of the hon. Member. He did not, however, choose a very happy instance. He referred to the county of Durham. That county has two characteristics. In the first place, it is and has been for a long time the county that pays the highest agricultural wage, and it is also a county of high industrial wages. Yet what do we find? I appeal to the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. T. Richardson). The county of Durham is a long way from ideal. In fact I submit that the housing question ought to be considered as a separate question. It does not depend upon wages. Go through all the districts of England, urban and rural, sparse and populous, low wages and high wages: you find it everywhere. I hope that we shall consider it as one integral question. One more reason that reinforces that view is that we cannot consider the question as if were a new matter, because we have the arrears of a great many years of bad administration to make up. I wish to say something about the administration of the Poor Law. We are precluded from dealing with the wider aspects of the question, as we cannot deal with any matter involving legislation; hence we have to confine ourselves to administration. I wel- 1850 come the statement made by the hon. Member for Whitehaven. He suggested that it is quite time that the word "destitute" was dropped out of our code. It is. "Necessitous" is a far better word, and corresponds much better with the facts. At present a man who is not destitute in the ordinary meaning of the word is still entitled to relief; but a relieving officer who does not know the law very intimately may put too strict an interpretation upon the word "destitute," and refuse relief to a man who by law is entitled to it. That can be dealt with by administration, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the point.
In reference to deaths from or accelerated by starvation, the right hon. Gentleman told the House that there were ninety-eight such deaths last year, forty of which were in London. It is a very sad and remarkable fact that these deaths, on the whole, do not decrease in number, and it is a tragic comment on the increase of incomes assessable to Income Tax. I wish to make a suggestion to the Local Government Board. At present, in most cases, they send down an inspector to attend the inquest and make inquiries. I hope that that inspector really tries to get at the root of the matter, and reports to the Local Government Board in all cases whether Poor Law relief had been refused. I am inclined to think that in a great many cases some difficulty is put in the way of these men. I hope that the inspection is of a very strict kind, because, after all, it has been the boast of this country since the reign of Elizabeth that no one need starve, and yet we had ninety-eight deaths from starvation last year. It is sometimes stated at the inquests that there had been no application to the relieving officer. It does not always appear whether the man applied for the casual ward or not. That is a different thing. We know that in some cases the workhouse porter does refuse these men. All those cases ought to be reported to the relieving officer, but perhaps they are not. I suggest that the President might turn his attention to the question of relief in urgent cases. We have had quoted during the last few weeks a good many cases where men who have been refused relief have come to grief afterwards. I think that a little reminder to the boards of guardians, couched in the language of which we have heard this afternoon, would not do any harm, in fact, the more autocratic the better. One further point in this connection. At present 1851 it often happens that the same person is coroner and Poor Law official, or registrar of deaths and relieving officer. I hope the Local Government Board will reconsider their refusal to interfere in these cases. In the case of a death in the workhouse it clearly is not proper or in the public interest that a man who is an official of the workhouse should be placed in the position of having to decide on the cause of death.
§ Mr. BURNS
The relieving officer is not an official of the workhouse in the sense indicated by the hon. Gentleman. The evidence of the relieving officer would not weigh as against that of either the nurse, the matron, the master, or the doctor; and, in the event of serious illness, above all an illness leading to death, the relieving officer would be put on one side altogether.
§ Mr. HILLS
I entirely accept that. But the relieving officer is the servant of the guardians, and he is also the person who has to decide the cause of death. I do not think he is quite the man to be placed in that position. I do not think that he can fulfill those two functions properly. The practice is rather widespread, and probably we cannot make the change all at once. I suggest, however, that the matter ought to be considered, and I hope that some change will be made. The diet for casuals is really a scandal. Casuals have to do very hard manual labour; they have to break a certain quantity of granite. In one workhouse that I know there is a long row of cells like dog-kennels, with a door at one end, an iron grid at the other, and a heap of granite and a hammer on the floor. The casual is put into this place, the door is locked, and he has to break the granite until it is small enough to go through the grid. When I saw this place I thought I should be very sorry to have to break that granite, and I am sure that after I had broken it I should want a good meal. But all that these men get is 8 ounces of bread and a small piece of cheese. I do not want to attract casuals or to increase the cost, but I think that that is too small dietary. The scale of out-relief for children is much too low. I know what the President says. He takes the view that if you gave more the husband would spend it in drink or it would get into the husband's pocket.
§ Mr. BURNS
I assure the hon. Member that I do not say that. The bulk of these children have no fathers, or the father has deserted the children and their mother. In these cases the guardians are specially instructed to be considerate both to the deserving wife and to the children in proportion as the father has been bad to them.
§ Mr. HILLS
I know. But I have a very clear recollection of what occurred last year, and I think I am right in saying that the right hon. Gentleman declared that any increase of the out-relief would go as a subsidy to wages. I submit that if the Act is abused, it is not a reason for giving too small a scale of relief. All Acts are liable to abuse. I heard the other day of even the Insurance Act being used in the same way by a gentleman who, when his wife became entitled to maternity benefit, used the money for the purpose of eloping with another lady. I hope that that point will receive consideration. I come now to the question of the children. I hope that in future years the Local Government Board will publish in their Blue Book the Return given last year showing the number of children in the workhouse. At present this Return only comes up to the beginning of last year, and we do not know what, has been done this year. I hope that we shall get these figures, either in the form of a supplementary White Paper or in the Blue Book itself. I submit that we are not going very fast. My Noble Friend (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) has pointed out that only 2,000 children have been removed in some six years, and that if we go on at that rate it will take about twenty-two years to clear the ordinary wards of workhouses of children between the ages of three and sixteen years. I know that children must be in the workhouse for a short time; they must go there with their parents. But do not let us keep them there. Could not the right hon. Gentleman fix a time limit? It is the bad boards of guardians that are concerned. We have to exercise some moral pressure upon them. Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman tell them in one of his circulars that unless they put their house in order within a certain time he will take serious measures?
I was greatly interested in the report of Mr. Bushell, inspector for Kent and Sussex, which appears in the Poor Law Report of this year. It deals almost entirely with the children, and I think it may be taken as typical. He says that there are 1853 forty-seven unions in his area, of which only seventeen have separate children's homes. Those seventeen are the largest and the more progressive unions, such as Brighton, while the remainder are the small country unions, which have not the means, public spirit, or initiative to provide separate establishments for children. There is one small thing that might be done by the Local Government Board, a matter purely of administration. At the present time we take the children and train them particularly for the towns. We give them an education that unfits them for the country. It is a common complaint in all rural districts—you will find it on the part of the labourers, who pay a large part of the rates—that the children are trained so that they may be sent up to the towns where they are not wanted, and where they merely depress the labour market.
Why should not some of the numerous children in the Poor Law schools be trained agriculturally? I do not in the least want, just because these children are paupers, to force them into a life that they do not want to have, but teachers can tell at a very early age what the bent of mind of a good many of these children is, and that many would take gladly to a country life. I believe it might do a very great deal of good if this suggestion were followed out. It would not be an expensive change. I believe money might even be saved. You would thus stop this system whereby we are making very bad townsmen out of children who would make very good countrymen. I have only touched the fringe of the subject, and that aspect of it which interests me, but my wishes go very much further than my words. We had hoped that the career of the President of the Local Government Board would have been marked by a comprehensive and sweeping reform of our Poor Laws. We had honed that he, with his great knowledge and energy, would have swept away a good deal of this lumber and would have scrapped a good deal of antiquated machinery. We have been disappointed. All we can do is to criticise his administration. We do hope, however, that the subject will not be entirely dropped, and we hope against hope that some day those of us who live long enough may see a real scheme of Poor Law reform!
