HC Deb 08 May 1925 vol 183 cc1395-414

Order for Second Reading read


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I was congratulating myself this morning that the Bill which was first on the Order Paper for to-day was one which would meet with ready and early acceptance, so that the way would be paved for a discussion of this Blind Persons BM. and I think we have a right to say that we might have expected that what was said by the Home Secretary would have brought the previous discussion to a much earlier end than was the case. The Blind Persons Bill is not a party political Measure. It is a matter of humanitarian interest, which I would have thought would appeal to every Member of the House. There is, comparatively speaking, only a small number of blind persons in the country, yet their number is sufficiently large to make it imperative that we should take action to place upon the community the responsibility for providing sustenance for all those who are unable to look after themselves, for training those who are capable of being trained, for finding work for those who have been trained, and for providing sustenance for those who, by the very nature of their disability-, arc prematurely old. Last year, when my hon. Friend the Member for the Tradeston Division of Glasgow (Mr. T. Henderson) introduced a somewhat similar Bill, there were expressions of sympathy and support from all parts of the House, and his Bill received an unopposed Second Reading. There was no cavilling or other objection at the expense proposed to be incurred towards the better maintenance of blind persons. Indeed, there was a feeling in every section of the House that the proposals of my hon. Friend did not go far enough and that ample provision should be made at a much earlier age than that of 30. as was proposed by him

In placing this Bill before the House this year, I feel confident, or, at least, I did feel confident, that, although there has been a change of Government and in large measure a change of personnel in the membership of the House, every Member would feel that of all the classes (.f afflicted persons there is none deserving of greater encouragement than the Hind in their efforts to secure for themselves a place in the industry of the country. We have learned from experience and information the capabilities of blind persons. It is perfectly true that blindness, coupled with other forms of disease, renders many of them unemployable, but we have not gone as far as we might to make all those who are capable of being trained industrious and useful citizens

St. Dunstan's, of which we all know, and which for ever will be associated with the name of the late Sir Arthur Pearson, has shown us what blind persons can learn to do. A year ago we were told of the remarkable efficiency- of its training. in addition to the ordinary occupations, such as basket-making, mat-making, and the like, which blind persons usually follow, we were. told that some of them had become expert shorthand-typists and masseurs, and earned a comfortable subsistence from those pursuits. And if that were not remarkable enough, my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir It Newman), told us of a man blinded in the War, or, at least, blinded in war, who had become an expert landscape gardener. Such is the God-given aptitude of these people if they are mentally fit. I do not think it necessary for me to remind the House that at one time we had a Postmaster-General who was blind, and who was, if I may be allowed to say so, a gentleman who showed himself an administrator and statesman of no mean order. I would also remind the House that we have got in this /louse to-day an hon. Member who is blind, and in the last Parliament we had another hon. Member who was blind. I will not say anything concerning them, other than that the constituents who elected them to represent them in this House, conferred upon themselves and upon their constituency a very high honour indeed

I gladly admit that much has already been done. Not for a moment would I minimise or belittle the work of voluntary organisations. The genesis of all practical help begins in sympathy. Sentiment impells us to help. Our hearts expand, and, according to our means, our pockets respond. That is true of all sections in the land, even the very poorest of our people. But at first our knowledge is limited, and we only think of, and respond to, the cases that come within our individual ken. But the evolution of sympathy is at first, personal, and then collective in its distribution of help and charity towards these people. Voluntary organisations have sprung up, which have adopted various methods of dealing with the lot of the afflicted, the most important effect of which has been that it has turned stranded, lonely and helpless people into industrious workers and citizens. That has been done by the voluntary organisations, in a very large measure, for a number of blind people, but those very organisations by their work, through their experience, by the information and knowledge collected, fully demonstrate the clamant need of tackling the problem of the blind by municipal and national organisation and assistance, instead of leaving it to eleemosynary, charitable and semi-charitable institutions. With the very best intention in the world, under our present system, some are trained, but others are left to eke out a bare subsistence from the cold charity of the street, which, to my mind, is even worse than the degradation of the workhouse

