HC Deb 07 December 1937 vol 330 cc317-54

9.30 p.m.

Mr. E. J. Williams

I beg to move, in page 1, line 21, after "arrangements," to insert, to the satisfaction of the Minister of Health. We were rather surprised to find that the hon. Gentleman had taken out these words, which are in the principal Act, and we have put the Amendment down in order to find out whether any circumstance has occurred recently to justify these powers being taken from the Ministry of Health and being left entirely to the local authorities. In the previous Debate we had a large number of instances of the variety of treatment meted out to blind persons. Some of the county councils administering the Act pay from 22s. to 26s. per week. Surely the Minister ought to retain as much power as possible to have uniformity maintained throughout the country. If it is left to local authorities to administer the Act in any way they think fit, the disparity that now obtains will tend to be aggravated rather than remedied.

9.32 p.m.

Mr. W. H. Green

The Bill has met with a certain amount of criticism on the ground that it is not perhaps bold enough in certain directions, and we have framed this Amendment entirely from the angle of improving the Bill. We feel that, if it is accepted, though a small Amendment, it may have very important repercussions. We are rather surprised to find that while in the 1920 Act it is laid down that the various schemes for the welfare of the blind which local authorities must develop and operate must have the sanction of the Minister, that is left out of this Bill. I would be the last to depreciate the wonderful work that local authorities are doing, but there are local authorities and local authorities, and sometimes they are not too keen to carry out an Act in the spirit and intention which animated the House when it passed it, and the functions entrusted to local authorities are very important. If their schemes are first to have the sanction of the Minister, it will make for uniformity in administration, and I am sure that is what the House desires. We believe the Amendment will improve the Bill, and will be of great value to the blind.

9.35 p.m.

Mr. Messer

It was made plain during the Second Reading Debate that there are certain anomalies connected with the administration of the Blind Persons Act. This Amendment would give the Minister an opportunity of securing some degree of uniformity in the administration of that Act, and most people who have any knowledge of the subject agree that it is a matter which ought to receive attention. The position at present is that county and county borough councils are empowered to draw up schemes and to make declarations, taking out of the Poor Law any blind persons who have hitherto been receiving Poor Law relief and giving them the benefit of the Blind Persons Act. This Bill proposes to effect an improvement by providing that in future all such schemes must take the blind people out of the Poor Law, but that does not alter the fact that of 146 local authorities 61 have made such a declaration, 44 have made no declaration but have domiciliary assistance schemes, while 41 have no schemes and have made no declaration.

The result is that all over the country we have such a variety of arrangements by local authorities as to cause glaring anomalies. For instance the scheme in Hastings provides 22s. a week for the blind person, while that in London provides 27s. 6d. If we do not wish to consider cases of authorities which are separated by too great a distance geographically, there are three authorities in Lincoln, those of Kesteven, Holland and Lindsey, which have different schemes in operation within that comparatively narrow boundary. All the Amendment seeks to provide is that when a local authority draws up a scheme, that scheme shall be put into operation only when the Minister is satisfied that it meets the needs of the blind community. The Minister should have some regard to the fact that we on this side are showing a certain amount of faith in him. We are suggesting that if the matter is left to him, everything will be all right. At one time I did hold that view but I have been rather disillusioned of late. My faith in the right hon. Gentleman has been weakened, and my hopes, if not quite shattered, have been almost so. But I trust that in this instance he will see that there is nothing unreasonable in our request and accept this Amendment.

9.39 p.m.

The Minister of Health (Sir Kingsley Wood)

I am much indebted to the hon. Gentleman for his concluding observations, to the effect that he has still some lingering faith in me. I thought he was about to express the hope that I would soon be succeeded as Minister by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), and that it was upon that basis that he was commending the Amendment. I do not think the Committee need have any difficulty about this matter. This aspect of local government has been dealt with in successive Measures passed by Parliament in recent years. There is always difficulty as to how far there should be complete discretion in the work of the local authorities and how far there should be interference or supervision by the Minister. The matter was considered in connection with the Local Government Act of 1929, and it was decided, subject to certain safeguards, that we should where possible give a much larger measure of discretion to local authorities in the administration of certain schemes in respect of which grants were made.

Accordingly, both in the Midwives Act and in the recent Public Health Act of 1936 in relation to the treatment of tuberculosis, it was decided to give local authorities discretion in matters of this kind, with the very effective safeguard that the responsible Minister should have power, if local authorities were not carrying out their duties satisfactorily, to reduce the assistance which was being given to them by the State. I suppose that is the most effective weapon that could be employed. In this case we are simply following a precedent which has been repeatedly approved by Parliament and to which I do not think any exception has been taken in recent years. We endeavour to give the local authorities, in their day-to-day administration, an adequate measure of discretion. At the same time, if any important differences were shown between the administration in one area and that in another, the Minister could deal with the matter by saying that where a local authority did not take proper action, he would reduce the measure of Government assistance which was being given to that authority. That principle has been accepted by successive Governments of different political complexions, as a general basis and has, I think, worked fairly well on the whole. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will not feel it necessary to press the Amendment. I can assure the Committee that there is an adequate safeguard in the effective weapon which is in the hands of the Minister and to which I have already referred.

9.43 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Greenwood

I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman's explanation is not very satisfactory. I do not like these references to a larger measure of discretion for local authorities, because it means larger opportunities for evasion of their duties by reactionary authorities. The whole trend of our local government legislation has been to put greater obligations on local authorities, and to see that those obligations are fulfilled. What the right hon. Gentleman says, in effect, is that if the behaviour of a local authority becomes so scandalous as to compel him to exercise such a power, he can reduce the grant which that authority receives from the State. But that is not what we are asking for in this case. We ask that local authorities shall prepare schemes and that the right hon. Gentleman shall be a party to those schemes, and that he shall approve of them. That is an entirely different matter from his proposal, safeguards or no safeguards. If he is anxious to safeguard the interests of the blind, why should he not keep the power of approving schemes which was conferred upon him by the principal Act. Then there would be an obligation on him to see that these schemes are carried out, but now it appears we are giving the local authorities so much discretion that the right hon. Gentleman does not care a brass farthing about them, until in some case a local authority's treatment of the question becomes a scandal. Then he fines that local authority by withholding so much of its grant. That is no alternative to the proposals we put down in the Amendment.

I thought the Minister would see the reasonableness of our case. To come and tell us that other Acts of Parliament, including the Public Health Act, 1936, allow discretion does not meet our point. It is very rarely that a Minister of the Crown gives up powers that he has enjoyed. They generally look forward to increasing them, and our view is that it would be reasonable in these circum-

stances for the right hon. Gentleman to keep this intimate touch with schemes of this kind and to give them his blessing if they are good, rather than to fall back on a very second-rate method of exercising control. I hope the Committee will agree with us on this, because the right hon. Gentleman's explanation is so bad that we cannot accept it.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 115; Noes, 203.