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I will not detain the Committee for more than a few minutes, because there are many Members 1854 of the Committee who feel as I do, that this is an opportunity which comes not every year, but only every two years for discussing this variety of subjects—of great variety, of great importance, of great complexity—and of discussing them at a time when it is impossible to deal with any one of them thoroughly, and equally impossible to discuss the relations that they have to each other. Yet those of us who are interested in local government, and whose idea of a Government Department that supervises local government is that it should be one to encourage local administration, and to help on all occasions—though of us who feel that welcome even the opportunity that we have here of saying for a moment or two, one or two things that occur to us in relation to this subject. My right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board has quite exceptional personal advantages. He is popular with us all. He has that most dangerous of gifts, that he is not least fascinating when he is most wrong. Therefore it is extremely difficult to put to him or to the Committee those matters upon which one feels criticism should be the more stringent as one could do to a person who has less of that particular kind of armour. We all of us recognise his very wide knowledge of the problems of London, and his very genuine interest in the problems of the urban communities generally. We wish he had the same knowledge, and displayed quite as much interest in the problems of rural England—which are even more difficult, because of their geographical conditions, which are now in a somewhat critical stage because they await constructive action to a greater degree than the problems of the towns, and, therefore, because it is of more significance as to what the policy of the Local Government Board is in regard to rural matters than even in regard to urban.
As I understand the province of the, Local Government Board it has to do the first place, and in a particular sense, with the Poor Law. It has a general power, as we know, of supervision over ordinary local government. It has special powers in regard to certain subjects, of which housing is the most important. In regard to the first of these, the Poor Law, I wish at once to say how much I appreciate, as other Members do, the success and ability of my right hon. Friend on the disciplinary side of the Poor Law. 1855 If there be, as there occasionally is, a board of guardians which deserves all the discipline than can be administered to them, no one can do it better than my right hon. Friend. In many of his appointments, in many of his personal selections of inspectors and others, we who know something of them and of their work applaud what he has done. That is only one side of the Poor Law. The other side is a side which we hope may be made steadily more humane, more progressive in the true sense of the word, and, if I may say so, may become less and less necessary, for the Poor Law is a Department of the State which ought to dwindle in importance as the State grows in prosperity and efficiency. The two things I have to say here are these: Those of us who read with interest the two Reports of the Poor Law Commission, and some of us in connection with different departments of local government with which we are concerned, did what we could to show our readiness to work in accordance with that Commission. We regret that the policy of my right hon. Friend, good in many ways, and always well-intentioned, does really appear, I fear, in its tendency not to get us nearer the time when there will be no workhouses, but to strengthen and make permanent the workhouse idea and the workhouse method. I hope, like the hon. Gentleman who just sat down, that we may be misunderstanding the right hon. Gentleman in taking that view, and we shall welcome from him later in this Debate assurances which will dispel those fears.
There is another specific point, if the Committee agrees with me—as I hope they do—we want to limit the area of the Poor Law rather than to extend it. We now have that matter rising in connection with those problems of public health and public education, especially in regard to the children. Many of us watch with great anxiety the movements between the different Departments of the State as to which is to have the supervision of the lives of the children, of their health and education. I hope that here the President of the Local Government Board and the Board itself will have the courage to seek to get rid of control over the children, and pass it over to the Board of Agriculture, or the Board of Education, rather than to retain the children an hour longer than necessary under Poor Law conditions, or to be affected by the Poor Law. We want to get the child away as soon as possible, 1856 and as completely as possible, from all association with the Poor Law. That is all I venture to say now on that point. With regard to the second point, that of a general supervision over local government, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on, as I think, getting into more cordial relations with the different kind of local authorities. We welcome the Milk and Dairies Bill this Session as a great improvement on previous Bills, because it shows a greater disposition on the part of the Department to understand the point of view of those who know the different localities. Without ascribing to it any of the virtues or verbal inspiration, I desire to take this opportunity of bearing that testimony, and of assuring my right hon. Friend that it is more and not less an Act of Parliament because of its rapprochement with local administration. There have been other matters which bear out the same thing; and here I hope my right hon. Friend will not weary in well-doing.
I wish he could find time, perhaps in the Recess when he has had his successful expedition with Foreign Military Manœuvres, and is of stronger and higher spirit in consequence, to come down and study county government as he has studied for many years the government of London. I can promise him a welcome from people of all shades of public opinion, because there is the greatest anxiety amongst those who are trying to do the work in the country to be understood by the head of the Department concerned. They ought to have, and know that they have, the sympathy of that Department in their efforts to carry out the law. I wish indeed the right hon. Gentleman's conception of his duties went a little further than that. We know how the President of the Board of Agriculture, not only the present but previous Presidents, has tried and fought the necessary battles with the Treasury to get financial support for stimulating and helping agriculture. We know how the same has been done to a certain extent by the Board of Education. One would like to see the Local Government Board making it perfectly clear that they were doing all they could to increase the resources available for local government, so that we who are specially concerned in local government really could feel that we had a champion in the person of the Minister who represents the Department. The last thing I shall trouble the Committee with is just one word on housing. We are all debarred from discussing the details of any Bill on housing. It is a 1857 good thing we are, because we are much more likely perhaps to say what is to the point than if we were discursive upon details. But I hope the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to answer, will dispel another notion which I am afraid is prevalent outside, and not unknown in this House, or on this side of the House, that is against all and every kind of assistance from central funds to the problem of rural housing.
Many of us on this side of the House have the greatest objection to specific provisions of certain Bills brought in recently. Whether we were right or wrong is not a matter for debate now. But I do hope we shall not have the responsible Minister allowing it to be thought that he, and still less the Government, have set their faces against the principle that you may have in certain parts of the country to encourage rural housing as you have had to encourage other necessary developments by methods which may be quite unnecessary when things are in working order, yet absolutely defensible when you are in the emergency that you are in at the present time. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the problem of rural housing is one of the most urgent and one of the most difficult. We have heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite and other speakers this afternoon rehearse the difficulties which will occur if you do nothing, or if you do something, with the present Imperfect resources. All this surely ought to make the head of the Government Department, with these great administrative duties put upon him, ever ready to try some, new administrative experiment, or ready to acknowledge that his administrative power is not adequate, and to give real help to making legislative proposals on his own authority and with the weight of his influence. Those are the things which I desire to say. I say them to my right hon. Friend in a spirit of absolute friendliness, and with a very large degree of loyalty. I assure him that those who are not with him personally, those who are concerned with these problems in different parts of the country, are not satisfied with what has been done, are not too hopeful for the future. We do look to him to encourage us, to reassure us, when he replies to these questions.
