§ 46. Mr. W. THORNE
asked the Minister of Health the reason why the West Ham Poor Law Guardians only allow, as shown in the White Paper, for the sum of £138,000 for principal and interest on loans for the half-year ending 30th September, 1927, in the place of £328,363, as shown in his statement on Monday, 6th July, 1925; if he is aware that if the guardians had been called upon to pay the full amount in the same way as the old board of guardians an extra rate of 6d. in the £ would be required to meet the full repayment; and if he intends calling for the full amount to be repaid for 1927?
The total sum in respect of principal and interest which would have been due by the guardians for the half-year to 30th September, 1927, under the original terms of the advances was £198,550 and not £328,563 which was the total sum payable for the whole year 1926–27 on the advances made up to 6th July, 1925, when the statement to which the hon. Member refers was given to him. In order to meet the guardians' desire to avoid borrowing and at the same time to allow the present ratepayers to benefit to some small extent from the 1259 considerable economies which the guardians have been able to effect, the Goschen Committee recommended a temporary postponement of the instalment of principal due at September, 1926, and March, 1927, and the payment of at least £138,000 in respect of principal and interest in the half-year to September, 1927. The Committee propose to discuss with the guardians before the beginning of each half-year the provision to be made for the repayment of the advances in the half-year and they contemplate that the sum to be repaid will increase in future half-years without recourse to further borrowing.
As regards the second part of the question, I would remind the hon. Member that while the present board have avoided all borrowing to meet expenditure incurred by them and have also made some reduction in their rate precepts, the old board borrowed to meet current expenditure, including payments for principal and interest, in the year 1925–26, £650,000, and in the half-year to March, 1926, they paid in respect of principal and interest, £125,116 only as against £138,000 which will be paid by the present guardians for the current half-year.
§ Mr. THORNE
May I ask the Minister of Health whether he does not think, if the present board of guardians are saving hundreds of thousands of pounds as is reported, that they should meet their obligations every half year?
They are certainly showing a considerable improvement on the practice of the old guardians as they are no longer borrowing fresh money, and they have been able to reduce the precepts on the rating authority. In these circumstances, it seems to me that it would be quite a proper thing that some consideration should be given in the way of postponing the repayment of principal which otherwise would have to be met by Parliament.
§ Mr. THORNE
Surely the Minister knows that when these particular gentlemen were installed as Poor Law Commissioners £300,000 was handed over to them to go on with, and I should like to ask whether the reason for the postponement of the payment of principal and interest 1260 is to wait until the new Bill comes into operation so that those who are ordered to pay now will not be called upon to pay then?