§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]
§ CLAUSE 1.—(Proceedings on default by board of guardians.)
§ Mr. SCURR
I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, after the word "Where" to insert the wordsafter inquiry by a Select Committee of the Commons House of Parliament.I profoundly disagree with the principle on which this Bill is founded, and think it in every way a bad Bill; and, beyond that, on looking at this Clause 1, find that it proposes to enact thatWhere it appears to the Minister of Health…that the board of guardians for any Poor Law union have ceased, or are acting in such a manner as will render them unable, to discharge all or any of the functions exercised by the board, the Minister may by Order—do certain things. I do not think the Minister will say I am misrepresenting him when I say that this Bill has been put forward with reference to the alleged default on the part of the West Ham Board of Guardians. That is the real reason for introducing this Bill. We heard what the Minister said on Second Reading regarding the alleged defalcations of that board.
§ Mr. SCURR
The alleged default of that board. I understand there are no allegations against the board in regard to their administration of their hospitals or other institutions or their schools. The only point at issue arises over the administration of out-door relief. I have been credibly informed that on previous occasions the West Ham Board of Guardians have endeavoured to meet the Minister on various points of difference which have arisen. I think I am right in saying that he required them to appoint additional officers to investigate the cases of persons receiving relief, and, as a result, some 60 persons were appointed 2292 for the purpose, at a cost to the union of £240 a week. These investigators go all over the union. They are not under the direction of the superintendent relieving officer, they are a quite separate staff, doing separate work, at the request of the Ministry. In that case the board have endeavoured to meet the Ministry.
The position is that there is a dispute between the Minister and the West Ham Board of Guardians—and it may be some other boards of guardians—in regard to administration. It is a case of there being two parties to a dispute, one party making certain allegations, which may or may not be justified, and the other denying those allegations. Under this Bill one of those two parties, the party making the charges, is given power to supersede the persons against whom the charges are brought. That seems to me to be a very bad principle in every sense of the word, to introduce into our legislation—that if a Minister feels that a certain body over which he has certain powers are not discharging their function properly he may supersede them. We say the charges made by the Minister ought to be investigated by an impartial authority, and that it is absolutely wrong that it should be left to those making the charge to decide whether the charge is true or not and then to take action as a result of their decision.
In the Amendment I am putting forward we propose that a Select Committee of the House of Commons should investigate any charges which the Minister deems it to be his duty to make. No one will say that a Select Committee of this House is not an impartial authority. On the Second Reading the Minister of Health put forward certain views about corruption in administration, views as to excessive out-relief and so on. The charges he made were rebutted from this side of the House. The Minister may say that in his judgment they were not sufficiently rebutted. We, on our side, say we do not think the Minister made out his case. If this Bill passes, the Minister has only to say, "In my judgment this board"—any particular board —"is in default, and therefore I will supersede it with my own nominees." Before we invade the province of local government in that way, before we take away from the electors those people whom they have elected to do certain 2293 work in a certain way and who are faithfully carrying out their election pledges, there ought to be an impartial investigation to ascertain whether those persons are discharging the functions they have undertaken in accordance with the law, or whether it is only his political prejudice against them that is causing the Minister to act.
All we can see in the action of the Minister is political prejudice directed against a particular board which, if it had been in some other area, would not have been in such financial difficulties as it is. Moreover, the financial difficulties arise because, in our judgment, the Government of the day have not assumed their rightful responsibility in respect of those people who are out of work. If the Government of the day had a really national system of administering unemployment benefit, and made that unemployment benefit adequate for persons out of work, the West Ham Board of Guardians would not be in their present position, and other boards of guardians, in similarly-situated areas, would also not be in difficulties. Therefore, we had the Minister saying, in effect: "Because there is a board of guardians attempting to do its duty, a duty which has been thrown upon it, because of the default of the Ministry, the Ministry shall have the power to say that that board is in default and is to be relieved of its functions." It is unjust in every sense of the word, and I, therefore, put forward the suggestion that, if we are to have such legislation, and if some board is to be superseded, there should be a real judicial inquiry by a Select Committee of the House of Commons. Such a Committee would give the opportunity for the Minister and his officials to state their case against the board, and then for the board to rebut that case with evidence, and then the Committee, sitting, as a Select Committee always does, as a judicial and impartial authority, moved not by the animus of political bias, but by the evidence laid before it, would be able to say whether or not the case against the Board was made out. Before the Minister is allowed to be both accuser and judge, as he is under this Clause, I think the question ought to be referred to an impartial authority.
§ Mr. JOHN BAKER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do so, for reasons other than those given by the Mover, and as I am going to say some things that might be considered offensive to the Minister if they were taken as having personal application, I wish to assure him that that is not my intention, because I have used similar words about another Ministerial office, occupied by another Gentleman, on another matter. I object to this Bill, and I do not believe that any single individual should have the power for which the Minister is asking here. If, as he stated, when introducing the Bill, there is such rottenness and corruptness among a whole group of people as he alleges to exist on two particular boards of guardians, what would it be if we gave the administration to one individual, without proper check or supervision? It is he alone who is to say: "I do not agree." I do not think any person should have that power, and I hope the Minister will accept the Amendment, because it tends to prevent that of which he himself complains. He has had supervision over these boards of guardians and has failed to keep them in order, and I submit that it would be wiser if he had a body such as is suggested in the Amendment, to whom to report these guardians, than if he acted on his own initiative, and said to them: "Get out; I am putting in somebody who will do as I tell them." That is what it amounts to, and that kind of statement is going to way with every Minister and with every change of Ministry.
The right hon. Gentleman said some very rude things about me and my colleagues when he introduced the Bill, because I have been advocating now for over a quarter of a century that the standard of relief should be raised. It has now got to a point where he says that this has not only got to stop, but that the standard of relief has got to be lowered. He and I differ. Let us change places to-morrow, and I shall be sacking the boards of guardians who do not live up to my standard just as he will want to sack those who live beyond his standard. Where shall we get to? That will establish such a state of chaos in the administration of the Poor Law that it could not be carried on in a reasonable manner. The right hon. Gentleman says that I am corrupt and 2295 that all those who say they want work or maintenance are corrupt. We go out to the street corners at election time, and say: "If you people want proper treatment before a board of guardians, elect men and women from your own class who know your troubles and your needs and who have sympathy with you, and then you will have a better chance of getting reasonable treatment." The Minister, because he does not agree with that viewpoint, calls it corruption. I am recalcitrant and unashamed, and I am going on, and I hope to see the day when there will be nobody in this country holding the view that the right hon. Gentleman holds as to what is a sufficient amount of relief to give to a fellow citizen and a fellow Christian.
With regard to the charge of extravagance made by the Minister against two boards in particular, I am old enough to remember the time when it was thought sufficient, by boards of guardians composed of middle-class ladies and gentlemen in this country, to give 2s. 6d. a week in relief. No person at that time could get 21 meals for 30 pennies, or a week's shelter for 30 pennies, unless he was fortunate enough to have friends or relatives who would give him accommodation. How those people existed, I do not know. It has been a continuous fight ever since to try to get this Christian community to recognise its duty to its fellows, and not only has it failed up to now, but we now have a Minister who wants to go back. Does he want to go back to that 2s. 6d? He will say "No"; but if you get further Ministers of his type, they will want to go back to the 2s. 6d. If I may use an illustration which occurred in this House not many days ago on another matter, to emphasise my point, I would refer to the hon. Member who quoted some paper from the Front Bench about the wages of miners in 1828. Is that the point to which we are going back in Poor Law relief, the point where the man who did not get enough wage, based upon so many loaves of bread a week, had a right to apply to the guardians and get an extra loaf? I am not willing to go back to that kind of thing, and the Minister can call me corrupt and use all the offensive terms he can imagine. He can, if he likes, sit up all night and make a whole pile of terms, and when he 2296 has done, I will laugh at him. I want to go forward, but this Bill is not going forward, but backward. It is giving power to individuals that those individuals ought not to have, whether they have a name the same as that of the right hon. Gentleman who holds office now, or a name the same as mine.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The two hon. Members who have supported this Amendment have addressed themselves rather to the general principles of the Bill than to the particular point to which the Amendment is directed, because it is not relevant, I submit, that on this Amendment we should discuss whether or not the administration of the Board of Guardians in West Ham is corrupt. The point here is whether it is desirable or necessary that no Order should be made under the Bill except after inquiry by a Select Committee of this House. I cannot accept the account given by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) of what the Bill enables us to do. It does not enable a Minister to say to any board of guardians: "I do not approve of the way you are acting." He has to be convinced that they have either ceased to perform their functions or are acting in such a way as to render them unable to function. In respect to the West Ham Board of Guardians, we were faced with an emergency. At the present time they are only giving 75 per cent. of the relief which was being given a little while ago, because they have not very much money, but there will come a time, unless some other events take place, when there will be no money, and that is exactly the contingency that I desire to avoid
What would be the effect of passing this Amendment? It. would mean that no relief would be given in West Ham after the funds of the present board were exhausted until the Select Committee had investigated the circumstances and made a Report. If I may say so, I think both hon. Members have lost sight of one rather important point in connection with this case. Some time ago there was a difference of opinion between the Minister of Health and the Poplar Board of Guardians. In that case, the Poplar board issued a pamphlet in which they pleaded guilty and were proud of it, but in this case the guardians admit that they are guilty, but say they are ashamed of it.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
No, the hon. Member will listen to it now. I quoted words, on the Second Reading of the Bill, used by the vice-chairman of the West Ham Board of Guardians to that effect.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Here are the words of the vice-chairman which I quoted. For the moment, I cannot lay my hand upon them, but he said in effect that things had been done in regard to which the least they could do was to be ashamed of them.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not need to repeat the words. They were not challenged. That was the opinion, not of an individual, but of the vice-chairman of the board. The chairman of the board himself said he had before him a number of cases of relief in which there had been allowances for which there was no justification whatever. In this case the charges are admitted by the board. The inquiry has already been held by the auditor, and the result of the auditor's report has been published.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The auditor's report has been made, and the members of the board have not challenged it.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
In these circumstances, it is absurd to suggest that there should be a further inquiry.
§ Mr. ARTHUR GREENWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman's explanation is no defence and it is no explanation. He began by giving his view of the Amendment in relation to the first words of the Clause. He said the principle was that, if the Minister of Health was of opinion that a board of guardians had ceased to carry out its duties, he might take steps to suppress it.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The words arethat the board of guardians for any Poor Law union have ceased, or have acted in such a manner as will render them unableto discharge their functions.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
That is still more a matter of conjecture. If the Minister thinks the Board is likely to be unable to carry on its work, he proposes to take the serious and drastic line of suppressing that local authority for the time being. He says that, if we accept this Amendment, West Ham is going to starve. But, surely, it is possible to have a limited inquiry and for the Ministry of Health to empower the board of guardians to borrow a limited sum for a short time, while the matter is being investigated. The right hon. Gentleman says there is no need for an inquiry because the chairman and the vice-chairman have admitted that they are guilty. But that is not the point. The point is, be they guilty or not, whether the right hon. Gentleman ought to take the serious step of destroying the boards of guardians for the time being. Our position is that such a decision ought not to rest with the Minister. The point is whether the guilt of the chairman and vice-chairman is of such a kind as to warrant the right hon. Gentleman putting this Bill into operation and destroying an organ of local government. It seems to us to be a very reasonable request to make that this power of suppressing a board of guardians should not be exercised until this House has had an opportunity of examining the whole situation. We do not think this House ought to take away the rights of local government, but, if the Minister will persist in this Bill, surely we are asking nothing unreasonable in suggesting that before such a step is taken the matter should be referred to a Committee of this House, and that, on the findings of that Committee, the right hon. Gentleman should take action or no action, as the case may be.
§ Mr. GROVES
I want to support this Amendment in a quite dispassionate manner. I submit that the points and the details which the right hon. Gentleman has submitted in support of the drastic supersession of the boards of guardians have been given him by his political supporters in the West Ham Borough. I submit that the controversy in West Ham has been carried on very largely by information, which is sometimes published and sometimes is not, by the leader of a political party which is opposed to the majority of the guardians, and whose name is Mr. Ward. If the right hon. Gentleman in this House is going to pay special attention to what political partisans offer in evidence, in particular cases, of persons who are relieved in West Ham Union, I do not think it is a great thing for a Minister to do. The Minister has emphasised that the board of guardians has ceased to perform its functions, and I respectfully submit that that is not so.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
What I said was that the guardians have been acting in such a manner as to make it impossible for them to continue.
§ Mr. GROVES
The Minister is already commencing his work in West Ham. To-day at relieving stations there were strangers, official persons, obviously part of the machinery of supersession, and I submit that it is wrong that any such steps should have been taken before this Bill became an Act of Parliament. The Minister referred to certain cases of abuse of relief, and he said there are 100 cases. I think we have about 27,000 families to relieve in the union. Is it reasonable to take this action because you get 100 cases of abuse out of that number?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health made it clear on the Second Reading that the 100 cases were not all the cases that could be found. They were the result of a test examination taken by the auditor.
