§ (1) A district council shall be established for every large burgh and every county of a city.
§ (2) The members of the district council shall be elective and for the purpose of their election each municipal ward of the burgh or county of the city shall be an electoral division, and such one or more members as the town council of the burgh shall by order determine shall be elected for each such electoral division by the parish electors therein.
§ (3) Subject to the necessary modifications the existing statutory provisions regulating the election of parish councillors shall apply to the election of members of burgh district councils, and the first election of such councillors shall take place in the year nineteen hundred and twenty-nine.—[Mr. Johnston.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.272
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
These three new Clauses are of very considerable importance to the large burghs in Scotland. There are now, I think, 23 large burghs in Scotland, including Arbroath, which was incorporated as a large burgh very largely as a result of the efforts of the hon. Member who represents that Division in this House, but there are now 23 large burghs, which pay something like 80 per cent. of the Poor Law relief paid in Scotland. They do not have a separate control of Poor Law administration. As the Bill now stands they have Poor Law administration, mental deficiency, and lunacy handed over to their town councils and city councils, which then appoint Poor Law committees, and they co-opt members on those committees to supervise the distribution and the administration of Poor Law relief. I would ask hon. Members to consider the situation as it will actually and of a certainty arise in the five large cities of Scotland.
Take Glasgow for an example. Glasgow is declared to have somewhere between 200 and 600 meetings of its town council members. Some members may be on committees to which they are only summoned on 200 occasions, others on committees to which they are summoned on 600 occasions, but between these two figures lie the numbers of committee meetings to which the members of the Corporation of the City of Glasgow are summoned. It is common knowledge that the average member of a city corporation cannot attend 200 meetings and give the attention to the business of those committees that ought to be given by a representative of the people. It is common knowledge also that, as things are now, members, in order to get attendance marks, simply put their heads in at the door of a committee meeting, the clerk marks them as present, and they 273 bolt off to another committee meeting which is being held in another part of the building. It may be that one way out of the difficulty is for members to be appointed to fewer sub-committees of the corporation, but that would present serious difficulties in a city like Glasgow, where each ward has its own interests. As things are now, the business of the corporation requires an attendance at somewhere about 200 committees a year as a minimum.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I said "as a minimum," and I do not want to have the hon. and learned Member proving that the average is somewhere about 300. The minimum is 200; and there are members who attend as many as 600 meetings in the year. We find the same circumstances in other large cities in Scotland. I have asked members of the Corporations of Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen to give me a fair estimate of how much time is required from a councillor to attend to his duties in an average week, and I am told that it takes from two-and-a-half to three days per week in the large cities. If in addition to the work which a city councillor presently has he is to be called upon to undertake the administration of education, and if we discover that on an average that will require one day per week; if, in addition, he has to undertake the business of the distribution of Poor Law relief, and if, as we are informed, it takes the average parish councillor in the large burghs somewhere about two days per week to attend to his duties, then we must conclude that in any of the five large cities in Scotland it will be physically impossible for any city councillor, even though he give up his full time to the work, to attend to the duties properly.
In this Bill the right hon. Gentleman shows that he appreciates that difficulty. He says, in effect, "A city councillor cannot attend to municipal affairs, to education and to Poor Law affairs, and so I will give powers to city councils to co-opt men and women of experience or skill in education and in Poor Law matters." All those three new Clauses which we are moving raise inferentially the whole question of co-option. We do 274 not believe in co-option, because under it public money will be spent by men and women who are not responsible to the electors for the spending of that money. We believe the bulk of the people to be co-opted will not in any sense be representative of the electors, but people who otherwise could not get on those authorities. We believe this system of co-option runs counter to the whole principle of democracy, and that under it the right hon. Gentleman will secure neither efficiency nor economy, but that, instead, we shall have autocracy and bureaucracy.
I have been a member of a county education authority and have seen the affairs of that authority slide away—inevitably—from the control of the elected representatives of the people into the hands of the education officer. This education officer, who is there the whole time, is the only man who is in touch with all the districts. The elected representatives are in touch with their own several districts, but only this permanent official, this co-ordinating representative, knows all the facts; and in the course of less than 12 months I have seen practically the whole administration of education in a county fall into the hands of this education officer. We are asking in this new Clause that the large cities and large burghs shall be given the power which has already been given to the rural districts, the power, that is, to set up elected committees to undertake Poor Law administration. If such committees are set up we shall get as members representatives of the people and members able to devote time to the work. If we do not have such elected committees, the distribution of Poor Law relief in the large cities will fall into the hands of permanent officials and non-elected and co-opted representatives, a system which will be in contradistinction to that operating in the rural districts. Because we believe it is physically impossible for men or women in large cities to give the time required to look after municipal affairs, education affairs and Poor Law affairs; because we believe that the very attempt to get them means the introduction of the system of co-option; and because we believe that co-option is a bad system and anti-democratic, I beg to move the Second Heading of the Clause standing in my name.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I beg to second the Motion.
