§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I beg to move to leave out the Clause.
Since the debate on the Money Resolution took place, the Lord Advocate has put down an Amendment to delete the word "Alimentary," and to that extent he has minimised our opposition to this Clause; but I would still appeal to the Government to see whether they cannot meet the large body of opinion in Scotland and in this House which objects to the alteration of the Poor Law in Scotland, whereby the poor dealt with under the Act of 1845—the blind, the sick and the maimed—may be compelled as a condition of getting relief to sign a declaration that that relief is a loan. It will mean piling debt upon debt upon the most helpless section of our population in the hour of their greatest distress. There is no purpose in making this change. Most parish councils would refuse to operate the Clause. There may be one or two here and there who, for special reasons, will put this Clause into operation so far as the sick and the poor 230 and the blind are concerned, but I and many other Members of this House do not see why the Government should persist in retaining the Clause. It is not one germane to the main purpose of the Bill.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE indicated dissent.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Well, that is our opinion, though the Lord Advocate shakes his head. The main purpose of the Bill undoubtedly is, as it is stated in the Bill itself,to enable relief to be given by way of loan, and to extend further the duration of the Poor Law Emergency Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1921.It has nothing to do with the Act of 1845, and if, as appears to be the case, the Lord Advocate or the Secretary of State for Scotland has been compelled to insert this Clause as a sop, in order to get from the Treasury any money whatever for the relief of the embarrassed parish councils—embarrassed purely as a result of the action of the Scottish Board of Health—I trust that we may yet be able to persuade the fight hon. Gentleman to allow the Bill to go through without it.
§ Mr. STEWART
I beg to second the Amendment.
This Clause as it stands has not secured support from any part of the country; there has not been a single resolution On its behalf. Both those interested as ratepayers and those who are connected with the administration of the law have expressed their opposition to the proposal. To-day most Members have been favoured with a communication from the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, a very influential body and a very representative body, and I would like to read what they have to say about this Clause. They say they do not favour the provisions of Clause 3because they are of opinion that its operation would be costly, cumbrous and unworkable in practice, because of the impossibility of recovering loans in every case, the difficulty of doing so in many, and the unfairness of recovering in some cases and not in others; also because of the litigation which would be involved, and more especially because, in many cases, of the unreality of the whole transaction, which would obscure the real position and conceal poor relief under the cloak of a loan which, in fact, would in many cases not he recovered.231 It is quite apparent to us all that if this goes on the result must be litigation. I know that many of those who receive the relief will not be in a position to repay the loan, but litigation will be started by the parish councils to demonstrate that if people incur the responsibility of accepting a loan they must pay it. It will be done to serve as a warning to others. As is said in this communication, it will cost more to regain the money than the expense is worth. I hope the Government will withdraw the Clause, which will do them no good, and will not help us in our difficulties.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
It is not necessary to dwell at length on this question to-day because it was dealt with so fully in Committee, but we wish to reinforce the protest made from this side of the House against the introduction of such a proposal into the Poor Law system of Scotland. If a claim for relief be justified, we submit there ought to be no question of any negotiations about a refund, much less any idea of the recipient being afterwards brought into Court. There is no doubt that in Scotland there is the strongest objection to the introduction of this proposal, which does not fit in with the main plan of the Bill. The Bill was brought forward to deal with the situation which arose through the Law Courts deciding that it was not legal to provide relief which had been given in certain cases on the instructions of the Board of Health. The Government were obliged to meet their obligations. We do not think they have fully discharged their obligations in the contribution they are offering, and in addition to disappointing us in that way they are introducing this proposal, in the face of Scottish opinion, and while at the same time telling us that in 1930 the whole question is to he opened up again and dealt with in an all-round fashion.
§ Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS
As far as I can see, this Clause represents an effort to carry to a logical conclusion the approximation of Scottish law to English law on this subject. The Lord Advocate almost suggested that when he was introducing the Bill, but, as has been pointed out before, while we are willing 232 to take anything good from England, we do not want to take anything bad, and this will be doing harm to Scotland and not good. The hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Stewart) has shown that the objection to this Clause does not come from any one section of the people. The quotation he gave and the telegrams which many of us have received show that. I have one from a parish council in my own constituency objecting specifically to this provision. It has been suggested that this provision would in some way act as an inducement to parish councils to accept the heavier responsibility which the Government has placed upon them in this Bill, but these parish councils, composed of shrewd Scottish business men--not a great proportion of them Labour men—have come to the conclusion, purely on business grounds, I believe, that the proposal is not, a good one. It is obvious that it would appeal most to the more improvident of our population —people who do not mind what promises they make when they have no intention or hope of making them good—and that it would be a hardship on those who really would strive to repay the money which they had not in the form of a loan. I think the Government would be pleasing, not only hon. Members on this side of the House, but also a great many of their own supporters and the great bulk of the parish councils of Scotland, if they withdrew this part of the Bill.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On the last occasion when this matter was before the House the Secretary of State for Scotland did not seek to appose many of the points that were then put forward from these benches. In fact, he said that he agreed with a good deal of what had been said. His defence then was that the Clause was optional, that the parish councils in Scotland had no need to operate it and would only do so if they desired it to be done and that the whole experience in England was that the Clause was very rarely operated and that very few people suffered from it. If the Clause in England had raised so few objections and if, comparatively speaking, there had beer so few people get relief in this way, why force it against popular opinion and use it in Scotland? If it is going to be optional and if it 233 is not meant to be operated in Scotland, why should we have it introduced, especially as it is obvious, according to both statements from the Government Bench on the last occasion, that even they have no desire that the Bill should be operated in the way that we claim it might be operated. They say that they do not want people to be dragged into the Courts. If the Secretary of State for Scotland did not actually say that, that is the inference from what he said. "We do not," he said, "want people who are poor to be hauled into the Courts; we do not think it is good." Then why the Bill If he does not want people pursued because of this alleged loan, why this Clause in the Bill?
If the object is not that parish councils should grant relief by way of loan, then what on earth is the use of retaining the Clause as it is? Nobody wants it. The Chamber of Commerce, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Stewart) has shown, have protested against it, and the parish councils, in so far as they have been vocal, are hostile to it. Some of us meet members of the parish councils and in personal conversation we have found that each one we have met is hostile to this Clause. No one, so far as we can gather, is in any way in favour of it. Even the right hon. Gentleman himself says that the Clause is not meant to operate harshly against poor people. Then why, in face of this combination of reasons, in face of the hostile opinion of traders and labour people, a combination seldom seen in Scottish affairs, persist? It seems to me that the Clause ought to be withdrawn. The fact that it is optional is no plea at all. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I know—and I think this is the mind behind the Secretary of State for Scotland—that, although it is true that at the moment it is optional, it is optional only in the same respect as scales of relief are optional under the code of Regulations or Acts dealing with parish councils. Parish councils in Scotland can pay fairly high relief, but what in fact takes place is that the Secretary of State for Scotland issues a Circular giving them advice and its effect is to lessen and reduce the amount of relief paid. We legislate and we make the Bill optional, but after—and this is the mind behind the Bill—we get the Act we will by Circular refuse 234 loans and compel parish councils to operate the Clause and grant relief only on loan.