Division No. 42.] AYES. [9.47 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Naylor, T. E.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Groves, T. E. Oliver, G. H.
Adamson, W. M. Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Paling, W.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Parker, J.
Banfield, J. W. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Barr, J. Harris, Sir P. A. Price, M. P.
Batey, J. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Quibell, D. J. K.
Bellenger, F. J. Hayday, A. Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Ritson, J.
Broad, F. A. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Bromfield, W. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Holdsworth, H. Rothschild, J. A. de
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Hollins, A. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Buchanan, G. Jagger, J. Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)
Burke, W. A. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Soely, Sir H. M.
Cape, T. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Sexton, T. M.
Cassells, T. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Shinwell, E.
Charlelon, H. C. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Short, A.
Cluse, W. S. Kirby, B. V. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Cove, W. G. Kirkwood, D. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Lathan, G. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Daggar, G. Lawson, J. J. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Leach, W. Stephen, C.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Lee, F. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Leslie, J. R. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth. N.)
Day, H. Logan, D. G. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lunn, W. Tinker, J. J.
Ede, J. C. McEntee, V. La T. Viant, S. P.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) McGhee, H. G. Walkden, A. G.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) MacLaren, A. Watkins, F. C.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Maclean, N. Watson, W. McL.
Foot, D. M. Marshall, F. Welsh, J. C.
Gallacher, W. Maxton, J. Westwood, J.
Gardner, B. W. Messer, F. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Garro Jones, G. M. Milner, Major J. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Montague, F. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Grenfell, D. R. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Nathan, Colonel H. L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Boulton, W. W. Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Boyce, H. Leslie Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)
Albery, Sir Irving Braithwaite, Major A. N. Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Brass, Sir W. Cox, H. B. Trevor
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Cranborne, Viscount
Aske, Sir R. W. Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Craven-Ellis, W.
Assheton, R. Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover) Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Crooke, J. S.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Bull, B. B. Croom-Johnson, R. P.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Bullock, Capt. M. Cross, R. H.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Butcher, H. W. Crowder, J. F. E.
Balniel, Lord Campbell, Sir E. T. Cutverwell, C. T.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Cartland, J. R. H. Davidson, Viscountess
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Carver, Major W. H. Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Cary, R. A. De Chair, S. S
Beechman, N. A. Channon, H. Denman, Hon. R. D.
Bernays, R. H. Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Dodd, J. S.
Birchall, Sir J. D. Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead) Dugdale, Captain T. L.
Bossom, A. C. Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Eastwood, J. F.
Eckersley, P. T. Lindsay, K. M. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Lipson, D. L. Rowlands, G.
Emery, J. F. Lloyd, G. W. Royds, Admiral P. M. R.
Emmott, C. E. G. C. Lottus, P. C. Russell, Sir Alexander
Emrys-Evarts, P. V. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Entwistle, Sir C. F. M'Connell, Sir J. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Errington, E. McCorquodale, M. S. Salt, E. W.
Erskine-Hill, A. G. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Fildes, Sir H. MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Sandys, E. D.
Findlay, Sir E. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Fleming, E. L. McKie, J. H. Scott, Lord William
Ganzoni, Sir J. Maclay, Hon. J. P. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Gluckstein, L. H. Macmillan, H. (Stookton-on-Tees) Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. Magnay, T. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Goldie, N. B. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Granville E. L. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Gridley, Sir A. B. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Somerset, T.
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Grimston, R. V. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Guinness, T. L. E. B. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Spens, W. P.
Gunston, Capt. D. W. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Storey, S.
Hambro, A. V. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick) Strauss, E. A. (Southward, N.)
Hannah, I. C. Mitcheson, Sir G. G. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Harbord, A. Moreing, A. C. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.) Sutcliffe, H.
Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Munro, P. Tate, Mavis C,
Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Nall, Sir J. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Hepworth, J. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Nicholson, G. (Farnham) Titchfield, Marquess of
Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey) Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Higgs, W. F. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Turton, R. H.
Holmes, J. S. Owen, Major G. Wakefield, W. W.
Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Peake, O. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Horsbrugh, Florence Perkins, W. R. D. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Peters, Dr. S. J. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Petherick, M. Wells, S. R.
Hulbert, N. J. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Hume, Sir G. H. Pilkington, R. Williams, C. (Torquay)
James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Raikes, H. V. A. M. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Ramsbotham, H. Wise, A. R.
Keeling, E. H. Rayner, Major R. H. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Reid, Sir D. D. (Down) Wragg, H.
Lamb, Sir J. Q. Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Lees-Jones, J Reid, W. Allan (Derby) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool) Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and Mr. Furness.
Liddall, W. S. Ropner, Colonel L.

9.55 p.m.

Mr. Messer

I beg to move, in page 2, line 2, to leave out "may," and to insert "shall."

This Amendment is for the purpose of providing that the council shall do certain things, and that it shall not be left to their discretion. The Minister admits in the Bill that where councils were allowed to exercise complete freedom, the provision has not proved altogether a success. The introduction of this Bill is an illustration of the fact that because the county and county borough councils have not done the things that they ought to have done, it is necessary to introduce legislation to make them do those things. I would refer the Committee to Subsection (2). The Bill no longer says that a local authority can draw up a scheme and that it may relieve the dependants of blind people other than by way of poor relief, but it says that they shall do what is provided in the Bill. In view of a further Amendment on the Order Paper, I suggest that to make the Bill effective the word "shall" should be substituted for "may," so that we can have the intention of the Minister carried into effect by those entrusted with the task.

9.57 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

The Amendment has been moved under a misapprehension. The object laid down in the Clause is, first, that it shall be the duty of the council of any county or county borough to make arrangements for promoting the welfare of blind persons. That duty is specifically imposed upon them. The word "may" is used only as a sort of sign post as to what exactly the council shall do in pursuance of the duty which is imposed upon them. It is not an exhaustive definition, but has simply been inserted in order to put beyond doubt the fact that the arrangements which the councils must make shall include—[HON. MEMBERS: "It says 'may'."]—the provision and maintenance or the making of contributions towards the provision and maintenance of workshops, etc. The proper reading of the Clause is that it imposes a definite duty upon the councils, and then it says that the things which such a council may do in the performance of that duty shall be so and so. In other words, there is a definite duty imposed upon the council in regard to promoting arrangements for the welfare of the blind, and the rest of the Clause is inserted to put beyond doubt the fact that those arrangements include provision for the maintenance of workshops and contributions towards maintenance, etc. The Minister of Health has ample power to inspect the councils' services under the Blind Persons Act, to make recommendations for improvement and to withhold, where necessary, the block grant. Inasmuch as definite duties are laid upon the councils, the substitution of the word "shall" for the word "may" is not necessary.

Mr. Messer

The Minister's language is hopeless. The word "shall" in this connection governs the particular thing that the council may do. Anyone who has a certificate for English in an elementary school will admit that there are certain things that a council may do and may not do. There are certain things which in this Bill are permitted, which they shall do if they decide to do them. The Amendment insists that they shall do these things, and that it shall not be left to their discretion. If the Amendment were carried it would mean that the local authorities must do these things.

Sir K. Wood

Perhaps I have not explained myself sufficiently. What the Clause does is to make it compulsory as a duty upon the councils to make arrangements for promoting the welfare of the blind, and the rest of the Clause indicates the measures by which that shall be done. To make it obligatory upon councils in certain areas to make arrangements for the provision or maintenance of workshops would be out of the question. The hon. Member knows that we could not put that as a definite obligation upon certain parts of the country, because there would not be a sufficient number of blind persons for whom work- shop provision should be provided. So far as the duty of making provisions for the welfare of the blind is concerned it is laid down that it shall be done, and the rest of the Clause indicates the method by which it shall be carried out.

10.3 p.m.

Mr. Greenwood

The right hon. Gentleman is going from bad to worse. If he had accepted our Amendment making it a duty on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to approve all schemes, he might have put in many of these services for the assistance of blind persons. He has not made the position clear. It is true that the Bill says that it shall be the duty of the council of every county or county borough to make arrangements for promoting the welfare of blind persons, and then the Clause goes on to say that in performance of those duties they are empowered, if they so choose, to make provision for contribution towards the provision and maintenance of workshops, etc. I do not understand legal language. Lawyers may argue about the difference between "may" and "shall," but I have never been able to understand their point. The Bill says clearly that there is a duty on the local authorities to provide for the blind, and it says that in carrying out their duties the councils may, if they care, because they will be empowered by Parliament, do this and that. Our case is that for the welfare of the blind these services should be provided.

