HC Deb 12 February 1929 vol 225 cc241-9

(1) It shall be the duty of every Boor Law authority, and of their officers, to furnish any information in their power which may be required by the council of any county or county borough for the purpose of enabling them to discharge their functions under Part I of this Act.

(2) It shall be the duty of every district council, and of their officers, to furnish any information in their power which may he required by the council of any county for the purpose of enabling them to discharge their functions under Parts III and IV of this Act.—[Sir K. Wood.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This New Clause has been put down at the request of the County Councils Association and it will be agreed that it gives a useful power to the new authorities who will be taking over these duties. It enables them to obtain necessary information from the Poor Law authority and the Poor Law authority's officers in relation to the matters which are to be entrusted to them. We are also providing that it shall be the duty of every district council to furnish any information in their power which may be required for the purposes of the scheme.


Who is to pay the expenses of this proposal?

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Chamberlain)

There is no expense in connection with it.


There may be considerable expense. Will it be borne by the county?


I do not quite understand what my hon. Friend means by expense. This is information which is in the possession of the authorities who are directed to give it. Why there should be any expense, I cannot see.


I can imagine many cases where expense would be involved and I ask if the county will bear that expense?


I cannot imagine any expense.


Is the Minister satisfied that the words "every district council" cover all the authorities which it is intended to cover?


I have no doubt that the Minister's intention is that the information to be furnished by these authorities is that which is already in their possession, but there may be cases in which the information will require a considerable amount of research, entailing expense. Who is to be responsible for that expense?


I think in the absence of any provision it would be the duty of the body giving the information to meet any expense that might be incurred, unless they made an agreement with the other body, to whom they were giving the information, that that other body should pay for it. But I cannot agree that there is any likelihood of any serious expense being involved in the matter.


Would it not be better to make it definite that the body requiring the information should pay for it? Why should the Minister put it all on to those bodies who are being asked to give the information, and who may be put to expense unnecessarily by the people requiring the information?

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.


I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 1, to leave out from the word "authority," to the word "to."

4.0 p.m.

I move this Amendment in conjunction with a further Amendment to insert the word "reasonably," after the word "may," in line 2; and I propose to move, as consequential Amendments, the omission of the words "of their officers," and the insertion of the word "reasonably in Sub-section (2) also. I take it, that the reason for including the words "and of their officers" was because it was felt that boards of guardians about to be abolished might not be anxious, in all cases, to supply the authority taking over their duties, with all the information which the new authority might require. Therefore, it is felt that there should be some statutory power of obtaining the information from the officers of the authorities about to be superseded. While that might apply to Sub-section (1) of this new Clause, although, for my own part, I do not think that it is really a very powerful argument, in so far as Sub-section (2) of this new Clause is concerned, I venture to suggest that it would be far better that these words should be deleted. I say so because I think the inclusion of these words in this Clause tends to bite rather deeply into the principles of local government, because here you are giving statutory powers for one local authority to approach the officers of another local authority who are paid by the other authority and whose duties are supervised by the other authority, and yet the outside body will have power to require the officers of that authority to supply them with whatever information they may require. That is contrary to the ethics and principles of local government, and, therefore, I hope the Minister may see his way to accept the Amendment.


I have only just had notice from my hon. Friend that he intended to raise this point, and, therefore, I have not had much time to look into the matter; but, in the short space that I have been able to devote to it, it seems to me that my hon. Friend is reading into these words rather more than is contained in them. There is, of course, nothing new in the proposal which is made here. I could, for instance, refer my hon. Friend to the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, Clause 65 of which says: the officers of all such guardians, overseers and committees, shall give to rating authorities and to assessment committees any assistance and information which they may respectively require for the purpose of enabling them to discharge their functions as aforesaid. I do not take this Clause as meaning that a county council would send a requisition to an officer of another authority directing him to give information to them. What would happen would be that the county council would invite the district council to give information, which might be in the possession not of the members of the district council themselves but of their officers, and it would be the district council who would then require their officers to provide them with the information, that they might pass it on to the county council. I do not think really there is anything more in it than that, but I will undertake to look into it a little bit further wih my hon. Friend, and see wheher there is anything further in it than I myself at present see, but. I think he need not be under any real anxiety that this is importing anything new or serious.


The right hon. Gentleman's second point was that the procedure would be that the county council would approach the Poor Law authority, who would, in turn, pass the request on to its officers. If that be so, are not the words "and of their officers" quite unnecessary? If the approach is to be made to the Poor Law authority, quite clearly the officers would be instructed by that authority, and there appears to be no need for those words.


The hon. Member is arguing on rather theoretical grounds, but I can conceive it possible that a district council might say: "We have not got this information, and we have no power to make our officers provide the information if they do not choose to do so." This Clause would put a statutory duty upon the officers to give the information in their power.


This is bureau cracy with a vengeance. The right hon. Gentleman has already quoted the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, where the same words occur.


On a point of Order. Has the hon. Member the right to address the House a second time without leave?


No. This is the Report stage of the Bill, and hon. Members have the right of speaking once only on one subject. I understood that the hon. Gentleman interrupted his speech in order to enable the Minister of Health to give a reply.