I am the more anxious to insist upon retaining the measure of control asked for in this series of new Clauses by reason of what is already beginning to take place even before this Bill has become an Act of Parliament. Instances have already been brought to my notice showing exactly how the changes to be made under the Bill are intended to operate. In the Glasgow area a number of parish councils will be going out of existence, and their functions will be carried on by a great central local governing body. One of these parishes is the parish of Govan, and another is the parish of Eastwood. I would remind the Under-Secretary of the eloquent speech he made at an earlier stage of this Bill's progress in which he said that the welfare and the health of the children were a primary consideration in the mind of the Government, and that they hoped the additional powers given by the Bill and the changes made under it would provide greater opportunities for building up a healthy Scottish nation.
The properly-elected members of the Govan Parish Council decided that the allowances being made for the maintenance of unemployed and poor people were insufficient, and proposed to increase the allowance for each child requiring relief. But the Scottish Board of Health, meaning the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary, who have brought forward this Bill with the object, as they say, of raising the standard of physique of the people of Scotland, refused to allow to the Govan Parish Council to make those small additions to the income of those poor people, although they know as well as any two men in the House how Govan has suffered through the slump in shipbuilding and engineering, a matter for which the workers in Govan have absolutely no responsibility whatever. In the parish of Eastwood, not more than a mile or two away from Govan, and represented in this House by the Secretary of State, there is a parish council mainly representative of the very comfortable section of the community, with poor people in the minority. That parish council does not decide to increase the amount of poor relief, but, in view of the fact that it is going out of existence, and that its administrative expenses will fall 276 to be borne by the city area instead of by its own rather limited area, it decides to increase the salary of the inspector of the poor by a very considerable amount. The Secretary of State refuses to allow Govan to pay increased allowances for starving children; but in reply to protests about the action of the Eastwood Parish Council he states that he has no right to interfere with the local autonomy of Eastwood, when the parish council there decide to make a very handsome and unwarranted addition to the already high salary of an official.
It seems to me that this is one of the clearest demonstrations of what Scotland has to expect if it allows the democratic control of its local functions to pass to wider areas and into the hands of unelected bodies with the Secretary of State as the court of appeal. Where a local authority is attempting to do something for the amelioration of the lot of the worst-off section of the community, then the Secretary of State exercises his bureaucratic power and says to that body, "You are not to be allowed to be generous to the poor." When, on the other hand, a reactionary authority decides to spend public money in increasing the emoluments of an already overpaid official, the Secretary of State says, "We cannot interfere with local autonomy." I think that is atrocious. It is disgraceful that these two things should have happened while this Bill is going through this House. It is a clear indication of the intentions of the Government in introducing the Bill, namely, to give to the vested interests of the country the power to press the poor down to a still lower level, to increase the powers of bureaucracy and to increase the emoluments of public officials.
§ Mr. HARDIE
We have now before the Scottish Department one of the many instances of what is meant by indirect administration. I think it might appropriately be termed indirect legislation. When we come to administration, the reality about the whole matter is that it becomes direct. In the case of the city of Glasgow we have the astounding fact that under the existing parish council we have a number of unemployed who have gone through their period of benefit. They get a certain class of work to do in an adjoining parish, but the 277 money paid to these men is quite inadequate to keep their families. When we are appealed to by these men who are suffering because of their inadequate wages, we discover that there is nothing direct between them and their employers. When the body who employs them is approached and complaints are made about the inadequate wages which are being paid, the men are told by the particular body who employs them that they have nothing to do with the rate of wages and they they are merely agents.
What happens in these circumstances? The parish councils say that while it is true that they employ the men, they are not directly concerned or responsible for the amount of wages paid. That is the kind of thing that will take place if this Bill is allowed to become an Act of Parliament. We now discover that this House has no direct contact with the Glasgow Parish Council, and has no responsibility for the amount of wages paid. The Scottish Board of Health has a Department which determines what is to be paid by the Glasgow Parish Council when employing able-bodied destitute men. One can see from the new Clauses of this Bill that the whole idea is to get some form of indirect administration. Those who have had long years of association with this kind of administration hold that, just as the system brings out all the growing needs of a locality, the one way to get rid of those needs under direct administration is to have some form of indirect administration, and the more indirect it is the more difficult it becomes for those in need.