§ Mr. ASTOR
I agree with much of the criticism which has come from hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, but I wish to put before the Committee another side of the administration of the Local 1858 Government Board—that is to say, the administration of sanatorium benefit for tuberculosis. I would remind the Committee that sanatorium benefit, whether it be domiciliary or institutional, depends upon the Local Government Board and upon the President of the Local Government Board; therefore that the right hon. Gentleman is to a very great extent responsible for the present condition of sanatorium benefit, and the way in which we are dealing with tuberculosis in this country. I think it is no exaggeration to say that at the present time the conditions may be described as chaotic; there is great chaos and dissatisfaction throughout the country. I do not mean to say, dealing for the moment with purely insured persons, that they are not receiving some sort of sanatorium benefit, but I emphasise the fact that they are not getting that sort of sanatorium benefit for which they are paying, and there is a great differ once between what they are getting and what they are paying for. They are paying to get a particular sort of treatment and they are not getting value for their money, and I propose to bring forward a few cases to show that that is due to a great extent to the President of the Local Government Board. One has only to look through the various Parliamentary questions and answers to find I am not exaggerating when I say that at the moment insured persons are not getting full value for their money. I do not wish to labour the point unless hon. Members challenge that statement. I have been through the whole of the questions dealing with this matter lately, and I notice that in the replies we were told, "So-and-so is on the waiting list; So-and-so will get into an institution in two or three weeks' time." That is not what the individual is paying for. He was promised treatment of the right sort as soon as his case was diagnosed to be suitable for that sort of treatment. My charge, against the President of the Local Government Board is that to a great. extent he is to blame, in that he has not given an official and strong lead to the local authorities and the local insurance committees, and especially that he has been woefully slow in his administration of the Department on this question.
I grant the enormous difficulties that have faced the right hon. Gentleman in the past few months; he had to bring in this new Act affecting millions of people and affecting new bodies, such as the local insurance committees. I grant that, I 1859 grant also that owing to the establishment of the Departmental Committee to advise the Government upon this question, on which I had the honour to serve, he was not able to begin dealing with the question until the end of April. But, after all, we prepared a great deal of the work he would have had to do otherwise, and therefore he cannot say if we had not been appointed that he would have begun dealing with the question many months sooner. I say, in spite of all his difficulties and the enormous problem he had to deal with, and I say it deliberately, that the sanatorium benefit which is now being offered to insured persons ought to have been better, and could have been better, if the right hon. Gentleman had been quicker in dealing with the matter. I dare say he will tell us that there are hundreds and thousands of beds that he has personally inspected. But the right hon. Gentleman is not an inspector of the Local Government Board. I am charging him as head of the Department. He has to organise and look ahead. Because the right hon. Gentleman goes on his holidays and follows manœuvres on foot, that does not qualify him to become the head of the War office and to prepare the strategy of the War Office. As a matter of fact, I should say that if as a pedestrian he is as slow as he is as administrator, the probability would be he would be following the manœeuvres a mile behind the last regiment. I do not propose to go scraping all over the country to bring accusations against the right hon. Gentleman. I propose to confine myself to facts connected with London and his central administration—facts to which there is no answer and which will prove to the Committee the appalling inefficiency of the Local Government Board in dealing with sanatorium benefit in the last few months.
Several hon. Members who have spoken reminded the Committee of the special knowledge the right hon. Gentleman has of the administration and government of London, and one would have thought he would take particular pride in bringing about good machinery, good organisation, and good administration in London. It is the Metropolis, and one would have thought he would use the whole of his ability and energy to make London an example to the rest of the country, instead of making it a byword, as it is at the present moment. I have no hesitation in saying that the administration of sanatorium benefit in London is chaotic, and compares unfavour- 1860 ably with the rest of England, and that the right hon. Gentleman is largely responsible. Anyone who had to deal with this problem would have appointed at once a central and supervising authority to co-ordinate all the efforts and to, organise and do the thing in a businesslike manner. The right hon. Gentleman did appoint an authority, but he only appointed the London County Council as the supervising authority in the month of December. He ought to have appointed them in the month of May, and if he had not been able to screw himself up to do that in May he should have done, it in June or July or August or September, and not left it until December. I will put before the Committee the sequence of events in order that they should realise that I am not bringing a baseless charge. The Departmental Committee presented their Report in April, 1912. On 14th May the right hon. Gentleman sent a circular to the council of all the counties and boroughs, telling them what they had to, do, recommending the Report of the Departmental Committee, and in general approving of the recommendations contained in the Interim Report. He sent this circular to the council of all the counties and the boroughs except the London County Council. In July he sent round another circular, and similarly this time he sent it to the council of all the counties and the boroughs except the London County Council. He left the London County Council out altogether, and did not approach them as he did the other councils and authorities in May and July. On 19th October the right hon. Gentleman sent a letter to the London County Council, and I wish to read a part of the Report of the Public Health Committee of the London County Council in which they considered this letter from the Local Government Board. The Report of the Public Health Committee contains these words—The scheme of supervision outlined in the Report of the Departmental Committee centres upon county councils and there is nothing in that Report inconsistent with the view that it was contemplated that in London, as in other parts of the country, the, authority to be entrusted with the organising and supervisory duties should be the county council. This is consonant with the special position held by the county council London with regard to public health. It is possible, therefore, that the Local Government Board, by its letter of 19th October. 1912, intend the council to fill this position, although it has not issued any definite instructions in the matter. It is obviously essential, however, that the intentions of the Board on this point should he made quite clear, and the necessary authority provided.1861 That is to say, in October last the London County Council did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman meant them to be the central organising authority in London or not. I want to read an extract from the Report of the Public Health Committee of the London County Council of 12th December, in which they refer to another letter which they got from the right hon. Gentleman on 11th December:—It appears to the Local Government Board that the London County Council should formulate and submit to them a complete scheme for the Metropolis … For this purpose the Local Government Board would desire to look to the London County Council, as they do to other county councils, to be the central organising body for the provision of institutional treatment, whether indoor or outdoor.The right hon. Gentleman in the month of December came to the same conclusion as everybody else would have in May. It was gross negligence on his part to wait until December to put before the London County Council that they were to be the chief authority to deal with tuberculosis. It is perfectly immaterial whether the London County Council may have done much or little since the month of December. I am not concerned to deal with that. I am not concerned to deal with their action after they were approached by the Local Government Board. I am concerned purely with the negligence of the right hon. Gentleman during the seven months that elapsed after the publication of our Interim Report, during which months the right hon. Gentleman ought to have appointed long before the month of December the London County Council as the central organising authority. I hope hon. Members on the other side of the House who sometimes criticise, the London County Council for not acting, will realise and appreciate the negligence of the right hon. Gentleman in approaching the London County Council. I wonder before they criticise the London County Council do they realise the deliberate slight put upon the county council by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. It is possible he may tell us it was his intention to make the Metropolitan Asylums Board the central authority for London. If he ever contemplated that will he tell us so. I hope he will also tell the members of the London County Council in and out of this House that he intended deliberately to put them on one side and to make the Metropolitan Asylums Board the central authority to deal with tuberculosis. If he takes that line of reply I say by doing so he ignored the recommendation of 1862 the Departmental Committee which he himself accepted on behalf of his Department. Our Interim Report did not even suggest that the Metropolitan Asylums Board should deal with insured persons. We merely stated that there were a certain number of empty beds belonging to the Metropolitan Asylums Board, and that there were a large number of Poor Law cases that needed exceptional treatment. We knew the Metropalitan Asylums Board was a Poor Law authority, and therefore was specially debarred from dealing with the insured persons and giving them sanatorium benefit. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have realised in May that it was absolutely impossible for the Metropolitan Asylums Board to provide the institutional treatment required, because the Insurance Act specially debars Poor Law authorities from providing sanatorium benefit for insured persons. The average person would grasp that in a week or perhaps fortnight, but it took the right hon. Gentleman seven months to digest it.
