The following Motion stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. CHARLES EDWAEDS:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying that the Order, dated 20th January, 1928, entitled the Bedwellty Union (Default) Orders (Continuation) Order, 1928, be annulled.
§ Mr. DENNIS HERBERT
On a point of Order. I should like to obtain a ruling on a point which has somewhat troubled me. On the Order Paper, when I saw it on Saturday, this Motion with respect to the Bedwellty Board of Guardians appeared for Thursday of this week. Under these circumstances, I want to ask if you will be good enough to give me a ruling as to how the Standing Order with regard to anticipation applies to a case of this kind. I took 362 the view on seeing this Motion on the Order Paper for Thursday, that no question with regard to this particular Bedwellty Order could be discussed before that date; otherwise it would be, under Standing Order 10a, out of order on the ground of anticipation, because of theprobability of the matter anticipated being brought before the House within a reasonable time.Next Thursday, of course, one assumes would be a reasonable time. I ask for a general ruling as to whether a Motion of this kind is put on the Order Paper for Thursday it can be anticipated by being put on the Order Paper for discussion two clays earlier?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This Motion does not now stand on the Order Paper for Thursday. I understand that it was taken off the Order Paper and put down for to-night, because it was discovered that the time allowed would have expired when Thursday arrived. I agree that it is inconvenient to have these changes of date, but I do not think there is anything in the Standing Orders to forbid it.
§ Mr. HERBERT
In thanking you for that Ruling, may I ask—it may be good guidance for procedure in the future—whether it can be generally understood that by taking an Order off the Order Paper one can in fact anticipate the discussion of that particular subject, and that, supposing a Motion stands on the Order Paper for one day next week, and I happen to arrange with my Friend, who has that Order down, that he should take it off the Paper, I can thereby put down some question which will raise a discussion on that particular point, in anticipation of the date on which it has appeared previously on the Order Paper?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is quite a common practice for an hon. Member who has a Bill down for some future date to withdraw it in order to open the way for another hon. Member who has got an earlier and more favourable opportunity for a Motion. Where a Motion or a Bill is having a blocking effect, these arrangements are often made. The hon. Member is quite justified in removing an Order from the Paper if it be found that it is having a blocking effect.
§ Mr. C. EDWARDS
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying that the Order, dated 20th January, 1928, entitled the Bedwellty Union (Default) Orders (Continuation) Order, 1928, be annulled.I quite agree that it is inconvenient to discuss these prayers at this time of the evening, but I am hoping that this Prayer will be answered and that it will not be necessary to discuss it again. I think right hon. Gentlemen opposite will oe thankful that it has been put down because it has enabled them to get one or two Orders very easily. We have discussed this question on several occasions previously. Why have the Bedwellty Guardians been superseded? It is not for bad administration, as I shall be able to show, but because the district industrially is in such a bad way that the Minister of Health said to himself, "There is extreme poverty here and it is likely to continue. These guardians live amongst the people and know of this poverty, many of them belong to the same class as those who are in distress, and they will not be able to resist. I must appoint men who live out of the district, who know nothing of the poverty of the people and will not believe the tales that are told them." That, I think, was the main reason why the guardians were superseded. Bedwellty up to 1924 was amongst the best administered places in this country. When I came into this House in 1918 nobody knew where Bedwellty was; but to-day everybody seems to know something about it. Things went on so well, the local authority did its work so well, that it was not even heard of, but since then a great change has taken place. The rates in 1914 were £96,985, and it was collected, every halfpenny of it. In 1921, when the cost of every service was so much higher, they wanted four times as much—£345,462—and that was collected, every halfpenny of it.
Then we come to 1927, and a very different story has to be told. In the meantime many of the industries in the area had been stopped; poverty reigned supreme. People who owned houses could not get their rents, and consequently could not pay their rates. Many of the collieries were stopped; there was not so much income from them, and the result was that in 1927 so much more was needed and the income was much less 364 than it had been. They called for 2278,000, but only £132,000 was collected. That was the beginning of the trouble. It is not because of the guardians. They are the same people, with one or two exceptions, who were in office in 1921. But the condition of the area was such that they found themselves in a very difficult position. The assessable value had gone down very considerably. Take one small area, Blaina, the assessable value of the collieries in 1920 was £21,000, but within a year-and-a-half, in September, 1922, it had gone down to £4,000.
