§ Mr. BRIANT
I beg to move,That this House regards the action of the Minister of Health in cancelling the Poplar Order, and in remitting any surcharge that might be made under it, as calculated to encourage illegality and extravagance, and urges that the real remedy for the difficulties of necessitous areas is to be found in the reform of London government and of the Poor Law system.I feel that in moving this Resolution I shall probably disappoint many Members of the House. I have no intention of joining in any violent abuse of Poplar, nor am I going to adopt any sincere or simulated forms of hysteria which very word seems to excite in some who have somewhat unbalanced minds. I approach the question as one who, like those in Poplar, has had to face the practical difficulties of Poor Law administration in the most difficult period that has ever confronted anybody. I, too, like Poplar, have had to face the enormous difficulty of grappling with a large mass of unemployed men, which almost suddenly has overwhelmed boards of guardians. It is perfectly true that the Poor Law takes cognisance of dealing with the able-bodied, but it is equally true that during the last two or three generations boards of guardians, in fact, have had little or nothing to do with them. I want the House to recollect the position. The guardians had to deal with this question, because, obviously, important and valuable as was the Insurance Act, it could not meet the whole of the problem. I want, however, to say at once that the nation owes a debt of gratitude to those who first placed the principle of unemployment insurance on the Statute Book, for in that, and I believe in no other, way will the ultimate solution of this problem be arrived at.
What was the state of things? Boards of guardians had to improvise an administration of out-relief. They had to find a largely augmented staff, which consisted to a large extent, necessarily, of men who had had little or no experience of the work. It is not surprising that mistakes were made. It is very surprising that not more mistakes were made. If hon. Members realised what it meant to the 320 guardians and the officers, I think they would be more careful in their criticisms. Officer after officer broke down through overwork and pressure. I think I can say that there is no Member in this House who has had to face more the practical difficulties of dealing with the unemployed than myself. Day after day, and even now every morning of my life, I see the men who want employment, and I venture to say it is a gross libel on these men to suggest that anything but a small and infinitesimal number of them are really work-shy. They are wanting work, and the pathos and tragedy comes home to those who, like myself, do not deal with them from the point of view of philosophy or theory, but who have to face and to know the individuals. He who knows that side of the case will at any rate be sympathetic towards those who have made mistakes.
Nevertheless, there are criticisms to be made. We are bound to consider not only the unemployed, but also the far larger number of employed workers. We have no right to consider one class if it is going to harm a still larger class equally deserving, at any rate of our attention. The difficulties of London are far greater than any other city in the country. London consists of a large number of unions, and that means that there are hundreds of streets in London of which one side is in one parish and the other side in another. It means that the relief given in one parish may be 5s. or 10s. less than that given to a man who lives on the opposite side of the road, and who is in identically the same position. Can you wonder, when that state of affairs prevails all over London in hundreds and perhaps thousands of streets, that there is discontent and friction, and that there is an attempt on the part of those on the lower scale to endeavour to push up the scale to the maximum which they hear someone else possesses.
I disagree with this Poplar policy on several different points. The Poplar Guardians seem to have proceeded on this principle, that relief was to be given irrespective of the standard of wages in the district and irrespective of the standard of life in the district. That is a very dangerous theory. Further—and this seems to be quite obvious from the speeches made by Poplar Guardians and 321 their supporters—they were prepared to use the relief to push up the wages in the district. I am not concerned whether the wages were high enough. I say frankly that wages in Poplar and in many other areas are a great deal too low. I suggest, however, that no administrative body has the right to use its powers to obtain an economic result. Further, I disagree altogether with Poplar's idea as to destitution. On one main principle it seems to me Poplar has made its greatest mistake. Poplar has considered, not the condition of the household, but the destitution of the individual. It is an important difference. No one who is distributing relief has the right to consider any individual to be destitute if the income of that individual's home is more than sufficient to maintain that individual, and if there is no reason to believe that the individual is deprived of the necessaries of life. If that is not so, I really do not know where relief will end.
There are to-day hundreds and thousands of homes in which there is a daughter or a son out of work, and they never apply for relief. If they did we should be overwhelmed with applications. I believe that legally the word "destitution" does not apply to these cases; it applies only to want of the necessaries of life. An individual does not want the necessaries of life when the income of his family is sufficient and available for him. I wish, also, to approach the subject from the moral point of view. If the Poplar system is extended what I regard as one of the sanctities of home life, the idea that members of a family are to bear each other's burdens, will be swept away. The Poplar system would mean that when an individual was out of work his family would not realise that it had any responsibility, and he would run off and obtain relief. That is not a legal quibble but a question involving a great moral issue, and one on which the sanctity of home life ultimately depends. In passing, I want to mention what the present Chairman of the Poplar Board of Guardians said. It is instructive as throwing a light on the Board's general policy. He said:If in so doing they had given more in relief than the men would have got in wages, so much the better for relief, and so much the worse for wages.322 That is the kind of heroic statement that is easily made on a platform, but there is an element of danger in it. I want now to deal with the results of the policy. The immediate result was that every board of guardians was subject to a series of deputations and demonstrations more or less hostile. Enormous pressure was put on every board of guardians in London to raise its scale, and Poplar itself suffered in that respect—so much so that Poplar had to take the somewhat undignified position of yielding to an unemployment demonstration one week and, if I remember rightly, withdrawing its decision a week after. Fortunately, I was able to maintain a consistent policy, notwithstanding all the demonstrations and deputations. There were, however, boards of guardians which were extremely weak and gave way at almost the first onslaught. I am not concerned very much about that. What I am concerned about is that millions of working men in England are actually in the position that they have to contribute out of their wages in order to give to certain men who are doing no work more than they could earn by a week's work.
I am out to protect the unemployed, but I am also out to protect the employed. When one knows the actual effect upon the homes of many, one sometimes wonders whether Poplar's idea of charity should not have begun at home in protecting the men who were at work equally with the men who were not. What happened? Take the ex-service pensioner. In effect his rent was to be increased in order to give someone else a higher income than he was receiving. The case of the old age pensioner was even worse. With a paltry 10s. a week, perhaps supplemented by 5s. from relatives, he was to pay an increased rent in order to give a family a larger income than that family would have if its members were in work. That is indefensible. I say so in defence of the working classes, and not in an endeavour to attack them. My views are shared not only by hon. Members on the other side of the House, but by hon. Members on this side and by Members of the Labour party. I am very glad to be able to quote my hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), who in a brave moment ventured to criticise Poplar, for which he had to face a most severe political attack 323 from some of his friends in that district. He said:He criticised those who were giving scales of Poor Law relief which cannot be regarded as reasonable having regard to the general standard of life of the workpeople who have to bear a substantial part of the cost.That is exactly my case.
§ Mr. H. MORRISON
I understand from the statement of the hon. Member that he suggests that that statement is directed specifically against Poplar. I have no recollection of ever having published anything one way or the other on Poplar's scale of relief.
§ Mr. BRIANT
Anyhow, the statement applies to Poplar. Let me say that as Poplar has openly boasted that it has the highest scale of relief in England—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If the hon. Member will allow me to say so, we are very modest indeed in Poplar. We never boasted that we were at the top, because we know that we are not. We are very sorry that we are not. We should like to be like the other people.
§ Mr. BRIANT
Those words were used in reply to a deputation of the unemployed who demanded a higher scale of relief. It is also true that the Secretary of State for the Colonies viewed these attempts of Poplar with alarm. He said with considerable courage that the unemployed were being exploited by the Communists. As regards my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), we all have trust in his conscientiousness in everything he has done in this direction, but there were others who were prompting my hon. Friend and whose hand was very visible. We have a little less faith in their purity of motive, for we think that they have possibly some political motive. In regard to the Minister of Health I have a criticism to offer. The Mond scale was established by powers under the 1832 Act. No surcharges have been made under that Order. It is very curious that in another place the Lord Chancellor and the Lord President of the Council, in speaking last week, still seemed to be under some misapprehension as to that elementary fact. The Lord Chancellor said:Successive Ministries did not try to enforce the surcharge and speaking for myself I have no doubt that they were right. Thus the surcharge stood.324 The Lord President of the Council said:All Mr. Wheatley did was to notify the guardians that he remitted the surcharge.I cannot understand a Noble Lord who speaks on behalf of the Government not having taken the trouble to examine the facts a little more carefully. But the real point is this: The Minister of Health did not rescind the Order on his own initiative; he waited for a demonstration from Poplar. Some of the Poplar Board's supporters have stated that the Order of the Ministry of Health originally was illegal, was inoperative, and was obsolete. If it be all or any of these things, it is rather extraordinary that the Minister was in such haste to end it. The Minister of Health hardly waits until he has had time to find his way to his room in his own Ministry; he is in so great a hurry to carry out what Poplar wants. The effects upon the nation as a whole, though they may not be desired or intended—that the Poplar policy has the general approval of the Minister of Health, and, possibly, of his Government—are certain to be harmful. A very remarkable admission was made by the Lord Privy Seal last week, when he said:Ninety per cent. of the cases of surcharge are paid without question.That is curious; 90 per cent. of the ordinary surcharges, which are on small amounts, are paid without question. That is to say that they are surcharges in normal cases. What is one to understand from this? It is that if you make a small mistake you have to pay, but if you make a big mistake you are forgiven. What has the Minister of Health done? He has not remitted surcharges which have been made. Anyone who knows these surcharges in relief cases knows that they are made up of hundreds and thousands of small items. In the relief given to an individual the excess may be trifling, but in other cases it may be enormous. The Minister does not know, and cannot know, what they are at Poplar, because the audit is not complete. He did not wait to know. He said, "I do not know what you have done, but it is all forgiven." That is a dangerous attitude.
I have left very little time for the consideration of the more important point which arises as regards the system in general. After all, Poplar is only an example of what will always happen 325 under a system which is obsolete. I suggest that the Poor Law, whatever its virtues may be, is not so full of vices as many hon. Members think. Even under the present Poor Law, an extraordinary number of reforms can be carried out if a board of guardians desires to make it a humane instrument of relief instead of a machine. [HON. MEMBERS: "Like Poplar!"] I also might say, like Lambeth. I am sure there are many hon. Members in the House who would be perfectly amazed at the number of things that can be done and are done, even under the present law, without the infraction of a single Order if the board of guardians is anxious. I recognise that, somehow or other, we have inherited from the past a dislike which was then well deserved. You cannot get rid of that feeling—I do not like the word "taint," and as to the word "pauper," I never use it. I notice that the Lord Chancellor used the word "pauper" constantly, but no guardian would ever do so, and any decent board of guardians would dismiss an officer if he dared to use it in reference to the people under their care. In any case, the Poor Law has deserved or has obtained a name which makes many people shrink from applying to it. I am not so sure that we shall do such wonderful things by means of Poor Law reform. You will have to do very much the same sort of things, by whatever name you call the system, nor will you get rid of the bugbear of Poplar expenditure. The only difference will be that the expenditure will be by borough councils instead of boards of guardians.
Under the existing system, guardians who are desirous of being humane have succeeded in working with obsolete tools which are unfitted for the present time. Undoubtedly the time has arrived when there should be a complete investigation of the system. I entirely agree with what the deputation said to the Minister of Health yesterday. I agree with the Minister himself, that the maintenance of the unemployed should be a State responsibility, and I add this question: Do hon. Members understand what is partly behind Poplar's action and Poplar's extreme methods? Do they understand what a poor district feels at having to meet a very heavy burden simply because it happens to be an industrial district. The City of Westminster some years ago desired to make improve- 326 ments and desired, quite rightly, to clear slum areas. They did so, and they built huge blocks of expensive flats. The rate-able value went up enormously to the benefit of the City of Westminster, but the people who were cleared out of the slums were swept across the river to Battersea, Southwark and Lambeth. These districts had the double disadvantage of having to maintain the out-of-works, sick and aged, while Westminster secured the double advantage of having got rid of them and of having a hugely enhanced rateable value. Not only Poplar but every industrial district feels this bitterly, and regards it as an iniquity that, because of a sequence of events, or the nearness of a particular factory, a district happens to be industrial in its nature, it should have to bear a heavy burden which is one for the community as a whole and not for a particular district. I desire to put certain definite points to the Prime Minister. I am not here as an aimless critic, anxious to throw bricks at Poplar—because the matter is too important for that kind of controversy—but I wish the right hon. Gentleman to satisfy us on the following matters.
Will he make it clear that, though the Order is rescinded and the Minister has remitted any surcharges thereunder, that action does not mean that any illegal expenditure has been or will be sanctioned? Will the Government intimate to boards of guardians generally and the Poplar Board of Guardians particularly, that they must carry out the law and that the Ministry will hold them responsible for any breaches of the law? Will the power of surcharge be retained? [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] I must apologise to hon. Members if I am not making myself heard, but I have a very bad cold. Will effective collateral sanction, in addition to the surcharge, be made available? Will consideration be paid to the fact that any attempt to supersede the elected authorities by a bureaucratic Commission or Receiver would be wholly unworkable and would entangle the central Government in local administration? Will the Government undertake to submit to Parliament, at the earliest possible moment, such a reform of the Poor Law system as would deal with the anomalies in London in particular and the difficulties of necessitous areas all over the country?
327 May I add an appeal to my right hon. Friend? I am fully aware that the House has not time in this Session to pass a large controversial Measure, but I am not sure that all parties in the House are not agreed on some considerable measure of Poor Law reform. Is it not possible to have a small Committee consisting of Members of all parties who will endeavour to find some agreed method? I do not say such a course will succeed, but it is worth trying. I am not at all sanguine, but I believe it is worth making the attempt, and it seems to be the only chance which will present itself this year. I believe Members of all parties are sincerely anxious for an immediate reform of the whole system, and perhaps my right hon. Friend will consider this suggestion and give an answer later on. I should not have moved this Resolution to-day if it were merely a Vote of Censure and not a matter relating to a pressing social problem. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may not understand—I do not suppose they do in the slightest understand—my point of view. To me, Poplar is only an illustration of the necessity for reform of the system. I disagreed with Poplar. I thought their disregard, their open and almost proud disregard of the Order, was a dangerous thing. Such an attitude is dangerous because one is dealing with men whose nerves are on edge, just as yours and mine would be if we were walking the streets in search of work, not only footsore but heartsore. It is dangerous when dealing with men of that kind even to seem to encourage lawlessness. I do not expect hon. Members opposite to appreciate that remark. Whatever Poplar has done, hon. Members opposite themselves were only too eager to support an armed revolt against the law when Home Rule was proposed. I hope, therefore, they will keep quiet on this occasion and will leave the criticism to men like myself who cannot be accused of open revolt against the law. I hope the House will treat the subject not merely with a desire to score off anybody but with the desire to provide some useful result. [Laughter.] I do not mind the jeers of the hon. Members opposite who are looking at the subject from an entirely different standpoint and who probably never will understand my position in the matter. I urge the House to remember 328 that we are dealing with a great problem, a problem which is so urgent that it deserves the attention and sympathy of every Member of the House, and I hope from this afternoon's discussion will come something beyond mere bitter attacks—some solution of a great question.
§ Mr. KEENS
I beg to second the Motion.
My only claim as a new Member of the House to second this Resolution is upwards of 25 years' experience of local government in the country and the chairmanship of the finance committee of a county council for several years. No one will deny that the problem of necessitous areas is one of considerable difficulty in normal times, but of particular difficulty when to the ordinary Poor Law was added unemployment to an unexampled extent and when insurance was proved to be inadequate and had to be supplemented by relief administered under a very old Act of Parliament. No one on this side denies that the system which allowed wealthy areas with a high rateability to escape the full burdens of contribution to poor areas with a low rateability was bad. This was recognised by the Acts of 1921 and 1923, which, after all, were only emergency legislation without adequate safeguards, and it is further recognised in the Resolution, but the chief bar to effective reform on this question undoubtedly is that system which has become known as Poplarism, and any system of equalization or approaching equalization, must be accompanied by reasonable guarantees of efficient and economical administration. With respect to Poplar particularly, we find it is a community mainly composed of poor people and with more than the usual proportion of casual labour. It is a district where the rates are mainly paid by commercial undertakings, such as docks and railways, and by houses. The assessable value is £936,871, and on other than houses the amount is £582,208, or 62 per cent., and unfortunately this 62 per cent. of rateability is largely unrepresented. Yon have also an enormous population, practically one-fifth of the entire population, drawing relief, apart from the unemployment pay. In the week ended 2nd February no fewer than 29,138 persons were drawing relief amounting to £11,315, and there, I submit, is another dangerous 329 factor leading to possibilities of electoral influence of so large a number of persons. The Poplar system is not new. The booklet, "Poplar Pleads Guilty," says that for 30 years their methods havegiven rise to much discussion and criticism.… Public and private investigation into their administrative work have taken place.Up to 1921 the question was treated primarily as a question for Poplar, but as, under the Local Authorities (Financial Provisions) Act of that year, the burden of outdoor relief was transferred to the citizens of the Metropolis generally, it was obvious that the question became of more than local importance. Then we had the investigation by Mr. Cooper. That investigation was attacked in this House very strongly the other night by the hon. Member for Row and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), but the criticism that he bestowed upon it was as nothing, compared with the criticism which appears in this little pamphlet to which I have just referred. His principal reason appears to have been that he had a conversation with one Alfred Warren, but the Report shows—and I think we ought to be fair in this question—that the conversations were limited to the question as to whether there should be an open inquiry or not, and he decided that in view of local circumstances it was not safe to hold a public inquiry. The hon. Member, I suggest, crystallised his objections to the Cooper Report in a very small compass when he said:Mr. Cooper happens to be a very violent disciple of the great fundamental principle of the 1834 Poor Law Act, and he was sent to investigate, in an impartial manner, the doings of men who, it was well known, were not disciples of the gospel according to 1834."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1924; col. 918, Vol. 169.]I submit that it is a matter of history that the legislation prior to 1834 resulted in a great many social evils, and, therefore, before we part from it, we ought to see exactly what was the principle underlying that Poor Law. The Poor Law was for the relief of destitution, and the complaint against the Poplar Guardians was that they used the machinery of the Poor Law for quite other purposes, not to relieve destitution, but for maintenance in excess of earnings, and without taking regard to any other moneys which came into the house. It is not denied that this was the case. In an article which appears in the "New 330 Leader" of the 15th of this month, the Chairman says, after quoting the Poplar scale:It is said wages are lower than this figure. They are.Further, the other complaint, and the only other real complaint, against the Poplar Guardians is that in spite of anything and everything, there has been a continuance of the policy, and the threat still to continue it. The Cooper findings are very well known, but the main one, I think, ought to be mentioned here. Mr. Cooper found that the scale of outdoor relief wastoo generous,"—wasnot regarded as a maximum, but given in all cases,"—that there wereinsufficient deductions in respect of children's earnings in calculating the allowance of relief, resulting in the granting of relief in cases in which no real destitution exists,"—that there wasrelief allowed in excess of earnings of an independent workman who maintains himself by his labour,"—and that there weregrants of boots and clothing in addition to the scale.He suggests that the then rate of expenditure might, by careful administration, be reduced by £100,000 per annum. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley suggests, by way of criticism of this, that if they had chosen to give no relief at all, they might have reduced it still more. Nobody can deny so obvious a proposition, but it would have been equally wrong for them to have given no relief at all as to have given relief on the excessive scale that was found. After the Cooper investigation the Mond Order was issued, and I submit that confusion might have been avoided if, in that Order, the scales had appeared instead of referring to the Regulations of the previous January. That, I believe, has caused some confusion, but I do not propose to deal with the legal matters. There are many legal minds here, which will doubtless be prepared to do that, but it is not denied that the expenditure has been exceeded under that scale by the guardians, and Mr. Edgar Lansbury stated, in a letter to the "Times" of 8th February:It is true that we pay about £100,000 a year more in relief than would be paid under the Mond scale.331 As a matter of fact, who finds the money? This is where London comes in, because I find that Poplar for the year ended 30th September, 1922, drew, out of the pool, £213,000, paying into it the sum of £25,000. Therefore, for every £1 paid by that area they drew £7 out, or more than double the amount recovered by any other borough in London, and about eight times the amount paid in. I submit that though the circumstances in Poplar may have been extraordinary, though they may have been very bad indeed, it is very unlikely that they would have doubled those of any other borough. We then get the deputation to the Minister of Health, and it is perhaps worth while considering what it was that the Poplar Guardians expected when they went to the Minister. There is no question about it. They had a meeting of the Poplar Guardians, and at that meeting it was made perfectly clear what the guardians did expect, for the chairman said that, after being in the wilderness for some years,now they were coming into their own, and he believed that the new Minister of Health was going to put his seal and sanction on the work that the Poplar Board had done for years. Sir Alfred Mond said he would not allow them to pay relief above a certain amount, but if Sir Alfred Mond could cut it down, Mr. Wheatley could rescind the Order, and would, he (the Chairman) was sure, do so when the real facts were put before him.Then he finishes up with this final statement:Both Mr. Wheatley and Mr. Roberts would be faced by their permanent officials, but he believed also that Mr. Wheatley—if he had the 'gumption' that he (the Chairman) believed he possessed—would put the permanent officials in their place.It is very well known what it was that they asked, and what the Minister said, but the submission I wish to make is, that from the point of view of those engaged in the local government of the country what the Minister said and did is a most serious thing. The Prime Minister, stated in the House, on 12th February, that he was "perfectly amazed" at the reception in the country of the news of the action of the Minister of Health, that it was a "small" and "insignificant" matter, of "merely mechanical operation." If amazement was his feeling, I submit that the feeling of those engaged in local government throughout 332 the country was rather one of consternation. It is true that they were reassured afterwards, and I take it to mean that we shall get the assurances asked for by my hon. Friend who moved this Motion, because the Prime Minister stated:In any event, whatever justification there may be for that, I can assure this House that what was done by the Minister of Health was no indication whatever that we intend to encourage sheer uneconomical extravagance on the part either of boards of guardians, or of any other spending authority in the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1924; col. 751, Vol. 169.]But as to what was thought by the other members of His Majesty's Government, and throughout the country, that is another matter. Let us see exactly what Poplar thought of the matter. They held a demonstration immediately after this to signalise their great victory, and the Mayor of Poplar (Mr. C. W. Key) said as follows:There was a fear that the success which had attended the Labour administration in Poplar might incite other people, up and down the country, to try to do the same sort of thing for themselves. If the working classes in other districts were alive to their interests, they would not only try to copy Poplar, they would try to do better than Poplar.
§ Mr. KEENS
I thought the proof as to what Poplar thought would be echoed on the Labour Benches, and it has been so, and I suggest that that is where the danger of the Minister's action lies. I suggest that they regarded the Minister's action as a licence to go on with the methods they had adopted, and to urge others to do the same. There have been other explanations of the Minister's action. There has been, for instance, the Lord Chancellor's statement the other night in the House of Lords, and I expect something very much more vigorous from the Minister of Health in this House. The Minister's promise was to remit surcharges as and when they were made, and I should very much like the Minister to state to this House under what particular Act of Parliament such an action as that could be taken, because when we deal with the Minister's explanation which he issued, which was very weak and inconclusive, we find that he does not deal with this point at all, and it is the crux of the whole matter. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley 333 questioned the validity of the Mond Order, but the Minister, in his explanation, does not do so.
