HC Deb 01 February 1939 vol 343 cc213-75

3.33 p.m.

Mr. S. O. Davies

I beg to move, That, being of the opinion that the existing inequalities in the burden of public assistance, due to exceptional distress in some areas and comparative prosperity in others, constitute an anomaly calling for redress, this House would welcome a measure to spread the burden more equally over the whole country. The content of my Motion has, possible in different words, been considered by the House on very many occasions in the past, and the House, during at least the last ten years, has recognised that areas which have suffered widespread and longstanding unemployment ought not to be left to bear entirely the financial and social consequences of such a burden. It is also largely accepted that the consequences of unemployment in the form of high public assistance rates, the reduction of rateable values, the partial stagnation of improvements in social amenities, and the physical deterioration of men, women and children, have all neutralised to a considerable degree the efforts that have been, and are still being made to rehabilitate the distressed areas. This was very well and very strongly stated by Sir Malcolm Stewart, one of the Commissioners at one time for the Special Areas. In his third report Sir Malcolm Stewart tells us that: Local authorities in these Areas should be in a position, without any special Government assistance, to carry out schemes of urgent necessity on grounds of public health, and indeed other schemes, which, though not so urgently necessary, would improve the amenities of their districts and help to attract new industries. At present this is impossible, and the primary reasons are:

  1. (a) a diminishing rateable value, owing to declining industry and dwindling population;
  2. (b) an increasing burden of public assistance.
Both these reasons are due to economic causes outside the control of the Areas, namely, the decline in the heavy industries which have always been their mainstay. Inasmuch as the cause is national or international, the Areas have a clear justification for claiming that relief should be given on a national basis, and that their excess burden of expenditure on public assistance should he reduced to the national average. This, it will be remembered, was also the conclusion reached in 1934 by Captain Euan Wallace"— now the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury— after his thorough investigation into conditions in Durham and Tyneside, but the matter still waits to be dealt with. There is a great deal more which we from the distressed areas would gladly quote from that splendid report, and I would like to draw the attention of the House to what Sir Malcolm Stewart states in pages 68 to 71 of that most painstaking and revealing report which he submitted to the Government. What he stated in 1936 has been proved to be absolutely correct. He also made reference to the shortcomings of the block grant formula, and it is now admitted, even by the present Government, and, I assume, by very many of their supporters, that the block grant failed very largely indeed to meet the legitimate needs and demands of the Special Areas. I am, frankly, at a loss to know where the Mover of the proposed Amendment and his supporters have derived their apparently profound faith in the block grant. The Government, of whom the supporters of the Amendment are such ardent adherents, have on more than one occasion recognised the profound shortcomings of the block grant formula. That has been shown in the financial provisions laid down in the Special Areas Act, and the Midwives Act, and also it has been shown in the grouping of authorities in accordance with the ratio of weighted to actual population which was adopted by the Ministry of Transport for the purpose of improvement and ribbon development grants from the Road Fund. I will content myself with those references, although I could mention others. I am, however, anxious to give opportunity for many of my hon. Friends from both sides of the House to take part in the Debate.

The Government have admitted in more than one way that the block grant formula no longer applies, and cannot give that full meed of justice to which the Special Areas are entitled. Sir Malcolm Stewart was correct when he said that the taking over from the public assistance committees of the able-bodied unemployed would not solve this problem. I have read the report of the Debate that took place in this House on the introduction of the Unemployment Act, 1934. On that occasion the Government adopted an Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland at that time, Sir Luke Thompson, which had the support of 384 supporters of the Government. I was not a Member of the House at that time, but like many others living in the distressed areas I watched this matter very anxiously. We were all tremendously pleased when we read in the Press and the OFFICIAL REPORT that such a Motion had been adopted by the Government. The Resolution which was passed was: That this House resolves that responsibility for assistance to all able-bodied unemployed not over 65 years of age should he accepted by the Government, with such readjustment in financial relations between the Exchequer and the local authorities as is reasonable, having special regard of the necessities of distressed areas. The whole House at that time distinctly understood that the Government would assume complete financial responsibility for the whole cost of the able-bodied unemployed then under the public assistance committees. Sir Luke Thompson, whose Amendment was accepted by the Government, said: The able-bodied unemployed will be taken over by the State and the cost of their maintenance discharged by the State."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1933; cols. 2636–7, Vol. 276.] It is most regrettable that the promise made that day and accepted by the overwhelming majority of the House has not been carried out. What is the position? Public assistance committees, even those in the most distressed areas, have been compelled to make a contribution under the Act to the Unemployment Assistance Board equal to three-fifths of the expenditure on the able-bodied unemployed. This provision has operated with extreme harshness on the distressed areas with the highest degree of distress. It has operated also very largely in continuing the system which, by implication, was condemned by Parliament prior to the passing of the Unemployment Act, 1934.

My Motion, admittedly, goes further than this aspect of the burden on public assistance. It asks that the serious inequalities in the burden of public assistance, inequalities caused by unemployment, should be removed. This could be done largely in one of two ways. The expenditure of public assistance should be equated all over the country, or the whole of public assistance should become a national charge. Let me take the first method suggested. This is not a question of rich or well-placed authorities assisting the distressed areas. During the post-war depression the distressed areas, in their misfortune, have richly assisted the more prosperous parts of the country. Recently, with the assistance of persons who are greater experts on this subject than myself, I have tried to calculate in pounds, shillings and pence the magnitude of the contributions made by the distressed areas to the most prosperous areas during post-war years.

It has been stated, not merely on this side of the House, but from the Government Front Bench, that Merthyr Tydfil [...]itomises the worst excesses of unemployement in our distressed areas. As that is a district which is naturally known to me. I have used Merthyr Tydfil as an example to give the House an indication of how richly we of the distressed areas have endowed the more prosperous areas. During the last 20 years more than 20,000 persons have, perforce, because of unemployment, left Merthyr Tydfil. My hon. Friends from the other distressed areas will perhaps be making comparable calculations while I quote certain figures to the House. The 20,000 persons who left that poor county borough have been mostly young men and young women. If I fix their average age at about 20 years I shall not be far wrong. What has been the monetary value of these young men and young women to the more prosperous areas where they have gone?

In 20 years, Merthyr Tydfil spent on those 20,000 persons, in the provision of social amenities, such as housing, health services, education, sanitation, water supply and so on, in the creating and sustaining of health and cultural environment, £1,400,000. That has come from the local funds and has been a charge on local expenditure. Further, on the modest assumption that each of those 20,000 persons costs 10s. per week to their parents to rear them to the age of 20 years, we get a sum of £,10,400,000, making a total of £11,800,000 spent in that locality from the rates, which are obtained from the people and from the earnings of those who may have been fortunate enough to be in employment. But that is not the whole story by a very long way. Assimilated in the personality of these young men and women are the cultural effects of many churches and chapels in that district and other voluntary institutions and organisations. Such influence cannot be capitalised in pounds, shillings and pence, nor can the influence of the open rugged life of such an industrial community be capitalised.

We know from experience gathered throughout the long depression that these old industrialised communities produce a type of young man and woman with exceptional aptitude—I emphasise the point—for labour of many kinds. This is probably the result of generations of creative work in these areas. I contend that this is some indication of how misfortune has compelled our areas richly to endow the more prosperous parts of our land. This is a profound human problem, and I should like hon. Members to consider the care exercised, the sacrifices so uncomplainingly made, the hard struggle so bravely faced by the parents of these young men and women, the devotion of so many public-spirited men and women in these areas who are working as religious and social workers, the teachers in the schools and the local government representatives and many others. All this great work and devotion are absorbed into the young lives of tens of thousands who have left these stricken areas to the enormous advantage of the more prosperous towns and cities in the land. My Motion is an appeal that some small recompense be now made to us in return. We have under the stress of cruel circumstances poured into the more fortunate areas the greatest of all our gifts; we have given that which is incomparably dearest to us in life to the areas of those hon. Members who support the Amendment—we have given them our children. We appeal to the House to respond to the pleadings of those who are left to bear a burden not of their own making. Prior to the depression these areas in coal, iron and steel, textiles and shipbuilding, contributed most to the greatness of our country and our Empire.

In regard to my second alternative, that the whole of public assistance should become a national charge, I will immediately, in anticipation, face the old question which, I admit, has worried us in the past. When we have made demands of this kind we have been asked whether if public assistance becomes a national charge we are prepared to hand over the administration of these unfortunate people to persons appointed by the State. To put it more correctly, the question now is: Would you bring these people within the tender mercies of the Unemployment Assistance Board? We are prepared to face that question. Frankly, there is no reason why it should worry us any longer. In the first place, the Unemployment Assistance Board could never administer the lives of these poor people without adding enormously to its present—I say it deliberately—appalling cost of administration. To hon. Members opposite who always put this question may I draw their attention to the last report of the Unemployment Assistance Board? Last year the Board spent no less than £,4,680,000 in mere administrative costs, and made a profit of £157,000 and this after taking into consideration widows' and orphans' pensions, old age pensions, pensions for the blind, ex-service men's pensions, compensation to injured workmen and public assistance.

Would any Government add to the huge cost of the Unemployment Assistance Board the administration of the pathetic lives of these people, so many of whom are old and decrepit, many of them young children, others mentally deficient, or sick, maimed or injured? Would any Government forego the vast reservoir of devoted men and women whose willing and splendid services on our public assistance committees have contributed so magnificently to making our local government the admiration of the world? I do not think so, and I have no fear that if public assistance becomes a national charge any Government would be only too pleased to avail itself of the many men and women who give so much of their leisure time in looking after the poor and distressed in the country. Rigid scales of payment are drawn up for the guidance of public assistance committees. I know that well from personal experience. I have here a copy of the maximum scales laid down for the poor in Merthyr Tydfil and every figure and regulation in regard to payment of Poor Law relief has been criticised and approved by the Minister. We dare not go above the scale because we have no resources.

Let me give another picture of these areas. The number in receipt of Poor Law relief per 10,000 of the population for England and Wales is 266. For the county of Durham it is 645; for Glamorganshire, 624; and for Monmouthshire, 494. If you take some of the worst county boroughs you get figures like these: Manchester, 461; Barnsley, 504; St. Helens, 522; Gateshead, 539; Rotherham, 540; Hull, 589; Lincoln, 619; Bootle, 647; Sunderland, 688; Liverpool, 723; Merthyr Tydfil, 879. I must commend to the supporters of the Amendment the great contribution that each one of the places I have mentioned has made to the building up of the greatness of our country. All those places have a high percentage of unemployment and consequently high public assistance rates, reaching, I regret to say, the peak figure of 15s. 9d. in the £ at Merthyr Tydfil. I would express the hope that if the Government cannot immediately accept either of the principles I have mentioned, something should immediately be done to ease the intolerable burden of public assistance in these worst hit areas.

4.3 p.m.

Mr. Leonard

I beg to second the Motion.

At the outset I want to say that I do not think I have ever supported a proposal that in my view contained so much justice as that which my hon. Friend has just put before the House. Because of the comprehensive way in which he has dealt with the problem and the possibility of some of my colleagues having particular points to place before the House, I do not propose to say very much. But I would refer briefly to the Amendment. It mentions the block grant. The Motion, however, deals with a specific burden upon local authorities, namely, the upkeep of the poor persons in their localities. I would like at the beginning to point out that so far as the factors that are used to determine the block grant are concerned, poor relief is not one of those factors at all, and in view of that fact the Amendment has little to do with the subject-matter of the Motion.

It must be admitted that since the earliest time, when poverty displayed itself and Statutes were directed towards its alleviation, the local authorities or the communities were deemed to be the persons responsible for the alleviation, and I think it can be argued that in some measure at least the local authorities were capable of so modifying their communal life that the incidence of unemployment would be up or down. But I do not think that that can be held to apply to-day. I think the incidence of unemployment to the public in general to-day is accepted as more connected with national conditions than with local conditions; and because of that it is not surprising that the House of Commons accepted the statement referred to by my hon. Friend, when on 12th April, 1933, the House resolved that responsibility for assistance to all able-bodied unemployed not over 65 years of age should be accepted by the Government. Many local authorities looked with great hope to that expression of opinion, and naturally they were greatly perturbed when the Unemployment Assistance Bill of 1934 displayed that the hopes they had in 1933 were not going to materialise. Since then Members on this side of the House, and, I presume, on the other side, have been telling perturbed constituents that come to them that they were in a category contained in the formula "outwith scope." That in Scotland means a burden £400,000 a year, and so far as Glasgow is concerned it has to bear the burden of half that sum, or a rate of 4½d. in the £. That is an unfair burden for a city such as Glasgow to be expected to bear.