§ Mr. GROVES
If a man has stolen one article surely it is not fair to assume that he has stolen six. If you have some cases out of 100, surely it is not fair to assume that all the others are the same, and it is not fair to assume that, because 100 people have done certain 2300 things, all the others of the 27,000 have done the same. I submit that the circumstances in West Ham do not warrant the Minister's direct action. The hon. Member for Upton (Captain Holt) perpetrated the usual fallacy of arguing from particular cases to general principles. He said that somebody got a relief ticket for 16s., and had the audacity to purchase for the money a tin of peaches and Devonshire cream. What if they did? Assuming that that took place. I protest against arguing as if that kind of thing were general. We do not say that all the people in our borough are perfect. You would not get all the people perfect in Woolwich. The whole of this argument is based on two propositions: first, the alleged abuse of relief, and, secondly, the bankruptcy of the unions.
I know that we cannot argue the general question of Poor Law relief, but I submit that you should have had an impartial inquiry by a Select Committee. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the auditor's Report. I think it is true that during the very critical period when unemployment has been mounting up, when the people have been driven on to the Poor Law, auditors have come to West Ham, and examined accounts and made reports. But only recently has the administration of the Union been regarded by the Minister as inimical to the general good. I am amazed that today the Minister should hint that people in receipt of poor relief should not have the right to vote for Poor Law guardians. Who are we to look to if we cannot look to our popularly elected people to save the citizens from starvation in their own area? That is the bedrock principle of Poor Law relief, the prevention of destitution. No one has said that the scale paid in West Ham, with the exception of the small proportion of cases which have been referred to, is extravagance. If you compare it, of course, with that paid in certain other areas where they have not the same regard for the welfare of the poor people, you get a comparison that is unfair to us. If it is worked out, an able-bodied man gets about 11s. a week. If that can be assumed to be extravagant, I hope hon. Members opposite will tell us what they think is a reasonable amount of money per week for able-bodied persons to live on. 2301 Then you have to deal with the question of the family. A man and his wife before the intervention of the Minister only had 19s. per week between them to live upon. There has been some objection and the West Ham Board of Guardians were ordered to cease to give just that additional 5s. to old age pensions. I am very annoyed personally about that and I think it is the worst thing the Minister could have done. People have lived to the age of 70 and just get that money that can keep them in decency and West Ham gives them this additional 5s. That is much cheaper than these poor men and women going into the workhouse for the rest of their lives. Those are the circumstances. I hope the head shaking of the Minister does not mean that he is denying my statement, because it is being done. People were elected to carry out this detail. These guardians grant 5s. in addition to the 10s. a week old age pension. I say the statutory officers, the relieving officers, have refused to obey the instructions—I do not mean the verbal orders—made by the elected representatives of the people.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GROVES
I was just trying to prove that the action of the Minister was such that in the circumstances of the moment we are warranted in asking for the special intervention of a Select Committee. I think the administration in these circumstances is liable to get out of the hands of the people. I want the Minister to say why the work has been commenced of taking the administration out of the popularly elected people. With over 30,000 people on relief, it is a marvellous thing that only 100 people should have been referred to as taking advantage of the circumstances. The people in our borough are not only law-abiding and well-wishers of the community but they have acted as decently and as well as any citizens of the community could have acted. I cannot see the end of the Minister's precipitant act if he thinks he is going to send an army of officials down to West Ham to take charge of the offices. He is smiling. Does he deny that they are there? I was in the relieving station myself this morning, and I was invited to go to see them. I 2302 did so. I might say that they brought their own typewriters. The work must be done, and I trust the Minister will realise that the appointment of a Select Committee will assist him and give the people in West Ham an opportunity of bringing to his notice the fact that when we have ourselves discovered cases of abuse it is true to say that West Ham guardians have hauled these people up before the magistrates and had them sent to prison or compelled them to pay the money back. We have done all that could reasonably be expected. After all, this is still a free country, and the action of the Minister will be doing a thing that will cut right across the freedom of this country.
§ Mr. RYE
I agree that this is a pretty drastic Clause and gives very wide powers to the Minister, and in the ordinary way I should have hesitated to support the Bill, but when one considers that in the latter portion of the Bill there is provision by way of safeguard, I do not think that we are entitled to consider that the powers given to the Minister are too wide. In Subsection (2) it is provided:An Order made under this Sub-section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if either House within 21 day after the Order has been laid before it presents an Address to His Majesty praying that the Order may he annulled His Majesty may by Order in Council annual the Order and it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder, or the making of a fresh Order.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
Does the hon. Member realise that the Order to which he refers is only an Order after the Minister has exercised his discretion?
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
Is the hon. Member's point that there is a safeguard in this House for the Minister's first action with regard to the West Ham Board of Guardians?
§ Mr. RYE
The Minister has a full discretion to exercise his rights if he is of opinion that a case is made out. My point is that if he has done so without adequate reasons, it is open to any Member of this House to raise the question in this House and ask the Minister to 2303 give his reasons for coming to his decision. It will be open to any Member of the House to prove that it was an unreasonable action on the Minister's part. If, as a fact, the Minister had not had adequate reason, it is obvious the safeguard would be put in force and the Order made to supersede the guardians would be rescinded by Order in Council. That, I think, is the real safeguard. Personally, I cannot think any Minister would ever exercise these drastic powers except for good and sufficient reasons. It is inconceivable to suppose that any Minister holding the responsible position he does would do anything to put an end to the functions of the boards of guardians unless they were aware of must ample and sufficient reasons for doing so. At all events, if the Minister were to make a mistake—let us put it at that —or wantonly took action, there is this safeguard in Sub-section (2). In my opinion that is quite sufficient safeguard for anyone.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report. Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I am going to move to report Progress. The Hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) has made a definite statement in this House to the effect that certain officials from the Minister of Health's Department are now operating in the borough of West Ham before this power has been given to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health shook his head and said he knew nothing about it. That same statement was endorsed by the Parliamentary Secretary. Therefore, in consequence of these two knowing nothing about what is operating in West Ham and that Government officials are down there operating—
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
Directly I heard the statement of the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) we made inquiries, and so far we have no knowledge whatever about it. The statement, as I understand it, is that the hon. Member for Stratford has seen some strange faces down there at West Ham, but so far as my Department is concerned we know nothing about it.
§ Mr. J. JONES
In view of the Parliamentary Secretary's innocence and all his smiles, I do not altogether fathom what he means. Some of us are acquainted with the district and know that there have been officials there. We know some of them. I came in touch with some of these officials. Some of their names have already been mentioned as the officials who are going to take over from the board of guardians. They are going to be paid for it. Some of us have worked from early in the morning till late at night at this job, and you refuse us even a shilling lunch. The report has come that these gentlemen are going round almost assuming the authority not yet given to them. Perhaps you think you can play that game with us, but we have a few cards up our sleeves that we can play yet. There is such a thing as an all-in strike, and some of us are overseers and have to levy the rate.
§ Sir K. WOOD
It is suggested to me that, as the audit is now taking place in West Ham, perhaps the strange faces may be those of the auditors.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The point on which I allowed this Motion to be made was whether there are persons in West Ham sent by the Minister in anticipation of the passing of this Bill. It must be confined to that point.
§ Mr. GROVES
I said that they ought not to be there without the Minister's knowledge. In reality they are the bailiffs. That is what this Bill means. I did not like to make this protest as to who they are this morning, but I think they should be stopped until the King gives his assent to this Bill.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he has actually made the appointments of these officials and, if so, will he tell us their names and then we can see if they tally? Can he make known to the House whether these persons have been informed that this is to be their job?
§ Sir K. WOOD
The Committee may take it from me that none of our officials have gone down to West Ham.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
If the hon. Gentleman finds on inquiry that these people are there without his authority, will he take the necessary steps to secure their removal?
§ Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided. Ayes, 121; Noes, 245.2307
|Division No. 341||AYES||[5.17 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ritson, J.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hardle, George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Ammon, Charles George||Harris, Percy A.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Scurr, John|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barr, J.||Hirst, G. H.||Smillie, Robert|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Briant, Frank||Hudson, J. H, (Huddersfield)||Snell, Harry|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bromfield, William||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buchanan, C.||Kelly, W. T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Kennedy, T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Kenyon, Barnet||Taylor, R. A.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Compton, Joseph||Lawrence, Susan||Townend, A. E|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lawson, John James||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lee, F.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw vale)||Lindley, F. W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lowth, T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dennison, R.||MacLaren, Andrew||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Dunnico, H.||March, S.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Montague, Frederick||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. Rhondda)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Morris, R. H.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Gardner, J. P.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gillett, George M.||Murnin, H.||Westwood, J.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Oliver, George Harold||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Greenall, T.||Palin, John Henry||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Paling, W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley).|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Windsor, Walter|
|Groves, T.||Potts, John S.||Wright, W.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Purcell, A. A.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Riley, Ben||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Hayes and Mr. B. Smith|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Albery, Irving James||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset,Yeovil)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool,W.Derby)||Calne, Gordon Hall||Dawson. Sir Philip|
|Applln, Colonel R. V. K.||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Dean, Arthur Wellesley|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Drewe, C.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Ellis, R. G.|
|Balniel, Lord||Chapman, Sir S.||Elveden, Viscount|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Berry, Sir George||Clarry, Reginald George||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Bethel. A.||Clayton, G. C.||Falls, Sir Charles F.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fermoy. Lord|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Flelden, E. B.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Finburgh, S.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Forrest, W.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Cooper, A. Duff||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cope, Major William||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Couper, J. B.||Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N)||Ganzonl, Sir John|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Gates, Percy|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Crack, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Crookshank, Cal. C. de W. (Berwick)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Goff, Sir Park|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Macintyre, I.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Grace, John||McLean, Major A.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Grouse, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Macquisten, F. A.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Mac Robert, Alexander M.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Guinness. Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Malone, Major P. B.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Klne'dine, C.)|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Harland, A.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Harney, E. A.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Sueler, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Templeton, W. P.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Murchison, C. K.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St.Marylebone)||Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Neville, R. J.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Holt, Capt. H. P.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Nicholson, Col.Rt.Hon.W.G.Ptrsf'ld.)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Nuttall, Ellis||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Waddington, R.|
|Hutchison, G. A. Clark (M ldl'n & P'bl's)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Pennefather, Sir John||Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Penny, Frederick George||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Jacob, A. E.||Perring, Sir William George||Wells, S. R.|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Pete, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple|
|Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Phillpson, Mabel||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Radford, E. A.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Ralne, W.||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd,)|
|Kinloch, Cooke, Sir Clement||Ramsden, E.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Remnant, Sir James||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Rentoul, G. S.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Locker, Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Rice, Sir Frederick||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Looker, Herbert William||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Lord, Walter Greaves.||Russell, Alexander West-(Tynemouth)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Lougher, L.||Rye, F, G.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Salmon, Major I.||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Lumley, L. R.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Captain Margesson and Captain|
|Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Bowyer.|
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I desire to remind the Committee of the title of this Bill. It is not the West Ham (Extermination) Bill—it is the Board of Guardians Default Bill. It is a general Bill dealing with unions all over England. The last time we discussed this question I asked that a list of those unions who had borrowed money should be read to the House; and a very illuminating dialogue took place between Mr. Speaker and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. Mr. Speaker—speaking of this list—said:Are these all affected by the Bill which is about to be discussed?and the hon. Gentleman answered, "Yes, Sir." That list includes some of the 2308 most important industrial centres, and the Measure we are now dealing with provides that every one of those boards can be superseded by the Minister of Health. At first it was suggested by the Minister that this question should be referred to a Select Committee, but the Minister replied, "West Ham cannot wait," and that an inquiry was necessary because West Ham had pleaded guilty. Some seven or eight of us sprang to our feet crying, "When?" We were then told that the vice-chairman of the board, speaking in debate, had said that he thought that some of these cases were indefensible. The argument is that because the vice-chairman said that some of the cases were very bad, that Wrest Ham has pleaded guilty; and that because West Ham has pleaded guilty you need not inquire into any other cases. 2309 That was the only argument in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The question is whether the existence of all boards of guardians is to be subject to the discretion of the Minister; and he defended that policy on the ground that the chairman of the West Ham Board of Guardians said that some cases were very bad. Then, as a further defence, the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Rye) said that there were safeguards, because, if the Minister wished to supersede a board, an Order would be laid on the Table of the House and could be discussed. It is very comforting to know that you are to have an inquest after the execution, but it is not very much good to the corpse.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