That applies to other areas in almost the same ratio. We shall be told, I suppose, that the recipients of Poor Law relief have been reduced from 16,000 to 11,000 since the Commissioners were put in, and that the relief paid has been reduced by over £500 a week. We shall be told, too, that the Commissioners have stopped borrowing. We do not want to be told these things, which we admit. But we protest against the reduction, because it has been made at the expense of the starvation of men, women and children. Some hon. Members will perhaps say, "What a splendid thing to have stopped borrowing!" I doubt whether they would say that if they saw the homes in this area and the sufferings of the people there. The position of the single young men is deplorable in the extreme. The Commissioners, assisted by the Ministry, have refused to relieve these cases. These young men have been a thousand times worse off since the stoppage in 1926 than they were at that time. Then they had help from sympathetic friends in different parts of the country, there were soup kitchens, and they were getting at least one meal a day. There are now scores and hundreds of them who have never known since then what a real meal on any one day means. Their position has been deplorable above all the rest.
Only a week or two ago the position was such that the County Council of Monmouthshire discussed it and protested against the conditions that they found, the poverty that existed and was not being relieved. A right hon. Gentleman who was once a Member of this House, Mr. Thomas Richards, one of the best men we know, made a very strong speech and protested against the Commissioners not relieving the distress. He 365 called upon them to resign and to allow others to see if they could do better. The Chairman of the Commissioners was at the meeting, but did not reply to a single charge that was made. Things go on just as before. The old age pensioners were relieved by the old guardians to the extent of about five shillings a week. The new Commissioners refuse to give them anything at all. The week before last the Minister of Labour, who is not one of the most sympathetic men in the world, said that every one knew that a person could not live on ten shillings a week, arid it, was never intended that he should. But these Commissioners say that he must, and have refused any relief whatever to these old people. A case was brought to my notice during the Autumn Session. There was living in my constituency a married man, with his wife, four children, and his mother-in-law, who was an old age pensioner. He appealed to the Commissioners for some help for the old lady, but it was refused because the man was working. He was on what is called a subsistence wage, namely 8s. 0¾d. a day. He could earn 48s. in a full week and take home about 46s. But he was working three and sometimes four days a week, and sometimes even less than that. This man's earnings are from 22s. to 30s. a week and the rent to be paid is 10s. a week. According to the Commissioners, seven people have to live on what remains. No one can say how they manage to exist. I do not know—I merely state what is happening.
I have another case of a man and wife living with a brother-in-law. They have no children but the wife is in a weak state and badly in need of nourishment. The Commissioners at first refused to grant them anything at all, and said the brother-in-law must keep them as he was working. Eventually they agreed to give the woman 5s. 6d. one week, if her husband went to Swansea to look for work—to Swansea where there are thousands of unemployed already. The Commissioners paid the 5s. 6d. in one week but not a halfpenny from that time onwards. That is where our C3 nation comes from—and these are only a few of the cases I could cite. There are scores and hundreds of others, if I cared to take up time in dealing with them. There is another question in this connection, and that is 366 the question of small-pox. Shortly before this House adjourned—in fact, on the day of the Prayer Book Debate—the medical officer for Monmouthshire was here and saw the Minister of Health. There were two other members of the council with him, and he was telling us upstairs about the prevalence of small-pox in Monmouthshire. He said that small-pox seemed to follow poverty and destitution. It commenced in the Eastern Valley about Pontypool, and then came to the Western Valley, and then, he said, it seemed to jump over the Tredegar Valley where the work was better and the destitution not so bad. It went over into the next valley and attacked that. That was his statement to us, but I heard an hon. Member who belongs to the medical profession state here last week that destitution has nothing to do with small-pox. Thus we have two doctors who differ on that point. I believe it is only reasonable common sense to suppose that the lowered physical condition of the people renders them more susceptible to disease. I have here a cutting from the "Western Mail" in regard to this question. They do not quite agree with the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. A. V. Davies) as to small-pox. Referring to the disease in the East End of London they say:Privation, no doubt, plays some small part in the prevalence of small-pox in these areas, but there is a more feasible theory still to account for its spread among East Enders as opposed to the dwellers in the West. The West Enders, generally speaking, while perhaps more fortunate are more intelligent and better balanced, and consequently exhibit greater public spirit and citizenship, in so far as they submit their children to vaccination with greater readiness.I suppose they will next recommend vaccination as a cure for hunger. We have, however, the statement of the Medical Officer for Monmouthshire that the disease seemed to follow poverty and destitution. The people I have mentioned were here to ask for a grant to help them because they had already spent £20,000 in dealing with small-pox up to then. I have promised to be brief, otherwise I would refer in more detail to Abertillery. I wonder what the Minister of Health is doing there. Small-pox is raging there and they have stopped scavenging—stopped the carts going round—and they are allowing the filth to remain on the streets for the whole week. 367 I should imagine that that would be a question for the Minister of Health to take up and to make sure that sanitation as far as possible should be enforced, especially when small-pox is raging there. We say that the poverty of these people has much to do with it. These Commissioners are responsible for it; they ought to be relieving distress in a way that they are not. I am asking that this Order should be annulled and that instructions should be given for the election of guardians again as occurred before.
