§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Chamberlain)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
After the rather lengthy and good-humoured discussion which we had yesterday upon the provisions of this Bill, I do not find any reason to complain of the manner in which the case was put by members of the party opposite. Their comments upon the personal character of the Minister showed a restraint which I recognised as being as gratifying as it was good humoured. The worst thing said about me was that my methods savoured of Machiavelli, and, although it was not said as a compliment, I had the impression that it was not meant to suggest the blackness of iniquity usually associated with Italian statesmen. The speeches of the hon. Gentlemen opposite showed a lamentable want of appreciation of the merits of this Bill.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
In moving that it be read the Third time, I want to spend a little time on some considerations that became a little obscure during the early proceedings on the Bill. I think it is common ground that the present state of the law with regard to surcharges is unsatisfactory. I rather think my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary did mention some words used by the Leader of the Opposition on an occasion in 1924 which showed that he, for his part, appreciated the fact that under the existing law there is not satisfaction to be got for ratepayers who feel that their money is being spent in an illegal way, nor is there any sufficient deterrent for those who wish deliberately to pursue a policy of illegality. When the law is in such a condition that it cannot be carried into proper effect, it tends to bring the whole system of law into contempt, and that is a thing which no country can look upon with satisfaction or equanimity. Therefore, I think we 2120 must be agreed that the time had come when some amendment of the law had to be made.
This brings me to the first point I wish to make, and one which I cannot repeat too often, that the offences which may bring members of local authorities under the provisions of this Bill are not offences invented by the Minister for the purpose of damaging his political opponents or excluding them from positions of responsibility, but are offences against the law of the country. It is the duty of the auditor, as laid down by Statute, to disallow any item of expenditure which he finds to be contrary to the law, and to surcharge those who are responsible. I do not feel any particular surprise that hon. Members opposite think I am actuated in this matter by purely partisan motives. Those who are partisans themselves are not able always to see clearly into the motives of others. But I may say on this occasion that the situation is not as simple as it may appear to hon. Members opposite. Because surcharges of large amounts, exceeding £500, have in the past been made upon members of local authorities on which Socialists are in the majority, they draw the conclusion that those people have been surcharged because they were Socialists.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
That is not the case. They have not been surcharged because they were Socialists, but because they were doing things contrary to the law. I will not say it would be much truer to say that they did things contrary to the law because they were Socialists
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
—as the hon. Member appears to agree, then he must be fair to me and recognise that I am not concerned with the party politics of the individuals who may come under the operation of this Bill, but I am clearly concerned with the effect of their actions and the legality or otherwise of their proceedings. I do not profess to be other than a party man, but I say that in the administration of the great Department of which I am head I do not regard the party politics of the people with whom I am dealing. Wherever I find inefficiency, 2121 extravagance, or illegality in local government, I am going to fight against it, whether those who are responsible for it belong to my party or any other party, and I should feel that I was wanting in my duty if I took any other course. But when hon. Members attack district auditors who are endeavouring to carry out their duties I must say I think that attack is both unfair and, to use a word of which they are very fond, mean, because it is an attack upon people who are not in a position to defend themselves.
An hon. Member opposite has said that the auditors are my auditors. They are not my auditors. They are entirely independent of me. I have never attempted to give a district auditor instructions as to what he should do; I have never sought to influence a district auditor in carrying out his duties. It would not have been any use if I had. As a matter of fact, the action of district auditors has on more than one occasion been the cause of some embarrassment. But the district auditor has, in the exercise of his duty, to make up his mind as to what items, if any, amongst those which he investigates, are contrary to law, and I repeat that whilst it is true that he may have to consider, for the purpose of his decision as to its legality or illegality, whether a particular item is so unreasonable as to be illegal, he does not surcharge it because it is unreasonable but only because it is so unreasonable as to have become illegal.
One can quite understand that an auditor may find a case where a local authority has engaged in an expenditure which is not illegal in principle. It may have incurred expenditure, we will say, in giving a luncheon to some guests visiting the city. So long as the expenditure upon the luncheon is reasonable no question will arise, but if it were proved that the expenditure were so excessive as to become illegal the district auditor would rightly find that it was his duty to disallow the item and to surcharge those responsible for it. Exactly the same consideration applies when dealing with extravagant wages or extravagant outdoor relief; and yet hon. Members opposite fasten upon the auditors a charge of partiality and, still worse, of party prejudice, Which is really unfounded. It is unfair and is based, 2122 apparently, upon a complete misapprehension of what a district auditor's duties really are. I remember that one of the speakers on the other side quoted the action of district auditors in the case, I think, of the London County Council and of Poplar. In the one case, that of the London County Council, certain token items were taken, and in the case of Poplar a full surcharge was made of the whole amount. That was quoted as an illustration of the partiality of the auditor and of his determination to mete out one law to the rich and another to the poor. The explanation is perfectly simple. A token figure such as that mentioned is not only taken in the case of the London County Council.
4. 0 p.m.
I remember there was an important case in Battersea similar to that of the London County Council. What is the sort of case in which these tokens are brought into use? It is where there is some uncertainty about the state of the law, where it is agreed between the auditor and the local authority that they will abide by the decision of the Court upon a test case, and, finally, where a similar understanding is arrived at with any objecting ratepayers that they will accept the token case as a satisfactory test of the point of law involved. That is the sort of circumstances which obtained in the case of the London County Council referred to by hon. Members opposite. But in the case of Poplar there were objecting ratepayers who were not prepared to come to an understanding of that kind, and those ratepayers were entitled, if the auditor had taken a token case on that occasion, to demand that the auditor should show cause why he should not make a full disallowance. Therefore, he had no choice in the matter, and he had to make a full surcharge.
One of the suggestions that has been made to us has been that this procedure is going to fall with special hardship upon poor men, who will not be able to face the risks of going to the Courts and, possibly, losing their case. Whenever there is an important question of principle involved, the auditor disallows the whole item, and the surcharge, therefore, falls upon the council as a whole. Of course, if the case goes against them, the cost comes, not out of the pockets of the individual councillors but the public. Therefore, I say there is no 2123 foundation whatever for any charge against district auditors that they have been harsh or prejudiced in their practice in the past, and in this Bill we are not proposing to alter the law in respect of that.
Then, a good deal of time was spent, as I thought unnecessarily, upon the question of how the selection by the auditor of what hon. Members opposite called "victims" had to be made. Some words of mine when we were discussing the question of the quorum of a council were quoted and misquoted over and over again. The right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) said I had stated that I could not visualise a case where an auditor would disqualify more than one-third of the council. He said that "visualise" was a favourite word of mine. I resent that injurious allegation. "Visualise" is not a favourite word of mine; I detest it, and never use it. What I did say was that I thought it extremely unlikely that one-third of a council would find themselves disqualified by surcharges upon them exceeding £500. But I founded that view, not upon any speculation as to how the district auditor was going to act. I founded it upon the view that members of a council would take care not to put themselves in a position in which they were likely to be surcharged, and I am confirmed in my view on that matter by the fact that already quite a large number of members of councils have taken these precautions, and have reduced their expenditure to such an extent as to put themselves outside the possible reach of the Bill.
Call that terrorism if you like. It is only the sort of terrorism exerted by the police upon somebody who might otherwise attempt something contrary to law. I do not think hon. Members opposite have grasped the fact that in this humane and enlightened age we do not now look upon punishment as a sort of revenge for an injury that has been inflicted. We do not call for an eye to be given for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We look upon punishment as a means of prevention of further offences of the same kind, and we value penalties as deterrents. They are intended to act as deterrents, and if they fail to deter, then they have failed in their purpose. 2124 It is the object of this Bill, not to inflict severe penalties upon anybody, but to substitute for penalties, which hitherto have failed to deter, other penalties which will be more effective for that purpose.
It is suggested that the penalties cannot be effective, because there will be such a state of uncertainty as to what the law is, that people will commit offences unintentionally. Hon. Members even went as far as to tell us that the country would be scoured in vain for candidates to come forward because of the terrible risks which would necessarily be incurred under the Bill. If that really were so, it certainly would not apply only to members of the party opposite. All parties would find an equal difficulty in securing candidates, unless, indeed, hon. Members opposite think that the only people who are likely to persist in these illegalities are members of their own party. If it were true that the effect of this Bill would be to make it impossible to find men and women to come forward and undertake the responsibilities of local government, then I should regard the Bill as being in effect, though not in intention, a very dangerous attack upon local government. But who are the persons who are specially responsible for maintaining the interests of local authorities? They are the great associations of local authorities—the County Councils Association, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the associations which deals with urban district and rural district councils and Poor Law guardians. Have they come forward with any alarmist view of this kind? Not at all. Not a single one has entered any protest against the principles of this Bill. They can look with equanimity, and even with approval, on a Measure of this kind. Surely, then, we need not be under any apprehension as to its injurious effects upon local government.
The fact is that, in practice, there will not arise any serious doubts in the future as to what is or is not likely to bring such a surcharge as would disqualify a member of a local authority from service for five years. I think no man who takes reasonable care, who understands his business and responsibilities, need be the least afraid of any dire consequences resulting from this Bill. No one who can show that his action was reasonable, or that, in his belief, it was justified, 2125 will be disqualified, and if he can show that he ought fairly to be excused, apart from the disqualification the surcharge itself will be remitted. On the other hand, those who cannot show either that their action was reasonable or that they thought they were acting in a justifiable manner, that is to say, those who must admit that they were deliberately and intentionally acting in defiance of the law, cannot be fairly excused from the surcharge, and ought to be taken out of the local administration of this country. I am sure that hon. Members of the Socialist part; have not gained any credit from the general public for its association with Poplarism, whether in Poplar or anywhere else. If, by means of this Bill, practices which have become associated in the public mind with Poplar, are put an end to, I think they will have reason to be grateful to the Minister who has saved them from what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition called "That terrible nightmare," which he hoped would soon become a thing of the past, and local government in general will have regained something of that confidence which has been seriously shaken in the past.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
The right hon. Gentleman, with his usual patronage, has congratulated us on our good behaviour during the sitting yesterday. It is that sort of frame of mind which characterises him in his relationship with those who sit on these benches. I want to say that I am here, at any rate, his equal, and I do not want to be patronised by him. As for my behaviour, or the behaviour of my colleagues, we behave ourselves as we think right, and we take not the slightest heed of either his praise or his censure. I consider that the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman and his party in regard to this Bill, aided by the forms and procedure of this House, has been brutal and ruthless towards his opponents, that the Bill has not been discussed, either upstairs or downstairs, in the thoroughgoing manner that a Bill of this kind ought to have been discussed. It is perfectly true that every Amendment raised similar questions, and, consequently, the discussion, to some extent, was necesarily 2126 one of repetition, but this Bill contains more mischievous legislation than most other Bills of its size that I have seen introduced in this House.
The right hon. Gentleman has probably had as much experience of auditors as I have. I think it is very nearly 35 years since I met the first Local Government auditor. During my period of service I have found that, generally, auditors are gentlemen who receive their appointments because of patronage tempered by ability. That is the definition which was given by the late Sir James Davey, the Principal Secretary of the Local Government Board. Very often, these auditors are irresponsible and totally ignorant of the work which they have to do, and those with whom I have come in contact never would have received those appointments but for the word "patronage." Once I came into contact with an auditor who was the nephew of one of the most celebrated men this country has produced—I will not mention his name—but, as an auditor of local government finance and administration, he was totally and completely incompetent. That is the kind of auditor who, over and over again, surcharged myself and my colleagues for our expenditure, and brought upon us when we were not a majority either on the board of guardians or the Poplar Borough Council the name of "wastrels," which was also applied to the Progressive members of the London County Council. To have a slogan of that kind attached to our policy is nothing new, and, therefore, when we hear of our policy being called "Poplarism," it is only like having the word "wastrels" invented as applied to the Progressives on the London County Council. It has never annoyed me that we should be associated in the minds of the party opposite with the word "Poplarism." Up to the present, no one has attempted to define it, and nobody here has yet taken the trouble to tell us what they mean by "Poplarism." Even the Minister of Health has not told us this afternoon what it means.
What is the origin of this Bill? The reason it was brought in is to be found in the Clause of the Bill which takes power to excuse the Minister of Health and others from having made a great mistake and permits them to disallow a surcharge after it has been to the Courts. The Minister of Health has been at some 2127 pains to try to prove this afternoon that people like myself and my colleagues at Poplar and our friends in other Labour boroughs of London have never had any cause to complain of differential treatment as between ourselves and other authorities who have been found to be in a similar position. The manner in which the right hon. Gentleman stands at that Box and makes statements like that without any authority is really very extraordinary. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that until it was a case where the Poplar Borough Council was involved, this question of an appeal to his Department after the case had been adjudicated upon by the Courts had never arisen. It was only when the Poplar Council had taken their test case right through to the House of Lords and had failed in the last Court although we won in the Appeal Court, that our political opponents in Poplar brought pressure to bear upon the right hon. Gentleman, took him to the Courts, and upset the practice of many years. That was a practice which the right hon. Gentleman knows no one had ever attempted to upset.
If there had been any people in London willing to try to upset that decision it ought to have been done long ago when the Cockerton judgment was given In that case, there were many thousands of pounds involved. The case went to the Courts and the verdict went against the schools, but nobody forced the members of the school board to pay the money which was surcharged, and no one took the Minister who remitted the surcharge to the Court in order to prevent him disallowing the surcharge which in fact had been upheld by the Courts. The Minister of Health has attempted to prove that in our case at Poplar it was the ratepayers who forced the auditor to make that surcharge in a lump sum of £5,000. I am sorry to have to say that I do not believe that statement. I know that our opponents in Poplar are very determined and in some ways they have behaved rather meanly towards us, but I cannot believe that the people who control the Municipal Alliance forced the auditor to do anything other than bring our case to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman by imposing a surcharge. I went through the whole of that business myself. I attended all the meetings where 2128 this business was discussed, and the argument which the auditor put was that if he did not surcharge us he would be taken to the Court by our political opponents to compel him to surcharge us. I think I ought to point out that fact.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the auditors act absolutely independently, that nobody brings any pressure to bear upon them, that they act on their own initiative and intelligence, and so on. May I point out that the auditor who started the proceedings against us told us publicly at the audit, in the presence of hundreds of other people, that he had been forced to take the action he was taking because of the pressure brought to bear on him by our political opponents, and that for his own part he had not thought anything about it. He made the surcharge without thinking. He did not think of us as he would have thought of the Westminster City Council, because he knew that in surcharging a body like the Poplar Council he would have the backing of the Department of the Ministry of Health and the House of Commons, which was then packed by a Tory majority.