While the Bill is optional, the Scottish Board of Health know that when the heavily-rated districts that need loans come to them they can make conditions regarding loans, and they can make one of the conditions that the relief of poor people will be considered only if that relief be granted by way of loan. That is the only reason I can find behind the Bill. There is no other reason. Popular opinion has never asked for it; traders have never asked for it, and labour opinion has never asked for it. The parish councils, if they have given consent to it, have never made any popular demand for it. Even on the First and Second Reading of the Bill we had no Conservative Members making any speech in favour of it. The only reason I can find is that this so-called optional Clause will not be optional at all, but that the parish councils will be compelled to grant relief by way of loan. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland, even at this stage, will withdraw it. I have not any very great hope that he will do so, but I certainly hope that Members on these benches will do the only thing that they can do, and will register their protest against the Clause.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
I think the Government have it in mind that this system of giving relief by way of loan will have the effect either of reducing or hindering relief in some shape or form. A certain section of our people will take any amount of money that they can get by way of loan or otherwise. They have no scruples whatever. They have no intention of paying and no law that you can make will ever compel them to pay, because they have not the means with which to pay. Then there is another section of our people who are hard-working and thrifty. They will scruple to go near a parish council or a board of guardians. They have conscientious scruples and they want to pay their way and do not want to be in debt. But in time of need they may be compelled to go to the parish council, and in that case they will be obliged to guarantee repayment. In the first case, the parish councils will not take the people into Court because they will know that they can recover 235 nothing, but in the second case they will be able to make the life of those people almost a hell by suing them for the recovery of the money. In other words, you are only following out an old Tory principle of penalising thrift, and we want to make it quite clear to the people who send us here and the people who sent you here that this is your policy and is not our's. It is admitted that this 'scheme has not worked well in England, and it is in the mind of hon. Members of the House that when the Poor Law administration is overhauled an alteration will will be made, but you are turning this system on to the Scottish people knowing quite well that it will not work and that in three years' time you will be most anxious to scrap it. We therefore appeal to you to drop the Bill. I have a notion that appealing to you does not mean much, because you have made up your minds. I have a feeling that we on this side of the House appeal too much to Members of the Government. It should be our policy to let people know the differences between the two parties, and to leave you to the judgment of the country when you require to meet them at the election.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I wish to join in the protest that has been made with regard to this Clause, and there is just one thing that I would like to suggest to the Secretary of State for Scotland. He might get one of his friends behind him to consult the first three Conservative Members from Scotland and ask them their opinion on the matter. I believe that the majority opinion of those three Scottish Members would be in favour of the acceptance of the proposal from this side of the House that he should drop the Clause. I do not think that he can tell us of any specific, parish councils that have come to him and suggested that there should be this alteration in the Scottish law. I also want to emphasise what has been said with regard to the point that this Clause is bound to operate in the future, so far as repayments are made, against people whom one is most anxious to help, people who do not want to come for assistance in any way at all, and who, when they try to get out of their difficulties, will be faced with this attempt to pay up a debt that has been incurred. On Friday there 236 is a Moneylenders Bill coming before the House, and I would urge the Secretary of State for Scotland not to introduce this sort of moneylenders' business into our Scottish Poor Law. There has been a consensus of opinion of the most diverse temperaments against this Clause and the experience in England is against it. I am told by some English Members that people are still being hauled before the Courts in connection with debts incurred in 1921. I do appeal to the Secretary of State for Scotland to seek the opinion of three Scottish Members among his own supporters, and I venture to say that at least two of them will say, "Drop the Clause." I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman opposite who represents the Treasury would object very seriously, because it would not interfere with the Income Tax or anything like that. The Lord Advocate in the future may be an officer of the Government, and it would lighten his labours if this Clause were left out, and as we are anxious to make things as comfortable for him as possible, I suggest that the Government should grant our request. After the last discussion we had on this subject, the Government agreed to make some improvement. What is the good of spoiling a thing which might otherwise be very good I The parish councils are thoroughly against proposal, and both business and working-class interests are against it because it is going to be a burden on very decent people, who are trying to get out of difficulties caused by unemployment and who are seeking to make as much out of life as possible.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I wish to press the argument from the point of view of public policy. As I understand it, an attempt has been made here to assimilate Scottish law to English law as far as possible. I have been very much struck with the correspondence which has come to me, first of all, with its representative character and, secondly, with its unanimity. This proposal is not desired by our Scottish parishes and I think the reason is very obvious. It is said that this is a purely optional Clause, but there is no word more abused in this House in connection with legislation than the word "optional" What does it mean? It means that this House hands over absolutely the power to do certain things to certain bodies. Sometimes they are 237 public bodies, as in this case, and sometimes they are private individuals, as in the case of the Miners Eight Hours Bill. When that power is handed over, this House ceases to influence the decision of those bodies. When this Clause is passed, however optional it may be, every parish council can impose these conditions upon every penny it gives. This Bill gives those bodies the optional right to judge case by case.