§ Mr. BURNS
The hon. Gentleman must not misconstrue what I said, and he must refresh his memory by looking up his own Report, and if he does he will come to the conclusion, that in considering sanatorium accommodation, at the suggestion of his own Committee, we had to attend beside other considerations, to the beds and accommodation of the Metropolitan Asylums Board.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ASTOR
That is an entirely different point. We merely said we were not dealing with the Metropolitan Asylums Board as the co-ordinating authority. We did not even suggest that it should deal with insured persons. We merely said there were a number of empty beds belonging to the Metropolitan Asylums Board. The point which our Report was intended to suggest was that a certain number of Poor Law cases might very well be treated by the Metropolitan Asylums Board; but 1863 to suggest that we put forward the recommendation that the Metropolitan Asylums Board should deal with insured persons or be the central organising authority is a wilful misreading of the Report which we put before the public. Then there is the point of the domiciliary treatment of sanatorium benefit. Section 16 of the National Insurance Act says that the insurance committees shall make arrangements for providing domiciliary treatment.
"with persons and local authorities other than Poor Law authorities undertaking such treatment in a manner approved by the Local Government Board which treatment it shall be lawful for a local authority, if so authorised by the Local Government Board to undertake."
That is to say, the Insurance Act expressly says that it is the duty of the Local Government Board to approve the way in which domiciliary treatment shall be given, and that until and unless the Local Government Board approve of the method in which domiciliary treatment shall be given there shall be no domiciliary treatment lawfully available for insured persons. What was the position last June and at the beginning of July? Hon. Members opposite were being attacked because the sanatoria promised had not been built, and the answer invariably made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was, "Well, it is a great scheme. We admit we have not got all the benefits, but on 15th July we shall be able to provide domiciliary treatment for all insured persons. We cannot give institutional treatment, but we shall be able to give treatment at home." When this answer was made to the attacks, the Government were not reckoning with the slowness of the President of the Local Government Board. The Interim Report of the Departmental Committee came out at the end of April, and there were two months during which the right hon. Gentleman could have prepared his Order approving of domiciliary treatment. He ought to have done that in May, he might have done it in June, and he might even have done it during the first fortnight in July. Meanwhile insured persons were hoping to get this promised domiciliary treatment.
The Order came, but it came on the 26th July, eleven days after the Act had come into operation, and eleven days after this form of sanatorium benefit in the shape of domiciliary treatment had 1864 been promised by the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite. The President of the Local Government Board ought to have produced this Order for domiciliary treatment before 15th July, and the fact that it was not produced until 26th July means that insured persons were paying for sanatorium benefit which, owing to the slowness of the right hon. Gentleman, was not available for them. Legally no domiciliary sanatorium benefit could be given to any insured person until this Order was issued by the Local Government Board. If any hon. Member doubts that statement, I ask him to study the Order of the Local Government Board, and they will see that until it was produced and issued to the public no domiciliary treatment was available for insured persons who were paying for the treatment the whole time. I am not going to compare the slowness of the right hon. Gentleman to the slowness of the tortoise, because the tortoise, though it started slowly, reached its goal. The right hon. Gentleman started just as slowly as the tortoise, but he never got there. July 15th came, and there was no Order from the Local Government Board think hon. Members opposite, and especially hon. Members belonging to the Labour party, who claim to represent insured persons, are entitled to ask what was the right hon. Gentleman doing in May, June, and the beginning of July, that prevented him giving to the public and the House and insured persons this Order approving of domiciliary treatment of insured persons. It is no answer to say that he was off with the troops manœring, or tip-toeing shyly across the Lobby trying to avoid the gaze of admiring visitors.
§ Mr. BURNS
The hon. Gentleman knows, and no man knows better in this country, what I was doing between 29th April and the date he mentioned in July. I was visiting many institutions, one of which the hon. Member himself is worthily connected with. I was more interested in providing beds for people who wanted them, than I was troubling whether I should issue an Order on 15th July.
§ Mr. ASTOR
The right hon. Gentleman has made no reply whatever. The Insurance Act says it is one of his duties to approve of sanatorium benefit, and until he approved of the nature of domiciliary treatment and laid down the lines on which domiciliary treatment was to be given, no such treatment was available for insured persons. My charge has been that in this matter he has acted as an inspector of the Local Government Board and not as the President. The right hon. Gentleman can only be compared to Obadiah's bull, which, though he never produced a calf himself, went about his business with such gravity that he obtained, and continued to command, the respect of the whole parish. The right hon. Gentleman in the administration of the Local Government Board does not produce calves, but he goes around looking so important that he impresses the public with the fact that he is carrying the weight of the whole nation. When the Prime Minister introduces the Insurance Amending Bill, he should insert a special Clause providing that the right hon. Gentleman in future shall not be so negligent and slow in dealing with tuberculosis as he has been in the past. It would have been easy for me and my hon. Friends to have harried the right hon. Gentleman and the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the past months on behalf of insured persons who were not getting the sanatorium benefit which had been promised. We could easily have done it, but we realised the danger of trying to rush this scheme into operation. The time, however, has now come to speak up and expose the sham and the chaos which, I contend, is very largely due to the slowness of the President of the Local Government Board. I have not indulged in vague charges. I have not searched the provinces and the minutes of 1866 county councils, and the correspondence they have had with the Local Government Board, but I have confined myself to facts to which there is no answer and which the right hon. Gentleman cannot deny.
There is the fact that the right hon. Gentleman never approached the London County Council or invited it to supervise and organise and co-ordinate a scheme for dealing with tuberculosis in London until December, whereas he ought to have done it in May. Owing to the right hon. Gentleman going around the country inspecting the beds, instead of sending his staff to do it, he did not carry out the provisions in the Insurance Act—that before 15th July he should have told the insurance committees and the councils the way in which they should carry on domiciliary treatment. We have been silent because we expected the best, and he has not given us the best, or, if he has, then all I can say is his best is not good enough. We expect to have in the President of the Local Government Board a Gentleman with progressive ideas, but in the present holder of that office we have a sort of mid-Victorian reactionary. The right hon. Gentleman might have made an excellent administrator fifty or sixty years ago, but at the present moment he is an anachronism. I understand that some hundreds of years ago Moses was looked upon as a great lawmaker, but if he was to come forward now I should not accept him as the President of the Local Government Board, although think even Moses would be more progressive and more up-to-date than the present President. I ask the Committee to, realise that, owing to the slowness and inefficiency of the right hon. Gentleman and the Local Government Board during the past few months, insured persons have, been compelled to contribute for a benefit which is not worth the money they have been forced to pay. The sanatorium benefit, owing to the slowness of the right hon. Gentleman, has been a farce and the Local Government Board under the right hon. Gentleman's administration has been a failure.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
There is no hon. Member who is better qualified to speak upon this subject than the hon. Member who has just sat down. Having said that, I think it is a pity that the hon. Member should minimise his influence by a statement of his case which is obviously exaggerated, and I cannot but think that when the hon. Member reads his speech 1867 he will consider that he has not dealt fairly with the President of the Local Government Board. It is not for me to defend the right hon. Gentleman, for he will, I am quite sure, be able to do that for himself, but perhaps I may be excused for pointing out that there has been from the other side an attempt to damage a great scheme by laying hold of isolated cases and using them to damage the scheme without reference to the main provisions, which I contend are working well. The hon. Member dealt with the subject in its two branches, one the provisions of sanatoria and the other domiciliary treatment. In regard to the provision of sanatoria, he himself said that he had no complaint to make—at least, I do not regard him as having made any complaint—of the action of the Local Government Board. He said that he would give us concrete cases, and he gave us one. He said that every county council had received the circular from the Local Government Board. There is no credit at all, of course, to be given to a Department, but the one case where, as we understand from the hon. Member, the circular was not sent to be brought up and used as conclusive evidence of the bad administration of the Act by this Department.