Sir K. Wood

Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not suggest that it should be made obligatory on all local authorities to make provision of workshops, hostels, homes, and so on?

Mr. Greenwood

We claim that if there is to be adequate provision for the blind, there should be available for all blind persons workshops, hostels, homes, and so on as an essential part of that provision. What the right hon. Gentleman is saying is this, "I am going to wash my hands of my responsibilities in this matter. No schemes in future are to be approved by me; I am going to trust to the local authorities." For 17 years, under the principal Act, local authorities have not come up to the scratch, and now that the right hon. Gentleman has diminished his own powers, instead of compelling them to do the job properly and leaving it to their discretion as to how it is to be done, he does not even prescribe the kind of care which is regarded as necessary in the interests of blind persons.

I think he is making a mistake in this matter. He is putting off one responsibility after another. He has cast the local authorities back on their own responsibility because he has powers of inspection, but a Minister who is not prepared to be courageous enough to approve schemes is not going to use his powers of inspection to any serious effect with the local authorities. I had hoped the right hon. Gentleman would have been reasonable to-night, and I am sorry that we cannot accept his explanation on this Amendment. I do not want to keep taking the Committee to a Division, but I am afraid we must again vote on this issue.

10.8 p.m.

Sir Percy Harris

I think the whole thing turns on the word "or." When my right hon. Friend, in his skilful way, read the Clause, he left out the word "or." I agree that with some county authorities there might not be enough blind people to justify the provision of a hostel or a home, but I am not blaming the right hon. Gentleman. We know that draftsmen are only human, and the drafting of Clauses is always a very difficult matter. The trouble is that the last words in the first paragraph of Sub-section (1), in lines 8, 9, and 10, rather suggest that the alternative method for a council is to do nothing at all. It says: and any other things the doing of which appears to the council to be desirable. If the council desides that it is undesirable to do anything, you may have a local authority shirking its responsibility completely or handing it over to some private company. I think the right hon. Gentleman might make it clear that it is the intention of the Bill that every local authority ought to do its duty.

10.9 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

I would like to respond to that statement. I think myself there is no difficulty or doubt about this matter. I have gone into it very carefully with the draftsman, and I am advised that the opening part of the Clause, that "it shall be the duty of the council," puts the matter beyond doubt. I would like to assure the hon. Gentleman that, so far as the administration of the matter is concerned, I have ample powers to deal with the matter as I think in the most effective way with the local authorities, namely, with the financial weapon, and I can assure him that if there is any doubt in his mind, and if there was any suggestion that any of the local authorities were not in fact carrying out the duty imposed by this Clause in one way or another, I would immediately either send down an inspector or order a local inquiry, and it the local authority was not carrying out its duty, I would deal with it with what in fact is the most effective weapon which a Minister of Health can have, and that is the financial weapon.

As long as I have the power of saying to a local authority, "You shall do this," that might in the end mean only an application to the court for a mandamus, and the Committee knows that very often that is a futile procedure. The great power which a Minister would have, which I hope he would never have to exercise in connection with this Clause, would be to say, "If you do not carry out your obligations under the Clause, you will not have your proper financial assistance given to you by the Government." My own experience over a good many years is that that is the most effectual weapon that a Minister can have, and that is the weapon which is given to him here. I can assure the Committee, because we all feel the same about the blind people, that if there was any case of that kind, not only I but, I am sure, any successor of mine would unhesitatingly use the very effective power of finance.

10.11 p.m.

Mr. Stephen

I am not at all convinced by the last speech of the Minister, because it appears to me that the real way to deal with this matter is to accept the Amendment, and I cannot understand the hesitancy of the right hon. Gentleman in accepting it. It is evident from what has been said in the Committee that there are varying opinions as to what the Clause means. If the Minister sends down an inspector to a district, the local authority there may say that they are carrying out their duty, and if necessary, if the inspector interferes with them, the local authority may go into court to prove that they are doing their duty. The local authority, for example, might give a treat once a year for blind people and say that in that way they were carrying out the duty imposed upon them by the Clause. The Minister has pointed out that each of the things mentioned here is not obligatory on the local authority. He said, for example, that in certain cases they would not set up workshops, that you could not expect them to do it, and so he himself admits that each of these things is simply part of a programme of which the local authority may accept one or two items.

Sir K. Wood indicated dissent.

Mr. Stephen

The Minister need not shake his head to my statement in that respect, because he nodded his head in approval before.

Sir K. Wood

That depends on whether in fact they have carried out their duties under this Clause, because if he does not think so, he can withhold payment.

Mr. Stephen

Where does the Minister get this idea that he has this godlike authority in connection with the matter? I know there have been such statements in this House repeatedly in connection with legislation, and afterwards we have found that the Minister was simply talking out of his hat and that he had not any such powers at all.

Sir K. Wood

Section 104 of the Local Government Act, 1925.

Mr. Stephen

Will the right hon. Gentleman read it out to the House?

Sir K. Wood

No, I will not.

Mr. Stephen

If he will look again at that Section of the Local Government Act he will find that it does not apply to this particular case at all, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to show how it gives him power under this Measure. It is preposterous for the Minister to get up and make such a statement without giving the words and showing how they apply. This is simply another case in which the Minister is trying to mislead the Committee, and I do not think that it is worthy of him, however characteristic it may be, to try to mislead the Committee in this way. The Minister may think that he has these powers and he may quote this Section of the Act, but if the word "shall" is put in instead of the word "may" there will be no doubt about it. The powers will be there, and the local authority will know what duties are really being imposed upon them.

I would ask the Minister not to be so obstinate in pursuing this policy. I believe that a great deal of his previous success has been due to his art of conciliation, but since he became involved in these birth-control statistics there seems to be some obstruction in his mentality which is making him far less efficient and capable than previously. The instance that I have given and the way in which the local authorities have so often in the past shied at carrying out duties imposed upon them by this House because it might mean something additional on the rates, are the real reasons why there should be no doubt about the matter whatever. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the position, and, if he does not accept the position, that the Committee will go into the Lobby and try to get for the blind people what obviously Members on all sides of the Committee intend that they should have.

10.18 p.m.

Mr. Benjamin Smith

On this side of the Committee as well as in the mind of the Minister there seems to be some dubiety as to the real meaning of the Clause. The Minister claims to have power under some other Act, but it is the present Bill with which we are dealing. As I understand the meaning of the word "shall," it is mandatory, and "may" is permissive. If the right hon. Gentleman says that it may not be necessary in certain county areas to do the things done under the Clause, surely, he can meet us on the Report stage of the Bill by saying "shall where necessary." That would get over the whole difficulty. "May" is a permissive thing. Somebody will decide whether it is necessary to have workshops or to do all the things within the Clause or not. It would set the mind of every well-wisher of the blind at rest to know the real intention of the Government, and, if there is a desire to meet the wishes and the sentiments of the people for whom the Bill is intended, the Minister might well give us the words "shall where necessary."

10.19 p.m.

Mr. Mander

It was not possible for me to be here to move the Amendment which I have put down and I apologise for being absent, but perhaps I may explain the circumstances in which this Amendment and other Amendments were put down. When the Bill was introduced, I asked the representatives of the blind in Wolverhampton whether they had any Amendments which they desired to see incorporated in the Bill, and these proposals were the result. These people, while they are the best in the world, are simple folk, and when they see the word "may" they think it means "may." They may be quite wrong. No doubt they are entirely misinformed, but they would be more satisfied if instead of being referred to some other Act of Parliament which they do not understand the plain English word "shall" was put in. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the feeling of the Committee, will agree to accept the Amendment.