There are one or two details of some importance that I shall mention. It is not to be supposed that even those who are "within scope" are being attended to as they should be by the Government, for so far as medical requirements are concerned the local authorities still have to find those requirements, and not only the medical requirements and the details of administration but actually a medical certificate is required to work the Unemployment Assistance Board's scheme. In Glasgow in one year they had to issue no fewer than 39,520 medical certificates to work the Unemployment Assistance Board's scheme, and not a halfpenny came back to them in recompense. I admit that it was a desirable thing to remove the stigma associated with the Poor Law, as far as it could be done, but the mere fact of removing it created its own difficulties. By virtue of the fact that persons in poverty had not to apply to a Poor Law authority but to a different body called the public assistance authority, their reluctance to go for poor relief was removed to some extent. I am not expressing a laymen's opinion on the matter because the Board of Health itself has the report of its own inspectors, who have admitted that because of the removal of the Poor Law aspect of the matter the number of people asking for help has increased.

There are other incidents to which I want to refer. I am speaking specifically with regard to statutory requirements. The Poor Law (Scotland) Act, 1934, requires local authorities to ignore the first £1 of disability pension to ignore 7s. 6d. of health benefit and in addition the first 5s. of any benefit received from a voluntary society. Those are statutory requirements and they are imposed on the local authorities. But the Government having imposed these things on the authorities, make no grant towards the burden they so create. Therefore we are not making any high claim on the Government in asking them to spread the burden which they have imposed. In Glasgow this statutory requirement is equal to 4d. in the £ on the rates. It must be admitted that considerable numbers of the able-bodied unemployed were transferred to the Unemployment Assistance Board. On 1st April, 1937, in Glasgow the number transferred was 85.2 per cent.; that still left 14.8 per cent., and notwithstanding the great burden of the 85 per cent. being taken off, the reduced figure of 14.8 per cent. actually cost the public assistance department no less than £200,000 per annum. The movement of this type of unemployment is of interest. In 1921, under the Poor Law, the able-bodied unemployed were 21.7 per thousand of the population; in 1930 the figure was 32.7; and in 1937 it was no less than 82.9 per thousand of the population, and Glasgow cannot be held responsible for that state of affairs.

There are one or two things that the Government might examine as a means of dealing with the difficulty. Take old age pensions. One of the strange things about rates and taxes is that all the kudos with regard to pensions is directed towards the State machine; no reference is made to what has been done by the ratepayers. What are the facts in Glasgow? The Government contributes 10s. per week for old age pensions for old persons. The year to which I refer is 1936–37. In Glasgow old age pensioners received in that year £365,131. But from the public assistance committees, in augmentation of the pensions, there was paid £355,186. But that did not end it. They had to have medical requirements issued to them, and clothing. That cost £15,000. So that Glasgow is directing from the ratepayers to the old age pensioners that large sum and getting no recognition for it. Then take National Health Insurance. In the year I have referred to, the approved societies paid in benefit £183,000; but the public assistance department had to pay £453,000 to these people who were ill, and to their dependants. In the case of widows' pensions, the amount received by widows in the year to which I have referred was £178,000, but that sum was augmented to the extent of £108,000 from the ratepayers' money. Orphans received £6,300, and that sum was augmented from public assistance by £1,700. The sacred pensions paid to those men who jeopardised their lives in the Great War—disability pensions—amounted to £24,000 in the case of Glasgow, but the corporation had to augment them by a sum of no less than £21,000. Those people served the State, but their pensions had to be augmented by the local authority.

I charge the Government not to lose sight of the fact that these are Government responsibilities, and as the administrative machinery of the State gets all the praise for the pensions, the Government are duty bound, in recognising those responsibilities, to bear the full burden of them. Although the measures suggested in the Motion might not be acceptable, there are many other ways by which the Government could remove the inequalities that have been so eloquently referred to in detail by my hon. Friend who moved the Motion. If the Government followed the course we desire, it would in my opinion redound to the advantage of the local authorities, and would in addition show that the Government were prepared to concede that in ordinary justice these charges should be met nationally.

4.18 p.m.

Sir Gifford Fox

I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "That", to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House welcomes the efforts of His Majesty's Government to spread the burden of local taxation more equally over the whole country, especially by means of the re-allocation of the block grant, to the advantage of the more necessitous areas. I am sure the whole House was deeply moved by that part of the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) in which he referred to the tragedy of the constituency that he represents. The hon. Member told us how some 20,000 young men, probably the best, have left that constituency and gone to other areas. Some of them have come to my constituency and found good employment there, and some of them, fortunately, have been able to get their parents to come and live with them. The hon. Member told us of the great expenditure that had been incurred by Merthyr Tydfil in providing social services, houses, health services and education, and so on, in the past, but I may also add that that problem also arises in the case of the local authorities in my area, since they have had to build new housing estates, and to supply health facilities, social services, and all the other things that a new community requires. Therefore, although a great deal of money was spent in this direction in Merthyr Tydfil, there is also a cost involved to the local authorities in other areas to which the people have gone.

We cannot consider this matter only from the sentimental point of view. Many hon. Members regard the Amendment which I have moved as one of great importance. The Motion affects the root and foundation of our local government system. The hon. Member mentioned in his speech two ways in which the Motion could be carried out, either by the poor relief being taken over completely by the national Exchequer, or by a rate that would be equated throughout the whole country; in other words, instead of the Government trying to equalise the burden as it does now through the block-grant system, and by its long-term policy of helping the distressed areas, the ratepayers throughout the country should submit to a level rate in respect to the particular service of poor relief. I remember that in the old days there was a photographic advertisement of a man holding forth on behalf of a charitable organisation and proclaming quite candidly, "It's your money we want." I believe that is the underlying request of the Motion. The people who live in what are called the more prosperous areas may perhaps think that the good condition of their local finances is due to good government, and they may also think that other areas which are not so fortunate and whose finances are not so good, are in that state because of a policy of extreme Socialist finance.

The scheme of the hon. Member who moved the Motion would revolutionise our system of local government. It would cut across the whole principle of self-government, namely, that there should be no taxation without representation. Under that scheme, money would he raised by one local authority in one part of the country and would be spent by another local authority far away. For instance, the money might be raised in Kent, and the people there would have no knowledge as to where the money was to be spent, they would have no control over its spending, and they would not know whether it was to be administered by a local authority which they would regard as efficient. Naturally, the ratepayers in the area where the money was raised would not be pleased if they did not know how the money was to be spent, why it was to be spent, or whether it would be economically spent. I feel that all hon. Members have great and deep sympathy with the ratepayers, even more so than with the taxpayers, because the ratepayers have to meet their assessment whether their business is successful or not, whereas the taxpayers have to pay only on profits. Under the scheme proposed in the Motion, the sole purpose is to make the ratepayer the milch cow. All he would have to do would be to pay.

If the Motion were adopted, undoubtedly it would take away local interest from local government, which has been such a great feature in our country. It has always been the aim of the House to maintain our local government system as efficiently as possible. Looking back into the past, we see how the House has gradually enlarged the area of chargeability for public assistance. In the old days, it was the parish which had to look after poor relief, but it was found that the parish was not a large enough unit, and in 1834 there was the union of parishes. Later, in 1929, the local Government Act abolished the Boards of Guardians, and the unit became the county or county borough. It may be said that in some cases the area of chargeability is still too small, and that some county borough areas are smaller than the former union areas. Even though things may not be perfect at present, however, it is far from clear that the next step ought to be to make the ratepayers of Kent pay through the medium of local rates for the relief afforded to persons who may be living in Pembrokeshire. I was brought up on the old saying that, "The man who pays the piper should call the tune"; but in this case the piper would play exactly what tune he liked and take your money for doing it.

I suggest that such a proposal would encourage a large amount of "squander-mania." Local authorities would have handed to them moneys, which had not been raised in their areas, but in other areas. They would have every encouragement to spend more, especially as they would know that the people who had to pay the money would not be able to say whether they liked it or not at the next municipal election. Again, any increase in the level of expenditure on poor relief in a given district would be masked by the fact that the contributions would come from larger areas. I think all sense of responsibility and integrity would inevitably be weakened. It is easy to say, when it comes to spending money, "Our proportion of the expenditure will be only such and such an amount; the rest of the local authorities have got to pay a big amount; let us immediately approve the expenditure." I also think that even those local authorities which would have to find the money, but would not benefit from it, might tend to become less efficient, and relax control over their own expenditure, because they would feel that the dice was loaded against them and that it was no good their being economical and not doing what they might like to do in their own areas. They might feel that if a large amount of money was to be taken away from them, they might just as well spend more themselves in providing the things they wanted.

I feel that every endeavour should be made not to spend more money, but to protect the pockets of the people. It is always very easy to spend other people's money. We have had painful instances of this in the past. The House will remember how local authorities spent money from the Exchequer in making transitional payments to those unemployed who had ceased to be entitled to Unemployment Insurance benefits. This experiment shows that while most authorities acted with prudence and discretion when asked, in difficult circumstances, to operate as agents for the Government, there was a substantial minority who were grossly extravagant when it came to handing out national funds.

Therefore, it seems only logical and clear from past experience that the authorities who seek to pass on some of their burdens to others who are more happily situated, should be subjected to some form of central control. I often wonder, when people lightheartedly suggest this, whether they realise that some such control would be necessary. The imposition of such a control would present difficult problems which would have to be solved if the administration was to be efficiently carried on. Not only might there be drastic control, but there might even have to be a suppression of local authorities. If you are going to obtain or raise money without submitting your programme to the electors, you might as well have the local authorities run from Whitehall. Perhaps that is the idea, to socialise everything. I have heard it suggested by some hon. Members opposite that they would like to suppress the sittings of Parliament and allow the country to be more or less run in the form of a dictatorship.

Now I would like to show what the Government are doing. The Local Government Act, 1928, modified the financial arrangements between the Exchequer and the local authorities and the Government introduced what was known as the block grant system of State subvention. This was worked out on a very careful formula, which tried to balance the different burdens between different parts of the country. The formula is based on the volume of unemployment in the area, the number of children, the rateable value of the district, the density of population and various other factors. The grant is based on the balance of need and is quinquennial. It is revised every five years and if local authorities find that circumstances have changed in their areas they are able to set out their grievances and difficulties at the end of the quinquennial period and have the grant readjusted. Since the passing of the Act it has twice been adjusted. The third quinquennial period started on 1st April, 1937, and the national block grant pool was increased from £43,922,000 to £46,172,000. That means to say that the third quinquennial period finds an extra £2,250,000 in the pool.

The local authorities were also helped by the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1934, which relieved local authorities of contributions in respect of the assistance of certain classes of able-bodied unemployed, costing £2,180,000. Thus local authorities have benefited in two ways—by the increased block grant of £2,250,000 and by the saving of £2,180,000, or nearly £4,500,000 altogether. In addition, the 1937 Act provided for a revision of the method of distributing the block grant. It was realised that increased assistance was necessary for the poorer areas and to meet this need, the factor of unemployment statistics in the formula was strengthened.

Mr. A. Jenkins

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of the block grant, may I point out to him something which ought to be within his own knowledge? It is true that as a result of the last quinquennial revision certain increases under the formula accrued to certain areas, namely, those which are most heavily hit by unemployment and other factors. But is the hon. Member not aware of the fact that the revised grant having been in operation for approximately a year, many of these authorities have already lost all the advantage which accrued to them under the revision of the block grant? In view of that fact, does he still pretend that the block grant system is a means by which the problems of local government in the Special Areas can be solved?

Sir G. Fox

I still maintain that the block grant is the best method, and, as I have said it can be revised every five years. I wish to show how certain areas have benefited under the block grant system and what the increase has been in the period 1937–38, which is the first year of the third grant period, compared with the previous year, which was the last year of the second grant period. Cumberland, for instance, gets a contribution from the block grant of 12s. 8d. in the £, an increase of some 2s., in 1937–38, compared with the previous year. Again, Merthyr Tydfil gets 14s. 3d. in the £ under the block grant, which is an increase of 5s. 3.9d. in 1937–38 compared with the previous year.

Mr. S. O. Davies

Will the hon. Gentleman give the aggregate rate in Merthyr Tydfil as that is the only way to set the correct proportions? If he has not got the figure perhaps I may give it. It is 27s. 6d. in the £.