The hon. Member told us something about the Metropolitan Asylums Board, but I do submit that it would have been fairer, and he would have been more frank with the House, if he had explained to the House what he well knows, that in this particular matter the position in London is different from that in any other part of the country. We had got in London the Metropolitan Asylums Board, an institution of a kind that, so far as I know, does not exist anywhere else in this country. Technically it is a Poor Law authority, but it is not an ordinary board of guardians. It is not a body that runs a workhouse infirmary. It is a body that has been brought together, and upon which boards of guardians have their representatives, to deal with the treatment of disease in London, particularly infectious diseases, and I can understand, and I think the House will understand, that there were special circumstances which made it necessary that special consideration should be given to London. Frankly, I am bound to say it does seem to me that somewhere or other too much time was taken in clearing up the difficulty. I am bound to say that, but that is not the kind of 1868 case the hon. Member made against the Department. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, it was."] The special case arose owing to the existence of this great institution. What would have happened if straight away the President of the Local Government Board had said, "The county council is to be the authority?" The county council would have done that which they have since done. They would have said, "What a ridiculous thing! There are all these great institutions with empty beds, and they are to be neglected and ignored. Owing to the action of the Local Government Board, special institutions have to be put up at the expense of the taxes and the rates." It must be clear that there is a condition of things existing in London which was not contemplated in the Insurance Act at all, and which did give rise to special difficulties in deciding the matter. I cannot remember now the exact terms of the first communication which the county council received from the Local Government Board, though I read it at the time, but I saw in that circular the clearest indication that the Local Government Board were appointing the London County Council as the authority to deal with the matter.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
Yes, and they pretended that they could not understand it, and they asked for further enlightenment upon it. Since then the London County Council have, in my view, neglected to make the provision that they well might have made, and, if there is any blame, that blame certainly has to be shared between the central and the local authority, the London County Council. The hon. Member has given this one instance of delay on the part of the Local Government Board. It is only fair that I should give my own personal experience, chairman of the Middlesex Insurance Committee, and as a member of the Middlesex County Council, of the treatment which has been afforded to us by the Local Government Board, and I will say that from the very first the Local Government Board have gone out of their way to facilitate in every way the provision which the county council made and for which it has to get their sanction. I have not known a Department that has been so free from red tape as the Local Government Board has been in its dealing with the only authority about which I can personally 1869 speak, the Middlesex County Council, in this particular matter. The hon. Gentleman brought up the question of domiciliary treatment. I do not know whether he intended it, but his reading of the circular would have led Members of the House to think that an insurance committee could not provide domiciliary treatment without the intervention of the local authority.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
Without the approval of the Local Government Board, but certainly without the intervention of the local authority. What the Section provides is that the insurance committee can make arrangements with the public authority for domiciliary treatment if it so chooses, but it is "with any person or with any public authority," and, as a matter of fact, the insurance committees do not need the intervention of the public authorities, of county councils, to make provision for domiciliary treatment. That is an arrangement which is made by the insurance committee with the doctor—the general practitioner, who is treating the patient.
§ Mr. ASTOR
I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I read very carefully the Section in the Act:—The committee shall make arrangements for domiciliary treatment with persons and local authorities in a manner approved by the Local Government Board, which treatment it shall be lawful for a local authority, if so authorised by the Local Government Board to undertake,but only if so authorised. The whole of my charge was that the right hon. Gentleman did not authorise either local insurance committees or local authorities. The authorisation only came on 26th July.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
No machinery was necessary, and the day after the authorisation came the local practitioner could be empowered to provide domiciliary treatment. No one knows better than the hon. Member that round that question of domiciliary treatment the dispute between the medical profession and the Insurance Commission and the Local Government Board very largely turned, and that it was extremely necessary whilst that dispute was going on that nothing should be done by the Local Government Board 1870 which would prejudice the deal, if I may so put it, between the Commissioners and the medical profession; and he also knows that the medical profession have received sixpence out of the 1s. 3d. devoted to sanatorium benefit for domiciliary treatment. If this is the worst thing he can say about the administration—that the authorisation came five days after the Act came into force and that no preparation being necessary, at the most there was only five days' delay—then in view of the delicacy of the negotiations which were going on with the medical profession I am bound to say that I do not think his criticism really amounts to a very great deal. I wanted to ask the President of the Local Government Board a question which, I think, concerns a matter of vital importance I understand that tuberculosis may now be treated by two different kinds of authorities under the purview of the Local Government Board—the public health authority and the Poor Law guardians. This, in my view, is a matter of enormous importance affecting the local rates, and I should very much like to ask the President of the Local Government Board if I am right in this short presentation of the position, and, if so, whether he will make it his business to see that the authorities and the public clearly understand it?
We require, as a result of the Insurance Act, institutions for the treatment of tuberculosis. The insurance committees could not put them up; they had not the money. It was necessary to find the money, and, Government money having been found, it was necessary that it should be administered through properly constituted local authorities. Having provided that tuberculosis should be treated at the expense of the public funds, the taxes and the rates, then the condition had to be made that for the authority to receive the Government Grant they must provide for the whole of the population. I think that I am righ—in fact, I feel certain that I am right—in saying that the offer to provide four-fifths and three-fifths of the total capital cost of these institutions has been made subject to the condition that the public authority will undertake the treatment of tuberculosis not only for insured persons, but for the whole of the community. When that offer was made the local authorities quite naturally said, "It is not only a question of capital cost. Who is going to pay the cost of administration and the cost of treatment?" The Government then 1871 decided to go a step further, and they said, "We will pay out of the Exchequer half of the cost of the treatment of tuberculosis carried on by these public health authorities." That brings me to this practical position, which I want to put to the President of the Local Government Board. Take the union of West Ham, or the Edmonton Union, in the county of Middlesex. At present, I suppose, there are scores of beds occupied in those workhouse infirmaries by paupers suffering from consumption who are treated solely at the expense of the local ratepayers of those unions. A Grant has now been promised to the Middlesex County Council towards the capital cost and the institutions are being provided, and an undertaking has been given to pay to the Middlesex County Council half the cost of the treatment of non-insured persons. Therefore, if those paupers in the Edmonton Union in Middlesex are treated by the Middlesex County Council under the terms of this offer, half of the cost of treatment will come from the Exchequer and the other half from the whole of the county rate.