What happens is this. From John o'Groats to the Solway Firth you have a tremendous variety of parish councils. Some of them are what the Secretary of State for Scotland would call very advanced, and some I would call very reactionary. Of course we politicians can fight as much as we like about our varying political opinions, but I am sure we shall not fight about this point: that it is absolutely essential, in matters like this, that we should have uniformity of public administration. If a neighbour of mine in one parish lives on one side of the road and another neighbour lives on the other side of the road in another parish, they should both be on terms of absolute equality. I think the Secretary of State will agree with me that by this Clause he is introducing a variety of administration between parish and parish. That is not all, because he is producing another injustice. There are two condiditions,(a) and (b). Under condition (a), if a man or a woman gives a receipt that is tantamount to an acquiescence. Sometimes I have given a receipt myself when I did not really wish to do so, but there was a condition I had to accept or reject and I came to the conclusion that the balance was in favour of my doing what I was not wishing to do and which I thought was unfair that I should be asked to do. If a person's name is put on the receipt, I agree it may fairly be argued there is acquiescence. Under condition (b) however, there is no attempt to give acquiescence at all. Condition (b) provides thata notification in writing that the relief is so provided shall have been given to such person.A recipient does not require to acquiesce. He may know perfectly well that he may never be in a position to repay the loan, and he may receive that notice and put it into his pocket knowing perfectly well that, as far as he can 238 humanly and honestly say, it will be for ever quite outside the possibility of his paying back that loan. Surely it is very bad from the point of view of public policy and principle, that relief applied for, a case having been made out, is, handed to the applicant under a condition which he does not hesitate to accept but which he knows he will never be able to fulfil. That is not fair. I think I am putting a very reasonable and logical case, and I do not think the Secretary of State for Scotland disputes my fact. I think these proposals do damage to the-Scottish law which we all hold in much reverence. This Measure is going to introduce a number of inconsistencies, and I ask the House not to insist upon including Clause 3 in the Bill.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)
I am sure the House will agree with me when I say that the tone with which we have discussed this Measure is perhaps the most satisfactory method of approaching these differences between Scotsmen. I cannot accept the proposals that 1he Government should drop this Clause_ Indeed, if any real reason were required, the speech which the Leader of the Opposition has just made surely supplies the-argument. The right hon. Gentleman said that, whatever problem or points we might disagree upon, there was one thing which we were quite clear about, and that is that we must have uniformity of administration. Is that not the real reason why this Bill is brought before the House at all? If you are to have uniformity of administration, why stop at the border line between England and Scotland, where the same overriding power of the Government and the administration of the Government Departments are common to both countries? The argument has been advanced that with parish council administration you must have variations between parish councils. Is it not a fundamental part of the whole administration of parish councils that they must judge each individual case upon its merits? When hon. Members say to me that the fact that money is advanced to individual A or B and that it is impossible to recover money from A or B, surely that is presuming that the council have not taken into account the circumstances of the individuals with whom they are dealing. It is quite clear that it is 239 the elementary duty of the parish councils to consider each case upon its merits, and, if the parish councils are satisfied either that it is right and proper that an individual should receive an advance without any conditions of repayment or that he is capable of repaying a certain proportion of it, that is for them to judge. The circumstances under which relief was given to dependants of those engaged in this industrial dispute has caused this alteration in Scottish law, and it is no use hon. Members saying that we can leave the thing as it is, because that is not possible.