Sir G. Fox

I am obliged to the hon. Member but I am pointing out how Merthyr Tydfil has benefited as a result of the revision of the block grant. There are other areas which are looked upon as more prosperous, where the figures are very different. Surrey's contribution from the block grant is only 1s. 1d. in the £, which is an increase during the same period of just under 1¾d. I could give other figures to show that the poor areas have benefited as a result of the revision of the block grant at the end of the last quinquennial period. In short, there are two ways in which the problem can be approached. One is by the system which has been adopted and is now working and in which adjustments have already been made. The other is that indicated in the somewhat vague proposals submitted in the Motion. I respectfully suggest that the proposals contained in the Motion are both nebulous and insufficiently thought out, and, as I have shown, they would inevitably lead to extravagance and waste. No case has been made out for revolutionising the system of local government in a way which, in my humble judgment, would result in abuse, waste and squandermania.

4.37 p.m.

Mr. Trevor Cox

I beg to second the Amendment.

I wish to add one or two arguments to those which have been used by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Sir G. Fox). First, I would say that I am sure the House has listened with great attention and interest to the very able and sincere speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies). We know that he is anxious to do everything possible to help those people who are, unfortunately, without work. That, I believe, is a desire common to hon. Members in every part of the House. From his speech I gathered that his proposed scheme means that there should be a pooling of the rateable value of all local authorities and a calculation of the total of all the local requirements for public assistance. An equal rate poundage would then be levied in each rating area throughout the country, and the total amount brought in would be distributed according to local requirements. The scheme, I understand, would equalise the burden of public assistance on a national scale and is designed to do so. This would mean that ratepayers in one part of the country would have to assist other areas perhaps a long distance off, and would have no control over the money which they themselves had raised. This is an entirely new suggestion, and is contrary to the existing system, which is that local moneys are raised for local needs. As my hon. Friend has said, this would mean a radical change in the existing system of local government.

The Mover of the Motion did not tell us whether a majority of local authorities were in favour of this scheme. We had no evidence from him that large numbers of local authorities were anxious that this scheme should be put into operation. If it be the case, that there is not a majority of local authorities in favour of the scheme, surely it would be against all democratic principles to force such a scheme upon them. It has been suggested that the area of chargeability for public assistance purposes should be broadened. The 1929 Local Government Act broadened the area of chargeability for public assistance purposes. The original area was the parish; then came the union of parishes and now, since 1930, the area is the county or county borough. Some of the areas may be too small, but is the next logical step to make the ratepayers of Cheshire, for example, pay for the relief of persons living in Glamorgan? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I ask hon. Members whether they think that that is the next logical step to take. Some authorities might welcome the scheme in the hope that it would bring them advantages. They would be spending other authorities' money, and it might easily be the case that this scheme would lead to high rates and would hamper industrial and commercial development, which is the last thing any of us wish to see. I am sure the Mover of the Motion is himself anxious to see industrial and commercial development proceed rapidly in all areas so that large numbers of unemployed can be reabsorbed in industry.

It might happen that some local authorities under such a scheme as this would show a certain lack of responsibility when carrying out this financially unsound procedure. There might be extravagant expenditure which would be temporarily concealed, as the cost would be spread over all rating authorities. That is a serious disadvantage in the hon. Member's proposal. We have to remember that when Exchequer funds were ex- pended by local authorities on transitional benefit payments to unemployed persons in the past, some authorities were extravagant with national funds. It is highly undesirable that anything of that nature should occur again especially at a time when we are most anxious to husband the nation's financial resources for reasons which will be appreciated by all. Under this scheme there would be a certain measure of outside control over authorities which were being relieved by other and more prosperous authorities. It is clear that the latter would insist on such a check. There are, moreover, many administrative difficulties involved in central control. Equalisation, as advocated by hon. Members opposite, would mean more rigid control from the centre and this might not be desired by some local authorities. Under the scheme, existing public assistance authorities would not continue as at present, with the addition of a subsidy from other areas. The public assistance committee of Merthyr, for example, might be glad that 75 per cent. of the money which they were spending on relief was being raised by other areas but other local authorities might not take the same view.

For those reasons I oppose the Motion, but there is another side to the question, namely, the financial side. There have been three changes which have given considerable assistance to the poorer areas. Hon. Members opposite have suggested that something should have been done in the past and that something should be done now to help the poorer areas. The 1937 Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act fixed the general Exchequer contribution at about £46,000,000 a year, instead of £43,300,000, which was the previous figure. It also relieved local authorities of responsibilities relating to the relief of certain classes of able-bodied unemployed which cost £2,000,000 a year. So, it will be seen that those authorities have gained something like £4,370,000 a year. The poorer areas also gained by the revision of the formula for distributing the Exchequer contribution among the authorities. That revision, which was agreed to by all parties, strengthened the factor which is based on unemployment statistics, and in that way assisted the poorer areas.

I would like to give one or two examples to show clearly how the poorer areas were assisted. The total estimated gain for the poorer areas in the first year of the third fixed grant period as compared with the preceding year was as follows in each case: £220,000; Glamorgan, £233,000; Liverpool and Sunderland, £434,000 and £118,000 respectively. On the other hand, the Home Counties and other residential boroughs, which are necessarily more prosperous, gained in the case of Hertford only £58,000, in the case of Bath £1,200, and Hastings £2,600. That shows that considerable assistance was given by the 1937 Act to the poorer areas. With regard to total gains, necessitous and Special Area counties as a whole gained about £1,000,000, and distressed or Special Area county boroughs gained about £1,200,000, whereas, on the other hand, residential county boroughs gained only about £130,000.

In conclusion, I wish to make one or two remarks on the general problem of unemployment. As the hon. Member said, this is indeed in many cases a very human and a very tragic question. We want to see everything possible done to help those who, through no fault of their own, lack work. We want to see them back again at their former trades, with a greater measure of security and happiness for themselves and their families and earning at the same time as good wages as industry can pay. Therefore, let us continue in our firm determination to bring the sunlight of life into those homes now darkened by the sorrows of unemployment.

4.48 p.m.

Mr. Silkin

No one who heard the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Motion can have any doubt that we are confronted with a very serious problem, and a problem which hitherto has not been solved in any way. I do not want to go through the case that they made, because I am sure it must have impressed every Member of the House who listened to it. I listened with very great care to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, in the hope that, if they did not agree with the proposal put forward in the Motion, at least they would have some alternative proposal to put before this House for dealing with this admittedly serious problem, but beyond an expression of congratulation to the Government on what they have already done, which admittedly has not met the problem, I could find not a single word suggesting that they have a solution. What is the issue before the House? The real issue is whether the care of the poor should be a matter for the locality alone or whether it is a national responsibility, and I submit that there can be no doubt at all that, having regard to what the Seconder said in the last sentence of his speech, that those who are subject to public assistance are in no sense responsible for their lot, it really is a national problem. It can only be solved nationally, and I submit that this House should have no hesitation in saying to-day that this problem must be solved nationally, out of national funds.

Both the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment congratulated the Government on the effects of the last revision of the block grant, and they seemed to imagine that that revision really helped to solve the problem. They quoted some figures, and I also have some figures to give to the House. There is a distressed area known as Blackpool, and under the last revision Blackpool actually gained to the extent of a 3d. rate. Bournemouth, another distressed area, whose present total rate is 7s. 10d. in the pound, gained 1.3d.; Brighton, another one, gained 1.1d.; Croydon and Eastbourne gained, Southend-on-Sea gained 4.3d., and Southport gained 2.4d. If that is the effect of the revision of the block grant, I do not think even the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment can justify it and suggest that that is a contribution towards the solution of the problem. On the other hand, you get areas which, though they do not rank as Special Areas, are areas where there is a very large amount of distress and unemployment, such as Burton-on-Trent, which has actually lost a rate equivalent to 5.8d. as a result of the last revision, Halifax, which has lost 4.9d., and West Ham, which has lost 3.3d.

It, therefore, appears that the revision of the block grant is really no solution of the problem. Indeed, it creates more anomalies than it cures, and though it may have helped the plight of some authorities which are in the distressed areas, it has actually worsened others and benefited a large number of authorities which needed no benefit at all, but were in a very happy position. The Mover of the Amendment seemed to suggest that poverty in a particular area is the fault of the local authority, that because a local authority has a high charge in respect of public assistance, it is due to mismanagement. Is it due to mismanagement that, for instance, Merthyr has a large number of people on public assistance who have to be helped out of the rates and that Bournemouth has a large number of people on public assistance who are helped out of the taxes? It is not a matter of maladministration or otherwise. Bournemouth happens to be a very desirable place, and naturally people who are in a position to do so flock to it, and that tends to increase the rateable value. A penny rate in a place like Bournemouth is a very different thing from a penny rate in a place like Merthyr. In London, a penny rate levied in Westminster produces £33,000; the same penny rate levied in Poplar produces about £2,000. Would the hon. Gentleman say that that is because Poplar is badly administered and Westminster well administered? Even the hon. Members for Westminster would not claim that.

Mr. Wise

I am not so sure.

Mr. Silkin

They certainly would not claim that it is badly administered in the proportion of 16 to 1. No, Sir, maladministration does not explain these anomalies. The fact is that the burden upon the poorer districts is becoming intolerable, and I submit that it is no solution of the problem merely to put forward an Amendment which welcomes the revision of the block grant. I can understand the hon. Member for Henley (Sir G. Fox) welcoming the revision of the block grant, because his own county has done very well out of it. I understand that his own county has gained to the extent of an equivalent of a rate of 2.6d. in the £.

Sir G. Fox

I think the hon. Member has quoted the City of Oxford, not the county.

Mr. Silkin

The figure for the county is 2.6d. gain, and so it is clear that the revision of the block grant, to which the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment pinned so much faith, is really no solution of the problem and that some other solution must be found. I submit that the only real solution is that the charge for the welfare of the poor should be a national charge. Hon. Members opposite seem to be afraid of it, as if it were an innovation, but I submit that it is no innovation at all. Already the State is responsible for the care of the able-bodied unemployed, and the present Government undertook that responsibility. Therefore, there is no new principle involved, and indeed it is merely an extension of the existing principle to undertake the care of those who are past employment and who have to get public assistance. I submit that sooner or later this House will have to come to a solution of that sort, because it is unthinkable that any local authority should be able to bear for long a rate of something like 27s. in the £. Even in London we have our distressed areas, and the effect of the revision of the block grant in London has been most inequitable. Take some of our poorest boroughs in London. In Bermondsey the revision of the block grant has resulted in a loss of £26,000 a year, Poplar has actually lost £14,000 a year, Finsbury and Deptford have lost, Shoreditch has lost £13,500 a year, and Stepney £18,000. It is inconceivable that hon. Members opposite should have put forward the revision of the block grant as in any way affording a solution of the problem.

I want to say one word about the position of London. I do not believe for a moment that the solution of the problem lies in the direction of a mere redistribution of the existing rate levied for public assistance. I believe that in that way you will merely create a new set of anomalies, and I feel that the only solution of the problem is that which was put forward by the hon. Member who moved the Motion, namely, that the whole burden of dealing with the poor should be placed upon the Exchequer. I am not in the least afraid that this would involve in any way extravagance on the part of particular authorities. The Exchequer knows quite well how to impose necessary control upon local authorities. It does so most effectively in the case of education. Education authorities can hardly spend 6d. without the iron hand of the Board of Education upon them, and in every other service where the Exchequer is in any way a partner the machinery of control is so rigid that it effectively prevents extravagance on the part of the local authorities.

I submit that even if you had assistance by which the State paid the cost of providing for the poor and the local authority administered the service, the control which the State could exercise would be adequate to ensure that no extravagance should take place. But if the State were afraid to entrust this service to the local authorities, then I see no reason why they should not deal with the necessitous poor on the same lines as those on which they are already dealing with the able-bodied unemployed. Indeed, the matter could be dealt with by an extension of the existing principle. I submit to the House that no case has been made out by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment against the Motion, that they have not put forward a single constructive proposal to meet the admitted difficulties and hardships with which many of the local authorities throughout the country are faced, and that the House would be well advised to vote for the Motion.

5 p.m.

Mr. C. S. Taylor

We must look at this matter from the point of view of principle. Local government has for many years been an integral part of the democratic governmental system of the country, and this system has been rightly closely guarded as one of the great privileges of democracy. Although I appreciate the motives which led the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) to raise this matter, I feel that if the Motion is passed and put into effect it will create a dangerous precedent and will in no small measure affect the principles of local administration. Local government, in order to meet the expenses incurred by local communities, is empowered to levy rates on those communities, and it is clear that if a scheme such as has been suggested by the hon. Member comes into being, the financial administration in local government would be revolutionised, because national control would take the place of decentralisation. That appears to be largely the policy of the party opposite. All the time they want centralisation. I believe, however, that the efficiency of government, as of anything else, is in decentralisation as far as possible.