Do the guardians throughout the country, who are to-day treating tuberculosis cases in their Poor Law infirmaries entirely at the cost of the local ratepayers, realise that they are making the Government a present of half the cost, and that if those persons are treated by the public health authority half the cost of their treatment will come from the National Exchequer? I very much doubt whether the Poor Law authorities throughout the country realise that. If they did realise it, I think the President of the Local Government Board would find that the pressure brought to bear upon public health authorities to undertake this treatment would be such that he would be able to tell us that a great many more schemes had been passed and set in motion. I want to ask whether I am right in saying that to-day, if the public health authority treats consumptives, half the cost will be borne by the Exchequer; and whether, if they are treated by the Poor Law authority, the whole cost will fall upon the local rates, and, if so, whether that has been made quite clear to the Poor Law authorities and the public health authorities? We all say that we would prefer that the public health authorities should deal with 1872 the treatment of consumptives. The less the Poor Law has to deal with the treatment of the disease the better. I know of nothing which will tend to bring that desirable state of things about than to tell the boards of guardians in this country that they are robbing the ratepayers of half the cost of the treatment of tuberculosis paupers by not seeing that they are dealt with under the powers, which enable the Local Government Board to grant them half the cost out of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. CAVE
The last point raised by the hon. Gentleman is of real importance, but I doubt whether anybody who heard the speech of my hon. Friend behind me will think that his criticisms on the sanatorium question have been in any wav answered. We shall all listen with interest to the defence of the right hon. Gentleman opposite on that matter, which is one we feel to be of very great importance. But I did not rise to speak on that point. I want to raise a new but a very short point, and I can do it in a few sentences. I want to refer to what is now becoming an old question; I mean the complaints which the vaccination officers make of their treatment by the Local Government Board. The point is very clear. When the Bill of 1907 was brought in, extending the opportunities for exemption from vaccination, a difficulty occurred at once to many of us. We foresaw that the result would be that this measure, which was considered to be a public benefit, would cause loss to the vaccination officers. The point was raised in this House, and I put down an Amendment, the effect of which would have been that, whereas the officers were paid by fees for certificates of vaccination, or by salaries founded on those fees, they would, if the Amendment had passed be entitled to similar fees for certificates of exemption from vaccination, Consequently the Bill would not cause very serious loss. But it was impossible to move that Amendment in this House. It was, however, moved in another place, by Lord Camperdown, and the answer given was this. Lord Allendale said it was not anticipated, as pointed out on the Second Reading of the Bill, that the number of persons who would obtain certificates of exemption on account of conscientious objection would be materially increased. That was one objection raised when the Act of 1898 was passed, but it did not prove to be the case, because the number of applications for exemption had remained steady, varying from 5 to 4.8 per cent. Lord Camperdown added that if the remunera- 1873 tion of vaccination officers, who were paid by fees, was considered inadequate, the fees might be increased, either by the guardians, with the approval of the Local Government Board, or by the Board itself. The answer given was clear. It was not expected that the number of exemptions would increase, but if they did, the officers would be looked after by the board of guardians.
What happened? The number of certificates of exemption increased enormously. There has been a steady and constant increase in the percentage. It went up at once in 1908 to 17.3 per cent. In the following year it was 20.9. In the next year, 1910, it was 25.7. In 1911 it rose to 28.2, and this year the approximate figure will be, according to an answer given by the right hon. Gentleman, 31.6; in other words, an increase from about 5 per cent. to over 31 per cent. Thus the first answer given by Lord Allendale has proved to be wholly falsified, and our anticipations are realised. I come to my second question: Did the Local Government Board take steps towards seeing that these men are properly treated. The answer to that, I am sorry to say, is "no," and I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us why he has taken the line he has. What he has said to officers who applied to him is this, "I will not help you. Go to your boards of guardians, and apply to them for compensation, or for an increase of salary." I do not think that answer is fair to either side. To begin with, the guardians themselves, quite naturally, are desirous of sparing the rates, and they look with reluctance on any application for compensation or for an increase of pay. The result is, when the men go to the guardians—and they are very reluctant to do so—in many cases they do not succeed. There have been cases where some small sums have been paid as compensation, but in others nothing at all has been given. In some of the latter cases the right hon. Gentleman himself has intervened. He has written to the guardians and said, "We think the officer deserves consideration, and that you should pay the compensation or give an increase of salary." But the guardians have absolutely declined to accept the recommendation of the Local Government Board, and I can understand why they have done so. Some of them do not want to increase the rates; others, apparently being opposed to vaccination, take it out of the vaccination officers, and decline to increase any payment made under the 1874 Vaccination Act. The result is quite plain. The figures show that these men, who were doing their duty as vaccination officers, are suffering under an Act for which, of course, they had no kind of responsibility, and which was supposed to be passed for public purposes.
I decline to mix this up with the question of vaccination or exemption from, vaccination. The question I am bringing before the Committee is purely and simply a question whether public officials shall suffer by a reform or change. I do not believe that because of this reform or change in the law, which was made for public reasons, these public officers ought to be allowed to suffer. They raised the point at the time. They were told that they would not suffer, and that, if they did suffer, they would be looked after. They did suffer, and they have not been looked after. That is the whole of the case on which I rely, and I think it demands an answer. I have figures here, which I can read if required, showing the exact amounts which men have lost by this Act. The amounts may not appear to be substantial to some hon. Members, but they are substantial to those who have to live on very modest incomes. I have cases in which the loss has been £59, £70, £64,. £100, and so on. These are the sums they have lost by the Act. They are not getting the money back. In many cases the right hon. Gentleman has admitted, by his, letters to the guardians, that justice ought to be done to these men, and the guardians have refused to accept his recommendation. In other cases he himself has refused to assist the men. I want him to say why. I put the question with great personal respect for him, but I do not understand his action in this matter. I am inclined to think it is pure obstinacy, and that, having once said he would not help, he declines to listen to reason. But he must listen to reason in this House. He must give us some kind of answer. Having put my point to him, I will suggest to that he may deal with the matter quite simply by a General Order. I believe he has power to do it. He said himself, and Lord Allendale said, that he had power to, make a General Order under which an increase of pay or compensation would be given to each of these men, credit, of course, being given for any sums they may be receiving. If the right hon. Gentleman will make an Order of that kind, he will satisfy a great many people and will remove a genuine grievance.
§ Mr. LEWIS HASLAM
I want to refer specially to the treatment of children under the Poor Law. But before doing that I would like to call attention to a few remarkable figures relating to the decrease of pauperism during the last thirty or forty years. They are interesting figures, and will perhaps impart a touch of optimism which will do no harm. In 1873 there were in Great Britain thirty-five paupers per thousand inhabitants. In 1908, the year in which the present President of the Local Government Board assumed office, there were twenty-three, and in 1913, this year, the number is 17.4 per thousand—that is to say, that at the present date, and during the lifetime of both of us, there has been a decrease of pauperism by more than one-half, and I wish to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the fact that, during his term of office, he has seen the figures decrease so very largely. The question which I wish particularly to call the Committee's attention to is that of the treatment of children known as Poor Law children. They are orphans, and deserted children who are looked after by the guardians.