Clearly, if we are to have uniformity, we must come as near as we can to the method of administration which is in force across the border. If we are to get this one advantage for those dependants, we must accept the restrictions which are imposed upon the administration of this work across the border. I am interested to know that many of these bodies have been approaching Members of this House and have been using arguments without —I feel certain—accurate knowledge of what it implies. I am justified at least in saying that the representative individuals who speak for the parish councils in Scotland accept this principle of loan. I am surprised to hear that such a body as the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, who have been quoted as being against this principle of loans, should have so little considered the position of the ratepayers, because the principle which we are extending to Scotland of relief to the de pendants is the necessary safeguard to the ratepayers which exists in England. It has been repeated in this House that this recovery has not worked in England, but that is a fallacy. The real truth is that, while this principle of advancing on loan has not in the main been used for ordinary relief, and will not be used for ordinary relief, in Scotland—
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I will explain—it has been used in certain cases for that purpose, and it has been used appreciably and largely for just such difficulties as faced the country in 1921 and in this last period. When hon. Members say that no appreciable amount is recoverable, my information is quite the contrary. A large 240 and appreciable amount has been recovered, and is being recovered. One hon. Member said that there are people who were concerned in the 1921 dispute who are still being asked to pay; but is not that just one of the clear evidences that, in working this Measure in England, those people are given time in which to repay, and that they are not pursued harshly? [Interruption.] Really, hon. Members seem to forget that there is a real and fair opportunity to give this relief on loan and for recovery on behalf of a very overburdened class of the community, namely, the general ratepayers of this country. If any further argument were required, it is, I think, perfectly clear that this Bill brings the advantages, such as they are—and it is admitted that they are advantages—that England has for the relief of dependants, but that brings exactly, or as nearly as we may interpret it, the same restrictions which apply to England when relief is given to dependants in this way. The Bill, as my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate has explained, is a purely temporary Measure, and leaves the whole matter to be reconsidered in view of a problem which, as everyone in this House knows, is likely to come under review within the next two or three years, namely, the general recasting of the Poor Law in this country. In these circumstances, it is quite clear that the Government must retain Clause 3, and I must resist the Amendment.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The Secretary of State for Scotland promised to tell the House why it is that, in the case of recipients of Poor Law relief under the Act of 1845—not miners' dependants at all—he is still retaining them under Clause 3, although, according to his own admission, that part of the Clause is not to he operative.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I think that anyone who knows the general problem of administration in this matter will realise that an individual may at one time be in one class and then, owing to certain circumstances which have arisen, he may be transferred to another class—out of the 1845 class into the 1921 class, or vice versa. Circumstances arise which make it imperative that this machinery should be extended to cover that. I may add that this was arrived at after careful discussion with the representatives of the 241 parish councils themselves, and we deliberately came to the conclusion that it was essential, if this was to be extended, that it should cover all three.
§ Mr. HARDIE
In speaking of the question of uniformity, to which reference was made by the Leader of the Opposition, I think the Secretary of State, for Scotland went somewhat astray in his argument; probably the northern logic was rather too deep for the western. While the Secretary of State for Scotland may try to get away from the argument by saying that each case has to be taken on its merits, what the Leader of the Opposition was pointing out was that you might have a road dividing two parishes, and on one side of the road you might have an up-to-date parish which put this option into action, while on the other side the opposite might be the case, so that on the one side of the road persons might be getting relief without being compelled or even asked to repay, while on the other side of the road this option was being put into operation. The ratepayer in each case is faced with the same responsibility. It is no use the Secretary of State for Scotland or anyone else making such a statement as has been made to-day unless he wants to admit that he has no knowledge of the actual facts. The fact to-day is that, wherever the poverty reaches the point at which it goes beyond a loan, it becomes a matter for the ratepayer, but where it is considered that repayment of a loan can be made, then the risk of not getting that repayment is so great that the ratepayer stands to lose either way; I do not see where it can be argued that he is going to escape. As regards leaving anything to option, we have seen what has happened in recent legislation in this House. Optional Bills have been passed, such as the one for the reorganisation of the mines, so called, but nothing at all has taken place in relation to re- organisation of the mines, and nothing at all will take place in this case, because the Scottish parish councils have their own system, and this is one of the things which parish councils have never been up against.