The Bill says:An Order made under this Sub-section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliamen as soon as may be after it is made, and if either House within twenty-one days after the Order has been laid before it presents an address to His Majesty praying that the Order may be annulled"—and so on. You have, then, 21 days, and you have first to find a day for debate. Supposing that any one of these boards of guardians were brought to an end at this time of the year, what possible chance should we have of getting a day for debate in the House? And if we did get a day, I cannot, greatly as I respect the House, imagine a worse court of inquiry for such a matter. The question whether or not a board of guardians is likely to be in default is a matter which needs detailed proof, and something like a jury—something like a trial in Court. It needs to be gone into by a body of persons furnished with the necessary information. It is notorious that the House of Commons is not a place for detailed inquiry into facts; that is shown by the fact that we have Committees. The floating population of this Chamber never can settle down thoroughly to discuss facts of this nature; they are facts which, from their very nature, need investigation by a Committee. Now I come to my final point, namely, the policy and the plan by which the Minister is going to be guided in dealing with these matters. I notice that, 2310 among the crimes in the statement which the right hon. Gentleman read out to the House, this very horrible one is included:Old age pensions are being augmented to bring them up to the full scale of 15s. for single and 25s. for married people.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
It says that old age pensions are being augmented to bring them up to the full scale of 15s. and 25s. That is the crime. Then comes the aggravation:And in the majority of cases there is no attempt to record the circumstances of sons who might be able to pay something.It is described as a bad thing in itself to raise the pensions to the terrific scale of 15s.; and it also says that there ought to be a proper inquiry into the circumstances of sons. Then I am a little unhappy as to the attitude of the Minister with regard to democracy. A very great deal has been made of the fact that people on out-relief are likely to vote for out-relief. Everyone knows, however, that even in West Ham—
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is getting rather wide of the question whether there should be a Select Committee.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
With all due submission, I am trying to show that the purpose for which each of these Orders is made ought to be ventilated before a Select Committee. If we can conceive of a Minister having in his mind a definite policy of bringing down out-relief to supersede democracy—I do not say it is so, but if you could have such a Minister—it would be very undesirable to place in the hands of the Minister powers which ought to be the subject almost of a judicial decision. My argument is that you cannot safely trust to the executive itself, or to one Minister of the Crown in particular, the difficult duty of discriminating when you ought to get rid of elected representatives; and I thought I was right in saying that the Minister now has shown a distinct bias against democracy in his speech. I hope that that is not disorderly. I was going to say that the persons on out-relief are very greatly outnumbered by the rest of the population—by seven to one in West Ham, by 10 to four in other cases—and you cannot say that, if the rest of the population 2311 strongly disapprove, their votes will be overborne by those of the recipients of out-relief. To adduce that argument at all shows a bias against democracy. One case that the Minister gave was most distressing. One of the guardians said that he was a supporter of the Minister, and wanted to follow the Minister. He stood for re-election, and West Ham never sent him back again.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
Yes, but he did say that he approved of the Minister. I know that the people of East Ham and West Ham are so far misguided that they do not trust people who support the policy of the Minister; but to use as a serious argument against democracy the fact that, it may be, in Barrow, or Newcastle, or Birmingham, or where not, people do not support the policy of the Minister, seems to me rather thin. My desire that this question shall go to a Select Committee is rather strengthened by the attitude the Minister took in speaking on the matter last Monday. I submit, therefore, that the question whether West Ham is in the wrong or not, whether it has pleaded guilty or not, is a very narrow foundation for saying that in no case will there be inquiry by a properly selected Committee before supersession takes place. I say that in the case of a vast number of boards in important industrial centres, for the local administration of which we have great respect, this Bill gives the Minister power to supersede any of those boards at his own unfettered discretion. That, we say, is too great a power for any Minister to have without proper confirmation and inquiry by the House of Commons, and I very much hope that when an answer is given we shall have a little more about the constitutional point, and a little more about the general powers—which are what we are discussing—and a little less of enlargement upon the particular case of one board of guardians which is serving as a scapegoat.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
I desire to support the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr). The real cause of this Bill, the Minister said, was some slight corruption in the Borough of West Ham in connection with the board of 2312 guardians. I want to say unhesitatingly that the highest standard of commercial morality is not entirely on the other side of the House; I suggest that the standard of commercial morality is just as high on this side as on that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Higher!"] I think we can give them a few points in that direction. Many charges have been made against the West Ham Board of Guardians, and that is the reason why this Bill has been brought forward. As a matter of fact, if the Minister of Health had done his duty there would have been no need for this Bill at all. I think he has neglected his duty. I would remind the Committee that last year the Ministry had charge of the West Ham Union for three or four weeks, and I am convinced that if those gentlemen who were administering Poor Law relief in West Ham then had found any corruption going on, it would have been reported to the Minister at the time. If at that time he thought that there was a great deal of corruption going on, and that the West Ham Board of Guardians was not doing its duty, why did he not take action then, and not allow the matter to drift on for about 12 months?
In the course of these Debates the Minister of Health has said that at the present time the West Ham Board of Guardians have been compelled to cut down the scale of relief by 25 per cent. That is due to the fact that there is very little money. The Minister of Health has refused to grant any more money at all to the West Ham Board of Guardians. Therefore, they have to rely on the money they have collected from the various local authorities that comprise the area, and in a very short time there will be no money at all for relief of any kind. I understand that the bankers have been authorised not to allow any further overdraft, because, on the last occasion when a deputation went to the Ministry of Health, the only money they would grant was £100,000 to carry on with for the time being. The result has been that they have been compelled to cut down the scale of relief by 25 per cent. I am convinced that, if the West Ham Board of Guardians would now agree to cut down the relief to the extent of 25 per cent., this Bill would be withdrawn to-morrow, because what the Minister of Health and the Parliamentary Secretary are after is to make the boards of guardians cut 2313 down their scales of relief all over their areas to a maximum not exceeding 40s. If that is the position, and if, when the Minister attempts to take charge of the Poor Law authority in West Ham, he attempts to cut down the scale of relief to a maximum of 40s.—which will mean that a man and his wife with six or seven children cannot receive any more than 40s.—then I am convinced that there will be very serious trouble, not only in West Ham but in many other parts of the country.
I support this Amendment because, if a Select Committee were appointed as it suggests, then, if it were known that there were any defaulting boards of guardians, or any form of corruption in the slightest degree, the guardians concerned would be summoned to appear before the Select Committee, which, as hon. Members know, would be selected from the various parties in the House. There would be an investigation, witnesses would be called and examined, and I say unhesitatingly that, if any corruption is found in West Ham or in any other place, I shall be the very first to try and get it stopped. I have never sought election to a board of guardians because I should be too sympathetic. Everyone knows, or should know, that the sympathies of members of boards of guardians who have been through the economic mill, as many of us have, must be deep-rooted and they must be more sympathetic to the poor people they represent than those who have never been through the trouble we have been through ourselves. I admit that there has been a very big improvement in the method of dealing with poor relief compared with what there was many years ago. When I was six years old there were four of us, and what my mother got was one loaf and one shilling. That was a very inhumane system. It is more humane to-day even than it was pre-War, because, pre-War, the amount was limited to about 10s., but no one can say there is any extravagance even now. You cannot find any Poor Law authority that is giving less than 19s. for a man and wife, the same as we give in West Ham, and in some cases they give 23s., and in some 24s., but when the West Ham Poor Law Authority are dealing with children our scale is very much higher than in any other part of the country. If I were a member of the 2314 West Ham Board of Guardians my sympathies would be with the people, and I think I should be prepared to give them the full scale of relief. No one in West Ham can receive more than 25s., and then there must be a man and wife and about seven children. All forms of income are taken into consideration.
When the last deputation went to the right hon. Gentleman's Department 18 suggestions were submitted to them. They went back and reported, and I am not quite sure whether you were altogether satisfied with the replies given to those suggestions. I think they met you in every particular and I do not think you have any objection on that point. Even now you can appoint any Committee you like. A Committee chosen from the three parties could make a thorough investigation into the scale of administration. If you can find out that there has been any maladministration, if the guardians have been making any profits out of their position or receiving any perquisites or anything of that kind, I shall be with you every time, because we believe in purity of government as much as you do. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts the Amendment it will give him every opportunity and it will take a good deal of responsibility off his shoulders, because it simply means that unless it is accepted, the Minister must appoint his own men. Whether the guardians will have a chance of rebutting the charges which have been brought against them I am not in a position to say, but it appears to be dangerous to give the power to one individual, whether a Minister or anyone else, to select certain gentlemen to administer relief, more especially in West Ham, and if there was a Royal Commission to investigate the methods of relief throughout the country I am not sure that Birmingham could not be roped in for maladministration. I am quite convinced that the sympathies of working-class representatives must be more deeply rooted than those who have not been through the same difficulties.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I do not think the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have treated the Amendment as seriously as it should have been treated. The Minister has simply said the reason for not accepting it was that the West Ham Guardians could not carry on. 2315 That argument has been thoroughly exploded. Last year he administered the union of West Ham without any authority whatever from this House, and only through the goodwill of the guardians he was let off and did not have to come to the House to be indemnified for doing what he had no business to do. If we had a Select Committee, part of their investigation could be as to what advantage there was during the period the Minister took charge and what advantage the ratepayers gained through that administration. I think that part of the Minister's activities ought to have been investigated and dealt with by the House long before now. I do not think that in dealing with even a board of guardians he has any right to act like a small Mussolini and without any authority from Parliament take over the functions of a directly elected body. Then before the Bill or anything like it is passed we ought to have an investigation as to what it is that has moved the Minister. I understood on Monday that the chief reason was that there was a corrupt motive on the part of the electors and that that, of course, would react on the elected person, who would have to satisfy the person who elected him by giving him relief which was not justified. I think all dockyard Members and all who represent Government employés are in a similar position, and some of us would like to bring evidence before such a Select Committee to, prove that dockyard Members are intimidated in that way.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I was looking in the book and it seemed to me we might be able to frame the terms of reference to the Select Committee in such a way as to cover the whole question of corruption.
Is it really in order for an hon. Member to compare a dockyard Member with a board of guardians which has been proved corrupt?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I do not know why anyone should get excited about this. We want this Select Committee in order that the charges on which the right hon. Gentleman bases his Bill may be investigated and dealt with. When the Noble Lady says people have been proved corrupt, where is the evidence? The right hon. Gentleman quoted something that was said by the Chairman of the West Ham Board, and in order to refute our arguments on this side he puts up the pamphlet of the Poplar Board, "Guilty, and Proud of it." We also plead guilty to the fact that in dealing with 10,000 cases a week we might occasionally be had, as even this House might be had by someone who deceived it. We do not say we are people who can always know what is in each other's minds and when we are dealing with a very large number of poor people to whom 6d. or 1s. something of consequence we may perhaps be deceived. But the real crime of that is not with the individual but with that sort of system of society which makes it pay poor people to tell a lie in order to get a paltry 6d. We want this investigated by a Select Committee. We do not think it is good enough to take West Ham and make it a sort of chopping block as it has been made here.
This is not a Bill to deal with West Ham only. It is to deal with all boards that the right hon. Gentleman thinks may get themselves in difficulties. Another point the Committee ought to investigate is the action of the right hon. Gentleman in putting them into difficulties. He can always land a board into difficulties if he wants to. He can say: "You shall not have any more money. I will not sanction any more of your loans." But I am certain if a Select Committee was set up to investigate the administration of the Poor Law in necessitous areas where loans are necessary the House would be surprised at the purity of administration of all those 2317 boards. The Parliamentary Secretary cited a case the other night where there was a family income of £7 a week. I think that is a case a Select Committee ought to go into and put all the facts on the Table. The notorious Mr. Cooper thought he investigated us in Poplar by running through our establishments. He put up a case where someone had been getting £4 a week, and asked, "Does anyone imagine that this man will ever go to work again?" The House of Commons was deceived over that case which was flung across the Floor, and thought that everyone in Poplar got £4 a week, and also that this particular man would never go to work again. As a matter of fact he only had the relief for one week, and was back at his work again, and he had a family of 10 children to maintain. I asked the hon. Gentleman to tell us the particulars of this £7 case, and he refused. If we could get before a Select Committee we should have all these cases investigated in a proper manner. We want a Select Committee because, frankly, we do not trust the right hon. Gentleman or his assistant. It is true that this is a question of political principle. You believe in starving the people. We believe in preventing their starvation.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
It is no good the Noble Lady shaking her head. It shows her ignorance of social conditions. She is the most ignorant Member in the House about social conditions. For a wealthy woman to be always interfering when the conditions of poor people are discussed, is simply disgusting.
The genesis of this controversy is the question whether poor people are to be adequately relieved or not. When it was a question of the men coming home from the War, you gave them almost all that they were pleased to ask for. We want a Select Committee to go into the matter and to be able to investigate it by questioning the right hon. Gentleman as to what exactly is in his mind. In the East End we believe that what he has in his mind in regard to the able-bodied is that he is going to attempt to cause the men who are out of work to live on the miserable pittance that they get from unemployment insurance. I would like the right hon. Gentleman or the Parlia- 2318 mentary Secretary to deny that. Is it not a fact that they intend to do their best to forbid and stop boards of guardians from giving any assistance to men who are on the Employment Exchange? We have heard such a rumour. Before such a principle can be laid down, this House ought to appoint a Select Committee to investigate the whole conditions.