We all agree that 35s. a week is a totally inadequate wage for these men, but the local authority is told by those who govern that 33s. is the sum to be paid, and they must not pay any more. The body that has engaged these men is not to blame because it is doing what it has been told to do. The result is that you cannot deal with the men who are responsible, because the whole thing is administered by the Scottish Board of Health. That is why I am opposed to all this reconstruction of local administration. Of course, it is not the business of the inspector of the poor to say anything about these matters, because the Department decides these questions, and in that way we lose the human touch. 278 The loss of the human touch is a characteristic of this Bill, and it is done to save money. You are not only losing the human touch, but you are losing more; you are losing human beings.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The House will not be surprised when I say that the Government cannot accept a new Clause in this form. This proposal re-opens the questions which we have already discussed very fully, and if it were added to the Bill it would reimpose the ad hoc authority to deal with poor relief, a system which we have decided not to have in the future. Both the Mover and the Seconder of this Motion, and others who have spoken, have made it clear that the feature which they dislike in the Bill as it stands at present is co-option. The plan and scheme of this Bill is to unify the task of looking after the poor instead of having them, as in the past, looked after by parish councils with a variation of circumstances, boundaries and methods which have not always worked satisfactorily. We have decided that these methods shall be unified and brought under the councils either of cities like Glasgow or the councils of other large burghs. The essence of the scheme is that the responsibility for the finance and administration of poor law administration shall lie in the hands of the town council. Under the method proposed by the scheme which the town councils will produce, any necessary evolution or improvement in local management may be carried out.
This proposed new Clause would strike fundamentally at the root of the responsibility of the town council, and for that reason we cannot allow an elected body to be set up within the bounds of the city itself. In such a case the body to deal with this branch of administration ought to be a committee of the town council. If the town council come to the conclusion that they have not got sufficient time or enough members to carry out the detailed work connected with these problems, then they can, under the scheme of the Bill and the provisions we are making, add to their number by co-opting those who have in the past served on the Poor Law authorities and who possess local knowledge. The local body will have power to co-opt people who have a knowledge of these subjects, 279 and they can do this to the extent of one-third of their number.
§ Mr. STEWART
I want the Secretary of State for Scotland to make this point clear. Are the Government proposing in this Bill that the persons who are to be co-opted must of necessity be people who already possess a knowledge of the administration of the Poor Law?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
In the first instance, I imagine that these individuals would be largely drawn from the members of the existing council. There are many other individuals whose advice and assistance, on account of their knowledge of the circumstances of the people amongst whom they live, might be a great advantage, although they may not have served on Poor Law authorities. For these reasons, I think it would not be wise or judicious to limit the selection. It is clear that this proposal cuts fundamentally across the scheme of the Bill, and for the reasons I have stated the Government are unable to accept the Clause.
§ Sir GODFREY COLLINS
The Secretary of State for Scotland correctly stated that the principle underlying this proposed new Clause has been debated and decided on by the House at a previous stage; but the right hon. Gentleman must surely be aware, as we all are, that, as the Bill has been discussed, it has revealed very clearly to us the manifold activities of public life in Scotland. I would invite the Secretary of State to consider this simple point of view. It is often said that these large authorities should be able to administer the work in their towns, because the House of Commons is successful in guiding the destinies of this great country. That argument, however, seems to me to be based on a fallacy. The House of Commons, as I conceive it, is a deliberative assembly controlling the policy of His Majesty's Government; it is not an administrative assembly. Whenever the House of Commons endeavours to interfere with the administration of His Majesty's Government, it is, in my judgment, very seldom successful.
These large elected bodies in Scotland, administering the thousand and one things which crop up in their areas, are mainly administrative bodies, and, surely, bear 280 ing in mind our numerous activities and the difficulties that we all experience in giving daily attention to our work, it stands to reason that, the larger the body, the less chance there is of its keeping a real democratic control over the services which have been entrusted to it. I am sure every hon. Member of this House will agree with me that the only way in which you can effectively control a business is by giving day-to-day and hour-to-hour attention to its details, and, therefore, if, as we all desire, there is to be real democratic control of the services entrusted to these elected bodies, that can only be done efficiently, and that direct human touch which has been referred to this afternoon can only be maintained, by men who are day by day, morning by morning and afternoon by afternoon, giving attention to the administration which has been entrusted to them. As I look at the Bill and its numerous provisions, it seems to me that these large elected bodies will undoubtedly get out of touch with their constituents, and that smaller authorities in these large towns should be in a better position to keep in touch with their constituencies. For that reason I support the Clause.