§ Mr. KEENS
I want to call attention to one paragraph only, namely:The Poplar Board of Guardians will remain in exactly the same position as every other board of guardians in the country, and will be subject to precisely the same limitations and restrictions.Upon that, I am entitled to observe that the Poplar Guardians have shown that their conduct demanded exceptional treatment. The Cooper inquiry was proof. The guardians admitted, right the way through, that they were "guilty and proud of it," and the Mond Order was the result of these circumstances. The Chairman boasts that they have never observed the Order, that they overspent £100,000, and that it will involve a 2s. rate. The last words of the explanation of the Minister, that any expenditure in excess of the flat rate will fail upon Poplar alone, is, I submit, very cold comfort for the ratepayers in that area, with the rates at 23s. in the £, 62 per cent. paid by people who have practically no representation, and a very large proportion of the electorate obtaining relief. I submit that an explanation of that explanation is wanted.
There are further explanations wanted, namely, on the question of audit. One of the weaknesses of the audit system is, undoubtedly, the enormous time which elapses between the time when the accounts are made up for audit and the time when the auditor completes his report. The Prime Minister in his reply stated that there had been no surcharge because the audit for the first half of the year 1922 had not been completed. Here I would call attention to the statement made by the Labour correspondent of the "Daily Chronicle" on 15th February, 1924. He says:The Government auditor was instructed not to close the books. 'Ask no questions and you will be told no lies' was the line.That is part of the official explanation. We have heard in a number of quarters that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors in the Ministry of Health were afraid to grasp the nettle and gave instructions to the auditors to keep the books open.
§ Sir WILLIAM JOYNSON-HICKS
If that remark relates to me when I was at the Ministry of Health, may I say that I gave no order of any kind in any way like that?
§ Mr. KEENS
Of course, one accepts that immediately, and I quite expected that it would be so. I should think it would be very desirable in the public interest that his predecessor should assure the House of the same thing. On the general question of remission, one will admit straight away that the loss to the ratepayers is small, because it is very unlikely that any substantial part of the amount can be recovered, but the moral effect is enormous. Remission of surcharges in advance is a complete reversal of the previous policy of the Ministry of Health. It is viewed in local government circles throughout the country as a matter of the greatest seriousness. I should like to take a stand and make it perfectly clear that, in the action which was taken by the Poplar Board of Guardians, which has been represented as that of great pioneers doing a great social work, the record does not show always that that was the fact As a matter of fact, there were numberless instances—I will only quote three of them—in which it was apparent that the action they took was taken under pressure and clamour and demonstration You will find that in reference to the reduction of the coal amount which, after a demonstration, was put back to its original figure. You have it with regard to the Christmas relief, which, after demonstration, was put up.
§ Mr. KEENS
That does not alter the point. The point I want to make is that the coal allowance was reduced by the guardians at first. There was an unemployed demonstration and then they put it up. There was another demonstration and they put up the Christmas relief, and after a further demonstration they put up the scale of relief higher than anything they had ever done. They yielded to clamour, but the other boards in necessitous areas were subject to the same clamour and to the same pressure, and they stood firm. [HON. MEMBERS: "Bumbledom!"] It will take a great 335 deal to convince the House that the hon. Member who proposed this Resolution (Mr. Briant), and who has been concerned with the administration of another of the necessitous areas in London, has not acted in as humane a manner as the Poplar Guardians. He has been subjected for over two years to pressure, clamour, insult, contumely, and demonstration. His board of guardians, with several others, have stood firm. They resisted the clamour, they resisted the pressure. I put it to this House, What is the position we are to take up with respect to those other boards of guardians? Is their action not to have from us some commendation?
With respect to surcharges—and here we come to the centre of the whole question—these are made under the Act of 1842 and made by the District Auditor. There is a procedure laid down by the Act as to how surcharges are to be made and as to how the person surcharged can appeal against it. The Ministry normally under that Act, if the surcharge is lawful, may find it equitable to remit and may remit. The Minister in this matter is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity and he must review judicially, and it is on this ground that the action of the Minister calls for the most careful consideration. Under this Act the surcharge must first be made, and in these cases they were not made. What has been done has been to give absolution in advance. The real influence of the Ministry of Health over the local government areas in this country is moral and in the end the local authority either convinces the Ministry or agrees to submit. To exercise real influence the Minister must occupy a judicial position. He must arbitrate fairly along the lines of law. The feeling in Local Government circles in this matter is that he was not judicial, that he acceded to views along the lines of his previous record, and by the remission in advance of the surcharges he introduced novel and dangerous principles and seriously weakened the moral authority of the Ministry. There are serious grounds for fear among local authorities because of the extraordinarily autocratic powers conferred on the Ministry of Health by the Local Authorities (Expenses) Act, 1887. There are 336 only three sections in that Act, but the third Section reads as follows:The expenses paid by any local authority whose accounts are subject to audit by a district auditor shall not be disallowed by that auditor if they have been sanctioned by the Local Government Board.What we on this side of the House ask for is that the authority of the Minister shall not be used in sanctioning payments in advance which are not along the lines of the policy which has been usually observed up to this time, and which involve any great fundamental departure from what has been the accepted policy of this country. With regard to the remedy proposed, it is clear that the initial difficulty is poverty aggravated by unemployment on a large scale. I agree with my hon. Friend who moved this Resolution that unemployment should be separated, at any rate as far as possible, from the question of Poor Law relief. Further, the principles of the Common Fund should be maintained and extended, the burdens shared equitably. No mere transfer of functions to borough councils would be of any use. That would not accomplish anything. It means that there must be some great co-ordinating body, which in London must be the County Council, to determine the scales, to determine the conditions of the issue of regulations, and to supervise the administration. An enormous amount of time will be necessary for that. The 1923 Act expires on April 1st this year, and we are entitled to ask what is to be the Government's policy on renewal. The citizens of London and the country generally are entitled to ask for and receive an assurance that, pending full legislative power, the Minister, under the Act of 1887, should be limited to sanctioning on the general lines, followed by his predecessor, with reasonable modifications to meet the current problems, and that there shall be no sanctions involving either large expenditure or wide departure from the principles and practices which have generally been previously observed.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Wheatley)
It is my distinct pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member who has just spoken on the reasoned and forceful case he has presented to the House. My pleasure was not in any way reduced, because I happened for the moment to be 337 the target of that speech. The very admirable speeches delivered by the Proposer and the Seconder of the Motion are a measure of the cooling process through which this agitation has run since it first disturbed our political tranquillity I remember how, in its earlier stages, my friends used to chaff me as to whether in my more nervous moments I was not afraid of my head being delivered at the Carlton Club, but I find that, after the official explanation to which reference has been made has been published, the storm has somewhat abated. I am glad to find that even the wrath of the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) has somewhat subsided. Of course, it is not for me to anticipate events, but I think I am justified in assuming that the Motion before the House is not the child of his wrath. Indeed, I am optimistic enough to feel that at any rate I am to escape from this agitation with my head whatever happens to my salary. I have been charged, both inside and outside the House, with having surrendered to Poplar, with having remitted a possible surcharge of no less than £100,000 which a gang of guilty guardians had taken from the pockets of helpless ratepayers, and with having thereby encouraged extravagance and illegality among the similar gangs of guardians with which this unfortunate country is infested.
What are the facts? A deputation of Poplar Guardians requested me to do three things—first, to relieve them of any obligation they might be under for having paid a certain section of their workmen £4 a week; secondly, to approve of a special scale of allowances to be made for the earnings of children when estimating the grants to be made to necessitous families; and, thirdly, to rescind the Poplar Order, and to remit any surcharges that might arise under that Order. I replied that the question of the payment of a minimum wage of £4 a week to the workers was sub judice, at the moment, and that it would be not merely improper but impossible for me to interfere with the question, and I therefore declined. Secondly, I stated that, while I had a good deal of sympathy, as I am sure had everyone with any experience of local administration, with the difficulties of estimating accurately the allowance that should be made for the earnings of children, it was a question on which I had not sufficient legal knowledge, and 338 had not considered, and, therefore, I would require to consult the law on the subject to ascertain my powers, to consider carefully the representations that had been put before me, and that, in the meantime, I was not able to give them a decision. I said that, in regard to the Mond Order, I had made up my mind that I intended to rescind the Order, and I promised to remit any surcharges that would arise in future under that Order.
I mention these things to show that if I did surrender to Poplar, the capitulation was by no means complete. Reference has been made, I think by the Seconder of the Motion, to the fact that some considerable controversy had taken place regarding the legality of the Mond Order itself, and of my action in connection with the rescission. The field of law is one in which, so far as I must enter, I shall tread the path lightly, because, as the hon. Member who seconded the Motion rightly pointed out, we may anticipate that the legal leaders of all the parties, when they come to deal with this question, will be able to find in it scope for those wonderful gifts which so frequently bewilder common people. I hold the view, that in approaching the administration of a great Department such as the Ministry of Health, one requires, in addition to the necessary law, a fair amount of commonsense, and I am going to ask Members in all parts of the House to consider this impartially, and with the commonsense which they would apply to the administration of even a meaner business than the great Department over which I at the moment preside. With regard to the whole case, I want to say that before that deputation arrived, knowing the seriousness of the question, and appreciating it to the full, I had asked the deputation to put in writing the representations they intended to place before me. At the risk of wearying Members who are familiar with it, but perhaps for the benefit of the newer Members of the House and the people outside whose ears, undoubtedly, this agitation has reached, I trust the House will bear with me while I try to run briefly over the recent history of Poplar that has led to the present Debate. Prior to the year 1921, the entire burden of outdoor relief in Poplar, as in other London boroughs, was a charge on the local rates. Prior to 1921, also, no scale for the regulation 339 of such relief had been laid down by the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health had always discountenanced anything in the nature of a general scale, because their experience, when they laid, or attempted to lay, down a scale, and one board of guardians adopted it, was that it created an agitation in the other unions to bring the scale in those unions up to the level of that endorsed by the Ministry of Health.
I need hardly remind the House that Poplar is a peculiarly poor district. I find that of the total number of dwelling houses 20,002 have a rateable value of less than £19, and only 3,108 have a rateable value exceeding £19. In 1921, and, indeed, at the end of 1920, Poplar, like all other parts of the country, and, perhaps, to a greater extent than most parts of the country, was heavily hit by the unemployment accruing from the general trade depression. Poplar found the burden of maintaining the large army of unemployed that was thrown on its rates almost unbearable, and Poplar, through its borough council revolted. The result of the revolt was that certain persons who are now hon. Members of this House found themselves in prison. I need not dwell on the history of that. The claim they put forward was, in principle, that an area like Westminster, which benefited by the activities of Poplar in its days of prosperity, could be expected to bear part of the burden of Poplar's poverty in times of adversity. One of the results of the conflict between the Poplar Borough Council and the Government of the day was a real and substantial surrender to the principles for which Poplar was contending, and when it came to giving effect to the terms of the Treaty in the Act of 1921, two things were done. First of all, the burden of outdoor relief for unions in London was for the first time made a charge on a central London fund, called the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, and, in doing that, the Government rightly took the view that it was necessary to place some restriction on the amount which the Poplar Board, or any other board, could take from the common pool. The line they adopted was to give to the Minister of Health power to lay down a scale and regulations restricting the amount to be taken from this pool, but leaving the 340 local guardians free to give relief in excess of that amount out of their local rates.
Poplar proceeded to deal with its poor under the new regulations, but, in estimating the amount in excess of their takings from the common pool to be given to their poor, they granted sums that were considered by the Ministry of Health to be too generous. A section of the ratepayers in Poplar appealed against the guardians to the Ministry of Health, and, in response to their appeal, Sir Alfred Mond issued the famous Order which is now under discussion. In this Order of 1921, any payment in the way of relief in excess of the scale provided under the 1921 Act became automatically illegal. In other words, the proviso that authorised Poplar to give extra relief out of its local rates was cut away, unless in giving that relief they had the express authority of the Ministry of Health. Sir Alfred Mond left the Ministry of Health three or four months after the Order had been issued, and the administration of that Order fell to three successive Ministers drawn from the party opposite. Right from the very beginning, Poplar ostentatiously defied the Order, and week by week they sent in their records of cases in which they had exceeded the legal amount. The Ministry of Health were week by week, and day by day, informed of Poplar's illegality. I think it is well that that should be borne in mind. It was known to the Ministry of Health, known by the evidence provided by Poplar itself that Poplar was breaking the law to the extent of £2,000 a week, and it had been doing so, I should say, on the average, right from the first week in which the Order had been issued. And here is a remarkable thing. Although the Ministry of Health were aware that Poplar was breaking the law, no attempt whatever was made by the Ministry of Health to enforce the law. I do not know what excuse can be presented to this House by our predecessors for their conduct in this matter, but they certainly had means of enforcing the law. They could have ordered an extraordinary audit if that were considered necessary, as I think any person who wanted to maintain the dignity of the Department would have thought of doing. They were able to ascertain officially that £2,000 a week in excess of the legal scale 341 was being paid by the Poplar Guardians. Having had that surcharge officially revealed and declared, they were thus in a position to take the next step. They never, so far as I can judge, gave the slightest indication that they intended to enforce the Order that it was understood had not been administered. Instead of enforcing the law they proceeded, in 1923, to take the first step to alter the law. The 1921 Act, as has been pointed out by one of the previous speakers, was a temporary Measure which in 1923 fell to be renewed. The Government of the day, that is the Government which has just given place to the present Government, withdrew the scale altogether which was imposed as a restraining instrument in the Act of 1921. They took it out of the Act of 1923, and, instead of the scale laid down in 1921 Act, they substituted a new instrument. It was laid down that the maximum amount which any board of guardians should take from the Central Fund was 9d. per head per day of the persons relieved. But they also made it perfectly clear that boards of guardians—Poplar excluded—were free to give relief in excess of that scale out of their local rates. That was then the position.
Hence we have arrived at the stage when the scale under the 1921 Act has been dropped by the Government itself. It did not apply to any boards of guardians within the London area, or anywhere else except Poplar, and it would not have continued to apply in Poplar but for the fact that the Mond Order still remained in existence. The Government had neither the courage to enforce the Mond Order nor to withdraw it. That, as I have said, brought us to this position: that the payments that might have been illegal in Poplar might be perfectly legal in Bermondsey. Reference has been made to-night to the fact that the Ministry of Health must have same moral justification for its conduct. That is a very important point, because I feel it cleared and defined the reason for the breakdown in the administration of the Ministry of Health with which I had to deal when I entered the office. Let me take an imaginary figure. Suppose that the amount laid down in the scale imposed by the Mond Order on Poplar was 10s. If Poplar paid 12s., the 2s. became automatically illegal. If in exactly similar circumstances. Bermondsey paid 12s. the extra 2s. did not 342 become automatically illegal, but was bound to be reviewed by the auditor under the old general Poor Law; if it was thought that it was illegal and extravagant expenditure, and only then, did it become illegal and liable to surcharge.
Whatever, as a matter of fact, may have been the state of affairs at that time—and I am quoting figures to show the difficulty that my predecessor was up against—and I hope when my predecessor rises to address this House that he will play cricket, and not appeal to, or endeavour to raise, political prejudice on account of the unpopularity of Poplar and try to get a verdict on those lines—that he will tell us whether or not the Mond Order was an effective instrument. If he says it was, then perhaps he will tell as why he did not use it effectively. Whatever the effects may have been earlier, I can quote figures which show how difficult it was to enforce the Mond Order with any moral justification. I find that at the present moment the maximum amount up to which relief will be granted to any family in Poplar is 41s. plus the actual rent and coal.
Let me now give the House a few more figures. In Poplar now the amount is 45s. plus rent and 1 cwt. of coal. In Woolwich the amount is 50s. 6d. without coal or rent. In Bethnal Green the amount is 45s. plus rent for married persons, with coal. In West Ham the maximum amount is 60s., which is inclusive of rent which was seldom more than 10s. Then I have a long list of places outside the London area in which the scales are higher than in Poplar.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The scale that the right hon. Gentleman is now giving is not the scale that was under consideration at Poplar during the period of the Mond Order.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I am now dealing with the difficulty I have had to face. 343 I am not giving this in excuse, nor, so far as my knowledge goes, do I want to lay blame at the door of the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me in my office. I appreciate his difficulties, and I hope at the close of the Debate I shall be able to appreciate his honesty, because if he makes a statement of the actual state of things as they appeared to me when I went into office, he will not rise and ask this House to blame me for having withdrawn the Poplar Order. Things went on, and at the end of 12 months' expenditure at the rate of £2,000 per week above the limit had been incurred by the Poplar Guardians, and it was found that they had incurred a surcharge of £110,000. Perhaps my predecessor thought that was a paltry sum, and that it would be offensive to a board of guardians like that at Poplar to mention such a small matter! At the moment the amount that is due is probably not less than £160,000. I ask again, why was no action, taken? If the Mond Order was useless as a means of collecting that sum, what possible harm did I do in withdrawing the Mond Order? Here is a remarkable thing. Reference has been made by one of the speakers to the fact that the accounts of 1922 of the Poplar Board of Guardians have not yet been audited, that the audit is not yet complete. Why is that the case? I think I can tell the House. I can say this: that this is the only board of guardians in London whose accounts have not been completely audited. Here is the only board of guardians that, in the opinion of my predecessor, was ostentatiously breaking the law to the extent of £2,000 a week. The first step in dealing with a matter of this sort was to get the accounts audited. I accept his word that it was not at his request that this was not done. But his business was to see that the audit was made. His business was not to say to the auditor, "You are not to close those books." I do not think he would have done anything so dastardly. His business was to see that the work was done, to see the Ministry was not brought into a position of contempt; and in all the agitation that has been going on in the country about my conduct, I have been treated as though I had been a wild, inexperienced countryman who had somehow or other wandered into the Ministry 344 of Health and done the silliest possible things without knowing what I was doing, and then expected my Leader in this House to get up an appeal to my colleagues to forgive me because I did not know what I had done!
I want again to emphasise the importance of the fact that the Poplar audit was not completed, and that it is the only one at the moment which has not been completed. Why? I am going to suggest—I do not think it is out of place, but I want to be perfectly fair—that the Poplar audit was not completed because it was known that it would reveal the illegality of the £2,000 per week for the whole period of the audit. If the £2,000 per week had been revealed and had become a surcharge on the Poplar I Guardians it would have become a duty which my predecessor could not shirk of seeing that that surcharge was imposed. After all that has been said about Poplar he could not attempt to escape that duty. Supposing the audit had been complete, it would have been his duty to proceed to give effect to the surcharge laid down by the auditor. Before proceeding to deal with that, what would he have had to do? Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman one or two other things about this remarkable situation which in some of its aspects Gilbert himself might have envied. During the period of my predecessor's administration it became necessary for Poplar to get loans from the Ministry of Health in order to carry on its nefarious work. My predecessor was kind enough to explain that he would have been driven out of public life within 24 hours if he had not given help to the Poplar Board of Guardians. He met the difficulty in this way, that the money which they were entitled to get out of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund was allowed to be spent in advance as they were such very-poor people; then they came for help to the Ministry of Health The Ministry of Health in its kindness of heart advanced them sums which totalled to £506,000. The situation does not end there. I have in the office particulars which I can properly quote. I got some light as to what would have happened if the Poplar Board of Guardians had been surcharged.
I want to tell the House that I am one of very few Ministers who, since this trouble began, has not remitted any 345 surcharge to Poplar. Since 1921 I find that Poplar has appealed to the Ministry of Health against decisions of the auditors to surcharge them on five occasions, and on four occasions the surcharges were remitted. Those surcharges had been made by the auditor for extravagance and illegal expenditure, and the solitary exception was a remarkable one for a small sum of £10 paid by the Poplar Board to a school band for playing outside the prison in which the Poplar Town Councillors were confined. I put it to hon. Members on all sides, was not that a department which at that stage had become degraded and powerless for carrying on this work? How could a department like that expect to be honoured by the poorest board of guardians in the country?
Having got in there, I had to deal with the situation as I found it. Appeals have been made to us from all sides of the House for continuity of policy, but I had to take the situation as I found it. I had to emancipate my Department, and I take it that is the first step for any business man to take if you put political prejudice aside. I had to emancipate my Department from this state of degradation. Three courses were open to me. I could proceed against the guardians by having the audit completed as soon as possible and by having the surcharges declared and proceeding to enforce them. From my knowledge of the state of affairs, I reasonably anticipated that when I did that I should require to make the Poplar Board of Guardians bankrupt, because they had not £100,000, or even £5,000, and even if they had it, as a matter of principle they would refuse to pay.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I am not defending the Poplar Board of Guardians, and that is not my business or duty. It is not for me to condemn or justify Poplar here. It is for me to justify the step I took as Minister of Health, and I had to deal with the facts as I found them, whether they were agreeable or unpleasant. If I had pursued this course it meant bankruptcy and prison. I want to bring hon. Members back to the fact that what was possibly illegal in Poplar was quite possibly legal in Bermondsey. I was going to be asked to make the guardians bankrupt and prisoners 346 for doing in their own area what might have been quite legal in any other part of the country outside that area. Would the country have tolerated that kind of thing for ten minutes? I am sure it would not. Another course was open to me, and that was to supersede the Poplar Board of Guardians altogether, tell them to get out of the way, and put Commissioners in their place to carry on their duties as I thought they should be carried on. I notice in a communication to the Press that the chairman of the Poplar Board of Guardians stated that my predecessor gave it out that he intended to supersede the Poplar Board of Guardians and appoint Commissioners, and perhaps he will tell us whether that statement is accurate or not.
I want to show hon. Members where that leads. If I had taken that course I was taking a step which involves one of the very gravest principles in the government of this country, and I am sure it is not a course that ought to be advocated by the Conservative party. I was saying to the people of this country who had been granted the powers of popular government, "You can have these powers as long as you exercise them in the manner I think you ought to exercise them, but immediately you exercise them according to the views of yourselves or your ratepayers, then ipso facto local government is to cease." Does any section of this House seriously suggest that we should be prepared to take that step even there? But it goes even further than that. If I had laid it down as justifiable that, because a board of guardians paid more than the scale which I laid down, that therefore they should be superseded, the logic of it is that if a board of guardians paid less than the scale they also ought to be superseded if they refused to stop paying less.
Supposing I had gone into that area in the territory of that board which was paying less and insisted that they should pay my scale, would they not have been quite reasonable in replying, "If you insist on our paying more then you must find the money." That is another way of taking the first step in a departure from that great system of local government which has grown up during the 19th century. I did not take that course, but I took the course upon which it is understood I am on my defence. I have been accused of having made by my action, however legitimate it might have been, 347 of having made a friendly gesture to Poplar, and that I have somehow or other injured the status of the Ministry of Health. What did my gesture amount to? It meant that, as my first step, I removed what I considered to be Poplar's legitimate grievance. I recognised that it always was difficult to carry on government of this or any other country against the will of the people governed, and that if I could succeed in getting the good will of the people whom I had to control, I should have made a long step to success, and consequently I proceeded to remove the legitimate grievance of Poplar as it appeared to me.
Now, what was that legitimate grievance? It was that Poplar was being treated differently to any other board of guardians in the country, and I said to Poplar, "I am going to put you on the same level as any other board of guardians, and I am appealing to you in return to co-operate with me in carrying out the law of this country as we find it, whether you agree with it or not." Was that a wrong thing to do? Is this Government to be cheered only when it makes a friendly gesture to the people of every country but its own? It may be that up to this point I have convinced the House that there was justification for removing the Order, but you may ask, "Why did you promise to remit the surcharges arising under the Order?" I have not remitted a single penny, because not a penny of surcharge has been made.