It is no answer to say to us that the case is proved. There has been no investigation. When we are told that 100 or even 1,000 cases have been investigated, all it means is that there is a different standard of relief set up by boards of guardians from the one which the right hon. Gentleman thinks ought to be set up. Hon. Members opposite believe in democracy when democracy does what they want it to do, but when democracy does something different, they want to abolish it. Before it is abolished in the case of boards of guardians, there ought to be a Select Committee set up. I hope the Committee will carry our Amendment.
§ Sir BEDDOE REES
I have no intention of discussing the merits of the West Ham case. I have got sufficient data to judge of that case; but this Bill goes very far beyond West Ham. In confers powers upon the Minister of Health which will have to be used with great care. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would accept the Amendment in some form. There are not sufficient safeguards in the Bill. A Select Committee is a very complex proceeding, and the Minister would be compelled to wait a very considerable time before he could get the findings of a Select Committee. Even that is better than nothing. I would not mind a judicial inquiry; but I do think that there should be some inquiry before the Minister acts under the powers given in this Bill. The only safeguard, so far as I can see is that which says:An Order made under this Sub-section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if either House within twenty-one days after the Order has been laid before it presents an address to His Majesty praying that the Order may be annulled.There is an Amendment on the Paper making that positive, reversing the order, and providing that the Order is not to be put into operation until it has received 2319 assent by Resolution of this House. If the Minister can tell us that he will accept that Amendment, I should be satisfied, but without some safeguard I do not think we ought to let this Bill go. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to satisfy us, because we are very apprehensive. We believe that he is taking powers which are unprecedented, which strike at the very root of what we believe to be democratic government, namely, powers to suppress a popularly-elected representative body. If he is to take action of that sort, it should be done after the fullest inquiry, and this House should, at least, have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. Unless we can have some satisfaction on that point, I shall vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. J. JONES
In so far as we are concerned as representatives of part of the West Ham Union area—which has unfortunately been designated as West Ham, much to our disadvantage—we court full inquiry. West Ham Union is the largest Poor Law area in the country, including eight different townships. The name of West Ham has been advertised to such an extent, before and after the event, that we have had a great deal of discredit cast upon us because we happen to come from West Ham. In addition to any other claim, I happen to have been a member of the West Ham Board of Guardians in the past when some friends of hon. Gentlemen opposite were sent to gaol for corruption. Of six men who went to gaol, five of them belonged to the party opposite. One of them was a member of our party, but he was expelled a month before his trial took place because they discovered that he had been doing things he ought not to have done.
The Minister of Health deliberately went out of his way in introducing this Bill to make corruption the basis of his case. He has power, if he elects to do so, to single out those who have been guilty of corruption. He has power to send his inspectors to every committee. Some of them have been there already. I remember that Mr. Oxley was a regular attendant at the meetings of the board of guardians and of the different committees. In a radius such as ours, with a population of 1,250,000, it is impossible to deliver all the relief at one station. We have to sub-divide the work, with the 2320 result that we have 15 relief stations in the West Ham Poor Law area. The consequence is that we have to sub-divide the work amongst members of the board.
What is the gravamen of the charge? The charges are epitomised in the report of the auditor, which has been issued. He has picked out 100 cases during a period of three years. During those three years we have had an average, taking the industrial troubles through which we have passed, of more than 25,000 cases a week to deal with, in eight to 15 relief stations. We challenge any court of inquiry or any committee of investigation. This is the worst report that could be made against us. The gentleman, evidently, went down to West Ham with instructions to pick out cases, and he picked them out. Out of the whole of the cases there are really only two cases. I challenge the House to appoint any committee they like. Leave us out of it, call us as witnesses if you desire. On the basis of the charges in this report, if the West Ham Board of Guardians are abolished, you will be committing one of the grossest acts of treachery towards democracy, if this is all the evidence that can be submitted and if these are the worst cases that can be found.
The allegation has been made that members of the Board had relatives working for the Board. Good God! What a crime! Relatives of Ministers have high office in the government of the country. I remember that one of them some years ago went to gaol for seven years. He was a relative of a Minister of the Crown at the time. If we examined now the list of those who hold high office under the Crown, it would be found that they include the political sons or orphans of the storm from the last election. Those who did not secure seats are now, in many cases, County Court Judges, simply because of services rendered to the party. In the last honours list we find that the chairman of a Conservative Association has been made a baronet. These gentlemen receive honours, and the next day their names appear in the list of a board of directors who want some money from the public. The guinea pig then becomes a prominent person, because his name can be depended upon to get money out of the mugs. That is not corruption, but if a member of the West Ham Board of Guardians has 2321 a son who applies for a job under the Beard, and he gets it, he becomes a criminal because he happens to be that man's son.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman, "Is that your charge of corruption?" If so, other people have been doing that for years. In the past, no-one of the working classes could even apply for a job, never mind get it. Since Labour became a dominant factor, this sort of thing has been discovered to be corrupt, simply because we give the worker a chance which he never had before of filling jobs which he had never been able to do before, because he happened to be a workman. Talk about square pegs in round holes! In so far as we are concerned, we will take the document upon which the evidence is based and put it before any Committee. Call it a Select Committee or any other Committee. Give us a chance of defending ourselves, and allow us to put other people in the pillory. Let us have a chance of putting the Birmingham Board of Guardians on the mat. They are paying, on the average, 11s. a year more than we pay in West Ham. Of course, they are not extravagant! They belong to the holy of holies! Your name is Chamberlain, therefore, you cannot do wrong, but if you belong to our crew down in West Ham, you are a criminal before you are tried.
All we are asking for in this Amendment is that we shall have fair play; that the Court shall not be held in Hell, with the Devil as the presiding magistrate. I am quite frank about it. It is a case of our being at the mercy of one man. If I was fighting for the principle for which he fights, I should say, "Take this Bill for all it is worth." Our turn is coming, and we shall have a Minister of Health, and we shall say to the reactionary boards of guardians throughout the country, "Come up to the level of the progressive boards in the matter of relief. You are not paying enough. You must treat the people as human beings." I went to a board of guardians once, when I was a much younger man than I am now. I had a wife and two children. The scale of relief then was 1s. a day and a loaf of bread for each child, but before you could get the relief you had to break a quarter-hundred- 2322 weight of stone or pick a quarter of d pound of oakum. Different times have come. We have altered the Poor Law, wherever we have had an opportunity. There is more humane treatment now.
I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman wants to go back to those old days, I would not make such a charge against him. I would not charge him with that, bad as he is, but I do charge him with this, that the principle of his party is that they want to force the scale of relief down below the standard of wages of the ordinary unskilled labourer, so that no longer will it be possible for boards of guardians to give a scale of relief which will enable the man to refuse a sweating job. The slogan which we have heard on platforms in the East End of London is that no man ought to receive so much relief as would give him more than the unskilled labourer gets when he is in employment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Exactly. That is what I wanted to hear from hon. Members opposite. The Poor Law is to be used to help the employer to force down wages. That is the only question at stake, and that is the secret of this Bill. Those boards of guardians which refuse to help the sweating employer of labour to get cheap labour are to be put in the pillory, but those who are prepared to do the dirty work of the employers will get the benediction of the right hon. Gentleman and they will have money to help them in their campaign. We have to come to him because we are poor. [An HON. MEMBER: "Bankrupt."] Some of you have been bankrupt, and you are better off after your bankruptcy than we are when we are well off. We ask that some Committee should be appointed. The right hon. Gentleman can settle for himself what sort of a Committee it shall be, but we do ask that some Committee shall be appointed to inquire into the charges made against us, and if Labour members of the board of guardians are found to have been corrupt, or have done something for which they are liable, then we will not back them up, you can send them to gaol. The Government have all the power they want under the existing law without bringing in this Bill, which is in the end an attack on the standard of life of the people of this country.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I know nothing of the details of the West Ham case, but judging from the speeches we have heard during this Debate this seems to be a very drastic action to take in connection with a half-proved offence. If we assume that everything that is alleged has gone on at West Ham, is it really any justification for a Bill of this character? I do not think the Committee fully appreciates the far-reaching powers given to the Minister by this Measure. They are to be brought into operation because of a single case out of the numerous boards of guardians in England, and are to be put into operation against one of our oldest institutions. The Bill provides that where it appears to the Minister of Health that the board of guardians for any Poor Law union have ceased, or are acting in such a manner, as appears to the Minister, to render them unable to discharge at or any of their functions of the board, then the Minister can simply wave his land and tell them to clear out. He can put in his own nominees; his nominees can be kept there for 12 months. If he thinks fit the Minister can extend that period for six months, and, if necessary, he is entitled to pay advisers to put his nominees right. That is what is proposed in this Bill.
I do not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman would do anything sinister, but he is not the only Minister of Health we shall have in the future. What is meant by the phrase "appears to the Minister" that a board of guardians is unable to discharge any of its functions. A board of guardians has many functions. Can you pick out any one of these functions and say that a board of guardians is incapable of discharging that function? Can the Minister say that a board of guardians have put themselves in such a position that makes it likely, in his opinion, that they will not properly discharge that function? This Bill enables the Minister of his own sweet will to say to the West Ham Board of Guardians, or to any other board of guardians in the country, "I do not like the cut of your clothes, or the shape of your hair, clear out" There is nothing to prevent it. You have the expression, "Where it appears to the Minister" If he turned out a board of guardians contrary to the public opinion of the whole community and he was brought to Court on a mandamus it would be sufficient for 2324 him to say that "it appears to me—I may be a fool; I may be a crank—but it appears to me"; and that would be final in a Court of Law. Is it fair because of some sense of annoyance, rightly or wrongly, which the Minister may feel in reference to the conduct of the West Ham guardians, that he should force a disability on one of the most respected and ancient institutions of this country? I have heard no justification for it. It has been said that all the Government are going on is some 100 cases out of some hundreds of thousands. The Minister of Health says that these 100 cases do not represent all the cases. That may be, but is it necessary to pass such legislation as this without any inquiry? The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) was very indignant indeed that he should be charged with corruption, and he threw out a challenge to bring the charge before a proper tribunal. He asked whether it is right that the Minister, who takes a view opposed to that of the hon. Member for Silvertown should have the power, of his own sweet will, to say, "It appears to me, and that is good enough. All you fellows are corrupt, and, therefore, I will supersede you, put in a board of guardians of my own, keep them there for 12 months, extend the time if I choose, and if I find my board of guardians utterly incompetent I can then charge the taxpayer with the cost of advisers to help them to do the work."
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the fact that this Bill has a far more general application than to the case of West Ham. It is a menace to other boards of guardians which operate in South Wales, and it is for that reason that I take part in this discussion. In the course of his remarks last Monday the Minister of Health indicated that there were ample grounds on which to justify this Bill. There is, in his view, a considerable amount of corruption, as he says, in the West Ham Union area, and presumably we are to accept that as a justification for applying these extreme powers to all other boards of guardians which happen to fall under the ban of his displeasure in the future. We have had a fair answer from the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) on that point. Surely the law of the land is strong enough to deal with any corruption. If the Minister is in a position to assert 2325 that this corruption is very widespread then it is up to him, it is his duty, to take whatever steps the law provides to arrest these corrupt practices and vindicate the morality of local government. But if, on the other hand, as seems to be the case, the measure of corruption which the Minister is able to prove is indeed very small and limited, then I ask what justification can there be for taking the tremendous powers in this Bill in order to deal with a very limited amount of corruption in a particular part of the Metropolis of London.
If my assumption is correct, if this so-called corruption is limited to one particular area in London, or to one particular board of guardians in London, is it fair to invest the Minister with powers and authority which will enable him to deal not merely with this particular board of guardians which he alleges is corrupt, but with all the other boards of guardians throughout the country? I resent very much the implication conveyed by the speech of the Minister, that one of the justifications for introducing this Bill is the presence of corruption in local government. We all know the real reason why this problem has become so acute in various parts of the country. The Minister appointed a Committee to inquire into the burden of certain areas known as necessitous areas, and in the course of their remarks they indicate that it is obvious that the main burden, the exceptional and abnormal burden, now borne on the shoulders of the Poor Law authorities, is created by the exceptional unemployment in this country. The West Ham guardians are quite aware of this. They acknowledge it, and, knowing that this is the reason for the exceptional burden, they have submitted to the Minister and his Committee a scheme whereby this exceptional problem and burden might be mitigated to some degree.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
The hon. Member is making a speech somewhat too wide in scope. The question now is whether this matter should be considered by a Select Committee.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I do not want to go outside the Rules of Order in the slightest degree. I am trying to point out that so far from there being anything in 2326 the nature of corruption at all, a considerable degree of the problem is one which concerns all boards of guardians throughout the country, and it can be dealt with in another way than by vesting the Minister of Health with the exceptional powers in this Bill. In order to limit the autocracy of the right hon. Gentleman I am going to support the Amendment that a special Select Committee shall be appointed to inquire into the matter. I was arguing—if I am still in Order—that the exceptional problem arises from the exceptional measure of unemployment in the country, and that, therefore, if there is a fault to be attached to anybody on account of the immensity, or the intensity, of unemployment, the fault lies with the right hon. Gentleman himself in so far as he has failed to come to the help or the assistance of the authorities.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is, I think, going somewhat outside the scope of the Amendment.
