HL Deb 09 August 1905 vol 151 cc749-77

House in Committee (according to Order).

[The Earl of ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1.


said their Lordships would recollect that he gave notice in the course of the few remarks he made on the previous afternoon that he would like Answers to some Questions bearing upon the third subsection of Clause 1. He might remind their Lordships that the noble Marquess in charge of the Bill paraded this sub-section somewhat ostentatiously as the charter of safety against any wrong occurring under the Bill or any detriment being suffered by the principles of the Poor Law. He (Lord Balfour) ventured to say at the time that, after all, it was easy enough to lay down rules, but the test would be as to how those rules and conditions were administered. He pointed out that this sub-section gave to those who had to administer the Act the very fullest possible discretion, a discretion bounded and curtailed only, as he understood it, by the possibility of regulations being made by the Local Government Board for the guidance of local authorities in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

He wanted to test the policy which was foreshadowed in this sub-section by getting Answers, if possible, to one or two Questions. He asked, in the first place, how long, in the opinion of the Local Government Board, it would be right that a man should be out of work before he was regarded as a fit applicant for the benefits of this provision, and whether it would be considered in his favour that he had exercised any prudence or foresight up to the time when he made his application? He would presume, as a matter of course, that that would be in his favour; but he wanted to know whether, where it could be shown that he had not exercised prudence and foresight in preparing for an emergency that would be counted against him. Again, he would like to test the policy by an Answer to this Question—namely, whether a man who was proved to have refused work simply because it was not paid for according to the standard of trade-union remuneration would be considered fully entitled to the benefits of the Act. Take the case of a strike in a portion of a large county. Would the whole of the ratepayers of the county, who had no direct interest in the dispute, have their funds drawn upon for the purpose of relieving the workmen out on strike? In passing this Bill, he thought they were entitled to know what, on such points as these, was in the minds of His Majesty's Government, and whether they could really say that in carrying out this Bill they would not be acting in derogation of the principles of the Poor Law which they professed to admire.


I quite agree with my noble friend that the test of this Bill will be the manner in which these rules are administered, but I do not agree with, him when he says that the discretion of these local bodies remains unfettered by the Bill. I think the Bill, on the contrary, gives them a great amount of useful guidance. How that discretion will be exercised it does not seem to me to be possible for myself or anyone else to undertake to announce beforehand.

The noble Earl asked me, by way of illustration, two or three specific Questions. One of them was this, How long is a man to be out of work before he is qualified for assistance under this Bill? Well, my Lords, is it conceivable that we should be able to lay down a precise period of time during which an unemployed man is to remain unemployed before he is entitled to any assistance under this Bill? Surely the decision of the local body must depend upon the circumstances of the particular case of unemployment. If the man is a hardworking, deserving person, I should say that he was entitled to some, at any rate, of the assistance which this Bill contemplates, even if he had been out of employment for a very short space of time; indeed I will go further and say that if I were a member of one of these bodies, and a case came before me in which it was perfectly clear that the man was going to be turned out the next week and had no chance of employment, if that man was going to be turned out through no fault of his own I should say it would be our duty to endeavour, if we could, to find employment for him in another part of the county.

The noble Lord's other Question had reference to the case of a man who had been getting good wages during a considerable part of the year, but who during that time had not put any money by, and then found himself during the slack season out of work. Well, says the noble Lord, would it be reasonable that such a man, who had exercised no foresight or providence, should get relief? There, again, I answer that it is impossible to dispose of this question by decisions upon hypothetical cases put forward by the noble Lord, and I must say put forward very imperfectly, because the noble Lord's statement obviously does not exhaust all the possi- bilities of the case. The noble Lord talks of the relief which is to be afforded under this Bill. He talks as if it was the business of these bodies to distribute pecuniary relief with both hands to everybody who came to ask for it. But what is the assistance which is contemplated by the Bill? I again recall my noble friend's attention to the wording of the clause. These distress committees, in cases where "they are satisfied that a man is temporarily unable to obtain work from exceptional causes over which he has no control," may endeavour "to obtain work" for the applicant. Surely there is no risk of abuse from that provision, properly applied.

Then we come to the action of the central body. What is the central body to do? Not to give indiscriminate relief to all applicants, but, in cases where they are satisfied that the applicant is deserving, to aid in emigrating or removing him; and they may also provide, or contribute towards the provision of, not permanent employment, but "temporary work of such a character as to enable the person assisted afterwards to obtain regular work or other means of supporting himself." It must surely be for these distress committees and for the central body to determine in each case whether the person applying to them really does or does not fulfil the conditions laid down by these two sections; and it would be for them to determine whether, in the particular case supposed by the noble Lord, the applicant had or had not exercised a reasonable amount of foresight and prudence. But I can very well imagine a case, even where a man had not exercised any great amount of foresight or prudence, where he had been receiving the full rate of wages during the greater part of the year, and where he had not put any money by, but where, nevertheless, through no fault of his own, he suddenly found himself stranded and without employment. Does the noble Lord mean to suggest that in a case of that kind it should be out of the power of the local bodies to give the kind of assistance which this Bill contemplates? If he does, I differ from him altogether.

