HL Deb 26 April 1948 vol 155 cc355-64

4.25 p.m.

Order of the Day for receiving the Report of Amendments read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.

Moved, that the Report be now received.—(Lord Henderson.)


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will allow me on the general Motion to say a few words on the subject of this Bill, the more so because I cannot be here on Third Reading, when I would have preferred to make these remarks. Everybody, I think, welcomes this Bill and the new organisation which it embodies, but there are one or two apprehensions which many of us feel. One has been expressed to me by the National Association of Administrators of Local Government Establishments. While warmly welcoming the Bill, they fear that owing to housing difficulties and other problems of the same kind the residential establishments of the residual classes may become institutions of a stigmatised sort, despite the general desire to abolish completely the workhouses and the Poor Law. A great many of us do feel that this may be the case, and that is a rock ahead to which the Government must give close attention.

I come now to the second apprehension which I have and which I would like to express to the Government. If this Bill works as it is obviously intended to work, nothing could be better. But suppose it does not? How are we to find out? Many noble Lords opposite seem to take the view that the Bill is a great improvement on the old Poor Law, and that even if it does not work so well as we hope it will, nevertheless it will be of great benefit. But I am not so sure of that. In the old days relieving officers under the Poor Law looked after the old people in some way. Apart from anything else, they were compelled to do so, because in the event of an old man dying in difficult circumstances, the relieving officer might find himself liable to a charge of manslaughter. That personal responsibility was, in a way, of great benefit to the old people, because it kept the relieving officers up to their work. Moreover, the public always knew of any failure in duty, because, owing to the unpopularity of the service they represented, relieving officers were news. They may have been unpopular but they certainly were news, and any neglect or misbehaviour by a relieving officer was pretty certain to be raised in the public Press.

To-day under the new system, the care of the old people is given to the Assistance Board, which is a Government department. I want to say quite clearly and unmistakably that I have every possible confidence in the public spirit of the members of the Assistance Board and in their desire to look after the old people. Suppose, however, that the old people are not in fact looked after. Suppose there is some failure. How is it to be made known? I am very much afraid that, with all their enthusiasm and all their keenness, people employed in public departments are apt to feel personally anything that tends to the discredit of their department, and these matters often do not come before the public in the way that they should. Everybody will appreciate the apprehension about public services that sometimes finds voice in the Press. It is a fact that the people feel they do not get all the information that they should. It might be said that we can rely upon the doctors; that the doctors are the people who are bound to know about these things. But doctors are busy men and, if they are to become public servants, they might also find a difficulty in regard to disclosure. It seems to me that the price of efficiency is eternal vigilance. I make these remarks, not from any lack of confidence in the public departments concerned—I know that members of His Majesty's Government are just as keen on these matters as myself—but merely to present the danger as I see it. I hope His Majesty's Government will bear it in mind in framing their regulations.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 3:

Advisory Committee.

3.—(1) For the purpose of securing the advice and assistance, both on general questions and on difficult individual cases, of persons having local knowledge and experience in matters affecting the functions of the Board, the Board shall arrange for the establishment of advisory committees throughout Great Britain to act for such areas as the Board think fit.

LORD ALTRINCHAM moved, in subsection (1), after "securing" to insert "that full use is made of. "The noble Lord said:" My Lords, so much was said on the Second Reading and in Committee upon the object of this brief Amendment that I need say little more. Its object is to emphasise more than the language of the Bill already does the importance of making the utmost use of local advice, and also to underline our consciousness of the value of the work already done by the voluntary advisers and by the relieving officers throughout this country. In every change for the better made in legislation or administration, some good is always sacrificed, and we are naturally anxious to see that as little as possible of what was good in the previous system should be lost. In particular, we hope that in the new system of administration the utmost use will be made—as we believe it will—not only of the voluntary services which have hitherto been so valuable but also of the work of the relieving officers. Once again we would take the opportunity of paying a tribute to the work which the great majority of those officers have done. With that expression of our appreciation of that work, and once again adding to the emphasis which the Bill gives to the importance of local advice and administration in every aspect of each Part of it, I beg to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 22, after (" securing ") insert (" that full use is made of ").—(Lord Altrincham.)