10.21 p.m.

Mr. E. J. Williams

I know blind shops which have been subsidised by the county council in the past and I should like to know whether they will come under the direct control of the county council in the future. If they do not and they are to be subsidised—

The Deputy-Chairman

That point arises on the next Amendment which deals with contributions towards maintenance.

Mr. E. J. Williams

I want something definite from the Minister on the point.

The Deputy-Chairman

That is a point upon which the Minister ought not to give an answer on this Amendment. If the hon. Member raises it on the next Amendment it will be in order.

Mr. E. J. Williams

I understand that if the word "may" is interpreted as meaning "shall" these county authorities will have the obligation of taking over these blind shops.

The Deputy-Chairman

The point of the hon. Member is whether they shall make a contribution. That is raised on the next Amendment.

Mr. Buchanan

Is it the word "may" or the word "shall"?

Sir K. Wood

The word is "may." The first part of the Clause imposes on the council the duty that they shall make arrangements for promoting the welfare of the blind and the rest of the Clause indicates the way in which they may perform this duty.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Are we to understand that the Minister has power to penalise an authority which is not doing its duty? How is he to know whether a council is or is not doing its duty?

Sir K. Wood

By inspection and inquiry.

Mr. W. H. Green

Will the Minister tell us how it is, if he has these powers to compel local authorities to carry out their duties in this matter, there are some 40 authorities which have not prepared schemes under the 1920 Act?

Sir K. Wood

In that particular case local authorities were given discretion. Under the Clause we are discussing it is mandatory upon them to make arrangements for the welfare of the blind, and the rest of the Clause is the method by which they may carry that out. I shall have full power under the Local Government Act, 1929.

Mr. Greenwood

If a number of authorities have not for 17 years exercised their powers and they are not to be required to fulfil certain definite obligations, what likelihood is there of their carrying out these powers which they may not use, and which they are not required to use?

10.25 p.m.

Mr. Stephen

Is it not the case that it is still within the discretion of the local authority to decide upon the way in which it will do something for the benefit of the blind? For example, one local authority may say that it cannot run a workshop for the blind, but that it will exercise its discretion and do something else. Consequently, when it is discretionary on the part of a local authority to choose the particular method by which it will take care of the blind, how can the Minister say that he has power to interfere with the discretion given to the local authorities in that respect?

10.26 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

The answer is very simple. One could not impose, under the Bill, the duty upon all local authorities to provide workshops for the blind. What is absolutely obligatory upon them is their duty to make provision for the welfare of the blind, and this Clause indicates methods by which that can be done. It is true that under our system of local Government a great measure of discretion as to how that duty should be fulfilled is left to the local authorities. That is our democratic system. But it is also left to the Minister to see that the duty imposed upon the local authorities is adequately fulfilled by one method or another. The Minister does that either by means of a local inquiry or by sending his inspectors to look into any complaint that is made. I may observe that instances have been given to-night in that respect. If I get a complaint that adequate provision is not being made for the welfare of the blind, I will either send down an inspector or order a local inquiry. If in any case it is found that the local authority is not carrying out its duties, the Minister has the most effective weapon, which is to withhold financial assistance until the local authority does its duty. That is the only effective weapon which we have in a democracy for dealing with local authorities who do not carry out their duties. A mandatory power, although it may in fact be laid down in an Act of Parliament, is a very useless weapon when one tries to impose it. The best weapon is the one that resides in the Local Government Act.

10.28 p.m.

Mr. Stephen

The Minister still admits that there is that discretion. The duty is laid upon the local authorities to do something to provide for the welfare of the blind. For instance, if a local authority decides that its way of providing for the welfare of the blind shall be to give an annual treat for the blind in its area, that is within its discretion. The Minister must admit that that is the case. The local authorities have, in the first place, to provide for the welfare of the blind. Having decided the method by which they will do so, it is within the power of the Minister to see that they carry out that method satisfactorily. It is within their discretion to choose the method, and all that will be within the power of the Minister will be, in the particular case to which I have referred, to see whether they run the tea-fight successfully or not.

Sir K. Wood indicated dissent.

Mr. Stephen

The right hon. Gentleman does not agree, but he admitted that the discretion was given to the local authority. He said that it was a great prin- ciple of democracy to give this discretion to the local authorities to choose the means by which they will provide for the welfare of the blind in their localities. I hope the Committee will be seized of the fact that the Minister accepts that statement. The local authority will have full right to decide the method of providing for the welfare of the blind. In one area the local authority may decide that the blind people are comfortably off because of the general conditions, or because of a bequest that was left by Mr. A. or Mr. B. in the past; and that all that is necessary to be done for them is a little social gathering once a year. All the power that the Minister is taking is to send an inspector down to see that the social is carried out all right and that a sufficient number of buns are given to each of the blind persons. I do not think that is what the Minister intends, but that is what he is doing in the Bill if the word "may" is allowed to remain. He has to take precautions against the fact that in many parts of the country there are reactionary local authorities and authorities which are so afraid of a halfpenny on the rates that they will not carry out this duty in the way in which Parliament intends it to be carried out. I hope that the local authorities will be put into the position that they must take material steps to provide for the welfare of the blind.

10.32 p.m.

Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

May I suggest that, whatever the desire of the Committee may be, this Amendment would make the Bill ridiculous? We are being invited to compel local authorities to initiate certain schemes, such as workshops and hostels, in areas where they would be unnecessary. "The welfare of the blind" surely does not indicate that it is the provision of free meals or of buns, as the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) suggests; but if we insert the word "shall" it will surely demand the institution of certain machinery for alleviating the lot of the blind which in many parts of the country would be impossible.

10.34 p.m.

Mr. Ede

In order to understand what the Minister was advising us, I have taken the trouble to look up Section 104 of the Local Government Act, 1929. I cannot follow from reading it how he thinks his position will be stronger in future than it is at present. If his position in future is not going to be stronger than it is now, I do not see the relevance of bringing Section 104 into discussion. It says: The Minister may reduce the grant payable in respect of any year under this Part of this Act to any council by such amount as he thinks just, if—

  1. (a) he is satisfied, either upon representations made to him by any association or other body of persons experienced or interested in matters relating to public health or without any such representations that the council have failed to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of efficiency and progress in the discharge of their functions relating to public health services."
and so on. It is news to me that the functions we are discussing are compulsory. These functions are matters about which a council may exercise permissive powers, and at the moment they can all do these things within their discretion. The Minister's position under Section 104 will not be improved in the slightest by the form of words suggested. He could now descend upon any local authorities whom he regards as being in default, regard being had to the standards maintained in other areas whose financial resources and other relevant circumstances are substantially similar, and that the health or welfare of the inhabitants of the area of the council or some of them has been or is likely to be thereby endangered. He has all those powers at the moment. Has he exercised the power in respect of blind persons? Has he carried out the provision: Provided that, whenever the Minister makes such a reduction, he shall make and cause to be laid before Parliament a report stating the amount of the reduction, and the reasons therefor. Is it likely, if this remains permissive, that he will be in any stronger position than now?

In regard to what the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) said, I really do not think he can have

read the Clause or the Bill. It was an eloquent speech about some other Clause. It is stated that the local authorities in the performance of their said duty shall include the provision and maintenance, or the making of contributions towards the provision and maintenance.