This district, I suppose, will be experiencing to-day what it never experienced before. I go home every week-end, as do many of my hon. Friends, and I confess it is a misery to walk about the streets and roads of the mining towns and villages. You meet men who are, many of them, your old friends, men who used to dress up and take a pride in themselves and their wives and children, and they go about any way to-day and have lost heart altogether. Then there is the Pensions Act, which has just come into force, but which is a cruise and not a blessing. An old friend of mine met me three weeks ago last Saturday, and he was a man who used to take a pride in himself. A better workman never went down a coal pit than that man, and a man of finer character never lived. He told me he had been employed in a certain pit that had been stopped, and that he had been idle for three months, during which time he had been in receipt of unemployment pay, but he had now become 65 years of age and his unemployment pay had been stopped. His wife was only 63, and he was down from 23s. to 10s. a week as a result. He said that neither he nor anyone belonging to him had ever yet appealed to the guardians, and what, he asked, was he to do now? These Commissioners are refusing to meet cases of this sort, with the result that the district is in a bad way indeed. However, I must finish, as my time is up.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I beg to second the Motion.
This is a case with which the House is becoming all too sadly familiar. This Prayer must necessarily be a recital of the tragic conditions that obtain in one of our large industrial centres, conditions 368 brought about through no fault of their own, but, as I believe, by policies pursued by those who ought to have more sense than they have exhibited. I believe that, if other policies had been followed, these conditions would not have arisen in the way they have done. I have in my hands the report of the Government themselves on the Bedwellty case, and I have no doubt that we shall be told by the right hon. Gentleman who will reply for the Ministry of Health that the effect of bringing about, this change of supplanting the elected members of the board by officials appointed by the Department has been to bring about savings of a very material character.
I shall not, go over the cases that have been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. C. Edwards), but I will point this out, that these bureaucratically appointed guardians took over a few weeks after the end of the coal dispute, at a time when the men were beginning to get hack to work when the pits were reopening. It is a fair assumption on our part that many of the savings of which the Ministry may boast, and which these gentlemen proclaim that they have effected, are purely automatic savings—savings that have been made by every other union in that area. During the period of worst distress there was necessarily a large number of officials in the Poor Law, and, as men went back to work and the number of cases became less, the officials were gradually displaced. As a matter of fact, at Bedwellty the Ministry itself have instigated what is called a domiciliary system. Under that system, the Ministry lays it down that about 200 cases per man was the number that could he worked, the reason being that the official must visit every person receiving relief at his house. As the cases passed out of the purview of the relieving authority, by the return to work that took place, the number of officials was automatically reduced.
Another point is the small amount that the guardians are paying in the way of relief. In this Report I find that for the half-year ending 30th September, 1927, there were 53,353 maintenance days at a cost of £1,710 for provisions. In 1926, the number of maintenance-days was 369 63,000 and the amount spent was £2,500. The amount spent in the 1927 half-year worked oat at 2¼d. per meal, or 6½d. for three meals a day. It is no wonder that you can make savings under conditions of that description. We could all save a great deal of money if we spent less than 2¼d. per meal. Other necessaries cost £846 over the same number of maintenance days, and that would work out at another penny per meal if the necessaries were used for feeding purposes.