The most grotesque misunderstanding has arisen of what I have actually done. The popular view is that I stated to the Poplar Board of Guardians, "As from the 12th February you start with a clean slate, all your sins are forgiven, do your best in the future, and pray that I may be at the Ministry of Health when you ask for relief." This was accompanied by a Press campaign, the writers knowing quite well that the average reader does not look into the technicalities of these things, and so they agreed that I had wiped out every illegality in expenditure in excess of what would have been legal in Bermondsey during the currency of the Order. As a matter of fact I have done nothing of the kind, because I was very careful in the matter.
Before the deputation called upon me I wrote out the reply I was to make to 348 them, and I laid it down quite clearly to Poplar that I was only promising to remit any surcharges that might be made under the Order. But I still left Poplar under the restrictions and limitations of the general Poor Law. If, during the currency of the Order, Poplar has paid money which would be illegal if paid by any other board of guardians in this country, Poplar is still liable to be surcharged for that excess of relief. A point of equal importance is that Poplar understands that. Within two or three days—and nearly before the band began to play—of the deputation meeting me, the Chairman of the guardians made it clear, in a public pronouncement, that they were under no illusion as to what I had done in my promise to remit surcharges that might arise. I was promising to remit surcharges that might be made under the Mond Order in Poplar, but which would not be made in any other area in the country, but—let me repeat it again—leaving Poplar subject to surcharge in respect of any excess or extravagance that would be surcharged against any other board of guardians for the period I of the currency of the Mond Order.
May I, just in a few words, refer to the latter part of the Motion, which appeals to the Government to reform the Poor Law of this country? We welcome that advice. I find, on examining the records of the Labour party, that since 1910 Labour conference after Labour conference has demanded from the Government of this country a reform of the Poor Law system. We have been appealing in vain to successive Liberal and Tory Governments, and we welcome the suggestion that now we are to have the assistance of both sides of the House in carrying out a reform which we demanded 14 years ago. I do not want to anticipate the provisions of any Bill that may be introduced, but, if I am in office and have to deal with it, I shall, when I come to express my opinion of it in this House, appeal to the House to see that any reform is for the benefit of the poor and not merely for the convenience of officials. I hope the House will see to that.
I hope also that it will do something else. A good deal has been said about the unfortunate position of the non-resi- 349 dential ratepayers of Polar, who have to find 57 per cent. of the money and have no control over its expenditure. I do not mind saying that I have a good deal of sympathy with them, but I want the House to remember that we have been plunged into conditions for which we have provided inadequate social machinery, and I have no doubt that, in any reform of the Poor Law, an endeavour will be made to give effect to the principle that those who contribute the money shall have a say in the expenditure of the money. We do not expect to find that an easy matter, for I am sure it will be found very difficult in this House in the future to get a majority in favour of reverting to the time when property ruled the country instead of the people ruling the country; and it is necessary to see that in doing justice to the people who live on Poplar but not in it—and I want to do justice to all sections of the community—it will be necessary to see that you are not sacrificing fundamentally one of the greatest liberties which have been won by our predecessors in this country during the 19th century. Let me point out, for the benefit of the House, that at the moment these people are to some extent protected. It is not correct to assume that they have no protection. If a ratepayer, non-residential or otherwise, in a district feels that the local authority is spending money illegally, he has a right of appeal to the Court against the action of the local authority. It is a remarkable thing that, although I understand the Ministry of Health has repeatedly informed the non-residential ratepayers of Poplar, when they have complained, that they had this power, they have never exercised it. I understand they have threatened to do so now, but up to the present moment they have made no attempt at all to prove that the Poplar Board of Guardians is acting illegally in exercising the powers that are placed in its hands.
I will conclude by summarising, if I can, in a few words, what I have been saying. I have not surrendered to Poplar; I do not intend to surrender to Poplar. I have rescued my Department from a state of degradation. I have put my Department in a position in which it can and will enforce the law, and will do so fearlessly because impartially and fairly. It it ridiculous to suggest that in 350 so doing I have encouraged extravagance and illegality in any part of the country. I am willing and anxious, as is the Government of which I am a member, to reform the Poor Law, and particularly the Poor Law system of London, at the earliest possible moment; and in doing so I will see, if I am in office, that the rights of the poor and the principles of popular government are protected in the Measure submitted to the House.
§ Sir WILLIAM JOYNSON-HICKS
I beg to move, after the word "House," to insert the wordsbeing of the opinion that the amount of Poor Law relief should be calculated on a lower scale than the earnings of the independent workman who is maintaining himself by his labour.As the right hon. Gentleman referred to me as a critic, I hope he will forgive me if I congratulate him on the addition which he has made to the debating powers of this House. I do not agree with what he says, but I have had the privilege of being in the House for a great many years, and, if I may say so, have seldom heard a comparatively new Member make such an excellent speech as he has made. But when I have paid him that compliment, I am afraid I cannot go very much farther with regard to the matter of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman says he has taken all the degradation away from his great office, and I rather wondered, while he was speaking of the state of degradation at which that great Ministry has arrived under his predecessors, how he would satisfy the permanent officials to-morrow morning in regard to the statement tie has made as to the condition in which he found that office. I certainly cannot agree with him in that statement. I had the privilege last year of serving in four great offices of State, and in no one was the office better managed, in no one were the permanent officials of greater ability, and in no one—
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I am sure the right hon. Baronet does not want to misrepresent me. I do not want to bring the officials into the matter at all. I never intended for a moment to reflect upon them. I sympathise with my officials in having to carry out your policy.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am very glad to hear that statement from the right hon. Gentleman, and I will take all 351 the degradation on to my own shoulders. With regard to the Amendment which stands in my name, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give me his support in inserting the words I have moved, because they represent the real crux between the policy of Poplar and the policy of this House—not of the Minister of Health, not of the Ministry of Health, but the policy of Parliament. I want to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that these words are taken directly from a Circular of the Ministry of Health, which is, of course, still in operation to-day. A Circular was issued on the 8th September, 1921, to boards of guardians, and it stated:Relief given under the Poor Law should be sufficient for the purposes of relieving distress"—in which I need hardly say I entirely concur—but the amount of relief so given should of necessity be calculated on a lower scale than the earnings of the independent workman who is maintaining himself by his labour. This is a fundamental principle any departure from which must in the end prove disastrous to the recipients of relief as well as to the community at large.Therefore, I have taken these words directly from an existing Circular of the Ministry of Health, by which, unless he is going to revoke this also, the right hon. Gentleman is bound; and I desire to put them into the Resolution because they embody the real, clear crux of the difference between Poplar and the rest of the people of this country. Poplar, undoubtedly, laid itself out to give greater relief to cases of distress than the recipient of the relief could earn at the ordinary trade union wages. I think I can confirm that from the declarations of the Poplar Board of Guardians itself, but before I come to that, I must say one word with reference TO something that was said by the right hon. Gentleman. He has accused my predecessors and myself of having allowed the audit of Poplar to drag. He has told us that it is the only audit which is not yet completed for that period. The explanation is perfectly simple. It was the greatest audit of the Department. It was an audit, as the right hon. Gentleman tells us, in which there was £2,000 per week in dispute, and that £2,000 involved I do not know how many cases. There were about 30,000 352 cases receiving relief in Poplar during the whole of that period, and a very large number of those cases are debatable points. It is almost impossible to conceive that any auditor could get through the enormous work of dealing with 30,000 cases, with £2,000 in dispute every week, over a period of, now, a year and a half. This suggestion was made, and I interrupted, but at the time the House was not as full as it is now, and, therefore, I should like to make it perfectly clear that there was no intimation, there was no suggestion, either from myself or from my right hon. Friend my predecessor, to the auditor, that he should delay this matter. I want to make that perfectly clear.
Next, the right hon. Gentleman—and here I am going to ask him whether he thinks he was playing cricket—made a great point of the £500,000 which has been lent to Poplar under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, a very large portion of it during my time. He turned round and received cheers and laughter at my expense from the benches behind him, and I will tell the House why. It was because I think, probably, my hon. Friends on this side of the House had read the White Paper issued by the right hon. Gentleman a week ago, and I am not at all sure that those who cheered and laughed can possibly have read that White Paper. The position is made perfectly clear in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. The Metropolitan Common Poor Fund is so worked that the money is collected for Poplar, and for all the receiving Boards, a year behind. Here is a White Paper, not issued by me, but issued by the right hon. Gentleman himself to this House 10 days ago, and it says:In the particular case of Poplar the Committee"—that is Sir Harry Goschen's Committee, which makes these loans. I do not want to make any point of it, but these loans are not made by the Ministry of Health, but by a Committee set up by the Government, of which Sir Harry Goschen, the well-known banker, is chairman. The White Paper says:In the particular case of Poplar the Committee recommend that advances should be made in anticipation of repayments from the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, which, under the machinery of the fund, are made over 12 months in arrear.353 This is the right hon. Gentleman's own circular. It goes on:These advances have been restricted to the extent of the outstanding claim of the guardians on the fund"—I have not been advancing illegal funds to Poplar; I have been advancing, under the authority of this Committee, money which was legally due to them, and they could not get on with their business unless such an advance was made to them.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
They go to the Ministry of Health, which turns it over to the Goschen Committee, and the Goschen Committee have full power to act, and do act. The hon. Member interrupted before I had finished reading the Minister of Healths' own statement:These advances have been restricted to the extent of the outstanding claim of the guardians on the fund, and have been made from time to time to an amount not exceeding the estimated legal expenditure of the guardians.I am going to put it to the right hon. Gentleman, and to ask him to play cricket. He came down here and made a great spash that I was guilty because I had lent money recklessly right and left to the Poplar Guardians, when, as he knew at the time, I only lent them money that was due to them from the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund.
Let me go a step further. Here is the money due to Poplar. Poplar had a legal claim to it. Was I to say to Poplar, the only borough in the country that I was to refuse, "Because I differ from you on a point of illegal expenditure I will not lend you money which you are legally entitled to at the end of the year to enable you to keep the Poor Law relief of Poplar going? If I had done that the whole Poor Law relief of Poplar would have gone to pieces. The hon Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) will agree quite frankly that if I had done this the whole Poor Law relief in Poplar would have crashed to the ground. I was doing what any Minister in my position would have been bound to do to keep the Poor Law going." I want to get to the key of the position. The right hon. Gentleman told us he had not capitulated 354 to Poplar, but I submit that he has really surrendered the main fort, which was this Mend Order.
I do not quarrel with the history that he has given us of the position leading up to the issue of the Mond Order, but I want to make this point clear, because it was not made clear in the statement he originally issued. It was not made clear in the statement made in another place last week by the Lord Chancellor and others who spoke on behalf of the Government. The Metropolitan Common Poor Fund is in a position entirely apart from the Mond Order. The Metropolitan Common Poor Fund is, if I may use the expression, a common pot out of which the various boards of guardians get a certain amount, and that certain amount is upon a scale fixed by the Minister of Health, and only upon that scale could they get their money out of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. That scale was made by an Order of January, 1922, by, I think, Sir Alfred Mond, who was then Minister of Health. Then comes the Cooper Inquiry, and after the Cooper Inquiry the Minister of Health said:Whatever Poplar gets from the Common Poor Fund, I am going to try to stop the reckless extravagance which is taking place in Poplar.He was bound to do that. When I have read the conclusions of Mr. Cooper, the House will be bound to agree that the Minister had no option but to endeavour to take some steps to cope with what, for want to a better word, we term Poplarism. Therefore Sir Alfred Mond made the Order that under no circumstances should Poplar expend on Poor Law relief a greater sum than was laid down in the previous Order he had made under the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. It would have been open to him to repeat the scale and say, "Poplar shall not expend in regard to its own Poor Law relief, apart from what it gets out of the Metropolitan Fund, more than the following scale." I do not know whether it was to save printing, but instead of putting this in two Orders he used the expression:shall not give relief on more than the scale attached to the previous Order.Then the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act in 1923 altered the conditions for the scale under Poor Law relief, and made it a lump sum of 9d. per 355 head, but that did not, and could not in any way, alter the validity of the Order or the scale set up by it. I am not learned in the Law, belonging only to the inferior branch of my profession. I see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) shakes his head at the use of the word "inferior." At all events next to him is a gentleman very learned in the law, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), and there are other barristers in the House, and I am certain that there is no question as to the law. I beg pardon of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) for not having included him in the category of great lawyers, but we look to him as something more than a great lawyer—a great Parliamentarian.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I never thought so. The right hon. Gentleman has proved conclusively by his speech at Plymouth on Saturday that he is by no means a back number when it comes to dealing with the Poplar question. That is the position under the Mond Order. Then the right hon. Gentleman comes along. He has told us now that he is going to carry out the law and, I presume, to surcharge Poplar anything they have illegally done ever since the Mond Order was in operation. Consider what the position is. There are 30,000 illegalities every week under the Mond Order, and in all probability 30,000 illegalities every week under the general law of the land. The whole of those cases, if the Mond Order is rescinded, will be able to be taken into Court on the surcharge of any auditor by the Poplar Board of Guardians, and every one of them would have to be justified as a breach of the general law of the land. The cases would amount to 30,000 times 50—something like 1,500,000.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
That makes the calculation easier. I think the hon. Member is right—10,000 cases dealing with 30,000 people. My point is that if the Poplar Board of Guardians are going to be surcharged by the Minister under the general law of the land, every single 356 individual case of that 10,000 and the 30,000, the Poplar Board of Guardians will be able to attempt to justify under the provisions of the general law. The thing is utterly impossible and absolutely impracticable. No bench could ever attempt to deal with it. That is why Sir Alfred Mond made this Order, as a convenient method of arriving at a maximum figure on which the law would be quite clear. I have not heard any dispute that the Mond Order is perfectly legal within the terms of the Act of 1834. That is not denied, and the Minister of Health agrees with me as I make the statement. Then I want to refer to one statement made in regard to the position in the Ministry itself. I make it in consequence of a speech made by the Prime Minister. He dealt with this matter on the first day of the Session as being a very small matter and said:Everyone knows perfectly well that the question of the cancellation of the Order had been again and again under consideration in the Department concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1924; col. 751, Vol. 169.]Forgive me, as one who is not in office, if I say the Prime Minister had no right to make that statement. If I came to this House and said, "the Foreign Office is totally opposed to the right hon. Gentleman's action in regard to Russia," I should be committing a gross breach of the position that Ministers or ex-Ministers occupy.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
This is in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The right hon. Gentleman made the statement thatEveryone knows that cancellation of the Order had been again and again under consideration in the Department concerned.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
If the right hon. Baronet were to say to me, "Everyone knows that the question of the recognition of Russia was again and again under consideration by the Foreign Office," I should have no cause of quarrel, and that is all I said.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
If I said that as an argument against the action of the right hon. Gentleman, as he says this is, it is importing into our Debate here the opinion of permanent civil servants. No Department has any thought except 357 the thought of the head. I was Minister of Health for four or five months, and I went into the Poplar case very thoroughly. I received a deputation in regard to it, and I had numerous consultations and conferences with the heads of my Department. The heads of my Department then prepared a very long Cabinet Minute for me to submit to my colleagues in the Cabinet. I drafted a Bill, and I went through it with the heads of my Department, and never once in any one of those conferences or in any document prepared and submitted to me by the heads of that Department was any suggestion made that this Order should be cancelled. I want to make that perfectly clear. The other Ministers of Health can speak for themselves, but I wrote to one of my predecessors and he says the same thing. It is a small point, but it is not quite fair to accuse me or the other Ministers of Health of having intended to break up this Order. It is the last thing I should have thought of doing until I had found a substitute for it. The right hon. Gentleman has smashed the only controlling force there is on Poplar to-day, and he is giving us no substitute for it except the possibility of going to law over 1,500,000 cases.
The real point here is that Sir Alfred Mond had to find something which would control, or attempt to control, the Poplar Board of Guardians, because they were directly flying in the face of the position taken up by Parliament in the Act of 1834, and the position taken up by nearly every other board of guardians in the country. That was that they went fully out for work or full maintenance in lieu thereof. The words of my Amendment are the real dominating words of the Poor Law at the present time. When Sir Alfred Mond found that, he ordered an inquiry. I think he was perfectly justified in ordering that inquiry. It was made by a very able clerk to a board of guardians in the north of England—Mr. Cooper. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley made some remarks a few days ago in regard to Mr. Cooper's inquiry. I think he said Mr. Cooper would not take the evidence of the guardians themselves. As a matter of fact, Mr. Cooper saw the hon. Member, together with the Mayor of Poplar. At that interview the 358 hon. Member was the principal spokesman, and is it too much to say he was a little abusive to Mr. Cooper?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I certainly was not abusive. As a matter of fact, Mr. Cooper told us he did not intend to take evidence from the guardians. I have written that statement publicly.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I had better read a letter that the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Cunliffe) has received from Mr. Cooper, whom he has seen in regard to the matter:At the interview Mr. Lansbury was the principal spokesman, and he became somewhat abusive at the prospect of an investigation, threatening that I should not be allowed to hold the inquiry and that I would not be permitted to see any officers except in the presence of two of the guardians. I warned him that if any attempt was made to interfere with the investigation I should hold it at Whitehall and summon witnesses there if I found it necessary, and have the books taken there.Then he did go through the whole of the books, and he authorises me to state here that whatever Mr. Lansbury may say, every item in the Report can be verified from the official documents.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The point in dispute is whether Mr. Cooper was willing or not willing to take evidence from the guardians. I declare that he declared he would not take evidence from the guardians.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
What Mr. Cooper says is that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley threatened that he would not be allowed to hold an inquiry and would not be permitted to see any of the officers except in the presence of members of the Poplar Board of Guardians.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
He was told that when he examined our officers we wanted someone there to hear the evidence.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
That is not a course which appeals to Mr. Cooper, who was there in an independent capacity to get at the truth in connection with this matter. He assures me that the whole of the facts contained in his Report could be verified by the books.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Mr. Cooper presented a Report, and I want to draw the attention of the House to some of the things in the Report. He says:The administration of the Poor Law in this parish is dictated by a policy adopted by the guardians which is in many instances foreign to the spirit and intention of the Poor Law statutes. The principles which influence the guardians in the excessive expenditure referred to in this Report are as bad as, if not worse than, those existing prior to the present Poor Law system. The lavish allowances of Out-door Relief encourage persons to apply who would not otherwise do so, and it is made altogether too easy for persons to obtain assistance from the guardians. The guardians' policy has a tendency to demoralise the recipients and is calculated to destroy incentive to thrift, self-reliance, and industry.[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] That is the report of an independent inspector. [Laughter.] The amazing part of it, although hon. Members laugh, is that the Poplar Board of Guardians do not deny it. I do not know whether the House has seen a very delightful pamphlet published by the board of guardians of Poplar as their official answer to Mr. Cooper. I have a copy of the pamphlet which is headed, "Guilty, and proud of it." On the first page of this somewhat cheerful statement they say "they are poor because they are robbed and they are robbed because they are poor." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I wanted to see how many Members of the Labour party cheered that.In Poplar there is no cringing or whining on the part of those who apply for public assistance. Those who need relief apply for it as readily as the unemployed workman applies for his unemployment pay. Mr. Cooper reveals himself as a wholehearted supporter of the pernicious principles of the Act of 1834.The Act of 1834 is in existence still. It is the law of the land; if you want to alter the law of the land, alter it, but do not set the Poplar Guardians to alter it.Poplar has fought strenuously against the damnable doctrine that because the sweated worker and his family starve slowly, they can as an alternative be made to strave more quickly under the guardians of the poor. In granting relief according to their judgment and according to the necessities of the various cases the guardians 360 exercise the discretion which is invested in them by Statute and Poplar will not allow their discretion to be interfered with arbitrarily by the Ministry of Health.They make no distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor. When I want to know the position in regard to the Poor Law, I always read the splendid work of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Webb). I have here a quotation, it is rather a long one, but I think it is an excellent quotation, and I will read it, with apologies to himself and his wife, who was his co-author in their book "English Poor Law Authority." On page 314 it states:If the community restricts itself to relieving persons at the crisis of their destitution, and this is a necessary condition of any Poor Law or of the action of any destitution authority, the community cannot, without grave financial danger, and still graver danger to character, depart from the principles of 1834.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Webb)
If the right hon. Gentleman will read the rest, he will see that it shows that the Destitution Authority is an impracticable thing, and that you ought to have something different.
Sir W. JOYNSON HICKS
You may amend your Poor Law, you may transfer the duties of guardians to the borough councils, but the last state of the parish will be worse than the first. We know it at Poplar.However unpopular may be the doctrine it is still true that if destitute persons are to be given treatment without deterrent conditions and without the stigma of pauperism an increasing number of persons will"—it is still true—unless there is some way of preventing of their seeking destitution relief, they will come in and out of the Poor Law as it suits their convenience and their own grave demoralisation and at the ruin of—.The Act of 1834 is still the law of the land.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I think the principles, undoubtedly, are in the Statute. If the right hon. Gentleman 361 looks at Section 52, I think it is, he will see there that the very Section under which the Mond Order was made authorises the Commissioners to make Orders to prevent unnecessary and excessive Poor Law relief. The Poplar Board of Guardians came to the Minister of Health and asked him to let them off. It is quite clear that there is no surcharge yet. As the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Keens) pointed out, quite clearly and fairly, the Minister in this matter is in a judicial or in a quasi-judicial capacity. He has to find out, first of all, that the surcharge is lawful, and then he has to find out whether it is equitable to remit the surcharge. There is no power, I think I am right in saying, in the Minister or any other person to remit a hypothetical surcharge. The Minister has acted illegally. He has said, in effect, to the auditor: "I do not care what you find; you can complete your audit, you can go through all these cases, you may find £10 or £100,000 that ought to be surcharged, but whatever you find I shall remit the surcharge." You might as well tell the auditor to stop his work altogether. It is perfectly clear that the right hon. Gentleman can only rescind the Order as from the date of its rescission. He cannot make the rescinding of the Order date back to its original date and waive everything that comes under the provision of that Order. He may, after a surcharge has been made, if he thinks it equitable to do so, and if the surcharge is lawful, remit that surcharge, but he has no power to remit it beforehand.