It is news to me as a member of a county council which covers a considerable amount of urban area and a substantial amount of rural territory as well, that there is any great difference in the incidence of blindness when the same doctor is making the ascertainment. I admit there is a considerable difference between area and area where different doctors make the ascertainment, because a good deal depends upon the skill and the personal opinion of the person making the ascertainment. If there is some rural county or small county borough which could not reasonably be asked to maintain an institution of its own, that is no reason why the blind persons there should not receive that form of institutional assistance if it is appropriate for them.

If the air of Bournemouth is such that there are not many blind persons there—I do not mean politically blind, because the hon. and gallant Member has carried out an ascertainment there which speaks volumes for the amount of political blindness—the appropriate thing for Bournemouth to do is to enter into an arrangement either with other county boroughs in Hampshire or with the Hampshire County Council whereby Bournemouth cases can be admitted to their institutions. I suggest to the Minister that the passing of this Clause will not strengthen his position in any way unless the Amendment is accepted. Unless he accepts it I do not think he will be able to prove in future that the local authorities are more in default than they are at the moment, and I sincerely hope that he will accept the Amendment.

Question put, "That the word 'may' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 209; Noes, 122.

Division No. 43.] AYES. [10.40 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Boyce, H. Leslie
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Bracken, B.
Albery, Sir Irving Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Braithwaite, Major A. N.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Beechman, N. A. Brass, Sir W.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Bernays, R. H. Briscoe, Capt. R. G.
Assheton, R. Birchall, Sir J. D. Brocklebank, Sir Edmund
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Bird, Sir R. B. Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Bossom, A. C. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)
Balniel, Lord Boulton, W. W. Bull, B. B.
Bullock, Capt. M. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Burghley, Lord Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Ramsbotham, H.
Butcher, H. W. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Campbell, Sir E. T. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Rayner, Major R. H.
Cartland, J. R. H. Hepworth, J. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Carver, Major W. H. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Reid, Sir D. O. (Down)
Cary, R. A. Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey) Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Channon, H. Higgs, W. F. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Holmes, J. S. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead) Horsbrugh, Florence Ropner, Colonel L.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Colman, N. C. D. Hulbert, N. J. Rowlands, G.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Hume, Sir G. H. Royds, Admiral P. M. R.
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Keeling, E. H. Russell, Sir Alexander
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Cox, H. B. Trevor Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Cranborne, Viscount Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Salmon, Sir I.
Craven-Ellis, W. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Salt, E. W.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Lees-Jones, J. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Crooke, J. S. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Scott, Lord William
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Liddall, W. S. Selley, H. R.
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Lipson, D. L. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Cross, R. H. Loftus, P. C. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Crowder, J. F. E. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Culverwell, C. T. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Davidson, Viscountess M'Connell, Sir J. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) McCorquodale, M. S. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
De Chair, S. S. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Somerset, T.
Denman, Hon. R. D. MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Denville, Alfred McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Dodd, J. S. McKie, J. H. Spens, W. P.
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Duggan, H. J. Magnay, T. Storey, S.
Eastwood, J. F. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Eckersley, P. T. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Elliston, Capt. G. S. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Emery, J. F. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworlh) Sutcliffe, H.
Emmott, C. E. G. C. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Tasker, Sir R. I.
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick) Tate, Mavis C.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Mitcheson, Sir G. G. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Errington, E. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R. Titchfield, Marquess of
Erskine-Hill, A. G. Moreing, A. C. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Everard, W. L. Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.) Turton, R. H.
Fildes, Sir H. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Wakefield, W. W.
Findlay, Sir E. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Fleming, E. L. Munro, P. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Furness, S. N. Nall, Sir J. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Ganzoni, Sir J. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Wells, S. R.
Gluckstein, L. H. Nicholson, G. (Farnham) Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Goldie, N. B. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Grant-Ferris, R. Peake, O. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Gridley, Sir A. B. Peat, C. U. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Perkins, W. R. D. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Guinness, T. L. E. B. Peters, Dr. S. J. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Gunston, Capt. D. W. Petherick, M. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Hambro, A. V. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Wragg, H.
Hannah, I. C. Pilkington, R.
Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Ponsonby, Col. C. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Harbord, A. Procter, Major H. A. Captain Hope and Mr. Grimston.
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Radford, E. A.
Adams, D. (Consett) Cove, W. G. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbre, W.)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)
Adamson, W. M. Daggar, G. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Groves, T. E.
Banfield, J. W. Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N)
Barr, J. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)
Batey, J. Day, H. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)
Bellenger, F. J. Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Harris, Sir P. A.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Ede, J. C. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)
Broad, F. A. Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) Hayday, A.
Bromfield, W. Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Henderson, J. (Ardwick)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Henderson, T. (Tradeston)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Foot, D. M. Hills, A. (Pontefract)
Buchanan, G. Gallacher, W. Holdsworth, H.
Burke, W. A. Gardner, B. W. Hollins, A.
Cape, T. Garro Jones, G. M. Jagger, J.
Cassells, T. Green, W. H. (Deptford) Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)
Charleton, H. C. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.
Cluse, W. S. Grenfell, D. R. Jones, A. C. (Shipley)
Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Montague, F. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Kelly, W. T. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Smith, E. (Stoke)
Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Nathan, Colonel H. L. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Kirby, B. V. Naylor, T. E. Sorensen, R. W.
Kirkwood, D. Oliver, G. H. Stephen, C.
Lathan, G. Owen, Major G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Lawson, J. J. Paling, W. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Leach, W. Parker, J. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Lee, F. Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Tinker, J. J.
Leonard, W. Price, M. P. Viant, S. P.
Leslie, J. R. Quibell, D. J. K. Walkden, A. G.
Logan, D. G. Richards, R. (Wrexham) Watkins, F. C.
Lunn, W. Riley, B. Watson, W. McL.
McEntee, V. La T. Ritson, J. Welsh, J. C.
McGhee, H. G. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Westwood, J.
MacLaren, A. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens) Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Maclay, Hon. J. P. Rothschild, J. A. de Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Maclean, N. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey) Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Mander, G. le M. Seely, Sir H. M. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Marshall, F. Sexton, T. M.
Maxton, J. Shinwell, E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Messer, F. Short, A. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.
Milner, Major J. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)

10.49 p.m.

Mr. Jagger

I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, to leave out from "maintenance," to "of," in line 6.

This is a point to which we attach very great importance, although it is one that can be stated quite briefly, and I am sure the Minister will be glad to find that there is no dubiety about our use of the English language in stating it. Our object is to prevent local authorities from salving what consciences they have by making contributions to voluntary organisations with no guarantee whatever that that adequate treatment which the Bill is supposed to provide for the blind will, in fact, be provided by those voluntary organisations. Though some improvement has been made, it is not wise that a local authority should be allowed to think that it has carried out the provisions of the Bill because it has made a contribution to some voluntary organisation which may actually be sweating blind persons in the most abominable way. We want to make sure that what we know has gone on goes on no longer, and by dropping out these lines we believe we should very greatly increase the chances of blind persons being adequately provided for.

10.52 p.m.

Mr. Leslie

I have a very vivid recollection of a certain institute for the blind mainly supported by contributions from workers in different firms. The conditions were so bad that the workers refused to contribute any longer through that medium and decided that they would contribute to the trades council only on condition that it secured representation on the board of directors. After they secured representation they certainly altered the conditions. Some private concerns may be good and may act justly towards the blind but, after all, a local authority should do its own work and not farm it out to a private concern. The care of the blind is something that ratepayers are now in full sympathy with, and it is best that a local authority should retain full control and not delegate its duties to an outside body. The Minister has pointed out that certain rural councils would be unable to set up local workshops, but is there anything to prevent them doing as they do now with respect to the schooling of defective children and with respect to hospital accommodation? Surely those two cases are an illustration of what can be done if they are in earnest over the matter.