Mr. W. M. WATSON
I am sure the House must have been disappointed at the attitude taken up by the Secretary of State towards this proposed new Clause. The Clause simply asks, for the larger burghs, what has already been set up for the counties. It asks for nothing more than that. Already, under the Bill, district councils have been established for the counties, but the Secretary of State says that the proposal to set up a district council within a large burgh is not practicable and will complicate the Measure. I do not see how it is going to complicate the Measure at all. I contend that it is just as easy and suitable and serviceable to have a district council inside a large burgh as it is to have a district council in a county. The district council was conceded to the county in order to make sure that the Poor Law was administered with knowledge and sympathy. It was contended, during the Debate on the Second Reading that, if we attempted to administer the Poor Law from one centre in a county, it would not be properly administered, and, in order to meet that objection, the Secretary of State devised this scheme of district councils.
281 The objection that was urged from the point of view of county administration of the Poor Law can also be urged from the point of view of burgh administration. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) indicated, in the larger burghs the councillors are attending from 200 to 600 meetings a year, and, in those circumstances, obviously, the administration of education and the Poor Law will suffer. The only way of getting over that difficulty is by setting up district councils inside these large burghs. It is proposed that each ward in the burgh should form a district council area, and I submit to the Secretary of State that a ward in any burgh is a quite big enough area for the administration of the Poor Law. The district council would include representatives from the town council, and also representatives elected from the ward on the same footing as the representatives who are to be elected to the district councils under the county scheme.
It should be perfectly possible in our burghs to elect all the representatives who are to deal with our public affairs, and, that being so, I cannot understand why the Secretary of State should insist upon the principle of co-option there, when he has abandoned it for the county areas. If he was able to agree that the district councils in the county areas should be elected, surely it should be possible for him to agree that the burgh electors can elect representatives to a district council within the burgh, which will be charged with the administration of the Poor Law and any other services that the town council may ask the district council to undertake. It will certainly cause very great surprise in Scotland that, in the areas where no co-option is necessary, we are to have co-option, while in the wide county districts an elective system has been adopted for the administration of the Poor Law and other services, and I would appeal to the Secretary of State to reconsider this matter, and to give to the burghs that which he has already conceded to the counties.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
The right hon. Gentleman said that we should not be surprised at his not accepting this Clause. I certainly am not surprised. The right hon. Gentleman is remarkably stubborn in facing so reason 282 able a proposition as this. It is quite true, as he says, that the main points of the proposal has been discussed before, but we are not merely voicing the views of the leading parish councils of Scotland, for, as he is aware, it is true to say that this Clause is put forward by the leading parish councils of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman has said that under his plan there will be unification, but I respectfully differ from that view. I do not think that there is any assurance that that will be so. The parish councils, in their own memorandum, say:It is desirable that there should be uniformity of administration in the various areas in the country, and, if there are created district councils for the counties and for the burgh and city areas, all the delegated functions, including Poor Law, lunacy and mental deficiency, would be administered by similar authorities, and not, as at present proposed, by co-opted members in one area and elected members in another. Uniformity of administration can only be secured if there is statutory requirement to this effect.That is the case put in a nutshell by those who are able to speak for these parish councils. They express the actuality of the situation, instead of the merely theoretical view put forward by the Secretary of State. The difficulty which members of councils will find in dealing with the multifarious business which will be submitted to them under the new plan is a very tangible difficulty. Speaking with some experience of parish council work, I can say that those who have given their attention to it have largely specialised in that work, and it has often been stated in other constituencies than my own that undoubtedly parish council work was pre-eminent in its claim for specialised attention and handling by those who were deeply interested in it.
From the democratic standpoint the system of co-option is most unsatisfactory, and, even allowing for the point made by the Secretary of State that, at the outset, perhaps, this work will be taken up by people who have already served on parish councils, that situation will eventually evaporate and disappear, and it will be found difficult to get people to enter upon the handling of affairs of this kind and yet not have that control and responsibility with which they have so successfully carried out their work in the parish councils. 283 Reference was made to the likelihood under this extensive scheme of people adopting the plan of giving in their names as being present at meetings, and getting a wonderful record of attendances on a very thin basis. I was very much surprised to find that that system which is prevalent in our town councils is actually adopted upstairs, and I certainly do not want to adopt that plan—I do not want any camouflaged attendance as far as I am concerned.