When the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the auditor has not discriminated against us and that in this matter a council of poor men have not been treated differently from a council of rich men, allow me to point out, first of all, that that statement is vitiated by the fact that the genesis of this Bill, and the necessity for it being introduced at all, is due to the fact that there is a well-established custom and belief on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors that they have a right to remit a surcharge after it has been decided that certain expenditure was illegal. The fact that that was called into question simply because it was the case of Poplar proves that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. It was proved to the satisfaction of those of us who were surcharged that the auditor did deliberately treat us differently from the manner in which he would have treated the Westminster City Council. My own view is that the auditor just found that sum, added it up, and said: "I am going to surcharge the lot of you." He surcharged all the 2129 49 members of our council, and in so doing punished the innocent with the guilty.
I think that fact proves quite conclusively that the auditors are not gentlemen with judicial minds who act like Judges in an impartial manner. They do nothing of the kind. These auditors are just ordinary people who, when it is a question of corruption generally find out just what they are told. In my own experience, I have never known an auditor discover of his own volition anything corrupt. I know that we have had cases of corruption, but they have usually been discovered by some ratepayer. My first experience of an auditor was to prove how negligent he was in auditing the accounts of the Poplar Workhouse, and it was only the efforts of Will Crooks and myself that 30 years ago put an end to a state of affairs in the Poplar Work house which was a perfect disgrace to the Tories who were then administering the affairs of that board of guardians. Those guardians were not surcharged although the ratepayers were being swindled out of large sums of money. We had a Local Government Board inquiry, and in the end the persons responsible were dismissed from the public service. The Minister of Health made great play, and so did the Parliamentary Secretary, about the fact that this Bill had already had a very good effect on certain borough councils in various parts of the country and upon other people, and that is perfectly true. If someone stood over me with a big stick telling me to shut up, I should probably shut up and sit down if there happened to be a danger of getting my head smashed. By this Bill, the Minister of Health has armed himself with a bludgeon; and when he takes credit to himself that people like myself and my colleagues have given in to him, and informs people that we have succumbed to the penalties of this Bill, we admit it. As a matter of fact, that is our charge against the Bill.
We assert that the right hon. Gentleman has put us in the position that we are now obliged to do, not what we think is right within the law, but what he thinks is right, and we have now to carry out the law according to what the Minister himself lays down. If a board of guardians writes to the Minister of Health and asks him to give them an opinion in regard to certain expenditure, 2130 in 99 cases out of 100, the Minister will reply that that is a matter for the discretion of the district auditor, and he will not attempt to give an opinion on such matters except in the case of a Labour board of guardians giving outdoor relief in certain cases. He is now taking power, in effect, to lay down scales of relief, but as I understand the Statute which governs him and his authority over boards of guardians, he has no right whatsoever to lay down scales of relief, and to say to them, "You shall not give more than this, or less than that." He only gets that power in a roundabout fashion. He exercises that power because boards of guardians must occasionally borrow money, and they can only borrow money with his sanction.
I do not think that the legislation which originally set up the right hon. Gentleman's Department, or any of the amending Acts, have ever given him—in fact, I am sure that they have not—the power to act in the manner in which he is acting to-day. Much as borough councils may be despised, much as Socialism may be hated, it is the fact that the councils have had to act upon this Bill before it has become law, because a date has been put in which makes it really retrospective legislation. The date on which this Bill comes into operation, namely, the 31st October, will be six or seven weeks before it is actually on the Statute Book, and I always understood that Tory lawyers objected very strongly to retrospective legislation. The right hon. Gentleman, however, cares nothing for precedents when he is dealing with Socialists and Labour people, and so we have a Bill which will be a good precedent, I hope, for a Labour Government when it comes into power.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) called attention yesterday to what is happening, but neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary paid any attention to it whatsoever. Here is something which I say is totally illegal, but which is happening because of the bludgeon of this Bill. The auditor is now, and has been during the last four months, holding interviews with representatives of local authorities—one was held this afternoon —not to decide whether any particular piece of work that they have done was wrong, but to fix their wages and the conditions under which their men shall 2131 work for the next 12 months or two or three years. I say distinctly that there is nothing in any Act of Parliament which gives the auditor the right or the authority to interfere in that sort of manner, but he claims that right, again in an indirect fashion, because of this Bill. No board of guardians or borough council now knows what it may or may not pay, and, because no board of guardians or borough council, Labour or otherwise, wants to face the penalties of this Bill, they are obliged to go to the auditor and say, "Please, Mr. Auditor, do you approve of this scale of pay for these engineers, do you approve that this washer, this scrubber, this porter, this clerk, shall be paid this rate of pay or this salary?"
In addition to that, the auditor for London is now not only claiming and exercising the right to fix remuneration, but is now claiming the right—there is no sort of argument about it—to say how the staff in a workhouse, or under a borough council working in baths and washhouses, or in an electricity undertaking, shall be graded. I say that, if Parliament wants to give a public official that amount of authority over local government administrators, it ought to be done, not in a trumpery Bill like this, but in a proper Bill setting out what the man's powers are. This, in my opinion, is a very mean and underhand method of giving the auditor such power. The right hon. Gentleman or his Parliamentary Secretary will probably say that the Courts have decided this, that and the other. I shall be much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman—I have asked him once or twice during these discussions—if he will tell me what particular judgment has given the auditor the right to fix in advance the wages and grading of the staffs of local government authorities in London. I have read the judgments—it was my business to read them because they affected me; and what' the Judges decided, what the House of Lords decided, was not what we were to pay—they simply decided that £4 was too much and ought not to be paid. That is all that the Courts decided; everything else has been added on by the auditor himself, and at the present time this auditor in London is exercising the right of detennining wages, of determining 2132 salaries, and of determining the grades into which the officials and the workmen shall be put.
Is not that the negation of local government? Does it not amount to the destruction of all initiative and all authority on the part of those who are called upon to administer; and does anyone imagine that any self-respecting people will for very long submit to that kind of dictation, from an official not appointed by Parliament to do this, but enabled to enforce his powers because of the penalties imposed by this Bill? The right hon. Gentleman said, "If you make a mistake, and it is a genuine mistake, you can appeal to me, or you can appeal to the Courts." We have argued ad nauseam the question of appealing to him and of appealing to the Courts. With regard to the Courts, he knows perfectly well that, whereas it was possible for the Poplar Borough Council, as a council, to use the ratepayers' money in making their appeal to the Courts, no such power will rest with them when this Bill is on the Statute Book. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, if I were surcharged with 25 or 30 of my colleagues on the borough council, we ourselves would have to find the money to go to the Courts. He knows, also, that the bulk of us have not the money to go to the Courts, and, when he says we can apply to him, he knows also that, on the question of wages and on the question of relief, there is a genuine difference of principle between us as to what is reasonable and what is unreasonable. The right hon. Gentleman assumes that, because he considers that a thing is reasonable, therefore it is reasonable. I do not accept that. I think I am the most reasonable person in the world, and I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman thinks—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I was coming to that. The right hon. Gentleman, on that score, is better than when he stands at that Box. He has remitted, and has got himself into a pretty fine fix—I was going to say into a devil of a mix. He would have got himself into a most unholy mix but for this Bill, because he has remitted surcharges which he knows he has not any authority to remit. He is as bad as we are at Poplar. He has 2133 done wrong in a genuine sort of way. He got found out, and the Courts decided against him. He is as bad as we are in that respect. It is quite true that he has remitted a considerable sum, but it is also true that now we have come to the point where he has a conception of policy in regard to Poor Law relief which is quite different from ours. I maintain that the Minister is not the person who ought to decide that. I think the electors are the people to decide, and not the Minister himself.
On the question of Poor Law relief, about which we have heard very little in these discusssions, there has always been a great conflict, not merely between Socialists and Conservatives and Liberals, but between men and women of all shades of thought, as to what is the proper amount, or whether anyone ought to be given out-door relief at all. There was a time in East London, when there was a big school of quite genuine philanthropists, who thought that to give out-door relief was sending the people to perdition right off the reel. The late Canon Barnett and Mr. Vallance, the clerk to the old Whitechapel Board, were the exponents of that doctrine, and the late Lord Goschen, who was at the Local Government Board, laid it down that out-door relief ought not to be given at all, but that anyone who wanted relief ought to go into the workhouse. We have advanced some way beyond that, and now the difference between us is not whether it is right to give out-door relief but as to the amount of out-door relief that should be given, and the sort of people to whom it should be given. There is now a conflict between Shoreditch and the right hon. Gentleman on that matter. A man serves a term of imprisonment, and, when he comes back home, is out of work. He has a wife and children, and, according to the answer given this afternoon, it is wrong for the board of guardians to give that family any relief.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am talking about out-door relief; I have not talked about anything else. I will accept it from the hon. Gentleman that this afternoon what he meant was—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
—what he said. I would not like to say that he meant all that he said always, but the hon. Gentleman says that you may give the man and his family indoor relief. I understand that the Shoreditch Guardians think it would be better to give the man some out-door relief, and help him to get a job and make a new start. Is there not room there for a reasonable difference of opinion between the Shoreditch Board of Guardians and the right hon. Gentleman? Is not that a difference of policy, or, rather, a difference as to how the Poor Law should be administered within the law itself? Why should the auditor have the right to say to the Shoreditch or Poplar Board that they are acting illegally in doing this, and to force them —because it will be no use appealing to the right hon. Gentleman; he has already given his decision—to force them to go to the Courts in order to get a decision on a question of that kind? The auditor is not a person appointed to do the work which he will be enabled to do simply because of the penalty which this Bill imposes on people who happen to disagree with him. I say that, if this House had intended that a public official should have that power, it should have been done in a direct manner through a Bill laying it down in clear English that that was the power entrusted to him. He ought not to have this power given to him by these penalties which will be inflicted on people who happen to disagree with him. This Bill alters the law. It alters electoral law; it alters the law governing the quorums of local authorities, but I have not seen, in the Bill or in the Schedules, any provision whereby any of the other Acts, or any Sections of them, which say what a quorum shall he and which govern the question of elections, are to be repealed.
It seems to me that this is a small Bill which in several ways interferes in the most direct manner with the law and custom of the past, without letting this House and the country know quite clearly that it is being done. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the quorum is fixed, and he is reducing it in this Bill, and in addition he is giving power to a third of the council to do the work of the whole body. I am not at all convinced by his explanation yesterday. If a board of guardians or a borough 2135 council, as may very well be, is completely wiped out by a surcharge, as I read the Clause there is no arrangement by which an election would take place, and with regard to a borough council there is no proper method in this Clause by which people could be elected in the place of members who are displaced, and if the whole council is wiped out there is no provision for the election of a new council. I am certain the right hon. Gentleman would find some means of getting round it, as he has done in the case of West Ham, but that is only because he is not a Machiavelli but a Mussolini. That is a role that suits him much better than the other. He is probably a little of each rolled into one.
Again and again the right hon. Gentleman has quoted the Leader of the Opposition. I want to be free of the terror and the shadow, the horror, the suffering, the misery, and the degradation of Poplarism. I have stood behind here, and I have stood at this Box again and again and have asked that this House would deal with the problem that creates all the difficulties that afflict Poplar and bring us again and again before the country. Poplarism is nothing new. It was my privilege to sit under the Gallery and hear the right hon. Gentleman's father, in 1904 or 1905, after an eloquent appeal from the late Will Crooks on behalf of the Unemployed Workmen Bill, plead with Mr. Balfour and the Government of the day to respond to it. Will Crooks tried to paint the condition of Poplar and tried to make the House understand that poverty, destitution, sordidness and all that that means in that district was the product not of some half dozen of us on the local authorities but of conditions over which they had absolutely no control.
The right hon. Gentleman says that this Bill is going to do this, that and the other. It will leave the problem of Poplar arid Poplarism absolutely untouched. The poverty and the destitution will still remain there. You may put us out of action, you may do what you please with us but the 10,000 unemployed will still remain there. The widows and the orphans created by the death of their breadwinners will remain there. Overcrowding and slumdom and all that that means will still be there. 2136 I feel strongly about this because I have lived my life amongst those people. I am there with them still. I see them each day. I hear hon. Members sneering about the poor. These people are human beings. Here are the other place and this place torn and divided about the Prayer Book and we can give no time or energy to consider how to deal with the poverty problem that this House has been asked to deal with for the last 40 years. For 40 years we have been knocking at the door of Parliament, and at the end of it the right hon. Gentleman can stand at that Box and boast that now he is able, through the aid of this Bill and its penalising Clauses, to make poor men bankrupt and drive men and women out of public life. That is something that this House should be proud of doing. When this Bill gets the King's Assent it will be the most despicable and the most mean piece of legislation that even this Parliament has been guilty of.
§ Mr. WILFRED PALING
I beg to second the Amendment.