What I wish to emphasise, as I have often done before, is the great advantage of the boarding-out system in the treatment of these poor little destitute children. One great advantage is that they are able to live a home life. The foster-mothers are carefully chosen. The children are brought up to understand, and are educated in the ordinary duties, and enjoy the ordinary pleasures of home life. They are able to go to the ordinary school, instead of to schools connected with Poor Law institutions. One great advantage of the boarding-out system is that it takes the child away from the workhouse institutional influence. Those who have carefully studied the welfare of children must be well aware of the numbing influence of the barrack system on the intellectual development of children. Another point which is not sufficiently realised by a great many persons interested in the Poor Law is the comparative cheapness of boarding out. The cost is less than one-half of that incurred in keeping the same children in institutions. It is not only a better system but a very much cheaper system. Another point is, and it is one I think of great importance, that under the boarding-out system children are much freer from ordinary contagious and infectious diseases than when congregated together 1876 in large masses. So that on all hands the boarding-out system is superior to the institutional system. I should also like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the fact that during his term of office many more children have been boarded out than formerly, and that there are now many fewer in the workhouses. There is a great improvement going on almost daily. At the present time there are 11,000 children boarded out, but, unfortunately, only a little over 2,000 of those are boarded out in country districts. I want to lay special emphasis on the importance of placing these children in country districts, that is to say, boarding them out beyond the unions as much as possible. In the country districts there are committees of ladies, resident in those districts, who take a special interest in each individual child, which means that the children are brought up in the best possible manner, and, through that individual interest being taken in them, they are taught to earn their living in the country, instead of coming back to the towns to increase the congestion which already exists there. There are 9,000 boarded out practically in, the towns or within the unions. I would specially ask the President to endeavour to increase the number of children boarded out without the unions, and to decrease those within the unions as much as possible.
§ Mr. LEWIS HASLAM
There are two boarding out Orders, one for within the unions and one for without. I think I am correct in saying that only 2,000 children are boarded out in the country, and that the others are more or less in the towns. An hon. Member opposite pointed out the small payment made to the foster parents of these children. In some cases it is only 3s., and in other cases less. That is too small an amount, and it would be much better if it were increased. Beyond the unions they generally get about 5s. a week, and considering that these foster mothers have to look after the children, feed and clothe them, it is quite little enough. There is another way of dealing with these children to which I would call attention that is the alternative of emigration. The Committee will be aware that there are far more male than female emigrants; indeed, according to figures I have collected, during the last twenty or 1877 thirty years twice as many males have gone from these shores to our Colonies than females. I think it would be an extremely good thing if the Local Government Board could encourage the emigration of young girls to the Colonies more than the emigration of boys. If good homes are found in the Colonies, especially on farms in some of them, the girls would be welcomed there and well brought up, and in the course of time they would marry and rear British children with British sympathies. What we are doing now is sending boys away to Colonies where there is a surplus of men, and we are keeping the girls at home, where there is a surplus of women. I hope these points will receive the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, and that he will be good enough to say something in reply to them.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I intervene in this Debate for three reasons; in the first place, because I was the author of the Act in regard to which the question now before the Committee is being raised; secondly, because I desire to call attention to the claims of the officers, in regard to which I entirely and heartily support what fell from the hon. Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave); and, thirdly, because I desire to make some observations upon the effects of the administration of the President of the Local Government Board and upon the progress of vaccination under the Act. May I remind the Committee that when the Act was first passed it was followed by a very large and striking increase of vaccination. With the permission of the Committee I will give a few instances which will bear out most strongly what I say. Later on I propose to deal with the question of the great increase in exemptions under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman, and so to show what I think is the most unfortunate position of vaccination at the present time. In one of the East End Metropolitan unions, shortly after the passing of the Act, the number of vaccinations in the twelve months ending September, 1898, performed by public vaccinators was 336, but in the twelve months ending the following September they were 1,130, or four times as numerous as they had been previously. In ether unions in the Metropolis there were 1,181 public vaccinations in the first nine months of 1898, and 2,041 in the first four months of 1899. Those are the figures for the Metropolis, and a number of others could be quoted. I come to the unions of 1878 Yorkshire, and I find the primary vaccinations performed by the public vaccinators in the East Riding for the three months ending September, 1899, was 60 per cent more than in the like period of 1898. That was the progress of vaccination which was going on immediately after the passing of the Act. Concurrently with that, the position with regard to exemptions was very satisfactory indeed. I know it was thought at the time by many who were very desirous to see vaccination carried out that the admission of what was called the conscientious objector would probably prove to be extremely disastrous to their views. But it had exactly the opposite effect.
I will tell the Committee why it had that effect, and this information I had myself from the vaccination officers of the country. They came to me shortly afterwards and said that the Act which had just been passed, instead of being a failure, as was predicted, had been one of the most remarkable successes ever known. They said, "Now we have an opportunity of explaining the truth about vaccination to the mothers, and they are no longer obliged to go to vaccination stations, where all the anti-vaccinators were congregated ready to poison their minds, but we go to the homes, and the moment we tell the truth to these people, as contrasted with the statements of the anti-vaccinators, the first thing they do is to tear up the certificates before our eyes and agree to their children being vaccinated at once." Let me say a word or two as to the effect of the Act upon exemptions. In 1899 there were 32,000, in 1900 39,000, 1901 41,000, 1902 33,000, 1903 37,000, and 1904 39,000. Then the present Government came in, and they went up at once, or almost immediately afterwards, to 52,000. I turn to the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman to question put in the House of Commons not very long ago, and I will tell the Committee what the progress has been since then in the opposite direction. Instead of the exemptions being satisfactory in the view of those who think that vaccination ought to be practised in the country, the result of the administration of the right hon. Gentleman, at all events, has been exactly the opposite. In 1906 the exemptions were 52,000, in 1907 57,000, in 1908 162,000, which was a sudden and great increase from the previous year. That was the effect of an alteration in the law passed by the right hon. Gentleman, by which a statutory declaration took the place of having to go before the magistrate 1879 for a certificate. I presume it must have been done with that special object or intention, or, if it was opposed to the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, a greater mistake he could not have made. In the next year the number went up to 190,000, in 1910 to 230,000, in 1911 248,000, and in 1912 to 276,000. What does that mean?
The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to give us particulars as to the percentage of exemptions to the birth rate. It is 31.6. In other words, under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman during the last few years the matter has reached this point, that nearly one-third of the whole of the coming population at the present time are absolutely unvaccinated. All I can say is that if the right hon. Gentleman desires to see the Act carried out, if he desires vaccination to make progress in this country, if he desires to see what has been proved to be a great safeguard against small-pox extended, no man could possibly have administered an Act of Parliament worse. So much for administration. The figures alone that I have given are an absolute condemnation of the administration of this Act if it be the desire of those who administer it to encourage the progress of vaccination throughout the country.