Let me draw attention to the children's homes and the expenditure there under the new dispensation which we are praying should be removed. For the six months ending 29th September, 1921, there were 29,226 maintenance-days at a cost for provisions of £942. That is an expenditure of 2½d. per meal, and, if one adds other necessaries, about another 1d. per meal. If I turn to the six months ending 30th September, 1926, under the old guardians, I find there were 28,140 maintenance-days and an expenditure of £1,013— not so much for which to blame the old guardians. They were evidently doing their level best under the circumstances, and why they should be so drastically dealt with passes my comprehension. The Ministry have not a very good case against the Bedwellty Union, and these savings are being effected in a very drastic manner. Taking the amounts paid on relief, at no time can it be said that the guardians were acting very extravagantly, because this Report states that for the year ending 1st March, 1922, the average number of cases relieved weekly was 5,200 and the average weekly cost was £5,936. There does not seem to be anything extravagant about granting a little over £1 a week in the year 1922, when the cost of living was round about 85 per cent. above the 1914 level. At 1914 prices this relief would be equivalent to about a week. There does not appear to be much ground for condemnation in granting relief on that scale. When I come to the year 1927, the bad year, the year, I suppose, which induced the Ministry to take action, I find the number of cases relieved was 11,484, and the average weekly cost was £10,036. In that year the old guardians had reduced the amount of relief to less than they had been paying in the previous year. In no year from 1922—in 1923, 1924, 1925 370 and 1926—is much more paid than round about a guinea per week, and the year 1927 marks low-water level in the case of the old guardians.
How are the new people managing? The new bureaucrats appointed to carry out the ministerial will are saving because they are refusing relief, I believe, to all single men below 50 years of age. That is a curious age to fix. That a man should happen to be less than 50 is a curious reason for denying a man relief. Why not 51? Why should a man at 49 be refused relief and a man of 50½ be granted relief? If the man is hungry, miserable and sad, if he wants clothes, food and shelter, surely he ought to have some relief; and it does not seem to me that the Ministry are earning very much credit either for high mindedness or common sense in adopting the methods which they have followed. This refusal of relief is reacting in very many ways. The physique of the teen is also affected to this extent, that many of them cannot carry on the ordinary functions of their trade when work is offered to them. Smallpox has been mentioned, and in Merthyr Tydvil there are ten cases. My belief is that much of this disease is being induced by the low standard of maintenance upon which these people are compelled to exist. I have had no medical experience, but I should be very much surprised if medical men in all parts of the House would not be ready to bear out my contention that this disease is induced and accentuated by the deplorable conditons under which so many thousands of our countrymen are compelled to live. I think this is a perfect scandal.
Vagrancy is on the increase throughout the whole of the Bcdwellty Union as well as other unions. We who represent some of those areas in South Wales urge that the time has come when the powers of the Bedwellty Guardians should be restored, and they should be allowed to operate in the usual way. We think that more humanity should be shown between the relieving authorities and those who have to seek relief. I do not want to accuse the Parliamentary Secretary of being flinty-hearted or inhuman, but I suggest that the policy pursued by the Government certainly justifies the words I have used with regard to his Department. I am astonished that the Parliamentary 371 Secretary should allow himself to be made the instrument of such a hard policy, and I think he ought to chuck up the job, and tell the Government to do their own dirty work. It must be a distasteful task for any man to feel himself compelled to carry out such odious duties as those involved in reducing the standard of living of the people. Not only are these people suffering from hunger and lack of clothing, but many of them have lost their homes, and they have lost all hope. These men at the end of a life of dangerous toil find themselves requited with an income of from 10s. to 15s. a week, and this is a state of things of which the House ought to be ashamed. We maintain that the local authority should be allowed to carry on its work, that the Government should restore democratic liberty and administer the law decently. The Government should recognise their responsibility for unemployment. They should relieve those areas of the burdens from which they are now suffering, and restore full powers to those authorities.
§ Mr. DENNIS HERBERT
I do not want to detain the House for more than a minute, but I should like to tell the hon. Member who moved this Motion the reason why I take such particular interest in seeing it on the Order Paper. Bedwellty is a far cry from Watford. This discussion with regard to the substituted guardians is one which we have had in this House before, and some of us have been obliged to make up our minds on the question on what one may call general principles, without any immediate, direct, local knowledge of the circumstances. I am sure the hon. Member will believe me when I say that many of us feel as much as he does the hardship of the cases of these men who have lost their work through no fault of their own, but I had a curious experience with regard to Bedwellty only a few weeks ago.