The Blind Persons Act, 1920, was a step forward—the first step towards coordinating the work of the voluntary organisations. It imposed on certain local authorities the duty of promoting the welfare of the blind and of providing workshops, homes, and hostels. It laid down the principle that every section of the community should bear its share of the training, education, and maintenance of the blind. But the Act does not go far enough. That was admitted in this House when last year the House gave an unopposed Second Reading to the Bill then before it. The Act of 1920 gives pensions to blind people at the age of 50, and it makes arrangements for enabling the local authorities to promote the welfare of the blind by providing, or assisting in the provision of, places for them to work and to reside in. The Bill which we present to-day, and which I regard as a non-party Measure, provides that every blind person of 16 years and upwards is to receive 25s. a week for his (or her) maintenance. But we are not anxious that they should get this money. Our purpose is that we should impose the duty on the local authorities of seeing to it that all those who are capable of working should get work, and as a result of the work get payment for that work, which we say, in our Bill, should not be less than the unskilled labour rate in the district in which is the institution

May I be allowed to say that it is in the interests of the country, as well as in the interests of the blind, that every blind person should receive training in this direction if they are able to profit by it. It is good business to train blind people in the best possible way, but up. to the present we cannot do that: we are hampered through lack of resources. Every blind person should be looked after. We cannot discharge our duty to the blind by expressions of sympathy, nor yet by the loose organisation of generous compassion. The blind, no doubt, are grateful for both, but our duty is to translate our sympathy and our compassion into effective assistance, so that we may place within their reach a fair chance to fight the battle of life for themselves. Give them the feeling and the knowledge that they are doing their bit to secure their own well-being. Enlarge the scope of their activities, and —if I may say so—widen the conditions of their otherwise restricted life. Present arrangements lead to unequal payments to those who do work. This Bill will remedy- that defect. It seeks to give security of income and security of livelihood. It will do away with the necessity of seeking Poor Law relief and it will put an end to differentiation in the rates of the augmentation of income between one person and another. It will remove the sense of injustice which is inherent in unequal rates of remuneration being paid to men doing the same work in the same workshop. Under our Bill their payment will be determined by the rate of the unskilled labourer in the district in which the workshop in which they work is situated, and the county councils and the county boroughs will become responsible for securing and making permanent institutions for the welfare of the blind

My luck in the Ballot made it inevitable that I should receive letters from workers among the blind, and from blind persons themselves, telling me of their pitiable loss, of their hard, sad and bitter experiences. I am not quoting these cases. 'Many Members, no doubt, know of cases for themselves. The best thing we can do is to to take steps to remove from the streets at the earliest possible moment every blind person who is so blind as to be unable to perform work for which eyesight is essential. Our object should be to empty our workhouses as soon as possible—I understand, from a question answered the other day, there are 3,000 blind persons in our workhouses— and provide the blind people in them with a maintenance which would keep them secure above the need of Poor Law relief. Further than that I should like to see an end put to the spectacle of young persons accompanying blind persons in their painful and irksome itinerancy in hail, sleet and snow when going from door to door selling small commodities to the charitably inclined. All these things indicate to me that the voluntary associations, despite the good work they have done, are not in a position to tackle the problem of the blind. It behoves us to give to the local authorities further powers, and to make it imperative that they should see that assistance is given to all those to whom assistance can be rendered, that all those who can be trained are trained, and, on the top of that training, see that work is found for them

I would like to refer for a moment to a speech made last year by the present Minister of Education. It was not an ungenerous speech, it was not an antagonistic speech, in fact, he did not oppose the Bill then before the House; but he referred to other afflicted persons who, he thought, were equally hampered by their afflictions, and he described them as the winnowings of humanity. May I say to hon. and right hon. Members opposite that because we cannot afford at one stroke to do all we ought to do at one time for the afflicted, that surely that is no reason why we should not do what we can for the blind now, for, as I have said, they seem to be the most deserving of the afflicted people in the country. I can imagine no greater affliction than to be horn blind; it is a tragedy, it is a disaster. if there is anything worse than being horn blind, it befalls those who may have had their sight, who have looked on the beauties of the earth and of the sky, who have looked into the eyes of friends and comrades, and who have; then lost their sight through some heroic deed on the battlefield, or in the mine, or in the factory. They, undoubtedly, are even in a worse position than those who have been blind all their days. For them, as well as for those who have been blind from the beginning, we bespeak the sympathy of the House can speak feelingly on this matter as no doubt other hon. Members can, because within the last year or two I have found myself under the necessity of wearing glasses. Now and again I have thought what this would have meant to me if I had been working in the engineering shop, because my status might have been reduced on that account, and in some other trades it might have meant that I should have been thrown into the whirlwind of unemployment