Let me say one word as to the claims of the officers. I think the officers have been most harshly treated. There was a change in the law, and they were afraid of the change. They were told they would not lose, and that if they did lose it would be made up. They have lost, and it has not been made up. Can anything be more unfair to these men? What was the answer of the right hon. Gentleman on a former occasion? These were his words:—I have no more direct or absolute power to order and direct the different forms of remuneration of vaccination officers than I have to order the town councils to give to their engineers or any other of their officers any remuneration that I please.He may not have any direct or absolute power to order or direct the remuneration of vaccination officers. Whether it be direct or not I do not know, but that it is absolute I do know, both from past experience of my own and also from the statement made by the representative of the Local Government Board in the House of Lords in 1907. Let me remind him of this. Upon an. Amendment moved to 1880 secure to the vaccination officers adequate remuneration, if there was any doubt about it, on the 8th August, 1907 in another place,. the representative of the Local Government Board in that House used these words:—The vaccination officers were paid by fees, but he would remind Lord Camperdown that, if this remuneration was considered inadequate, the fees might be increased either by the guardians with the concurrence of the Local Government Board or by the Board itself.How is the right hon. Gentleman get away from such a statement as that? I have just verified that statement in the House of Lords, and a most positive assurance was given that that was so. On the faith of that assurance an Amendment was withdrawn, and also on the faith of something that fell from the Leader of the Liberal party in the House of Lords immediately afterwards. It was withdrawn, and then the right hon. Gentleman says if he does not do this it is because he has not the power to do it. It is not that he has not the power; it is that he has not the will. I think it is treating these officers most unfairly, and I hope the House, if they ever act independently of party feeling, will make up their mind on this occasion to do something which is only just, fair, and right in the interests of some of the most deserving public servants in the country, and, as far as I am concerned, I shall most heartily vote for the Amendment.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman in his remarks about vaccination, in regard to which I will only say that his speech appears to me to be absolutely destitute of any suggestion as to the nature of the improvement of the administration which he desires. I have only a word also to say on the question of vaccination officers. It appeared to me that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Cave) was rather lacking in his usual tact when he accused the President of the Local Government Board of being an obstinate man. I have generally found that the very last way to get anything out of an obstinate man is to tell him that he is obstinate. If you speak soothingly to him, you may probably get your case considered. The case was very well put by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I hope the President will consider it. I believe there is a case for consideration for these men, and I hope he will examine the action of the boards of guardians and 1881 see that all cases of real hardship are speedily dealt with. I believe there are eases of real hardship which require his attention, but I wish rather to refer to the cases children in workhouses. I appeal to the President, as far as he can, to hasten the extinction of the system of retaining children in workhouses. A year ago he mentioned several boards of guardians which had practically flouted the recommendation of the Local Government Board. In the twelve months that have elapsed some progress has been made, but there are still flagrant offenders. Kidderminster remains unmoved, and Weymouth and Dover, Gainsborough, Swaffham and Colchester. Altogether, I think the progress is rather slow. According to the figures I have, in 1910 there were 14,450 children in workhouses, in 1911 13,277, on 1st July, 1912, even a slight increase, 13,419—not an increase of boards, but those boards who still retained them had more children in them. I know and I am thankful for the efforts which have been evidenced by the inspectors of the Local Government Board. The Board has, through its inspectors, pressed the views of the Board as to the necessity for getting children out upon boards of guardians, but in the backward unions their efforts have had very little success, and it is precisely in these unions which seem to care least for the child's life that retaining them there is most hurtful.
In March last, the inspector of the Eastern Counties reported that there were thirty-two children of school age in the Wisbech Workhouse. I do not much like mentioning districts individually by name, but I know that in some cases where that has been done the public attention which has been called has had its effect. In this workhouse, the children are retained, although actually the workhouse itself is overcrowded, and there are only 234 beds for 252 inmates. There are thirty-two children, of which fourteen boys are amongst the men. They are not efficiently classified in the daytime. In the girls sleeping room there are seven beds and one mattress on the floor for fifteen girls. The room in which they sleep is used by day and by night, and the girls day room is the sewing room of the workhouse. This workhouse is one of the most undesirable institutions in which to bring up children. The accommodation provided for them is most inadequate in every respect, and also the attention given to them. "It is 1882 evident," says the inspector, "that little or no interest is paid to their lives by the guardians. No system of classification of inmates is attempted, the good, the bad, and the indifferent are herded together, and there is no employment given to the inmates." That is not a satisfactory condition in which to bring up children and fit them to take part in the battle of life. In Mitford, there are sixteen children of school age. This is how the boys live:The boys are in a room with a brick floor, cold, cheerless and dismal, looking out on a gravel yard surrounded by high brick walls.That is not a proper condition for children to be brought up in.The boys have to traverse two open yards, a distance of 200 feet, in all weathers for their weekly tub on a Saturday morning. A pauper attends to them. The girls sleep in a huge room in a house adjoining the matron's quarters. There is no industrial training and no special attendance. There is nothing elevating, no home influence, nothing whatever to fit them for the battle of life before them.At Tendring we have another instance of vacillating inefficiency. Since 1908 they have been considering the question of a cottage or two. First they would, then they would not, then they would again, then they would not, and now they almost seem to be in the humour, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take them whilst they are in the humour. There is no classification on the men's side, and there are seventeen boys there. I am glad to notice that the Local Government Board inspector is pressing the matter. At Smallborough there is another case of almost impudent and contemptuous evasion of the Local Government Board and of persistent flouting of public opinion. In February the Local Government Board directed attention to the fact that, thirty-one children over three were in the workhouse, and directed their attention to the Local Government Board's letter of three years ago. The board of guardians replied that they were dealing with the question. Some children are to be boarded cut and others are to be sent to a training ship. The guardians must know perfectly well that children who can be boarded out or sent to a training ship are only a portion, possibly much less than half the children under their care. Then there is Rye which is contumacious. I should like to draw attention specially to Rye. They think the administration of the right hon. Gentleman is like that of sleeping dog, and they are going to let him lie. Rye is unanimously resolved, notwithstanding the pressure that has been brought to bear upon them, to make 1883 no change. I do not think they are just in calling the right hon. Gentleman a sleeping dog because, at all events, he has barked, though there seems to be a doubt whether he will bite. But Rye knows better than all the rest of the Kingdom. The methods of Queen Elizabeth or before are good enough for Rye. At Camelford in April of last year the inspector finds that the day rooms are no better than they used to be. The floors were cracked and had holes, and the only provision for the boys and girls to sit down was a very broken bench. The matron told him that everything in this way was broken. What possibly can be produced but flabby, inefficients and unemployables of boys and girls treated in this way? It is not merely the fact that the children are not well attended to; it is the moral effect upon them of the inefficiency. The child ought to be brought up with a view to trying to secure efficiency and to produce that which is excellent and commendable, and these children who are brought up in these conditions can face scarcely anything but failure. If they do face anything but failure, one may almost say it is a miracle. I hope the President will pay attention to some of these cases even more persistently than he has done.
There is another point I wish to press upon the Department and that is the policy, which I thought had been entirely superseded, of sanctioning the expenditure of money in providing separate accommodation in the workhouse itself, or in erecting buildings for them in the workhouse grounds. I hope that policy will not be continued, though in isolated instances it appears still to be happening. At Wellington, the guardians are seeking the permission of the Department to spend just under £1,000 in this way. This expenditure will not separate the boys and the girls from workhouse influences. There are only twenty-three, and to expend this much would, given another scheme, put them in proper conditions. Another board of guardians, Hambledon, in Surrey, are spending £1,800 in housing twenty-four children.
It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.