Let us take the case of the spendthrift local authority. There is no doubt that there are local authorities which are ex- travagant and very ready to hand out other people's money if they can do so with impunity. Is it proposed that this national pool should contribute towards this extravagance, and who, under such a system, is to determine what local requirements are?

Mr. Quibell

Will the hon. Gentleman give an instance of this extravagance?

Mr. Taylor

I am coming to that. My hon. Friend who opposed the Motion mentioned the cases of extravagance a few years ago when local authorities were entrusted with making transitional payments to men who had ceased to be entitled to insurance benefit. The funds for these payments were found by the Exchequer, and the local authorities paid them on behalf of the Government. There is no doubt that there was gross extravagance in some cases. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] I am not going to mention names, but there was gross extravagance in some cases, although in the main local authorities did their job with fairness both to the Government whose money they were distributing and to the people to whom the payments were made.

I am one of those who believe that every penny of local expenditure must be scrutinised very closely by the local authorities who are responsible. Local authorities will only do this if they are administering their own ratepayers' money, and if they are responsible to them. Under the scheme suggested in this Motion many local authorities will no longer have the same direct responsibility to their own ratepayers. I am certain that under such a pooling scheme every reason in the world would be put forward to show that existing payments were inadequate, and we may be certain that a much greater sum would be spent on public assistance than at present and thaw could be justified. I cannot believe that such a scheme would be acceptable generally to local governments. What is more important, I cannot conceive that it would be acceptable to the communities which those local governments a present. Every community, whether it be a county or a county borough, should, as far as possible, make its own provision for the payment of public assistance. I know that in some cases there is an excessive burden, and I will say a few words about them in a moment. Local authorities are elected by the ratepayers, and under our democratic system the ratepayers can exercise the strictest control over the administration in their districts. If the ratepayers' money is used in an extravagant manner for whatever reason, the ratepayers are entitled to make representations or complaints, or to take action during the local elections. In this way they exercise a certain control. I see no control under the suggestion of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil.

Mr. S. O. Davies

The Poor Law administration is controlled to-day. I hold in my hand the maximum scales of payment of the Merthyr Tydfil public assistance committee. Every figure and every condition regulating the payment of Poor Law relief has been scrutinised and approved by the Ministry of Health.

Mr. Taylor

I still think that decentralisation is much preferable. Under it there is a much stricter control by the people on the spot. My hon. Friend who opposed the Motion mentioned the formula for distributing the Exchequer contributions among the counties and county boroughs. When the formula was revised in 1937 it was revised after full consultation with the associations of local authorities, and the changes were made with the agreement of all sides—

Mr. Ede


Mr. Taylor

The associations of local authorities and everybody agreed to the changes in the formula.

Mr. Ede

I am a member of the executive council of the County Councils Association, and we never agreed.

Mr. Taylor

I am assured that the information I have is correct. One of the points borne in mind, I understand, was the desirability of increased assistance to poor areas so that it should bear a greater percentage to the amount of unemployment. Mention has been made of the benefit which is received by such places as Blackpool, Bournemouth, Eastbourne, and Brighton. If those places have benefited the poorer areas have benefited even more. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) mentioned areas which had lost, but he did not mention the places which had received vast benefits under the Government's scheme. I do not think a case that we can support has been made out, and I hope that the House will agree that the Government are doing all they can to alleviate the distress in these unfortunate districts.

5.12 p.m.

Mr. Pearson

I would like to offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on choosing this subject for discussion, and for drawing our attention to a grievance which is deeply felt in many parts of the country. The responsibilities of the local authorities are of a wide and varied character, and in the weave of the Governmental machine they are successfully functioning. There is a tendency to assume that the improvement of much of our national life in regard to health and the reduction of infantile mortality is due to Acts of Parliament and the expenditure of public money. Such things give the power and the means which have been invaluable, but the present result could not have been achieved without the awakening of public concern. This Motion brings the question of the excessive burden of public assistance to the forefront. It would be a bad day for the country if we allowed the essential local government services to be lowered in standard because of the burdensome high rates due to the heavy public assistance charge. This presses most heavily, of course, on the Special Areas, on those places where the inhabitants are least able to bear the cost.

Owing to the system of rating now in existence, the poorest of our countrymen have to pay some proportion of the public assistance charge. It is not a question of the ability to pay. The rating system imposes a burden on the poorest who have to pay their proportion, although they may be unemployed and, indeed, receiving public assistance. I think hon. Members will find that oftentimes the public assistance rate upon an ordinary workman's cottage in the distressed areas works out at from 2½d. to 3d. per week, which has to be paid out of an allowance which is admittedly not sufficient to keep the families properly.

The Motion asks that some means should be devised to equalise the burdens of the public assistance rates, and we want to secure this reform without introducing greater evils. Surely it is possible for the wit of man to discover some effective means of making this charge more just than it is at present. Reference has been made to the report of Sir Malcolm Stewart, the late Commissioner for the Special Areas. He recommended that the excessive burden of public assistance upon local authorities in the Special Areas should be reduced by some such means as the equalising of the public assistance rate throughout the country, and he added: This should be done by some immediate emergency measure. Surely Sir Malcolm Stewart's report and recommendation can be regarded as being apart from the differences of party politics. It was the report of a man who had made a close investigation into the problem of the Special Areas, and it brought out in a most marked manner the excessive burden of public assistance.

The Government have accepted the principle that Government aid should be scaled up or down according to the relative needs of areas as measured by the formula, which is weighted in regard to population, unemployment, children below the age of five years and density of population. There is a scaling up or down under the Midwives Act, some of the Special Areas getting 75 per cent. under that legislation. Cannot this principle of relating Government grants to needs be extended, say, to the education and the police services, which would make some contribution towards easing the tremendous burden of public assistance? Hon. Members opposite said that the block grant has made a big contribution towards lightening the burden of the Special Areas. I am not going to deny that some contribution has been made by that formula—it is a particularly complicated formula, which few people rarely understand—but what we say is that it does not do enough. Cannot we see that it is not enough when Merthyr Tylfil, for example, which has benefited so greatly under it, yet have a public assistance rate as high as 15s. 9½d. in the £, in contrast with other areas where the rate is below 2s. in the £?

That is the gravamen of our complaint in regard to this whole matter—that the system is not based upon a solid foundation of justice. There are areas such as Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and Surrey with public assistance rates under 2s. in the £. There are boroughs such as Bath, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Brighton, Chester, Coventry and Eastbourne where, similarly, the rate is below 2s. They are in contrast with Glamorgan, Monmouth and Durham, counties with a public assistance rate of more than 8s. in the £, and with county boroughs such as Merthyr Tydfil, West Ham and Hartlepool, where the public assistance rate is also above 8s. in the £. I believe that there are ways, apart from the one that has been suggested of making the public assistance charge a national one, although a very strong case has, I think, been made out for that method.

Why not relieve the burden of the Special Areas by giving more adequate old age pensions? That would take a tremendous burden off the public assistance authorities. In the county of Glamorgan we are now giving aid to the extent of £200,000 a year to old age pensioners who have to seek public assistance. We have been told in answer to a question that there are 300,000 old age pensioners throughout the country who have to seek public assistance, and I believe it will be found that the greater number of them are in the distressed areas. Certainly we can say that the proportion of old age pensioners to the younger members of the population is much greater in the distressed areas than elsewhere. As I have already suggested, I think that in the case of such services as education and police, which now get a definite grant regardless of the conditions in the particular areas, the grants should be scaled up or down according to the needs of the areas. More should be done to prevent the necessity for the migration of youths from the distressed areas, because the numbers of the aged in those areas are getting out of all proportion to the numbers of the younger generation.

Much has been said about the last reallocation of the block grant. Some of the areas did benefit by that action. Glamorgan, I admit, benefited by no less than 2s. in the £. But prior to that a special grant of £66,000 per annum was being made and that was wiped out entirely under the re-allocation, so that really, on the basis of what a penny rate brings in, the benefit in Glamorgan was really less than 1s. 6d. in the £ and not 2s. I am afraid that in some of the Special Areas we shall be faced with the problem of how to maintain the essential services. For example, we have been forced to pare down the amount of money which is being spent upon the roads because we have desired to get all the money we can to relieve the poor. The local surveyors are questioning the wisdom of that economy, and I am afraid that presently the Ministry of Transport will be calling attention to the state of the roads. In Glamorgan no one can have relief if there is more than 10s. per head going into a household. Surely hon. Members will not say that that is extravagance, that that is "squandermania." It has been found in practice that the amount spent upon food out of unemployment allowances or public assistance has been no more than 2s. 9½d. per person per week, including children. Surely that is a totally inadequate sum on which to exist, and our people have been gnawed by the shame of being unable to win a livelihood for their stunted and ill-clad families. Yet they are the people who have to bear a share of the excessive public assistance burden. The Motion asks for an element of justice in asking that the burden shall be taken off people who cannot afford to hear it, and I hope that the House, in its wisdom, will support the Motion, which was so ably proposed and seconded.

5.27 p.m.

Mr. Wise

We have strayed some distance in the course of our discussion today, and necessarily so, I think, upon a Motion of this kind. I do not think anybody could quarrel with the wide range taken by, let us say, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson), although I read into his speech a greater approval of the Amendment than of the Motion, because he admitted that already the re-allocation under the block grant system had done some good, and rightly so, because, of course, there is no question that it has. The bulk of his speech was really more in the nature of a plea for the extension of that system than for a re-allocation of the rating burden over the whole country, and I think he will find a good deal of support for it on all sides of the House. Probably he has hit upon the best solution for this admittedly very difficult problem because although we have to realise that the Special Areas are peculiarly hit at the moment, and in some cases have almost overwhelming burdens of Poor Law relief to bear, it is our hope that they will not permanently be Special Areas. We trust that the real solution of the problem will not be found in the re-allocation of rates but in the encouragement of industry to return to areas which it has left. As the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) pointed out in, if I may be allowed to say so, his extremely adequate speech, the loss of wealth to these areas has been largely due to the exportation of their personnel, and for the moment they have a grievance or, let us say, a debit against the rest of the country, but until quite recently the position was the other way round.

The reason these areas are distressed is that in the last century the flow of industry was so great the other way and their populations were so vastly increased that the burden of expenditure came upon them with a tremendous rush. When the industries which attracted that flow of population suddenly collapsed, when the export market of coal went, and when the trend of industry changed to the manufacture of products which were not readily produced in those areas, those places were left with far larger populations than they could support, in exactly the same way as other areas were previously left, when the drift of population was going in the other direction.

Mr. S. O. Davies

It took from three to seven generations before the so-called surplus population became a burden on Merthyr Tydfil. I do not want the country to forget what happened meanwhile.

Mr. Wise

I do not want for the moment to go into the merits of the particular case, but I would point out that Merthyr Tydfil is, as the hon. Member well knows, an entirely special problem, and it has always been regarded as such. It is one of the very few boroughs against which there is no shadow of complaint in regard to their previous local expenditure. The case of Merthyr Tydfil is hard, but I still believe that the remedy, even there, is greater assistance from outside. Of course, the real remedy is more factories in Merthyr Tydfil. I am glad to see some sign of that coming about, and I hope that it will not be long before the hon. Member's constituency will be one of the prosperous boroughs, and he will be vigorously resisting the suggestion of its rates going to somewhere else.

As I read the Motion, the main proposition is the levelling of rates throughout the country. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) took the discussion rather far away and on to the subject of the assumption by the State of the whole of Poor Law assistance instead of its administration by local authorities. I will come to that aspect of the matter in a moment. The first proposal relates to the levelling of rates over the whole country, and I submit that that is not a practical proposition. There is, first, the argument that it is unwise to entrust expenditure of money to people who are not responsible for raising it. Although that is not an infallible argument, it has some merit. There is a sufficiency of truth in it to make it a serious proposition. The collection of a general Poor Law rate all over the country would lead, I believe, to curious anomalies in the amounts of money levied. Although it is presumed that assessments all over the country would be uniform, they would not be so. It is almost impossible to reach uniformity of assessment, and if the general rate were to be levied simply on a poundage basis the result which hon. Members opposite want would not, I believe, be attained.