I have already referred to die speech made by the Minister of Education, and I have stated that it was not an antagonistic speech. Three weeks ago it was my duty to spend my week-end in the constituency represented by the Minister-of Education. I was not there altogether on party political propaganda, but I was dealing with a question which Members of all parties in this House are intensely interested in, namely, the need for putting an end to war. In the evening 1 went to a service at the congregational church. There, quite unknown to myself, I found a Minister making an appeal on behalf of the blind people of this country, and he was appealing to those inside the church to do what they could on behalf of the blind. He took for his text: He has set my feet upon a rock; he has established my goings. I have no hesitation in passing that appeal on to my hon. Friends in all parts of the House, because I think it is our duty to do all we can to establish our blind people on a rock of economic security and secure for them peace and happiness in life

Captain FRASER

The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill said this was not a party Measure. With all sincerity I say that I wish that I could take that view of it. I hope a e shall in the end be able to deal with this question in a manner which is not party In the few remarks which I am going to make I shall try to secure that end. This Bill must be a party Measure when we reflect that it includes a principle which the Mover of the Bill must know is unacceptable to this House, and that is the principle of municipalising all the enterprises and institutions which care for the blind. We cannot accept the suggestion so frequently made that because we do not desire to municipalise these organisations we are necessarily unsympathetic. We claim to be as sympathetic as anybody else, hut we disagree on this point

The position is that a year ago a Bill was introduced, and it is plain that what met on that occasion with very general support was the main theme, namely, that this great and wealthy community of ours, should do something for the blind people who are not at the present time being properly cared for. That was common to all the speakers in that Debate, and any hon. Member who has read the Debate in the OFFICIAL REPORT on that occasion must have seen that that was so. If this Debate could be prolonged I do not doubt that the same result would be shown, namely, that there is on all sides the general desire to do something in this matter for the blind, and yet we are bound to disagree about methods, and if this question is forced to a Division I fear that no very useful result from the point of view of blind people will immediately arise

I do not think that anyone here will desire merely that the end of this Bill should be the same as the end of the last Bill. I think it is fair to say in passing that right hon. Gentlemen who lead the party above the Gangway will be the first to recognise the extraordinary difficulty which any Government would have in accepting a Bill of this kind, having regard to the fact that they were not willing to give time for the discussion of the Bill for which they expressed their sympathy at the time of the Second Reading. Appeals were made from various quarters, and the Under-Secretary, who replied for the Government, or who spoke on behalf of the Government a year ago, said that for years past it had been the Labour party's policy to give special consideration to the welfare of the blind, and, under those circumstances, he felt certain that very sympathetic consideration would be given to the Bill by his Government. In fact, time was not found. I do not suggest that there was any other reason than perhaps that they had not time for it. The fact, however, remains that an opportunity which might perhaps have been taken was neglected, and I suspect that it was largely neglected because the right hon. Gentleman found that the difficulties of putting such a Bill into practice were very great indeed. Those same difficulties apply to this Bill, and I want, in a few brief words, to venture a suggestion which may perhaps lead to some useful purpose, which I am compelled to think that this Bill under present circumstances will not do

It is now 11 years since a Committee was set up to investigate the question of blind people's welfare throughout this country. In 1917 a report was made, and in that report it was stated—these are almost the very words used—that the crux of the whole position was a lack of workshop accommodation. After the passing of the Blind Persons Act, the London County Council set up an advisory body to advise it as to what it might do in London. That body set up a sub-committee to investigate the difficulties in London, and, when they came to report, they expressed the opinion that the crux of the position was not lack of workshop accommodation. There was therefore a distinct difference of opinion. I am not going to discuss the competency of the two bodies, but it is clear that no one has any very definite plan to put forward except this which is before the House, and which, as I have said, the Mover must have known could not possibly be accepted on account of the principle contained in one of its Clauses. Under these circumstances, having regard to the fact that there was expressed on all sides last year, and that there would no doubt be expressed to-day if there were time, a general desire to do something. I want to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health if he cannot find it possible to set. up a Committee —I do not venture to suggest what particular form that Committee should take because I do not know, but a Select Committee might perhaps be more expeditious and appropriate. than a Royal Commission—to examine what has been done under the Blind Persons Act, 1920. to see whether the local authorities throughout the country have or have not done their best, and to make some recommendation as to how Parliament can best help our blind people. I hope that. the right hon. Gentleman will seriously consider whether or not he can accept that suggestion which I put forward with all respect as one which probably might lead to some useful purpose