10.54 p.m.

Mr. James Hall

I believe that the deletion of these words would mean that all workshops would have to be controlled and carried on by the county councils or the county borough councils, and no longer would charitable organisations be allowed to dominate the lives of the blind people who are endeavouring to work for their living. I believe that that would lead to a more equitable arrangement for the blind workers and would produce more satisfactory conditions than exist at the moment. I have had some correspondence with societies in London which employ blind people and it has left in my mind the opinion that they are only governed by the consideration that the workers should be economic assets to them rather than that the blind persons should have an opportunity of filling in a gap in the economic life of the country. The committees of many of these societies are composed of business men who look at the situation from a business standpoint, who find it difficult to break away from the ordinary mentality and the ordinary outlook and treat blind persons in the same way as they would treat sighted persons.

In my opinion if county councils and county borough councils were responsible for the supervision, they would introduce a certain number of people who would have sympathetic consideration for the difficulties under which sightless people labour. The farming-out of these responsibilities by the councils is unfair and unsatisfactory. If public funds are to be used for blind people, we should have an assurance that those blind people will be dealt with sympathetically and that something will be done to lighten the burden of their pitiful disability. But the delegation of authority to other bodies is, as I say, very unfair. If the blind worker oversteps the borderline of the regulations and the stern discipline enforced by various charitable organisations, he or she suffers as badly as if not worse than the sighted workers in other walks of life.

I give two cases. One concerns a blind woman worker who, about a year ago, was responsible one afternoon for getting a number of the blind workers to sing. Because she was responsible for that attempt to lighten the monotony of a frightfully monotonous life, she was suspended, and after a month was dismissed. I have been fighting her case for a year. The society decided that not again would they allow her to work on their premises. I was instrumental in getting her work at her own home, but after six months that work was cut down to three days a week and recently she was dismissed. I informed the society in my last letter that I intended to quote the case here and they gave the woman employment. Had it been necessary to discover a reason for this woman's unfair treatment, I think they themselves have supplied that reason.

The other case is that of a blind man employed by a different society to go from house to house canvassing for boot and shoe repairs. He did that work for some months. Then his round was divided and a partly sighted man was given part of it. The secretary said this was in order to cause him to work more intensively. True, the man succeeded in working more intensively and was able to prove to an official of the London County Council that during 15 months he had obtained 196 new customers. But at the end of that 15 months he was dismissed because the society said he was not then an economic agency. The fact was that the man, having lost half his round, was not able to produce as much weekly as he produced when he was doing the whole round. I contend that the system generally carried out by these societies is to endeavour to get profit from the efforts of the blind workers and to regard that as the only consideration.

Blind workers live and work under a very heavy handicap, and if public funds are to be used for their support we ought to see that the money is used in such a way that something is done to lighten their burdens. I am convinced that this Amendment, paving the way, as it would, for this to be accomplished under the jurisdiction and control of the councils, would ensure for the blind persons a very much better deal than they are getting.

11.1 p.m.

Mr. E. J. Williams

In discussing a matter of this kind, we are obliged to bring to bear our local knowledge of what is happening. The sources of charitable organisations are drying up very much. We experience that in Glamorganshire, Monmouthshire and other counties in South Wales, and the managements of workshops and other institutions are obliged to seek grants in aid from local authorities. If the workshops, particularly at Pontypridd and the Rhondda Valley, were not subsidised by the Monmouthshire County Council, they would quickly go out of existence. It seems rather anomalous that under the Education Act blind children can be taught and trained right through adolescence, and, after having been trained, they have to be thrown upon the open market. They have to be taken over in many cases by workshop committees that depend entirely upon patronage. The children who are taught in blind schools ought, as a natural sequence, to go into public institutions, and I suggest that we would be able to remove the precarious outlook that confronts blind persons from time to time if that were done.

It is really absurd that we should go to the expense—a very heavy expenditure per person—of teaching those children in blind schools and after they have been taught—at Bridgend for instance—and brought to the stage of adolescence, they should be thrown on the open market. If the workshops were brought under the jurisdiction of the county council, those children would automatically go to these workshops and the local authorities could provide a ready market, through their various committees, for the products of their labour. By providing organisation, security could be given to the blind. I suggest to the Minister and his advisers that a new orientation is needed and a new kind of organisation. We could give security for blind persons if the workshops came under the jurisdiction of the local authorities.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. Edmund Harvey

Some of the arguments that have been used in support of this Amendment show that blindness is more widespread than many of us thought. Hon. Members who have supported the Amendment, in their zeal for municipal activity have entirely forgotten that all voluntary institutions for the blind are not of the character of the particular institutions that have been pilloried before the Committee this evening I can think of one such institution where generations of voluntary service have been given not by hard-hearted business men who have had no thought or care for the welfare of the blind, but by citizens drawn from different classes of the community, giving of their leisure and service for the welfare of the blind.

It would be deplorable if the local authority were not allowed, where conditions were suitable, to make a contribution to institutions of that character. I can think of one institution where, very rightly, the local authority is represented on the managing committee of the institution. That is the right combination. You have the interest of the local authority and the constant supervision of the local authority, together with the cooperation of voluntary efforts, and the result is entirely satisfactory. It would be a great loss to the community if local authorities were not allowed, where conditions are suitable, to contribute to institutions for the blind.

11.8 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

I support the Amendment as one who has had some experience of the administration of a blind asylum. I should like very much to have an opportunity of investigating the institution to which the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey) referred, not from the point of view of business men on the board but from the point of view of the blind people in the institution. In the factories we subscribed a very large amount for a certain institution in the belief that the money we subscribed would go to help our blind brothers and sisters. We heard a great deal of talk about the kind people who administered the institution, but I visited the institution and found that the blind workers there were getting a wage that would not keep body and soul together. Most wretched conditions were enforced upon them.

When we raised with the board the question of an increase of wages, the superintendent was brought in to read out facts and figures in regard to the financial condition of the institution, which showed that there was no money to provide wages for the blind workers. Blind men and women and even persons who were deaf-mutes as well as being blind, were getting a few shillings a week. We forced an increase of wages for those blind workers. What about the rigid economists who governed the institution? The superintendent had £950 a year and he had an assistant superintendent with £400 a year. The superintendent had also a patent for a spring bed and received royalties on it. We pressed for and carried through the dismissal of the superintendent and the assistant superintendent.

That is what occurs with hard-headed business men on the board, all of them claiming to know about business and supposed to be interested in the blind—a superintendent with over £900 a year and an assistant superintendent with over £400 a year. We forced their dismissals and applied for a new superintendent at £500 a year. The superintendent who had been drawing £950 applied for the job, and when he came before us I said to him, "It is essential that in this institution there should be the best understanding between the administration and the superintendent. It would be very bad if there was any feeling that an injustice was being done. Will you be satisfied, if you are appointed at £500 a year, that you are being fairly treated?" "Yes," he replied, and he had been drawing over £900 a year for years, and the blind workers could not get a living. I have never found anywhere, wherever I have gone—and I have travelled all over the country and met blind people in all parts of the country—blind workers who are getting the fair deal that they ought to get. The old superintendent in the case I have mentioned did not get the job. His assistant came in, and we asked him whether he was satisfied that he could do the job himself. He told me, "Mr. Gallacher, I am doing the job all the time." This was an institution run by hard-headed business men, more concerned with business than they were with the blind people. So I want to appeal to the Minister not to take any risk whatever of the blind people being taken advantage of.