It would be a very unsatisfactory feature of any new scheme adopted by the Government if it were going to accelerate that system under which people find themselves practically unable to accomplish all that is laid down for them, and slide into this very neglectful and not at all creditable plan of public service. I submit that the appeal to which I have referred from the leading parish councils of Scotland is an appeal from those who have devoted, many of them, the service of a lifetime to this specialised work, and who hold, correctly, as I maintain, that this specialised work, which is so important to the suffering poor, is being relegated to the position of a side issue. That is not at all satisfactory, and is very far from what ought to obtain in the handling of the affairs of Scotland. I support most heartily the appeal that has been made from this side of the House.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I hope that the Secretary of State will reconsider his decision. He suggested that it would reopen the whole question as to whether there should be an ad hoc authority or not. I do not think it goes anywhere as far as that. All that is suggested in the Clause is that members of committees who are not members of the local council should really be elected members. The town council is going to set up its committee to deal with the matter. It appoints so many from its own members and it decides to co-opt so many. That is the position as it stands at present. If the Clause were carried the position would be that, instead of deciding to set up its committee, the members of the local authority who would have been on the committee appointed by the local authority will be on another committee, which is this district council of elected persons. The Secretary of State—I hope it is not 284 the effect of his illness—seems to have come back in a totally different frame of mind, because when we were discussing the question with regard to the county areas, and Members on his own benches were rising one after the other and pleading for there being this elected body, he got up and agreed to it. Now, when we suggest that the same tiling should apply in the large burghs, he tells us this is cutting into the ad hoc principle. It is no more doing that than it was previously with regard to the county areas, and it simply means that it is better that your committee should be of elected persons than of non-elected persons. There can be no doubt about that. I do not believe even the most die-hard Tory in facing the public would agree that a non-elected person was better than an elected one. He would not do it in speaking to the public, though possibly in his heart of hearts he believes it is true and prefers the charity organisation line.
I believe if the Government are going to free themselves from the complaint that an attempt is being made here in connection with the Poor Law and the poverty of the people, to make the administration of the Poor Law into something like what it used to be in days gone by, something appertaining to Bumbledom, the Secretary of State has really got to accept the Clause. We have had instances of how he himself, the paternal Conservative, would deal with the matter in the way he interfered with local authorities in the instances that have been mentioned where a parish council was willing to pay the same relief as the Glasgow Town Council, but the Secretary of State said, "No. you cannot do that." Then we have the Under-Secretary, in a most powerful peroration, laying down that the purpose of the Government was to provide sound minds and sound bodies with regard to the children, while the Secretary of State refuses one of these parish councils the right to increase the amount of relief they are giving for the children. Then he comes here and talks all this nonsense about this Amendment cutting into the ad hoc principle. If he likes the role of Bumble, well and good, but at least the people are entitled to know that the purpose of the Bill is to reintroduce Bumbledom into the administration of the Poor Law. I hope it is not the pur 285 pose of the right hon. Gentleman to do that, but I should like some explanation of how he reconciles his action towards the Govan Parish Council with the speech of the Under-Secretary. I do not believe they can be reconciled, but if you are going to have a committee administering the Poor Law, as the Secretary of State will admit he expects there will be, it is better that it should be wholly an elected committee than that there should be co-opted persons on it. We do not want these co-opted persons at all, even although the Secretary of State in his heart of hearts wants these benevolent looking gentlemen to come in and rob the poor people of what they are entitled to have.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
In principle this matter is the same as the one that was decided earlier, though in scope it is a very different thing. The principle of that is in the defence of the Secretary of State for refusing the Clause. The case of the Government has been based on their theory that everything must be done to centralise the health services under one control, so that team work may be carried out, so that, whether it is the medical service or the public health service now carried out by the town council or county council they should be under one control. But these Clauses do not undercut that principle, so that the Secretary of State is really driven to very weak ground. The ground of his defence is uniformity, and the illustration is a very interesting one. He is asked to deal with setting up district councils, and he does not take the case of Aberdeen and Edinburgh. He chooses the extreme illustration of the parish councils of Glasgow, Govan and the others. The fact is that this Clause provides for the administrative machine of the Poor Law, with the exception of the health services. Just as there was a powerful case in the landward parts of the country for setting up another ad hoc body in addition to the small burgh, so there is in the large burghs a very powerful case for setting up a directly elected body for this purpose.