My Lords, the purpose behind the noble Lord's Amendment is one upon which there is general agreement in this House. The original clause was amended in another place to give greater effect to the use of local knowledge but, as the noble Lord rightly says, there was a feeling during the Committee stage in this House that still greater emphasis should be laid upon the use of local knowledge and local services. The Amendment moved by the noble Lord seeks to achieve that purpose. It is an agreed purpose, and I have pleasure in accepting the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble Lord and may I, with the leave of the House, say also how grateful we are to him for the great courtesy and consideration with which he has dealt with our representations upon this Bill?

Clause 18:

Accommodation in reception centres in special cases.

(4) The conditions hereinbefore referred to are— (b) that while the person in question is at the centre he shall do such work within the curtilage thereof as the Board or local authority may require.

LORD HENDERSON moved, in subsection (4) (b), after "such" to insert "suitable." The noble Lord said: My Lords, it will be recalled that during the Committee stage the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, raised a question about having some safeguard against what I may call malingerers being put to work which might be beyond their physical capacity. Lord Bledisloe suggested certain words which might be included in the new clause, and I undertook to have it reconsidered. The matter has now been reconsidered, and our feeling is that the purpose which the noble Viscount had in mind will be admirably met by the insertion, as suggested, of the word "suitable". I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 25, after (" such ") insert (" suitable ").—(Lord Henderson.)


My Lords, my noble friend Viscount Bledisloe is unfortunately unable to be present this afternoon, but I am satisfied that this Amendment which has been introduced to meet representations which he made during the Committee stage will achieve the object which he had in mind. I am grateful to the noble Lord for moving it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 30 [Voluntary organisations for disabled persons' welfare]:


My Lords, the next is merely a drafting Amendment, arising out of an Amendment which was accepted on the Committee stage. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 20, line 45, leave out from (" registered ") to (" being ") in line 1, on page 21, and insert ("in accordance with this Act ").—(Lord Henderson.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 37:

Registration of disabled persons' or old persons' homes.

(3) Subject to the provisions of this section the registration authority shall, on receipt of an application under the last foregoing subsection, register the applicant in respect of the home named in the application and issue to him a certificate of registration:

Provided that the authority may by order refuse to register the applicant if they are satisfied— (a) that he or any person employed or proposed to be employed by him at the home is not a fit person, whether by reason of age or otherwise, to carry on or to be employed at a home of such a description as the home named in the application; or

THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH moved, in proviso (a) to subsection (3), to delete "at the home" and insert in the management of the home or any part thereof.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, we discussed this clause during the Committee stage, and we were agreed that while it was desirable that local authorities should be responsible for approving principal employees at voluntary homes for aged and disabled persons, it was not desirable that they should have imposed on them a responsibility to approve minor employees at such homes. Through the kindness and courtesy of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who was good enough to see me, and also a representative of the Salvation Army, who are largely concerned in this matter, a formula has been found which I trust that your Lordships will consider satisfactory. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 25, line 33, leave out (" at the home ") and insert (" in the management of the home or any part thereof ").—(The Earl of Iddesleigh.)


My Lords, I am glad to accept this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, the next Amendment in my name is consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 25, line 35, after ("be") insert ("so").—(The Earl of Iddesleigh.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 38 [Procedure and right of appeal where registration refused or cancelled]:


My Lords, this is a small Amendment to repair an omission in the Bill by extending to London the appeals procedure under the Public Health Act, 1936, which is applied by the subsection. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 28, line 24, at end insert (" and that Act extended to London ").—(Lord Henderson.)


My Lords, perhaps I may seize this opportunity to repeat a question which I put to the noble Lord opposite on the Second Reading since this, I think, is one of the clauses affected by it. The question which I put was why it was laid down that different dates might be used for the introduction of different Parts of this measure. I think this clause is affected by that provision. Perhaps the noble Lord will be good enough to explain the position.