I am not prepared to say that if I should succeed the right hon. Gentleman at the Ministry of Health that I shall be prepared to accept the rescission. I say quite frankly now that I am not prepared to do that, because I think he has made an illegal decision. I am not prepared to accept that decision. If a change takes place in the Ministry of Health I shall not remit any surcharge, if I happen to be the Minister, until it is made. I want my right hon. Friend and his party and the Poplar Board of Guardians to realise that we on this side do not accept the rescission of an anticipated surcharge, because we regard it as being illegal, and we cannot be bound by the action of the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps we may have a few quotations as to the position of the Poplar Board of Guardians. They say throughout that they are going to act 362 illegally. They have said throughout that they will not under any circumstances carry out any Order made by the Ministry of Health. They say they will not give relief on any other principles than the principles which they deem to be right. As was quoted by an hon. Member below the Gangway, they take the view that if the wages are lower than the scale of relief, so much the worse for the wages.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We consider what is necessary for the relief of the women, the children, and the man before us.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Poplar is arrogating to itself the right to over-rule the decisions of this House of Commons; Poplar realises quite well that it is secure of victory with the right hon. Gentleman who is now Minister of Health. Why did the Poplar Board of Guardians go immediately to the Minister of Health and ask for the remission of this surcharge? Because they thought that they had got a Minister at last who was sympathetic to their views. I have here an article in the "Workers' Weekly" of the 5th instant. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is Tory!"] I could hardly call it Tory; I think it would be more in sympathy with the views of the right hon. Gentleman than my own. There is an article in this paper by Mr. Edgar Lansbury, in which he says, referring to the Minister of Health:We interviewed him immediately and said that we would never obey this peremptory Order. All the way through, the Poplar Guardians have fought the Mond Order. Every year £100,000 is paid out in excess of the Poplar Order alone. Of course, we must Poplarise the House of Commons and then the British Empire. The yapping and snivelling of the professional liars and slanderers in the Press will not prevent this. Poplarism means that the class who benefit by the present system of wage slavery will maintain while their system lasts the cost of sickness and unemployment.I have already said that the Poplar Guardians make no distinction between those who cannot work and those who will not work. There is no distinction in the administration of the Poplar Board of Guardians between those who cannot work and those who will not work.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
There is no distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor. [An HON. MEMBER: 363 "How do you know!"] Poplar says so. The article in the "Workers' Weekly" says so. I am giving the views of the Poplar Board of Guardians. They add a word of warning to the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the Labour party—The Labour party will gain the confidence of the workers of this country only so far as they make an effort to do the major things in their programme.And according to Mr. Edgar Lansbury one of the major things in their programme is to "Poplarise," and to give unrestrained authority to the Poplar Board of Guardians to administer the Poor Law in the Way they think right, and not in the way that the House of Commons thinks right.
That is really the point that I wanted to put before the House, and the real reason why I have raised this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman has given us no hope that we shall get out of the difficulty of Poplar by his action. I am in favour of an alteration of the Poor Law. We have all read the Maclean Report, and we all miss Sir Donald Maclean in this House. In a speech on Saturday, Sir Donald Maclean said that Poplar had nothing to do with the amendment of the Poor Law. He said that we have got to deal with Poplarism first, however much you may amend the Poor Law. Suppose we hand over the duties of the Poplar Board of Guardians to the borough council. They have already been surcharged £5,000 for paying their employés more than the trade union rate of wages. That has been taken to the King's Bench and the King's Bench have decided that they are not entitled to do it. I assume from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the matter is still sub judice and that they are appealing again.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
That is right. They have got the ratepayers' money and they are spending the money of the ratepayers, and when we have finished altering the Poor Law and handed over the administration of the Poplar Board of Guardians to some other body this is a matter which has got to be dealt with apart altogether from the Amendment of the Poor Law. Poplarism could exist under an amended Poor Law whatever system you establish, whether 364 borough council, county council, or other body. I appeal to the House, of Commons to insert the words proposed for the express purpose of registering their decision that the House of Commons are not going to allow any board of guardians in Poplar or elsewhere—
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman who knows about it has told us frankly why I did not. It is a confidential matter, but it has been mentioned in another place last week. I submitted to my colleagues in the Cabinet a memorandum which was drawn up by officials of my Department in conjunction with myself, putting the whole matter before the Cabinet and asking them to allow me to introduce a Bill giving further powers to the Ministry of Health to deal with questions of this kind. I thought that that was the better plan, but while I was doing that I never thought that anyone could think of removing the one thing which was a deterrent or might be a deterrent with the Poplar Board of Guardians. That being so I ask the House with a great deal confidence, after the speech of the right hon. Member for Paisley at Plymouth last Saturday, to realise that this matter raises a grave fundamental constitutional question, Whether the House of Commons is to decide these matters or whether any board of guardians is to be allowed any longer deliberately to set itself against the decision of the House of Commons and of the country. I ask the House of Commons to pass the Resolution with this Amendment and re-establish their own power and their own authority.
§ Dr. HADEN GUEST
This Debate raises the fundamental question of what we have got to do when we come up against a problem of poverty as one comes up against it in Poplar. The question has been discussed up to the present entirely in the realm of administration and of finance, and I think that it is necessary to pay attention not only to how we are going to administer but also to the thing which is going to be administered, that is to say, to the poor persons concerned. Are we going to help the poor people who apply for relief according to some scale laid down in an arbitrary manner, or are we going to help 365 them according to their needs? That, it seems to me, is the important question. If you have prevailing in your district a very low rate of wages, if you are asked to relieve according to the rate of those wages, are you to pay a man in relief an amount of money which makes him hungrier than the hungriest of underpaid men who are employed? Are you to give a child who is receiving relief a less amount of food than would be received by the child of one who has been employed? And if you are to apply that principle of deterrents, which are still very largely applied and very cruelly applied not only by Poor Law bodies, then you must deliberately half starve the under-fed men, women and children.
It is an extraordinary spectacle, I am sure, to those of us who come into daily contact with the persons who are relieved by the board to find how very blunted the perceptions of hon. Members and members of the community generally can be to this question of poverty. We pay the poor people not enough to live on adequately, but just enough to keep them quiet. We keep them in institutions so that they are not a nuisance to us on the street, and we endeavour to hide, as it were, poverty, because it is inconvenient both to our eyes and our noses. And that indifference to poverty, that incapacity of the leaders of the nation, who, up to the present, have failed to solve this question of how the Poor Law ought to be administered, seems to me to be one of the terrible things of our present life. The only more terrible thing is the terrible patience of the poor in bearing this incapacity. If we are to get this question cleared up it cannot be only by discussing administrative questions. It must be by discussing the human questions. You can only keep Poor Law relief down, to the extent to which hon. Members opposite wish to keep it down, by a policy which is called technically deterrents and what, in plain English, is slowing down relief by cruelty and obstruction.
The principle of deterrents is clearly shown by some statistics for the week before last. In the district of Poplar, in the week ending 9th February, there were 33,000 persons odd receiving relief. In Southwark, with a population slightly more than that of Poplar, the number of people receiving relief was 366 12,557, considerably less than half, almost only one third, of the number in Poplar. It that to be regarded as an advantage or as an achievement of which anyone can be proud when it is only obtained in South wark by a process, of which many hon. Members may approve, of making it as difficult as possible for anyone to obtain relief? There is an institution in Southwark where able-bodied men are offered relief. It is called Belmont and is known throughout the district as a slave colony. That is not a good thing, and when you come to the treatment of small children as well as men and women, the numbers in Southwark are only kept down so much in comparison with the numbers in Poplar by making it so difficult to get relief that it becomes, for a very large number of people, practically impossible.
Let me bring the House back from the glut of statistics and the important questions of administration involved to a case which came under my notice last week. A child one year old suddenly got an attack of measles and subsequently contracted bronchial pneumonia. The child belonged to a family consisting of mother, father and seven children, living in two rooms with a gas stove on the landing, the water two floors down in the back yard, and the sanitary convenience also two floors down in the back yard. When this child was suffering from bronchial pneumonia it was decided by the parents that it should be removed to hospital. The mother goes round to the relieving officer, and the relieving officer gives a message. I took it down from the sister, who told it to me privately. He said:I shall not be bullied or given orders. The matter must be decided by the parish doctor, but you must first call in a doctor who is paid and then the doctor would give an order for the parish doctor.A doctor who was paid was called in. The doctor, seeing the condition of the family, gave back his fee to them again. He gave an order to the parish doctor who came on the following day. Coming on the following day he said he would come again if they sent for him, and the father, appealing at that moment for relief last Tuesday, was told by the medical officer that he could not have relief until Friday thus putting as you see 367 every possible obstacle in the way of those people obtaining relief.
There is nothing exceptional in that treatment, nothing unusual and nothing intentionally brutal. It was the ordinary course of Poor Law procedure in a district which keeps the number of people receiving relief down to a low level. I notice that the Mover of this Resolution represents Lambeth, a district with a population of 307,000 which has only 11,395 people receiving relief. I am convinced therefore that in that district there are similar deterrents. I am sorry that the hon. Member is not here, but there is no other way of keeping down the number of these unfortunate applications for relief. If you open the door of relief in any poor district of London and you say you are ready to give assistance you will be, in one or two days, overwhelmed by applicants, because there is such an enormous mass of poverty, and it is useless for hon. Members to blame Poplar, or any other borough which carries on the same tradition as Poplar has established, unless they are prepared in some way or other to deal with this question of poverty.
This question of poverty must be dealt with. I know perfectly well that hon. Members opposite, in so far as they are unsympathetic on this question, are only so because they do not understand that these are matters of life and death to many people, and are not only questions of administrative consideration and of statistics. I appeal to them to realise that while Poplar may perhaps have been wrong in its administrative methods—I am not going to argue that—it is essentially right in having attempted to deal with the poor by giving them help instead of bullying them and preventing them from getting assistance. You can, in fact, do only two things. You can Poplarise the Poor Law all over the country, or you can break up and abolish the Poor Law and bring something better into existence. It has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman formerly the Minister of Health (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) that if the functions of the poor Law guardians in Poplar were handed over to the borough council in Poplar not very much would have been achieved. That is by no means the proposal. It is suggested that the different 368 classes of individuals who have to be dealt with by the Poor Law should be taken away from the control of the Poor Law and dealt with separately. There is no reason whatever against that. There is every reason for taking children out of the control of the Poor Law and putting them under the control of the education authority. That would be an enormous advantage to the children. There is every reason—and I dare say the right hon. Gentleman, formerly Minister of Health, will agree—for taking the medical institutions now under the administration of the Poor Law—infirmaries, parish medical services, and so on, and especially the large children's hospitals—out of the control of the Poor Law altogether and using them with other medical services in the country, to form the basis of a really great Public Health and Medical Service. That could be done.
When we are talking about poverty, it is necessary also to realise that there is no question of a general average. Statistics will show that there is so much percentage of poverty in the country, but, as a matter of fact, poverty exists in patches. It is a kind of spotted disease. There are in London certain areas, certain districts, certain squares, certain groups of houses and blocks of buildings where the poverty conditions are excessively bad and where it is possible, by a kind of intensive campaign, to deal with a large amount of poverty and poverty-inducing conditions in a very small space.
There is another aspect of the matter to be considered, and it is that of the transfer of the functions of the Poor Law to other bodies. The consideration I want to suggest is this. You must not overload the present and existing public local authorities by giving them extra work above what they can do, unless you alter their constitution. The London County Council at the present time is probably overloaded with work. If you add to that body other important functions, you must increase either the number of Committees, or, better still, the number of people who are able to work in connection with that body, and you must invent another method of devolution of powers from the centre to the periphery.
369 I do appeal to hon. Members opposite not to regard this question entirely as one of administrative detail and of statistics. It is essentially a question of what is going to be done with the 1,300,000 persons who two weeks ago, and no doubt this week also, are receiving relief. Probably if that number were doubled it would not touch the height of the figure of those who are very seriously affected by poverty. If we make a great effort now, not to smash Poplar, but to learn from Poplar that it is essential to deal with the situation in a humane and kindly way, we can make a very great advance in Poor Law reform, and not merely make some administrative changes which may not be of very much good. We can make some real changes which will have as great an effect in the Poor Law field of work as the medical care of infants, the welfare medical inspection of children, and so forth, have had with regard to the health and life of the children during the last 15 years. There is no doubt that we could, with a comparatively little expenditure of money, get rid of the larger part of the serious poverty in this country without having all these stupid and rather cruel methods which are used by the Poor Law at the present time. We could have, with all that we possess already in the way of institutions, medical officers, clinics, nurses, and so forth, a real Public Health and Medical Service which would be of enormous benefit to the country. We could have a great improvement in the health and in the education of the child-life of the country by taking all the children out of the control of the Poor Law authorities and putting them under the control of the educational authorities.
There will not be a solution found to this problem unless we tackle in detail and very elaborately all those points at which the civilisation in which we are living is breaking down at the present time. Poverty and destitution are the points at which our civilisation does break down. It is a chronic breakdown. The more money that is expended in connection with it under present conditions the more will have to be expended. What it is necessary to do is to bring the ideas of preventive social sanitation, as it were, into the Poor Law, and that can only be done, I agree with the hon. Members opposite, when this Poor Law is swept away altogether. It is no use hon. Mem- 370 bers saying that, and in the same breath trying to condemn Poplar. I am convinced, from a very long and intimate knowledge of very poor parts of London, that Poplar has done the only thing which humane people could do under those circumstances. If we are really going to try to help our fellow men under these circumstances and not only argue about it in Parliament and elsewhere, we shall find ourselves compelled to go on paying and paying until we get to what are perhaps the very large and almost fantastic sums about which we have been talking. There is no way of dealing with the matter under present conditions which is satisfactory. The only way is to destroy the present Poor Law altogether and build up something which is better. I believe that can be done. I believe by the co-operation of all the Members of this House we can get to a system which is really going to be a sane and useful one.
I am not attempting to make an attack on the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. I want to make such suggestions as I can of a purely constructive nature. I am not very keen on making attacks on anyone or on destroying anybody's ideas. I want, if possible, to get the co-operation of all sections of the House in a real constructive effort, which I believe can be successful, in abolishing a very large part of that extremely grave social disease which we call poverty.
§ Mr. CUNLIFFE
I would like to ask the House for a double portion of that spirit of indulgence in which it is its wont to receive the first observations of new Members. My reason is, not merely that I find myself addressing the House for the first time much earlier than I had intended, but that I desire to say something on behalf of a gentleman who has been rather severely attacked in the course of the discussion upon the Poplar question. I mean Mr. Cooper, who was appointed by Sir Alfred Mond to inquire into the expenditure of the Poplar Guardians. I am sure I can rely upon the patience and sympathy of the House as a whole, and I would appeal particularly to the sense of fair play of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
As the House will remember, Mr. Cooper was appointed by Sir Alfred Mond to inquire into the expenditure of the Poplar Guardians with a view to seeing what economies could be effected consis- 371 tent with efficient administration. He presented a report, the purport of which is familiar to the House, and I need not go into it any further. That report incurred the displeasure of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). I am sure he will agree that he has visited his displeasure upon Mr. Cooper in no measured terms. I hope I am not wanting in appreciation of the position of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley. I realise that he feels very strongly upon this question of the Poor Law. I recognise that he and his colleagues on the Board of Guardians for Poplar were faced with a problem of great magnitude and great difficulty, and the last thing I would desire would be to be in any way unjust to the hon. Member. I listened with great sympathy to one part, at any rate, of the speech which he delivered in the course of the Debate upon the Prime Minister's statement, when he pictured in moving terms the problem with which the Poplar Guardians had to deal, and when he denounced the existing state of the Poor Law and appealed to all parties to combine in an effort to bring about its reform. I am bound to say, however, that he roused my resentment by the attack which he thought it proper to make upon Mr. Cooper, an attack which was entirely unprovoked, unfair, and unnecessary. I could not help thinking it a great pity that he allowed so grave a blemish upon an otherwise persuasive speech.
The hon. Member's point of view is that the present Poor Law is bad, that the whole system is bad; and, as I understand, he and his colleagues in Poplar deliberately took the course of granting relief which they knew to be illegal, because they believed the law to be wrong, and that they ought to be allowed to make these grants. I notice that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley shakes his head. But that they took that view seems to be confirmed by the pamphlet issued immediately after the report was made, when they trumpeted abroad the statement, "We are guilty, and proud of it." The hon. Member has carried his attacks against Mr. Cooper to considerable lengths, not only in this House, but has pursued Mr. Cooper in the Press and on the platform, and I am not sure whether he did not on one occasion ascend a 372 pulpit in order to do it. I do not want to deal merely with the picturesque phraseology in which the hon. Member denounced Mr. Cooper. Nothing is to be gained by further comment upon such phrases as that "Mr. Cooper was pitch-forked into Poplar." There is, however, one statement to which it is right, to call the attention of the House, because it goes beyond the bounds of fairness. The hon. Member said that Mr. Cooper is an upholder of the worn-out, old system so beloved by certain economists, that the best place for the poor is either the workhouse or the grave.
§ Mr. CUNLIFFE
I am sorry to hear the hon. Member say "Hear, hear!" He can denounce a school of economists as hotly as he pleases, but it is very unfair to associate a gentleman occupying an official position with a cruel statement of that kind. I feel sure that nobody else believes that of Mr. Cooper, and I doubt very much whether the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley believes it himself. I would like to examine, shortly, what I understand are the charges against Mr. Cooper. The hon. Member says that Mr. Cooper was unfair, that he did not hold an impartial inquiry, and that he was a partisan throughout. I would say one word about the alleged unfairness and inhumanity of Mr. Cooper. I have known him for well over 40 years. For the last 23 years he has been clerk to the Guardians of Bolton, which is a thickly populated industrial centre in Lancashire. For 22 years before that he was the assistant clerk. I say, without fear of contradiction, that if Mr. Cooper had been the unfair and inhuman monster which the hon. Member affects to portray him as, he would never had occupied for 45 minutes the position which he has occupied for something like 45 years. Then it is said that Mr. Cooper did not hold an impartial inquiry, and that is based, I understand, upon the alleged refusal of Mr. Cooper to admit the evidence of the guardians, upon his having accepted representations from the ratepayers' association, and upon his having come improperly to the conclusion that he must rely on the evidence contained in the guardians' books and documents. My right hon. Friend who moved an Amendment to the Motion, read parts of a letter which Mr. Cooper addressed to me after 373 the rather strong observations of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley in the recent Debate. Perhaps it would be better to road the whole of the letter as far as it relates to this controversy. Mr. Cooper writes:I see from the newspaper reports that Mr. Lansbury is making statements about the inquiry I held at Poplar in 1922 at the request of the Ministry of Health, and that a day will be given for discussion of the question generally in the House.The statement made by Mr. Lansbury that I refused his application to hear witnesses, is entirely devoid of truth. I did, at the outset of the investigation, as an act of courtesy, invite the Mayor of Poplar, who was then the Chairman of the Poplar Board also, to meet me at 2.15 o'clock in the afternoon of 13th March, 1922. He replied to say that he could come the following morning at 10.15 o'clock, and when he attended he was accompanied by Mr. Lansbury. I was subsequently informed that the Mayor did not care to come without Mr. Lansbury, and it was quite evident to me throughout the inquiry that Mr. Lansbury dominated the whole of the proceedings of the board.At the interview, Mr. Lansbury was the principal spokesman, and he became somewhat abusive at the prospect of an investigation, threatening that I should not be allowed to hold the inquiry, and that I would not be permitted to see any officers, except in the presence of two of the guardians. I warned him that if any attempt was made to interfere with the investigation, I should hold it at Whitehall, and summon witnesses there, if I found it necessary, with all requisite books, etc. After that I did not see Mr. Lansbury or any member of the board.The investigation was made as a consequence of a complaint by the Poplar Borough Municipal Alliance (Ratepayers' Association), of which Sir Alfred Warren was the Secretary. I had two interviews with Sir Alfred Warren with the object of a public inquiry and examination of witnesses, which I was empowered to carry out if I thought it expedient. At my second interview, Sir Alfred Warren informed me that he had witnesses, but that they were afraid to give evidence, as the consequence would be that their homes would be smashed up, and, secondly, that the Alliance could not afford to go to the expense of Counsel, etc., the previous inquiry having cost them, I think he said, £6,000, in addition to their share, as ratepayers, of the expense incurred by the board of guardians. I am obtaining from my Assistant Commissioner the statement of the notes he made of Mr. Lansbury's interview with me, and I will send it on to you.You will readily understand that as the Poplar Municipal Alliance, who were the complainants, did not bring evidence, I had to make an impartial independent investigation, and there was no necessity to call the 374 guardians, as the facts were disclosed from my examination of their books, and whatever Mr. Lansbury may say, every item in the Report can be verified from the official documents, in addition to which he published a pamphlet entitled 'Guilty, and proud of it.'I have also had sent to me the statement of the Assistant Commissioner, which I will read so far as it is material. It is as follows:When the Chairman of the Poplar Board of Guardians and Mr. George Lansbury met us at Poplar on 14th March, 1922, you explained to him the method you intended to adopt in carrying out the investigations directed by the Ministry of Health to be made by you, and stated that you hoped you would have the assistance of the guardians and their officers. Mr. Sumner, the Chairman, offered no objection to the proposed procedure, but Mr. Lansbury showed considerable concern and annoyance, and heatedly remarked that you were sent to do the dirty work of the Government as their catspaw, and he would see that two guardians were with us at any interview we had with any of the staff. Neither Mr. Lansbury nor Mr. Sumner asked that the guardians should be allowed to give evidence; the question did not arise. The interview lasted only about ten minutes.The statements in the Report were carefully checked, before being printed, with the documents from which the information was obtained.I would remind the House that under the provisions under which Mr. Cooper was appointed, it was for him to decide whether the inquiry should be a public or a private inquiry. I ask the House, what he possibly could have done, in face of the circumstances, other than hold the inquiry as he did? The guardians, through Mr. Lansbury, were threatening death and judgment to the inquiry. The complainants said that they could not get their witnesses to attend. After all, the really important thing was to get at the facts. The facts appeared in the guardians' books, and with the assistance of the officials of the guardians Mr. Cooper was able to make an investigation which he regarded as complete and exhaustive. Let me say one word on the charge by the hon. Member that Mr. Cooper was a partisan—a partisan of the Act of 1834. It seems to me that he might as well have called him a parallelogram. What does it mean to say that a man is a partisan of the law? Mr. Cooper was bound to observe the law, and to act within it. The hon. Member might just as well say of a judge, in every case that he tries, that he is a partisan, because he 375 tries the case according to the law as it is, and does not embark on an inquiry as to what the law should be.
I hope I have not been too long in dealing with this subject, which is rather a side issue of the Debate, but it is surely a serious matter when a public official, who has enjoyed the confidence of the public for so long, is subjected to attacks in this House and elsewhere, as Mr. Cooper has been subjected to attacks by the hon. Member. It is clear that Mr. Cooper did nothing but his duty, and that, so far from deserving the censure either of this House or of anyone, it is the thanks of the community that Mr. Cooper deserves.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
As I believe that the gentleman whose name is being bandied about between us is within the precincts of the House, I would like to say, first, that I have not any feeling that he is any worse or any better than myself, or any other Member of this House, or any clerk or any one else in the country. My whole charge against him, if it be a charge—my criticism is that he represents a school of thought in the administration of the Poor Law which is diametrically opposed to the school to which the Poplar Guardians belong. I notice that an hon. Member laughs. I am certain that the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant) would not laugh at that statement. He knows, as well as I do, that 25 or 30 years ago the usual thing to do in the Poor Law, in many unions, was to order "the house" for any person who came up for relief. It was always done under the deterrent Act of 1834. The idea behind that was that you should always give relief in a deterrent fashion. The result was that you made the Poor Law as hated as it is to-day. There is no doubt that many people would rather die than go to the Poor Law.