I do not like repetition in this House, but when questions are put to responsible Ministers and are not answered, it does 242 lead to repetition. On the last two days of the Debate on this Bill I asked a specific question to which I have not had an answer. It was this: Since parish councils in Scotland, before they give relief, inspect the home and find out what the income is, if there be any, I want to know if those who have brought in this Measure have considered what is to be the standard of income in a house that has received a loan or loans, before process begins for the recovery of the amount. Is it to be the same basis of income that prevents the parish councils of Scotland from giving relief? Is it to be represented by so much per child according to their ages, with so much added for the father and mother? Or is it to be a question of the valuation of their furniture or household goods? On what basis are you going to establish the right of the parish council, or whatever authority is going to take action for recovery? What is the income to be in that case? Let the House recollect that, on the last day on which we debated this Bill, English Members from mining areas pointed out that, if process took place in these cases, it would bring those proceeded against nearer and nearer the day when they would have to go again to the Board of Guardians to get relief, owing to the state of poverty to which they would be reduced by the attempt to recover from them what had already been given as relief in the form of a loan.
If poverty is going Lo be faced, it cannot be faced by a system that gives no relief. Where a man is dependent for employment on the state of industry, and cannot get employment unless trade happens to be good and unless he happens to be under 40, if he is given a loan the harassing begins from the very day the loan is given, because there is no security of employment for a man who is over 40. I would like the Secretary of State for Scotland to make quite clear what is going to be the basis upon which recovery can take place. Is it to he really on the basis of income, or is it to include a valuation of the furniture of the household, or will consideration be given to the question whether the clothes they have are good or bad, whether they have an extra suit of clothes or extra underclothing? When the parish council's Inspector of the Poor goes to a house in Scotland, in order 243 to know exactly whether the occupant is going to get relief or not, he goes into every one of these details; in some places he will even open the drawers in the chest of drawers to see if there is anything in them. I have seen them at work, and I am the more ready to try to do every thing in my power to get some understanding on this matter now. I do not want to leave options to Poor Law inspectors; I want to have their powers clearly defined; and I would again draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland to the point I have raised with regard to the boundary between parishes. He has lived in both town and country, and is bound to know the kind of things that take place; and, more than this, he is hound to know that, if you leave this option and have that differentiation between houses on one side of the road and houses on the opposite side, you are going to get the kind of trouble that will not only make this Measure a laughing-stock, but will make it more and more difficult to recover loans that might be recovered under a broader system.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
I want to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland for an explanation regarding the statement he let fall during his speech, to the effect that Clause 3 was not to be put in operation except where the circumstances were such as are described in Clause 2, that is to say, where relief was granted to the dependants of individuals who were out of work in consequence of a dispute. It was only in these circumstances that this particular option of giving a loan by the parish council was to be put in operation. I want to be clear about that, because Clause 3 speaks of "Any relief "—not relief granted to dependants of individuals who are out of work in consequence of a trade dispute, but "any relief." It may be that relief is given to the dependants, or, indeed, even to the individual himself who has been thrown out of employment by reason of depression of trade in, say, one of the shipyards on the Clyde. Whatever may be said in this House, we know it has not gone very far where the option has been left to people outside; they have put it in operation just in the way that they thought they were entitled to do. Conse- 244 quently, we are entitled to a little further explanation of that statement.
I want to carry a little further the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie). The Secretary of State himself knows perfectly well what transpires in various parish council areas. His own constituency contains the boundaries of three or four parish councils. He represents a portion of the parish of Cowcaddens, he represents a portion of the parish of Govan, he represents a portion of one of the Renfrew parishes, and I am not sure that he does not represent a portion of the parish of Eastwood as well. In the Division which he himself represents in this House, different sets of circumstances may arise as described by my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn. The parish council of Cowcaddens may be putting this particular option into operation, and demanding that the individual should recognise this particular advance from the parish Council as a loan, repayable when he obtains employment again. On the other side of the street one residing in the parish boundary of Govan might be freed from all such demands on the part of the Govan parish council. In his own constituency the right hon. Gentleman is going to have the circumstances arise. These are going to be multiplied by all the parish councils throughout Scotland and it is nothing for him to come along and say boundary lines mean nothing to him. You might as well have no boundary between Scotland and England, and in that case there need be no Secretary for Scotland and no Lord Advocate We might as well all be under the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General for England. If that is the idea of the Secretary for Scotland, that we are going to abolish the boundary between Scotland and England, he had better not cross the boundary between the two countries he will not get a very healthy reception. Will he explain exactly what is in his mind with regard to that point, and if he says it is only meant to operate where a dispute has been in existence, and where the dependants have to go to the parish to get relief, will he look at the Clause again and instead of saying, as Clause 3 says. "Any relief," get it to read, if he insists on it remaining in the 245 Bill, "Any such relief," and then you find the relation at once to what is contained in Clause 2, where is definitely set out the relief that is to be given to people who receive relief in trade disputes.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