May I observe in passing, as there is, and is likely to be, a good deal of criticism of the way in which the Blind Persons Act, 1920, has been worked, that I was able to ascertain some figures to-day in regard to the position in London? in 1921, just after the Blind Persons Act was passed, there were 523 persons employed in workshops in the administrative County of London. To-day there are 708 persons employed in workshops in the administrative county, and there are, in addition, 83 persons who are employed under the home workers' scheme which the London County Council supports, and which is conducted by some of the great philanthropic bodies in the Metropolis. That is an increase of 51 per cent., and is progress which cannot be ignored, and which I think it is fair for me to state. If there were time—and I do not desire in any way to monopolise the very short time that is available—one could deal at much greater length with the whole problem: but, since my plea is that a competent Committee should be set up to deal with it, there will, perhaps, be no very great advantage in enlarging upon any details now. I ask the Minister of Health if he will consider whether we shall not really stand a chance of getting something done by the proposal I venture to make, and whether, if he thinks that we shall, he will grant us this Committee


I only desire to intervene for a few minutes to state the position of the Government, and to offer one or two words on the Bill which has been introduced by the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. R. Young) in, if I may say so, such moving and eloquent terms. I need hardly assure him and the House that there is no need to make an appeal ill any quarter on behalf of the blind people of this country. We share with him the anxiety to do everything we can to make the lot of these unfortunate people a better and a happier one, and I entirely agree with him when he says that this should certainly be regarded as a nonparty matter. I only wish that, in preparing this Bill, he had been able to confer with members of other parties. I also want to inform the House that the statement—or rather, I do not know that it was a direct statement, but at any rate the implication— made by the Mover of the Bill that this is the same Bill that was introduced last year, is, as he knows, entirely unfounded. This is a totally different Bill from that which the House of Commons accorded a unanimous Second Reading last year. I myself had a good deal of sympathy, as, perhaps, the House knows, with the proposals that were made last year, which would have given pensions to blind people at a lower age than obtains under the present law. There is no proposal of that kind in this Bill. On the other hand, for the first time, as my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken has pointed out, a new principle has been suggested, and a most important, extraordinary and peculiar principle so far as some of us are concerned, namely, that: Every blind person who has attained the age of sixteen and who is unable to obtain employment in any workshop or other place… shall, so long as he continues to be unemployed — not so long as he remains incapacitated, or anything of that sort—

be entitled to receive a. sum of not less than twenty-five shillings per week, which slim shall be payable out of arid charged upon the funds of such local authority. That is a novel policy altogether, which was not contained in the Bill of a year ago, and, therefore, the House, even in considering a matter with which they must obviously be wholly in sympathy, must have regard to the principle involved in a proposal of this kind. I must tell the House—it is my duty to do so—what this involves so far as the local authorities are concerned, who, I may say, have not been in any way consulted on the terms of this Bill. At. the present moment, the total cost to the Exchequer of pensions to the blind under the Blind Persons Act and under the Old Age Pensions Acts is £467,000 a year: and under this Bill, so far as the Ministry of Health can estimate, an additional burden, if that word can be used—at any rate, an additional commitment—would be imposed on the local authorities of this country, amounting to £1,400,000 per annum. That should be stated. I do not think anyone would object to me making the statement because the House, and local authorities, ought to know what it means before a Measure of this kind is adopted. I must also inform the House that this morning— the Bill has only been printed a couple of days and, therefore, local authorities have had no opportunity whatever of seeing it— we received a communication from the Association of Municipal Corporations, who strongly protest against the position in which they find themselves, having regard to the very heavy burdens that are now suggested. They say: Apart altogether from the merits of the Bill it is, I submit, a grave abuse of Parliamentary procedure that a Bill involving a heavy charge on the rates should he put down for Second Reading in the House of Commons two days after the print has been in circulation. The Secretary says he has sent copies to his Committee, but of course he has had no opportunity whatever of receiving their views thereon. He proceeds: — Everyone sympathises with blind persons, but it is impossible to overlook the fact that the Clause would impose a very heavy charge upon the rates, something between, understand, £1,000,000 and £2,000,000 per annum, and, so far as I know, no local authorities have been consulted, and I suggest that it would be grotesque for the House of Commons to approve this principle without giving them any opportunity of expressing their views. I must inform the House of this position in fairness to the great local authorities who. I have no reason to doubt, desire to do all they reasonably can for this class of people


Would it not be a very easy way to satisfy the fears of these local authorities for the Minister to make an announcement that the nation, through his Department, would be willing to take the greater share of the burden?