I happened to be holding some meetings in my Division of Watford, and on one occasion, to my surprise, I was interrupted in my speech by a gentleman who declared himself a miner from Bedwellty. I am quoting this case because it may be a help, perhaps, to the hon. Member to get some of his supporters on to a little straighter lines. 372 This miner from Bedwellty, who interrupted me in my speech, told me a very horrible story, and I came here to-night waiting to see whether I should hear such a horrible story from the hon. Member. I have not heard it. When this miner told me this horrible story, I said to him, "Will you tell me, first of all, has this case been brought to the knowledge of the Member for the Bedwellty Division?" I could not get an answer from him for some time, but when I pressed him he said he did not know. I said, "Well, if it is brought to his knowledge I am perfectly certain that he will bring it to the knowledge of the proper Minister, or, if he will not, I will do so myself. If you will wait until I have finished my speech, and then come to this end of the room and give me particulars substantiating the story you have told, I will promise to bring it to the notice of the Minister within 48 hours and let you know the result, because what you have told me about is a thing which certainly ought never to have happened, and I will guarantee that it shall be altered and put right if it has happened." The result of my invitation to that miner from Bedwellty, to come up to my end of the room and speak to me as soon as I had finished my speech, was that, when I had finished my speech, he got up from his seat, walked to the other end of the room, and left by the door, and I never saw him again.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not want to delay the House for any length of time, or to deal much with the question that is concerned, but I would like to know what was the purpose of the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) in telling that story. I probably hold more public meetings than most of my hon. Friends on these benches, and my invariable experience is that some supporters of the hon. Member's party treat me in exactly the same fashion as he was treated. They are very fertile in interruptions during a speech, but when the time for questions comes they are never there to put a point. I hope the hon. Member is not telling that story in order to prejudice the Minister's mind or to lead this House into the belief that the condition in these areas is not very terrible.
§ Mr. HERBERT
I am telling it as an excuse for people far away from Bedwelity 373 sometimes doubting the truth of the horrible stories they hear.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Those of us who are actually in those areas, and in contact with the persons who are suffering, know very well that no story that any Member here could tell could be an exaggeration of the conditions actually obtaining. The fact that my hon. Friend has described the position of these areas with restraint and reticence, rather than with over-emphasis, ought to be treated by the House with proper respect and should not be used to suggest that there are no sufferings in these areas, because there are very deep sufferings which have been intensified by the action of the Minister in super-imposing his authority over that of the persons properly elected who had knowledge of the people, their character and their mode of life. The conditions have been intensified in Chester-le-Street and Bedwellty. I cannot speak for the other area, because I have not been in it, but in these two areas it has been a wrong and harmful act and has intensified the position. It is a wrong thing for any Member of the House to attempt to minimise it in any way.
§ Mr. HERBERT
If the hon. Member will forgive me, I expressly admitted that such terrible stories had not been told by Members on the other side of the House to-night. Their case, I admitted, has been put with moderation—certainly compared with the story that I heard—but it is undoubtedly the case that one does hear in less responsible quarters than this House stories which on the face of them cannot be substantiated.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I could bring cases which would horrify the House if they were told in their stark reality.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
The occasion for this Prayer to-night is the fact that the Minister of Health has quite recently thought fit to continue the office of the Appointed Guardians of Bedwellty for a further term. If this Prayer is rejected to-night they will continue to hold that position until 30th June, when the matter will again come under consideration and my right hon. Friend will have to decide whether they should continue in their office for a further period or not. It is 374 perfectly true, as has been stated by both hon. Gentlemen to-night—in their very moderate speeches, I agree—that the condition of Bedwellty has for some time been a serious one. It is one of the most thickly-populated areas in South Wales and has been hard hit by unemployment, which has been aggravated by the conditions which have arisen from the coal stoppage, and has had to pass through a time of exceptional distress.
No one will deny those facts. The lesson which I draw is a different one from that put forward by both the hon. Gentlemen to-night. I say that the condition of such a district, especially so far as the administration of relief is concerned, certainly calls for sympathy, but it equally calls for care and discretion. I think few people will deny that the difficulties of that district have been very largely added to and the hardships considerably increased by what I consider to be the unwise and foolish policy which was adopted by the late guardians who had to be removed from office. I do not want to recall at any length to-night the circumstances in which the late board of guardians was removed, but I am obliged to say a word or two, because the hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion said in his first words that he contended that there were no circumstances in which the late board ought to have been removed from office. Anyone who has followed the course of events in that district will disagree with him. They were the responsible guardians of a population, it is true, very much distressed but very small in number, and they accumulated before they left office a debt of nearly £1,000,000, and for the 12 months ending 31st March, 1927, the amount that had to be raised from local rates and loans came to the colossal sum of no less than £679,000. During the same period a sum of over £500,000 went in out-relief alone, as compared with some £200,000 in the preceding 12 months. A good deal of that relief was, no doubt, necessary, but a great deal more was wasteful, and the administration was neither careful nor economical.