I will not add to the wise words that have been spoken by others on the point of the over-burdening of the present Corporations. I think that is right. The point I want to put is this: The bulk of the present town councils are more 286 concerned with material than with human problems. Indirectly, of course, all the government of a great city affects the human life, but the decisions of the ordinary town council committee are decisions mainly directed to the problems of tramways, roads, gas and water, the material government of the city for the better life of the city. The whole problem of handling the Poor Law, apart from the health services connected with the Poor Law, is a human problem demanding close personal knowledge on the part of those administering relief. I make bold to say that the tragedy of the introduction of this Bill was that Ministers, when they desired to co-ordinate the health services of the country under one direction, did not realise how far that principle would lead them, and how many able and disinterested public citizens would be prevented from giving their personal knowledge of these human problems for the advantage of the administration of the Poor Law. Some of us feel very strongly about this matter. It is no small matter. The last return I have gives a total of 110,734 poor people, with dependants to the number of 113,197 in 103 selected parishes. I cannot say, because we have not the return, what proportion is in the large burghs, but of the 253,000 persons affected directly by this administration, 80 per cent. would be found inside these large burghs. It is not only a matter of the total, but there is that gravest of all the problems, the able-bodied unemployed men. In these parishes there is included in the total 30,000 able-bodied unemployed men, with 63,000 dependants, and outside the mining areas nearly the whole of them are concentrated in the large burghs.
The committee of a town council to be appointed under this Bill, partly elected to the town council for other purposes than this, not directly elected for this, and party appointed for this purpose, cannot handle this human problem of the able-bodied poor as effectively as the men who have been administering it with all the multifarious experience they have accumulated. Consider the case of Edinburgh. The parish council have been handling the problem of the able-bodied unemployed ever since 1921. They have had to handle an expenditure of no less than £881,500 since the slump in trade gave us this new and aggravated problem of 287 the able-bodied poor in our necessitous areas. The parish council in Glasgow in the same period has handled £2,704,000, in Govan £1,762,000, in Dundee £128,000, and in Aberdeen £165,000, in relief of the able-bodied unemployed. The magnitude of these financial operations shows that there is a very powerful case. It is not a matter of amour propre for the disinterested parish councils. It is a matter of practical knowledge of a very subtle and difficult problem. I believe under a system of election many more women will get the chance of exercising their knowledge, ability and sympathy than under the co-optive principle proposed in the Bill. It is, in my judgment, a retrograde step to hand over the administration of this vast problem to a partly co-opted body, and at this last hour I would ask the Secretary of State if he cannot see his way to meet us on this point, for I am sure the work will be better done.
I will give one illustration. I was in my constituency on Friday, and I met a member of the parish council of Edinburgh. I said, "How many days have you given to parish council work this week?" He said, "I have been at the offices five days." I do not believe the ordinary town councillor, elected for all the purposes of a large burgh, will be able to give that amount of time to the administration now given by parish councillors such as the one I have quoted. For that reason I have pleasure in supporting the Clause that this side of the Poor Law work be given over to district councillors elected in each ward of a large burgh.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I would like to bring the mind of the House back to the magnitude of the human distress with which we are dealing. We are apt to allow our minds to become too mechanical and to forget that we are dealing with men, women and children, who are the victims of circumstances for which we are more responsible than they. According to the report of the right hon. Gentleman for 1927, no fewer than 238,000 people in Scotland required relief of one kind or another from the parish councils. Eighty per cent. of that large number are living in the large areas whose machinery we are now discussing. These parish councils are expected to carry out 288 the assistance to the poor in exactly the spirit in which that assistance is given by the ratepayers. If I pay rates to relieve the poor, I pay them cheerfully and in a good spirit, and I want the expenditure of these rates carried out in exactly the same spirit in which I contribute them to the public purse. We are dealing here with the machinery to be set up, and the machinery will express to a large extent the spirit of the administration. We can have either the paternal spirit, which regards the poor as the victims of the system under which they are compelled to live, or we can have the mechanical attitude, which regards them as a public nuisance.
We have had instances quoted this afternoon of the manner of approach usually adopted by the present Secretary of State for Scotland. We have been told that, when it was proposed to grant a little more relief and kindness to the children of Govan by the elected representatives of the ratepayers of Govan, he stepped in and prevented it. We have had another revelation of his mind towards the people who are not poor in the Eastwood parish where he agrees to public money being spent in the further enrichment of comparatively well-off officials. We have also seen his attitude towards the unemployed people at Lennox Castle where he refuses to give them what is not regarded even by Conservative Members as a decent living wage. That is his attitude of mind, but it is not the attitude of the persons elected by the ratepayers to deal with the poor as the ratepayers would like them to be dealt with. Knowing that the elected representatives in Govan would be more kind to the poor than people of the same mentality as his, he is endeavouring through this machinery to introduce into our administration the co-opted person who does not represent the mentality of the ratepayers. We object to that, and say that the people who spend the money should be responsible to the people who provide it, and should be under the necessity of coming to the ratepayers to explain the spirit in which they have spent the rates in order that the ratepayers may have an opportunity of expressing their satisfaction or otherwise with their administration of Poor Law relief.