I wish to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a difference in principle, as I understand it, in the English law relating to relief on loan and the proposed provisions of this Bill. According to the English law, the relief on loan is to be such as the Poor Law Commissioners, who are now, of course, the Ministry of Health, may direct to be considered as loan. I wish to call his attention to Section 58 of the Poor Law Act, 1834, which provides that "relief may be given which the said Commissioners shall by any rule, order or regulation, declare or direct to be given or consider as given by way of loan," and the side note to the Act is "such relief as Commissioners may direct to be considered as loan." If it is not so specifically directed by rule or regulation it is given otherwise than by loan. When I come to look at this proposal in the Scottish Bill I find no such control by any central authority at all. In the Scottish Bill any relief may be given by loan when the local authority have complied with the conditions, that is given the receipt provided for in Paragraph (a) or the notification in writing provided in Paragraph (b). It is then to be deemed to be a loan, and the difference—and a very important difference it seems to me—between the existing law in England and the proposed law in Scotland is that in England the central authority can define by rule or regulation what type of relief is to be treated as loan, or presumably what condition of person shall be treated as the receiver of loan, and in Scotland there is no such control over the local authority at all.
If that be so, the observation of the Leader of the Opposition that we were not getting in this Bill uniformity of practice seems to me to be very pertinent. In England you get uniformity of practice by vesting the power of deciding whether the general principle of Poor Law relief shall be by loan in the central authority, and in Scotland there is no such provision, and therefore whether the Bill is wise or unwise, it is not quite correct 246 to say this proposal assimilates the English principle into the Scottish law. There is all the difference in the world in my opinion between vesting a central authority with a definitive power, by rule or regulation, which shall apply uniformly throughout the country that certain types of loan or certain types of recipients shall be regarded as persons presumed to receive loan, and the relief shall be considered as loan and giving to each local Poor Law authority the option by the serving of notices of this type, so that in one parish that very thing may be loan which under the like conditions to people in like circumstances on the other side of the road shall not be a loan. Among other things it may involve the migration of persons on one side of the street to the other, and so complicate the housing problem. However that may be, the House should be clear that this Bill as I understand it is not the same in structure as the English Poor Law, and if the Government desires to assimilate the English Poor Law to Scotland, it should withdraw the Bill and substitute in its place Section 58 of the Poor Law Act, 1834, with consequential amendments. I should like to ask this question. We know that the Scottish people, very wisely no doubt, in many matters have laws different from those that obtain in England, but why do you wish to use a different form of words in the Scottish law from that which already obtains in the English law, instead of taking the English law, which is appropriate for this purpose of loan, and assimiliating it to the Scottish system?
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Many and varied as have been the arguments in the speeches and appeals made from this side to the Government to withdraw the Clause, to me there has been no appeal so eloquent as the absolute silence of the Conservative supporters of the Bill. We have not heard a single argument in favour of the Clause except from the Front Bench. We heard several speeches on the Second Reading, and we bad several speeches on the Financial Resolution, but we have not had a single speech from the back benches of the Conservative party backing up this proposal. To my mind that is the most eloquent appeal that has been made to the Government to drop this proposal, because it is obvious that there is no member of the 247 Tory party, other than members of the Government itself, who are prepared to justify the Clause. It has been pointed out that there will be lack of uniformity, particularly between parish and parish, but lack of uniformity will go even further than that. There will be lack of uniformity inside the parish itself. My first experience in connection with parish council administration convinced me that the one who was most thrifty, and the one who tried to do his duty was the one who was always penalised in connection with parish relief. What will happen in connection with this power being given to choose between granting money on loan and granting money as relief will be that when the parish clerk or the Poor Law inspector carries his investigations into the home, where there is cleanliness, where there is evidence of past thrift, where there is any evidence that there will be effort in the future, the parish council will only grant the money on loan, and on the other hand if it happens not to be a home that appeals to the inspector, the money will be granted as relief because of the destitution of the recipient. That ought not to be allowed. Whilst there is a logical complaint against lack of uniformity between different parishes, to my mind the worst feature will be the lack of uniformity inside the parish itself. There is the double fact that the individual who may make a special effort to repay the loan will be called upon in addition to pay rates in connection with the amount that has been granted because of the alleged destitution of a second individual who is not called upon to repay.