I do not think it is entirely fair that a very prosperous borough should have to contribute to a problem which is not of its creation, and is not concerned with its sphere of administration. I am prepared to admit that it is possibly unfair also that the hard-hit borough should have to meet a problem which is also not of its creation. For that reason I believe that block grant readjustment is the proper solution to the problem. The hon. Member for Pontypridd suggested that some authorities had spent the whole of their block grant increase and were worse off, being left without any resources until the next valuation, four years hence. I do not believe that that is at all a general case. We have in the last month had a recession of a major kind in trade and it may have produced that position in certain areas, but I do not believe that it is general. I do not believe that the quinquennial valuation is basically a bad system for the administration of the grant.

We come now to the question of the State assuming the whole responsibility for Poor Law relief, and we reach a much wider and more philosophical argument. I do not see any spiritual reason why the State should not assume the whole burden of Poor Law relief. So far as I see it, it is a matter of practical efficiency and of whether or not it would benefit either the poor or those who had to find the money if the action were taken. I do not attach an enormous amount of weight to the argument that if you removed local administration of these funds you would necessarily impair vastly the position of the recipients. I do not see any reason why the officials of a central body should not administer money as humanely as local officials responsible to a local body. Presumably they would be the same people, merely having different masters. I can see a number of arguments for removing the administration of Poor Law relief entirely from the turmoil of local elections. I think that there is a good deal to be said for that point of view, but I would not for a moment dogmatise about the possibility of extending the system, on which we have already started, and of taking the whole charge of the poor into the hands of the Exchequer and of not leaving it in the hands of local authorities, but I do not believe it is necessary to do that yet.

We have moved step by step. Not so very long ago, certainly not a century, the care of all the poor, able-bodied or otherwise, was in the hands of the local authorities. By progressive stages we have removed, first, the insured population and then the able-bodied unemployed who had fallen out of insurance. It is possible that within a few years we may extend that even more widely. I do not think that hon. Members opposite will find any violently doctrinaire resistance from this side of the House against such a step, but I still do not believe that this is the time to do it. We need, first of all, to readjust the industrial map of this country. Until we have done that it is possible to proceed only by means of ad hoc relief to these areas. We must find out whether our basic distress is to be concentrated in areas, or whether we are to be able to remove the basic distress altogether. The present flow of industry is really back to the areas from which come the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and those who support him to-day, and they are going to find their burden of Poor Law relief very greatly relieved. The earners of rates, whose absence at the moment has put those areas into certain difficulties, will come back, and it will then be found that the burdens of education, police services and all the other matters to which hon. Members have referred, will be more adequately met. When that is done, the burden of Poor Law relief will automatically be lightened and will not be the serious matter which it now is.

While we are on the question of the block grant let me say that it seems a little ungracious to complain of its inadequacy. I am prepared to believe that there is room for increase, but to quote a series of figures as did the hon. Member for Peckham to show that the relief was being given entirely to the unworthy, is to make the worst of what might have been a good case. It is true that Bournemouth, I think he said, received an additional grant of 1½d. in the £, but the distressed areas have received a great deal more. The relief to Merthyr Tydfil is actually somewhere in the nature of 5s. 3d. in the £, I am informed. I am quoting the same figures as was the hon. Member for Peckham. To complain that areas like West Ham and Bermondsey are actually losing on the block grant is an unfair representation of the formula. It is well to remind the House that those areas are losing population extremely quickly, and that the care of a great number of their needy is being placed upon other areas in which the population is being rehoused.

To take one simple example, I will cite the new area of Hendon, which has 210,000 people. Incidentally, it returns one Member, while five East End constituencies to which the hon. Member referred return five Members for a smaller population. That is the real reason for the fall in the block grant. I do not yet see, nor have I been convinced by argument from hon. Members opposite, why the operation of the block grant system is unfair to any particular area. I am certain that my hon. Friend at the Ministry will view with the greatest sympathy any suggestion for an acceleration, or possibly an adjustment of the formula of the block grant system. I suggest that it is not an unreasonable system, and that hon. Members opposite might very well agree with a great deal of what the Amendment says. If it were possible to reach unanimity upon the Amendment I would rather have it than a Division upon the Motion. I commend that possibility to the hon. Member who moved the Motion.

5.44 p.m.

Mr. Batey

In answer to the last point of the hon. Member who has just spoken I suggest that it depends upon the area from which hon. Members come. If an hon. Member comes from a distressed area he speaks in favour of the Motion, and if from a wealthy area he speaks in favour of the Amendment.

Mr. Wise

Does the hon. Member call Smethwick a wealthy area?

Mr. Batey

Well, it is not Durham. We have to remember the large expenditure upon public assistance in the distressed areas, and it is because of the situation which has arisen that we are asking the Government to do something. Members on the other side point to the block grant, but, while we admit that the block grant has been revised, it still leaves us in the position in which we are to-day. The distressed areas are in a deplorable condition, and we are bound to ask the Government what they are going to do. This trouble has not sprung up in a day or two; it is a very old trouble; but, in spite of the length of time it has been in existence, the Government have failed to remedy it. The revision of the block grant is clearly not sufficient to meet the situation. I remember that years ago there was an impression in this House that what the distressed areas needed was some relief in regard to rates, and I believe that that led to the appointment of the Commissioner for the Special Areas, in order that something might be done to relieve rates in the distressed areas. We have had Commissioners in the distressed areas for years, and we have had revisions of the block grant, but still we are in the position in which we are to-day.

Last week I went to the public assistance offices in Durham and got the report which has just been issued by the public assistance officer there, containing an estimate of the expenditure on public assistance for the year ending 31st March, 1940. That report shows that, of all the counties in this country outside London, Durham has more cases to relieve by public assistance than any other county in England or Wales. Durham has to relieve no fewer than 57,000 cases. I know that Liverpool, which is a borough, stands higher with 60,000 cases, and the position of places like Liverpool and Durham is simply deplorable owing to the large mass of poverty which they have to relieve. In Durham County this year the public assistance rate is no less than 9s. 1d. in the £, and that falls principally on the householders and shopkeepers, because while the Government revised the block grant in 1928, in 1929 they derated productive industry, and thereby threw the burden upon the householder and the shopkeeper.

Mr. H. G. Williams

Does the hon. Member suggest that the grant made in lieu of derating did not more than cover the cost of derating?

Mr. Batey

Whether it did or did not, we need not stop to argue, but, even if it was sufficient then, is it sufficient to-day? The block grant given then was not sufficient, and it is immensely far from being sufficient to-day. The estimate to which I have referred shows an expenditure for the year ending 31st March, 1940, in Durham County, of £1,500,000 for public assistance—no less than £50,000 more than the expenditure for the current year. Some of the big items of that expenditure are items which ought to have been shouldered by the Government. It would relieve the local authority if the Government did their duty and shouldered that expenditure. A large part of the expenditure was for payments to old age pensioners, widows, men receiving workmen's compensation, and unemployed men. If the Government would shoulder the responsibility for these payments, it would relieve the local authorities immensely. Whenever the question of increasing the old age pensions has been debated in this House, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has always said that to increase these pensions from 10s. to 15s. a week would cost something like £34,000,000 a year. But that money is being paid now, though it is not being paid by the Treasury, but by the local authorities. When Government speakers talk about the enormous increase of expenditure that would result from an increase of old age pensions, they forget how much it would relieve the local authorities, who are so much in need of such relief.

As I have said, this public assistance expenditure includes, not only payments to old age pensioners, widow pensioners and men receiving workmen's compensation—very small amounts—but also payments to able-bodied unemployed. The Mover of the Motion read a Resolution which was carried by this House some years ago, when the House was led to believe that the Government would assume responsibility for all the unemployed. The Minister of Health, on 24th February, 1938, said, in answer to a question in this House, that in Durham County there were then receiving out-relief on account of unemployment no fewer than 595 persons. That is a burden that we expected the Government would take over. We believed that the Unemployment Assistance Board would take over all these unemployed people, but to-day this burden rests upon the local authorities because of a mere technicality in the Act which prevents these people from being taken over by the Unemployment Assistance Board, and they have to be relieved by the local authorities.

My hon. Friend argued that public assistance ought to be levelled out throughout the country, and so far I have heard no effective argument against that levelling out. I am not sure, but I have a suspicion, that some years ago public assistance expenditure was levelled out among the various boroughs in London, and, if that could be done on a small scale, it could be done over a wider field and on a bigger scale. If that principle was agreed upon then, I do not see why it could not be agreed upon now, and public assistance expenditure levelled out throughout the whole country. Then we should not merely have Members from distressed areas pleading in this House with the Government, but Members on the other side of the House would be pleading with them as well. The Government ought to face up to this question. Nothing that they have done so far fills the bill and really helps the distressed areas. If the Amendment is carried, as I expect it will be, are we to be asked to wait until there is another revision of the block grant? And even if we have to wait for another revision, what prospect is there that, when the block grant is revised, the distressed areas will be helped? The condition of the distressed areas to-day, and their huge expenditure on public assistance, calls for the taking of immediate steps by the Government to do something on this question. I ask them, not only to give attention to the revision of the block grant, but to give special attention to taking from the local authorities the burden of relieving old age pensioners, widow pensioners, men who are drawing workmen's compensation, and the able-bodied unemployed. If the Government would take steps along those lines, immense benefit to the distressed areas would result.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Emery

While I cannot agree entirely with the hon. Member who moved the Motion, I am in agreement with him in his reference to the financial burden which local authorities have to bear in supporting those who are compelled to apply for public assistance, and I am also in agreement with him when he suggests the desirability of spreading the burden over the whole country. My hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment said that the Motion was quite a new suggestion, but I submit that this is no new question at all. It has been debated time after time, and efforts have been made to persuade the Government either to assume the burden through the national Exchequer or to equalise it among the local authorities. The latter method is the one which I particularly favour. I think it is the most fair and the most just if we agree that the problem of looking after the poor people is a national problem. But the case for it has always been largely wrecked on the contention by the Government that it would not be compatible with effective local interest in the work of administration. I do not regard that contention as so serious as to prevent such a necessary reform.

Since the earliest days of Poor Relief, when there were something like 14,000 separate parochial districts, each with its own relief administration, we have had continually amending legislation, which has eventually reduced the area of chargeability to something like 140 areas at the present time, and it cannot be said that as a result effective local interest in administration has suffered in the slightest. On the contrary, I think it could be argued that it has undoubtedly improved. In equalising the burden of public assistance over the whole country, I do not think it should be difficult to create a national administrative body, with regional councils including representatives from the local authorities. That would maintain effective local interest in administration, and at the same time would secure much greater uniformity of treatment than obtains to-day. As an example of the present lack of uniformity, I may mention that in Lancashire there are 18 county boroughs, so that, with the county council and the Unemployment Assistance Board, there are 20 different standards of methods of assessing need for domiciliary maintenance in that one county. I agree that it is desirable that the administration should be in the hands of officials rather than in the hands of local councils, a system which, in my opinion, is becoming more open to serious criticism.

Failing some means of equalisation, there will always be, and there is bound to be, a wide margin between the rates of industrial and residential areas. Public assistance expenditure is bound to be heavy in the industrial areas. The lower-paid section of the community, who mainly give rise to this expenditure, must live near their work, and they usually live in houses of low rateable value. In Salford alone, 44 per cent. of the total assessments of the city is on houses of the low rateable value of up to £10, and 58 per cent. on houses assessed up to £15. Another alarming feature is the steady growth each year of expenditure on relief to the aged and infirm in the industrial districts. This increase has continued during a period which industrially has been relatively prosperous, and it is to a large extent, if not completely, neutralising the benefits conferred by the Unemployment Act, 1934. Expenditure on outdoor relief in any city for 1937–38 exceeded the expenditure for 1933–34, although the Unemployment Act operated from March, 1935. In the case of old people, where their pensions are insufficient to maintain them and resort has to be made to the local authority to supplement the pension, it is costing Salford alone £30,000 per annum, which is the equivalent of a 6½d. rate. Further, there is great dissatisfaction among all industrial local authorities over the manner of dealing with the so-called able-bodied unemployed. There are so many who do not come within the scope of the 1934 Act, and there are others who when temporarily sick must go to the public assistance committee for maintenance. These alone in Salford account for 45 per cent. of the amount of the total relief paid out this year.

So it is not correct, in its full sense, to say that the Government accept responsibility for the able-bodied unemployed. I do not think the case for equalising this burden can be denied. I know it is our view that the national Exchequer, through the block grant, is materially contributing to meeting the burdens of local authorities, and that the figure of £4,000,000 for England and Wales alone is mentioned as the amount of this relief. But the real point at issue is not the amount of relief that the local authorities are receiving through the block grant, but the extent of the burden that they are still left to bear. When one examines the whole position and sees the enormous growth of this particular expenditure, one feels—and I think most hon. Members will agree—that some reform is essential so far as our industrial areas are concerned. I do not agree that the Exchequer should bear some additional expenditure through the block grant, as suggested in the Amendment. I cannot understand why the block grant is being so much stressed to-day. I suggest that the ratepayers throughout the country should bear the same proportion of the cost, and that all areas should have protection by representation on the national administrative body. We have been told that the better-off areas would object to bearing part of this burden in the industrial areas. I do not believe that if the case for equalisation were fully set out, as it can be, any section of the public of this country would resent the suggestion that they should bear their fair share.