Like my hon. Friend, I was very much interested in the compliments the Minister showered on Members on this side of the House who took part in the Debate yesterday, because they were so respectable. I suppose he found out, looking at the Debate, that nothing of a really nasty character has been said about him. The worst thing of which he was accused was Machiavellianism, and even that he was sure the hon. Member who hurled the accusation did not mean in its worst aspects. Altogether he came to the conclusion that there is some hope that we might become a respectable party. I was interested also when he kindly advised us to do away with this enormously bad thing that we call Poplarism. He said the electors looked upon Poplarism as being very terrible, and we must drop it if we were to become respectable and hoped to capture the seats of others. We shall all appreciate that advice. What I was more interested in was the criticism that he hurled at this side of the House and the arguments he adduced in support of the Bill. One of the first things he said was that there was a lamentable want of appreciation of the merits of the Bill on our part. I differ from him. I think we appreciate it thoroughly. We know what 2137 it is really intended to do, we know how it is likely to act and we know that in the long run it is the members of our party on various authorities who are going to suffer by it, not because we are inherently wicked, not because, as has been said, we go in with a fixed determination to break the law, but because we stand for something that Is better so far as humanity is concerned than the party represented by the right hon. Gentleman and when we get in we hope to deal more humanely and generously with people than they do. We have a full appreciation of what the Bill means. He went on to say that under the law as it stands to-day there is no sufficient deterrent for those who wish deliberately to pursue an illegal policy. The Parliamentary Secretary said that yesterday.
§ Mr. PALING
Yes, the hon. Gentleman was very careful to quote the Leader of the Opposition several times yesterday, but he was followed by another quotation which put an entirely different construction on what my right hon. Friend said. The Leader of the Opposition, when he was talking about Poplarism, put the construction on it which has just been put on it by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), and not the construction put upon it by the Parliamentary Secretary. If he quotes the Leader of the Opposition to-day I think he will not continue to read from what the Leader of the Opposition actually said on that occasion. So I do not think there is much in that point. When he talks about these people deliberately going in to pursue an illegal policy, I want to ask him whether there is any law that says it is really illegal that one board of guardians shall give more relief than another, or that one authority should give slightly higher wages than the surrounding authorities or that another authority, dominated perhaps by Labour party people, should give payment for holidays and payment when people are off sick. He talks about these people pursuing that illegal policy and saying definitely that they are going to do that—and that is about all they have been guilty of—and saying if ever they got control of the authority they would 2138 use the instrument in a more humane way than it had been used by their opponents.
I think the whole business of this Bill is to stop what hon. Members opposite think a very dangerous trend. Liberals and Tories and the rest have been in control of local authorities for generations. They have never been met with any serious opposition from another party until late years, and for a large number of years they have laid down scales of relief and wages and no pay for holidays, and their general policy has been to give the working-class people as little as they will have without making any trouble about it. "Let the scales be as low as you can possibly make them and the wages as low as you can possibly give. Give them no holiday pay. Give them none of the things we claim for ourselves as a class." There has grown up a sort of feeling that this has become the custom of the day—low wages, no pay for holidays, no pay for illness, a low scale of relief—and the custom has become a law. The auditor goes down and if he finds any authority has dared, even though it may not be a Labour authority, to move by a single inch from the position as laid down for generations by members of his own class, he surcharges them and, perhaps, goes to the Court and gets the surcharge upheld. What applies to those who have laid down these scales applies also to the Judges who have to deal with the question when it goes there. They also say, "The great bulk of the authorities up and down the country only pay so and so, the relief is so and so and wages are so and so, and they do not pay for holidays. This kind of thing seems to have established a certain level which, in our mind, is the law at present. Here you have an authority which is departing from that practice and, to our mind, the auditor has rightly surcharged those people and we must declare that this thing is illegal." To my mind, that is how it works out.
Now there is a trend in the opposite direction. Hon. Members opposite are afraid that in the next five years local authorities and boards of guardians may increasingly be dominated by Labour party people and Socialists. They can see such illustrations as Sheffield and West Ham. They can see the results of board of guardians and council elections 2139 each year and they are becoming desperately afraid that what is being done at Poplar and other places may become the custom, and even become the law if they do not take the trouble to stop it in time, and they consider they have not sufficient power, as things are now, to stop it. They have tried in one or two cases where larger scales have been given and they have not been successful. The only thing they have achieved is that when election time comes the electors send the same people back with increased majorities. They are now bringing in this Bill in order to make it impossible for these men and women to go back and sit on the authority at all. That is the idea of the Bill, and, when the Minister said that we have not the proper appreciation of it, I beg very much to differ. He stated, "We are not surcharging you as Socialists, but because you are doing things contrary to law." We have been asking, what law? The Minister has not been able to tell us what law, and I venture to say the Parliamentary Secretary will not tell us. He would have done so before now if he could; and, when he says it is not aimed at Socialists but everybody who breaks the law, he knows that there is only a tendency towards breaking the law in the direction of giving high wages and higher scales of relief so far as a Tory Government is concerned. It is generally those people who take the broader view of the business and who have a better conception of what relief means and try to deal humanely with these people that he will say are breaking the law.
The Minister went on to say that the auditor surcharged generally if it was so unreasonable as to become an evil. Again, there is no law laying down a definite line as to what they can spend. There is merely the custom laid down by Tories and Liberals with a wretched conception of what was sufficient for working-class people. He went on to illustrate, for instance, that you might have an authority which had eminent visitors coming within its borders. It might be decided perhaps to welcome them by a banquet. If that banquet were kept within reasonable bounds the auditor would not surcharge. But, he said, if the auditor thought the cost of the banquet had been unreasonable, then he 2140 might surcharge, and the surcharge might be upheld, and that authority would come under the Bill when it becomes an Act. Again, it proves that the whole business lies in the hands of the auditor. There is no line to determine what is the limit. It is merely the custom, and any auditor going down can say what pleases him and what he thinks is unreasonable, and thereby surcharge people and bring them within the four corners of this particular Act. The matter is almost entirely at the discretion of a particular man, and I think it is a very dangerous power to put into the hands of an auditor. I am pretty sure that in the case of most of these people to-day, there is a belief that any surcharge of their's would meet with the approbation of the Minister of Health and his Parliamentary Secretary, and, because there is this trend in that direction, the Bill that is brought in aims at Socialists and Labour people who try to work these things out in a humane spirit.
He said also that members would take care not to put themselves in a position to incur penalties. I quite agree. As the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) says, then, however they may feel that they ought to do a thing, and that justice demands that it should be done, if they know that they are likely to be surcharged and have this bludgeon over them, they will not do it. The Parliamentary Secretary agrees. I ask him: Is it the way to get the best men and women to come on to the local authorities and administer the things that they ought to administer by saying to them: "If you dare to raise wages, increase scales of living, if you dare to pay for holidays, we will surcharge you, and bring you under the Clause of this Bill, and disfranchise you for five years"? That kind of argument is likely to result in a stalemate, and most of the decent people who give up their spare time and energy unsparingly in order to ensure that public administration in this country shall be a decent thing will refuse to do the thing at all, and you will have a worse type of person from one end of the country to the other as the result of the threats held over them.
There is another question. It is said that up to the present moment penalties have failed to deter members, and fresh ones have had to be invented. The Parliamentary Secretary himself indicated 2141 that, whereas previously it had been possible to surcharge these people, the penalties ought to be increased, proving thereby that in most cases where surcharges are being made, these people have felt so much the justice of their position that the penalty of having their goods distrained and themselves sent to prison was not sufficient to stop them from doing what they thought was right. To stop them he said, "We must create another penalty," and the result is that you disfranchise these people for five years if the surcharge is over £500 they can be bankrupted. I think it was advanced as argument that this question of bankruptcy would not be such a brutal business as distraining their goods and sending them to prison. It was said that it was not so brutal or so old-fashioned as to send them to prison. What lay behind the Minister's mind was that bankruptcy was a more efficient weapon than distraining, or sending them to prison. By disfranchising these people, you prevent them from sitting on these authorities. You will have whole hordes of people, if surcharged, being disfranchised and so the party opposite will be able to get rid of people in the Labour party who are so inconvenient at the present time. I suggest that is a very mean and despicable way to deal with these things.
The Minister went on to say that there are county council associations, urban district associations, Poor Law associations, municipal authority associations, and he asked whether one could find a single instance in which any of these associations had objected to the Bill, indicating that none could be found. We have not yet a strong enough following in the municipalities, the boards of guardians, and the county councils to dominate the associations; they are dominated by the party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs. As a matter of fact, if one knew the bottom of the business some of them may have been asking for legislation of this particular kind to be brought in mainly because they view these things from the Tory rather than from the Socialist angle.
I would like to ask him another question. It was asked yesterday. I listened very carefully to the reply of the Minister in explaining his new Amendment and how it was likely to act. The Minister took exception to what was said yester- 2142 day about one-third of the council perhaps becoming disfranchised, and said: "What I did say was that I think it is very unlikely." But the question was put to him four or five times how, if wages were raised or pay for holidays given, or sick pay given, as indicated by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), an auditor, when going through the accounts, could pick out one or two and surcharge them instead of surcharging the whole council who had been responsible for putting into operation the policy objected to? So far as I can see, if they pursue the policy, it is very likely that in the near future a majority of the council will be disfranchised because of the operation of the Bill. We said, supposing, as it might well be, that the majority of the council were so large and supposing the whole council were surcharged, what would become of the council? How was the work going to be carried on? Had anything been done to make provision for such a state of affairs?
I am hoping the Minister of Health is going to give us some more detailed explanation of how a quorum is going to be formed. The Parliamentary Secretary and hon. Members opposite talk of the poor ratepayer. We are suspicious when they talk of him, because we think they mean the big ratepayer, and it is generally these people who are objecting to the things that have been done. When he talks of the poor ratepayer, I would like to ask him whether in the majority of cases which have cropped up and upon which this Bill is based, it is not a fact that, if the whole of the ratepayers concerned had been approached by a referendum or election, a big majority of the ratepayers would not have agreed with the policy laid down and carried out. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to answer that, if he will. He may hope, and the Minister of Health may hope, as I dare say they do, that by bringing in a Bill of this description they are going to stop the tendency to work these authorities in a humane way; that they are going to cut down relief, that they are going to prevent the raising of wages and the paying for holidays, and so on. They may think that this Bill will put an end to all these things, and that henceforward there will be very plain sailing. If they think that, they are very much mistaken. If a Tory Government can use 2143 its powers in such a way and in such a class way as this to the detriment of the people of this country, I am sure that the people of this country when they have the opportunity will tell this Government, in no uncertain manner, what they think about them. So far from this Bill adding to the strength of this Government, it will be another indictment in the long count of indictments against them, and at the earliest opportunity the people will sweep them from office, as they deserve to be swept.
§ Mr. GERALD HURST
The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has challenged hon. Members on this side to give a definition of the word "Poplarism." He said that he did not know what we meant by "Poplarism." I will try my best to define it. It may not be an absolutely sound solution of the meaning of the word, but it is one which I commend to the attention of hon. Members. "Poplarism," in our view, means the pauperisation of the people by lavish misapplication of other people's money. At the present time, one of the very few checks that we have on "Poplarism" is the auditor's surcharge which is not, as the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Paling) suggested, a new thing; it is an old thing. The object of this Bill, as I conceive it, is not to introduce anything new as far as the auditor's power of surcharge is concerned; but it gives for the first time a real and effective sanction behind the surcharge. It is high time that such a real and effective sanction was given. Hon. Members opposite have used all sorts of adjectives of an appreciative character, which they have applied to those members of public bodies against whom this Bill is directed. They say that those people have acted in a humane and generous way, that this Bill is a blow against their kindness and must operate against generosity. One expression used by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley was that this is a brutal and ruthless attack upon generous administration by local authorities, and the hon. Member for Doncaster asked what right has an auditor to come down and surcharge at all? The answer to these questions is simple. No doubt a man can do what he likes with his own, but he cannot do what he likes with other people's property. The members of these public authorities do not own the money 2144 which they distribute; they are trustees, and when hon. Members ask what is the law which prevents them from applying these monies for any purpose which they think fit, the simple answer is that they cannot do it because they are trustees.
§ Mr. HURST
The ordinary law in regard to trustees is that trustees can only apply their money according to the trust which governs their holding of those funds and their disposition of them. It is no good coming to people who are trustees and who hold money for certain purposes and saying, "Will you not spend the money in furthering certain policies or in benefiting certain charities?" They cannot do it if it is outside the orbit of their trust. The reason the auditor surcharges local authorities who have misapplied money is not because they have done it for immoral or other dreadful purposes, but simply because they have applied the money for purposes which are regarded in law as illegal, because the expenditure is, in his judgment, so completely unreasonable and on a scale so outside the orbit of the trust, that it cannot be justified within their duties and capacities as trustees. That is the simple answer to the question which hon. Members opposite have put.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
What is the dividing line between where it is misapplication and where it is not? Can the hon. and learned Member tell us where it is laid down what is the dividing line? Is it fair to give an auditor powers beforehand, when the people do not know where the dividing line rests?
§ Mr. HURST
I quite see that it is very difficult to lay down a clear and definite line. You have to take each case on its own merits. I think experience shows that there will never be any surcharge unless the expenditure is so unreasonable and on a scale so extravagant that it cannot be regarded as being within the ordinary ambit and purview of the powers of the local authorities. You must take each case on its merits, and when the line of reasonableness is exceeded a payment which has hitherto been legal becomes illegal.
§ Mr. HURST
It is the duty of those who are in a fiduciary capacity towards the ratepayers to have regard to their interests in connection with the money which they have to administer. What are the dangers which this Bill is designed to meet? First of all, the danger of illegal payments obviously means that an extra burden is placed upon the rates. The hon. Member for Doncaster did not say it in terms, but he suggested that that does not really matter. In actual practice these great burdens on the rates affect not only the large ratepayers, who are as much entitled to consideration as the small ratepayers, not only the individual, but the whole character and well-being of the district. It is well known that where rates are high in a district works will not be established, because nobody will bring works into a district where there is any very great overhead charge in the shape of rates. Therefore, it is surely the duty of everybody who has the interest of working people at heart so to frame their policy that it does not involve high rates. I cannot conceive how hon. Members who represent very poor working-class constituencies can in any way condone excessive illegal payments, when the result of such payments is to increase the rates, to the detriment of the whole district, and when those who are hit the hardest are those who seek employment within those areas.