It seems to me that we must assume that these local bodies will perform their duties in a reasonable spirit. If we are to impute to them utter unreasonableness and an utter disregard of the guidance which is given to them by this Bill, then this Bill certainly ought not to become law; but believing, as we do, that the constitution both of the distress committees and of the central bodies will be of a kind which will give us a guarantee that they will exercise common sense and take reasonable precautions, we think they may safely be given the amount of latitude which is contained in the measure.


said the Questions which Lord Balfour of Burleigh had put to the noble Marquess appeared to him to go very much to the root of the whole position, and he did not think the Answers which had been given were quite satisfactory. The noble Marquess had said that this matter rested with the distress committees and with the central authority. Was he quite correct in that? If he would look at Clause 4, Sub-section 3, he would see this provision— The Local Government Board may make regulations for carrying into effect this Act, and may by those regulations, amongst other things, provide for regulating the conditions under which any application may be entertained by a distress committee under this Act. The salient point in the Bill was the enormous powers, the unprecedented powers, which were given to the Local Government Board. Surely it was desirable that Parliament should know in a general way the manner in which the Local Government Board regarded this section.


said the noble Marquess had not answered one of his Questions as to whether there would be any further guidance in matters of policy of this kind given to local authorities by the regulations made by the Local Government Board. After all, he thought the local authorities, who were, he might venture to say, the victims of the Government in this matter, were getting a great deal more of the kicks than the half-pence. For very soon those who had had their expectations roused by this Bill would find that it did not fulfil them. As a friend of his had put it the other day, it was like giving a baby a bottle without putting any milk in it. He wanted to know whether there was to be any further guidance given in the regulations which were to be promulgated by the Local Government Board.


My Lords, my noble friend behind me has already pointed out what is the policy of the Bill, and really it is absolutely impossible to lay down particular rules within which a general policy can be guided. If you have a concrete case you can give an opinion upon it. But if you have an abstract proposition that a person is not to be entitled or is to be entitled upon some hypothesis not actually the hypothesis with which you have to deal, then you might, I think, be all night discussing whether or not this or that did come within the policy of this Bill. I think what my noble friend has pointed out does show very distinctly what is the policy of the Bill. It is impossible to go further and to express an opinion beforehand about an infinite variety of human circumstances which no one can foresee. I cannot help thinking that the guidance can only be of a most general character, and that only can be obtained by looking at the Bill as a whole, and seeing what it is intended to provide. The local authorities will take for their guidance what the Bill itself points out as its real policy, and not the extreme cases which have been suggested.


said he was very sorry to appear pugnacious; but he gave the previous day the case of what were called seasonable trades, where men who worked in those trades for, say, only forty weeks in the year received higher wages on that account, and he compared with those men others who, though they worked the whole year through, received a miserable pittance compared with that earned by the man engaged in a seasonable trade. Under this Bill they were going to burden the poorer of these two men for the benefit of the other. If they did allow a man, who was in the circumstances described for a great part of the year, to become a beneficiary under the Bill during the slack season, they would do more to sap the independence of those who were in a struggling position than anything that had been done in this country for a great number of years.


sympathised a great deal with what had been said the previous day by Lord Balfour of Burleigh as to the difficulties which surrounded this subject, and as to the courage or, if they liked, the rashness which had been shown by their entrusting these powers to the bodies who would be created under the Act. But, at the same time, he thought the noble Lord asked an impossible thing when he suggested that there should be laid down in the Act itself the kind of conditions—


I did not suggest that they should be put in the Act. I asked whether they would be in the regulations.


said he understood the noble Lord to say, in his speech the previous day, that he would like to see in the Act itself more details as to how the appointed boards were to do their work. It seemed to him equally impossible to expect that His Majesty's Government should now be able to state in detail what rule would be laid down by the Local Government Board to meet particular cases. The noble Lord had suggested extreme cases, and such cases would require consideration on their merits when they arose. The noble Lord asked, for example, how long a person was to be out of work before he was to become eligible to receive the benefits of this Act. There were many cases in which people ought to be eligible immediately, perhaps even the same night. Take a case which happened in London last year, where a factory was burned down in which a large number of girls were engaged, earning most miserable wages and depending from day to day upon those wages for their livelihood. Would anyone say that the local authorities must wait until those girls had been weeks or months out of employment before endeavouring to procure new work for them or in some other way to provide for their special case, which required urgent help? Could such details possibly be laid down by a rule beforehand, either by the House or by the Local Government Board? He ventured to think that having taken the precautions which this Bill endeavoured to take, of securing the best possible people to work on the distress committees they ought to leave to them, under the general guidance which he hoped the Local Government Board would exercise, the power of doing what they had been accustomed to do for years past in other capacities, and decide each case upon its merits. He ventured to say that they would do wrong were they to ask the Government to give more detailed information now, and still more wrong were they to desire to see it enacted in the actual text of the Bill itself.


The case dealt with by the noble Lord behind me (Lord Balfour) in his last observations was considered when this Bill was being prepared. I mean the case of men who earn good wages for a considerable part of the year and during the remainder of it are out of employment; and it was in order to deal with those cases that the words in Clause 1, Sub-Section— From exceptional causes over which he has no control. were inserted. The case of a man who followed a profession in which he was invariably well occupied and well remunerated during a part of the year, but invariably and regularly was short of work during the winter months, would surely not be an exceptional case within the meaning of this section.

