On the Motion—
That the Bill be read a second time,
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
This Bill proposes to remedy some defects in the administration of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. From certain poor law schools children are sent out to 422 other schools, but in these cases some doubt has arisen whether the institutions can properly be called schools as defined by the Act. The Bill clears up all doubt and enables the costs of such institutions to be paid out of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. The second object of the Bill is this. The Local Government Board at the present time have no power of imposing a limit on the number of children in metropolitan or district schools, although they have this power in regard to workhouses. The Bill will give power to refuse payment out of the Metropolitan School Fund for more than a certain number of children, and so prevent overcrowding in these schools. The third proposal is this: the poor law officers of the metropolis are paid out of a Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, and the Local Government Board practically decide the scale of payment. It happens that boards of guardians, in many cases desire to give a larger payment to certain deserving officers than to others, and the boards have no power to authorise this. The Bill authorises the guardians in these cases to give this excess over the scale out of the union funds, but not out of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. These are the three objects aimed at by the Bill, the Second Reading of which I move.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I have no objection at all to the first two proposals in this Bill as explained by the honourable Gentleman, but I take most serious objection to what the honourable Gentleman mentioned in the third place, but which gets first place in the Bill. I may say that sub-section I of clause 1 has caused very serious alarm in the unions of the East, and all other poor districts, of London wherever its terms have, become known, because, Sir, that provision, as I submit, seriously impairs the beneficent principle of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. That has been the means of bringing in the rich districts of London to relieve the poorer districts. It is a fund which is paid by an equal rate levied over the whole area of London, and out of that fund certain charges are defrayed in each union, amongst other charges, the salaries of officers. Well, that, Sir, is the law. Now, what is proposed by this Bill is that the guardians of any 423 London union, when they think that, on account of special merit or long service of any officer appointed by them, the salary of that officer should be increased above what is now sanctioned by the Local Government Board, they may grant him a reasonable increase in his salary. I do not object to that. The sting is in the tail. The clause proceeds—But no part of that increase shall be repayable out of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund.Now, Sir, that provision will be grossly unfair to the constituency which I represent, and to many other of the poorer districts of London. Its effect, in one word, will be this: that the richer districts, such as Kensington and St. George's-in-the-West, having larger funds at their disposal, will be able to pay higher salaries, and so attract all the best officers, to the disadvantage of the poorer unions. Sir, if any metropolitan poor law officer, whether it is in the East or in the West, deserves to have an exceptional salary on account of special merit or long service, I say the only fair plan is that the additional salary should be paid out of the same fund from which the body of the salary is now paid. Any other process would undermine the beneficent principle of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. The other two provisions of the Bill, I think, are beneficent provisions, as far as I am able to judge, and as I object to only one of the three provisions of the Bill, I shall not oppose the Second Reading, but I shall very strenuously oppose this first sub-section when we get into Committee.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.