I know the House does not like sentimentality, and I have no intention of using any, but, if I may, I would refer in conclusion to this aspect of the matter. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all our achievements during the past 25 years has been the humanising of relations between all sections and classes in this country. Time and again it has been demonstrated, by the highest in the land and the lowest, that there is no greater ideal in life than that the same principle of common citizenship should animate us all. That is the cause of the growth of the beneficent influences which mark the last quarter of a century to a greater degree than any preceding period. The administration of public assistance has played no mean part in that achievement. An analysis of that achievement proves that it has brought also a bigger and wider demand upon the resources of the people. That part of the demand which has had to be met from the national Exchequer has been readily and willingly met by the people, because of the knowledge that money which is raised through our national Exchequer rests upon the two pillars of taxation wisdom—ability to pay and equality of sacrifice. As long as those principles of citizenship remain, so long will the people of this country be ready to pay their fair share. But the other part of the burden which has to be met through rating has not been willingly met. The rating system has been for a long time, and still is, regarded as unsound in principle and totally wrong in practice. That is why I lend my voice to the appeal which is being made to the Government to do something to recognise the principle of equalising this burden and to remedy something which is, obviously, a very great wrong.

6.9 p.m.

Mr. Collindridge

I feel that my colleagues on these benches will echo my opinion when I congratulate the hon. Member for West Salford (Mr. Emery) on the speech he has just made. I wish that some older Parliamentarian had been expressing this view in perhaps a more able fashion than I can. There are some aspects of the hon. Member's speech with which we may not be in agreement, such as the suggestion he made for official administration of relief instead of its administration through the existing channels; but, on broad lines, he has supported very well the Motion put forward by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies). We hope that he will come into the Division Lobby with us in support of the Motion, and that many of his colleagues will do the same. I would say, in all sincerity and with great respect, that if he holds the views expressed in the latter part of his speech perhaps before long we shall find him sitting on these benches.

I come from a town that is sorely affected by the question dealt with in this Motion. Increasingly one hears speeches being made urging national unity. In times of crisis there is an ever-increasing tendency towards that idea. Nothing would tend more to create national unity than a movement in the direction indicated in this Motion. When the need for national unity in a time of crisis is mentioned it is not uncommon for people to point out many of the difficulties and em- barrassments with which they are confronted. In the town from which I come the augmentation of old age pensions through the public assistance committee is responsible for a very large expenditure. Questions have been asked by various hon. Members in this House recently as to how many people receiving old age pensions in their constituencies were receiving relief from the public assistance committees in order to augment those pensions. Some time ago I submitted questions on those lines to the Minister of Health, and I followed up my questions by asking for a comparison between the two years 1936 and 1937. It was revealed in the Minister's answer that in one year alone the number of people who were receiving old age pensions and who had to seek public relief had gone up by 13 per cent. That shows the growing burden which is placed upon one municipal authority. It is distinctly unfair and it is the fault of this House for failing to deal with the matter of old age pensions.

There is another direction in which a heavy burden is thrown on public authorities because of the demand for public assistance. I refer to the inadequacy of the payments made to people who are injured in industry. My district is a purely mining one, and it has a heavy death and injury roll. Like the hon. Member for West Salford, I do not want to indulge in too much sentimentality, but I would point out that in our mining districts every man on average is injured once every five years or else if one misses someone is injured twice. The small payment of 30s. a week or less that now goes to the injured miner, with no regard to his family, compels him very often to seek the aid of public assistance. The position of the widow and dependants of a fatally injured miner is also very distressing. I assisted in my last job to carry out from a mine a man who had been seriously injured and who ultimately died. He was a very good workman, in a good job, and he was receiving about £4 a week. He had a wife and five children to maintain. The full amount of compensation that went to his widow was slightly less than £600. At the standard rate that he was giving to his family when alive, the lump sum was exhausted in a few years, and the widow and five children are now being maintained out of the local rates by way of public assistance.

It may be said that that is a burden which the local authority concerned ought to bear. We contend that if the non-mining parts of this country need the fuel that the miners produce, and in view of the national need for this, surely, it is incumbent upon the whole community to help those who are injured and their dependants, and not place the burden upon one particular district alone. I ask hon. Members opposite to bear this in mind when the Division comes. I want to appeal on these lines. The continuation of the anomalous position that now exists in these districts makes the position less bright than it would be if we had not these heavy burdens to bear.

I finish my remarks by making this sincere appeal to hon. Members opposite. If this is to be a day of national unity, and if we cannot have equalisation of all our people at once, at least some of the things, which, I assure the House, are very definitely keeping us rather apart, should be afforded to us. We are endeavouring to do this by the Motion which my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil has introduced to-day. It is a very humble and moderate Motion, but it will help, and we hope that we shall have the support not only of our own people on these benches, but of Members on the benches opposite as well.

6.19 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Bernays)

Perhaps it will be for the convenience of the House if I intervene now for a few minutes and indicate the attitude of the Government to this Motion, and I would like to begin by congratulating the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) on the way he has used his luck in the ballot. I am sure that we all agree that he spoke with feeling and moderation and with knowledge upon the position of areas with which he is particularly familiar, and with which all Members of the House will sympathise. His Motion has given the House an opportunity of reviewing an important part of social legislation—the problem of how best to spread the burdens of relief. Successive Governments have approached this problem on the basis that the obligations are partly national and partly local. There are advantages and disadvantages in both methods. It is, for instance, important to preserve as far as possible the principle of elasticity even in public assistance.

Some valuable social experiments have originated in local areas. I have a case in mind in my own constituency at Bristol. It is the case of the winter coal allowance. Bristol gave that allowance when it was not very common for local authorities to do so, and now it has been adopted by the Unemployment Assistance Board. Local authorities have been able to carry out pioneer work in Special Areas which would have been perhaps beyond the power of the central Government. At the same time, local authorities began to find that the burden of supporting the able-bodied unemployed was too great to be borne, and so the State stepped in, and, with the establishment of the Unemployment Assistance Board, removed from the local authorities a great part of their obligations. This provision applies to all the able-bodied unemployed who come within the scope of the Contributory Pensions Act, and I believe that on all sides of the House it will be agreed that that afforded a very substantial relief to the overburdened local authorities. In a word, the Government have tried to strike a balance between the obligations of the local authority and the central Government, and they have attempted to make the partnership as equitable as possible.

Of course we have not satisfied everybody, and it has been argued in this Motion that further steps should be taken to spread the burden more equitably. It could obviously be done in two ways, as the hon. Member for Merthyr suggested—either by the central Government making themselves responsible for public assistance, or by contributions to the rates of one authority from the rates of another. I would like briefly to examine where both these suggestions would lead us. As regards the assumption of further responsibility by the State for public assistance, I do not think that it could seriously be argued that the State could take over the costs of public assistance without also taking over the administration. No one, surely, could contemplate a partnership in which one partner provided the money without controlling the expenditure and the other partner spent the money without providing it.

Mr. MacLaren

What about agricultural subsidies?

Mr. S. O. Davies

The control of the expenditure is very largely in the hands of the Minister now as far as public assistance is concerned.

Mr. Bernays

That is not so.

Mr. Davies

I know it from experience.

Mr. Bernays

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me. I was interested in his interruption and so I refreshed my memory on this point. The public assistance authorities are under no obligation whatever to present their scales of relief to the Ministry of Health for approval, and in fact they do not do so. Moreover, my right hon. Friend is precluded under—I think it is Section (1)—the Poor Law Act from interfering with the scales.

Mr. Jenkins

Is there not an effective form of control by the Government system of auditors, where Government control is of such a character that, if there is any maladministration or malpractices at all, the people responsible can be surcharged? Is not that an effective form of control?

Mr. Bernays

I will deal with that point. In regard to the waste of money, certainly the auditor can step in, but the auditor has no power to review the scales as a whole. All that he has power to do is to look into and examine an individual case and see if there has been any extravagance.

Mr. Jenkins

Does not that alter the scales?

Mr. Bernays

It does not alter the scales.

Mr. Jenkins

Surely, if the scale is excessive it can be regarded by the auditor as being a misuse of public money?

Mr. Bernays

The hon. Gentleman will not challenge me in this, that the auditor has only the right to inquire into individual cases. I would also point out further that the auditor is not the servant of the Minister of Health. It is entirely true that the local authorities do not have to submit their scales to the Minister of Health. I suggest, therefore, that if there was a system of establishing control by the State, that, if the State took over the obligations of public assistance, it would substantially diminish the powers of local authorities. I do not want to make too much of this point, but I believe that it cannot really be denied, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who, I understand, is to wind up for the Opposition, will not deny, that if the State pays the cost, the State must also take over the administration.

Mr. Leonard

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that Glasgow at the present time is subject to a 4d. rate because it must abide by the statutory restriction placed upon it in regard to insurance and other factors, and that not one penny piece is contributed to the local authority because of that statutory restriction.

Mr. Bernays

I am afraid that I am not in a position to answer for what happens in Glasgow; I can only speak for England and Wales. Another point I wish to make is this: Why confine the proposal of an additional State subsidy to Poor Law assistance? Why not apply the same principle to the upkeep of highways and the provision of transport, street lighting and all the other obligations of local government? If the burden of public assistance is too great for some authorities to shoulder, it might well be argued that it is true also of other local services. Such a line of argument in the end leads us to a position in which local government would virtually disappear if the State had to take over all the burdens of financial responsibility. That would undoubtedly be a major disaster because we all believe in local government and regard it as at any rate a second line in the defence of democracy.

I can think of no social service which is so essentially a local service as public assistance. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) asked, as the able-bodied unemployed are supported out of the State funds, why not the necessitous poor as well? I do not think that public assistance is the same as unemployment assistance. They are two separate problems. Unemployment assistance was established to deal with a new, urgent, nation-wide problem of unparalleled dimensions. It was a national need calling for a national service. It was designed to deal with the distress of whole classes and even when unemployment was not the problem that it is to-day there was still need to extend help to the aged, the desti- tute and the sick under circumstances which might call for assistance varying in amount from week to week. The problem of public assistance seems to me to be the problem of "Who is my neighbour?"—the problem of neighbourliness. It cannot be doubted that the right people to assess the neighbour's needs are the neighbours themselves. They can take into account individual needs and special claims. Public assistance is surely then a question of dealing with the hard case: the hard case which so often comes before us on Adjournment Motions. From my limited experience of administration I have definitely formed the opinion that it is the hard case that is most difficult for a Government Department to deal with. It is the hard case that is particularly susceptible of relief on the spot.

The hon. Member for Merthyr suggested that even if the State did assume responsibility the public assistance committees would still retain control. I do not see how that would be possible. If the responsibility for finding the money is a State responsibility I do not see how it is possible for public assistance authorities to continue. My main objection to the case put forward from the Opposition benches is that they seem to think that further vast assistance can come from State funds and the local authorities can still remain in the same position of independence that they hold to-day. In taking that view I think they are living in an unreal world.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Is the hon. Member not aware that the Government in the block grant help the local authority in regard to education and a large number of other circumstances? Why cannot they meet a responsibility of this kind by amending the block grant formula?

Mr. Bernays

I am coming to the block grant later on. It is all a matter of degree and it becomes a very serious question. Already in some areas the rate income is less than the money received from the Government. I come now to the second means proposed for carrying out the proposal made in the Motion: what I would call the spread-over. Over what areas are the burdens to be spread? Something has already been done to enlarge the areas of public assistance administration under the Act of 1929. There were considerable extensions of the units of public assistance following on that Act. In London, 25 unions were replaced by the London County Council. In Kent 26 were replaced by the Kent County Council and one county borough council. In Hampshire 26 were replaced by the County Council and three county borough councils. I suggest that by the continued process of bringing in other areas there has been an increase in the rateable value and, therefore, a more equable distribution of burdens. Something more may be done, it is suggested, by way of amalgamations on a large scale. The Tyneside report is a case in point. There are, however, substantial difficulties, and not the least is the opposition of the local authorities to further amalgamations.