One word as to the regulations. Regulations will be issued by the Local Government Board for the guidance of these local bodies, and the regulations will, I conceive, be framed in accordance with the spirit of the clauses of this Bill. The regulations have not yet been drafted, and it is impossible for us to announce tonight how they will deal with particular hypothetical cases; but I venture to anticipate that they will be reasonably drawn and that the regulations and the clauses of the Bill itself will be interpreted by the bodies entrusted with their administration in a common-sense and reasonable manner. I do not think it is fair to attribute either to the distress committees or to the central bodies that they will be wholly wanting in those valuable qualities.


asked the noble Marquess in charge of the Bill whether, under Sub-section 4, "collection of information" would include the use of the post office and the telegraphs. His reason for asking that was that he remembered quite well, when he was living in South Australia and there was a time of considerable distress, it was found very advantageous that persons who lived in the country who had work to offer and positions of employment to give should register that work and those offers of employment at the post office; and being registered there, not only were all persons going into the post office aware of the opportunity of work, but, further than that, it was an easy matter to telegraph any offer of work to those places where the supply of labour was greatest, and thus supply and demand were brought into contact with each other. He was not quite sure how far, under this sub-section, it would be possible to utilise the post office and the telegraphs, but he could see such great advantages in their use, especially in the country districts, that he ventured to ask the noble Marquess the Question which he had put to him. It was quite true that it really referred in its operation more to country districts, and would more properly come under Clause 2; but, as the wording that would be applicable to country districts was taken from Clause 1, it was probable that whatever regulation was in operation under one clause would have to be in operation under the other, and, therefore, he ventured to ask the Question on this clause.


My Lords, I think it is obvious that the central body will not be precluded from making use of the post and telegraph offices, which would be, in a moment of emergency, very valuable allies. Whether it will be possible for the central body to go further and to make use of the post and telegraph offices as, so to speak, part of their machinery, I am afraid I am unable to say; but the suggestion of the right rev. Prelate seems to me to be a very valuable one, and I will take care that it is considered in the proper quarters.


Would not that be the sort of thing the Local Government Board would consider when making these regulations?




said the smoothness and rapidity with which this measure was passing through the House might suggest to wholly uninformed persons outside that there was want of interest or intelligence about the matter there, which would be, of course, the greatest possible calumny upon that House. They need not, he supposed, add to an absence of Amendments, which circumstances perhaps dictated, an absence of comment. Having been prevented from being present the previous night, he would like to say a word or two, if he might, upon Sub-section 6 of the clause now under discussion. That sub-section was the one which prescribed how public money might be used under the powers which the Bill would give. He thought there was a tendency in many quarters to think that the great change in the Bill which had taken place during its passage through Parliament—the change which had made it impossible for the local authorities to spend money upon employment—had deprived the Bill of all, or nearly all, its value.

He thought it was very important that they should lay stress upon the fact that the Bill as it now stood carried with it very substantial additions in regard to the employment of public money. They found that public money could be spent upon organisation of information on this matter, which obviously no private persons or association of persons were in as good a position to get as a public authority. That was a very real gain. They found, too, that public money could be spent upon promoting facility of movement for labour. He thought he was right in saying that one of the things which acted most as grit in the industrial or economic machine was the difficulty which labour in many cases had in moving. To assist labour by emigration and by what was, in some ways the more satisfactory manner of transfer within these islands, was to promote that movement of labour which he thought everyone would desire to see made easier than it was. But those were not the limits of the employment of public money. Besides that, public money might be used not upon labour but upon providing places where labour might be employed. He thought that in that they were getting very near to what had been desired by those who wished to see the Bill pass in its original form. If they were not spending directly upon employment, they were providing the sphere, as it were, for plans of employment, and there would probably, in the future, be a loud cry— whether that cry was one which they could accept or not he would not say— for help.

He could not help thinking that in all these matters there was nothing more desirable than to get the best cooperation of official and public work with private enterprise and organisation. It had been said that legislation like this would dry up private benevolence. There was, of course, a danger on that side; but he could not help thinking that it was quite as likely that it might encourage that benevolence. If it was found, as he thought it might be found, that private benevolence was inadequate to carry through with that persistency and steadiness which was necessary a scheme such as the farm colony scheme, it was very likely in the future—and it would be an encouraging prospect—that the public authorities might be able to contribute to it.

In this connection he noticed that the phrase had been used in that House that legislation of this kind tended to rob men of their independence. Now, to rob a man of his independence was, of course, one of the very worst things they could possibly do, but he ventured to submit that there was another way in which the manhood of our citizens might be damaged. He thought nothing damaged manhood more than for a man to feel himself in the power of forces which he was unable to control. They knew how these material forces had dwarfed and abased the men who were unable to cope with them; but in our modern society in great cities he was perfectly certain that the great economic forces had a character very similar to the appalling and intractable strength of the forces of nature itself, and he ventured to say that it did crush and weaken the manhood in men if they felt themselves to be the playthings of forces like that. He thought it was of great importance that they should be able to turn to the intelligence and the sympathy of the community round about them, to ask them to have regard for their position, and to do something to help them in their difficulty. That was precisely what the Poor Law in its own way, and within its own limits, had done; and he supposed that none of them would be inclined to deny that the provision by which a man should not, under economic pressure, starve and die was one which distinguished our English civilisation from a condition which we should rightly call barbarous and savage. But the Poor Law did not deal; with a man until he had become at least temporarily a wreck, and it went far to make him a wreck. Surely they would not think that that was the limit of what the intelligence and the sympathy of the community could do for its citizens, who were singly, and even in bodies and organisations, so weak and so powerless in the presence of the great economic forces. He hoped that what he had said did not appear too abstract; but he did really believe that it went near to the heart of the matter.