What has been said by the hon. Member on my right can be told of case after case in every part of the country, I do not care what institution you go to that is under the administration of hard-headed business men. You will find that if you go into the factories or institutions, the blind workers are afraid to say a word and afraid to do anything, and we do not want that. Surely if we have an institution or a factory of this sort, we should encourage the blind workers to sing. I had a job once, and I began to sing at my work. I was at once told to stop singing. In factories where the blind are, we should encourage them to sing. I appeal to the Minister, as one who has had associations with blind people all over the country, to accept the Amendment and ensure that every penny of public money that is spent is spent in such a way that the local authorities will have control of the institutions and see to it that the blind workers are given a better chance than they have been given before.

11.14 p.m.

Mr. Messer

I wonder whether those who have contributed to the Debate on this Amendment realise that this is in fact the smallest part of the problem. Out of the 76,000 blind people, only 22 per cent. are employable. The argument that will be used against the Amendment will be that you cannot expect a local authority to set up a workshop for the small number of blind people for whom a local authority is responsible. If we take a big county such as Middlesex, the county about which I know most, there are 2,033 registered blind people, out of whom 1,655 are unemployable. Is it reasonable to ask that the Middlesex County Council should build workshops for the purpose of employing 378 men?

The Minister obviously will put that point and will say that it is neither economic nor a wise administrative thing to do. But what is the position at the present time? The blind people who are trainable or who are employable are working in a workshop or factory where there are blind people drawn from neighbouring administrative bodies. There is no greater difficulty in setting up some ad hoc authority, such as the Metropolitan Asylums Board or the Metropolitan Water Board, that would be responsible. The hon. Member on my left has already said that these people are doing the job so well, why should we want to interfere with them? The truth is that they are not doing the job well. The Minister in his own report stated very clearly and definitely—and nobody will dispute it—that you cannot train blind people so that they can compete with sighted people in the labour market, and it is with very few exceptions that they can even earn a living, these few exceptions being some basket makers, mat makers and pianoforte tuners. But in the main blind people working cannot keep themselves, so that the public authorities have to subsidise the workshops for the blind.

There was a time when they were voluntary workshops, and they were able, as a result of the generosity of the public, to train blind people and to keep them employed, even though they sold the goods that were made at lower than cost. They cannot do it because of the sociological fact that we are revolving and getting away from private charity, which fails to meet the needs of the people. It is a biological and sociological fact that so soon as a thing is not required, so soon does it begin to die. The lack of necessity presupposes its end, and private charities cannot possibly maintain at the present time the work that they were doing without a subsidy from public funds. Why should we subsidise private associations without the right of deciding who the officers shall be? Officers are appointed by the committee and we send people to be trained and to be employed, and subsidise the association as well. We find that very often after they have been trained there is need for refresher courses, because refresher courses bring with them additional fees. Recognising that they are not an economic proposition, we should realise the real function of finding work for blind people. It ought not to be to enable them to keep themselves. Let us be frank about it. We say that the blind do not want charity but want to be in a position of independence.

Let us make that position of independence one which is based upon a State pension, and build up on that a superstructure so that they can earn something to add to what they are receiving. The real function of the work should be in the value that the work is to the individual. It should be the provision of a real healing power to co-ordinate the use of one's mind and hands, and the object of the employment of the blind should be to develop character in blind persons and give them some joy in the creative instinct that they possess. If we look at the problem in that way, it can not only be done equally as well, but even better by the local authority.

In institutions where blind people are working they are speeding up as though it really mattered. They will never, in any circumstances, be able to work so hard and so fast as to compete in the market of the country. Even piecework is a thing which sighted people have organised to kill in these blind workshops. I am not saying it is always the case, but it should be an important point that the pathological advantage that can be gained should receive attention. In Green-wick and London there are blind people who are working at the soul-destroying job of polishing knitting needles, which does them more harm than good, and certainly does not improve their mental capacity or which improves their creative instincts. As these charitable institutions are failing to maintain their position as more and more larger and larger sums of public money have to be paid to keep them going, so there should be a greater measure of control, that we should undertake our responsibilities and conduct them in the interests of the people for whom they were originally intended. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is not going to tell us that it is impossible to do this because of the cost. I have tried to show that it is possible for local authorities to join together to get over that difficulty. The Swiss Cottage Middlesex Association for the Teaching of the Blind have people from many areas outside London and have decided that it is time to acquire fresh premises. They have approached the Middlesex County Council for a grant. Why cannot we provide this for ourselves rather than give our responsibilities to irresponsible charities?

11.23 p.m.

Mr. Mander

Everyone appreciates the immense services rendered by charitably minded people in connection with the blind; but the time has now arrived when the State should intervene and undertake the responsibility. I hope there will always be this spirit of charity to assist the blind, but I think the Amendment is a wise proposal and that the responsibility ought to be thrown upon the local authority. The thing which influences me is what the blind think about it themselves. My information is that from the point of view of self respect, they would feel in a much more satisfactory position if they were under the State than dependent on charity. It may be that one would regret the passing of the old system, but it is passing and I think we should face it. For that reason I support the Amendment.

11.25 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

I do not think I need say much about the Amendment because there is a clear cut division between hon. Members opposite and the contents of the Bill. I have discussed this issue many times with hon. Members opposite. When we were debating the provisions for the midwifery services in this country and hon. Members opposite endeavoured to limit the scope of the services to municipalities and to cut out the voluntary organisations, I resisted their attempts, as I do to-night, on the ground that I feel that in this country we can have the advantages of both systems. That combination was very good in the case of the midwives, and in this Bill I believe it will be good for the welfare of the blind.

I will state simply what the Amendment would mean if it were accepted. It would deprive the local authorities of their existing powers to make arrangements with the voluntary agencies under which workshops, hostels, homes, etc., are provided and managed by those voluntary agencies. It is entirely for the local authorities themselves to decide whether they will make arrangements with those voluntary agencies, and of course, it is a matter for the local authorities themselves to see that they make proper arrangements with them. If there were complaints as to the conduct of the voluntary agencies, one would have thought that the local authorities themselves would have put the matter in order. If the local authorities can be entrusted with the whole supervision of this service, one would have thought that they could equally be trusted to carry out their duties by making reasonable and proper arrangements with the voluntary organisations.

Mr. Buchanan

Are there any districts where they have cut out the voluntary organisations?

Sir K. Wood

I do not think so. I would like to testify that, as far as my own experience is concerned, just as there are bad municipalities, no doubt there may be inadequate and unsatisfactory voluntary organisations. But I think that there has been a very successful combination of the municipalities and voluntary organisations, and it is that which this Bill seeks to preserve. It is because we want to preserve that combination, and to retain what I think are the excellent services, on the whole, of the great voluntary organisations for the blind, that I resist the Amendment.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 203; Noes, 101.

