HC Deb 17 November 1925 vol 188 cc217-21

I beg to move in page 3, column 3, lines 16 and 17, to leave out the words "Sections seven and" and to insert instead thereof the word "section."

This Amendment deals with the question of the expenditure of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. It is designed to retain, if possible, the temporary character of Section 7 of the Local Government (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1916, at least for a year. I am quite content with a year. Under the 1867 Act, which regulated this question part of the expenditure of the Metropolitan Asylums Board, which was known as Common Charges, fell proportionately to the rateable value. There was another part called the Direct Charges. This also fell upon the various Poor Law unions, not in proportion to their rateable value but in accordance with the number of inmates any particular union had in its institution. There was a further Section which provided that the whole of these direct charges, with a certain proportion of the common charges as well, should be subsequently charged to the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund and a special provision was put in the Act of 1867, Clause 66, that a precept should issue to the Treasurer of the Inns of Court from the President of the Local Government Hoard, as it was then, to the Poor Law Board for the amount prescribed. Now comes the point I want to make. Under the Act of 1916, Section 7, with which we are dealing now, there was a provision that none of the expenses of the Metropolitan Asylums Board should be repayable out of the Common Poor Fund. The effect of that Section was that the Inns of Court, to the extent of the amount of their contribution, which would have come under normal circumstances under the Act of 1867 out of the Common Poor Fund by that special regulation in Section 66, were cut off altogether and had nothing to pay. The point was raised when the 1916 Act was before the House, and at that time the London County Council took exception to the Inns of Court being let off this contribution and the President of the Local Government Board at that time, Mr. Hayes Fisher, in alluding to the matter drew attention to the fact that the whole object of the Act of 1916 was to further administrative economy in the department of the Local Government Board. We must all agree that for any Government Department to effect administrative economy is all to the good. Mr. Hayes Fisher said: Undoubtedly … this new arrangement will probably give such satisfaction, doing away as it does with almost endless clerical labour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th April, 1916, col. 1705, Vol. 81.] He went on to say it would be necessary to take into consideration, if the Act was ever made permanent when the war was over, the position of the Inns of Court, and possibly some such provision would have to be made, but he did not think it would be advisable to insert a provision in that Bill. He there gave not exactly an undertaking, but something in the nature of a promise, that if the Act was ever made permanent, as is now the intention of the Government, this question of the exemption of the Inns of Court from their proper contribution should be considered and should be put right. All I am asking for to-day is that this matter shall be put right now, or rather that we shall have a year's grace in order to see whether it cannot be solved in an equitable way in regard to the other contributors. If the Inns of Court get off their contribution, however small it may be, it falls in proportion upon the other contributors to the Poor Law Fund. I suggest that we should have an opportunity during the coming year of arranging this matter with the Inns of Court, We understand that they are ready and willing to make payment. As to what the actual payment should be, that has not yet been decided. We are not altogether at one with the Inns of Court on the matter. I am sure that, given time, we shall be able to arrange a satisfactory basis. That being so, and also bearing in mind that we are going to consider the whole question of the administration of the Poor Law in the county of London and elsewhere, it is very much better that this difficulty, even though a small one, should be got out of the way, and that we should therefore ask for a year in order to do this. I am moving the omission of this Section from the Schedule so as to ensure that it shall be only temporary and that it is not made permanent by this time next year, by which time I hope we shall arrive at a proper solution.


I want to support the appeal of the hon. Member opposite, as the view he has expressed has the unanimous support of all parties in the London County Council. There is another reason why the Act should only be continued for another year and that is the whole position of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund itself. During the last few years very considerable alterations have been made in the incidence of that fund. Before 1914 the total charges falling on the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund were something over £2,200,000. Of that sum practically £1,100,000 was borne locally. To-day the charges on the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund amount to something over £7,000,000. The charge borne locally is £1,200,000. The incidence of the localities has practically not varied at all, but the incidence of the whole of London has varied considerably, and that is of very great importance to the poor boroughs of London which have to face great problems due to unemployment. They are only continued by a temporary Act. It has been a matter of keen controversy whether they should be extended for a year or a couple of years. Anyone who has any responsibility at all in the administration of affairs in the County of London knows that either the present arrangement, or something like it, will have to continue and be made permanent, and that is another reason in support of the Amendment.


I am sure the Committee has heard with sympathy the appeal that has been made from both sides of the Committee and I should be willing to accede to it. Apart from this one question—and it is a very small question—arising in connection with the Inns of Court, everyone who has to do with administration in London agrees with the suggestion that it is very essential that this matter should be put on a permanent basis in the interests of economy and good administration. Why I am consenting to this matter going out of what I may call the permanent part of the Bill and being inserted in the Schedule which continues it for another year is to enable the county council to come to some arrangement with the Inns of Court which will facilitate those negotiations which, I understand, are now taking place. The Committee that sat under the chairmanship of the hon. Gentleman behind me recommended that this should form a permanent part of the Statute law of the country. There fore I hope it will be clearly understood by the representatives of the county council that then it is the intention of the Department to press for the matter being put permanently on the Statute Book next year. We are anxious to facilitate the discussions that are taking place and therefore I assent to the suggestion that has been made. I have no doubt my hon. Friend will move the further Amendment by which it will be placed in the other Schedule of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.