One great reason for thinking that it was of high importance that Parliament should pass this Bill was that it was a real expression on the part of the community, through its representatives, that it did mean to bring the force of its intelligence and sympathy to bear upon these difficult conditions. If the Bill passed, those upon whom these conditions pressed with a strength and a stress of which their Lordships from want of experience could have no conception, would feel that they were not forgotten, that they were not neglected, and that though the matter bristled with difficulties, yet some attempt had been made to deal with it. That was in itself a great advantage of passing the Bill. But he rose to point out that besides that, which might possibly be called a sentimental advantage, there was this advantage, that under Sub-section 6 of this clause there was an amount of power given to the new public authorities which would be found in present working, and possibly even further in the future, to have a very substantial and material effect in achieving that purpose for which the Bill was intended.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:—


said he desired to call attention to one of the provisions in this clause. If their Lordships would refer to Sub-section (2) of Clause 2. they would find the conditions set out under which the Local Government Board might appoint distress committees. The clause read— The Local Government Board may, on the application of any county or borough or district council, or board of guardians … by order establish for the purposes of this Act— That seemed to him reasonable enough. He had omitted, in reading the sub-section, several words, which were those to which he specially wished to call attention. They provided that without any application from a local authority the central authority might come down and order them to appoint a distress committee, with all the power of taxation which the Bill gave. The words which he had omitted were— or, if they think it expedient, without any such application. This was a provision, so far as he knew, quite without precedent. It semed to him absolutely indefensible, and he would like very much to know what the reason for it was. They were accustomed to a certain amount of autonomy in local government. They rather prided themselves that the people were not taxed for local purposes unless their willingness had been signified through their representatives elected to the local authorities. But here, for the first time in the history of this country, was a power given to a central authority to come down, and, contrary to the will of the local representatives, tax the ratepayers of a given district. He thought that was a perfectly monstrous proposition, and it did not seem to him to have a shadow of justification. He believed it to have been a very late importation into the Bill. So far as he could ascertain, these words were left an open question, as it was called, in another place, and some members of the Government voted one way and some the other. This was a provision which should not be passed by their Lordships' House without the attention of the House being called to it, and, therefore, to put himself in order, he begged to move the deletion of these words.

Amendment moved—

"In page 4, lines 15 and 16, to leave out the words "or, if they think it expedient, without any such application."—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)

said that the objection which the noble Lord had just raised deserved very serious attention. He believed the provision in the Bill was wholly without precedent. This sub-section actually conferred powers of taxation on the Local Government Board. Let them suppose that in a borough with less than 50,000 population distress arose and a distress committee and central authority were established, and that in the rest of the county there was no distress. This clause placed it within the power of the Local Government Board to establish distress committees and central authorities over the whole of the county and a tax would then be apparently levied over the whole county on the county and borough rate. He need not point out how very differently that told upon a town as compared with a country district. In a country district the rate was upon land, but in the towns it was upon houses; and, therefore, the imposition of this rate placed an entirely different burden upon the parts of the county which were not interested, and upon the towns which were. So much for that case.

Now, let them take the case of two boroughs. They would suppose that there was distress in one and no distress in the other; that they were at a considerable distance apart, and that in the latter borough the local authority had not found it necessary to establish a distress committee. Surely, it was very unfair to the borough in which there was no distress that the Local Government Board should have power to tax that borough as well as the borough in which there was distress and which had established a distress committee. What possible reason could be given for this? Like the noble Lord opposite, he had read the debate which took place in the other House, and the only reason that he saw given for the insertion of this provision was that if in one district these committees existed and in the remainder of the county they did not exist, it was possible, and indeed almost probable, that persons would enter the boroughs where the distress committees existed in order to obtain the benefits that might be derived there from. If that was the only reason that could be given, what greater condemnation of the whole Bill could they have? For if the conditions which prevailed in a borough under this Bill were such as to induce people to leave their ordinary occupations outside, surely that meant that persons in the borough were to be supported at the cost of the rates.