§ Mr. JONES
I desire to keep in order, and I shall leave for the present that particular point; but I would like to submit that a responsibility rests with the Government, and because of that, the Minister ought not to ask for the exceptional powers involved here. What does the right hon. Gentleman suggest to deal with this particular disease in local government? He wants exceptional powers. He wants to be able entirely to suspend—not entirely to abrogate—but to suspend the powers of the boards of guardians for a period of time. It is the right hon. Gentleman himself who makes this demand. What is the criticism made against those of us who call ourselves Socialists? Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that we put forward schemes from time to time which tend, at least in respect to some of them, to an increase of bureaucracy in this country. Surely there cannot be a more blatant attempt to increase bureaucracy in this country than is contained in this particular Clause? That, in the case where we have duly-elected local authorities actually conducting their functions in a normal way, the right hon. Gentleman, who accuses us of excessive love of bureaucracy, proposes to remove these local bodies? What he says in effect is:I am a monarch of all I survey, My right there is none to dispute.2327 That is exactly the position. There is a determined advance on the other side along those lines—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Gentleman is endeavouring to argue that the powers of the Minister should be limited.
§ Mr. JONES
That is precisely the point I am trying to make, and I think it is for the most part apprehended by hon. Members. The point I was making is this: the Minister of Health desires to have the power to remove from his path the boards of guardians who fail to come up to the standards that he sets before them. If the right hon. Gentleman desires to have powers to deal with local authorities in default why not—I am not concealing the point that we think he ought not to do anything at all to interfere with the rights of local governing bodies in the matter—but if he is to interfere why not take steps to have a re-election of the board of guardians?
§ Mr. JONES
If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to intimate now that he will accept this Amendment, I need not say anything more on the matter. I would submit that there is another danger that arises from this proposal. We are told quite frequently from the other side that there is a great danger of depressing the spirit of the local electors in various areas, and that the great need of the time is to keep up a more intense interest in local government affairs than is now the case.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman is getting beyond the scope of the Amendment. Perhaps he will confine his remarks to the question before the Committee.
§ Mr. JONES
Quite so. The point I desire to make now is this: If the right hon. Gentleman takes these powers, then the consequence will be that the local electors in the various areas will say to themselves: "Why should we worry, and come to the assistance of the State in local affairs. If things go wrong, the Minister 2328 interferes on our behalf; he will take the matter under his control, and we need not worry at all." I submit to the Committee that this would engender a false confidence among the electors in the Poor Law areas, and will be doing a very great disservice indeed to the principles of democracy. Surely what has been suggested is strictly à propos to the question before the Committee at the moment.
May I put a further question? What is going to be the effect of the vesting of this authority in the right hon. Gentleman? Not very long ago, I think the week before last to be precise, the Poor Law guardians of the Pontyprid area suddenly discovered that they were unable to pay out Poor Law relief. There was a hue and cry, and the members of the Welsh section of the Labour party had a special meeting to discuss the matter. We were told that this area, which comprised a huge population, a population of about half a million, was in this desperate position, that the guardians had no money whatever to pay out in relief—quite temporarily, I admit. That board of guardians had already agreed with the Minister to reduce its scale of relief by a certain amount. What will be the consequence in that case of the alteration to Poor Law guardians, if any authority is confronted with this frightful impasse? The right hon. Gentleman will in future be able to go to the various other boards of guardians in South Wales, and say that Pontypridd had agreed with him, and that Merthyr must now agree, that Neath must now agree, and that the various other Poor Law guardians must accept the same standard! Suppose any one of these boards of guardians proves itself to be rather somewhat recalcitrant in the matter, what will the Minister say? He will say that Clause 1 of the Bill gives him the power to interfere in the matter because the board of guardianshave ceased, or are acting in such a manner as will render them unable to discharge all or any of the functions,and so on. The right hon. Gentleman will use this particular Clause, as I suggest, harshly and unjustly, to bring undue pressure to bear on those who are in charge, and endeavouring to discharge local government functions honestly, decently, and efficiently. In order to prevent that occurring we have moved this Amendment, and have suggested 2329 that where there is a local governing body alleged to be in default, that before the Minister exercises his arbitrary and dictatorial powers in this way the thing should be submitted to a Select Committee of this House, and that in that way—even though we have to concede for the sake of argument the point that the right hon. Gentleman has a right to remove the duly-elected persons from their office—in that way he will be still re-connecting—if I may use the expression—another duly-elected authority so as to keep the democratic element in connection with local government work. For these reasons, I have very great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ Major CRAWFURD
As one who represents a portion of the West Ham Board of Guardians' area I naturally have a very great interest in this Bill, because all through the country the West Ham Board of Guardians action has been quoted on both sides. I do suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he has a special responsibility to satisfy, if he can, those who do represent areas within this particular Poor Law district. But I have risen to ask him, or his colleague the Parliamentary Secretary, if it is possible before the Division on this Amendment takes place for either of them to give an answer to the question which was put to them, I think, for the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Bristol (Sir Beddoe Rees). He pointed out that there was a later Clause which would affect the making of an Order, and he suggested that that Order should lie on the Table before being put into operation and not afterwards—in other words, that the matter could be questioned before the Order was made. That seems to me to be important, because, whatever else you are dealing with under this particular Clause, you are going to enlarge the arbitrary and autocratic position of the Minister in a way that has been very well put by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney).
What, however, I want to direct the attention of the Committee and the right hon. Gentleman to is the fact that in Clause 1 he is taking powers to suspend the operations of the boards of guardians for a charge that may be quite unspecified. The language is vague:Acting in such a manner as will render them unable to discharge"—2330 to prevent them carrying out their work. Therefore, the effect of this Bill is that, for an unspecified charge against a popularly-elected body, you get the arbitrary action of the Minister. Whether you are right or whether you are wrong—and I think the question could be much better argued without any reference to any particular board of guardians—is not that a very serious thing to do? All the Amendment does is to suggest that a body responsible to this House, which is also a democratically-elected body, should be able to take a decision before the Minister's Order is put into effect. I am going to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will give a little consideration to this. Walthamstow has recently suffered under another decision taken by a Government Department, the effect of which is that the whole district is being put under a kind of ban because of the action, or alleged action, of certain members in this district.
The only justification—I shall be glad to be corrected if I am wrong—of the action of the right hon. Gentleman will be this: that in a particular district this democratically-elected body, the board of guardians has failed, in other words that democracy itself has failed! I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman will give some satisfaction to the people in the district—who do not support the particular people that we represent—in other words, it would give some chance of democracy succeeding in the future in that district, if he would allow some sort of inquiry to be made, so that the facts could be arrived at, the charges could be made, and if possible proved, and so justification shown for arbitrary action of this kind. It is in the interests of the other inhabitants of these districts, and in view of the effect up them and their position of decisions of this kind, that I urge the Government to give very careful consideration to this proposal, and if the Parliamentary Secretary cannot accept this Amendment I hope he will be able to accept a later Amendment which will have the effect of enabling discussion and a decision in this House to precede any such Order.
§ Mr. HARNEY
Does this Clause provide only for the laying on the Table of the Order referring to the extension 2331 of the period or does this provision apply to the original Order made? It seems to me on the reading of the Clause it only applies to the Order for the six-months period.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The fate which has overtaken the West Ham Board of Guardians is one which may overtake the board of guardians for the district which I have the honour to represent, because that area is, like many others, labouring under such disadvantages as those which we have had exemplified in the case of West Ham. We are passing through an abnormal period and we cannot say what the effect of the present dispute is going to be. It is extremely likely that unemployment will remain with us in an accentuated form for some time. There is likely to be a continuance of poverty and it is certain that, under such conditions, boards of guardians will find a tremendous strain placed upon them. I am sure that will be the case in Merthyr Tydvil. They are finding the strain, even at the present moment, and if this Bill be passed without this Amendment it will be open to the Minister at any moment to sweep down upon them, take over their functions, appoint his own officials and run the place as he thinks fit. That is too great a power to he placed in the right hon. Gentleman's hands.
I will try to keep within the bounds of order, but I must point out the reason why this Bill is necessary is because the Government have neglected their own pledges and their own duties in dealing with the question of necessitous areas. Had that been done, much of the existing trouble might have been obviated. There should be a frank inquiry of a public character into the conditions obtaining in any of the unions that come under the ban of the Minister before he is allowed to take the action proposed in the Bill. Even on the merits of the case presented for this Bill, what is happening is far less a matter of corruption than of genorosity on the part of those who, themselves, have felt the pinch of poverty. I do not believe for a single moment that it can be charged definitely or in any legal sense that there has been corruption on the part of the West Ham Board of Guardians. If it is corruption to say to a person, "We propose to treat you 2332 with common decency," then, of course, the West Ham Board of Guardians is corrupt, but it must not be expected that all boards of guardians, now or in the future, are going to take the views held by boards of guardians in the past. You cannot expect that boards of guardians comprising numbers of working people are going to adopt the same point of view as that of previous boards of guardians and are going to exercise their powers in a punitive spirit. Working people are not going to regard poverty or unemployment as a reason for punishment.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member started very well by saying that he was going to try to keep within the bounds of order, but I think he is now going beyond the scope of the Amendment.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I do not wish to stray from the point. Because certain action is likely to be taken, I think there is every reason why we should have a public inquiry into all cases of this kind instead of giving the Minister the arbitrary power which is sought in this Bill. I hope the House will recognise the monstrous nature of the claim that is being made—that the Minister can of his own free will over-set boards of guardians in various parts of the country and take over their functions, without any overriding power of any kind. It is a proposal which the House of Commons ought to reject with all its power, and I hope those hon. Members who represent constituencies where the boards of guardians may find themselves in a tight place owing to the present depression, will join in rejecting the Bill and in insisting that such power as this, should only be granted after the case has been inquired into by a Select Committee of the House of Commons.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I wish to reply to one or two of the questions which have been addressed to me in the course of this discussion. Many of the arguments which have been addressed to the Committee are in the nature of attempts to reverse the decision at which the House of Commons arrived when this Bill was given a Second Reading. The case then put forward by my right hon. Friend was that in relation to one particular board, an exceptional situation has arisen which called for exceptional powers 2333 and, on the evidence which was tendered to the House of Commons by my right hon. Friend and myself, the House by a large majority agreed that exceptional powers of this kind should be given to the Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "Your own party."] Well, that is the way in which we govern our country and, therefore, I hope hon. Members will excuse me if I do not combat once again the arguments which were used against us and develop once again the case which we made on the last occasion. I only recall, as far as the general nature of the Bill is concerned, one statement which I made on the Second Reading as to the intention of this Bill and the reason why it was drawn in such wide terms.This Bill is an emergency Measure designed first to deal with an urgent situation which has been developing for some time and has now become acute, and, secondly, and with an equally necessary object, possibly to prevent and, in any case, to circumvent, a similar situation if such should arise in other parts of the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th July, 1926; col. 1748, Vol. 197.]I do not think any hon. Member would desire us to bring in a Bill for dealing only with one particular board of guardians so that if the same circumstances were to arise in connection with another board of guardians we should have to bring in another Pill to deal specially with that case also. Obviously this Bill must be drafted in general terms and must be made applicable to any case which may arise. Criticism has been offered as to the wide terms of this particular Clause and I was asked if we were going to accept an Amendment later on, which would prevent the Minister from proceeding to deal with other cases, as suggested in the Bill, unless the particular matter came before Parliament. We shall not be able to accept that Amendment.
§ Sir K. WOOD
We shall discuss it no doubt when the Amendment comes up. Obviously in cases of this kind the Minister must be able to deal immediately with such situations. The immediate proposition before the Committee is that before the Minister can make an order to supersede a board of guardians a Select Committee of the House of Commons should inquire into the case. It would be a most remarkable proceeding if you adopted that course in the present case of West 2334 Ham. This week they are nearing the end of their financial resources. I suppose in a few days time those resources will have come to an end. Is it suggested while this is going on, that a Select Committee which might sit for weeks, should be set up to inquire into the matter? What is to happen to the finances of West Ham in the interim?
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. Gentleman suggests we should lend them more money. That is a nice proposition. Apparently the hon. Member expects the Minister of Health to advance to the West Ham Board of Guardians another large sum of money without any conditions at all, or if the West Ham Board of Guardians refused to accept the conditions of my right hon. Friend, they are still to have the money and they are to have it all the time a Select Committee is sitting which may be for months and months. All that time my right hon. Friend is to be lending the money of the State under conditions which he does not recommend himself, and yet he is to be responsible to the House of Commons for the money he is so lending.