I can say truthfully that many of my best friends in the world were people who believed in that doctrine. When I was a boy it was put into operation in the parish of Whitechapel, where I then lived. I have the most profound respect for the memory of the late Canon Barnes, but he was a great exemplar of the school which said that there should be no outdoor relief for man, woman or child, and he defended his attitude always on that principle. The guardians in the neighbouring borough of Bethnal Green also, 376 until two or three years ago, never gave a penny of outdoor relief to anybody—man, woman or child. They defended it on the principles of 1834. It may interest hon. Gentleman opposite to hear what was said by Lord Beaconsfield of the gentleman who originated the 1834 legislation—Mr. Chadwick, the celebrated Commissioner. I understand some hon. Members wish to inflict on the country another gentleman with powers similar to those possessed by Mr. Chadwick, and the hon. Member who spoke last seemed to think that I was very severe in my remarks on Mr. Cooper. Lord Beaconsfield—then Mr. Disraeli—asked in regard to Mr. Chadwick—How was it that this monster in human shape, as Mr. Chadwick was represented to be, and as he (Mr. Disraeli) believed him to be, had not been removed from his office?Disraeli and every man and woman of any public spirit in that day felt that the doctrine of less eligibility, which is at the root of this matter, was a doctrine which would injure the poor, and right through the years down to the time when the late Sir Henry Palmer removed the property qualification and allowed working men and women to sit on boards of guardians, the doctrine of less eligibility was the doctrine operating in most unions and everybody knows that the poor had no choice. Hon. Members grumbled when I said that the choice left to the poor by those who believe in the principles of 1834 was a choice between the workhouse and the grave. I can appeal to hon. Members of this House to confirm me in the statement that in the Metropolitan area at least a dozen unions adopted that practice. There are at least half a dozen to-day which give no out-relief at all, and they can boast they have no pauperism. The unhappy poor die; they die from exposure, from weakness, and from the diseases that arise from underfeeding and destitution. No one can charge me with using any language which is until to be used in regard to any gentleman who believes in those principles.
The right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Treasury Bench rather pulverised, from the administrative point of view, the case of the late Government. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman, the late Minister of Health, or his predecessor, to produce any document or any statement we ever made to the effect that we wanted to administer the Poor Law 377 illegally. We always maintained, and we maintain now, our objection to the Ministers' action in issuing that peremptory Order without the proviso indicated in the 1834 Act as to the relief of persons who come to the guardians suddenly and in conditions different from those contemplated in the Order—namely, that we might relieve them and then report the case to the Minister. The hon. Member who moved the Resolution seemed to forget one essential feature of the administration of the Poor Law. When you have the applicant before you, you have to decide what that applicant needs and what is the proper relief to be given. The charge against us is that we have given assistance in excess of what the worst paid independent labourer can earn outside. We have definitely refused to take into account the fact that wages might be lower than the relief we were obliged to give. I challenge the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant) as to whether it is not a fact, even in his own union, that some people get more than the least paid independent labourer living in Lambeth. One has only to think about it for a moment and it will be seen that it is absolutely necessary to concede us that point. The guardians may have to order an operation for a person. In the case of a woman who is about to be confined, they have to provide a nurse and a doctor and nourishment which the least paid independent labourer has not the means to provide. As a board of guardians, it is their duty to provide that and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman opposite to deny it. The doctrine of less eligibility cannot be and never has been maintained if you give out-relief at all. I can understand those who say there should be no outdoor relief but if it is given at all the Ministry's instructions are that it should be given adequately, and the reason why we have come into conflict with the low wages is because the low wages are such that they do not suffice for the real necessaries of life which a board of guardians is bound to provide. In administering the law in that fashion we have administered it legally and not illegally.
Again, it has not yet been denied that it is within our discretion to say what is the position of an applicant and what are the needs of an applicant. Hon. Members are trying to do what the right 378 hon. Gentleman opposite told them had never yet been attempted, and that is to lay down a scale and to say, "You shall not go outside that scale." In the case of a man and a woman with 10 children—and that is the celebrated case which Mr. Cooper trotted out—you must give more than would be given to a man and wife with one child. That is so obvious a proposition that I cannot understand there being any controversy about it. To show that we exercised discretion, hon. Members have only to read our scale. It is said we set out to give everybody who came to us more than they could earn. That is sheer nonsense. A man and wife got their £1 and their rent and eighteen pence for coal, and no more. If there was a child they got extra, and I challenge the hon. Member for Lambeth to say whether, if a case of that kind came before him, he would not be obliged to give more to the man and woman with children than to the man and woman with no children. That is all the Poplar guardians did, and nothing more. [Laughter.] I challenge those who laugh to prove that we have done anything more. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Health or his predecessor to deny that the scale laid down for the guidance of relief committees differentiates as between the needs of one applicant and another. We exercised our discretion in a legitimate and legal manner, and hon. Members have no right to say that every applicant who comes to us gets more than he or she can earn. Nobody who knows the facts can truthfully controvert what I am saying.
Where we do come to grips with right hon. and hon. Members opposite is on another point. The hon. Member for Lambeth spoke about the sanctity of family life. I observe that Mr. Propert of Fulham, Chairman of the Association of Poor Law Unions, writes with unctuous rectitude about Poplar in the "Times" yesterday. May I point out that family life is broken up in Pulham by taking the man and wife into the workhouse and placing the children somewhere else. No person, however destitute, can get relief in Fulham except in that way. Capitalism breaks up family life every day, but the argument is that it is a nice and pleasant thing that boys and girls living at home should maintain able-bodied parents and the other children of 379 those parents. In this matter the law is on our side. If any hon. or right hon. Gentleman who is a lawyer intends to take part in this Debate later on I hope he will tell us where is the law which is to the effect that a child must maintain an able-bodied father and mother. The Act of Elizabeth, on which all Poor Law is based, states:And it be further enacted that the father and grandfather and the mother and grandmother and the children (a) of every poor, old, blind, lame and impotent person or other poor person not able to work, being of a sufficient ability, shall at their own charges relieve and maintain every such poor person.Therefore the claim at this time of day that children should maintain able-bodied parents and the other children of the parents is based on an administrative Act and not on a legal Act. There is no law to compel them. Let us look at the absurdity of the position. The hon. Member for Lambeth says our policy would not keep the family together. But the policy he advocates breaks up families because a son or a daughter has only to take a room upstairs in the house and occupy it, apart from the family, and even under an Order they could not be expected to pay a single penny towards the maintenance of the family. If they go to live next door they cannot be compelled to do anything of the kind. It is only when they live in the same room that you can even think of asking them to pay anything at all, but there is no law compelling them, and when you try to enforce a Regulation of this kind all you are doing is inducing the children to live away from their homes. To make the matter perfectly clear, I will once more read the scale to able-bodied unemployed persons which is operating now. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion chaffed us on giving way to pressure. We do not deny that at all. I do not deny that if one is surrounded, if one has 50 men before and behind and all round, one may sometimes do something which, perhaps, in other circumstances one would not do, but it is perfectly absurd to quote the case of the scale which was withdrawn after a week. It never operated, and Mr. Cooper fell into a great error because he quoted a scale which never really existed. Had he asked us, we should have been able to clear his mind a little, 380 but he did not—we were not worth being asked in his judgment. The scale which is now operating came into being last October. We are told that we had no courage and that we put it into operation in the midst of what was more or less a riot. Nobody got hurt much, but anyhow we did alter the scale. That again shows that we were not out merely to break the law. We lowered the scale because the cost of living had fallen, and we considered that the people did not need as much as when the cost was higher, which proves that the Poplar Board was only trying to keep people in being until the time came when they could get work.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
When this amended scale was introduced, is it correct—I think it is—that the Board stated that the new scale was still in some cases in excess of the trade union rate of wages?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I do not know whether the Board said it, or who said it, but I will read out the scale. It might be more in the case of a big family, but will the right hon. Gentleman get up and say that if you have a family of six or seven children and a woman and a man, you should not consider the need? What is it that you consider when you are assessing relief? You are assessing the need of that family, and we maintain that what we give them is not above the need of the family. So as to help the right hon. Gentleman, I will read what I did not intend to read. I have always said that we were more legal than the legal people. Here is what the Local Government Board sent out in 1900:The Board consider that aged deserving persons"—And the bulk of our cases are widows, orphans and aged persons. Talk about our 30,000. Out of that 30,000, only 5,000 are considered able-bodied, and every Poor Law administrator knows that even those who are classed "able-bodied" are very often not able-bodied. We have 25,000 women, children, sick persons, and aged persons, and this is what the Local Government Board told us to do:The Board consider that aged deserving persons should not be urged to enter the workhouse at all unless there is some cause which renders such a course necessary, such as infirmity of mind or body.… but that they should be relieved by having adequate outdoor relief.381 I put it to this House that the cardinal principle of the Poor Law relief is that if you give it at all, it should be adequate to the needs of the people. The Department laid that down. In 1910 they said:When outdoor relief is given, it should be carefully adapted to the needs of the case, and adequate in amount.This is the scale:Adults not living with parents, 12s. 6d. per week; married couples or two adults living together, 20s.; married couples with one child, 26s. 6d.; with two children, 30s.; with three children, 33s. 6d.; with four children, 36s. 6d.; with five children, 39s.; with six children, 41s.; plus an allowance of 1s. 6d. per week for coal; plus the actual amount of rent paid.I repeat what I said a week ago. Stand up, any of you who have the face, and say that that relief is anything more than adequate to the needs of those who are receiving it.
§ Mr. KEDWARD
Under that scale, I will give the hon. Member an actual case, that of a man and wife with six children, 36s. 6d., two of the children being aged 16 and 18, which are under a special arrangement, 18s.; rent for four rooms, 15s.; coal allowance, 1s. 6d.; boots, average for the six children, and clothing supplied to them, 5s.; an ex-service man having a pension of 10s. not taken into account, according to the White Paper issued: bringing the total to £4 6s. in the house on the scale now laid down by Poplar, as against £2 12s. 6d., the next highest in London; and then, added to that, one other son earning 50s. a week, only 12s. taken into account, living in the same house; making £6 4s. a week going into the house, of which £4 6s. paid by the Poplar Guardians. That verified to-day on your present scale.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The hon. Member, or the cleverest lawyer in the House, if suddenly confronted with a set of figures, a case put to him, and asked to explain it, would rather like to investigate it first. I cannot tell what is behind that case at all. If the hon. Member had allowed me to finish, I would have read what deductions are made, and then people can form whatever conclusions they please. We definitely do not believe that the family, an able-bodied son or daughter of 18 or 25, should be called upon to maintain the father and mother and children when the father is able-bodied, and we say that the Act 43 of Elizabeth does not 382 give you any legal right to make those children pay. Let me finish this scale:That the whole of the unemployment benefit be deducted; that the whole of the parents' earnings be deducted; that the first 10s. of any service pension, or any mother's pension in respect of a son or other relative be ignored in applying the scale.We are not ashamed of that. We think the men who went out to save Britain from destruction deserve the 10s., and so do their mothers, and we are proud of that. The scale goes on:That where an applicant is in receipt of reserve pay, such payment be regarded as 'income.'We differentiate between reserve pay and the pension that a mother may get or the pension a man may get for suffering a disability owing to the War.That the deductions in respect of children's earnings shall be in accordance with the scale appended hereto;That the proportion of the relief on the above scale to be dispensed in kind be left to the discretion of the Relief Committee, with the suggestion that at least half of the total relief given shall be in kind.We give half in money and half in kind.That, in the case of children over 16 and under 18 years, an addition to the parents' relief be made of 10s. in the case of boys and 8s. in the case of girls.I cannot give a boy of 18 under 10s. a week, and I do not believe the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Mr. Kedward) could cither, or a girl less than 8s. a week. Here are the deductions:Under 15s., nil; from and including 15s. and under 17s. 6d., 1s.; 17s. 6d. to 20s., 2s.; 20s to 30s., 3s.; 30s to 31s., 3s. 6d.; 31s. to 32s., 4s.and so on, graduating all the way down, and we have never said that we will not take into account any earnings. With us, it is only a question of how much of the earnings we shall take into account. That is the difference between us all. I know there are many hon. Members who want to speak, but I want to repeat that we never came out and said that every applicant should have trade union rates of wages as relief, and our scale does not bear that out, but I want to say that I do not believe the unemployment problem will ever be settled until it does cost as much to the employing class to keep a man unemployed as it does to keep him at work. I have said, and I repeat, that whenever unemployment is more expensive than it is to find men work, then work will be found for them. It has 383 been said here this evening that we ought to get away from Poplar. I said that a week ago, but, apparently, Poplar is on certain people's brains, and, therefore, you have to hear all about it, but just think. You are going to have a big discussion on how to break up the Poor Law, how to deal with the Poor Law.
I want to say two things with which hon. Members in this House, even amongst my hon. Friends, perhaps, will not agree. I do not see the difference between an old person, 69 years of age, getting 10s. from the guardians and an old person of 70 getting 10s. from the National Exchequer, and all this talk about paupers and pauperism, whether the Lord Chancellor or anybody else uses the word, ought to be got out of our minds altogether. The whole question is, How are we going to tackle the problem of poverty and destitution? And, by the way, no one has given us a definition of destitution. I remember Sir James Davis being asked, and I cannot remember the definition he gave, but it would puzzle even lawyers to explain what he meant. Hon. Members can read it in the evidence before the Poor Law Commission. What I was going to say was this, that last week this House discussed mothers' pensions. The hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) talked of the poor woman who had to go to the guardians and had to put up with all the inquisitorial methods that a woman has to undergo, and what a degradation that was. When the right hon. Gentleman taunts us with what we said we had done in Poplar, that we had got rid of the cringing, that we had got rid of the browbeating, that we had got rid of the fear, that is what we want. A woman can come to us in Poplar, and she knows she will get relief as a matter of right. If it is good enough to give a widow a pension as a matter of right, why not outdoor relief, I should like to know? What is the difference? One comes out of one pocket, and the other out of the other pocket, and I do not see any difference.
But if this House wants to help settle Poplar, it can go a long way towards doing so by giving mothers' pensions. I have told the House that there are 25,000 women and children, sick, and aged persons on our list of relief. Take the 384 widows and the children off, and you will leave us with a small number, relatively speaking, of able-bodied. In regard to these able-bodied, the Minister of Labour has helped to settle the dock strike, and if this House were to settle down to consider and pass the Bill dealing with casual labour that is to be brought in in the next few weeks, Poplar would present no problem to you, and none for us. Therefore, do not let us waste our time about new machinery, and so on. If you have the new machinery, and you leave the problem still there, it is still true that you will not deal with it very differently from what you are doing now, but if, instead, you lift them out of the conditions from which they are at present suffering, if the State realises its position in regard to these people, you may be quite certain the problem will get itself solved.
I do not know exactly what my right hon. Friend meant when he talked about those manufacturers in Poplar whose rates we spend. I am a ratepayer in Poplar, my children are ratepayers in Poplar, my relatives are ratepayers in Poplar. Every shilling of the rates I help to pay as much as any big employer. One died a week or two ago whom it was said we had ruined, and he left £300,000. How many of you would like to be ruined like that? You say you are to introduce a law to enable these people to have votes. If I am in this House I will fight that to the death. I want votes for human beings, not for property. We are the cheapest administered borough in London. You never take the trouble to inquire about us except about our iniquities. It is well known that our borough, pound for pound, spends less in administration than any other borough in London. It is well known, too, that all those manufacturers who are whining and crying to the Minister of Health could get a vote in the borough and could come on the public authority and help us to do the job. I have nothing but contempt for their action. They never open their lips to do a single hand's-turn for Poplar. What I really meant to say was that they never open their lips concerning Poplar except when the rates are high. They never take part in administering the affaire of the borough. Poplar is not good, enough for them to live in, and they would not die 385 in it. They can only take money out of it. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Twickenham talked about the Minister of Health prejudging cases, and warned him that he had to act in a quasi judicial position. What did the right hon. Gentleman himself do when some of those poor creatures who are being ruined by the Bolshevists of Poplar went to him? He told them, what he has told us to-day, without considering anything about the cases, "I will not release you from any of these surcharges."
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If you let me finish you will know. They came to you to ask your advice a month or two ago, as to what was to be done with this mob in Poplar. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was a difficult proposition, and he would have to think about it once, twice, thrice, but if he took his coat off—God knows what would happen. In spite of that, we shall sleep soundly in our beds. He told them that if and when we were surcharged he would not interfere if they took us to Court. He, like Mr. Cooper, only heard one side of the case. He only heard what our opponents had to say. He did not want to think about or hear anything that we had to say.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am quite sure the hon. Gentleman does not mean to state what is untrue, but what he has said is not the fact. What I said was in reference to the surcharge of the borough council. I was not referring to the board of guardians. The councillors who had been surcharged had taken the case before the King's Bench, and I said I would not interfere with any decision of the Court
§ Mr. LANSBURY
They went to you both about the guardians and the councillors I have read it in "The Times," and I will try to look it up and send it to you.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I have a copy of "The Times" here containing the statement referred to. I think my right hon. Friend opposite is quite right, and it is only fair to him to say so. This is what 386 the right hon. Gentleman said as reported in "The Times":The action of the district auditor in surcharging the borough council with £5,000 is now before the Courts of Law. It will be quite improper for me to endeavour to forecast what the decision of the Courts will be, but it would not be improper to say to-day that, if the decision is to uphold the action of the district auditor, whatever the consequences may be to the borough council or to the individual members of the council, I shall not intervene in any way.I think it is only fair to the right hon. Baronet to read that.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If you read a little more you will find that they were dealing with the question of what they were to do in regard to making an application to the Court to restrain us from paying money to strikers. Having regard even to the extract read, I should have thought that a gentleman who was acting in a judicial capacity would, at least, have said, "Well, I cannot say what I shall do, but I shall hear both sides of the case." When the right hon. Gentleman's colleague was proved to be legally wrong, the Government brought in a Bill to indemnify him for breaking the law. Among us, no one is charged with not acting bona fide in all these matters. The auditor has published two half-year's accounts. He is a curious person, this auditor. He is doing a third period now. I cannot think but that somebody must have whispered to him to keep the books open a little longer. Perhaps someone will tell us why he has not closed them. I want to say this finally—[Laughter]. I know all about you Liberal Gentlemen. I have had some. I know perfectly well that there is a good deal of balancing about this business, but I am standing for the full-blooded policy of Poplar. I am not ashamed of it. I have done nothing there and my colleagues have done nothing there for which we are going to apologise. I repeat that you may break us but you will not bend us. As long as the Poor Law remains as it is, we will not break the law but administer the law according to the discretion which it allows us.
§ Brigadier-General COCKERILL
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House if, when there is £6 coming into a house in a week, there is destitution?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I would want to know whether the man was able-bodied, whether the wife was able-bodied, and how many dependent children there were. Talk about £6! You and I can spend it in a day. I happen to think that the poor have stomachs like you and I, and that they ought to have as good conditions as I have. I repeat that nothing has been done in Poplar of which we are ashamed, and we shall not be brow-beaten even by the House of Commons. While the law is as it is we abide by the law. That law gives us the right to relieve the poor. We shall relieve them adequately. We shall take care of the widows and orphans, we shall take care of those men that you hoodwinked into going to war and who, now that they have come back, you have chucked on the scrap-heap. Ten thousand of those men the right hon. Gentleman talked about are ex-service men or their dependants. I hope the ex-service men outside will read this Debate, and they will understand how you assess their needs and what you think of them to-day when you do not want them any more, when they have done all the killing and slaughtering. We think they have as much right to live as any of you, and while we have the means to give to them we are going to do it.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I think it is about 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour ago since my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) told us that we were to hear his final word. I am sure the House will not quarrel with the amplitude of his speech, because he has given us a most valuable exposition of the full-blooded Poplar policy. I am not going to speak more than a very few minutes, but I have one or two questions to address to the Government. I have, both in the House and in the country, explained my views, and I believe the views of my hon. Friends on these benches, on what I may call the general merits of this case, and I have nothing to retract or qualify in what I have said. This Motion, I am sure all Members of the House will believe me, was put down, not for the purpose of embarrassing the Government, but because it seemed to us that what we regard as vital principles of Poor Law administration, if some recent administrative action of the Government went unchallenged, were put in jeopardy. I have listened to-night with great admira- 388 tion to the speech of the Minister of Health. It was a most adroit debating performance. Those who heard the right hon. Gentleman welcome most heartily the accession of such a formidable combatant to our ranks. But what had it to do with the real issues which arise in this discussion? There is no dispute whatever as to the facts. The Poplar Guardians have avowedly, and for years past, been giving outdoor relief on principles, and on a scale, wholly unwarranted by the law. I will give two brief extracts from the declarations of a gentleman who speaks with unquestionable authority on the subject, Mr. Edgar Lansbury. In an article in the "New Leader," he says:Many members of the Poplar Board working at the docks receive less wages than the scale of relief given to their unemployed fellow-workmen.Again, according to the same gentleman,In doing what they have done, the guardians pay more in relief than some of the men would have got in wages. So much the better for relief; so much the worse for wages.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] And there are, I observe, a number of sympathisers in this House. Be it so, but it is not the law. If you want that policy to be adopted, persuade your fellow-citizens to alter the law, and substitute for the right to relief of destitution the right of maintenance at normal, or more than normal, wages. That is quite an intelligible issue to raise. I can remember in days gone by, we had it raised in Bills in this House. None succeeded in emerging on the Statute Book, and, while the law stands as it is, that is a violation of the law. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which law?"] The law of the land—the Poor Law of 1834, and all subsequent legislation. Any administrative body, elective or otherwise, which has to administer the law, ought to keep within those prescribed bounds. It was clearly proved by the report of Mr. Cooper that Poplar was administering the law in the sense in which they think it ought to be, and not in the sense in which it actually is. Hence the Order of Sir Alfred Mond, which had nothing whatever to do with the Emergency Acts of 1921 and 1922. There is no doubt as to the legal validity of that Order. Nor is it suggested by the Minister of Health, nor in the White Paper which he has issued with 389 the authority of his Department, that its validity and legality were in any way open to doubt. The Order was systematically, and, I might almost say, ostentatiously violated, and, according to what the Minister told us this afternoon, a sum estimated at something like £160,000 has been, or will be, extracted from the ratepayers.
I am not concerned to go into the controversy between the present Minister and his predecessor as to whether my right hon. Friend opposite could not have enforced the Order more effectively than he did. An administrator of his Napoleonic type, instead of waiting upon Providence, or, still more, waiting upon an auditor—imagine Napoleon waiting for an auditor's report—might, perhaps, have done a little more than he did. At any rate, if he had come to this House and told us that this Order had been flouted for a year, and had become, to all intents and purposes, a dead letter, I do not doubt he would have obtained—I do not say the authority to supersede the board of guardians; that would be most inadvisable—but, I think, he would have obtained such additional powers as would reasonably have served his purpose. He did not do so, in fact. What was the action of the present Minister? I am not speaking of what he did in any censorious sense. I think he was in a very embarrassing position. It was damnosa hœreditas, if ever there was one. I am not accusing him personally, but he did two things which seemed to me, and to many of us, to be open to serious criticism. In the first place, he rescinded the Mond Order without putting anything in its place. There is nothing sacrosanct about the Mond Order. It may, for all I know, be open to very serious criticism in point of detail. It certainly did not work in practice, though I cannot subscribe to the doctrine, that because a law is habitually disobeyed, it is to be treated as obsolete. I say there is nothing sacrosanct about the Mond Order. But the Poplar Board of Guardians have shown no disposition whatever to abandon their policy.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
They maintained their attitude, and quite logically; I am 390 not blaming them. The hon. Gentleman is not a man to abandon, under any threat, an attitude which he has conscientiously taken up. The Poplar Board of Guardians, in spite of the decision of the Ministry, went on, as the Minister of Health might have known they would have gone on, as they did before. But to rescind the Order without putting something more effective in its place seems to me a serious incentive to illegality. In the second place—and this, I think, is even more open to objection—he prospectively remitted any surcharge or surcharges that might be made when the auditor came to the accounts, and felt it his duty to make, under the Order. I have never heard of such a thing before. The Minister, in remitting a surcharge, ought to exercise a judicial discretion. In other words, before disallowing the surcharge, he ought surely to inquire—and inquire most carefully, and, some people would say, even meticulously—into the merits of each particular case But to apply a general wet sponge in advance and to say, in effect, to the auditor who is going to make the audit of accounts that "whatever surcharge you may make in respect of violations of this Order, I shall remit it," that is to reduce the function of the auditor to a farce, and it is not in consonance with those judicial functions which the law expects the Minister to discharge. In pointing this out to the House I do not wish irresponsibly or frivolously to raise the matter, nor do I raise it as a party issue, nor is it, in fact, a party issue, for it affects all parties, all administrations, all Governments. It affects the whole interpretation and execution by the Government Departments of the law which Parliament has enacted.