And then, if their Lordships looked at the second part of the sub-section, they would see that where a county borough had a population of less than 50,000 it was deemed to be included in the county, and the same rate would fall on all. This Bill was avowedly a great experiment, and as such it ought to be paid for by the Treasury, and not by local rates alone. It was all very well for the Treasury to say they did not mind so long as this did not fall on the Consolidated Fund. They did not mind placing burdens on the local ratepayer. He could assure their Lordships that the pressure of the local rate burdens was being more and more seriously felt, and that the local ratepayers were more and more indignant at the charges that were laid upon them which ought to be borne by the nation as a whole. He wished to protest as strongly as he could against the insertion of the words "or, if they think it expedient, without any such application," for those words made the Local Government Board the absolute arbiter and master of the whole situation. The provision entirely did away with all the powers of local government. He believed that the words were inserted at a very late stage in the Bill, and, so far as reports went, without adequate consideration. If the noble Lord divided the House he would certainly vote with him in favour of the Amendment.


differed from the two noble Lords who had just spoken. It seemed to him that the words in question were strictly in accordance with precedent. In all matters of local government power was taken by the Local Government Board to step in and do work which it was the duty of the local authority to do if the local authority did not do that work. The clause as it stood followed that precedent exactly. When the Bill passed it would be laid down by law that it was desirable that certain steps should be taken to relieve exceptional cases of distress at exceptional times, and it did seem to him that if the local authority failed to take advantage of the provisions of the law and do its duty it was quite right that the Local Government Board should step in and do that duty for them. As a matter of policy, if they were going to do this thing at all, surely they had better do it thoroughly and see that it applied everywhere. It was probable that the area of a lazy, ignorant, and stingy local authority was the very place where the work was most wanted to be done.


I am not at all surprised that my two noble friends who spoke first should have desired to call the attention of the House to these words; but I do think that my noble friend behind me (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) was rather extreme in his language when he characterised this provision as a monstrous one. I say at once that it is a provision which, in our contemplation, would be applied only in very rare cases, but we do think that in those rare cases there should be the power of applying it. In our view this case might arise. You might have a county in the midst of which was a considerable town provided with the full-blown machinery of this Bill for assisting unemployment. If the rural districts outside that town were unprovided with similar machinery the result might naturally be that the whole of the unemployed labour in the neighbourhood would gravitate towards the town in question. The principle is exactly the same as that which led us to extend the Bill from the Metropolis to districts outside the Metropolis. If it had been, as I believe was originally contemplated, merely a metropolitan Bill you would inevitably have found that the unemployed labour of the whole country would have collected in London. We therefore thought it necessary to provide both for the Metropolis and the country, and in exactly the same way we think it necessary to provide, not only for the large towns, but for the districts in which they are situated.

I think I may add that it is in our view important that if this machinery, which is designed for the purpose of collecting information, and, so to speak, taking the measure of this great problem of unemployment, is to exist at all it should, so far as possible, cover the whole surface of the country and not exist only in particular parts of it. Those are the reasons which led us to the conclusion that this provision is a desirable one; and I may again remind your Lordships that the Bill only operates for three years, that it is therefore not very likely that the provision will be applied on a considerable scale during that short time, and that if it should be found to lead to any abuse it will be very easily modified in future.

Canterbury, L. Abp. Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch Southwark, L. Bp.
Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.) and Queensberry.) Addington, L.
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Lathom, E. Amherst of Hackney, L.
(L. President.) Minto, E. Ashbourne, L.
Onslow, E. Barrymore, L.
Argyll, D. Spencer, E. Belper, L.
Marlborough, D. Stradbroke, E. Dunboyne, L.
Verulam, E. Kenyon, L.
Waldegrave, E.[Teller.] Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)
Aliesbury, M. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Bath, M. Chruchill, V. [Teller.] Lawrence, L.
Lansdowne, M. Hood, V. Ribblesdale, L.
Linlithgow, M. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donough- Rothschild, L.
more.) Sandhurst, L.
Pembroke and Montgomery, Knutsford, V. Stalbridge, L.
E. (L. Steward.) Templetown, V. Tweedmouth, L.
Clarendon, E. (L. Chamber- Windsor, L.
lain.) Bath and Wells, L. Bp. Wolverton, L.
Denbigh, E. London, L. Bp. Wynford, L.
Abingdon, E. Balfour, L [Teller.]
Camperdown, E. [Teller.] Braye, L.
Carnwath, E. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)

said the explanation which the noble Marquess had given did not lead him in any way to modify anything he had said. If the arguments of the noble Marquess were worth anything they had much better have framed the Bill as a compulsory Bill once for all, and not have gone through the farce of calling it an optional Bill and then putting compulsion on local authorities to do work which they did not see the need to do, and in respect of which they would not get any assistance from the central authority. He adhered to his view that this was a monstrous provision. The existence of this provision in the Bill practically placed it in the power of a small community to force the whole county into this Bill, because the moment one area set up this sort of committee it was possible that people might flock into it. But, if they set it up, they ought to do so at their own risk. Because they had done that, it did not follow that the whole of the county should be taxed for their benefit without any option on its part. This was a matter which applied not only to England but to Scotland, and he felt so strongly upon it that he would certainly divide the House on his Amendment.

On Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause,"

their Lordships divided:—Contents, 46;Not-Contents,6.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:—


asked, with regard to the power in Sub-section (b), what was the intended interpretation of the words "temporary accommodation." Did the adjective "temporary" apply to the form of the accommodation, or to the time during which the occupant might remain in the accommodation.