§ Sir K. WOOD
It is obviously an impossible position and one which cannot be seriously considered. The suggestion is ludicrous on the face of it. As my right hon. Friend reminded the House, the proposition of the Amendment is not one which the Labour party themselves have made in their own Measures. There is no suggestion in the Labour party's Measure in respect of default by a council in regard to housing, where they authorise the Minister to make an Order that there should be a Select Committee upon it. The same remark applies to the Labour party's Unemployment Bill. I do not, however, rely upon these examples for my case this afternoon. I may tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that this Clause follows very largely the wording of Section 63 of the Elementary Education Act of 1870 which has been put into operations when various school boards have defaulted. Obviously, when you are dealing with an exceptional case of this kind, you must have a drastic remedy, and I admit this is a drastic remedy, but if the 2335 Minister makes any mistake in any action which he takes under this Clause, he will be responsible to the House of Commons for it, and, obviously, if action is to be taken in connection with another board of guardians and if hon. Members consider it to be improper action, they will have the right to challenge the decision of my right hon. Friend in the House of Commons. As they know, they can get a very early date on which to make their challenge—not perhaps if the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), who wanted to make the challenge by himself, but I am referring to the big body of opinion of hon. Members opposite. In the circumstances, I hope the Committee will agree that in a case of this kind we must give the Minister such power as is laid down in this particular Clause. Such power must, of necessity, be given in a case like West Ham where money is being constantly borrowed for so long. If this particular board of guardians were existing on its own resources of course there would be no necessity for the Bill. There would be no question then, as the hon. and learned Gentleman would appreciate, of the local authorities ceasing to function.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I will read the Subsection, which says:where it appears…. that the board of guardians have ceased or are acting in such a manner as to render them unable to discharge all the functions exercisable by the board.
§ Major CRAWFURD
Did that phrase of the hon. Gentleman mean to convey cases where guardians had come to the end of their resources?
§ Sir K. WOOD
The first phrase is: "Where… the board of guardians have ceased." That is to say, have ceased to be able to carry on because they are not able to operate their functions.
§ Major CRAWFURD
That is exactly what I meant when, in the course of my 2336 remarks, I said the charge was unspecified. If, as the hon. Member now tells me, it was only instances where they have for financial reasons become unable to act, that is a different matter. It does not say so.
§ Sir K. WOOD
if the hon. Member can conceive any other case in which they would cease, I cannot. Therefore I say to the hon. Gentlemen opposite that, so far as this matter is concerned, there is no necessity either to get prior sanction from this House or to intervene by setting up a Select Committee.
§ Mr. HARNEY
The hon. Gentleman has said that "unable" is necessarily confined to not having money; suppose all the guardians were in prison, they would be "unable" Suppose a guardian was, in the opinion of the Minister, not sufficiently intellectual or competent.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I do not think an hon. Member with the experience of my hon. and learned Friend would bring that forward. There would be some other Section of the Statute for what is to be done in a case of that kind.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
if they do not cover cases of default where no such financial considerations came in, how did the Board of Education come in?
§ Sir K. WOOD
I cannot say as to that. At any rate, no Poor Law union which has ceased to function and is acting in such a way as to render them unable—
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
How can the words "or acting in such a manner" contemplate, according to the hon. Member's argument, the possession of funds, where they have no funds?
§ Sir K. WOOD
That is exactly the West Ham case—or acting in such a manner as to render them unable to discharge all the functions exercisable by the board.What they are doing in West Ham is that they are acting in such a manner and refusing to comply with the conditions which have been made. They are acting in such a manner as to render them unable to discharge any or all of their functions. I think, if hon. Gentlemen will look at this particular Clause carefully, they will agree with the statement that I have made. I say that there 2337 is no necessity to interpose any question of a Select Committee or to get the approval of the House before that Order is made.
§ Major CRAWFURD
May I put this question to the hon. Member? According to his interpretation of Clause 1, the Minister cannot proceed on any charge of corruption.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I think my right hon. Friend made it clear on the Second Reading of this Bill that the reason why we were bringing in the Bill was owing to the fact that the West Ham Board of Guardians, through various reasons, one of which was maladministration, had put themselves in such a position that they were unable to discharge all or any of their functions.
§ Mr. BARNES
The best reason we can have on this side for our Amendment is the defence of the Parliamentary Secretary. He has offered to us explanations that have already been seriously challenged in various parts of the Committee. It is because we do not consider a Minister or a Department should have these powers of superseding the local government in vague phrases of this sort that we have put forward our Amendment. This Amendment is designed for the express purpose of ensuring that a Select Committee of this House, composed of Members of all sides of the House—an impartial tribunal—shall first ascertain the facts before the Minister can use these powers. One cannot conceive that the powers sought under this Bill will be sought for any other reason than partisan purposes. It is most obvious that powers of this description, vested in the Minister, acting for a Government will only be used against their political opponents. They can only be used against political opponents. Let us take the issue involved in this Amendment and this Bill. The Amendment of course desires to remove the power which the Minister takes under this Bill. Let us consider the case on which the Minister is asking for this power. It is the case of a Labour board of guardians in conflict with the views of the Conservative Minister of Health. Labour guardians' policy and their scales are built up on broad social views. They have certain social conceptions as to how a scale 2338 should be built up for Poor Law purposes, whereby the community in its corporate capacity renders itself responsible for the citizen in his individual capacity. The Conservative view of that social responsibility is entirely different from the Labour view of social responsibility. Therefore there is bound to be a considerable divergence as to what scale should actually operate. I notice the Parliamentary Secretary was not, in that instance, building his case up on the alleged corruption in one or two cases. He eventually came down to defend his position against the question of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) on the financial position. The financial position of the West Ham Board of Guardians is not due to either half-a-dozen, a dozen, or a hundred alleged cases of corruption whether political or anything else. The financial position of the West Ham Board of Guardians is due to the mass of poverty in West Ham, therefore we consider—
§ Mr. BARNES:
What I was endeavouring to point out was that the Parliamentary Secretary used the words that the board of guardians would cease to carry out their functions because their financial resources would come to an end.
§ Mr. BARNES
Our Amendment is designed to enable Parliament to ascertain the whole facts of the situation in any local government area where the Minister proposes to exercise these powers, so that Parliament shall have the facts before they give the Minister permission to exercise them. Therefore I submit that the argument I was endeavouring to use is very essential to the Committee before it decides whether it shall accept this Select Committee or give the powers direct to the Minister. Another point which the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned was that this emergency, which they are now seeking powers to cope with, has been developing for some time. That is an additional reason why the Committee should accept our Amendment. I am satisfied that if, 12 months or two years ago, we had had powers whereby a Select Committee 2339 could have investigated the facts of the West Ham situation, we should not have had a Bill of this description before the House, but the House would have renewed the national obligation towards local areas of that description. As a matter of fact this question about financial resources when the guardians of West Ham cease to function or carry out any of their duties, is not a recent one. It dates, I think, from about 1921 to 1922, before we had a Labour majority on the West Ham Board of Guardians. If the Minister will accept this Amendment, long before a local situation becomes acute, and represents acute conflict between the local board and the Ministry of Health, you would have power to establish a Select Committee of this House and could ascertain the facts of the financial administration, the conditions of the locality and exactly what the problem is. In all fairness no Member opposite could say he is conversant with the situation in West Ham. Members are conversant with the flood of misrepresentation through the Press of this country and from the Minister himself. That is the most regrettable thing in the situation. The Minister is thoroughly conversant with the facts, and he knows perfectly well that our situation is not due to malpractices or to the guardians abusing any of their functions. The Minister knows that our difficulties result from a set of circumstances which are quite abnormal and beyond the control of the residents in that particular locality. When an apparent conflict is developing between the Minister of Health and a board of guardians it is far better both for Parliament and for the ratepayers in the district that there should be an impartial investigation, so that there may be an assurance that the powers of local government are not being taken away from that locality for political motives.
The introduction of this Bill assumes that the West Ham Board of Guardians have failed. I say, as one of the public
§ representatives of that district, that they have not failed. The Minister has advanced no justification for his statement that they have failed. He has queried the purity of their administration in certain directions, but he has not made out his case that the guardians have failed. If our Amendment were carried a Select Committee would establish whether, in fact, the West Ham Board of Guardians have failed to carry out their duty or not. I hope the Minister will, on further reflection, accept this Amendment, because it will relieve him of the charge that we can now legitimately level against him that he is using political power, given to him for national purposes, in order to destroy the advantages that come from a Labour administration in a local area. I can conceive of no more retrograde step than the passing of this Bill. I should not welcome it if a Labour Minister of Health were to seek to over-ride the desires of any local community which in a constitutional and fair way had decided to have Conservative administration locally. Here we have a Conservative Government, with a majority obtained by very questionable tactics at the last General Election, using their powers to enforce their views upon a poor area like the West Ham Union, in the East End of London, whose difficulties have arisen because the Government will not discharge their social obligations to the poor. On top of that failure, this attempt to obtain Parliamentary powers to over-ride the efforts of these people to give themselves a measure of social justice is the most despicable use of power to which wealthy people can descend.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 229; Noes, 132.2343
|Division No. 342.]||AYES||[7.20 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Atkinson, C.||Bethel, A.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Betterton, Henry B.|
|Albery, Irving James||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Birchall, Major J. Dearman|
|Alton, J. Sandeman (L'pool,W.Derby)||Balniel, Lord||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R. Skipton)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Blundell, F. N.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Berry, Sir George||Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C.M.||Perring, Sir William George|
|Bridgegeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Ralne, W.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Ramsden, E.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir. S. J. G.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Ropner, Major L.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Hurst, Gerald B.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cassels,.J. D.||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Rye, F. G.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Faraham)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Jacob, A. E.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sassoon, Sir Phillip Albert Gustave D.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Jephcott, A. R.||Savery, S. S.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Lamb, J. Q.||Sinclair, Col T. (Queen's, Univ., Belfast)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lane Fox, Col Rt. Hon. George R.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Slaney, Mahor P. Kenyon|
|Cooper, J. B.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Loder, J. de V.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Looker, Herbert William||Smithers, Waldron|
|Conliffe, Sir Herbert||Lord, Walter Greaves||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry||Lougher, L.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lumley, L. R.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Dalziel, Sir Davison||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Strickland, sir Gerald|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Macintyre, Ian||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||McLean, Major A.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Drewe, C.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Macquisten, F. A.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchelf|
|Ellis, R. G.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Elveden, Viscount||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Waddington, R.|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Margesson, Captain D.||Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Merriman, F. B.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Wells, S. R.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Wheler, Major Sir Granville, C.H.|
|Finburgh, S.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairympie|
|Forrest, W.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Gadle, Lieut.-Colonel Anthony||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Williams, Com C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Sallsbury)||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gates, Percy||Murchison, C.K.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Withers, John James|
|Grace, John||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Newton, sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (ptrsf'ld.)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Nield, Rt. Hon. sir Herbert||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Nuttall, Ellis||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Harland, A.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Pennefather, Sir John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Penny, Frederick George||Major Coped and Mr. F. C.|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Thomson.|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Buchahan, G.||Davision, J. E. (Smethwick)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Day, Colonel Harry|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston||Cape, Thomas||Dennison, R.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Charleton, H. C.||Duncan, C.|
|Barr, J.||Cluse, W. S.||Dunnice, H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Compton, Joseph||Garro-Jones, Captain G.M.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Cove, W. G.||Gardner, J. P.|
|Briant, Frank||Crawfurd, H. E.||Gillett, George M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Dalton, Hugh||Gosling, Harry|
|Bromley, J.||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edln., Cent.)||Lee, F.||Snell, Harry|
|Greenall, T.||Lindley, F. W.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Lowth, T.||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Grenfell, D. r. (Glamorgan)||Lunn, William||Stamford, T. W.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||MacLaren, Andrew||Stephen, Campbell|
|Groves, T.||March, S.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Grundy, T.W.||Montague, Frederick||Sutton, J. E.|
|Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.||Morris, R. H.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R. Normanton)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.||Thorne W. (West Ham, Plaistow|
|Hall G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil||Murnin, H.||Thurtle, E.|
|Hardle, George D.||Oliver, George Harold||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Harris, Percy A.||Palin, John Henry||Townend, A. E.|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Paling, W.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Ponsonby, Arthur||Viant, S. P.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Potts, John S.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Purcell, A. A.||Walsh, Rt. Hon., Stephen|
|Hirst, G. H.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Riley, Ben||Webb, Rt. Hon, Sidney|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield).||Ritson, J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath||Sakiatvala, Shapurji||Westwood, J.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Scrymgeour, E.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Jones, J.J. (West Ham, Silvertown||Scurr, John||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Williams, Dr. J.H. (Lianelly)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Kennedy, T.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sitch, Charles H.||Windsor, Walter|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Wright, W.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Smillie, Robert||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Lansbury, George||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe|
|Lawrence, Susan||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Lawson, John James||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. A. Barnes|
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted."2344
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 131; Noes, 230.2345
