HC Deb 09 December 1926 vol 200 cc2266-7
14. Major OWEN

asked the Home Secretary the number of convictions, for the last year of which he has statistics, for sleeping out and similar offences, for larcenies by tramps or destitute wayfarers, for workhouse offences generally, and for offences connected with the casual wards, respectively?


As regards all classes of paupers detained in Poor Law institutions in England and Wales, 553 were convicted in 1924 of misbehaviour and 134 of stealing or destroying workhouse clothes. As regards offences under. the Vagrancy Acts, 805 persons were convicted by Courts of Summary Jurisdiction in 1924, of sleeping out. Larcenies committed by tramps and wayfarers are not distinguished in the returns from larcenies by others.


In view of the terrible shortage of accommodation in casual wards, will the hon. and gallant Gentleman see if some provision can be made, or withdraw the Act altogether?


The next question on the Paper, which deals with this subject, will perhaps clear the matter up.

15. Major OWEN

asked the Home Secretary whether he will arrange for an Inter-Departmental Committee of the. Home Office and the Ministry of Health to consider what improvements can be made in casual wards so as to encourage tramps to enter them rather than steal?

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)

I have been asked to reply. I am not aware of any increase of crime committed by tramps, and I do not think that at the present time the appointment of such a Committee as is suggested would serve any useful purpose. The condition of casual wards has received my constant attention. A special survey of casual wards was made in 1923, and all such wards are regularly inspected. Where defects have been brought to light, steps have been taken to secure that they shall he remedied. Substantial improvements have in fact been effected, and are still being made.

Major OWEN

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to a case which occurred quite recently at Stamford, where a man was convicted for stealing because he wished to be imprisoned rather than go to the casual ward?


No, Sir, I do not remember the case. It seems to be a tribute to the prison.

Major OWEN

Is it not at the same time a condemnation of the casual ward?

40. Mr. VIANT

asked the Minister of Health what were the most recent dates when the inspector of casual wards inspected Stamford and the neighbouring casual wards when the tramps were in bed?


I regret that I cannot, at such short notice, give the information the hon. Member requires, but I will communicate with him.


asked the Minister of Health which are the casual wards available for men on the tramp searching for work in the West Riding of Yorkshire; and how many permit of the men leaving after breakfast to assist them to obtain employment?


There are 29 casual wards open in this county, and I will send the hon. Member a list of them. A casual desirous of seeking work who has completed his task is entitled in all cases to take his discharge at 6.30 in the morning of the day on which he is discharged.