The word may, for all I know, have both meanings attributed to it by the noble Lord, but I should, say that what was contemplated was undoubtedly the temporary accommodation of unemployed persons—that is, during the time when an effort is being made to obtain employment for them.


called attention to the words "for authorising the establishment of farm colonies." Apparently the establishment of farm colonies and the purchase of land for that purpose appeared to be the main matters for which this taxation would be imposed. He would like to ask whether the Government really believed there would be many of these farm colonies. There was no definition of the words "farm colony," but he presumed that the Government, in adopting those words, had taken into consideration the farm colonies at Hadleigh and other places on which labour was employed during last winter. There was also the Garden City. He did not know whether any of their Lordships had seen the Garden City. He himself had, and had looked carefully both at the cottages and at the estate as a whole; and, if any expectation was founded either upon that scheme or the other farm colonies about which he had read very carefully in the Blue-book, he would be very much surprised if experience showed that they were anything but very un-remunerative investments.

Of the colonies on which labour was employed last year, Mr. Booth's colony at Hadleigh was one of the most important.

Mr. Booth's great authority had been exercised in its management, and presumably that colony had been administered in a much better manner than they could expect in the case of farm colonies in general; but if they were to suppose, in all the various counties and boroughs where distress might arise, that the remedy for it was a farm colony, he thought they would find that they were resting upon a very broken reed. Their Lordships, he dared say, were all familiar with allotments. His experience of allotments during the last ten years went to show that, although agricultural labourers were very anxious about allotments at one time, they were now, owing to a variety of causes—the cheapness of flour, the hardness of work, and other reasons—giving up allotments to a very considerable extent. However that might be, if agricultural labourers did not think it worth their while to apply for allotments in a larger degree, or if they were not making much profit out of them, what was the probable result when labourers who were taken from the towns and had no experience of the country were placed on a farm colony of this sort? He did not know whether any definition would be given of a farm colony, but he would like to know exactly what the Government had in their mind when they used those words.


There is no definition of a farm colony in this Bill, but I take it that what is intended is that land should be acquired in the country for the purpose of teaching and promoting an interest in agricultural occupations road-making, and such work as that. I do not think there really is any analogy, or any close analogy, between the case of a farm colony and ordinary allotments let to labourers. The farm colony experiment has, in fact, been tried with considerable success at the places to which the noble Lord referred, particularly at the farm colony established by Mr. Walter Long's Central Committee in Suffolk. The object of these farm colonies, I take it, is to provide a place which can be used as a kind of depót for unemployed men whom it is desired to emigrate or remove to other parts of the country, and to whom it is desired to give some kind of instruction in agricultural work. I admit that the experiment is one which will require to be very carefully worked, but, so far as we have had any knowledge of it, we think it is an experiment which deserves recognition in this Bill.


said he desired information with regard to Sub-section (h), under which the Local Government Board were to be endowed with powers for enforcing the payment of contributions by councils liable to make such contributions in pursuance of the Act and who did not do so. He would like to know what the Government had in contemplation. What was the secret lever which was concealed in those words?


There is the remedy by mandamus, which is a very simple remedy. Besides that, there will be a power by precept to issue an order to pay, which must be obeyed subject to the same remedy.


said the Answer which the noble and learned Earl had given was exactly the Answer he had expected, and he thought it showed noble Lords that they were rather rash in the vote they had given a little earlier in the evening.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:—


said this clause applied the Act to Scotland, and he had given notice to his noble friend the Secretary for Scotland that he would ask him certain Questions in regard to it. He felt sure that the view would be confirmed by the Answers that would be given that the Bill was never framed in the slightest degree with the intention of being extended to Scotland. It was much more unsuitable to the circumstances of Scotland than to those of England, and the explanation clause did not cover all the points of difficulty that would arise in the working of the Bill.

The first Question he asked was whether the Local Government Board for Scotland as a Board had been consulted in regard to the application of the Bill to Scotland. It was quite possible that he might' be told that he was asking a Question to which he should not have an Answer, but the constitution of the Local Government Board was rather peculiar. In a sense the permanent members, living in Edinburgh, were Civil servants, but they were entrusted with the whole of the administration of the Poor Law in Scotland. They were in touch with all the Poor Law authorities; it was on their guidance and their advice that the Poor Law administration in Scotland had been brought up to the pitch of excellence in which it was at the present time, and under their guidance the difficulty had been got over of administering the Poor Law in very small areas with a purely elected parish council. Their opinions as to the expediency of this measure would be most valuable if the House were allowed to have them. He need hardly say that he had not ventured to communicate with any members of the Board. He would have thought that a most improper course, especially in view of the fact that he was President of the Board and their superior for a period of eight years. He had the greatest confidence in their opinion, and it would go a long way to reassure him if he found that the members of the Board could be said, by any stretch of words, to be in favour of the application of the Bill to Scotland.

He also wanted to know, for it was not quite clear in the application clause, what was to be the position of burghs in Scotland with a population between 10,000 and 20,000? Their Lordships knew that 20,000 was taken as the population analogous to a county borough, in England. Also, what was the position of burghs below 10,000, which, he supposed, would be dealt with in the county? He would like to have precise information as to what was to be the position of these two sets of burghs when the Bill became law. In England the distress committee was to consist of the borough council or county council with certain representatives from the board of guardians, but there was a provision that the representatives of the Poor Law authority and others co-opted were not to be in excess of one-fourth of the number of the distress committee.