It is hardly as simple as the hon. Member thinks. I do not think he can expect me to announce the intentions of the Government on a proposal which is not before the House. I have already reminded the House that that suggestion was made, but it has been totally abandoned by the promoters of the Bill. Under the Bill of last year the State certainly was asked to bear the burden and, expressing my own individual opinion, there is a good deal to be said for this being a national charge, but anxious as I am to assist these unfortunate people, I think it is a little difficult, without any consultation with any local authorities, by Passing this proposal to abandon the principle of the State further assisting the blind and to impose upon the local authorities an extra charge of nearly £ 1,500,000 per annum. I think all quarters of the House will feel the justice of the position I put forward and the unfortunate position in which the local authorities will find themselves I think the House ought to know, also, that the second principle contained in the Bill would very seriously affect the voluntary organisations, which are doing excellent and increasing work on behalf of the blind. It is suggested in Clause 2 that the local authorities themselves should provide and maintain workshops for blind people. At present it is the duty of a local authority to make arrangements — which is a different matter — to the satisfaction of the Minister of Health for these people and they can contribute towards the cost. In order that the House may feel satisfied that a great measure of assistance is being given, I may point out that dating the year ending 31st March, 1923, the voluntary income of agencies in England and Wales in receipt of a grant from the Ministry of Health was £ 378,000

I think it would be a thousand pities if we adopted the second part of the Bill, and came to the conclusion that assistance and care of the blind was to be municipalised. I believe that the care and treatment of the blind should be a matter for the three parties in the State— State, the local authorities, and the voluntary agencies. This Bill in its second Clause would practically wipe out the very splendid and successful efforts which are being made by voluntary organisations up and clown the country. Speaking briefly, for I cannot deal fully with all the provisions of the Bill, the suggestion, which is row made for the first time, that blind persons who are not able to obtain employment should receive 25s. a week. certainly requires very careful consideration from this House. I suppose the Advisory Committee for the Welfare of the Blind, which has done such excellent work, is as well qualified as anybody else to speak on this aspect of the position of the blind. That committee is composed of people of all shades of opinion, and the great idea running through their report is that we should not throw the blind people as it were upon a monetary grant. Even when the suggestion was made in the last Bill that the pension age should be lowered, and by that means a blind person should receive a monetary grant much earlier than other people, the committee made this statement: We, cannot recommend the total abolition of the income limit in the case of blind pensioners, nor support the suggestion made to us that all adult blind persons should receive a pension of 10s. a week, which we are convinced would, if carried out, tend to discredit individual effort. We believe — this point is well worth consideration— that the handicap of blindness may be considerably alleviated by education, training and proper after-care. That, for what it is worth, is the view of the Committee which is entrusted with this work. The Minister of Health is by no means oblivious to his duty to do what he can on behalf of these people. I am very glad to say that great improvements have been made. Another aspect of this subject is the number of people who come into the world blind. One of the most astonishing facts of modern health progress and the care of local authorities and voluntary agencies is the diminution in the number of people who are born blind or who become blind before the age of five years. That is one of the ways of tackling this problem


Would the hon. Gentleman be prepared to issue a circular to local authorities urging them to undertake the work of sending nurses to these babies when they are born, because that is the way of dealing with the problem of blindness?


I will certainly see about that. As -far as I am aware, the local authorities are carrying out their duties, but if upon investigation we find that it is not so, we will give attention to the matter. As regards the suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last, 1 will consult the Minister of Health and he will give consideration to this also. This afternoon, much as I personally and the whole House are anxious to do something more for these unfortunate peple whom we all desire to assist, I must say on behalf of the Government that- we cannot ask the House to give a Second Beading to this Bill


I feel sure that all Members of the House would be astonished to hear the statement of the Minister on this subject. We have had a great deal of sympathy given to the blind in speech this afternoon, but the blind have come to this House to ask for something very definite, and so far as the Government are concerned nothing is going to be done for them. That is the position as I understand it. I would ask the hon. Gentleman not to shield himself behind the letter from the municipal authorities, because this is not the first time that a Bill has been introduced in this fashion affecting the finances of local authorities; and in any event if this Bill secured a Second Reading this afternoon it would have to go to a Committee upstairs and the local authorities would then have the opportunity of putting their case and tabling amendments to the Bill if they cared to do so