|Division No.343.]||AYES||[7.28 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hardie, Geroge D.||Purcell, A. A.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro'||Harris, Percy A.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston||Hayday, Arthur||Riley, Ben|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayes, John Henry||Ritson, J.|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Briant, Frank||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South||Scurr, John|
|Broad, F. A.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Bromley, J.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Buchanan, G.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown||Smillie, Robert|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Compton, Joseph||Kennedy, T.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Snell, Harry|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Kenyon, Barnet||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kirkwood, D.||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale||Lansbury, George||Stamford, T. W.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawrence, Susan||Stephen, Campbell|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lawson, John James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lee, F.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Dennison, R.||Lindley, F. W.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Duncan, C.||Livingstone, A. M.||Thorne, W. (West Ham. Plaistow)|
|Dunnico, H.||Lowth, T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Lunn, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gillett, George M.||MacLaren, Andrew||Townend, A. E.|
|Gosling, Harry||March, S.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Graham,, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Montague, Frederick||Varley, Frank B.|
|Greenall, T||Morris, R. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Grenfell, D. r. (Glamorgan)||Murnin, H.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool||Oliver, George Harold||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Groves, T.||Palin, John Henry||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Paling, W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R. Normanton)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Westwood, J.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Potts, John S.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Wiggins, William Martin||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wilkinson, Ellen C.||Windsor. Walter||Mr. A. barnes and Mr. Charles|
|Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||Wright, W.||Edwards.|
|Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Galbraith,.J. F. W.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Ganzonl, Sir John||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Albery, Irving James||Gates, Percy||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Allen, J. Sendeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Gates, Major R. G. C.||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Goff, Sir Park||Penny, Frederick George|
|Applln, Colonel R. V. K.||Grace, John||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Grant, Sir J. A.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Perring. Sir William George|
|Atkinson, C.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Radford, E. A.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Grotrain, H. Brent||Raine, W.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Ramsden, E.|
|Balniel, Lord||Hammersley, S. S.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Harland, A.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Harrison, G. J. C.||Remnant, Sir James|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Hartington, Marquess of||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Berry, Sir George||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Bethel, A.||Hawke, John Anthony||Rice, Sir Fredrick|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Headdlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Rye, F. G.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Bowyer, Captain. G. E. W.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Samuel, A. M.(Surrey, Farnham)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hopkins, A. (Lancastere, Mossley)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Savery, S. S.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hutchison, G.A. Clark (Mldl'n & P'bl's)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen't)||Simms. Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Jacob, A. E.||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Univ., Belfst.)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Skelton, A.N.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Jephcott, A. R,||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dino, C.)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Kidd J. (Linlithgow)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Captain Henry Douglas||Smithers. Waldron|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Knox, Sir Alfred||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Chamberlain, Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Lamb,.J. Q.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Charterls, Brigadier-General J.||Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Lodor,.J. de V.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Looker, Herbert William||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lord, Walter Greaves.||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Lougher, L.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Cockerill, Brigs General Sir G. K.||Lowe Sir Francis William||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Colfax, Major Wm. Phillips||Lumley, L. R.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Conway, Sir W Martin||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Templeton, W. P.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Couper J. B.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Macintyre, Ian||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||McLean, Major A.||Tryon, Rt Hon. George Clement|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Macmillan, Captain H.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Waddington, R.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Macquisten, F. A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Dalziel, Sir Davison||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Maltland Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Makins, Brigadler-General E.||Wells, S. R.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Margesson, Captain D.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Drewe, C.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Williams, Coin. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Merriman. F. B.||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R.. Richm'd)|
|Edwards, J. Hung (Accrington)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Ellis, R. G.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Withers, John James|
|Elveden, Viscount||Monsell, Lyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Wornersley, W. J.|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Morrison- Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Murchison, C. K.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Wragg. Herbert|
|Fermoy, Lord||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Newton. Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Finsburgh, S.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Forrest,. W.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Major Cope and Mr. F. C.|
|Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Nuttall, Ellis||Thomson.|
§ Sir B. REES
I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, after the word "Where," to insert the wordsat any time before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-eight.It is obvious that the point of the Amendment is to limit the period of the operation of the Bill. In introducing the Bill, the Minister of Health told us that it was the intention of the Government to introduce next year a very comprehensive Bill dealing with the reform of the Poor Law. If that be so, there will be no necessity for this Bill after next year, and we think it would be a very useful thing indeed to limit the period of its operation to the 1st January, 1928. The Bill does not apply merely to West Ham. If it did, I would not have much to say about it, because the general consensus of opinion is that the West Ham case, so far as the Government are concerned, is completely made out, and I am in general sympathy with the Bill. I voted for the Second Reading on the understanding that it was intended to deal only with West Ham, and any other similar board of guardians which might act in the same way, but the scope of the Bill is very much greater than that, and the discussion has shown the purposes for which this Bill may be used.
In Italy, there is a similar power to replace a communal council by the appointment of a commission. It was only intended at the beginning to use it in one or two cases, but it has been growing and growing until the power is almost completely in the hands of the Commission. In this country there must come reform of the Poor Law and of the incidence of local rating, and all that, I understand, is going to be dealt with next year by the Government, but this Bill offers a very easy way out of a very difficult situation, which any Government might be tempted to use, and so shelve this comprehensive Bill that is promised for next year. Therefore, we think the Government, if they are really serious in their promises and intentions, ought to accept this Amendment. I see no reason at all, if they intend carrying out their proposals next year, why they should not say at once that they will limit the operation of this Bill to the 1st January, 1928, and if, for any purpose, they have 2348 then been unable to carry their other legislation, they could ask Parliament to renew this Bill for a further period.
§ Mr. GILLETT
In rising to support the Amendment, I wish to say that I do so on the ground of limiting the period of operation of the Bill, because I feel that the whole foundation of the Bill is opposed to the fundamental principle that bases the whole of our political and municipal life, and that is that there should be no taxation without representation. Therefore, the sooner we can return to the normal state of affairs in regard to any of these guardians, the more satisfactory it will be. There is a second reason, and that is that the speech which the Parliamentary Secretary gave us just now modified the Bill, to my mind, to a very considerable extent. He told us that it does not apply unless, practically, a union is bankrupt. I understand that is the intention of the Bill, though I must say I thought the scope of it was larger than that. It seems to me that it is inequitable between different unions, and on that ground we ought to have the period shortened, because if we had one union that was doing exactly the same things in regard to what is termed corruption as the Minister has suggested is going on in West Ham, the Minister would have no power against that union so long as it was wealthy enough to go on paying its way. He only has power if a union is poor, and then, under this Bill, he can come in. In other words, it is going to be inequitable as between a wealthy union and a poor union on a question such as that upon which I understand, to a large extent, the Minister has based his reason for interfering in the affairs of West Ham.
My third reason is that the hon. Member who moved the Amendment pointed out that legislation was going to take place in regard to the Poor Law. There is no doubt that there is a great case for dealing with the whole problem of London government, and one of the things that seems to have been constantly overlooked in regard to West Clam's position is that West Ham should really be within London, and that it is West Ham's misfortune that it is not a part of the County of London. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman opposite is considering a Bill dealing with the 2349 government of London. We are dealing with a position in London that is quite unique and quite different from that of any other great city, and West Ham happens, by an accident, to be outside the district that it ought to be inside. That is the root difficulty of West Ham. If West Ham had been in the County of London in the last 20 or 30 years, ever since the county was formed, its financial position to-day, quite apart from any question of policy, would have been very different. The Poplar Union has virtually, to a certain extent, escaped from its difficulties because it is in London, and although I know its debt is considerable, it is not in the same position as West Ham. [Interruption.] I understand from my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) that they owe nothing in Poplar.
§ Mr. GILLETT
At any rate, the Poplar Union is better off simply because of the accident that it is in the County of London.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am not clear how the hon. Gentlman links his argument with the limit of time.
§ Mr. GILLETT
I believe it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill to deal with London government. I want the time to be short, in the hope that by the time this limit has been reached the right hon. Gentleman will have introduced his Bill and the problem of West Ham will be alleviated. I do not know why West Ham is the only union mentioned, because the Bill is obviously concerned with other unions, but it does not seem to me to be fair that one union like West Ham is to be penalised while wealthier unions escape.
§ Mr. GILLETT
I was only dealing with a question arising out of London government. My reason for supporting this Amendment is that I think the principle is vicious that you can take control of a local authority, and that the people who have to pay the taxes will have no say in how the money is expended.
§ Mr. MARCH
I desire to support the Amendment. I think the Minister should 2350 accept it, because he has told us that this is only an emergency Bill until he brings in his larger Measure. This Bill may in time apply to other boards, and we may be in an awkward situation. I see the Minister smiling, and I know he is thinking of Poplar. We would not like to be out of it. We always like to be in trouble with the Minister because he is so genial when we go to meet him. The Bill in due course might apply to Poplar. The guardians are always defaulting when they do not carry out what the Minister wishes. He is a Mussolini in this matter. Although he has tried to lead the House to believe that he does not desire to fix the amounts that poor people are to receive, his only desire is to tell the boards of guardians that they must reduce the sums. These boards would not have been placed in their present position but for abnormal circumstances of unemployment and casual labour. When people come to the Minister to borrow money he says there must always be an alteration. It seems to me that the Minister and his supporters think that the longer people are on Poor Law relief the less they want, but it is the other way about; they want more.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is directing his argument against the whole Bill. He cannot discuss the whole Bill; he must keep to the Amendment.
§ Miss WILKINSON
One of the reasons why this Amendment should be inserted is that we are living in a time of abnormality. We are suffering from bad trade, 2351 the effect of the War, and the effect of the financial policy of the Government. It is absolutely essential to consider a time limit in connection with this Bill. We have spoken entirely of the position of West Ham. I represent an area that has escaped the attention of the Minister so far, but he must admit it is one of the most necessitous areas in the country. With invincible optimism we regard this period as abnormal. We feel that if the Minister would only allow time for these economic conditions to work themselves out, there would be no need for this Bill. We cannot help feeling that Middlesbrough is likely to be one of the unions to receive the Minister's attention. We do not consider it is fair that the Bill should be rushed through in this way. We think the electors should have an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon it. The Parliamentary Secretary said it was necessary to rush it through, to deal with an emergency, but it is not as though this problem had happened yesterday. Why is there a necessity for this Bill? Why is this essential fabric of our Constitution, the fabric of local government, to be hurriedly torn up by the Minister because he wants to deal with this board of guardians? You cannot isolate West Ham from the other necessitous areas. You may pass panic legislation dealing with West Ham, and the Minister may find himself in an infinitely greater difficulty. Harassed members of boards of guardians who live in these districts and who find queues of people waiting for them in the morning may resolve to throw their responsibilities on the Minister and tell him to put in his representatives and see what sort of a mess they will make of it. We are really asking the Minister to look before he leaps into a dark chasm. We are told by the Minister that we are to have not merely this Bill dealing with local government in London, but that he is proposing an essential reform of the whole Poor Law. Surely it is putting the cart before the horse to deal with the problem in the particular way proposed by the Bill. Hard cases, as any lawyer will tell you, make bad law, and dealing with patchwork legislation in this panic fashion is only bringing the law into contempt. I think the Minister of Health sees the West Ham Guardians round his 2352 bed at night, with caps in their hands, demanding more money, and he is passing this Bill to set his mind at rest. I do want to ask the Minister to take time and to give further consideration to this Bill, and not to have it rushed through in this way.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member who has just sat down did not seem to distinguish clearly between the arguments for delaying the Bill and the arguments for bringing it in and passing it quickly. The hon. Member for South Bristol (Sir B. Rees), who moved this Amendment, alluded to something I said on the Second Reading with relation to the Measure for Poor Law reform which the Government had announced its intention of introducing next year. It is perfectly true that I pointed out that the effect of that would be to make this Bill a temporary Measure. This Bill deals with guardians, and when there are no longer any guardians there cannot be any reform of them. This ceases then to be a Bill ipso facto. It ceases to operate and expires. We are asked to name a date on which this Bill expires, and that seems to me not only unnecessary, but undesirable because it is not possible to say on what dates boards of guardians will cease to exist. Since that is so, naming a date in this Bill would expose us to the risk of a gap between the time this Bill comes to an end and the time when boards of guardians come to an end. I am afraid therefore that I cannot accept the Amendment. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett) spoke of no taxation without representation. That is just what we had in mind in connection with the case that has given rise to this Bill. West Ham is now spending a great deal more than it can extract from the rates. In order to obtain money it comes to the Ministry of Health to get a loan from the taxpayer and not the ratepayer, but the taxpayer has no control over that money. The basis of this Bill is that if the authority lends boards of guardians that money it is necessary that they should lay down conditions under which that money should be spent.