A second great danger of the misapplication of these funds is the growing irresponsibility of candidates for, and members of, local authorities. Under a complete system of democracy like ours there can be no doubt that there is a tremendous lot of vote-catching. Those who offer most in the shape of generosity at other people's expense are the people 2146 who hold out the greatest attraction to ignorant voters. That is not confined to the constituencies which hon. Members represent; it is to be found all over the country, and even in my own district of Manchester and Salford the habit is growing. The more people promise, the more extravagant the relief, the bigger the dole, the bigger the subsidies, it is inevitable that the attractiveness of their platform is enhanced in the minds of injudicious electors. That is a great danger. The people who make these offers are quite irresponsible, because they know that when they are in office it would be a breach of duty to fulfil such promises. There is no check under the present system on these two dangers —the danger of excessive rates and the danger of irresponsible appeals to the masses. This Bill by disqualifying for a period of five years people who are guilty of these practices, gives the real sanction of the law in this respect and will add very greatly to the purity of local administration and to the practice of economy, of which we hear so much and of which we see so little in local affairs.
Hon. Members opposite have suggested that this Bill will keep good men and good women out of public life. On the contrary, in my opinion, it will increase the attractiveness of public life to good men and good women, because so many men and women at the present time who would be quite willing to take up public affairs are too honest to come forward as candidates at elections where the appeal to the electors is simply a matter of competing bribes. If people find that they can no longer cajole the multitude by offering all sorts of illegal subsidies and doles which they have no right to give when they are in office, and which are simply held out as baits for the unwary; and that lure is taken away, more good men and good women will come forward, because they will realise that they have not to fight against this dishonest method of propaganda.
The House ought to welcome the substitution of the exclusive jurisdiction of the Law Courts in cases where the surcharge is over £500. I believe that the only good tribunals in these cases are the Law Courts. Although at the outset, decision in these matters will be largely a matter of discretion, discretion crystallises in time and, finally, the decision of one Judge is regarded as binding on 2147 another Judge. Thereby you obtain what the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder) expressed his desire to obtain—you get a really hard-and-fast rule laid down as to what is legal and what is illegal.
§ Mr. HURST
The system of the Law Courts, where one judge accepts and follows the ruling of another, is far more likely to give a complete code than the discretion ad hoc of the Minister of Health, because one Minister's decision does not necessarily bind the decision of the Minister who succeeds him. It is far better to have the decision of the Law Courts. It is perfectly clear that the check which formerly existed upon the legal expenditure of public authorities will be wholly illusory until we get tribunals entirely detached from party politics and from all political attachments. That being so, I maintain that in that respect also this Bill adds a real weapon to the armoury in our public life which safeguards economy, honesty and fair administration of local affairs. For these reasons, I think that this Bill is the best thing that the Government have brought in since the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act.
§ Mr. BATEY
It is refreshing to listen to an hon. Member on the other side who is prepared to defend the suspicious legislation of the Government. During the time that the Government have been busy with legislation of this description it has been the practice for hon. Members opposite to slip quietly into the Division Lobby and not to defend the legislation. The hon. and learned Member adduced two arguments to which I should like to reply. He said that we must understand that we cannot do what we please with the money of other people. He ought to have said, "My impression is that Labour cannot do anything which it please with other people's money, but Toryism can." It comes with bad grace from the other side when they say that we cannot do anything we please with the money of other people. The hon. and learned Member forgets that this year the Chancellor of the Exchequer is spending £43,000,000 more than the Labour Government spent in 1924. If a Labour Gov 2148 ernment had been doing this hon. Members opposite would be condemning them. Hon. Members opposite say that Labour cannot be trusted with public money, because it squanders it. If they would look at their own policy, to their own Chancellor of the Exchequer, they would not be so ready to use an argument like that.
The hon. and learned Member also talked about the irresponsibility of candidates in making promises. I submit to him that a poor man is just as fit as a wealthy man to sit upon a local authority. The fact that a man is poor is no proof that he is irresponsible. My experience on local boards has taught me that generally the man who understands public business best is the poor man, and I am prepared to trust the working man just as much as a man who claims to be wealthy. But when the hon. and learned Member talked about the irresponsibility of candidates in the promises they make, he implied that Labour candidates alone made these promises. Hon. Members opposite make promises, too. Only last year the Prime Minister, during the general strike, said to the miners: "Cannot you trust me to see that the miners get a square deal?" That was a promise; but it was never carried out. When it comes to a question of carrying out promises just as much blame attaches to hon. Members opposite as to any Labour Member or Labour candidate.
I am opposing this Bill. I am not surprised at it. Nothing this Government can do will surprise me. Nothing is bad enough for this Government to do. If it is a question of injuring the working classes, the present Government are capable of doing it, and this Bill is only in line with all their reactionary legislation. Thousands of working men and women were foolish enough to vote for the Tory party at the last election, but none of them could have imagined when they gave their votes that this Government would be as bad and as vicious as it is. This Measure is simply in line with the Measures which the Government have already passed—the Eight Hours Act, the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act, the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, and the vicious and mean Unemployment Insurance Bill. They have a big majority, and can use it for the purpose of putting this reactionary legislation on the Statute Book, with the object of pulling down the standard of life of the working 2149 classes, of pushing them into poverty. There is a judgment day coming for this Government, just as I believe there is a judgment day coming for the individual, and when that judgment day comes they will be judged by what they have done, by the actions they have taken, to drive the working classes deeper into poverty. There is an old saying that "Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad hon. Members opposite cheer it, because there is not the slightest doubt that the gods have driven this Government mad, and, just as the gods have driven this Government mad, so will they destroy them at the first opportunity. There are certain laws that a man cannot break without being punished, and when the present Government pursue a policy of trying to impoverish the working classes, they cannot do that without being punished. The intention of the Government by this Bill is to prevent the policy of Labour being carried out on local authorities. They think they can stop Labour. They are sadly mistaken. They may put a check on its progress, but they will not stop its march. It is far too strong in this country to be stopped by any checks which the Government may foolishly think they can put in its way. The Labour army will sweep these checks away, and will march to greater victories in the future. This Bill is not only mean and vicious, but just about as savage a Measure as the mind of man could conceive. It puts into the hands of one man great power, and makes that one man Judge and jury. The representatives on local authorities will never know where they are; they will never know when they are doing right or wrong. This one individual, the district auditor, is the Judge and jury, and he will decide, irrespective of what may have been the intention of the members of a local authority.
I come from a part of the country where Labour has made immense progress. We have always taught our representatives on local councils that they do not sit on these bodies for the mere honour of the thing but for the purpose of using the local machinery in order to better the condition of the working classes. That is our intention. That is the policy we have pursued, and we shall continue to pursue it. It is possible under this Bill for one-third of the 2150 members of an authority to be disqualified, but my belief is that one-third of the members of a local authority will never be disqualified. It will always be a question of the majority of a council. I am sure that the district auditor will not attempt to disqualify one-third of the members of the Durham County Council. He will have to disqualify the majority of that council, because the majority are Labour members, and what will happen in that case is this: the candidates who will be run for the Durham County Council in the place of the disqualified members will be pledged to pursue a similar policy. What the Government hope to gain by legislation of this kind I cannot understand.
I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday when he was arguing that this Bill would save the rates. Those of us who come from industrial districts do not want high rates, because they prevent industry from prospering. It is not a question of high rates that is in the mind of the Parliamentary Secretary or the Government. What is in the mind of the Government is to make it impossible for Labour representatives to sit upon local authorities. We should not have had this Bill but for the fact that Labour has been so successful in connection with local elections. If Labour had not been able to get a majority on so many councils we should not have had this Bill. Its only object is to prevent Labour functioning properly on these local authorities. I could understand a proposal that representatives who are disqualified should not sit on the same local authority, but the Government have gone much further than that, and are proposing that any representative who is disqualified shall not be eligible to sit on any local authority at all. That is mean. The Parliamentary Secretary may shake his head, but it is no use his doing so. When this legislation is passed we shall not be able to sing the hymn:Praise God from whom all blessings flow.We shall have to sing:Come on my partners in distress.I have sat on a board of guardians and a town council, and I consider that if I make a mistake as a member of the board of guardians, and the auditor surcharges me under this Bill, it is quite 2151 sufficient if I am disqualified from sitting on the board of guardians. Under this Bill I am to be disqualified from sitting on the town council as well. That is going a great deal too far. And the disqualification for a period of five years is a vicious proposal. If a man has been guilty of an error a much less period would have been quite sufficient punishment. If he was disqualified from sitting on the board during the lifetime of the board, whether it be one year, two years or three years, I could understand it, but to make a provision disqualifying him from sitting for five years is a savage penalty.
It is bad enough to disqualify a member from sitting upon any local authority for five years, but for the Government to say that they will provide for the selling up of a man's home is a really wicked proposition which could be expected only from the present Government. We read in history of bad Tory Governments, but we cannot read that there has been a worse Tory Government than the present Government. The Government are willing to sell up the home of a Labour man with whom they disagree. They say, "The member of a local authority can appeal to the High Court." The remedy is far worse than the disease. A member of a local authority had far better submit to the surcharge, bad as it is, than attempt to appeal to the High Court. There will be the difficulty of getting money, and before a case is through the Court, in all probability he will have to face far bigger expenditure than is involved in the surcharge.
I have said before that we tell our people, when they join local authorities, that they go there not for honour but for the purpose of bettering the condition of the working classes. During the Chartist movement, when the country was very much agitated, the working classes were taught that if they got the vote they could use it in order to abolish the poverty and misery from which they were then suffering. Now the working classes have the vote and they have been taught to use it in their own interests and for their own class. I have never any respect for a working man or woman who gives a vote to anyone who is not of his own class. Now, when working 2152 people are using the vote for their own class, the Government say, "We shall have to take some steps in order to prevent the working classes obtaining what they wanted and to prevent their representatives on the local authorities acting in the interests of the working classes." I tell the Government that they may try their best to stop Labour, but they cannot do it.
There will be no credit in this Bill either for the Minister of Health or for the Parliamentary Secretary. I shall not be in the least surprised if they go the way of many other Ministers who have introduced legislation of this kind. There will be no medals for them from a Bill like this. In a Sunday paper published in the North of England I read in the London letter a paragraph which stated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a lot of suits and a lot of uniforms. Not only that, but he had a lot of medals that he could put on when he went to functions. The writer added that the Prime Minister had not a single uniform nor a single medal, and that the Prime Minister had not been able to win a medal for his pigs. That was in a Tory newspaper. There is no fear of either the Minister of Health or the Parliamentary Secretary winning a medal for a Bill like this. They will find that the Bill is a great discredit to them. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that, instead of trying to push the working classes further down into poverty, he should try to raise them. Their condition to-day is far too bad, and I ask him not to make it worse. This Bill is not intended to help the working classes; it is intended to make their position worse. The Government was bad last year and worse this year, and Heaven alone knows what it will be next year, but I would urge the Parliamentary Secretary, if he has anything to do with legislation next year, to try something better than this.
§ Mr. RYE
The hon. Member who has just sat down prefaced his remarks with the well-known quotation, "Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad." He said that the gods had made the Government mad. Presumably, therefore, the hon. Member thinks that everyone on this side of the House is mad. It is a well-known fact that nearly every inmate of an asylum is firmly under the 2153 impression that he, and he only, is sane, and that every other inmate is mad. I suggest to the hon. Member that possibly we on this side are not as mad as he thinks and that the insanity may be with him and with those who sit on his side of the House. Another hon. Member drew attention to the extra burdens that were thrown on the ratepayers by the illegal acts committed at Poplar and elsewhere. He might have gone further, as far as the Metropolitan area is concerned, and have drawn attention to the fact that in consequence of the contribution that the Metropolitan boroughs have to make to the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, a very heavy additional burden is thrown upon other boroughs by the action of people who spend money illegally, to the detriment not only of their own ratepayers but to the detriment of others in the neighbouring districts. To give an instance, I will take the case of the Westminster City Council. In 1926.7 the City of Westminster had to contribute no lees than £783,570 to the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. It is obvious, therefore, that if any borough councils or boards of guardians make illegal and improper expenditure, the burden does not necessarily fall only upon the ratepayers in that district, but on other districts.
§ Mr. RYE
I do not remember referring particularly to the Poplar Guardians. I am stating that payments which are made illegally and improperly by boards of guardians within the metropolitan area fall on the Common Poor Fund to a certain extent. There is no doubt about it. The hon. Member, who has special knowledge of this subject, knows as well as I do of the immense burden that is placed upon a City such as Westminster, which had to contribute in 1926.7 nearly £800,000 to the Common Poor Fund.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I think the hon. Member is thinking of the Poplar Borough Council, in speaking of illegal payments.
§ Mr. RYE
I have talked of illegal payments made, not only by the Poplar Borough Council, which is really the main subject of this Bill and certainly the main subject of all speeches from the other side, but illegal and improper payments made by other borough councils and boards of guardians. The hon. Member knows that quite well. With regard to the Poplar Borough Council and the case to which reference has been made so often, as I understand it, hon. Members opposite consider that they were very badly treated in that matter, inasmuch as they did something which they thought was within the law. They rely upon the decision of the Court of Appeal, and they say it was very hard for them that, notwithstanding the decision of the Court of Appeal in their favour, they were over-ruled by the House of Lords. I think they regard it as very much to their credit that there were Judges who said that the payments made were within the law. The case went first, on appeal from the auditor's surcharge, to the Divisional Court, where three Judges found against the Poplar Council. The case was then carried to the Court of Appeal. There was one Judge out of three in favour of the auditor's decision. That, therefore, made four Judges against them and two in their favour. When the case came to the House of Lords there was a unanimous reversal of the decision of the Court of Appeal. When hon. Members opposite say that they made a mistake when they made the payments which the House of Lords considered illegal, and that they did it innocently, I would like to remind them of the affidavit which was sworn in the proceedings on behalf of the Poplar Council. In that they made this statement:The council have always paid such minimum wages as they considered reasonable without being bound by any external considerations such as awards.The award of the Joint Industrial Council settling the rate of wages for other districts did not concern the Poplar Council 2155 in the slightest degree. The affidivat goes on: —They had stabilised the minimum wage of 80s. after consultation with the workmen concerned, though in some cases the trade union wages would have been above that figure.I should imagine in very few cases. Then the affidavit goes on:The council did not consider that wages should be fixed, having regard only to the cost of living, but that a municipal authority should be a model employer, and they considered £4 as a minimum wage for adults.6.0 p.m.