What is the result? What we have heard from the Minister of Health has not reassured us. I want to be reassured by the Prime Minister, and I hope he will be able to give me that reassurance when he speaks. I am not pressing this matter in any other spirit but that of endeavouring to do a public duty. The result so far is that, so far as the Poplar Board of Guardians is concerned, they have a clean slate from all their past illegalities and a letter of licence to continue their proceedings in the future. I want to be reassured that this is not so; and that the Ministry of Health 391 are not going to allow this kind of autonomy—though that is a bad word to describe it. If so, other boards of guardians might be minded to follow the Poplar example and to be a law unto themselves. I have risen, not for the purpose of controversial argument, but to ask the Government to give us some guidance as to their intentions in the future. I venture to repeat the interrogatories that were put by my hon. Friend who moved the Resolution in a most admirable speech. What we should like to know, and what we ask is, that the Government shall make it clear that, though the Mond Order is rescinded and the Minister has remitted these surcharges prospectively, that that action does not mean, and does not imply, that any illegal expenditure has been or will be in the future sanctioned.
Again, I should like to know from the Government whether they will intimate to boards of guardians, and to the Poplar Board in particular, that they must carry out the law.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
If you are, you have nothing to fear. I trust that the Ministry will hold those concerned responsible, and apply such resources and such means as are at its disposal to meet any breaches of the law. Will the power of surcharge be retained and exercised in each case on its own merits? What in this connection is equally important is, are the Government considering—I expressed the opinion a fortnight ago in this House that the powers of surcharge are necessary, but that they are wholly inadequate in respect of these cases, and I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite will entirely agree with me there—the need for more drastic and far-reaching sanctions? Will the Government consider some collateral sanctions of a more effective kind than the power of surcharge, and can these be devised and put into working order? It is not for us, it is not for any private Member to say what form such collateral sanctions should take. It has been suggested that a ratepayer, where an item of expenditure has been proved to be illegal, and when he was prepared to take the risk of proving it illegal, 392 should be empowered to make that deduction from the rates which he otherwise is bound to pay. I have not enough experience of local administration to say whether that would act, but at any rate if anything more effective can be devised, I hope the Government will apply their minds to the consideration and adoption of it at the earliest possible moment.
I repeat that I am not desirous of superseding elective authority by any form of bureaucratic commission of a kind non-representative for that, in my opinion, would be in many ways an unworkable expedient, and would hopelessly entangle the central and the local administration. My own view is—and I expressed it at some length the other day speaking in the country—my own view is that the immediate difficulty may be, I will not say surmounted, but very largely mitigated, quite apart from the more general question of Poor Law Reform and local administration, if we were, by some form of fusion or aggregation, to enlarge the areas of poor law administration. I am one of those who hold that the Measure for splitting up London into manifold areas was in many respects a mistake. I think it introduced very large complexity into local administration, and if that is true in regard to municipal matters it is still more true in regard to the Poor Law. Here you have got the Poplar Board in isolation. It is in many ways, I agree, almost a unique constituency. Its industrial conditions are peculiar.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Tragic to the last degree. I have expressed more than once, and I repeat that expression now, that I have the greatest sympathy with Poplar authorities in the almost impossible task they have to perform. I have said that before, and I repeat it. I think the difficulties of their task, great as they are, are enormously enhanced by the smallness of the area the relative poverty of the area, the dense population of the area, and the nature of the industries in the area they are called upon to administer. My own conviction is very strong that, by some kind of fusion or aggregation, these difficulties will be very much diminished and the work of local administration and Poor Law administration enormously 393 facilitated. I should like to put those questions to the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure he will give great satisfaction to us if he can answer them, and give some kind of reassurance, which this House also needs, on the larger questions of the form of local government proposed. Be that as it may, these points, which are urgent, ought to be cleared up, and I hope the Government, in this matter, are prepared to give satisfaction to public opinion.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
I think it will be convenient if I follow my right hon. Friend now. I do beg the House to consider the real issue that is at stake. The Minister of Health, in the course of the admirable speech which he delivered, did not offer a single sentence in defence of the Poplar administration. The Government have taken no action in the defence of that administration, and all that my right hon. Friend has done is this. Having come into the Department, and turned his attention to the problems of administration that he had to solve, he found an Order in existence which was a great inconvenience to his predecessor, and had never been put into operation by his predecessor. He thought, after taking the usual advice, and accepting the usual Ministerial responsibility, the best thing to do to overcome the difficulties Poplar presented was to annul the Order, and throw Poplar back on the ordinary law.
That may have been wise or unwise, but that was what was done. All that has happened is that my right hon. Friend now says to the Poplar Guardians, "I am not going to treat you separately or specially. I am not going to give you any preference, but I am not going to place you under any special disabilities. If I act against you under the Mond Order, I am faced with an instrument which, in its very nature, is an unequal instrument, and I do not want to act in that way. I am prepared to enforce legality by the ordinary law, and I prefer to deal with Poplar in precisely the same way as I would deal with Lambeth or Bermondsey." That is all my right hon. Friend has done.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) says that certain suspicions have been raised in 394 consequence of that act. I beg my right hon. Friend to accept my assurance that, in so far as those suspicions exist, they cannot be based on anything which the Government intend to do, or intend not to do. My right hon. Friend has put to me several questions. They require no consideration by me, because the answers are so simple and inevitable that, without any further consideration, I can give my right hon. Friend a reply. He asks me whether any illegal expenditure has been, or will be, sanctioned on account of what my right hon. Friend has done, and I say, "No, none." The Minister of Health has said quite specifically that the law is there. He did not consider that the Mond Order helped him, and he cleared away that Order to enable him to get back on the law himself. The law is there, and he proposes to administer it. No illegal expenditure has been sanctioned or will be sanctioned by what has been done, or by what it is intended to do. That was the intention of the Government all along, and it remains their intention.
The second question put by my right hon. Friend was, would the Minister of Health inform boards of guardians, and particularly the Poplar Board of Guardians, that they must carry out the law. My right hon. Friend's statement on that point is quite clear. He says: "I await the report of the auditor, and I will put the auditor's report into operation when it comes." I think that is a much more straightforward way than what my right hon. Friend's predecessors have done. It is not the case that the audit has been held up on account of the complexity of the accounts. It was held up for 1921–1922 at the time when the next two periods of audit were being carried out. It is said that my right hon. Friend did not give an adequate explanation why the audit was held up, but he says: "I have not got the audit for the latter part of 1922, and when I get it, I am going to put the auditor's report into operation."
I put this point, and if the House cares to make a great deal of it, well, it can do so. My right hon. Friend comes into office and finds this troublesome thing facing him. He asks what has been done, and he finds that nothing has been done. The heroic speech of the right hon. Baronet the 395 Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) to-day is in sad contrast with his paralysed action. All I ask hon. Members opposite to do is to try to put themselves in the position in which we found ourselves when we discovered that extraordinary position of affairs at the Ministry of Health. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, who is a Scotsman, reasoned, with regard to what has been said about waiving the surcharges, that if a Minister could anticipate negatively, then he could anticipate affirmatively what the auditor was going to do. Whether it was sound or unsound I do not know. As I have said, I make a present of that to the House. What will be done, my right hon. Friend says, is that the auditor will report on the latter part of 1922, and on both parts of 1923, and his surcharges will be considered.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Is the auditor to report on 1922 and 1923 on the basis of the Mond Order being in existence, or is it to be swept away for that period?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I assume that the auditor's report will be compiled by himself, and he is independent in the matter. He may report in relation to the Mond Order, or he may report in relation to the general law.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am sorry to interrupt again; I only want to be quite clear. If the auditor reports in regard to the Mond Order, and not in regard to the general law, any surcharge he proposes to make under the Mond Order is already swept away?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think that by far the best way would be for my right hon. Friend to make his decision upon it, and ask the auditor to report under the general law.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
He can ask for a report under the general law. If a surcharge be made under the general law, then my right hon. Friend will consider the surcharge in the ordinary way. But the point I want to make perfectly clear is this, that, as far as surcharge is concerned, the substance of my right 396 hon. Friend's decision is that the injunction and responsibility imposed upon Poplar, imposed upon Bermondsey, imposed upon every board of guardians, will be enforced, on a report on the part of the auditor that enables it to be enforced. That is the situation in which we find ourselves.
The next point is whether the power of surcharge will be retained. I join with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Wheatley) in saying that in my experience the power of surcharge has not been effective. We know perfectly well that, if a board of guardians be surcharged, and if it refuse to pay, and find its way into prison, the Ministry of Health has the board of guardians in prison, and it has a policy of surcharges which it must enforce, at any rate from the point of view of its own dignity. A deadlock takes place; no money is paid, the taxpayer is not relieved, the boards of guardians are "Poplarised," and in the end the situation is the same. The only victim is the poor Ministry of Health, which is given an absolutely impossible law to administer.
I would ask my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley if he would not help us in trying to devise that collateral security. I should be very glad if it were possible to get collateral security that would work equitably and fairly, and would be in accordance with democratic government—collateral security which, in addition to the surcharge, would protect the ratepayer. I think my right hon. Friend knows as well as I do that the only collateral security that is going to be effective in the end is the security of an equitable Poor Law. One technical mistake may have been made in this respect; I do not know. I am not a lawyer, but I think it is far better to make a technical mistake, and relieve the Department of an impossible situation, than to go on in a red-tape frame of mind and get the Department into a hopeless mess. As far as Poor Law administration is concerned, there is this question: Is it possible to deal with London apart from the whole country? I am simply putting the question; I am not going to answer it; but I beg hon. Members to believe that, as soon as they come to details, that is one of the first points which will have to be settled. My own personal view is that you can deal 397 with London administration before you deal with the substance of the Poor Law relating to the whole country. I commit my friends to nothing; I commit myself to that point of view. If the suggestion which has been made for a Joint Committee or a Select Committee be taken up, and communication be made to us through the usual channels that it would be acceptable, it would be a great pleasure to me to set up such a Committee, and get the thing into working order. We have looked into the Maclean Report, and one or two serious difficulties arise. But that must be inquired into and further examined, and further suggestions must be explored and exploited. Certain parts of the suggestions must be taken up, and, if they be workable, they must be met.
I think I have been perfectly can did with the House, and have stated exactly where we stood. Whether or not this is a Vote of Censure, I do not know, but I say this, and I hope the House will be can did with itself. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Twickenham had remained in office, I know that he would never have produced that Bill of which he has talked; nor would the Liberal party, had they come in. I know perfectly well that whoever was the Minister of Health would have been faced with the problem of the existence of the Mond Order. It would have faced everyone who wanted to apply the Poor Law equitably, not only to Poplar, but to other boards of guardians scattered throughout the country. We have dealt with the problem, and, if we have made a technical mistake, I believe we have enabled everyone to get back into the general law, and have cut away a troublesome, confusing and hampering influence, leaving a position in which I think the Department delights to be, namely, that they are once again free to apply the general law.
We propose to apply the general law, and to apply it equitably. I hope that, with these pledges, the House will enable us to go on with the work of the real problem of Poor Law administration, because I am perfectly certain that, with the co-operation of all parties, we can do something in that respect which will make "Poplarism" a terrible nightmare which, fortunately, will belong to the 398 past, because we shall have been able to create a system of Poor Law administration that has relegated it to the past.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
It has been shown by this Debate that the Poplar Guardians have been given the option of conforming to the law as it is to-day, but I rather gather from the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley that he gloried in the fact that they were not going to give way. What I think this House objects to most of all is having the policy of the country dictated to it from Poplar and not from this House. We all of us admire the eloquence and sincerity of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), but, with all his eloquence and sincerity, and all his desire to assist those in poor circumstances, we do not trust his judgment. If any legislation should take place it should take place as the result of consideration in this House, and, as has been suggested by the Prime Minister, after a further conference between local authorities in order to procure a better administration of the Poor Law. I am sure everyone realises that the Minister of Health must have found it impossible, in the short term he has been in power, to deal with a Bill to alter the whole Poor Law, but I am sure there are pigeon-holed in the Ministry of Health innumerable schemes which have been prepared by former Ministers or permanent officials and which have not yet seen the light of day. We do not expect to hear about them to-night, but I welcome the statement, a constructive proposal of the Prime Minister that a conference should be held to consider the matter. There is one thing that ought to be said. It does not seem to be realised that Poplar is largely assisted by the rest of London. To hear the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley, one would think the district had no assistance from the richer boroughs, but we have it on authority that for every pound that is raised by Poplar £7 is contributed by the other districts in London, and we should not go to a Division without that having been mentioned in debate.
I should like to have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) whether the Liberal party are going to a Division on this question and whether they are going to 399 accept the Amendment of the late Minister of Health. I am rather surprised at the attitude of the Liberal party in this matter. They started in this Parliament by urging on the Labour party to go into office, and now they appear to desire to put a curb on their activity. Surely they must have realised that they were putting into power a Socialist party pledged to many of the things which the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley advocates so ably, and I am rather surprised that they should be astonished that this should be done within the first few weeks of the Labour party coming into power. I think also, notwithstanding what the hon. Member has said, there must be some encouragement to people in Poplar to avoid seeking employment. If you give larger sums in relief than are given for work at trade union rates you must be discouraging those individuals from searching for employment. It must be obvious that if you pay a man higher for not working than you pay him when he is working, he probably will prefer to amuse himself—[Interruption.] I know there is that chance, almost certainty, that you are discouraging a man from obtaining genuine work if you give him more when he is out of work than when he is in. I do not think there is any disagreement on that point, and it is admitted that those sums are already given. I should like to suggest to the Minister that when this report of the auditors is received it will be rather instructive to have it published, so that we can see exactly what is proposed and whether the right hon. Gentleman, in his arrangements with the Poplar Guardians, has come to an agreement whereby they will conform to the Regulation which has been made by him and his predecessors. I consider myself that a most rash thing was done when the right hon. Gentleman rescinded this power—though it may only be a moral power—which he had over the Poplar Guardians. I do not believe he has got any advantage in the arrangement he has come to. I have an Amendment on the Paper that some such similar Order under the Act of 1834 should be made in order that the guardians of Poplar may conform more to the Regulations.
May I say one or two words on the general question. Naturally I should like 400 to see legislation to settle this problem of the Poor Law and to obtain the report which has been mentioned this evening. I am not at all sure that a Bill founded on the MacLean report would act when you are dealing with rural districts. I do not believe it is suitable for them, though I am strongly of opinion that in order to secure economy in administration, in order to see that those who are deserving of relief may get the value they are entitled to receive, and that the ratepayers may get full value for the money which is expended, there should be a central authority for dispensing and regulating expenditure when you are dealing with London. I believe it is only by such a scheme that you could obtain true economy in administration. Further we have to realise that in certain districts there are black spots of unemployment which we cannot see at this moment any likelihood will be dissipated in the near future. My hon. Friend below me will probably disagree with what I am going to say. Take the case of Woolwich. I do not know Woolwich, and I have never I been there, but I imagine it is one of these black spots. I cannot understand from a military point of view how you could possibly think it is a suitable locality for manufacturing munitions of war. Look what happened in the last War in the way of bombing. I am aware that nothing very much happened at Woolwich. They missed the arsenal, but in another war Woolwich would be of no good to the country.
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
My hon. and gallant Friend must allow me to correct him there. The whole question as to whether Woolwich Arsenal should be retained in its present position has been before a Committee of the Government, which decided that there is no necessity whatever to remove it, and as regards the dangers which my hon. Friend suggests, it was held by the Committee they would be equally great wherever the Arsenal was put. Therefore I hope my hon. Friend will not suggest that there is any question of moving the Arsenal from that part of London where it has done such very efficient work. It would cause a great deal of anxiety if such a statement was made and was not corrected.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I am sorry that there should be any anxiety in the mind of my hon. Friend or of his 401 constituents. Perhaps I could put it in reference to another part of the country, the representative of which may not be present. I am speaking of black spots where industry is so bad that you feel that you ought to move people to places where they could get regular employment. I am sure it is within the knowledge of hon. Members that there are black spots where it seems impossible for people to get permanent employment. This is a matter which should be considered by the right hon. Gentleman I know that it is not a popular or an easy thing to suggest that people should be removed from one district to another, and I know that the power of selection has been done away with as a harsh measure, but something ought to be done in co-operation with trade unions and with local authorities to try to get people to places where they are likely to get work, rather than to keep them in a stagnant neighbourhood, at the expense of the neighbourhood, and to their own demoralisation. I hope the Prime Minister will refuse to permit the Minister of Health to authorise the Poplar Guardians to exceed the limits of relief authorised by law.
§ Mr. SCURR
With the indulgence of the House I should not have intervened in this Debate had it not been that for 40 years I have been a resident in the Borough of Poplar, and that I am a member of the board of guardians whose actions are now under review. I have had the honour, and have been very proud of that honour, of being Mayor of the borough. As I listened to the Debate, I have been struck with its unreality. I have heard hon. Members on all sides talk about this and that technical aspect of the law. That is, no doubt, very interesting from the point of view of Debate, but it is in no way interesting to those men and women whom we know in the East End of London, who by reason of conditions over which they have no control, and for which they are not responsible, have been compelled to seek the assistance of this wicked board of guardians, whose action is under review. It is quite easy for us to talk in this House, and it is quite easy for us to Debate over these technicalities and to accuse the board of guardians and the administration of Poplar of being reckless and extravagant. I am afraid that hon. Members who make that accusation have not even taken the 402 trouble to look at the official Reports in regard to this matter. There has just been published the Ministry of Health Report for 1922–23, and on page 86 hon. Members will find comments on out-relief for 1922. The year 1922 was the time when the Poplar scale was higher than the scale which is in force at the present time; it was the scale against which the Mond Order was directed. The Report states:There were in February, 18 unions in which the average reached or exceeded 6s. per head, ranging from 7s. 8½d. in the North Bierley Union and 7e. 8d. in the parish of Poplar Borough to 6s. 1¼d. and 6s. respectively in the Greenwich and Llanelly Unions.It is curious that of these 18 Unions, 12 can be placed in two distinct local groups, namely North Bierley (7s. 8½d), Bradford (7s. 3¼d.), Wakefield (7s. 1½d.), Dewsbury (6s. 2¾d.), Hemsworth (6s. 2½d.), and Huddersfield (6s. 2½d.) in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and Poplar Borough (7s. 8d.), Mile End Old Town (7s. 4d.), West Ham (7s. 1¾d.), Bermondsey (6s. 7½d.), Limehouse (6s. 3¼d.) and Greenwich (6s. 1¼d.) in East and South-East London.Thus, the Poplar Board, which is hold up to contumely, has not the highest rate per head in its outdoor relief, and is not spending the greatest amount of money in that direction. It is not reckless and extravagant in any sense of the word. Anyone would think that the people in Poplar have only to come to the board of guardians and to say, "We want some assistance," and immediately it is shovelled out by the members of the board, without any consideration. The accusation has been made against this board that we had too many relieving officers and too many inquiry officers. Because we were attempting to administer the law in a proper manner, even that has been held against us as being a wrong thing. Two inquiries have been held in regard to Poplar, and their reports and their examinations have been political all the time. Never yet have they been able under any circumstances to bring against any member of the Poplar Board, or against the Board collectively, any charges of corruption in regard to the administration, which they have been able to bring against other boards of guardians, and who have had to suffer as a result of their actions.
If we go to every official report, the inspectors of the Ministry of Health have said over and over again that they cannot find the slightest detail in regard 403 to the administration of Poplar with which they can find fault, except this one point on which we are at issue, namely, the claim that children should be called upon to pay their contribution, and more than their contribution, to the support of their able-bodied parents. Instead of the rough and ready methods which are pursued by other boards, if hon. Members would look into our scale, they would find that we have faced the issue clearly. If you were to impose on the children the whole cost of maintaining their parents, or if you claim that because these children are at home therefore there is no destitution, the children have only to leave, they have only to go from one house to the other, from house "A" to house "B," and immediately the whole basis of the Order disappears. Therefore we have to face the situation and to bring common-sense to bear upon it, and we say that the children who are at work contribute towards their homes and should be regarded in exactly the same light as though they were not blood relations but lodgers in the house paying their contributions. We have based our scale on that claim, and I defy any hon. Member to put forward any other claim, or say that any other claim can be legally enforced.
I wish to resent in every possible sense of the word the idea that we in Poplar are an absolutely reckless set of people and do not concern ourselves with the interests of the ratepayers, whether they happen to be large ratepayers or small ratepayers. If hon. Members examine the last returns and will bear in mind that they have not to make a comparison with the rates in the £. The rate in the £ does not matter at all. What you have to measure is the amount which you receive in rates for every penny in the pound. In Poplar we receive £3,755 at present for a rate of a penny. In the Royal borough of Kensington, which is so well known to some hon. Members opposite, they receive £10,773. In the City of Westminster they receive £32,000 for a penny rate. I take the Royal Borough of Kensington for comparison with the borough of Poplar, because the populations are as near as possible. The population of Poplar is 165,700 and the population of Kensington is 179,100. The rateable value of Poplar is £932,204 and the rateable value of 404 Kensington is £2,596,500. Take now the total expenditure of these two boroughs. The total expenditure of Poplar is £1,072,034. The expenditure of Kensington is £1,482,180. Then take the only comparison which will stand examination, the comparison of expenditure per head of the population, and we find that the expenditure in the Royal borough of Kensington is £7 18s. 9d. per head, and the expenditure in Poplar is for everything, including this lavish relief, is £6 5s. 1d. That will tell whether there is extravagance.
If you make a further examination you will discover what is done with the money, because in the Royal Borough of Kensington, over and over again, they have had scathing reports from their own medical officers of health. In Poplar the infantile mortality has been reduced from 106 in 1918 to 60 per 1,000 in 1923, but in Kensington it has only come down from 97 to 82. In Poplar at present there are four public libraries which, last year, issued 452,000 volumes. In the Royal borough, I have been informed credibly, that they have not even a reference library. There are six baths, wash-houses and laundries in Poplar. We have a park in Poplar where its denizens can enjoy themselves and play games. The Royal Borough of Kensington prefers His Majesty's Office of Works to look after them. We have a municipal electricity undertaking which pays a minimum wage of £4 a week to unskilled workmen, and £4 5s. a week to skilled workmen, and the result is that the labour cost per unit is only .06d., while in the nearest commercial undertaking, which does not pay good wages, the labour cost per unit is .24d. Our streets are acknowledged to be well lighted, and to be next to the City of London in regard to cleanliness, and, despite the fact that we spent last year £41,412 on work for the purpose of providing relief, we reduced the debt of the borough last year by £20,657.