§ Mr. GILLETT
The argument of the right hon. Gentleman only applies pro- 2353 vided that it is certain that West Ham will never repay the money.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
If the taxpayer is going to lend that money to someone else and that money is not properly secured, the taxpayer must take whatever powers he can to see that it is secured. It is not a question whether a union is poor, but whether a union is carrying on with the money of someone else. Hon. Members opposite do not like the Bill, but the particular Amendment before us was justified by the hon. Member who moved it, not on the ground that it was such a Bill that you should put some limit to the time it would operate, but that as there was to be a time limit it should be put down in the Bill. My answer is that we do not know what that time limit will be.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman bases his argument on the fact that he cannot name the date now when the boards of guardians will come to an end. But he also assumes that at the end of 18 months, under the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Bristol (Sir B. Rees), the economic situation will be still so serious that there will be a substantial number of boards of guardians who cannot pay their way.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I am not saying that you did, but that you implied it. The right hon. Gentleman says he must have the powers in his hands until 1928, but he implies that boards of guardians will not be able to pay their way at that time. Indeed, it is a certainty in his mind. I suggest that if the Government's intentions with regard to unemployment policy are going to leave this country 18 months from now in such a state as we are in to-day they might keep their Bill as long as they like. This at least is a confession of the Government's incompetence to deal with this big problem. The right hon. Gentleman says he is not at all certain that boards of guardians might by that time have ceased to exist. I would like to be quite sure that there is no intention on the part of the Government to carry these proposals forward under the new Measure. On this side of 2354 the Committee we do not look on this Amendment with any enthusiasm. We are going to support it, although we are running the risk of being misrepresented as accepting the view that this Measure ought to last 18 months. It is an attempt to destroy local government, and it should be at least limited in its time. I hope other hon. Members will be willing to recognise the very reasonable nature of this Amendment, moved by an hon. Member who supported the Bill on the Second Reading and believes that the Measure ought to be strictly limited in its duration.
§ Mr. GROVES
I was specially interested in the right hon. Gentleman's references to West Ham's incapacity to meet its obligations with regard to Poor Law. I do want to say that the reason that we cannot meet these obligations is because the unemployment problem is out of all proportion to the generally accepted view of destitution. We are now levying a rate of 10s. in the £ only for Poor Law purposes. It is true that we as a Poor Law union could not stand an additional strain in that direction. I conclude by impressing on the Minister that the burden in our area is shouldered by the union, whereas it ought to be shouldered by the country. We are bearing a national responsibility on our shoulders and are coming to the Minister for a loan. There you have it in a nutshell. I shall support the Amendment, but I just wanted to emphasise this point, that with regard to West Ham we are where we are because of the industrial conditions of the country. We did what we could to solve the burden following the great problem of unemployment. We ought to get from the Minister a greater degree of, shall I say, compassion.
§ Mr. GROVES
We only ask for money in proportion to the volume of the obligations imposed on us. We have accepted that burden whether it was right or wrong. Having accepted the burden and realised that its demands are greater than the shoulders of the locality can bear, we cannot go anywhere else than to the national representative, that is to say, the Minister of Health. Following the observations he made in his speech, 2355 I want to say that we in West Ham are where we are because of the national obligations we have accepted.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I want to thank the Minister for his most illuminating speech. It has thrown a flood of light on a subject that was very much obscured. In his speech on Monday he began by saying that this was a mere temporary stop-gap Measure, and that, in view of the fact that the Government had announced its intention next year to introduce a general Measure of reform of the Poor Law system by which boards of guardians would be abolished, and their functions transferred to other bodies, he had hoped it might be possible to carry on without any legislation of this character, until that larger Measure could be introduced, but that the action of the board of guardians of West Ham had left him no choice.
Then he concentrated his attention on West Ham. Three-quarters of his speech was on West Ham, and he said that the Bill would not have been introduced if it had not been for West Ham. This question of law reform has been in the air ever since 1909, and successive Governments have promised Measures. Some of us felt very happy and encouraged, but when it comes to saving, "Put into your Bill what you put into your speech," it is quite a different matter. We have been told that 1928 is about the date when we might expect any serious legislation in regard to the Poor Law, but, being too busy to introduce the Poor Law Bill and to return the Poor Law, the right hon. Gentleman proceeds with this emergency Measure. The right hon. Gentleman took the high constitutional ground that in the case of West Ham the money comes from the Government, and therefore the Government ought to have control. I come back to the list, of boards of guardians which were read out to the House, and every one of them will come under the "sound, constitutional doctrine" which the Minister of Health has enunciated. Every one of those boards in that long list have borrowed money, and the Minister's speech clearly foreshadows that he intends dealing with every one in that list exactly as he proposes to deal with West Ham.
2356 The Minister has admitted what I put to the Committee before that this is a general Bill to deal with the general principle of the Poor Law, and to bring these other boards down to the scale which the Minister of Health wishes to see imposed. Somebody will have to make the precepts, and the persons who will make them will be officials paid and appointed from Whitehall. The Minister of Health has told the Committee that this Bill is necessary in order that sound principles of democracy should prevail, but why should poor West Ham be made the scapgoat for everybody else? I think we are now standing at the beginning of the bankruptcy of local government, and when the Minister of Health insists that powers like these should be made permanent and not temporary and should go on until the Government find it possible to introduce a reform of the Poor Law then the situation is very bad indeed.
§ Sir B. REES
This Measure deals with one of the fundamental principles of local government, and my contention is that if you are taking such extreme powers as those contained in this Bill it should only be done for a limited period. I would like to ask the Minister of Health if he will meet us if we agree to a compromise and accept a period of 18 months.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that his Department has already gone to the Poplar Board not upon the question of a loan but in regard to the question of raising the loan on the proceeds that come from the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, and they have in fact been told that the borrowing powers which they have enjoyed they are not now going to enjoy, and that the Minister of Health intends to impose certain restrictions on the scales of allowances. Our board of guardians has met to-day to agree to a reduction of £20,000 and this had to be done before the Minister would allow them to borrow money, which I contend they are entitled to borrow in anticipation of what they will receive from the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund.
The board cannot claim more than they are entitled to under the scale laid down by this House as to what shall be charged on that fund. I want to know if that is consistent with the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the reason why he must pull them up is because they are 2357 not paying back their loans, and he thinks they have gone so far that any further loans would be unsafe. I am not putting these points for the purpose of obstruction, and I will try to put them more scientifically. The reason the right hon. Gentleman has interfered with West Ham is because he considers the repayment is unsafe and he must take care of the taxpayers' money. I wish to point out that before this Bill has become law someone in his Department has informed the Poplar Board that in future the Minister of Health does not intend to do what he has done before, that is to allow them to borrow on the security of London what the Act of Parliament has prescribed that they can do.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I am not surprised at the attitude of the Minister in regard to this Amendment. It is very clear that he does not want any time limit. If the right hon. Gentleman thought that next year a Poor Law Bill was going to be passed, of course he would accept this Amendment. It is quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman realises that "there's many a slip' twist cup and lip," and he is afraid that the Bill which has been announced might not be passed, and so he wants to retain this Bill for as long a period as he possibly can. The Government may be changed or modified, or there may be such a run of events that the right hon. Gentleman's Government may even not find time for a Measure dealing with the Poor Law. Therefore, what he wants is that this Bill may remain on the Statute Book for as long as he is likely to need it. This is part of a deliberate campaign and policy to
§ save the money of the wealthy at the expense of the poor. There is no use compromising on time; it is a sheer question of a deliberate policy in the East End of London to club the poorest of the poor, and, if the Minister is allowed to do so, he intends to develop that policy also in Birmingham and in Glasgow. It is no use appealing to him for social justice or social equity; he intends to carry out this policy in a brutal and hard-hearted fashion.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I can only reply to the hon. Member that I see no necessity far putting in a time limit, and, as I have already pointed out, I do not desire to have a gap, the effect of which might possibly be that the powers given to the present Government might be denied to its successors. I do not know why hon. Members opposite desire to commit themselves to a course which might have that effect. It appears to me that, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out in the Debate on the Second Reading, if this Government were to be given these powers, their successors at least should have them.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 114 Noes, 177.2359
|Division No. 344.]||AYES.||[8.29 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Duncan, C.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Dunnico, H.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Gardner, J. P.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Barnes, A.||Gillett, George M.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Barr, J.||Gosling, Harry||Kennedy, T.|
|Batey, Joseph||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Broad, F. A.||Greenall, T.||Lansbury, George|
|Bromley, J.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Lawrence, Susan|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lindley, F. W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lowth, T.|
|Cape, Thomas||Groves, T.||Lunn, William|
|Charleton, H. C.||Grundy, T. W.||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||March, S.|
|Compton, Joseph||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Montague, Frederick|
|Cove, W. G.||Hardie, George D.||Morris, R. H.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Hayday, Arthur||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Murnin, H.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Hirst, G. H.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Palin, John Henry|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Paling, W.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Dennison, R.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Potts, John S.|
|Purcell, A. A.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Rees, Sir Beddoe||Snell, Harry||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Welsh, J. C.|
|Riley, Ben||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Westwood, J.|
|Ritson, J.||Stamford, T. W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Saklatvala, Shapurji||Stephen, Campbell||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Sutton, J. E.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Scurr, John||Taylor, R. A.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Tinker, John Joseph||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Townend, A. E.||Windsor, Walter|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Wright, W.|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Varley, Frank B.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Smillie, Robert||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Mr. Hayes and Mr. T. Henderson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Grant, Sir J. A.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Perring, Sir William George|
|Allen, J. Sendeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Radford, E. A.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Atkinson, C.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hammersley, S. S.||Ramer, J. R.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Harland, A.||Remnant, Sir James|
|Berry, Sir George||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Bethel, A.||Hawke, John Anthony||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Holland, Sir Arthur||Rye, F. G.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Samuel, Samuel (W'deworth, Putney)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Savory, S. S.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hurd, Percy A.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Simms. Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unlv., Belfst.)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kine'dine, C.)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Jephcott, A. R.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Kidd J. (Linlithgow)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Colfax, Major Wm. Phillips||Lamb, J. O.||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Cope, Major William||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Couper, J. B.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Loder, J. de V.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Looker, Herbert William||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lord, Walter Greaves.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Dalziel, Sir Davison||Macintyre, Ian||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Thornton, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Macquisten, F. A.||Tryon, Rt Hon. George Clement|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Drewe, C.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Waddington, R.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Margesson, Captain D.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Merriman, F. B.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Wells, S. R.|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Leotard, W. Lindsay||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Fielden, E. B.||Murchison, C. K.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Finburgh, S.||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Withers, John James|
|Forrest, W.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Nuttall, Ellis||Wragg, Herbert|
|Gates, Percy||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grace, John||Penny, Frederick George||Captain Viscount Curzon and Lord Stanley.|
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, after the word "union," to insert the words(a) have persistently failed to grant adequate relief to destitute persons; or.In my opinion, this is one of the most important Amendments on the Order Paper, because if you analyse the Bill from top to bottom there is only one object that the Minister has in view, and that is to penalise democratically appointed boards of guardians for granting too much relief to destitute people. The object of the Amendment is to give additional powers to the Ministers also to penalise boards of guardians who do not pay adequate relief. I come from a constituency where we have boards of guardians who look at the question of the destitute people from a very inhuman standpoint. The district I represent is linked up with the Abergavenny Board of Guardians. The mines and steel works in that district have only worked about 18 months since 1921. Therefore, seeing that the village is dependent entirely upon the steel works and the five mines in the district, the misery and poverty are indescribable. These people, therefore, have to appeal to the Abergavenny Board of Guardians, on which there are large number of Tories quite as reactionary as the present Tory Government. They pay a maximum of 32s. per week. It does not matter whether you have one child or six, the maximum is 32s. They even do worse than that. During the present lock-out the miners have been compelled to apply for parish relief. If a miner receives 5s. from his federation or from a public charity, that is taken into consideration in granting the relief. If the Minister paid more attention to boards of guardians who pay inadequate sums than he does to West Ham, he would be doing far more justice to these poor destitute people. I took this matter up with the Parliamentary Secretary. He was very kind and courteous, and he made his investigation, and this is the reply I received:As regards paragraph 2, it is their duty to take into account any payment of strike pay or other means of subsistence which are available, whatever may be there source.We say that is very unjust and unfair, and we are therefore proposing this Amendment so that the Minister will have the power to deal with these recalcitrant guardians in exactly the same way as he proposes to deal with the West 2362 Ham Guardians. Very shortly we shall be on that side of the House, and we want to put the contents of this Amendment into operation. We will not spend as much time with West Ham as we will with the people who do not pay adequate relief. I hope the Minister will accept the Amendment from the standpoint of fair play and will give us the chance of dealing with these people who refuse to pay adequately. I do not believe I am asking too much if we ask that these people who are destitute should be sufficiently fed, adequately clothed and properly housed. Even under the relief given by the Abergavenny Guardians nothing is given towards rent or clothes. We are very dissatisfied with the action of the Minister in dealing with guardians who treat applicants for relief in such a mean way. These men are in queues, not only at the Employment Exchange but at the office of the board of guardians. Although they are the real wealth producers of the country, they are appealing for something to keep body and soul together. Last Saturday in the "Daily Mirror" there was a picture of queues in London waiting for a prospectus, with a view to investing £2,000,000. In my district we have a queue of the real wealth producers of the country, seeking for something with which to feed the hungry folks at home, while in London we have a queue of those who live on wealth looking for a prospectus in order to invest their money. I appeal to the right, hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment, so that we shall be able to deal with these people—
Whereupon the GENTLEMAN USHER OF THE BLACK Ron being come with a Message, the Chairman left the Chair.
Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.