289 It is a desperate situation, and one which should arouse not only the profound sympathy but the profound anxiety of the people of Scotland, to find that almost a quarter of a million of our population are submerged in social conditions in which they require relief from the rates. It is at this time, when Scotland is probably worse off than ever it was, when a greater amount of work has to be devoted to the proper administration of the assistance to be given to these people, that the Government are upsetting the machinery which, on the whole, is working more and more sympathetically towards the poor, and are replacing it by a mechanical system devoid of sentiment, but which will ex-press the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, who, in this House represents not the ratepayers, but the attitude of the rich towards their victims. We protest against all that. We want the people who spend our money to be under our control; we want our poor treated as the victims of society, and not as a mere criminal class. We do not want the children of our neighbours punished because we cannot find employment for their fathers; we do not want our unemployed men to be reduced to a lower standard of living because they have no means of earning their daily bread; we do not want the position of our working-class women to be made more terrible than it is in the ordinary course of their dairy lives. The whole of this machinery is directed to a mechanisation of the manner of dealing with them. It expresses a cruel spirit. We protest against that spirit and against the machinery which has been set up under this Bill to treat the poor worse in the future than they have been treated in the past.
§ Sir PATRICK FORD
I do not wish to pursue the right hon. Member who has just spoken in his vendetta against the Secretary of State for Scotland. I merely remark that the people of Scotland and the verdict of history will probably pronounce in favour of the Secretary of State for Scotland as the sounder and better friend of the poor. To come back to this Clause, apart from all these theories as to who are representing certain interests and who are alleged to represent certain others, the real point is, how are we to get efficient 290 administration. This ought to be a warning to any Government not to give too much away in granting co-opted members and committees to newly-devised county councils. The object of granting these co-opted committees is that in that way you may get expert knowledge of a certain kind brought to bear. A certain section of the Opposition, instead of taking that as a really well-intentioned desire to meet them, has used it as a lever to get the whole scheme of the Bill upset, and for all these purposes to have new elections and newly-elected members for specific purposes. The Government were perfectly right in yielding a point on that in the large county areas scattered in area, because it is area more than population that is really concerned.
Where, however, you get the large burgh, where it is perfectly easy to get about, it is quite unnecessary to have separately elected committees to deal with these matters. No good is to be gained by these separately elected committees in an area that can be perfectly easily traversed, as far as the geography of it goes. In order to get what is put forward as the personal touch with the individual poor, you are going to sacrifice the general knowledge of the whole situation of the district that can only be had by a man who has been elected and sits for that district as representing all the interests for which he is elected. That may be necessary where geographical conditions make it impossible for the county councillor to get about in the same way, but when you come to the burghs, to the districts where these geographical difficulties are removed, you are going to weaken the skill and knowledge which should be devoted to poor relief by handing it over to people specially elected for the purpose. I am not going to say that it would be throwing the door open to jobbery to do that, but the fewer local elections you have the better. Get the men and women elected who know the general situation, and do not hand over administration to specially elected bodies. Too many elections produce apathy among the electors. One of the hon. Members opposite has stated that it was not a fair test, because only so many people had come out to vote on a plebiscite on a certain point that was raised. The reason is that we have such 291 a multiplicity of these elections that we must come to the conclusion that we must have people elected for the general purposes of the district unless there is a geographical reason to the contrary, as in a scattered county district. It will not strengthen but will weaken the proper representation of the ratepayers and the
§ proper dealing with the poor if we are going to have specially elected committees. I strongly support the Government in resisting this Clause in the interests of the poor people themselves.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 115, Noes, 217.293
|Division No. 250.]||AYES.||[7.14 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Grundy, T. W.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stratford)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St. Ives)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hardle, George D.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Barnes, A.||Harris, Percy A.||Saklatvala, Shapurjl|
|Barr, J.||Hayday, Arthur||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Bellamy, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scurr, John|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Hirst, G. H.||Shield, G. W.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hollins, A.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shinwell, E.|
|Briant, Frank||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Broad, F. A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Bromfield. William||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kelly, W. T.||Snell, Harry|
|Buchanan, G.||Kennedy, T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Kirkwood, D.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawrence, Susan||Stephen, Campbell|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Clarke, A. B.||Lowth, T.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lunn, William||Sutton, J. E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Mackinder, W.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Compton, Joseph||MacLaren, Andrew||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Connolly, M.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Cove, W. G.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Townend, A. E.|
|Day, Harry||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Viant, S. P.|
|Duncan, C.||March, S.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Maxton, James||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|England, Colonel A.||Montague, Frederick||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Forrest, W.||Morris, R. H.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Gardner, J. P.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Westwood, J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Mosley, Sir Oswald||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Murnin, H.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Graham. Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Naylor, T. E.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Greenall, T.||Oliver, George Harold||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Owen, Major G.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Potts, John S.|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Cohen, Major J. Brunel|