This Bill, contains the old principle advocated over and over again from the benches on this side of the House. That is to say, it seeks to throw upon local authorities the onus of providing for these blind folk, either work or maintenance. With that principle I am in hearty agreement. But up to now the blind have undoubtedly been catered for in the main by charitable organisations, and they have found out, as most of us who are taking part in public affairs have found out, that charitable organisations have failed them in the end. I would be the last person to try to debate with my hon. Friend here whom I admit to be the most competent to speak on the subject. But I say to him very respectfully and to the House, that the blind population of this country have tried charitable means, and charitable institutions and, if I might say a. word with-ant entering mill o the great question of municipalisation I would add that when the community is faced with any infectious or contagious disease there is no question of charity doing the work. It is the municipal authority which does it

The municipality houses to-day its consumptives and its citizens who are suffering from scarlet fever and smallpox. For my part, if charity has failed, as I think it has, to deal with the problem of the blind, then there is only one institution to deal with the matter, and is the municipality. My hon. Friend —I do not know whether he intended it — would, I think, in one sentence which he uttered, lead the house to suppose that the blind problem is now within limits and that we are encompassing and controlling it. That is not the case. In 1851, there were 18,306 blind persons in this country. In 1901, 50 years later, the number had risen to 25, 117. In 1921 there were 35,264, and in 1923, in spite of all that medical science has done, the number had increased to 36,518. Therefore, we have not dealt very effectively with the blind problem; though I should say that the proportion of the blind population to the whole has decreased from year to year. My hon. Friend has quoted from a document which I have also read. It is a very useful way of bringing forward an argument to read just one portion here and another portion there. I will give another quotation from page 3 pointing the other way: — We have been informed that boards of guardians have in some instances withdrawn the whole of the relief which would be granted by them to blind persons who have secured a pension provided by the Blind Persons Act, so that the blind person is in a worse position with the pension than without. That is a sad condition. I do not think this is a party issue, and T appeal to the House to support the Bill. The Bill will do one thing, at any rate. It will show those local authorities which have not yet submitted schemes to deal with the blind that the House of Commons is taking interest in what they are doing or failing to do

Let me quote another paragraph, and the most interesting of all, from the document mentioned: We strongly urge, therefore that in any legislation undertaken in connection with the amendment of the Old Age Pensions Acts, special regard should be had to the case of blind persons who are inmates of homes for the blind. I agree with the suggestion. The hon. Gentleman's Department has produced to this House. a scheme dealing with pensions. In fact the Government is proposing in that scheme to alter fundamentally the old age pensions scheme


Not in the way that the hon. Member stated the other night


The hon. Member does not know exactly what I said, probably. I repeat the assertion that the Government is proposing to alter fundamentally the old age pensions scheme. They will save on the present old age pensions scheme by the passing of the new pensions Bill. T suggest, if the Government. declines to do anything with this measure that they should take into account the sen fence which I have quoted, and see whether anything can be done in connection with the Widows and Orphans Pensions Bill which is to come before the. House shortly. My final word is that this House will be troubled from time to time with Bills and Motions on this subject, declaring in favour of the principle that no blind person in this country should be the subject of charity from anyone. The time has arrived when a person afflicted with blindness should be removed entirely from that state He should be able to stand up and say that, because blindness is not his fault, the community should come to his aid, and treat him in the way in which he ought to he treated


In making some observations on this Bill, I would mention that for several years I have been chairman of the Northumberland and Durham Blind Institution. It is, therefore, needless for me to say that my sympathies are entirely Firth the blind. I wish to make some comments on this Bill in the light of the knowledge and experience which I have had. There are three Clauses in this Bill which are fatal to it if you are to act in the best interests of the blind. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the first, with regard to the payment of 25s. a week to those who are unemployed at the age of 16. I would remind the House that it is possible to give a blind person, after he has paid two years' contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the unemployment insurance benefit, in addition to the 5s. We do not commence training those who can he trained until they have arrived at the age of 16 at the least. I will not pursue that subject further because the Parliamentary Secretary referred to it very fully. In my opinion an even more vital objection from the standpoint of the interests of the blind themselves is the question of wages


rose in his place and claimed to more "That the Question he now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question


It has been found by experience that where you pay a minimum wage in connection with the blind, the result is a bad one. [HON. _MEMBERS: "Divide! "]

It being Four of the Clock, the Debate food adjourned

Debate to be resumed upon Friday next (15th May)

The remaining Orders were read, and postpond

WhereuponMr. SPEAKERadjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to,Standing Order No3

Adjourned at One Minute after: Four o'clock until Monday next (11th May)