It was not a question whether they were acting illegally or not. They were constituting themselves an authority to decide what the model employer should pay. They did not care anything about the scale of wages in the district. They were the people of Poplar. There was the Pontiff of Poplar, and he was going to tell his followers what they were to do. When they come here to suggest, as they do, that they really did not understand the law, the fact is that they did not care what was the law and they were going to constitute themselves a law unto themselves. They considered they were safe until the auditor came down and surcharged them. Another point is the attitude of hon. Members opposite in connection with penalties. They say that the penalties are grossly oppressive and that men and women can, to use their own expression, be bankrupted. What is the law as it stands? Following on any surcharge, if the person surcharged does not pay the amount back to the local authority, he or she can be put into prison. I thought the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), being a chivalrous man, would have been delighted to think that when this Bill became law no longer could a woman member of a council be put into prison in connection with a surcharge. What would hon. Members propose to do in these cases with women councillors? You cannot make a woman bankrupt unless she is trading, and the majority of women councillors would not be engaged in trade. As a rule, the majority of women on councils and boards of guardians are married women who have no assets of their own. One would imagine that hon. Members opposite would be delighted to 2156 think that these women could not be put in prison, but not a bit of it. For some reason, they like people to go to prison, and I think I know the reason. I pointed out during the Second Reading Debate on the Bill, that one of the main objects of certain people was to be taken to prison. It must be very unfortunate, almost disastrous, to some hon. Members opposite to think that when this Bill is placed on the Statute Book they will no longer be in a position to step out sturdily to the strains of a brass band, on the way to prison for some offence of this kind. Why, all the glory and the glamour will have gone! I cannot think what the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley will do in the future. He has made his way in life by the very fact that he has been enabled to go to prison to the strident accompaniment of a brass band, and to pose as a martyr among the people of the East End. I think that it is far better that the question of imprisonment should be done away with and that the powers contained in this Bill should be imposed.
Although I am a strong supporter of the Bill, there is one thing in it with which I do not altogether agree. That is the appeal to the Minister of Health in cases where the surcharge is below £500. In regard to surcharges for small sums up to £100 that provision would have been reasonable, but you might have a surcharge for £499 and it seems to me in that such a case ought to go to the Courts. I was surprised yesterday to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman who was Solicitor-General to the Labour Government objecting to an Amendment which would have had the effect of taking all the cases of the kind I have indicated to the Courts. He declared that these were cases which ought to go to the Minister of Health. But only a month or so ago I heard the hon. and learned Gentleman pleading passionately, in the case of the Landlord and Tenant Bill, that we should do away with the tribunals and allow all cases to go to the Courts. In the Committee room upstairs the hon. and learned Gentleman dealing with this subject came as near to tears as I Have ever seen him. I never saw a man so upset and perturbed as he was to think that in the case of the Landlord and Tenant Bill the House of Commons wished to oust the jurisdiction of the Courts. He declared it was unconstitutional and 2157 a thing which no man could contemplate with equanimity. Yet yesterday he was saying in connection with this Bill "Do not take these cases to the Courts but leave them to the Minister."
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
What I opposed upstairs in Committee on the other Bill was the rejection of the right to appeal to the Courts upon a point of law. My case yesterday was that the auditor is an administrative official and that the auditors work is entirely administrative, and, therefore, that these matters are properly within the cognisance of the Minister.
§ Mr. RYE
I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. and learned Gentleman. I have a vivid recollection, however, of his speech on the Third Reading of the Landlord and Tenant Bill and he was then standing up for the Courts and saying that these cases ought not to go to the tribunals. He said it was contrary to constitutional practice to send them to the tribunals and that every man had an inherent right to appeal to a Court of Law. I am inclined to think that since then the hon. and learned Gentleman has become optimistic. He is thinking of the time when the Labour party may be in power and he thinks that then an appeal to the Minister of Health will be better than an appeal to a Court of Law.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I must again intervene. My point is that in the case of the Landlord and Tenant Bill you were dealing with a judical matter and in this Bill you are dealing with a ministerial matter. The hon. Member as an experienced lawyer knows the difference between the judicial function and the ministerial function. Judicial matters are matters for the Court, but ministerial matters may quite properly be appealed to the Minister.
§ Mr. RYE
I am afraid I do not follow the argument. Here is a question of an illegal payment, in respect of which a surcharge is made, carrying with it the 2158 burden of paying the amount back to the local authority. Does the hon. and learned Member suggest that in a case where such a substantial burden has been placed upon a member of a council or a board of guardians—a burden which we have been told may drive the person concerned into bankruptcy—there is to be no right to go to the High Court? The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that there is such a right, if the surcharge is over £500. Why did he not object in that case and say that it was wholly wrong to send it to the Court and that it should go to the Minister? Why is he satisfied with that part of the Clause and not with the other part? However, I do not think it right for me to occupy any longer the time of the House in pointing out the inconsistencies of any hon. Gentleman, however distinguished, on the other side. I think this Bill has been brought in not a moment too soon. It is necessary in order to cleanse local administration. Certainly, on the whole, except in rare cases, local administration has been well carried out. In my own constituency no one could point to any illegal or improper action by any boards of guardians or local councils. There is, however, a growing tendency, unfortunately, in parts of London for members of borough councils and boards of guardians to forget their duty to the ratepayers, to forget that the money which they expend is not their own and to spend it in a lavish way in the hope of getting assistance in the way of votes at the next election.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I wish to go back for a moment to the speech of the Minister. It was a very interesting speech. It seemed to me, if I may put the matter quite bluntly, to consist of a number of irrelevancies and one very important half truth. The Minister began by speaking of himself, and he spoke of that great subject with all the seriousness and unction and reverence that it deserved. He told us that Brutus was an honourable man. I do not mind. I agree. So are they all—all honourable men. Then he went on to deal with this question in the way to which we are accustomed in this House but which, nevertheless, we find disappointing. On one point I wish to correct him, and it is a point which I shall correct as often as I hear it stated. A quotation—a very misleading quotation—has already been 2159 made, twice by the Parliamentary Secretary and once by the Minister of Health, and every time I hear that quotation made in this House I intend to read out the words which follow. It is perfectly true that my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay Mac-Donald) spoke of the confused and unfortunate condition of the Poor Law. Have any of us on this side ever disagreed with that?
§ Miss LAWRENCE
Wait a moment. I have the book here. Then the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion went on to allude to the suggestion made by the present Earl of Oxford asking that some collateral security should be devised in order to deal with such questions, and the right hon. Gentleman said this:I should be very glad if it were possible to get collateral security that would work equitably and fairly and would be in accordance with democratic government—collateral security which would protect the ratepayer. I think my hon. Friend knows as well as I do that the only collateral security that is going to be effective in the end, is the security of an equitable Poor Law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1924; col. 396, Vol. 170.]Then my right hon. Friend went on to develop that theme at some length and said that it was the confused inequitable and chaotic state of the Poor Law which produced such incidents as the Poplar surcharge. He is not an auditor. He is a statesman, and he went deeper than the auditor. He stated that the condition of the Poor Law in London and other places was unsatisfactory, and he spent the rest of his speech in asking for some reasonable Poor Law reform. The Minister in his speech to-day followed a favourite trend of thought of his, in saying, when we protested against the punishment being excessive, that the people who would be punished would be guilty. I never saw a more palpable evasion of a question. Supposing we were talking of high treason and I put forward what in the old days would have been the weakly sentimental plea that people should not be hanged, drawn and quartered. It would be, on the same lines as the Minister is now adopting, a satisfactory answer to me to say that only guilty people would be punished and that I need 2160 not mind the form of the punishment. The Minister then spent a long time in telling us that people must obey the law. That is true but entirely irrelevant. What has legality or illegality got to do with us here? We are engaged in making the law. We are legislators, and what we are concerned with is not whether the people will be forced to obey it or not. Our concern is that the law shall be clear and just. Then the right hon. Gentleman uttered what I have called a very important half truth. He said, "These are not my auditors." These words raise the question of a very important constitutional change, namely, the creation of a new set of civil servants subject to the executive but not subject to the control of Parliament.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
It does not occur in this Bill, but everybody knows that the law with regard to the auditors has been changed by a judgment of the Judges. Parliament by not altering that law has approved of it, and Parliament by increasing the penalties has set its seal and sanction on that law. Everybody knows the law in the judgment of the Court of Appeal to be diametrically different from the law with regard to the powers of the auditors, as laid down in the House of Lords. I am not foolish enough to question the decision of the House of Lords. They have given us the law but they have given us a law which was not understood by Parliament when the law was passed, and was not understood by the learned Judges of Appeal who dealt with the case of "Roberts v. the King." Parliament has given its sanction to that new state of the law. Who then are the auditors and to whom do they belong? Who are the officials who, at their discretion, can impose these penalties involving perhaps bankruptcy? The auditor is anybody whom the Minister chooses to appoint and his salary is determined by the Minister.
In former days people sometimes made rather doubtful and questionable appointments of auditors, but I understand the practice of the present Minister is to take some civil servant from his own office and bestow upon him the post of auditor so that the auditor is appointed by the Minister, his salary is fixed by 2161 the Minister and his whole prospects of promotion depend on the Minister. He is a man who is both economically and with regard to his career dependent on the Minister. But he is not dependent upon Parliament. Parliament cannot ask the Minister any questions about him, and the Minister himself, according to the Act of Parliament, is strictly limited as to what he can tell the auditor to do. According to the Act, the Minister's powers over the auditor end with his prescribing certain technical rules, so that the Minister can say, "These are not my auditors" with perfect truthfulness in one sense; but they are "his auditors" in the sense that he chooses them, that he determines their salary, and that they can either remain junior district auditors all their lives, or, at his good pleasure, climb up to the very heights of the Civil Service. In that sense they are "his" auditors, and there is no example of civil servants with this ambiguous status being entrusted with these powers in any legislation that I know of except in one Act of Parliament passed by this House.
This is precisely the position of the appointed guardians under the Guardians Default Act. There, too, the Minister appoints people and pays their salaries, and in that case he determines their term of office, and yet they are clothed with powers which do not belong to the Executive at all. They are clothed with power to levy a rate. That is what I say is a constitutional novelty—the growth of a class of civil servants, clothed with important duties, of an independent character, in the power of the Minister, and not under the control of Parliament. I say that that class of civil servant is a class well known abroad, but it has not, up to this time, formed any part of the machinery of government in this country. This status that I have described is very nearly the status of a French Prefet, a man who is independent of the Minister, but whose promotion and whole career depend on the good will of the Executive. It is much the same device that the German Government adopted in order to keep the municipalities in their place in the height of the despotism in Germany; it is very like the device of the Burgomeister, appointed by the Government, and given great and independent powers of local government.
2162 I say that this Bill, this innocent little Bill, this Bill, as the Minister says, directed at one or two authorities only—this Bill and the Guardians Default Bill have furnished the Executive with an altogether new and formidable power, and that point the Minister and his Under-Secretary have never been within a thousand miles of discussing or justifying to the House. The Minister of Health has a Parliamentary tactic of his own. He is a master of under-statement. He has never yet brought in a Bill which he has not tried to persuade the House was a little tiny Measure, directed towards whatever individual or body he thought was unpopular at the time, to sooth and please the House into not seeing that they are making changes in our constitutional procedure. The Parliamentary Secretary is also a master of that sort of tactics. His idea of debate is to come into the House with one speech, and repeat it on every Amendment that is put forward; and precisely as, during the Guardians Default Bill, the bulk of his speeches consisted of quotations from the table-talk of Mr. Killup, so, in this Bill, he has quoted over and over again as his sole weapon that misleading scrap out of a speech of the right hon. Member for Aberavon.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
If the hon. Member thinks it is a good quotation, I beg him to get the OFFICIAL REPORT and to read that speech all through. I need not defend the right hon. Member for Aberavon. He has beak and claws and can look after himself; and I doubt if the Under-Secretary would have been so free in quoting him if he had not known that he was out of the House. The Executive has given itself such powers as these, but for what purpose does it mean to use them? Of that, we have had no hint at all, but the country is more favoured than this House. We have had statements from the Minister that these powers were to be used to suppress Socialism, for what is Socialism in municipal affairs?
§ Miss LAWRENCE
"Socialism" is a word used by the hon. Member's chief in the country. "Poplarism" is a translation by the Under-Secretary for the purposes of the House.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
That is very interesting but perfectly irrelevant. What is Socialism in municipal affairs? Of course, it is a very foolish thing to suppose that you can have Socialism properly so expressed without controlling the whole machine of Government. You cannot have Socialism in the true sense by controlling a county council or a local authority, but the three principles of the Socialist party with regard to local government are, first, the encouragement of municipal enterprise; secondly, the desire to be model employers; that is to say, that everybody employed by the body shall have proper wages, proper conditions, proper holidays, irrespective of whatever wages may be given under other employers; and that is not even Socialism. I believe the Progressive party on the London County Council agree, and they set that ideal before them long before Socialism was an appreciable force in that body. Decent wages and conditions are the second point, and the third and the most important is that no person shall suffer hunger, cold, or the extreme of primary poverty. If a person is a wicked person, let him go to prison, but if a person is hungry, let him be fed. It is not reasonable or civilised to allow any person in this country, good, bad, or indifferent, worthy or unworthy, to suffer hunger, cold, or extreme poverty. Those are the three aims of Socialism.