When the new board of guardians took office they found that no proper books were kept, and there was no adequate account of the cases that had been dealt with. It is not surprising to find that cases like this occurred where an able-bodied 375 man, who had received no less than £350 in out-relief over a period of four years, upon being interrogated by the committee as to his endeavours to find work, said his relief had been cut so fine that it was not a decent living and that his mother had purchased a motor wagon and started him in a motor haulage business. There was another case that shows the loose methods of administration with no adequate inquiry. An able-bodied man who had received £270 in continuous out-relief since 1921 was informed that out-relief would only be continued for a further period of two weeks, after which, if he required further relief, he would be given an order of admission to the institution. He forthwith opened a butcher's shop and ceased to be chargeable on the union.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that, after all, supposing this is one of the worst cases he can bring up, the relief granted was an average of about 17s. a week?
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am dealing with the facts as I find them. When cases like that occur, steps have to be taken. I will give another illustration. Complaints were made by hon. Members opposite that a large number of officers had been appointed by the late guardians to administer out-relief and the new guardians had cut them down. As I understand it, the charge was that by so cutting them down the people in distress were not receiving adequate relief. What is the position?
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
On a point of explanation. I did not infer that at all. I said that by your instigation of the domiciliary system, by the passing out of a large number of cases there had been an automatic release of a large number of relieving officers.
§ Sir K. WOOD
All that I desire to deal with is the very appointment which is illustrative of the methods of the late guardians so far as the appointment of additional officers was concerned. I think—and I am putting it very mildly indeed—they paid very little regard to 376 the necessities of their district in the additional appointments which they made. I find in the list of persons appointed as assistant relieving officers during the period just before they were dismissed from office that there were three brothers of guardians, three husbands of guardians, two sons of guardians, two sons-in-law of guardians, 15 members of local trade and labour councils, one brother of a miners' agent, one member of the Smelters' Union, one member of the Slate Club of the Smelters' Union, three members of a committee of the Miners' Federation, one official of the Firemen's Union, one member of the Unemployment Committee, and one secretary of a Miners' Lodge. It appears to me that more regard was paid to the persons who held office than to their capacity to do the work. I think the new guardians have acted very properly in cutting down the number of officers of that character, and certainly, so far as their administration and the staff are concerned, matters have been very much improved.
Although I have been asked not to do so to-night by the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion, I must point to the condition of affairs since the new guardians have held office and the gradual improvement which has undoubtedly taken place in their administration. It will be found, for instance, that, so far as expenditure is concerned, the new guardians have not had to borrow any additional money at all. The hon. Gentleman who knows the facts well knows that under the late administration there were no fewer than 29 applications to my Department for loans, and that in the end a sum of nearly £1,000,000 was borrowed on that account. It was the application to my Department for still further sums, coupled with the fact that the conditions which had been laid down in reference to previous applications had been totally ignored and avoided, as the hon. Gentleman knows, which really brought about the position and the circumstances in which the old guardians had to be superseded. It is perfectly true that there has been a very considerable curtailment in expenditure. Out-relief for the half-year eliding 30th September, 1925, cost over £100,000, and for the half-year ending 30th September, 1926, it cost no less than £300,000. 377 I believe that has been effected without any hardship. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, and I will state why I believe it, later. That relief has been reduced to £38,322.