This is really a serious point. I am sorry that it was not raised in 1925. The right hon. Gentleman says that if a local authority has so small a hold over its officers that it cannot require them to produce information which, he has already told us this afternoon, they possess, he is going to impose a statutory duty upon them, to be enforced by some outside authority that does not pay the officers. That is a most serious state of affairs. It may be that the power will not be often used. I cannot conceive any local authority keeping officers who refuse to carry out instructions and produce information which the right hon. Gentleman says is available, but if it is to be used it is a very serious power to put into the hands of any authority such as a county council, who may, in certain circumstances, demand information, and have a statutory right to call for it, when they are making no contribution whatever to the payment of the officers' salaries. I hope the hon. Member will persist in furthering his Amendment.


I cannot help agreeing with the hon. Member who has just spoken, and I hope my right hon. Friend will accept the Amendment. Under the terms of the Sub-section, the county council will have the power to deal directly with the officers of a local authority, which, I think, is highly undesirable.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Clause."

The House divided: Ayes, 192; Noes, 94.

Division No. 191.] AYES. [4.8 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Briscoe, Richard George Colman, N. C. D.
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Brittain, Sir Harry Conway, Sir W. Martin
Apsley, Lord Brocklebank, C. E. R. Cooper, A. Duff
Ashley, Lt-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Cope, Major Sir William
Atholl, Duchess of Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Couper, J. B.
Balniel, Lord Buchan, John Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Bullock, Captain M. Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Burman, J. B. Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon Campbell, E. T. Davies, Dr. Vernon
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Carver, Major W. H. Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)
Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish- Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Dawson, Sir Phillip
Bethel, A. Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt.R. (Prtsmth,S) Eden, Captain Anthony
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Edmondson, Major A. J.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Elliot, Major Walter E.
Blundell, F. N. Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Ellis, R. G.
Boothby, R. J. G. Christie, J. A. Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Clayton, G. C. Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith
Brass, Captain W. Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George Everard, W. Lindsay
Brassey, Sir Leonard Cohen, Major J. Brunel Falle, Sir Bertram G.
Briggs, J. Harold Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Fanshawe, Captain G. D.
Fermoy, Lord Knox, Sir Alfred Sandeman, N. Stewart
Fielden, E. B. Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey Sanderson, Sir Frank
Foster, Sir Harry S. Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handtw'th) Sandon, Lord
Frece, Sir Walter de Long, Major Eric Savery, S. S.
Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E. Lougher, Lewis Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Ganzoni, Sir John Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Skelton, A. N.
Gates, Percy Lumley, L. R. Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine,C.)
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Glyn, Major R. G. C. McLean, Major A. Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. Q. F.
Goff, Sir Park MacRobert, Alexander M. Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Makins, Brigadier-General E. Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Margesson, Captain D. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Grotrian, H. Brent Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Hacking, Douglas H. Meller, R. J. Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Meyer, Sir Frank Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell
Hamilton, Sir George Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Hammersley, S. S. Mitchell, w. Foot (Saffron Walden) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Hanbury, C. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Moreing, Captain A. H. Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Hartington, Marquess of Morris, R. H. Waddington, R.
Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Nelson, Sir Frank Warrender, Sir Victor
Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Neville, Sir Reginald J. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.) Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J.G. Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Watts, Sir Thomas
Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Oakley, T. Wells, S. R.
Hopkins, J. W. W. Oman, Sir Charles William C. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Penny, Frederick George Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Preston, Sir Walter (Cheltenham) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Hume, Sir G. H. Raine, Sir Walter Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis Ramsden, E. Withers, John James
Hurst, Gerald B. Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington) Womersley, W. J.
Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Rhys, Hon. C. A. U. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Robinson, Sir T. (Lane, Stretford) Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
James Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Ropner, Major L. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Ross, R. D. Wragg, Herbert
Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Salmon, Major I. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
King, Commodore Henry Douglas Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Mr. F. C. Thomson and Captain Bowyer.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Potts, John S.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Purcell, A. A.
Amman, Charles George Hardie, George D. Richardson. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)
Bellamy, A. Hirst, G. H. Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St. Ivts)
Benn, Wedgwood Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Sakiatvala, Shapurji
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Hore-Belisha, Leslie Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Bondfield, Margaret Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Shinwell, E.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Briant, Frank John, William (Rhondda, West) Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Broad, F. A. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Snell, Harry
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Kelly, W. T. Taylor, R. A.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Kennedy. T. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Charleton, H. C. Kenworthy, Lt-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)
Clarke, A. B. Lawrence, Susan Thurtle, Ernest
Cluse, W. S. Lee. F. Tinker, John Joseph
Compton, Joseph Lowth, T. Tomilnson, R. P.
Cove, W. G. Lunn, William Viant, S. P.
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon) Wallhead, Richard C.
Dalton, Florence (Bishop Auckland) Mackinder, W. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Dalton. Hugh Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Day, Harry MacNeill-Weir, L. Wellock, Wilfred
Dunnico, H. Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Welsh, J. C.
Edge, Sir William March, S. Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Maxton, James Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Montague, Frederick Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Gillett, George M. Mosley, Sir Oswald Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Graham. Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Oliver, George Harold Windsor, Walter
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Paling, W. Wright, W.
Grundy, T. W. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Ponsonby, Arthur TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Mr. B. Smith and Mr. Hayes.

Question, "That the Clause be added to the Bill," put, and agreed to.


Does the hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir D. Newton) propose to move his other manuscript Amendment?


No, Sir, in view of the fact that, it raises the same issue as that which has just been decided.


The next new Clause, in the name of the hon. Member for West Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Palin)—(Adjustment between counties and county boroughs in respect of added burden)—is not in order.