This Bill, added to the Guardians Default Bill, gives the Minister every power to combat those tendencies, and how can one look at this Bill without seeing that it is not a little isolated Measure, but that it is part of a carefully thought out plan? The hon. and learned Member for Moss-side (Mr. G. Hurst) finished his speech by saying this was the best Government Bill since the Trade Unions Bill. That was not accidental. His mind may not have logically perceived it, but his heart and soul saw the connection, for the Trade Unions Bill, the Miners Eight Hours Bill, the Unemployment Insurance Bill, the Guardians Default Bill, and this Bill are all part of one subject; they are all directed to one end, the cheapening wages by reducing here the power of the workers' organisations, by reducing there the money given as unemployment benefit, by reducing here, above all, the 2164 money a man may get from the elected boards of guardians. Anybody can see how these things hang together, that they are one great encircling campaign against the workers' standard of life.
The only thing that has cheered me up during these cheerless Debates of the last few weeks has been that some of my hon. Friends, who are very clever, have been composing a list of the seats which will be lost by hon. Members opposite by this kind of legislation. I look at hon. Members opposite, and I see their cheerfulness, and I say to myself, as I hear you, and you, and you, "Your places will know you no more." I look at hon. Members opposite who, I know, have natural political ambitions—this one wants to be an Under-Secretary, that one wants to be a Minister—I notice them, and I say, "No, not for you. Three years hence you will realise that last week and this week you have slammed the door on your own ambition you have cut the throat of your own political career. Five years hence you will be in the wilderness, and you will look back"—
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I am sorry. It is in the nature of prophecy and used more in the impersonal sense. I will say that they will look back to these weeks and to-day, when their political career ended in fact: and that thought of watching the victims, of counting them on the fingers of our hands, has been the one thing which has supported me and my friends during the lamentable exhibition of the last fortnight.
§ Mr. SCURR
I am sorry the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Rye) is not in his place, because, whether wittingly or unwittingly, he certainly conveyed to this House an entirely wrong impression. He spoke of a considerable burden being thrown upon certain boroughs in London under the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, and he went on to speak of the illegal expenditure of the Poplar Board of Guardians and other boards of guardians in the London area. I took the opportunity of challenging him to produce a single instance where, in regard to out-relief, the Poplar 2165 Board of Guardians, or any other board of guardians in London, had been surcharged for any illegal expenditure at all, but he was unable to give such information, because it would not be possible to produce it. As a matter of fact, my colleague the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and myself were very much concerned with the negotiations which led to the charge on the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund of the expenditure for the outdoor poor, and it very largely came as a result of the conference of the whole of the Metropolitan borough councils which was held at the Ministry of Health. When the negotiations seemed to be hopeless and almost on the point of a breakdown, it was the town clerk of Westminster, Sir John Hunt, who suggested the scheme which is now the scheme in operation in regard to the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund.
Although the hon. Member for Loughborough laments that this is a 2s. rate in regard to Westminster, he forgets to tell us that whenever Westminster levies a penny rate it is able to get 10 times as much as when the Borough of Poplar has to levy a penny rate, and so the consequence is that his comparison of rates in the £ in regard to districts in London really cannot in any sense of the word be regarded as a true comparison. Further, my ears were rather tingling when the hon. Member for Loughborough was quoting from the affidavit of the Poplar Councillors at the time of the audit. As a matter of fact, those phrases were drafted by myself, and so far as all of us who were members of the Poplar Borough Council are concerned, we stand by them in every sense of the word, because we considered, when we looked at the Statute under which we were acting, and in which those words were put, that we had the right to do what we did, and when we remember that at least one of the High Courts of the land, the Court of Appeal, confirmed us in that decision, I think we were in every sense absolutely justified. Therefore, it is in that sense of the word that we say that we were innocently breaking the law.
So far as breaking the law is concerned, there are times when it is necessary to break the law in the interests of liberty. I think it is Milton who says: 2166Men of most renowned virtue have sometimes by transgressing most truly kept the law.The only time that the Poplar Borough Council broke the law was, not when they gave relief to those who were in need of public assistance, not when they paid wages far higher than those paid by other authorities, but when they refused to pay the precepts of the central authorities of London, and by that means drew the whole attention of London to the inequalities of London rating and brought about the adjustment to which the hon. Member for Loughborough has referred. In regard to the Bill which we are discussing, I am opposed to it, first of all, on the ground that it is in every sense of the word an attack on local government. I know the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health will disagree with that, because he considers he is upholding local government. I consider it is a serious attack upon the liberty and freedom of local governing authorities. The second reason I am opposed to the Bill is that, in my judgment, it is going to deal with innocent persons who may be affected, and for whom the Minister has given no thought at all.
I will give a specific case. My wife was elected to the Poplar Board of Guardians in 1907, and at the first audit after her election she and other members were surcharged. By the pressure of the then Local Government Board, the Poplar Board of Guardians had been compelled to purchase a house in East India Dock Road in order to make a receiving home for children. This house had a very nice garden and a grass plot, but it was found that the children, when they went into the garden, got their feet wet. The consequence was that they had to be looked after medically and were an extra expense. The committee of the home decided that a portion of the ground should be asphalted, and it was carried out by the direct labour of the staff in the employ of the guardians. The sum involved was over £500, and the auditor said that the work had been done without going to contractors and without obtaining the consent of the Local Government Board, which was necessary because the asphalting of a garden was a structural alteration. Therefore, my wife and her colleagues were surcharged.
Under this Bill, supposing that case had been taken to Court or to the 2167 Minister, and supposing it was upheld that it was a structural alteration, my wife would have come under a disqualification of five years; further than that, she had no separate estate. I was not a member of the board of guardians at that time; I was pursuing a peaceful avocation in the City of London trying to earn a living. The consequence would have been that I should have been responsible for my wife's debts, and I should have been the person who would have been made bankrupt. Has the right hon. Gentleman thought of cases of that kind? The hon. Member for Loughborough was trying to rally us on the ground that we ought to be quite happy over the fact that the Minister has made it impossible for women councillors to go to prison, but are the women councillors' husbands to be bankrupted? Under this Bill that certainly seems to me to be the case. I think I am stating the case correctly, and that there is a risk to innocent persons in that regard.
The third point is, of course, the point which has already been made, and it must be repeated because it is important. That is in regard to the position of the auditor himself. As the hon. Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence) has already stated, the auditor is appointed by the Minister, and when the Minister has appointed him and laid down rules in regard to keeping municipal accounts, the Minister's responsibility ends, and the auditor is absolutely free to use his own discretion. He is not subject to the authority of Parliament, but only subject, as a result of an expensive process, to the judgment of the Court. I agree with the hon. Member that the Minister is trying to introduce, by a side wind, the Continental system under which there shall be central control by the Minister. This, of course, is a reversal of the policy which has been pursued in the past. We ourselves have tried it in our local government. We have tried, by the exercise of the democratic weapon, to ensure that people who live in a particular locality should be able to decide the conditions under which they would be able to live in that particular municipal area.
It was found in the past that some of these local authorities did not do their work in the way they should do it, and, 2168 in order to improve their areas, a certain pressure was brought to bear by the Ministry. We have heard to-day about bribes. To a certain extent, perhaps, the Ministry of Health has been guilty of trying to bribe the local authorities into doing certain work for the public good. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) who, with members of his party, we so seldom see in the House, who said, in the course of the Debate, that, during his occupancy of the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, he laid down certain Government grants to authorities for the purpose of deliberately encouraging them to continue along the lines of social reform. Now we have the Minister of Health reversing that, and trying to impose these penalties on bodies which are trying to do their best in regard to social reform.
We have heard a great deal, quite naturally, about Poplar, but, before I go to the subject of Poplar, there is one other aspect in regard to the auditor which has not yet been discussed. There has been an assumption all the way through that the auditor lays down a certain standard of wages, whether that scale be the scale of the Joint Industrial Council or some margin up to 10 per cent above, and that this is the be-all and end-all of the whole thing. It does not seem to have occurred to the Minister, or to the Judges of the Courts or to the auditor, that in no circumstances are the men and women who are employed consulted in this matter at all. There are, after all, beside the auditor, the Judges, and the local authorities, the very powerful organisations known as trade unions, which exist for the purpose of keeping up, and, wherever possible, raising the standard of life of the members of those organisations. Now the auditor may lay down a wage. It may be the Joint Industrial Council award or 10 per cent. above it. The men might say they were not going to accept the Joint Industrial Council's award. They might say, "When we went to the Whitley Council we put forward a different proposal; that different proposal, not being accepted by both sides, is not binding, and we, therefore, will not accept it, and we demand a higher wage."
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think I am putting forward cases 2169 ex hypothesi, because I was really, two years ago, faced with this very position. In the Stepney Union, under an order of the Ministry of Health, the four wards were amalgamated. The wages of employés doing precisely the same work in the different hospitals and institutions varied very much, and we had applications asking for those wages to be unified. It was a very difficult problem to bring about the unity of these four wards, and to deal with a large staff, to analyse their various duties, and to grade them into a proper system; and in the end we were threatened with a strike, and the clerk of the board cam© to see me one night in order to ask what we should do. As a result of very long negotiations with all the trade unions who had their members in the service of the Stepney Board of Guardians, an agreement was entered into which was sent to the Ministry of Health in order that they should be aware what was going on, and that agreement is in force to-day. If the auditor is to come along and say that this agreement does not matter and that he is going to fix wages, the Bill is not going to save industrial trouble in the East End of London and elsewhere.
With regard to Poplar, I really get a little tired of hearing hon. Members putting up this constant parrot cry of "Poplarism." The hon. and learned Member for Moss Side (Mr. G. Hurst) tried to give us a definition. According to him, it is "pauperisation of the people by the lavish expenditure of other people's money." The hon. Gentleman further went on to make certain observations in regard to irresponsible persons standing as candidates, and offering considerable bribes to the populace in order to get elected. I thought that was rather good coming from a party which has been identified with the Protectionist policy of this country, for that policy, if anything, is a bribe to certain manufacturers. They were told that if they would only vote for the Tariff Reform party, they would get greater property and greater profits. Surely, it is the essence of our democratic system that political parties are organised to put before electors certain programmes. The electors have every right to consider these programmes. Parliament has greatly extended the franchise. What for? We really can see what is in the heart of hearts of right hon. and hon. Members 2170 opposite. They are bringing in legislation of this kind, because they really object to the fact that there are working men sitting in the House of Commons on these benches.
That is the whole fundamental fact. They are quite willing to give votes to the people—they will give votes to men of 21 and to women of 21—provided those voters are nice, respectable spectators, who will vote for members of the governing class to sit in alternate Governments. The voters are to be like spectators at a football match, looking on at the game and cheering those who play it. That is the conception of democracy which hon. and right hon. Members opposite have, but not the conception of democracy which we have, which is that the voters themselves have to determine the policy of the various authorities and to say what they desire. I think it is perfectly legitimate for the populace to determine that their local authority shall be a model employer, and that is one of the sins which Poplar has committed.
I wonder whether hon. Members opposite realise what Poplar is? Perhaps I may address these remarks to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health. As I said before, though perhaps he will not mind my repeating it, I followed his career before he was a Member of this House, when he was distinguished in regard to the municipal administration of Birmingham. Without being in any sense of the word flatterng to him, I may say that both the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and the hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March) very often put forward the example of Birmingham to our own people to show them the path which they ought to pursue towards municipal Socialism. The hon. Gentleman is a patriotic citizen of Birmingham. I want to contrast the city of Birmingham with the Metropolitan borough of Poplar. It is true that in Birmingham there are at one end of the town well-to-do people, and at the other end poor people, but the people of Birmingham as a whole, whether they are captains of industry, like the right hon. Gentleman himself, or like the late Mr. George Cadbury, or whether they belong to the various grades of the professional classes, or whether they are among the poorest of the people, are yet all in Birmingham itself. The consequence is that there is an association of 2171 classes in Birmingham, and a greater understanding amongst all sections of the people of the particular problems of Birmingham.
What is the position in Poplar? Poplar, with its 168,000 people, is composed very largely of persons of one social class. We do not have that mixture of classes which I can find in Birmingham, or in Bristol, or in many other provincial towns. Of the whole of the officials of the borough council and the board of guardians, the deputy town clerk alone lives in the borough of Poplar. All the rest of them take care to live out of it. As far as shopkeepers are concerned, whenever they get an income above £3 a week they take care to get out of the borough, going to live in places like Wanstead, Ilford and other suburbs. I am not saying this in any spirit of reflection upon them, because I think they are quite wise to do so. After living myself in Poplar for 50 years I have had to leave within the last two or three months, because I could not stand walking along the streets day after day and meeting men who appealed to me to try to get them work, when I knew that it was impossible to do it. My hon. Friend the Member for South Poplar has had to take up an exactly similar position. So I do not blame people who go away from Poplar to live. We have no professional classes with us. As far as the Anglican clergymen are concerned, they are attached to their rectories, but since the Bishop of Bloemfontein and the Bishop of Stepney left us the Anglican clergy take no interest at all in the locality. The pastor of the one great Free Church we have, the Wesleyan Methodist Mission, lives out of the Borough of Poplar.