Some of the counties in Scotland had a considerable number of parishes—such as Ayrshire, Fifeshire, or the county of Aberdeen, each of which had over fifty parishes. Every one of those parishes was an independent Poor Law unit. How were they going to form a distress committee upon which there was to be representation of the Poor Law authorities and the county council if the Poor Law authorities, which nearly approached, if they did not outnumber, the whole of the county council, were not to be represented by more than one-fourth in number on the committee. That was an arithmetical conundrum which would require some ingenuity to solve.

He also thought that this Bill, applied to Scotland, would have a prejudicial effect on their law of settlement. When any individual in Scotland applied for poor relief he got it, if there was a proper case for it, from the parish in which he resided, but that parish had to refer to the parish of settlement, which was the ultimate arbiter of the form of relief which was to be given. A settlement might be acquired by birth, by marriage, for the woman took the settlement of her husband, or by three years residence. If any individual who was a candidate for the so-called benefits of this Bill had been resident a year and a-half or two years in one county, whereas his parish of settlement was in another, did they not think that that would lead to great conflict as to whether the authority of his county of residence should, or should not, give the benefits of the Bill? Until a new settlement was acquired the previous settlement was not cancelled. Surely it would be a very doubtful piece of policy on the part of the county or parish in which the man had resided for only two years to give him anything at all which would keep him in that place. It seemed to him that there was bound to be a great deal of friction and difficulty in the administration of the Bill in Scotland, and he was perfectly certain that if it had ever been thought that it would be applied to Scotland there would have been a great deal of correspondence and discussion with regard to it. But, as a matter of fact, it was only on Friday last that anyone became aware of the possibility of its being applied to Scotland at all.

He knew it was hopeless, after the division that had just been taken, for him to move any Amendment. But, in spite of the evident wish of the Government to apply the Bill to Scotland, it seemed to him, even at this eleventh hour, that it would be wise to leave Scotland alone. There was one curious provision in the application of the Bill to Scotland. Section 2, Sub-section 3 was not to be applied to Scotland without a special Order. He would like to ask the reason for that. That seemed to him the one absolutely innocuous section in the Bill, because all that it desired was that information was to be collected; but apparently information was not desired as to the state of matters in Scotland. He could not think that that was really the case; yet that was the one part of the Bill that was exempted from applying to Scotland without a special Order. There was one other point. Had the noble Marquess considered that there would be a further injustice to Scotland under this Bill by their having to pay an increased expense for audit? In Scotland the cost of audit was paid for by the local authorities without any subvention from the Treasury. Audit in England, on the other hand, was a Government matter, and the whole of the expense was not borne by the local authorities. But in this Bill another expense in the matter of audit was placed on the local authorities. He thought some portion of the expense should be borne by the Treasury as in England.


My Lords, my noble friend has put five Questions to me, and, with your permission, I will answer them in the order in which he made them known to me. His first Question was whether the Local Government Board for Scotland was consulted as to this Bill being applied to Scotland, and, if so, what did they say? The decision to apply the Bill to Scotland was the decision of the Government, in. which I, as Secretary for Scotland and President of the Local Government Board, took part. The appointed members of the Local Government Board were consulted as to the form of the Scottish application clause. With reference to the last words in my noble friend's Question, I do not think that I am called upon to answer them. I am quite certain that if my noble friend were occupying the position which. I now occupy and any noble Lord had put that Question to him, the questioner would have had a very bad five minutes.

In his second Question my noble friend asks, how can it be applied to a county in Scotland—e.g., Aberdeen—in which there are fifty-three different Poor Law units, if the Poor Law representation is only to be in number one-fourth of the county council? The answer is that it is not probable that a central body will be established for the whole area of a county such as Aberdeen, under the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Clause 2. But if it were so established, it is not the case that it would require to contain a representative of each parish. It is the distress committee, not the central body, to which that provision applies. As regards the central body, all that Sub-section (1) of Clause 1 provides is that the persons co-opted and nominated are not to exceed one-fourth of the whole body.

My noble friend asks me in his third question what will be the position of burghs in Scotland (a) between 10,000 and 20,000 population, and (b) below 10,000. I have to state, in reply, that a burgh from 10,000 to 50,000 population in Scotland will have the same power as a similar borough in England of applying to the Local Government Board under the second paragraph of Sub-section (1) of Clause 2, to constitute a distress committee for the burgh having the powers of a central body and distress committee in London; or, alternatively, a burgh of any population under 50,000 may, if it applies, or if the Local Government Board think it expedient, be conjoined with part of a county under Sub-section (2) of Section 2, distress committees being constituted within the joined area and one central body established for the whole area. A burgh from 20,000 to 50,000 may, if no body having the powers of a central body and a distress committee is constituted for it, apply to the Local Government Board to constitute for the burgh a special committee under Sub-section (3) of Clause 2. Such a committee cannot be constituted unless the burgh desires it and the Local Government Board consent.

In his fourth Question my noble friend asks why Scotland is exempted from Section 2, Sub-section (3). It is considered that the circumstances of several of the Scottish counties and burghs are such as to make it unnecessary that Sub-section (3) of Clause 2 should apply compulsorily, as it does in England. I may remind your Lordships that a great many of the Scottish counties are very large in area and very sparsely populated, and they do not contain any considerable towns within their borders. Therefore, the danger does not arise of a congestion of workless people in one centre of the county, which congestion the sub-section in question has been specially brought in to guard against.