I put these facts before the House, because we hear all this nonsensical talk about waste and extravagance in the borough of Poplar, and hon. Members ought to know what are the facts. The one great feature is, that in many ways Poplar is a special borough, in which three special classes of casual workers form the largest section of our popula- 405 tion. There are the dock workers, whose conditions are already well known to Members, as they have been recently exposed in the docking dispute, and there are the building workers and the ship repairers. In these three classes there is the greatest amount of casual labour. We have been in a peculiar position as regards even the residents of our borough during the 40 odd years in which I have lived in it. There is hardly a person who would be termed as belonging to the middle classes living in the borough. Nearly all the shopkeepers who make a profit of over £5 a week will not live in the borough, but will go to Wanstead or some other place, and none of these great ratepayers, who protest in the Poplar Municipal Alliance, live in the borough, though they take care to make their profits out of the borough. Of the teachers who teach in the 71 schools in the borough only six at present live in the borough. All our principal municipal servants, except two, live out of the borough. So I could go through class after class of the community.
We who are here concerned with the administration on behalf of the Poplar Board of Guardians have no apologies to offer. We have nothing to regret. We have stood by this policy, fairly and frankly, and we stand by it still. Nothing which has been said in the course of this Debate has convinced us that we have been wrong in any way. We stand by this policy, because our first consideration is to the poor and needy. It is for them we stand. Perhaps almost at this hour there may be some woman in the West End of London, in one of the big streets, passing through the valley of the shadow of death, because she is bringing a life into the world. She has placed at her disposal the most-skilled medical attention and nursing attention which it is possible to procure, and I would agree with that being done. A child is being born, and I can visualise the future of that child. After it is born it will have every care. As it grows up it will have governesses and tutors, and it will go to the preparatory school, the private school, and the University, and everything will be done for it.
At the same moment down in my own constituency, another woman perhaps is going through the valley of the shadow of death, in a narrow dirty street, with 406 motor trolleys going by making loud noises, with no skilled medical service, because it cannot be afforded, with only just the midwife, who comes in. That child will be born, and there will be nothing for it. Within a fortnight the woman will have to be away from her baby working, because she cannot afford to have a longer rest than that. There will be no skilled nurses for that child. When it is five years of age, after it has been running the streets, an official will come and see it for a few hours a day, so that there may be thrashed into it some kind of education to fit it to go into the labour market, whenever an employer wants to use it, to become a van boy, and then a casual worker, when it grows up to manhood. That is the future of that child compared with the future of the children of most hon. Members on the other side and of those who sit below the Gangway. We do not grudge it to them in any sense of the word, but we do claim that something is due to the people of our class. It is for them that we are fighting, and it is not technicalities of law which we have got to give to these people, and that is the position for which Poplar will stand.
§ Mr. KEDWARD
The hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Scurr) has drawn a picture of poverty which must touch the hearts of all those who have listened to him For a number of years I have been associated with the Poor Law, during the last six or seven years in Bermondsey. The attitude of the Poplar Guardians makes it very difficult for those in poor boroughs like Bermondsey to keep within the law and to administer it properly. I have every sympathy with those people who have to choose between their strong feeling of desire to help the poor and what is their real duty and what is the law. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has suggested that the new scale which is now in force in Poplar is really a very moderate one indeed. I only wish it were within the power of every board of guardians in England to give relief according to the scale laid down by Poplar; but the hon. Member knows well enough that if all boards of guardians gave relief according to that scale, local government would break down and would become bankrupt. Poplar has been held up here as an exception. I represent a 407 borough which is poorer than Poplar, and the neighbouring borough of Southwark is also poorer than Poplar. What are the facts? In 1913 20 per thousand in Poplar were receiving relief. In 1921 it rose to 30 per thousand, and during the 12 months from 1921 to 1922 the figure ran right up to 135 per thousand. There was a great fallacy in the argument of the hon. Member for Stepney, when he said the amount given per head was not greatly in excess of the other places which he instanced. The reason of that is that there is a larger number of people in Poplar who are receiving small amounts of relief which are subsidising their other income which is coming into the house, and that brings the average down per head. There are a number of cases in Poplar in regard to which out-relief would not be given at all in other boroughs, and which receive small amounts which subsidise the other income. Poplar dealt with 10,652,628 cases in 1923 at an expenditure of £579,507 13s. When an enormous number of cases of that kind are dealt with, and you give a number of them relief which really subsidises their ordinary incomes, the comparative figures are no reliable guide as to what is actually taking place in the borough of Poplar. I want to refer again to the scale, and I want to put to the House the case I gave to the hon. Member when he was speaking. Under the present scale, as laid down in the White Paper, a man and his wife and four children would receive 36s. 6d. per week. Two other children, a boy and a girl of 16 and 18, would receive 18s., 10s. for the boy and 8s. for the girl.
§ Mr. KEDWARD
This is a case taken from one of our case papers in Bermondsey with the Poplar scale of relief applied to it. This is the scale of relief which you are defending in this House: a man and his wife and four children, 36s. 6d.; two other children, 18s.; rent for four rooms, 15s.; coal, 1s. 6d.; boots and clothing, on the average, for six children, 5s., and then a man drawing 10s. a week disability pension, which is not taken into account, brings the total amount to £4 6s. per week. That is according to the scale laid down. I am not against 408 such a man and his children having £4 6s. a week. I would like to give him six guineas a week. But is it fair to give him £4 6s. a week relief, when the man next door to him, who may have precisely the same number of children, has to work all the week long for £2 15s.? You have to ask the man who is getting two or three pounds a week to pay an increased rent so that the other man may be put into a privileged position. That is what this House is being asked to consent to. If this House sanctions this, I am prepared to go back to Bermondsey and to say to thousands of men and women who are unemployed, "Come up to us and we will give you £4 a week. They are doing it everywhere in London. The House of Commons has sanctioned it." Where are we going to if we follow this out to its logical conclusion?
The Front Bench of this House by-and-by will be fighting to try to get a minimum wage of 30s. a week for agricultural labourers, and I shall be with them; but I say that if the contention which has been put forward here to-night is right, you ought not to be fighting for 30s. a week for agricultural labourers, but you ought to be demanding, and the Government ought to be granting, £4 a week for agricultural labourers. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because it is absolutely impracticable and impossible in the present circumstances. You ought not in these circumstances to grant relief on such a scale that it penalises all the ordinary casual labourers in London by putting up their rent to keep a number of people in a privileged position.
§ Colonel VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I should not have been disposed to intervene in this Debate, to which I have listened since its commencement with so much interest, if it were not for the fact that I have the honour of representing a division of a London borough which, in certain respects, very closely approximates to Poplar. The borough of Fulham, which has been alluded to by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley in the course of the argument, has a rateable value very much the same as Poplar; it has a population closely approximating to it, and very much the same area, but the amount expended by the Fulham Board of Guardians is very different indeed from the amount expended 409 in Poplar. The difference arises mainly in the matter of administration. No one who knows the facts will allow the contention that the Fulham Board of Guardians are not possessed of the necessary knowledge, experience and sympathy to qualify them for the duties they discharge.
Here I would like to make an allusion to the speech which was made by the hon. Member for North Southwark (Dr. Haden Guest). I am not a guardian, and, therefore, I may speak without any diffidence in admiration of the great work which is done by large numbers of boards of guardians, and by the self-sacrificing and unselfish work of those voluntary workers who sit upon the boards. I noted with regret some of the criticisms which the hon. Member passed on boards of guardians in general. In the case of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), I think I may fairly take up on behalf of the Chairman of the Fulham Board of Guardians the challenge which the hon. Member laid down. The Fulham Board of Guardians have discharged their duties with success, with sympathy and, above all things, with economy. If they had not discharged their duties successfully and to the satisfaction of the ratepayers of the borough, they would not be where they are now, and would not be pursuing, at the end of 30 years, the policy which they have carried on for so long.
The Prime Minister has promised us an inquiry into this question. I trust that when that inquiry is begun it will receive evidence from members of boards of guardians who are highly qualified to deal with the question from a technical point of view in the light of the experience of many years. If the Prime Minister will set up an inquiry of that kind, I am sure that he will receive from boards of guardians every assistance. But I trust that the inquiry will not be set up with any idea of proceeding to the destruction of our existing system of relief. By a massacre of the Poor Law boards of guardians we shall not see any real solution of the troubles which face us. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley alluded particularly to certain boards of guardians which endeavoured to separate parents from their children. That is the great objection I have to the recommendations of the Maclean Report. 410 It would spread amongst several elements the duties that are now discharged by one body, and it would divide the children from their parents when they are receiving relief. It would separate and destroy the sympathy and experience which have been brought to bear on this question. Finally, let me congratulate the hon. Member who has just spoken on a most successful maiden speech. He spoke with sympathy and knowledge of the subject, and I hope that we shall hear more from one who appears to be well qualified to speak on local government.
§ Mr. SPENCE
In rising to address the House for the first time, I, like others, crave its indulgence. I have had close association with the Poor Law as an administrator for 13 years, and for a further period of two years as an official on the emergency side. The great problem of to-day would never have come into being had Governments of the past played their part and accepted as a national responsibility maintenance of the unemployed class. The Government of the day that proposed in 1921 that the onus of responsibility for maintenance of the unemployed should be transferred to the Poor Law, did so because they were of opinion that it was more profitable for them in pursuit of their duties for the moment, with a saving to the Exchequer, to cast the onus of responsibility on the local authority. The local employers of labour were groaning beneath a burden of taxation, and they are singing a song with the object of seeking release from that taxation. In September, 1921, or rather prior to that date, it was not permissible for the Poor Law in Scotland to grant relief to unemployed persons. But the Government decided by an Order in Council, through the agency of the Scottish Board of Health, to ask parish councils to relieve unemployed persons, and the parish councils were led to believe that at a later date they would be reimbursed from the national exchequer.
What has happened? The first problem that presented itself to each parish council was, what was the scale of relief to be paid by them? The psychology of parish councils differs according to the district and according to rating capacity. But scales were established. Then the Scottish Board of Health came along and sought to establish 411 a maximum scale—they did not seek to establish a minimum scale. Accordingly, the people of Scotland have not been well served in the process. I want the House to recognise what happened. The scale established under the auspices of the Scottish Board of Health was as follows: 22s. 6d. for a man and his wife, 7s. 6d. for a child of 16 years or over, and 3s. 6d. for each minor child. By an agreement reached at a meeting held in Edinburgh in September, 1921, it was laid down that the maximum scale of relief "all in" should be 40s., and that any exceptional payments must be made in exceptional circumstances where there was a larger number of minors in the family. I hope hon. Members will pardon my digression, but I wish to bring them to considerations which I think are interesting and which differ from those raised by previous speakers. I desire to show what has happened in Scotland, so that hon. Members may understand the process in Scotland as compared with the process in England. The parish council to which I belong—Old Kilpatrick—and the Glasgow Parish Council, which is adjacent, and the Govan Parish Council absolutely refuse to carry out the proposal of the Scottish Board of Health, because we observed that if we followed their policy we should be faced with a greater burden of expenditure than we undertook in pursuing our own course.
Let us take the case of a man with a wife, one child over 16 and working, and four minor children. Taking the scale I have already quoted, the sum total payable would be 44s. The man himself would be getting 24s. at the Employment Exchange in the normal course, and if the child working were earning 15s., it would make a total of 39s. Placing that against the scale, you have a difference of 5s. which would be paid by the parish council As the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) said, there is no law to compel every member of a family to live in the family, and if the parish council in its wisdom refused to pay 44s. and adopted 40s. "all in," the sequence of events would probably be that the child would go out of the home and in the difference there would be 7s. 6d. additional falling on the parish council. The child having gone away from home would become unemployed in 412 the process of time, as things have developed in Scotland, and then the child would have a claim for 15s. as a lodger from the parish council. It shows that in the administration of relief you cannot work to a fixed scale or a flat rate, and the individual who thinks he can do so as an administrator, will fail when he seeks to put his theory into practice. There are other points in connection with the problems of the parish councils in Scotland. A hue and cry has been raised because of the financial burden placed upon industrial magnates in the industrial centres where unemployment obtains.
Let me quote to the House from official matter in connection with the policy pursued by the Governments of the past in dealing with parish councils. The Old Kilpatrick Parish Concil desired money to accommodate itself in connection with the payment of relief. The only way in which it could secure the money for a goodly number of years was by means of an overdraft, but the Scottish Board of Health objected to that policy and desired that the system should be placed upon a firmer basis. We advertised for money, and in this wealthy country those persons who are possessed of liquid capital would not render unto the needy, even in the various parishes in our own country. We were compelled to apply to the Goschen Committee for assistance. We asked for £123,500, and we were granted that sum at 4¼ per cent. But something more happened. We were compelled to pay £154 7s. 6d. Stamp Duty. Here is a Government seeking to pursue the policy of assisting parish councils and asking those councils to do certain things. Yet when the parish councils are in difficulties and seek an advance, they not only ask for the full penny of the price of money but they also charge Stamp Duty for accommodating the council. Hon. Members should take that into consideration in comparison with the proposal in the Estimates, submitted yesterday, by which the Kenya Colony is to get £3,500,000 placed at its disposal free of interest for five years. I hope hon. Members will reckon up in their own minds what that means and appreciate what is happening.
There is another side to the administration of the Poor Law. I am coming back to a particular point which I think will be of interest to the House, and I hope 413 hon. Members will pardon the digression. The parish council to which I belong noted in connection with its relief administration that when persons not acclimatised to outside work went on to relief work they frequently contracted some form of bronchial disease. The consequence was a heavy drain upon the council. To remove that difficulty we decided to give unemployed persons who had been out of work for six months or longer each a pair of boots to keep their feet dry and enable them to carry on their work, but the Scottish Board of Health objected to that procedure. I could quote many other points as to objections raised by the Scottish Board of Health in these matters. The statement made by the late Minister of Health earlier in the evening is worthy of consideration. When we consider the question of Poplar and of the Mond Order, I, though I am not a lawyer, suggest that the Order has no legal status. It was brought into being under Section 52 of the 1834 Act which governs the ordinary side of the Poor Law. The man in Opposition who seeks to argue that the Mond Order should be applied to the unemployed side, or the emergency side, of the Poor Law in Poplar or elsewhere is arguing that he desires to pauperise the unemployed persons in this country, and there is no Member, either below the Gangway or in Opposition, who will undertake to say that that was his intention when dealing with unemployment. Will they stand on the Floor of this House and tell the people in the country that it was their intention to bring them under the ban of the ordinary Poor Law as it was known prior to the Emergency Act coming into being? If they do they will find themselves in a very funny position indeed.
Coming to the question raised by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), I want the House to recognise the positron he is taking up. He is raising the question of relief versus wages, a position which no reasonably-minded person would permit him to take up, simply because the wages of the working-class people to-day are uneconomic. The decision in the dockers' strike proves it conclusively. Beyond that, on the Clydeside the average wage for a labourer at this moment is 37s., which is most uneconomic for a British family of five. Would any person in any part of the 414 House argue that a man, wife, and seven children should be kept on 30s. a week, which is less than the proposition of the right hon. Member for Paisley? No one would care to do it, and so we have to take into consideration the human element involved. So far as the Mond Order is concerned, the Mond Order is illegal, and let me tell the House what the Scottish Board of Health officials said on the question of relief. In a letter dated 20th October from Edinburgh, when speaking to parish councils and thanking them for the work that they had accomplished, and asking them to economise still further, they make one or two remarks, and one remark, in particular, which is of very great interest. The letter says:From the discussion that took place at this conference referred to, it appeared that while the majority of the parish councils in September, 1921, paid relief according to the scale then suggested, some after a time found it impracticable or inadvisable to continue to do so, with the result that a number have been and are still paying a variety of lower scales. This is in no way remarkable when the varying conditions in different areas are taken into account. The board were satisfied that it would have been impossible for the conference to agree on a uniform scale. Moreover they themselves"—Will the House listen to this, particularly—have no power to prescribe such a scale, even if such were possible in the circumstances.There you are. There you have the Scottish Board of Health, as representing the Law Officers of the Crown, making an emphatic declaration, in the letter which I have read, that they have no power in the question of dictation as to the amount of relief to be paid.
I want to say, in conclusion, that it is true that some hon. Members in this House would cause us to believe that the sword of Damocles was hanging over the head of the Government, but while the House is generally agreed upon this, that the sword hangs by a thread, I should like to say to the right hon. Member for Paisley that the thread itself was not spun in Paisley. I want hon. Members who imagine that we do not know our case to shake themselves and come to the conclusion that we are a real fighting force, and that we know what we are talking about. It may be policy on the part of 415 some individuals, in connection with the party which I represent, to give and take on some things, but I want to say this very clearly and definitely, that, on a definite standard of living for the people in the country, the parish councils will fight for a standard of maintenance high above uneconomic wages, if uneconomic wages are going to prevail in the country.
§ Mr. PERCY HARRIS
I understand the hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington (Mr. Spence), who has just sat down, was making a maiden speech. May I congratulate him on the vigour of his statement, and especially for speaking up for the rights of Scotland, and he was wise in not taking a narrow view of the problem before us, for it is not merely a London question. So far as I am concerned, I should like to thank the Prime Minister for his very clear statement. I think his statement quite justified this Debate. He has cleared the air. We know now where we stand, and anybody who had any doubt whether the law was to be maintained will now be satisfied that the rule of law will prevail; and that, after all, was at the bottom of the Motion moved by my hon. Friend, the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant). There was a feeling that lawlessness was to be countenanced. The very essence of local government has been respect for the law. I have been associated with local government for some 17 years, and I am very jealous of interference with local authorities. If we are going to get men and women to take an active part in local government, it is essential that interference by Government Departments should be as small as possible. Nothing irritates, nothing discourages, local authorities more than constant interference with the ordinary discharge of their duties. One of my quarrels—my only quarrel, really—with Poplar is that the very suggestion that the Order should be evaded, disregarded, or got round is not going to strengthen the local authorities. On the contrary, it is going to strengthen the Central Department.
This country has been very free from what, on the Continent, is known as the Ministry of the Interior. In Continental countries local authorities are bound in every direction. Their work is circumscribed, and they are not trusted, but such a respect is there for law in 416 this country that it has been customary to give a tremendous amount of latitude to local authorities, and that very rarely has been abused. On the contrary, it has been found that local authorities carry out the spirit of the law. May I say to my friends in Poplar, many of whom have given their lives to this very little recognised work of carrying out the law, to be most careful not to give any Government Departments excuses to claim overriding powers. We have had a very clear assurance from the Prime Minister, and I take it also from the Minister of Health, that ha is going to support the law, and at the same time I do hope that the representatives of Poplar who are in this House—not only Members of Parliament associated with Poplar, but also Members associated with the Poor Law, and the municipal work of Poplar—I do hope they will see that they accept that in the spirit and the letter, and will not give the Ministry of Health an excuse to claim powers. I was looking up the other day the Commission on the Poor Law in 1909, still a very interesting document which well repays perusal. One part of their Report says:It is useless to frame laws and regulations if there is no power of continuously enforcing them. This elementary platitude, true as it is of all local enactments, has special force when applied to the laws relating to the relief of the poor. There is a subtle and constant influence, fostered by the kindly instinct of impulsive humanity, which is ever at work sapping and undermining restrictions upon the granting of relief.'My own feeling is that you cannot tie up guardians by closely-worded Regulations. You must give them discretion. Every case must be treated on its merits separately, and however clear the Regulations are, if there is a desire to evade the spirit of the law, these Regulations must break down. If the Debate this afternoon does nothing more, it will be the beginning of the winding up of a long-discredited and unpopular Poor Law. I hope the Government will take it in hand seriously. The Prime Minister seemed to hesitate to grasp the nettle. I can quite appreciate that his hands are very full, and he seemed to suggest to the House that the wisest plan was to deal in a temporary way with London Government. I do not think that is a very wise thing. It is those temporary makeshifts 417 that cause the trouble. We are labouring now under a temporary measure in putting outdoor relief on the Common Fund. I said last year that this was unsound in principle. It is thoroughly unsound to take money from one set of ratepayers and hand it over to another set to spend. It offends all the principles of local self-government, and is found ultimately to lead to extravagance and inefficiency.
Curiously enough, the responsibility for this policy is largely on the shoulders of the rich boroughs. This policy emanated from the Clerk of the City of Westminster. He actually suggested a scheme whereby the rich boroughs were to hand over the money to the poor boroughs to spend without any adequate control. That is sooner or later bound to break down. It is evading the problem. The reason for it was a desire to bolster up the very bad system of London government. Poplars exist in all the very great cities of the country: Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow all have their poor areas. They are sometimes described as slums, consisting of mean streets concentrated in a particular part of the town. But in the provinces these cities are one for local government purposes. It is unnecessary for them to have Common Funds, or Equalisation Funds, because for all local government purposes and Poor Law purposes their areas are united. Because of the selfish policy of the City of London, backed up by the richer boroughs of London, London has always had to put up with a lopsided system. The City of London took up the selfish attitude, in order to keep their ancient privileges, and elect their own Lord Mayor, and, what is more important, to enjoy the city cash. The city has a very nice little nest-egg, which is nearly £300,000 a year, and besides they have a very high assessable valuation, and practically no poverty.
I was looking up to-day the number of poor in the City of London who are granted relief, and it is certainly a revelation. The City of London have their own Poor Law Union, and all the paraphernalia of institutions, not only for ordinary purposes, but also for dealing with lunatics. On the 1st January, 1923, the number of persons in receipt of outdoor relief, other than those unemployed, was 51; the unemployed numbered 6; 418 a total of 57. The number in the receipt of indoor relief was 436. So you can see that though the City of London has the advantages of the city cash, the poverty they have to face is comparatively small. Their greatest asset, apart from the city cash, is their enormous assessable valuation, which amounts to £6,500,000. The actual produce of a penny rate in the city is £25,000, while in Poplar a penny rate brings in only £4,000. Therefore, you can see that the City of London can afford to be extravagant. They can pave their streets with asphalt, light them with electricity, and have all kinds of up-to-date conveniences for carrying on their town and yet have a low rate. It is not surprising that the City of London should backup the City of Westminster inputting the Poor Law relief on the Common Fund. They can well afford to do it, but, what is more important, they bolster up the bad system, which is the root of all the trouble in the County of London.
The County of London is rich beyond the dreams of avarice. The total assessable value in the County of London comes to no less a sum than £50,000,000, but over one-quarter of the assessable value is in the Cities of Westminster and London. That is the root of fill the trouble, and I will, therefore, say to the Prime Minister, do not try to bolster up this system—break it. It is thoroughly bad. It is past praying for, and, until you are prepared to bring London in line with other cities of the country, you will never have any satisfaction in the administration. Far the best way is to face the problem boldly. We are all agreed that Poor Law has to go. It was condemned in 1909, and, as a matter of fact, during the last 10 years, it has been steadily undermined. Not very much of it has been left. Already the principle has been accepted of the able-bodied poor being taken out of the Poor Law by the organization of the Insurance Act. A very great step forward has been made in this Parliament by the abolition of the gap, and it will be far better for the Government to recognise this principle, and complete the insurance system, rather than tinker up the Poor Law, and try to bolster it up by doing away with some of its anomalies. The Insurance Act seems the easiest way, and presents the least line of resistance, and, what is far more important, in the Insurance 419 Act exists the machinery for finding employment.