We have 71 schools for boys, girls and infants in the borough, and we have two secondary schools. Of all the teachers, six only live in the borough—according to what I ascertained the last time I was able to make any investigation. The vast mass of our people are casual labourers, either employed at the docks or in ship repairing, shipbuilding or the engineering trades; and the consequence is that we cannot get that association of classes which Birmingham and other cities like it can have. This is very largely true of other metropolitan 2172 boroughs of London. If I go to Westminster I can draw a different picture. The problems which have to be faced are very different. If I sat in the City Hall at Westminster the problem I should be chiefly occupied with is that of the traffic, provision of beautiful roads and things of that kind, although if certain reports which have recently been issued are true, Westminster does not seem to be paying much attention to its housing problem. If I am in the town hall of Poplar it is true that I have a traffic problem, but it is a totally different traffic problem. It is the problem of keeping a great main artery for the traffic of our trade overseas, which keeps this great city and this great country going. As a result of that, and of the presence of the docks, there is also the problem of the casual labourer, and the problem of caring for those who go down in industry.
Poplar has a great history. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley and the hon. Member for South Poplar are both some years older than I am, and therefore have a longer memory of Poplar than I have, but I was taken there when I was six months old and I have lived in the borough to within two months ago. I was educated in Poplar; I have loved every stone in it. I have wandered up and down its streets, and I know its people well. This place of Poplar which people sneer at to-day because some of its citizens have endeavoured to relieve the necessities of the poorest of the poor has played a big part in building up this great Empire of ours. Long before the song of the rivet was heard on the Thames, on the Tyne, on the Clyde or in Belfast Lough, we were building in Poplar those wooden ships which sailed away to India, to Australia, to China, those wooden ships which took away from the American mercantile marine the supremacy of the world. All over the world to-day there are people from Poplar who are helping to build up our Empire and our trade. The sons of those same people are in Poplar to-day. They have the same independent spirit which their forefathers had before them, and they have backed their local authorities because those local authorities have been pursuing a policy with which they agree. I get tired of hearing these sneers at the members of the Poplar local authorities, those hard-working members of the class 2173 to which I belong. They are bone of my bone and blood of my blood and because of that I feel that the Government are in this Bill passing a Measure conceived with the idea of depressing further and further the standard of life of the poorest of the poor. In every sense of the word it is a sin against the light, and I am astonished that a gentleman of the ability of the Minister of Health should be so blinded by political prejudice as to put forward a Measure of this kind. We know we shall be beaten in the Division Lobby to-night. They will bring up their 300 against our three score or four score men; but that matters not. A time will come when the scene will be different and when the workers of this country will be able to sing their Magnificat:He hath put down the mighty from their seat; … and the rich He hath sent empty away.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
If the value of this Bill were to be determined by the number of its supporters present in the House, I am afraid that the category in which it would be placed would be very low indeed. I am sure the House has been greatly impressed by the eloquence of my hon. Friend the Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr), and it may seem presumption on my part even to follow him in the excellent and exhaustive speech which he has made, but I would like to remind the House that the conditions existing in Poplar and the stirring independence of the men and women who live in Poplar and Bow and Bromley are common to other parts of London and of the country. It would be a mistake for any hon. Member to imagine that the iniquitous incidence of this Bill will fall only upon one or two localities. It is only a question of degree as between one local authority and another. A good deal has been said about the principle, with which the Bill interferes, of the right of the people of any locality to elect their own governors and for those governors to be left free to carry out the duties for which they have been elected. Why should there be the interposition of a public auditor whose status no one in this House, not even the Minister himself, seems properly to understand, a man who comes in, lifts his hand, uses his pen, does practically what he likes, without anyone being able to call him to account? This man is placed above the popular voice of the elec- 2174 tors, who may elect any party to a council. In that respect it seems to me the Bill cuts right across the British Constitution, which prides itself upon its democratic foundation. Localities have the right, within certain limits, to govern themselves, provided that those who are elected conform to what may be called the reasonable aspects of the law.
What is reasonable or unreasonable is, evidently, to be left entirely to the discretion of the auditor, who is responsible to no one. Surely a body elected in a locality must understand better than anyone else the needs of the locality, and if by virtue of the economic position of the people in the locality certain measures have to be adopted which may be regarded as extreme by other people, that ought not in itself to be sufficient to make the action of the local authority illegal. It would not be illegal except for the legislation now being passed by the present Government. The object of the Government seems to be to lay down by an Act of Parliament, which they are able to carry by virtue of their majority in this House, that the public auditor is the man who alone can decide what is right and just and proper as far as concerns the government of any particular locality. Take Birmingham as an example. We might just as well give the public auditor the authority to say that Birmingham's public enterprise in the past has been outwith the Constitution of the country, and call on him to surcharge the Birmingham Town Council for having dared to pass measures that are known as municipal enterprise. There would be just as much reason in doing that as in trying to limit the powers and opportunities of local councillors whose only wrongdoing is that they have been spending public money for what they considered to be the public good.
As one who has a great personal interest in all matters that affect wages, I must say a few words in regard to the position of the auditor and his attitude as allowed under this Bill and under an Act of Parliament already passed. As there is power to say whether or not a certain rate of wages is reasonable, it seems to me that a public council charged with the responsibility of its decision, and knowing that if it did anything outside 2175 that which was reasonable in the minds of those who elected it, should be permitted at least to say under what conditions it would employ men on the establishment of the local council. It seems to me an interference with the liberty of the subject, and an interference with the right of the union to negotiate with a public authority and secure from that authority the highest possible wage and the best possible conditions for its members, for any independent person to come in and say that those negotiations shall not be allowed to proceed; that although it may be possible for a local authority and a trade union to agree on a certain rate of wages, for this person who is called the public auditor to step in and say, "You must not pay these wages, and we shall surcharge you for all the expenditure that may be involved if you pay more than such a wage plus, possibly, 10 per cent."—which is what the public auditor might regard as a reasonable margin. Any Bill that contains that may justly be described as a Bill for the interference with trade union negotiations, making for confusion in the fixing of wages as between trade unions and public bodies, and generally taking away from men the right to the fruits of their organisation into trade unions.
It seems to me incredible that with the record of the Conservative party behind them, Ministers in a Conservative Government should attempt to undermine the position of the trade unions and their members in this very important respect. After all, a public body should not be regarded as essentially different from any other employer when it comes to negotiations for wages. The private individual is permitted to negotiate with a trade union and can pay any rate of wages they agree upon, and the law will not interfere. Although the conditions are different, there is no difference in principle in the position of a local authority. The local authority is an employer of this kind where members of a trade union negotiate with a public authority. What right has a public auditor or the Minister to come in between and say that they shall not negotiate beyond a certain point? I think there is a great deal in what other hon. Members have said, that this is going to interfere very considerably in the smooth working of many local authorities. I am 2176 afraid that if this principle be embodied in an Act of Parliament it will be very difficult to administer, for, with the great growth of Labour members on the local councils, which have been largely increased in the past few months, you may be faced with an ever increasing number of councils run by Labour majorities. They will have their own views of what their duties may be towards their constituents.
It may be that, in spite of this Bill, they will take certain measures on which it will be very difficult indeed for any Government, however strong and powerful, to restrain them. If the Government come to this House with this Bill, confident in their majority, taking advantage of the strength that that majority confers on Ministers, shall we be blamed when we get our majority on a local council if we take advantage of our majority and position as elected persons in possibly a larger number of local authorities throughout the country? That being so, Ministers should hesitate before they seek to impose on local authorities the restrictions contained in this Bill. I regard it as a reactionary Measure. Not that I am prepared to support everything that has been done by every board of guardians or local authority in this country. But I do say that what has occurred in those exceptional instances is no justification for this Measure. While I know the House will pass this Bill in the end, I do hope that the Minister will seriously consider the position in which he is placing himself and his Government, and when the catastrophe happens at a later date he will remember that this Bill was one of its causes.
§ Mr. A. GREENWOOD
I should like to bring the House back to the speech in which the Minister moved the Third Reading of this Bill. He did it with his usual skill and with his usual lucidity. There are two or three outstanding points in the speech to which I would like to refer. The Minister feels that the law relating to surcharges is unsatisfactory. I agree with him, and I think many hon. Members on this side of the House will agree with him, but what the Minister has done has been to attempt to segregate a small part of a much larger problem. He has done this in a way which leaves many important questions quite unsettled. Had the Minister come to the 2177 House with a Bill to overhaul the whole law relating to auditors and surcharges, and the relations between local governing bodies and his Department, then we might have been inclined to support him. But, unfortunately, his Bill deals with such a narrow point and leaves so many big outstanding questions unsettled, that my view is that the situation now is even more confused than it has been in the past.
Then the Minister made some references to Members of my own party. We happened to be surcharged, and I think his view was that friends of mine both inside and outside the House in this party, seem to take a childish pleasure in defying the law. The Minister was not within a great distance of being even moderately accurate. He has really instituted himself, so he says, a policeman over these Socialist majorities. His terrorism, he says, is the terrorism exerted by the police. Not, I think by the police of this country. His terrorism is the terrorism of the third degree. It is the application, quite wrongly, of excessive pressure in order to extort from people promises and statements that they would not willingly make themselves. That I understand to be a normal police method in the United States, but it is not a method that I should like to see extended to this country, either to our ordinary police system or to the new police system established by the Minister of Health.
One of the arguments the right hon. Gentleman used in support of the Measure was that the County Councils Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations took no alarmist view of this Bill. They had not protested against it. I gathered from him that they had even acclaimed the Bill. But that proves nothing about this Bill. If one has regard to the composition of the County Councils' Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations, one finds that they are, for the most part, composed of authorities whose members hold the same views as hon. Members opposite, and they are the kind of local authorities not likely to come into conflict with the district auditor. It is perfectly natural, therefore, that these organisations should not be opposed to the Bill. I could imagine that if the County Councils' Association were a body predominantly Labour in its character, 2178 it would have expressed views of an entirely different kind. In a big political issue of this kind their views are determined by their political complexion. Therefore, to adduce them as supporters of this Bill does not really strengthen the Minister's case. Then the Minister tells us that the Socialist party has gained no credit from the public by association with Poplarism. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman did not define what he meant by that. We have had a definition of it from an hon. and learned Member on the other side of the House to which I will refer later on. We know what the view of the Minister of Health is in regard to the Socialist party.
I say that this Bill brings no credit either to the Government or to the House of Commons, and, personally, I shall be glad to see the last of this unfortunate Measure. It is really a kind of Measure which might appropriately have been burned by the common hangman. I cannot think of any words suitable to say in favour of the Bill, because I do not think it deals with any of the real basic problems with which we are faced in our system of local government. This Measure was introduced as a little Bill, and it has been defended as an emergency Measure. We have been told that it was introduced to deal with a few recalcitrant London boroughs that would not behave themselves, and yet we are told that those boroughs, with the prospect of this Bill before them, have already begun to behave themselves. We are now living in a land of local authorities, all of whom have satisfied the Minister of Health that the reason for the introduction of this little Bill no longer exists. The possibility of a return to legislation of this kind, of which local authorities know very well the Minister of Health is capable, will in the future be a sufficient deterrent. Personally, I do not regard this as a little Bill; in fact it is one of large significance and importance. I am looking at it more from the point of view of what it may be in the future.
The Minister of Health said this afternoon, "The auditors are not my auditors." I accept that statement, but if that be true, the Minister has no idea what is going to be the future of this Measure, and it is not for him to say. How does the right hon. Gentleman know what is in the minds of the district 2179 auditors up and down the country? Does the right hon. Gentleman know how the auditors will interpret legal action which may become illegal by acts of extravagant expenditure? If the auditors are not the right hon. Gentleman's auditors, then we are launching this Bill on a future the end of which nobody can see. There might be an epidemic amongst district auditors within the next few years, and many of them might follow the example of certain district auditors in London; and then, with their varying views of reasonableness and unreasonableness, we might find a considerable number of local authorities having their members suspended and being driven out of public life. When we were dealing some time; ago with the case of the West Ham Board of Guardians, the Minister was repeatedly pressed as to how far he wanted to go, and he said this Bill had been rendered necessary because of the action of the West Ham Board of Guardians. At that time the right hon. Gentleman led us to believe that if he could only get power to strike down the wicked board of guardians in the West Ham Union, he would be perfectly satisfied. Since then he has gone three times as far as he thought was necessary at the time he introduced this Bill, and three boards of guardians have now fallen under his action. As far as we know, there may be 30 in the future.
For the reason that the auditors are not the auditors of the right hon. Gentleman and can act independently of him; because it is left to their judgment to determine whether action because of its unreasonableness is illegal, we may find that this Bill is a serious blow against the local government of this country in the future. I believe it is true that this Bill, in the judgment of the Minister of Health, has become necessary, but it has been rendered necessary because of the failure of the Government to deal with local governing authorities. The right hon. Gentleman has reached a deadlock not merely with boards of guardians but with other local authorities. This is the second Measure in which Parliament has permitted him to use the big stick against local authorities with whom he could not reason any longer, because he had exhausted every wile that he possessed. Why should we be asked every time the Minister is in a difficulty with local 2180 authorities to pass special legislation which engenders high feelings, simply because the right hon. Gentleman is unable properly to supervise the local authorities under his charge?
This Bill is important from our point of view, because it gives us a further insight into the psychology of the Government and their general outlook on political questions. I regard this Bill as most unfair. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. There is no question, and there never has been any question of heavy punishment being imposed upon members of local authorities who deliberately neglect their duty. I am not speaking simply of negligence in matters of money, but I am referring more to the neglect of statutory duties. The Minister of Health would never dream of asking this House for powers to expel from public life the members of local authorities because they had not built any new houses in their locality. He would never ask for heavy punishment against people who had allowed insanitary schools to exist for a generation. If, however, there happens to be any local authorities who interpret their duties generously, they are to be held back and restricted on the grounds of excessive expenditure.