My Lords, by leave of the House I will deal with this matter now. The House will remember that during the Committee stage the noble Lord rather sprang a question. My noble friend Lord Chorley said that he would have a shot at answering it, and I think his answer, if it did not hit the dead centre of the bull, was certainly a good inner. I would like to amplify that answer by saying that it is the general intention to bring this Bill into operation by July 5, which is also the appointed day for the National Health Service Act, the National Insurance Act and the Children Bill. There are, however, three or four clauses—I think they are Clauses 36 to 39 dealing with the administration of old people's homes and so forth—which it is not intended to bring into operation for another six months; and, accordingly, it is necessary to have this discretion. This sort of clause is quite usual in a Bill, such as this, which consists of two or three Parts. I recollect that in the Local Government Bill which we recently passed there was a similar provision in regard to Part III.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 56 [Legal proceedings]:


My Lords, this is a very small Amendment. It is designed to remove any doubt as to the power of the major local authorities to institute proceedings for offences committed under the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 40, line 39, at end insert: ("(3) The council of a county or county borough may prosecute for any offence under this Act").—(Lord Henderson.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, this Amendment and the next affect Scotland. In Scotland it is the rule that criminal proceedings are instituted and conducted by the Public Prosecutor. The Amendments give recognition to this rule. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 41, line 2, leave out ("and").—(Lord Henderson.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 41, line 7, at end insert (" and with the omission of subsection (3) thereof ").—(Lord Henderson.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Third Schedule:

Administrative Provisions as to Local Authorities.

8. The foregoing provisions of this Schedule shall not prevent a local authority from referring to any committee appointed by them any matter arising out of, and incidental to, their functions under Part III of this Act which, by reason that it relates also to a general service of the authority, ought in the opinion of the authority to be so referred, and the foregoing provisions of this Schedule shall not apply to any matter which is so referred:

Provided that before deciding on any proposal for a reference under this paragraph the local authority shall receive and consider a report on the proposal from the committee to which apart from the proposal the matter in question would have stood referred.

4.40 p.m.

LORD ALTRINCHAM moved to delete the proviso to paragraph 8. The noble Lord said: My Lords, both on Second Reading and in Committee a good deal of feeling was expressed on this side of the House about a tendency which in our view is a little too prominent in legislation and administration at the present time—a tendency to give more direction to local authorities than is necessary and to tell them how they should do their work. In our opinion, the local authorities deserve our confidence. Anything which seems to derogate from our confidence in them is undesirable in legislation of this character. This paragraph in particular seemed to us to be superfluous. We are glad that the noble Lord opposite has been prepared to meet us on the point of omitting the paragraph altogether. I think it was really "painting the lily," and is liable to be misconstrued. I am glad that the Government do not desire to insist upon it, and I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment moved— Page 54, leave out lines 17 to 20.—(Lord Altrincham.)


My Lords, as the noble Lord has mentioned, on the Committee stage I resisted a similar Amendment. I thought the Amendment was misconceived and I still think so, but, despite that, there was a general feeling that it was unnecessary to have this proviso on the face of the Bill. When I read the debate next day, I remembered that I myself had used the same argument successfully against another Amendment which I thought was unnecessary on the face of the Bill. Therefore I think it a very fair return for me to accept this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Sixth Schedule [Transitional Provisions]:

LORD HENDERSON moved, in paragraph 2 (2), after "chairman," where that word first occurs, to insert "or other appointed member." The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment and the one following are relatively small, but important. The existing appeal tribunals are composed of three different types of representatives. The Bill as it now stands enables two types of representatives to be continued until the Minister is able to make new appointments. The Amendment is directed to ensuring that the present representatives appointed by the Board to represent the Board shall also be continued until the Minister is able to make new appointments. The reason for this is that owing to pressure of work and the shortness of time left before the appointed day, the Minister does not feel able to make the necessary appointments before that day, and it is thought that the most convenient course is to continue the tribunals as a whole until the Minister is able to make new appointments with the care which he desires to give to them.

Amendment moved— Page 58, line 13, after (" chairman ") insert (" or other appointed member ").—(Lord Henderson.)


My Lords, we are satisfied that this is a reasonable and convenient Amendment which will add to the simplicity of the administration of the Bill when it comes into force, and we are glad to support it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, this Amendment is consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 58, line 16, after (" chairman ") insert (" or other appointed member ").—(Lord Henderson.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.