Mr. Jenkins

The difference between 15s. 9d. as the public assistance in Merthyr Tydfil compared with the lowest liability in the country of 1s. 2d., is surely a great disparity. These are the greatest disparities which have ever existed in the Poor Law of this country.

Mr. Bernays

Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to make my speech. I am coming to that point. I shall deal with the question of what has been achieved by the reallocation of the block grant. I was saying that in regard to these amalgamations not the least difficulty is the opposition of the local authorities. I would remind the House that that opposition does not by any means come from local authorities all of one political colour. The supporters of the Motion are suggesting something much more than regional amalgamation. What they have in mind is something in the nature of a pooling of the rates, in other words, that Bath should make a contribution to the public assistance expenses of a town like Birkenhead. That would create a most difficult situation for Birkenhead. My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Sir G. Fox) used the familiar phrase about paying the piper and calling the tune. It is quite clear that if Bath, for instance, helps to pay the piper, Bath will demand a voice in calling the Birkenhead tune. Bath will demand a voice in the scales of public assistance in Birkenhead. That situation might not merely endanger the autonomy of local authorities but also their efficiency in relieving distress.

The main obstacles to the proposal are the problems that would arise in day-to-day administration. I admit that a high relief scale may be compatible with sound administration. What is vital is that there should be in all cases a thorough investigation and a decision strictly on merit on each case submitted for relief. In cases where the greater part of the cost of relief would fall on another authority and not on the authority incurring the expenditure I suggest that the chief essential for prudent administration is removed. As a practical instance I would give the experience of administration of transitional benefit between 1931 and 1935. That experience shows the great difficulties which would arise where the authority administering the relief did not have to foot the bill I come to another point to which I am sure the House will attach importance.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Surely it is inadequate to make that statement and not to present the facts. Extended benefit never went beyond standard benefit at any time.

Mr. Bernays

In the case of County Durham and Rotherham the scales were so high and extravagant, if one may so call them, that Commissioners were placed in those areas.

Mr. Batey

They should never have been appointed.

Mr. Bernays

I was challenged that there was not extravagance, and I gave those two instances.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Does the Minister realise that extended benefit never exceeded standard benefit at any time?

Mr. Batey

Does the Minister realise that the cases he quotes had nothing to do with standard benefit?

Mr. Bernays

The fact remains that Commissioners had to be put in. I come now to another point to which I am sure the House will attach importance. It was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Cox). Such a change as that suggested in the Motion could not be made except with the approval and willing co-operation of the local authorities, and there is no evidence of any kind that such co-operation or support will be forthcoming from the local authorities. Where is the evidence that the local authorities desire this pooling of the rates? The local government associations, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the County Councils Association and the London County Council have made no representations to my Department on this question. It is hardly to be supposed that the more prosperous local authorities would welcome levies upon their rates. When in 1933 a distressed areas grant was proposed and it was suggested that the richer areas should make a contribution of a halfpenny rate to be matched by an equal contribution from the Exchequer, the proposal was turned down. The hon. Member for Merthyr suggested that the more prosperous local authorities would he willing to contribute.

Mr. S. O. Davies indicated dissent.

Mr. Bernays

At any rate, the argument has been put forward that there would be no objection, but in the case I have mentioned when they were asked, they said very clearly: "Not a halfpenny." When the Associations were consulted before the redistribution of the block grant the Minister's proposals as embodied in the 1937 Act, were accepted. Here I should like to take up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor). He said that the reallocation of the block grant was agreed upon by the local authorities, but that was strongly denied by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who said it was not true. I have furnished myself with the evidence, which bears out entirely what my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne said. The report of the investigations on Section 110 of the Local Government Act says: The conclusions are stated to have been reached in a spirit of compromise and are in the opinion of the conference such as would produce a settlement of county and county borough apportionments which could reasonably be accepted. In this spirit the revised formula was accepted on behalf of the London County Council and the associations of local authorities, subject to reservations in the event of acceptance not being general. Therefore the hon. Member for Eastbourne was right in every particular. Indirect aid to the poorer areas by the reallocation of the block grant is on a different footing from a direct levy on an authority's own rates, That the suggestion contained in the Motion is not practical politics is borne out by what Sir Malcolm Stewart, who has been quoted to-day, said in 1936, in Part 6 of his Third Report as Commissioner for the Special Areas: It may be presumed that there is little or no possibility of the majority of local authorities agreeing voluntarily and rapidly to … an equalisation of the cost of public assistance through a common pool and a common standard of administration.

Mr. S. O. Davies

He said much more than that.

Mr. Bernays

Yes, and the Government have done much more since. I fully agree with the case that the burden in some areas is severe. The hon. Member for Merthyr quoted in support of his Motion the opinion of Sir Malcolm Stewart and the opinion of the right hon. and gallant Member the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. The answer is that the report of my right hon. and gallant Friend was made in 1933 and the report of Sir Malcolm in 1936, and that the Government since then have carried out the recommendations, though in a different way to that in which they were put forward. My answer is that the Government understand fully and have gone far to meet the case in the recent alteration in the assessment of the block grant which was designed for the very purpose of bringing greater assistance to the hard pressed areas. The hon. Member for Peckham spoke scornfully about the reallocation of the block grant under the 1937 Act. If hon. Members opposite felt so strongly about that reallocation it is surprising that they never challenged a division upon it. As a matter of fact, it went through without a division. The House knows the method which was adopted—increased weight was given to the unemployment factor. It has been suggested that the block grant does not take into account the factor of public assistance, but I think it will be generally agreed that public assistance has a direct relation to unemployment.

Increased weight was given to the unemployment factor and this, together with the increased amount of the total block grant pool, resulted in a substantial increase in the amount apportioned to the more necessitous areas. Figures have been given by some hon. Members on this side of the House. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil talked about the liability of contribution from local authorities to the Unemployment Assistance Board. That no longer is the case now. As from the same date local authorities were relieved of the contribution payable to the Unemployment Assistance Board under Section 45 of the Unemployment Act, 1934. It is also the case that the setting up of the Board itself relieved public assistance authorities from the responsibility of maintaining large numbers of able-bodied unemployed persons and their dependants. What does this amount to in hard cash? Local authorities received £2,250,000 in new money, and were relieved of the liability of contributions towards the cost of unemployment assistance amounting to another £2,000,00. Substantial assistance was given to the areas most in need. Let me give some instances. Durham received a total benefit equivalent to a rate of 22d. in the £; Cumberland of 23.8d., Gateshead of 30.8d., Glamorganshire of 36.1d., Monmouthshire of 45.4d., and Merthyr Tydfil received an increase of 63.9d.

The hon. Member for Merthyr spoke of the stagnation of the health services. I do not think that is borne out by the facts. I have looked into the expenditure on maternity services in South Wales. In Glamorganshire in 1930 it was £102,000 and in 1936 £164,000; in Rhondda in 1930 it was £14,000 and in 1936 £33,000; in Merthyr Tydfil it was £4,900 in 1930 and £7,400 in 1936. I think we can take some satisfaction from the fact that there is no evidence from the figures of even a partial stagnation of the health services. I must point out further that the Government have tried in recent legislation involving grants to local authorities for new services to make an apportionment of grant on the basis of need giving more to some authorities than to others. This was done under the Midwives Act and it is also proposed in the case of the Cancer Bill. If the House agrees to that Bill Monmouthshire will get 85 per cent. grant towards the new service while Bournemouth will receive 21 per cent. We claim that in actual practice in the payment of grants the principle that has been argued on the Motion this afternoon has been followed, of giving "to each according to his need." I admit that the hon. Member mentioned this in his speech and I was glad to hear that he was grateful for it, but at the same time the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) led his party into the Division Lobby against the Financial Resolution on the Cancer Bill.

I do not want to be provocative and I mention these facts only to show that it is extremely difficult for any Government to devise the right apportionment of burden. If we help one local authority we may do it at the expense of another. What you may gain in amalgamation you may lose in independence and in flexibility of administration. It is a question of the balance of advantages and disadvantages; and all that the State can do is to work out the principle of apportionment, service by service, in the light of varying local needs. That, we contend, is the object of the block grant, which of course is subject to a quinquennial review. I suggest that the fact that the block grant when it came up for revision less than two years ago was not challenged in the Division Lobby is an indication that it is achieving the object for which it was designed; to bring the greatest assistance to those areas where the need was greatest. It goes far to meet the case which hon. Members have made, and it is, in fact, the answer to their Motion.

Mr. S. O. Davies

I put two alternatives before the House. The Parliamentary Secretary has dealt with one. I also made the case for making public assistance a national charge and the Parliamentary Secretary has not touched upon that very important aspect.

Mr. Bernays

The hon. Member was not in the House when I began my speech but he will find that I have dealt fully with both points.

Mr. Davies

Then the Parliamentary Secretary must have done it in less than three minutes.

6.56 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Greenwood

To many of us the Debate has been extremely interesting and we need not feel ashamed of the arguments put forward. Indeed, we have had some support from hon. Members opposite. Even the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise) more or less accepted the principles of our case but I doubt very much whether he will appear in the Division Lobby with us. In recent years there has been an increase in rates all over the country despite the block grant. For the last five years there has been an increasing rate burden. I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary will deny it. In county boroughs from 1935–36 to 1938 the rate burden has gone from 12s. 11¼d. to 13s. 4⅛d., 13s. 5½d. and 13s. 11½d., and in the urban districts and county councils the upward march of the rates goes on. The block grant has not met this situation. We have had two essays this afternoon from the mover and seconder of the Amendment, very learned essays, to which I was very glad to listen, as to how the block grant is working. The block grant is regarded as being something which has given substantial assistance to local authorities.

The Parliamentary Secretary has said that we did not oppose the last revision in the Division Lobby. I suppose that on the first block grant proposal I made more speeches than anybody against it, and when the revision came on in 1937 why should we oppose something which brought some crumbs of comfort to certain local authorities? When the last revision took place it is certainly true that some local authorities received an increased grant; that is undeniable. But what relief they got in the worst placed areas has already been swallowed up in increased Poor Law expenditure. The Parliamentary Secretary skated over that point. Although there are areas which profited, it is nevertheless true that there are local authorities which, owing to Poor Law expenditure, are worse off now than before this latest act of generosity by the National Government. In spite of all the services that local authorities have to carry on, the greater part of the expenditure in many areas is on public assistance. I could keep the House for 10 minutes quoting the rates in the £ of local authorities where the burden of the poor rate amounts to more than half the total rates raised.

Everybody must accept—because the facts are there and cannot be denied—this uneven incidence of the public assistance rate. In towns of comparable size, with a similar number of children, the expenditure on education could not differ widely. It would depend upon the character of the local authority: if it believed in education it might spend rather more than the local authority that did not believe in it. Similarly the expenditure on the health services—for street lighting, roads, sewers, drainage, and hospitals—would be roughly the same in towns of comparable size. I took the trouble to look up the figures only yesterday, and if hon. Members considered the expenditure on rates for those particular pur- poses they would find that the variation between one local authority and another is not really substantial. But when you come to the rate for public assistance the difference between one town and another is not merely phenomenal, it is astronomical. There are some towns where the poor rate is negligible and others where it amounts to more than half the money raised by the town for all its other constructive services. In other words, there are towns in this country which on their ambulance service of maintaining the poor are spending more than on the big constructive services which it is the pride of every public spirited local authority to develop.

Why does this enormous disparity exist? It is because poverty is the result of economic causes which are not under the control of the local authority. Unfortunately, this burden of poverty falls on areas which are increasingly unable to bear it. I opposed both the block grant system and derating; I think both were injurious to our system of local government. But the real trouble with the local authorities in the depressed areas to-day is not either the block grant system or the system of derating; the trouble is that the whole of the burden of the poor rate rests upon local authorities without one penny of State aid. That is a situation which is not made by the local authority. I listened with great interest to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, the hon. Member for Henley (Sir G. Fox), who spoke about work being obtained and so on, but I fear he has not faced the realities of the situation. Henley happens to be prosperous. There are more rich people living there than poor people. Merthyr Tydfil and other places happen to be poverty stricken and have few wealthy people in their midst. In times past, for three or four generations, they helped to create the wealth of Britain and the power of Britain. Now, through causes entirely beyond their control, they are derelict. Therefore, this problem becomes a national problem, because the Special Areas, as the Government, in dispassionate language calls them, are inhabited by people who are poor through no fault of their own but through the movement of economic forces.