That, I submit, is most unfair. If people are to be rendered liable to such heavy penalties as those inflicted by this Bill for exceeding the law, then they ought to be liable to at least equal penalties for not living up to the law. In our view, it is that unfairness that throws a light on the attitude of hon. Members opposite towards the problems of politics. Quite recently the term "illegal" has been interpreted to cover what somebody or other regards as unreasonable, and this really means that this Measure is to be used against people who try to interpret the law generously and to administer the law of the land as it is. I am not asking that they should have power to deal with questions outside their purview, but this Bill is a deterrent and a distinct discouragement to local authorities to make the most of the law of the land. It is, indeed, an incitement to them to follow the plan of many local authorities to do as little as they can to cary out the law of the land.
It has been suggested that the prime question is one of wages, but it is not 2181 only a question of wages, although that is important. An hon. Member opposite was greatly scandalised at the thought that the local authority should regard itself as a model employer, and the hon. Member seemed almost speechless because it had been said that a local authority should regard itself as a model employer. It has been the policy of this House for a generation that all public authorities should regard themselves as model employers, and that is one of the points at issue. The question as to whether people should be paid £4 a week or not is to be settled in two different ways. There are two entirely different points of view in this House as to what is human and what is reasonable. That applies not only to wages, but to any form of expenditure which comes within the purview of local authorities. It will be impossible for auditors, brought up perhaps in circumstances of comfort and luxury, who understand very little of the implications of social policy, to establish new standards in their own minds for all kinds of local expenditure which may include expenditure on schools or various forms of recreation. It is quite possible that what is now proposed may be the thin end of the wedge to deprive local authorities of the initiative in the matter of local expenditure. That is why we contend that this Bill is very unfair.
This Measure is also undemocratic. Reference has been made to a statement which was made by the Minister of Health in a public speech. In his administration of the law I know that the right hon. Gentleman will try to administer it fairly, but there is a gulf between our point of view and his, and he knows it. In a speech which the Minister of Health delivered at Greenwich only five weeks ago he said:Socialists were not willing to play the game, but were determined to use local government to finance their theories, and it was his duty to frustrate them.I regard it as my paramount duty in this House to advance my theories, and I should not be worthy of my position as a Member of this House if I did not try to uphold my theories. We have made no secret about that. We have won our way through, in spite of tremendous difficulties, both national and local, and we are getting an increasing amount of support for our point of view. That is 2182 quite right, and it is the basis of all democratic Government. The Minister of Health is going to try to frustrate that. It is part of our theory that there should be no public servant who is not well paid. The right hon. Gentleman wants to stop that, and in some cases he has succeeded. It is absurd for the Minister of Health to contend that he is not doing anything contrary to our point of view by this Bill. If I were in the position of the right hon. Gentleman, I should do as much as I could to ginger up a lot of local authorities that are doing next to nothing at the present time. I am not blaming him for trying to repress these wicked Socialist authorities, the members of which are trying to advance their own theories; but this is not the way to frustrate them. To frustrate them by means of punitive legislation and administration is unfair, it is unjust, and, of course, it is obviously undemocratic. What is at the back of the minds of hon. Members opposite is the question of the ratepayer, so they say; but they do not mean the ratepayers—they mean a small body of large ratepayers. The ratepayer has been their defence, and they dislike something that they call Poplarism. I am glad that to-day one of the two hon. Members who have had the courage to support the Government gave us for the first time a definition of Poplarism. I shall treasure it to the end of my life. Poplarism, he said, is the pauperisation of people by lavish misapplication of other people's money.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The hon. Gentleman accepts it. Splendid! I am glad to have that admission. [Interruption.] It is no use quoting the speech of my right hon. Friend; I wish the hon. Member would read the whole of it. We have kept on reading it, and, if we could be given a little longer for the Debate, we would read it again. But this definition of Poplarism is one which describes the Conservative party's own economy policy. In almost every Debate in this House where it can be dragged in, you may be sure that hon. Members opposite will raise their voices in support of economy. It struck me, when the hon. and learned Member for Moss Side (Mr. G. Hurst) was giving us his definition of Poplarism, 2183 that we might define the Conservative economy policy in these terms:The pauperisation of the rich by the lavish misapplication of other people's money.One example is the diversion of money from the Road Fund in order to prevent the Chancellor of the Exchequer from increasing the Income Tax. That is a misapplication of other people's money, not for the pauperisation of the poor, but for the evasion of taxation by the rich. If the Government care to leave the definition where it is, I shall be quite satisfied, because by implication they have defined their own policy and their own attitude towards this question. Is there any Member in this House who would repeal the non-contributory Old Age Pensions Act? The pensions paid to these very people we get from other people's money. Is there anything wrong in that? Has it not always been, in modern times an accepted canon of taxation that people should pay to the common stock according to their ability to pay; and has it not been regarded as right by successive Governments—more or less niggardly, perhaps, some of them have been—that the well-to-do should come to the aid of the poor? If it be said that we are misapplying other people's money when the common stock is used to help the neediest, and if that be Poplarism, then I am a Poplarist. That definition gets us no further; it merely confuses the issue. The issue is the issue of the large ratepayer. The basis of our system of social government is the elector, and it must be the elector, unless you are going to supersede local government altogether. You cannot to-day measure the people's value as electors by the amount of money that they happen to possess, and you cannot find any factor, so to speak, by which you can weight the voting power of rich people. What hon. Members opposite would really like would be the reestablishment of the property qualification and the disqualification of people of small means.
This is where we really get down to the root of this question. Some way has to be found of circumventing majority government in the localities. It cannot be found by going back and diminishing the number of electors; it cannot be found by giving rich ratepayers 50 votes; it can be found, however, in discouraging 2184 expenditure. We have heard this afternoon, from the bench opposite, about the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. The burdens that are met out of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund have practically nothing whatever to do with what is called Poplarism. If you could sweep the whole of London clean of what is called Poplarism, if you could put in authority in every area in London a Conservative majority, in those poor areas—depressed areas, areas of low rateable value, areas with enormous economic difficulties—you would still have the same problem as you have to-day, and you would not have come within miles of dealing with the real problem. What is called the burden of rates has not been created by Poplarism. The burden of rates has been created, by Tory authorities as well as by Labour authorities, because of economic circumstances, and the problem which has given rise to these difficulties is really a problem far outside the scope of this Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman has himself been responsible for one earlier Act, which is of the same character as the present Bill. I refer to the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act. We have just passed through, as many of us know to our cost, days and days of debate on the Unemployment Insurance Bill. We have now this Bill. These three Measures have been a waste of the time of Parliament, because they have ignored the fundamental problems which give rise to a situation requiring absurd legislation of this kind. These Measures are all symptoms, really, of a deeply rooted disease. I believe that what is wrong is the social system. I do not believe that you can find to-day any way of saving the rich ratepayer from increasing expenditure; I think it is impossible. So long as poverty exists as it does to-day, so long as social injustice exists as it does to-day, so long you will have these recurring: difficulties in local authorities. You may try repressive legislation, you may try the suppression of local authorities, you may do what you like to hound people out of public life; it will avail nothing, it solves nothing, but it will only bring more clearly to the minds of people the existence of a very real problem.
I put it to the House that, during these times of great economic stress, out of which the reason for these Measures 2185 has arisen, and which have given us these big problems, we ought to have a big enough policy to deal with them. Confronted, as nearly all the Members of this House are, with difficulties in their constituencies which call for statesmanship, it is a great pity that we should have to devote our time to the discussion of petty Measures of repression such as the Bill that is now before the House. I think that, if the right hon. Gentleman were really to follow his own bent and his own distinguished tradition, he would see that the solution of the problem of the Boards of Guardians
§ (Default) Act, the solution of the problem of the Audit (Local Authorities) Bill, is to be found, not in repressive Measures of this kind, but in constructive Measures for the reorganisation of our social system.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 255; Noes, 126.2187
|Division No. 475.]||AYES.||[7.40 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Dixey, A. C.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Drewe, C.||Holt, Captain H. P.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Ellis, R. G.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||England, Colonel A.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Atkinson, C.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiten'n)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fairfax. Captain J G.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Balniel. Lord||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Fenby, T. D.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Fermoy, Lord||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds. N.)||Fielden, E. B.||Illffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Finburgh, S.||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Bennett, A. J.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Bethel, A.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||James Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Forrest. W.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Foxcroft, Captain C T||Kindersley, Major Guy M.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Galbraith, J. F. W.||King, Commodore Henry Douglas|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Ganzoni, Sir John||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Gates, Percy||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Gibbs. Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Loder, J. de V.|
|Brocklebank, C E. R.||Goff, Sir Park||Long, Major Eric|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks,Newb'y)||Gower, Sir Robert||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Burman. J. B.||Grant, Sir J. A.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Macintyre, Ian|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hacking, Douglas H.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Margesson, Capt. D.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hammersley, S. S.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hanbury, C.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Meller. R. J.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Harland, A.||Merriman, F. B.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Couper, J. B.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hartington, Marquess of||Mitchell. W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Haslam, Henry C.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hawke, John Anthony||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Galnsbro)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hills, Major John Waller||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Curzon. Captain Viscount||Hilton, Cecil||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W.G.(Ptrsf'le)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hohier, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Sandon, Lord||Waddington, R.|
|O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Savery, S. S.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.D. Mcl. (Renfrew. W.)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Penny. Frederick George||Shepperson, E. W.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Univ., Belf'st.)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Plicher, G.||Skelton, A. N.||Wells, S. R.|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple.|
|Radford, E. A.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Raine, Sir Walter||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Ramsden. E.||Smithers, Waldron||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Reid, D D. (County Down)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Remer, J. R.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Windsor-Clive. Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Rice, Sir Frederick||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Woodcock. Colonel H. C.|
|Ruggles-Brise, Lieut-Colonel E. A.||Tasker, R. Inigo||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Bye, F. G.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Mr. F. C. Thomson.|
|Sandeman, N. Stewart||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File, West)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Riley, Ben|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ritson, J.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hardie, George D.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Harris, Percy A.||Scurr, John|
|Baker, Walter||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Sexton, James|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayday, Arthur||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barr, J.||Hirst, G. H.||Smith Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhiths)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Snell, Harry|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bromfield, William||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Bromley, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Buchanan, G.||Lansbury, George||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawrence, Susan||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Clowes, S.||Lawson, John James||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lee, F.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lindley, F. W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Connolly, M.||Lowth, T.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cove, W. G.||Lunn. William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Mackinder. W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Colonel Harry||March. s||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Duncan, C.||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Dunnico, H.||Montague, Frederick||Webb. Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Edge, Sir William||Morris, R. H||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Murnin, H.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Naylor, T. E.||Westwood, J.|
|Gillett. George M.||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Gosling, Harry||Owen, Major G.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Palin, John Henry||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Paling, W.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Greenall, T.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wright, W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Groves, T.||Potts, John S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Mr. Hayes and Mr. Whiteley.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."2188
§ The House divided: Ayes, 269; Noes, 118.2191
|Division No. 476.]||AYES.||[7.49 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Balfour, George (Hampstead)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Bainiel, Lord|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Atkinson, C.||Banks, Reginald Mitchell|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gower, Sir Robert||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Grant, Sir J. A.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Bennett, A. J.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Bethel, A.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Morris, R. H.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Murchison, Sir Kenneth|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Grotrian, H. Brent||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hacking, Douglas H.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Hammersley, S. S.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hanbury, C.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Owen, Major G.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Harland, A.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Burman, J. B.||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Perring, Sir William George|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Harrison, G. J. C.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hartington, Marquess of||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Haslam, Henry C.||Pilcher, G.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hawke, John Anthony||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S)||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Radford, E. A.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ramsden, E.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Remer, J. R.|
|Chapman. Sir S.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hills, Major John Waller||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hilton, Cecil||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stretford)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hohier, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Philip||Holt, Captain H. P.||Rye, F. G.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Samuel. A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Couper, J. B.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Sandon, Lord|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Savery, S. S.|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Huntingfield, Lord||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hurd, Percy A.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hurst, Gerald B.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Crookshank. Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Iveagh, Countess of||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||James Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Davidson, J.(Hertf'd. Hemel Hempst'd)||Jephcott, A. R.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Drewe, C.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Edge, Sir William||Lamb, J. Q.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Loder, J. de V.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|England, Colonel A.||Long, Major Eric||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Lumley, L. R.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||McDonnell, Colonal Hon. Angus||Waddington, R.|
|Fenby, T. D.||Macintyre, Ian||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Macmillan, Captain H.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Finburgh, S.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Macquisten, F. A.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wayland. Sir William A.|
|Forrest, W.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Wells, S. R.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Margesson, Captain D.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Gaibraith, J. F. W.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Meller, R. J.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Gates, Percy||Merriman, F. B.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Meyer, Sir Frank||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Winterton. Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Goff, Sir Park||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)||Wragg, Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Woodcock, Colonel H. C.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Mr. F. C. Thomson.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon W. (File, West)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)|
|Adamson. W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hardie, George D.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Harris, Percy A.||Scurr, John|
|Amnion, Charles George||Hartshorn. Rt. Hon. Vernon||Sexton, James|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hayday, Arthur||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Baker, Walter||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hirst, G. H.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Barnes. A.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Barr, J.||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Batey, Joseph||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Snell, Harry|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Bromfield, William||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M||Stephen, Campbell|
|Bromley, J.||Lansbury, George||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lawrence, Susan||Sullivan, J.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lawson, John James||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lee, F.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lindley, F. W.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Clowes. S.||Lowth, T.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lunn, William||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Mackinder, w.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Connolly, M.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Townend, A. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dalton, Hugh||March, S.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Mitchell, E. Rossiyn (Paisley)||Watson. W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Duncan. C.||Montague, Frederick||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Dunnico, H.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murnin, H.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Gardner, J. P.||Naylor, T. E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Gillett, George M.||Oliver, George Harold||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Palin, John Henry||Westwood, J.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Paling, W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenall, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Potts, John S.||Wright, W.|
|Groves, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Riley, Ben|
|Hall, F. (York., W.R., Normanton)||Ritson, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Hayes and Mr. Whiteley.|
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule," put, and agreed to.