|Albery, Irving James||Braithwaite Major A. N.||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Brass, Captain W.||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cope, Major Sir William|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Briggs, J. Harold||Couper, J. B.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn, N.)|
|Atkinson, C.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Crookshank. Cpl. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Buckingham, Sir H.||Dalkeith. Earl of|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Bullock, Captain M.||Davidson. Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Burman, J. B.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Cassels, J. D.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Berry, Sir George||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Bethel, A.||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Edmondson. Major A. J.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Bevan, S. J.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Ellis, R. G.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Fairfax, Captain J. G.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Clayton, G. C.||Faile, Sir Bertram G.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fermoy, Lord|
|Fielden, E. B.||Lamb, J. O.||Rye, F. G.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Salmon, Major I.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Loder, J. de V.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Looker, Herbert William||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lougher, Sir Lewis||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustavo D.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lumley, L. R.||Savery, S. S.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Gates, Percy||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Simms, Or. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||McLean, Major A.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Macmillan, Captain H.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Macquisten, F. A.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Harland, A.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Templeton, W. P.|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Thomson, Sir Frederick|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. Sir K. P.|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsl'd.)||Waddington, R.|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Nuttall, Ellis||Ward, Lt. Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Hilton, Cecil||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Perring, Sir William George||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wells, S. R.|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Pilcher, G.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall. Northern)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Hunter-Weston Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Raine, Sir Walter||Withers. John James|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Ramsden, E.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald||Red, D. D. (County Down)||Wright, Brig-General W. D.|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Reiner, J. R.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Roberts. Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Ropner, Major L.||Captain Margesson and Sir Victor Warrender.|
|King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am not quite certain whether the next Clause on the Paper—(Methods of securing relief to occupiers)—standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) is in order. In fact, I am not quite certain what it means. If the hon. and gallant Member would like to explain what it means, I should be glad to near him.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The Clause is an effort to assist the Government to accomplish the professed purpose of the proposals which they have put before the House. The effect of the Bill as at present drafted is to reduce the assessment in the case of the occupier from one quarter to one-eighth, and in the case of the owner from three-quarters to one-eighth. There are two strong objections to that. One is a mere matter of machinery; the other is a matter of principle. The matter of 294 machinery is that it involves the paying back by the landlord to the tenant of half of the landlord's relief. It is the same kind of machinery as was introduced into the 1923 Act and which was then found to be so unworkable that it had to be reversed in subsequent legislation which was passed by this House last year. The effect is, that the tenant comes along and pays rent, and he then claims back from the landlord half of the relief, whatever it may be, that the landlord may have received. If the estate spreads over different parishes, there will be some tenants in one parish claiming for one particular amount and other tenants in another parish having a totally different claim, while a third tenant may, after the 1st June of last year, have no claim at all. There will be three or four classes of tenant each paying in a different way causing immense difficulties and giving ground for 295 a large amount of misunderstanding. The 1923 difficulty was got over in the 1927 Act. The Clause which I have put down gets over that difficulty.
There is a much more important question. The Lord Advocate in defending the Government's proposals last week admitted quite frankly that they would have one effect. He admitted that they would have the effect of giving the greater part of the benefit of this rate relief to one partner in the industry. He said:I do not want to argue at length the question of whether a benefit like this ultimately comes to the landlord or not. My humble view is that it certainly does, and I will tell the Committee why.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
The hon. and gallant Member does not quite do me justice. What I said was that an interesting time would arise when there was a new tenant.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The effect of the new Clause is that it definitely takes this landlord's relief, and instead of allowing it to filter back eventually as the Lord Advocate thinks it will—a good many hon. Members in this House with great authority behind them think it will not filter back to the tenant—and anchors it firmly to the tenant in the form of return of rent.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am not sure whether the hon. and gallant Member is in order in going into this question of rent. The question of rent is dealt with in Clause 41, and I think the question which he is now raising may be outside the scope of the Bill.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR Although in form it deals with a question of rent, in fact this reduction of rent is merely the equivalent of the rating relief which is going to the landlord under the provisions of the Bill as it is now framed. It is merely a different way of giving the 296 same relief, but a way which anchors it permanently to the tenant and gives the full advantage which the Government profess to give and which the Government profess to believe will be given by their own method eventually.