Cases have been mentioned to-night which it has been impossible for me to verify, because I had no previous notice of them, of alleged hardship under the administration of the newly-appointed board of guardians. All that I can tell the House is this, that in all the cases that have been submitted to my right hon. Friend or myself by hon. Members interested, or other parties, very careful examination has been made, because it is only by careful examination that the truth can be ascertained. I find, for instance, that a colleague of the hon. Gentleman opposite did, some little time ago, submit, I think, 10 individual cases to my Department. Inquiries showed that in none of those cases had representations been made to the guardians, and that in several instances the hon. Gentleman had been misinformed as to the facts. There was a committee instituted in the same district called the Distress Committee. That, committee submitted a list of 19 individual cases, in which it was alleged that the relief given was inadequate to supply the necessaries of life. It was found, after detailed inquiry, that the complaints in most cases overlooked the fact that out-door relief was for the wife and children only, and that the men had been offered institutional relief. In two cases only was it necessary for the guardians to re-consider their decision, and in none of the others did my right hon. Friend find any ground for criticism. Finally, so far as these cases are concerned, I would say to my hon. Friend, who has put his points very fairly to-night, that if he has any cases which he desires to be examined, I will, as I have told him before, gladly see that they are considered. Now I come to a case which aroused a certain amount of interest in the public Press. I quote it to show how wild statements are made. The statement was made in the "Westminster Gazette" at the beginning of the year, apparently by some correspondent who had visited the district:To-day I went into a cottage inhabited by a family of twelve—grandfather and grandmother, father, mother and four sons, 378 and two married daughters with their husbands. The total income going into that cottage was 25s. per week, earned by a younger son, who paid 5s. railway fare, down the valley at Newbridge, where he was working four days a week in the pit. These Commissioners have refused to recognise that if the younger son breaks his family ties and goes to live in Newbridge in lodgings they will be forced to pay relief.That was a striking case to test as to whether there was any truth in it. It was one which, apparently, could be readily identified. The case was referred to the people concerned for investigation. I will read a letter which has been received in connection with the case. Hon. Members opposite, I will not say, naturally, criticise the attitude of the newly appointed guardians; but I do not think they will criticise the attitude of the clerk, who has carried out difficult duties, I think to the satisfaction of everybody. This is what he says:Referring to the allegation that a family of twelve, consisting of the grandfather, grandmother, father and mother, four sons, two married daughters and their husbands, were living on an income of 25s. weekly, earned by a young son, I have made inquiry, and have failed to find such a case. The guardians are of the opinion, in which I concur, that such a case does not exist.I wish hon. Members opposite, when they have cases in which they really want justice to be done, instead of making statements, as they have to-night, without giving any previous notice, would submit them to the Department, and investigation would be made. An inquiry was made only a few days ago of the chairman of the newly appointed guardians—no one under the administration of my right hon. Friend desires to see hardship and suffering—as to whether there was the hardship and suffering which have been indicated in the speeches to-night, and we are assured by the chairman that such cases are not within his knowledge, and he believes that in all these cases investigation will show that the hon. Member is considerably misinformed. My right hon. Friend sees no evidence to believe that if the newly appointed guardians were abolished and an election again held that the union would not be again involved in financial difficulties, and in these circumstances he sees no other Course that he can adopt but to continue 379 them in office for a further term. Speaking in the interests of the whole district, I believe it is far better for the appointed guardians to continue in office, pursuing the policy they are in the general interests of the district, and I ask the House to reject the Motion.
|Division No. 19.]||AYES.||[12.14 a.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Scurr, John|
|Barnes, A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Barr, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bromfield, William||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kennedy, T.||Sullivan, J.|
|Buchanan, G.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Clowes, S.||Lawrence, Susan||Townend, A. E.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lawson, John James||Varley, Frank B.|
|Day, Harry||Lunn, William||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dunnico, H.||MacLaren, Andrew||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maxton, James||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Murnin, H.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Paling, W.||Windsor, Walter|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wright, W.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Potts, John S.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hardie, George D.||Riley, Ben|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hirst, G. H.||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Hayes.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Meller. R. J.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Gauit, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Albery, Irving James||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Gower, Sir Robert||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Neville, Sir Reginald J.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Bainlel, Lord||Grotrian, H. Brent||Oakley, T.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Hammersley, S. S.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Harland, A.||Preston, William|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Harrison, G. J. C.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hartington, Marquess of||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Ramsden, E.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Remer, J. R.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Buchan, John||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Burman, J. B.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hilton, Cecil||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St.Marylebone)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Savery, S. S.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl.(Renfrew, W)|
|Cope, Major William||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Crookshank, Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lamb, J Q.||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Looker, Herbert William||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo.F. (Somerset,Yeovil)||Lougher, Lewis||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lumley, L. R.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||MacIntyre, Ian||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Ellis, R. G.||McLean, Major A.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|England, Colonel A.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Margesson, Captain D.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 60; Noes, 133.
|Wells, S. R.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wilson, R. R. (Statford, Lichfield)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.||Mr. Penny and Captain Bowyer.|
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock upon Tuesday evening, Mr.382
§ DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the Honse without Question, put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Twenty-one Minutes after Twelve o'Clock.