The National Government accepted the principle of the national maintenance of the unemployed. They said the un- employed must become a national responsibility. They never lived up to their pledges, but at least they admitted the principle. And one of the difficulties which local authorities in areas which are not Special under the Act are having to face to-day is that they have to maintain out of the poor rate people who are unemployed. The elderly man or elderly woman who cannot find a job, the man who has to try to live on workmen's compensation for a time, the man who has been disabled in industry—those people are poor not because they are vicious, but because they are the victims of circumstances. One hundred years ago in this House it was the custom of Members to refer to people in indigent circumstances as the "vicious poor"—it being assumed that the poor were poor because they were vicious. The poor are poor because of economic circumstances over which they have no control. There may be some who are idle, there may be people without merit, but the vast majority of those who have to go on public assistance do so not because of their own personal defects, but because of lack of opportunity and because of the circumstances in which they are placed.

The Government, therefore, in professing to take up the maintenance of the able-bodied unemployed have only dealt with part of the problem. The widows, the orphans, the aged and so on—the people who are on the industrial scrap-heap for one reason or another—are as much a national problem as the people who are actually unemployed. The responsibilities of local authorities are as heavy as they are to-day because the State, while admitting its responsibilities, has never properly fulfilled them. I remember when unemployment benefit was 7s. per week. I remember the big Act of 1920, though I was not in the House then. I have spoken on most Unemployment Insurance Bills which have been introduced since 1922. It has never been claimed by the Government, whatever Government was in power, that unemployment benefit was sufficient for human maintenance. The system was introduced to eke out for a short time the period of unemployment when it was assumed by the Government of that day—the time before the War—that there were savings on which the family could rely. Nobody ever supposed that the original 5s. for old age pensions was sufficient for maintenance. When it was increased to 10s. nobody ever claimed that that was sufficient for maintenance. And although we have admitted a national responsibility for the aged and for the unemployed, although we have admitted responsibility for disabled ex-service men, the responsibility has not been honourably undertaken. The aged, the crippled, the invalided and the disabled ex-service men have to go for their maintenance to the local authorities. While these services, whether it be old age pensions or unemployment insurance, have been accepted by the State, the State has not met the needs of the people who receive the advantages of the scheme. Therefore, if these people have no other resources, they are driven inevitably to the Poor Law and the local authorities.

The local authorities are to-day carrying a burden which the State has admitted it ought to carry itself. Nor is that all. Year by year, the House puts on to the Statute Book one Measure after another increasing the responsiblities and duties of local authorities. I have no complaint to make against that, for I want to go on increasing the duties and responsibilities of local authorities; but with the very limited resources at the disposal of the local authorities, it is impossible to go on placing more and more burdens on them unless the State is prepared to recompense them for carrying out those responsibilities. Therefore, we have to face the question of State help.

The Parliamentary Secretary gave us what I regard as the usual case about Government grants and local administration. In the winter of 1930, I distributed, with the approval of the House, £500,000 to local authorities in the depressed areas in order to help them to promote, outside the unemployment grants, any schemes of work which, through their poverty, they could not finance. I think that I kept to the canons of good government when I administered that money. I had no difficulty with the local authorities. We worked as partners undertaking a common task. One of the last Acts placed on the Statute Book by the Labour Government was a Bill of mine for building additional cottages in rural areas. Through the generosity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I had at my disposal £2,000,000, and I was empowered by Parliament to give 100 per cent. grants to local authorities which had not the necessary resources. It was not my fault that that Act was not implemented. Was there any trouble there? Would there have been local authorities dominating the Government, or would there have been a benevolent Ministry of Health—keeping a watchful eye for wastefulness, but benevolent—doing its best to co-operate with the local authorities?

I do not think there can be any case now against making the Poor Law a national responsibility. The Parliamentary Secretary used a most extraordinary phrase. The hon. Gentleman told the House that the Poor Law was the oldest service in this country, a statement about which I do not want to argue; but he argued in favour of the Poor Law system by saying, "Who is my neighbour?" Is the man who lives at Torquay or Eastbourne, having made his money out of South Wales mines, a friend and neighbour of Merthyr Tydvil and the other areas in South Wales? Are those ship-brokers and shipowners who live on the West Coast, at Southport and elsewhere, neighbours of Liverpool, which is now a depressed area? I ask the hon. Gentleman the question—who is my neighbour in this matter of national importance, created not merely by national, but by international circumstances?

Mr. H. G. Williams

The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps).

Mr. Greenwood

The interruptions of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) are always irrelevant. I always feel, when the hon. Member interrupts me, that I must be getting under the skin of the Government, which pleases me more than anything else. I put this point to the House very seriously. We have now this growing burden of rates, with a limitation of the resources of the local authorities, and in some areas, with a growing burden of poverty in their midst. The State cannot now deny its responsibilities, and then, if there is a grave crisis, call upon these areas to fulfil the vast responsibilities expected of them in the event of war. When all is said and done, at a time of grave crisis every Government must repose on the bosom of the people, whether they be prosperous or whether they be poor. There can be no distinction if it comes to service to the community, whether in peace or in war, between those who are prosperous and those who are in the depths of poverty. If citizenship means anything to-day, it is something which should be honoured, and in those areas which are particularly unfortunate, through no actions of their own, there is a special case for assistance from those who are their neighbours. I contend that their neighbours are all the citizens of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This problem is one which ought not to be left to them to wrestle with alone, with resources utterly insufficient for dealing with their problems.

My last word is this. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment spoke of what the Government have done for the distressed areas. If it had not been for this party, this Session, the Government would have dropped their powers under those Acts. We had to insist on the continuance of the legislation under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Yet the problem of the distressed areas is the major problem. I am not asking for charity for people who are down, nor am I asking primarily for public money for people who are down. Our case always has been that we would rather they were working than eating the bread of idleness. The Government have reluctantly carried on the powers which they have. During this Session, they have not lifted a finger to do anything to provide more employment for the people. I have been looking up the figures of the rates in the £ in certain towns, and in some of the places where the rates are highest, the only thing the Government are banking on is rearmament. Rearmament is going on at the greatest possible speed. I commend this Motion to the House. We shall, of course, support it in the Division Lobby. The Motion has been brought forward because we believe we have a neighbourly duty to our people who are more unfortunately placed than the people in most constituencies; but we are not unmindful of the need for a great constructive policy which would bring back into normal employment the people who to-day are victims of the economic system under which they live.

7.27 p.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

In the three minutes that remain, I would like to make one or two comments. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) expressed great dissatisfaction that old age pensions, and so on, are not up to the level of maintenance. Before the 1929 General Election, the leaders of the Labour party promised the electors old age pensions of £1 a week at the age of 60. Within three weeks of the General Election, the party opposite introduced a Bill to amend the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act—the right hon. Gentleman was in charge of the Bill—and left the amount at 10s. It is as well that that should be put on record. I think those who are now asking for more assistance should take the trouble to consider the vast change that there has been during the last 15 years in the volume of national assistance going to the areas suffering from distress.

Mr. S. O. Davies

The hon. Member is not talking about Merthyr Tydvil, is he?

Mr. Williams

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield was—it is not my fault.

Mr. Greenwood

I want to correct the hon. Member on one point. It was not in 1929, but after the 1935 General Election that we produced our detailed scheme

for pensions of £1 a week, which I am prepared to defend.

Mr. Williams

The late Mr. Arthur Henderson made the statement to which I have referred, and he was one of the leaders of the party. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) moved the Motion. If hon. Members will go into the Library and get the volume showing the cost of education per child in each local government area in the country, they will find that these poverty-stricken districts are very extravagant.

Mr. Cove

I challenge the hon. Member on that.

Mr. Williams

I think the local authorities in poverty-stricken districts should exercise care and caution. When we see things in a shop window, we do not buy them unless we can afford to do so, and I think it would be a very good thing if those who have protested to-day would take the trouble of managing their own local affairs more competently than they do.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 142; Noes, 202.

Division No. 27.] AYES. [7.30 p.m.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Emery, J. F. Leach, W.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Lee, F.
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Gallacher, W. Leslie, J. R.
Adamson, W. M. Gardner, B. W. Lunn, W.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Garro Jones, G. M. Macdonald, G. (Ince)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) McEntee, V. La T.
Aske, Sir R. W. Gibson R. (Greenock) McGhee, H. G.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Green, W. H. (Deptford) McGovern, J.
Banfield, J. W. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. MacLaren, A.
Barr, J. Grenfell, D. R. Maclean, N.
Bartlett, C. V. O. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)
Batey, J. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) MacNeill Weir, L.
Bellenger, F. J. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Mainwaring, W. H.
Benson, G. Groves, T. E. Marshall, F.
Bevan, A. Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Mathers, G.
Broad, F. A. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Maxton, J.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Milner, Major J.
Buchanan, G. Hardie, Agnes Montague, F.
Burke, W. A. Harris, Sir P. A. Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)
Cape, T. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Charleton, H. C. Hayday, A. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Chater, D. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Muff, G.
Cluse, W. S. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Oliver, G. H.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Owen, Major G.
Cocks, F. S. Hicks, E. G. Paling, W.
Collindridge, F. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Parker, J.
Cove, W. G. Hopkin, D. Parkinson, J. A.
Daggar, G. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Pearson, A.
Dalton, H. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) John, W. Poole, C. C.
Day, H. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Price, M. P.
Dobbie, W. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Quibell, D. J. K.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Kirkwood, D. Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Eckersley, P. T. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Ritson, J.
Ede, J. C. Lathan, G. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Lawson, J. J. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Sanders, W. S. Summerskill, Dr. Edith White, H. Graham
Seely, Sir H. M. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Sexton, T. M. Thorne, W. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Shinwell, E. Thurtle, E. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Silverman, S. S. Tinker, J. J. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Simpson, F. B. Tomlinson, G. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's) Viant, S. P. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe) Walkden, A. G. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Smith, E. (Stoke) Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees (K'ly) Watkins, F. C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Smith, T. (Normanton) Watson, W. McL. Mr. S. O. Davies and Mr. Leonard.
Stephen, C. Welsh, J. C.
Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng) Westwood, J.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Gridley, Sir A. B. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Grigg, Sir E. W. M. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Grimston, R. V. Perkins, W. R. D.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Guinness, T. L. E. B. Pilkington, R.
Apsley, Lord Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H. Procter, Major H. A.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Hambro, A. V. Radford, E. A.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Hammersley, S. S. Ramsbotham, H.
Barrie, Sir C. C. Harbord, A. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Harvey, Sir G. Rayner, Major R. H.
Bernays, R. H. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)
Blair, Sir R. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Boothby, R. J. G. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Bossom, A. C. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Ropner, Colonel L.
Boyce, H. Leslie Hepburn. P. G. T. Buchan- Rosbotham, Sir T.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Hepworth, J. Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Herbert. Major J. A. (Monmouth) Rowlands, G.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Higgs, W. F. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Bull, B. B. Hogg, Hon. Q. McG. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Burghley, Lord Hopkinson, A. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Burton, Col. H. W. Howitt, Dr. A. B. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cary, R. A. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Sandeman, Sir N. S.
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Scott, Lord William
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Huntoke, H. P. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Channon, H. Hunter, T. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Hurd, Sir P. A. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Christie, J. A. Hutchinson, G. C. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Snadden, W. McN.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Somerset, T.
Colfox, Major W. P. Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald
Colvilla, Rt. Hon. John Keeling, E. H. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Cooke J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F. Spens, W. P.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Lamb, Sir J. Q. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Cross, R. H. Lancaster, Captain C. G. Stourton Major Hon. J. J.
Crossley, A. C. Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Crowder, J. F. E. Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Sutcliffe, H.
Cruddas, Col. B. Lees-Jones, J. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Leech, Sir J. W. Tate, Mavis C.
De la Bère, R. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Levy, T. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Denville, Alfred Lewis, O. Titchfield, Marquess of
Dixon, capt. Rt. Hon. H. Lindsay, K. M. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Donner, P. W. Lloyd, G. W. Turton, R. H.
Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Wakefield, W. W.
Drewe, C. M'Connell, Sir J. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Evan
Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) McCorquodale, M. S. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Warrender, Sir V.
Duncan, J. A. L. Macmillan, H (Stockton-on-Tees) Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Eastwood, J. F. Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest Wayland, Sir W. A.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Ellis, Sir G. Markham, S. F. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Elliston, Capt. G. S. Marsden, Commander A. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Errington, E. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Everard, Sir W. Lindsay Medlicott, F. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton. E.) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Fyle, D. P. M. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Gluckstein, L. H. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Glyn Major Sir R. G. C. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Grant-Ferris, R. Munro, P.
Granville, E. L. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Sir Gifford Fox and Mr. Trevor Cox.

Question proposed, "That the proposed words be there added."

Several Han. Members rose—

It being after Half-past Seven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.