My noble friend states that the Local Government Board in Scotland has nothing to do with county councils, and he asks, in his fifth Question, why they are put under the orders of the Local Government Board in, for example, Section 2, Sub-section (2), and other of the regulations to be made under Section 4, Sub-section (3). I have to say, in reply, that the Local Government Board is the Department in Scotland having control of the administration of the Poor Law, and is considered the most suitable authority to deal with matters under this Bill. The Secretary for Scotland, as President of the Board, will be responsible for its actions, and will take care that no compulsory application of Sub-section (2) of Clause 2 is made, and that no regulations under Clause 4 are issued except with his direct knowledge and control.

As regards the noble Lord's Question with reference to the bearing of the Bill upon questions of Poor Law settlement, I have been advised that it has no such bearing as the noble Lord suggests. Sub-section (3) of Clause 1 specially requires that a distress committee must be satisfied that the case of any applicant is capable of more suitable treatment under this Act than under the Poor Law, and Sub-section (7) exempts persons assisted from any disqualifications such as follow on receipt of Poor Law relief. As to audit, the general law of England is different from that of Scotland, and cannot be applied to one kind of expense in Scotland without being applied to all.


confessed that he had considerably more sympathy with Lord Balfour of Burleigh on this occasion than with regard to his Amendment on Clause 2. The Poor Law in Scotland was a thing apart by itself. It was entirely different from the English Poor Law, and he would say it was without precedent to attempt to deal with the Scottish Poor Law in an English Bill This was essentially an English Bill, and was not framed with the intention of meeting the necessities of Scotland. He would have liked to have had a little more of the history of the genesis of this Scottish clause. The noble Marquess had been extremely frank. He had told them that it was not on anybody's advice that the Government acted, but that the Government themselves were responsible. It did seem to him that that, again, was without precedent. As a rule, affairs that appertained to Scotland were dealt with between the Government and the Scottish Office and between that office and Scottish Members in a most friendly manner. He had known when both Parties had been in power the most friendly conferences to take place between members of the Opposition and the Government at the Scottish Office. It seemed to him that in this case the natural course would have been to adopt some such procedure as that. As it was, this application of the Bill to Scotland came as a complete surprise. Not a single Scottish Member knew that any such proposal was to be made. That, he thought, was a thing without precedent. Complaints had been made from both sides of the House in another place that Scotland had not been consulted.

He did not propose to express an opinion as to whether or not the Bill would do much good in Scotland; but he thought Lord Balfour of Burleigh had a little exaggerated the difficulties of its administration North of the Tweed. He believed that so far as four-fifths of Scotland was concerned it would never come into operation at all, and no difficulties would therefore arise; but he admitted that there was something to be said for the West of Scotland. The working population there had congregated very largely in Glasgow and the counties that surrounded it. There the Bill might be brought into operation and be of some service. But he was quite ready to join with Lord Balfour in protesting against the action of the Government in dealing with this matter without greater consultation with the Scottish Members, and without trying to find out more thoroughly what the view of Scotland was with regard to this, proposal.


I am not going to hazard myself into a controversy between noble Lords as to the technicalities of Scottish local government, but I do desire to make one observation as to what Lord Tweedmouth called the genesis of this clause. There seemed to be an impression in the mind of my noble friend behind me (Lord Balfour) that the clause including Scotland had been imposed upon Scotland gratuitously by a meddlesome Government. That is not at all the case. I believe that the history of the clause is this, that when the Bill was being discussed in the House of Commons a very strong expression of opinion on behalf, not of some of the Scottish Members, but of a largely preponderating number of the Scottish Members, manifested itself, and that it was in deference to that opinion, to which free expression was given during the course of the debate, that the clause was introduced. We recognise the great authority and weight which belong to my noble friend behind me in all Scottish questions, but we have to consider other Scottish authorities besides; and we certainly are under the impression that a large majority of the Scottish Members of Parliament and several of the most important Scottish cities are strongly in favour of the inclusion of Scotland in the Bill.


said all he had to say was that the evidence on which that decision had been come to had never been made public. He had watched the matter pretty closely, but had only seen one case of a resolution being passed by a county council asking for the application of the Bill to Scotland. It was an error to suppose that there was any general demand by Scottish Members for the application of the Bill to Scotland. Who asked for it? Until Friday last, when the Bill was in Committee in the House of Commons, he ventured to say there was never any idea in the mind of any Scottish Member or any Scottish authority of the possibility of the Government applying the Bill to Scotland; the idea came as an absolute and complete surprise to the community. Owing to the short time which had elapsed since then, and to the fact that one of the days was a Bank Holiday and that this was the time of year when county councils and town councils were in recess, he did not think anything could be gathered in favour of the proposal from the silence of the local authorities in regard to it. He ventured to say that experience would prove that the machinery of the Bill was not adapted to Scotland, and that if it was to be applied permanently it would do real harm to the administration of the Poor Law in that country. It was passing through Parliament as an experiment for three years, and therefore he was perfectly satisfied with the protest which had been made. In those three years, during the course of the inquiry which they were promised, he had no doubt that they would be able to elicit the matured opinion of Scotland on the matter, by which he felt confident Parliament would be guided.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Remaining Clauses agreed to.

Bill reported without Amendment; Standing Committee negatived; and Bill to be read 3a tomorrow.

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