Division No. 44.] AYES. [11.29 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Crooke, J. S. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-
Albery, Sir Irving Croom-Johnson, R. P. Hepworth, J.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd) Cross, R. H. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Crowder, J. F. E. Higgs, W. F.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Culverwell, C. T. Holdsworth, H.
Aske, Sir R. W. Davidson, Viscountess Holmes, J. S.
Assheton, R. Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Hulbert, N. J.
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover) De Chair, S. S. James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Donville, Alfred Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Atholl, Duchess of Dodd, J. S. Keeling, E. H.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Dugdale, Captain T. L. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Balniel, Lord Duggan, H. J. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Eastwood, J. F. Lamb, Sir J. Q.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Eckersley, P. T. Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portstn'h) Edmondson, Major Sir J. Lees-Jones, J.
Beechman, N. A. Elliston, Capt. G. S. Liddall, W. S.
Bernays, R. H. Emery, J. F. Lipson, O. L,
Bird, Sir R. B. Emmott, C. E. G. C. Lloyd, G. W.
Bossom, A. C. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Loftus, P. C.
Boulton, W. W. Entwistle, Sir C. F. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Boyce, H. Leslie Errington, E. M'Connell, Sir J.
Bracken, B. Erskine-Hill, A. G. McCorquodale, M. S.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Everard, W. L. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)
Brass, Sir W. Findlay, Sir E. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Fleming, E. L. McKie, J. H.
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Foot, D. M. Maclay, Hon. J. P.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Fremantle, Sir F. E. Magnay, T.
Bull, B. B. Furness, S. N. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Bullock, Capt. M. Ganzoni, Sir J. Markham, S. F.
Burghley, Lord Gluckstein, L. H. Maxwell, Hon. S. A.
Butcher, H. W. Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Campbell, Sir E. T, Goldie, N. B. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Cartland, J. R. H. Grant-Ferris, R. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Channon, H. Gridley, Sir A. B. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.
Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstaad) Grimston, R. V. Moreing, A. C.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Colman, N. C. D. Guinness, T. L. E. B. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Gunston, Capt. D. W. Munro, P.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Hannah, I. C. Nall, Sir J.
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Harbord, A. Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
Cox, H. B. Trevor Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Cranborne, Viscount Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Craven-Ellis, W. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Palmer, G. E. H.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Peake, O.
Peat, C. U. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen) Tasker, Sir R. I.
Perkins, W. R. D. Salmon, Sir I. Tate, Mavis C.
Peters, Dr. S. J. Salt, E. W. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Petherick, M. Sanderson, Sir F. B. Titchfield, Marquess of
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Scott, Lord William Turton, R. H.
Pilkington, R. Seely, Sir H. M. Wakefield, W. W.
Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree) Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Procter, Major H. A. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Radford, E. A. Shepperson, Sir E. W. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Ramsbotham, H. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Wells, S. R.
Rankin, Sir R. Smith, L. W. (Hallam) Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Rayner, Major R. H. Somerset, T. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Reid, J. S. C (Hillhead) Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Spears, Brigadier-General E. L. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Ropner, Colonel L. Spens, W. P. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde) Wragg, H.
Rothschild, J. A. de Storey, S.
Rowlands, G. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Royds, Admiral P. M. R. Strickland, Captain W. F. Captain Hope and Lieut.-Colonel Kerr.
Russell, Sir Alexander Stuart, Hon. J, (Moray and Nairn)
Adams, D. (Consett) Groves, T. E. Paling, W.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Parker, J.
Banfield, J. W. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Barr, J. Hayday, A. Price, M. P.
Bellenger, F. J. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Quibell, D. J. K.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Broad, F. A. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Riley, B.
Bromfield, W. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Ritson, J.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Hollins, A. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Jagger, J. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Buchanan, G. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Sexton, T. M.
Burke, W. A. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Shinwell, E.
Cape, T. Kelly, W. T. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cassells, T. Kirby, B. V. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Charleton, H. C. Kirkwood, D. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Cluse, W. S. Lathan, G. Sorensen, R. W.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Lawson, J. J. Stephen, C.
Daggar, G. Leach, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Lee, F. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Leonard, W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Leslie, J. R. Tinker, J. J.
Day, H. Logan, D. G. Walkden, A. G.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lunn, W. Watkins, F. C.
Ede, J. C. McEntee, V. La T. Watson, W. McL.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) McGhee, H. G. Welsh, J. C.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) MacLaren, A. Westwood, J.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Mander, G. le M. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Gallacher, W. Marshall, F. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Gardner, B. W. Mathers, G. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Garro Jones, G. M. Maxton, J. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Messer, F. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Milner, Major J.
Grenfell, D. R. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Naylor, T. E. Mr. Adamson and Mr. Anderson.
Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Oliver, G. H.

Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.

11.37 p.m.

Mr. Greenwood

I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman how far he proposes to go to-night. When I put a question about business this afternoon it was understood that the Air-Raid Precautions Bill would be finished about 7.30 or 8 o'clock, but owing to some very long speeches—not from this side—the discussion was protracted. The position in which we find ourselves now is that we have disposed of one or two Amendments on this Bill. The next Amendment is one of considerable substance and import- ance. I do not mind sitting here for a long time, but I am not sure that that would be for the convenience of hon. Members, and I wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman would agree to make provision for us to continue this Committee stage on some other occasion when We might have better opportunities than we have to-night to complete the Committee stage.

11.39 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

My only desire, which, I am sure, is shared by the blind people of this country, is to get the Bill. As hon. Members know, I am prepared to meet their difficulties in any way that is possible; but it would be a thousand pities if, in the interests of the blind, it were not possible to get the Bill through these stages before we rise for Christmas. I have spoken to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Patronage Secretary. It might be for the convenience of hon. Members to take this Bill on another night, but owing to the business I am afraid it will have to be late—it will have to be after 11 o'clock. I am prepared to do what I can for the convenience of the Committee, but there is great pressure of business, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. I do not belittle the importance of the Amendments, but on the Second Reading of the Bill hon. Members in all parts were agreed that, apart from certain criticisms of various provisions of the Bill, they would do all they could in the interest of blind persons to get the Bill on the Statute Book at an early date. If the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to sit another night a little late arranged through the usual channels, I should have no personal views on the matter. If I could secure from him and from hon. Gentlemen opposite an understanding to this effect, I should have nothing further to say.

11.41 p.m.

Mr. Greenwood

We were under the impression that the Air-Raid Precautions Bill would get its Third Reading much earlier than happened, and the Committee have been deprived of an hour and a half of discussion. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we said on Second Reading that we should like to see the Measure on the Statute Book, but the Committee have been deprived of their opportunity largely because the earlier Order took much longer than was expected. Had I thought that the Air-Raid Precautions Bill would go so late I would have entered my caveat earlier against the Committee sitting late. If some reasonable agreement is possible in this matter, it might be for the convenience of the Committee if we rose now. After further discussion we could arrange some time when the Bill could be re-discussed.

11.42 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan

I cordially agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). When the Prime Minister announced that this discussion would come on at about 7.30 or 8 o'Clock, nobody could complain about the position of the Air-Raid Precautions Bill, but this was delayed because of long speeches from hon. Members on the other side. The outstanding Amendments are not so important that a night cannot be arranged in which to take them after 8 o'Clock. Everybody wants the Bill to be passed, and there will be no undue delay. An evening ought to be quite easily found between now and the Christmas Adjournment.

Mr. Gallacher

I want to be clear how we stand. There may be a specific rule against my suggestion, but could we not take this Bill on Friday from 4 o'clock until 7 o'clock?

11.43 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

I have heard what the right hon. Gentleman said and I do not want there to be any difference between us. All I am anxious about is to get the Bill before the Christmas Adjournment. I must have regard to what my right hon. and gallant Friend the Patronage Secretary tells me about the state of business, because no one knows better than he what business has to be done. I have no objection to-night to reporting Progress as long as the right hon. Gentleman understands that it may be necessary to deal with this matter one evening after 11 o'clock. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and the whole of the Committee will undertake, irrespective of personal inconvenience, that we shall have the Bill before the Session ends. I do not think the remaining Amendments will take very long—I am prepared to meet hon. Members on at least one of them—but I want the right hon. Gentleman to understand that they may have to be taken late.

11.45 p.m.

Mr. Greenwood

I want to make my position equally clear. I realise the state of business, but I hope it may be possible somehow to save time between now and Christmas so that we may get on with the Bill earlier, and if we can in any way co-operate to that end we shall be very glad to do so. We regard the next Amendment as one of importance, and should be sorry to have to take it very late.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.