There is a suggestion, I know, in some quarters that there is a very large population taking advantage of the Poor Law in order to evade finding work. Nothing is further from the truth. The percentage of work-shys, in my experience, is comparatively small. The work-shys have long been known, and have always been able, somehow, to get relief. The people who suffer are those respectable citizens who only as the very last resort go to the Poor Law. There is in existence, alongside the insurance scheme, all the machinery for finding employment. The Employment Exchanges exist for that purpose. In some parts of the country there are in existence Advisory Committees, who make it their business to find employment. On the other hand, in London, and in many parts of the country, that machinery is very weak. The Advisory Committees either do not function or have very few powers. Industries in London are small, badly organised and of a great variety. It is very difficult, as long as the existing machinery remains, for the Employment Exchanges to get men into work. I have suggested in this House last year and this year that the Government, even by administration, might give these Employment Exchanges very much larger powers—powers to take surveys of the industries in their area, find out why they cannot absorb the skilled labour available, whether their machinery is out-of-date, whether any technical skill is not available, whether they cannot find markets, or whatever is the cause. We have in the Board of Trade, and, what is perhaps more important, in the Overseas Department of the Board of Trade, very great machinery for supplying industries with all the information as to markets, and as to the possibilities of oversea trade.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I will not pursue the subject; but I will press the Government that the right way of dealing with this subject is not to bolster up the Poor Law, but to break it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Poplar."] Not to bolster it up, but to break it! The feeling of the country is 420 ready for it. The work of the last ten years has prepared the way. If the Government will have courage and imagination to bring forward a bold scheme I know that we on this side of the House will not give opposition but active assistance. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I understand from the cheers, or the jeers, of hon. Members opposite that they will not vote for it, but will leave that to the Liberal party. The right way is drastic reform; to break up the Poor Law and to carry out the recommendations of the Minority Report of the Royal Commission. Above all, our opinion of the right way to deal with unemployment is so to strengthen our industrial organisation as to make it easier for the man to find work than to apply for relief.
§ Sir DOUGLAS HOGG
The Debate to which we have listened this evening has ranged over so wide a field that I think if I may respectfully say so, that the Prime Minister was right when he said that we must try to concentrate our minds upon what is the real issue at stake. We are not discussing whether the principles of the Act of 1834 were wise or unwise. We are not discussing whether the Scottish Board of Health wisely administers the Poor Law in Scotland. We are not discussing whether funds which come from the City of London should go to assist other areas or be devoted to the cause of secondary education, which both the hon. Member, who spoke last, and myself have so much at heart. It must make one pause before we seek to rob that particular hen roost.
What is the real point of this Debate? [HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I wonder if hon. Members opposite will equally applaud my answer? The real point of this Debate is whether or not the Minister of Health is to be allowed by executive action to achieve that which is really the province of the legislative action of the House of Commons. Let us see what it is that the Minister of Health admits that he has done. He has told us that almost as soon as he became Minister a deputation from the Poplar Board of Guardians asked what he was going to do on, I think, four specific topics, two of them are of comparatively minor importance as to which he said that he would take time to inquire as to what were his legal powers. It is a pity 421 that he did not take time to inquire what were his legal powers about one of the other two. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think it is just as well to inform hon. Members that they should listen to the arguments.
§ Sir D. HOGG
The two matters upon which the right hon. Gentleman took no risk of making inquiry were the two with regard to which he gave an immediate and definite promise. He promised the Poplar Board of Guardians to use his own words "That he would rescind the Mond Order, and remit all surcharges which might thereafter be made under it." May I for a moment pause on that latter promise. Hon. Members opposite in their historical researches are apt to refer with satisfaction to the struggle people made in the days of the Stuart Kings against the over-riding power of the Executive, and if they pursue their studies a little further in that direction they will find that one of the powers most abused, and the most frequent instrument of oppression, was the use by the Executive of the dispensing power, that is the right to promise people, before they were convicted, that they would be pardoned, whatever they had done. It is that promise which has been asserted now for 300 years to be illegal which the Minister of Health revives for a Socialist administration.
It is all very well for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to come down here and tell us that he can assure the House that no illegal expenditure has been sanctioned, but the promise of remission of a surcharge for an illegality is the sanctioning of an illegal expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman says, "We can get over that difficulty," and what is the cure which he proposes? He says that now that the Minister has promised that he will let off the Poplar Board of Guardians for all surcharges made under the Mond Order, the difficulty can be overcome by instructing the auditor not to make the surcharges. In other words, because the Minister has exceeded his powers in promising a pardon, an officer is to be instructed to break the law which he is bound to observe. This is another good illustration of Socialist administration and respect for law and order. [Interruption.] I am not surprised, Mr. Speaker, that hon. Members opposite do not like to hear the 422 truth. I have simply stated what was expounded by the Prime Minister in the statement he made not two hours ago. The Minister of Health seems, if one may follow his speech as truly expressing his mind, wholly to mistake what is the charge that is made against him in this regard. It is, first of all, that he has done an Act which is wholly illegal, and, secondly, that he has done it in such a way as to amount to a direct encouragement to boards of guardians to break the law.
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be quite shocked at the picture which he drew in his very able speech, of himself as encouraging gangs of guilty guardians to spend too much money, and he said it was much better to allow the guardians to spend more liberally than to produce the danger of riot and discontent by keeping them down to too rigid a scale. But has the right hon. Gentleman remembered how much he discourages honest boards of guardians to resist pressure, by such a course of action as he has adopted? We have heard from the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley that, in Poplar at any rate, they are quite ready to yield to pressure, and he seemed rather proud that, when they had fixed what they thought it was fair to pay, if only those claiming relief made themselves sufficiently disagreeable they gave way and paid more. Can one imagine anything more calculated to encourage that sort of pressre by disorderly persons than such a course of action as the right hon. Gentleman has followed?
§ Mr. SEXTON
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why his party lent them £500,000 or £600,000 to carry on with?
§ Sir D. HOGG
I cannot help thinking that the hon. Gentleman cannot have been here during the earlier part of the Debate, because, if he had been here, he would have heard that that is not in the least what my party did. The late Minister of Health explained what he did, and if the hon. Member heard him I do not understand why he asks that question, because the answer is so simple. What the late Minister did, as he himself told the House, was to allow advances, not for the purpose of illegal expenditure in excess of the scale, but for the purpose of paying the scale authorised to be received out of the Metropolitan Common 423 Poor Fund, and charged upon the amounts which were going to be received out of that Fund.
I pass from the first act of illegality, and come to the other Order which the right hon. Gentleman made—I mean the Order rescinding the Mond Order of 1922. The Prime Minister, with that persuasiveness and bland innocence which he knows so well how to employ, said, "Well, all that we were doing was really to put Poplar back into the same position as the rest of the community, and to bring them under the general law." That sounds very attractive if one ignores all the history that led up to the Mond Order. But, again, it is as well to face facts, and we have to remember how the Mond Order came to be enacted. It was, as we know, because there had been repeated complaints of gross extravagance against the Poplar Board of Guardians, and, as a result, a gentleman, Mr. Cooper, was sent down to inquire into the justification for those allegations. We have Mr. Cooper's Report, with regard to which it is no use, if the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley will forgive me for saying so, trying to manufacture a grievance by saying, "We did not give evidence at the inquiry, or this, that or the other happened at the inquiry which we did not like"—because they themselves have admitted that his charges are true.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
There are at least three cases—one that of a man who had a relief of £4 something a week, which he gave as a sample case where a man would be induced not to work. That man had 10 children and a wife and pays nearly £1 a week rent, and went to work within a week of coming on relief.
§ Sir D. HOGG
The hon. Member has, I think, unintentionally missed the point of what I was saying. Mr. Cooper in his report has set out at length a number of facts and then arrived at certain conclusions.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member must please not be on his feet when I am on mine. However much other 424 Members may have disagreed with his speech, they allowed him to continue, and he must now allow the right hon. Gentleman to speak.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
On a point of Order. When an hon. Member rises to make a correction and the Member who is speaking gives way, is not that sufficient to allow the hon. Member who has risen to make a correction to proceed without any interference or interruption from other hon. Members? That is what happens here.
§ Sir D. HOGG
I hope you, Sir, know, and the House knows, that I am never unwilling to give way to a correction, but really I think if the hon. Member will listen he will see it is no good making this particular interruption, because what I was saying is this, and I do not think he can challenge it. Mr. Cooper made a report in which he set out a number of detailed allegations and finished up with a number of conclusions, and when that report had been published the Poplar Board of Guardians published a reply, which they headed "Guilty and proud of it." When a prisoner pleads guilty it is only sentence that remains. Mr. Cooper having published that report embodying those conclusions which found the Poplar Guardians guilty of gross extravagance, thereupon the Ministry of the day made an Order under his powers under the 1834 Act fixing a limit of expenditure which they should incur for the future with individual cases and fixing what is called the Mond scale. From that time onwards, to use the language of the Minister of Health, the Poplar Board of Guardians have ostentatiously defied the law to the tune of about £2,000 a week, I think he said, and what the right hon. Gentleman has done is not because there was anything wrong with the Order of Sir Alfred Mond, because he says himself he had not had time to look into the question of the scale, not because 425 there was anything Wrong with the scale, but because he knew that the Poplar Guardians said that they would not obey the law, he has proceeded to rescind it. That is what I call giving in to illegality. That is the complaint we make against the right hon. Gentleman. It is not, as he suggested, and as no one here would ever for a moment suggest, that the silliest man who ever came from the country had wandered into the Ministry of Health. Nobody who has ever heard the right hon. Gentleman make a speech, least of all those who heard him speak this evening, would suspect him of that. What we do say is that if he practices in future the principles which he has put into force so far, he is one of the most mischievous men that has ever gone into the Ministry of Health. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley has told us that his principle is that there will be no cure for unemployment—I have got his words as nearly as I could—until we make it cost more to the employing classes for people to be out of work than in work. In other words, you are to make unemployment more expensive than having work to do.
§ Sir D. HOGG
I have quoted the hon. Member correctly this time. That, no doubt, is an honest conviction of the hon. Gentleman; I do not for a moment suggest the contrary. We on this side of the House are quite prepared to fight that principle in the House of Commons, and it will be interesting in those days to hear whether the Prime Minister and his colleagues on the Front Bench, who have so lately been discovering that the one way to cure unemployment is to encourage trade, are going to endorse a policy which consists in discouraging trade in order to destroy employment. We are not afraid of fighting that issue when we get the chance, but what we do complain of is that that issue is pre-judged behind the back of the House of Commons in such a way that we are not allowed to fight it. There can be no better way of encouraging people who believe in that sort of policy to practice what they preach than the administrative action which has been adopted by the Minister of Health.
We are asked by the Prime Minister to treat this as merely a technical mistake. I am sorry that we on this side cannot regard it in that light, and I hope that 426 hon. Members below the Gangway on the opposite side will not be quite so ready to take that point of view. [An HON. MEMBKR: "Come over and help us!"] The Government has had to appeal for help before now to both sides of the House. It is quite true that the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) propounded three carefully-worded questions, to which the Prime Minister gave three carefully-worded replies. The two right hon. Gentlemen are not here now, so I cannot ask them if either knew what the other was going to say, but it is quite true that after this explanation and the exchange of olive branches Members of the Liberal party got up and said, "After all, Poor Law reform is the thing; do not let us say anything more about this matter." A very distinguished leader of the Liberal party, whose absence we all regret, and who is an authority on this subject, Sir Donald Maclean, expressed his opinion only yesterday. What he is reported to have said is—I wonder whether his friends in this House will take his point of view—
§ Sir D. HOGG
What Sir Donald Maclean said yesterday was this:Parliament should register its disapproval of the action of the Minister of Health in rescinding the Order of 1922. If not, it would set its seal to complicity with successful efforts to break the law.I wonder which way they are going to vote. We cannot regard this as a technical mistake. We regard it as a deliberate attempt to use the executive power to condone breaches of the law, as a deliberate encouragement to the extreme section of the Socialist party to defy the law, and as an example of what we have heard too often threatened outside the House, that is, that because the Socialist party know that they cannot carry their programme in the House of Commons, they attempt to put it into practice without bringing it before our judgment. It is on those grounds that I, and those associated with me, intend to register the strongest protest which we can, both in the House and in the Division Lobby, against the action which has been taken, and it is on those grounds that we appeal to all those who believe that the law ought to remain in the hands of the House of Commons, and that the Executive ought not to be 427 allowed to defeat it or break it at will, to support us in the action which we are taking.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Patrick Hastings)
I trust there is no Member of this House who will expect that in rising to-night I am proposing to say one word about this matter from the legal point of view. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I gather from the applause with which that has been received that everybody agrees that the question of law, if it had been thought to be a question of law, should have been introduced at a time of the evening which would have permitted the Government to give a reasoned reply, and not a few moments before eleven o'clock, when everybody must realise that it would be impossible to try to go into any law in this matter, if there were any, which there is not.
I yield to no one in my intense admiration for the legal knowledge of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir Douglas Hogg). He told us that everything which had happened was illegal, but he quite omitted, in the short time at his disposal, to tell anybody in what way anything which had been done was illegal, or what it was that was illegal. I cannot help thinking that the reason he spoke was because he desired, in the course of the time which he occupied, to make one or two observations which had nothing to do with the law, and which I say quite frankly I, for my part, and I think all those who are with me, if he will allow me to say so, regret and resent. He seems to suggest that some Members of His Majesty's Government are under the impression that there is something in my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health's attitude which we desire to excuse. I may say at once that, from my point of view (and I say it not that I expect anyone to accept it, but I say it with a full sense of that responsibility which is carried not merely by a Minister but by every member of that most honourable profession of the law) there is nothing illegal at all in what my hon. Friend has done, from beginning to end, and there is not a single person, except the editors of daily papers, who has ever been able to suggest in what way anything he has done is illegal from beginning to end. There is nothing which 428 I desire to excuse either as a lawyer or as a Minister, and there is nothing which anybody else has to excuse. My right hon. Friend said—and I cannot help thinking that he must regret it now—that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had come here with some sort of plan to give carefully prepared answers to carefully prepared questions. I tell him here and now that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had not the faintest idea what the questions were, and had not the slightest opportunity, even if he so desired, of making carefully prepared answers, and I very much regret that the suggestion has been made.
If we consider what we are really discussing, without heat, I hope (and until my right hon. Friend addressed the House I saw no signs of heat) I may tell my right hon. Friend that what I have been waiting for, and what I believe everyone of my Party has been waiting for, and what I believe every single person in this House and outside it, has been waiting for is this. We wanted to hear a statement from my right hon. Friend to this effect—as to what he would have done with the Mond Order if he had been sitting where my friend has been sitting. There is no subtlety about this. What stands out to my mind, and to everybody's mind, I believe, who is really interested in this matter, is this. We know-that ever since September 1922 there have been these surcharges for six months, and for 18 months. What was to have happened in the future? Is it suggested by my right hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Minister would have been acting more in accordance with the law if he had done what the right hon. Gentleman did for 18 months—and that was nothing. My right hon. Friend approves. I agree with him. The view we have on this side of the House is that the late Government never did do anything. That is why we are here. If my right hon. Friend taunts us by saying that we have already had to appeal to Members below the Gangway, and sometimes to his own friends, the answer is that it is no fault of ours that we are not in a majority in the House. We are bound to remember that there will always be a time when any person who likes can put down a Motion. The Amendment of my right hon. Friend has just about as much to do with the action of the Minister of Health as if 429 he had put forward a claim that he does not approve of Socialism. We know that he does not approve of Socialism. The Amendment says that he does not agree with the action of the Minister of Health. The Prime Minister has already stated in the House that there is nothing that the Government has done to approve the action of the Poplar Guardians—nothing at all. Does he not believe that statement? Docs he not believe the Prime Minister? Or does he think that the Prime Minister was guilty of some unworthy subterfuge in making that observation, when he stated in terms that there was nothing that had been done, and nothing which would be done which would express any approval of the action of the Poplar Guardians or which would fail to comply with the law.
Therefore when my right hon. Friend who spoke last said that we must consider what is the Motion before the House, I quite agree with him. If the object of my right hon. Friend in moving this Amendment really was to get an adverse vote against the Government, my answer is that any body of Members in this House, if they like to combine, can always get such a vote, and can
§ get it on a Motion which has no more to do with the action of any individual Minister than has this Amendment. There is no merit in a thing of that sort. Any one of my hon. Friends opposite could put down a Motion to say that he did not agree with Socialism. My right hon. Friend opposite could get up and make one of his usual impassioned speeches, which angers everybody on the Benches behind me. He could always taunt us by saying that we are Socialists. Surely nobody opposite is in any doubt that the party in office is largely composed of Socialists, because they tell us so themselves. I do not mind if they ask me my views. I would not hesitate to tell them my views on the matter. I should have liked to have said something upon this Motion which has something to do with the action of the Ministry, but as the time has gone, I resume my seat.
§ Question put: "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 228; Noes, 295.433
|Division No. 9.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt, R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray|
|Alexander, Brg.-Gen. Sir W. (Glas. C.)||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Ferguson, H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)||FitzRoy, Captain Rt. Hon. Edward A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Forestier-Walker, L.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Chilcott, Sir Warden||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Clarry, Reginald George||Gates, Percy|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Clayton, G. C.||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Greaves-Lord, Walter|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cope, Major William||Gwynne, Rupert S.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cory, Sir Clifford||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Harbord, Arthur|
|Blundell, F. N.||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry Page||Harland, A.|
|Bowyer, Capt G. E. W.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Brass, Captain W.||Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hogbin, Henry Cairns|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Burman, J. B.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hogge, James Myles|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Dixey, A. C.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Hood, Sir Joseph|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Duckworth, John||Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.)|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Hopkinson, A (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Elveden, Viscount||Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland, Northrn.)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Hughes, Collingwood||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Stanley, Lord|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Pease, William Edwin||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Pennefather, Sir John De Fonblanque||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Penny, Frederick George||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Johnson, Sir L. (Walthamstow, E.)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Perring, William George||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Kedward, R. M.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Raine, W.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Rawlinsor, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon, S.)|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Rawson, Alfred Cooper||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of.|
|Lane-Fox, George R.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col K. P.|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Romer, J. R.||Waddington, R.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Remnant, Sir James||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Rentoul, G. S.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Lumley, L. R.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Wells, S. R.|
|Lyle, Sir Leonard||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Weston, John Wakefield|
|Lynn, Sir R. J.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Wheler, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.|
|M'Connell, Thomas E.||Ropner, Major L.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|MacDonald, R.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|McLean, Major A.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Russell-Wells, Sir S. (London Univ.)||Wise, Sir Frederic|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Meller, R. J.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Savery, S. S.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A. C. (Honiton)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)||Commander Eyres-Monsell and|
|Nesbitt, Robert C.||Smith Carrington, Neville W.||Colonel Rt. Hon. G. A. Gibbs.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Collins, Patrick (Walsall)||Gray, Frank (Oxford)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Compton, Joseph||Greenall, T.|
|Adsmson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Alden, Percy||Costello, L. W. J.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Cove, W. G.||Groves, T.|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Grundy, T. W.|
|Alstead, R.||Crittall, V. G.||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Derbyshire, C. W.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Davies, Evan (Ebbw vale)||Hall, G. H. (Me'thyr Tydvil)|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hardie, George D.|
|Banton, G.||Dickie, Captain J. P.||Harris, John (Hackney, North)|
|Barclay, R. Noton||Dickson, T.||Harris, Percy A.|
|Barnes, A.||Dodds, S. R.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon|
|Batey, Joseph||Dukes, C.||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Duncan, C.||Hastings, Sir Patrick|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Dunn, J. Freeman||Hastings, Somerville (Reading)|
|Birkett, W. N.||Dunnico, H.||Haycock, A. W.|
|Black, J. W.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Hayes, John Henry|
|Bonwick, A.||Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Hemmerde, E. G.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Egan, W. H.||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Briant, Frank||Falconer, J.||Hillary, A. E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Finney, V. H.||Hindle, F.|
|Bromfield, William||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hirst, G. H.|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H.||Hobhouse, A. L.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Foot, Isaac||Hodges, Frank|
|Buchanan, G.||Franklin, L. B.||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Buckie, J.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Hudson, J. H.|
|Cape, Thomas||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Isaacs, G. A.|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Church, Major A. G.||Gillett, George M.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Clarke, A.||Gorman, William||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)|
|Climie, R.||Gosling, Harry||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W. Derby)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Oliver, George Harold||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)||Stranger, Harold|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Owen, Major G.||Sullivan, J.|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)||Paling, W.||Sunlight, J.|
|Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Palmer, E. T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Tattersall, J. L.|
|Keens, T.||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)||Terrington, Lady|
|Kennedy, T.||Perry, S. F.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Phillipps, Vivian||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Pilkington, R. R.||Thomson, Walter T. (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Lansbury, George||Ponsonby, Arthur||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Laverack, F. J.||Potts, John S.||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Law, A.||Pringle, W. M. R.||Thurtle, E.|
|Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Purcell, A. A.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Lawson, John James||Raffan, P. W.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Leach, W.||Raffety, F. W.||Tout, W. J.|
|Lee, F.||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Lessing, E.||Rathbone, Hugh R.||Turner, Ben|
|Lindley, F. W.||Raynes, W. R.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Linfield, F. C.||Rea, W. Russell||Varley, Frank B.|
|Livingstone, A. M.||Rendall, A.||Viant, S. P.|
|Loverseed, J. F.||Richards, R.||Vivian, H.|
|Lowth, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Lunn, William||Ritson, J.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|McCrae, Sir George||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Robertson, T. A.||Warne, G. H.|
|M'Entee, V. L.||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Mackinder, W.||Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Romeril, H. G.||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Rose, Frank H.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Madan, H.||Royce, William Stapleton||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Mansel, Sir Courtenay||Royle, C.||Weir, L. M.|
|March, S.||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Scrymgeour, E.||Westwood, J.|
|Marley, James||Scurr, John||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Sexton, James||Whiteley, W.|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Sherwood, George Henry||Wignall, James|
|Maxton, James||Shinwell, Emanuel||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Millar, J. D.||Simon, E. D. (Manchester, Withingtn.)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Mills, J. E.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Montague, Frederick||Simpson, J. Hope||Williams, Lt.-Col. T. S. B. (Kenningtn.)|
|Morel, E. D.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Williams, Maj. A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|Morris, R. H.||Sitch, Charles H.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smillie, Robert||Willison, H.|
|Morse, W. E.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Mosley, Oswald||Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Windsor, Walter|
|Moulton, Major Fletcher||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Muir, John W.||Snell, Harry||Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.|
|Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Wright, W.|
|Murray, Robert||Spence, R.||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Murrell, Frank||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Stamford, T. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Nichol, Robert||Starmer, Sir Charles||Mr. J. Robertson and Mr. T.|
|Nixon, H.||Stephen, Campbell||Griffiths.|
|O'Grady, Captain James|
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next (3rd March).