§ There is one point I should like to put. How long may a debt hang over an individual who has a loan? People have been summoned in England for debts that were contracted in 1921. I want to know how long a debt will he held as being a legal debt, because it would seem to me if you keep it going long enough you will be making the children responsible for money loaned to the parent for the purpose of helping to maintain them. Therefore you will be creating a double hardship so far as the children are concerned. There is not a single back-bencher of the Tory party prepared to back this Clause. Neither the hon. Member for N. Lanark (Sir A. Sprot) nor the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) nor other Members of the rank and file will dare to get up and support it. It is an open challenge. I should very much like to hear them because, representing the Labour and Socialist party as I do, I am very anxious to get shot and shell for the next election. It is quite obvious that they are not prepared to accept the challenge and justify a Clause which is obnoxious to the administrators in Scotland, and obnoxious to the business men of Scotland, will certainly be obnoxious to those who are compelled to get money on loan, and I feel sure is obnoxious to all Members of the House other than those who are directly Members of the Government.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'an,' in line 32, stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 185; Noes, 92.249
|Division No. 26.]||AYES.||[5.0 p.m.|
|Albery, Irving James||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Briggs, J. Harold||Cockerill, Brig. General Sir G. K.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Centr'l)||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool,W. Derby)||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Buckingham, Sir H.||Couper, J. B.|
|Ashley, Lt-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent,Dover)||Burman, J. B.||Crawfurd, H. E.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Carver, Major W. H.||Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cayzer,Maj.Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Bennett, A. J.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Berry, Sir George||Chamberlain,Rt.Hn.SirJ.A. (Birm.,W.)||Dixey, A. C.|
|Bethel, A.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. H.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Chilcott, Sir Warden||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Christie, J. A.||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Clarry, Reginald George||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Looker, Herbert William||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Lumley, L, R.||Sandon, Lord|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Lynn, Sir Robert J.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Gates, Percy||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Savery, S. S.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||MacIntyre, I.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Grace, John||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Skelton, A. N.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.)|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Malone, Major P. B.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Hanbury, C.||Margesson, Capt. D.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Harland, A.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Stanley,Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Harney, E. A.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Streatfelld, Captain S. R.|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Holland, Sir Arthur||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn.W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Hudson, R, S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Penny, Frederick George||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Hutchison,G.A.Clark(Midl'n & P'bl's)||Plicher, G.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Radford, E. A.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Jacob, A. E.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|James, Lieut-Colonel Hon, Cuthbert||Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Remer, J. R.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Remnant, Sir James||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Rice, Sir Frederick||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Roberts, E. H. G (Flint)|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Ropner, Major L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Ruggies-Brise, Major E. A.||Captain Lord Stanley and Captain|
|Loder, J. de v.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Bowyer.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hardie, George D.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. H., Ellano)|
|Alexander, A. V (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hirst, G. H.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Baker, Walter||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barnes, A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barr, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Briant, Frank||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Broad, F. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bromfield, William||Kennedy, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lansbury, George||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buchanan, G.||Lawrence, Susan||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Lawson, John James||Sullivan, J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Leo, F.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lindley, F. W.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro,W)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lowth, T.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lunn, William||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Mackinder, W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dunnico, H.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||March, S.||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Montague, Frederick||Whiteley, W.|
|Greenall, T.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Naylor, T. E.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Windsor, Walter|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wright, W.|
|Groves, T.||Potts, John S.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Purcell, A. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Riley, Ben||Mr. Hayes and Mr. T. Henderson.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwich)|