§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £136,907, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904, for the salaries and expenses of the Local Government Board."
*SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)
pointed out that a Vote of this magnitude necessarily ranged over a wide field of subjects, covering as it did the administration of the law relating to public health and the relief of the poor. He wished in the first instance to draw attention to one point which was exciting a certain amount of disquiet in the public mind. During last session a Bill was passed relating to cremation, and legalising that process of disposing of the dead. That Bill had caused the public to consider more carefully than hitherto the dangers which prevailed in connection with the present methods of administering the laws relating to the registration of deaths and the opportunities thereby offered for the commission of crime. Not long since there was a murder trial in which it was shown that a man had been able to poison three 653 women, and might have even then escaped detection had not the friends of the third victim determined that there should be more investigation than usually takes place in such cases. The learned judge, in summing up the case, pointed out that if the bodies had been cremated the opportunity would have been lost of bringing the criminal to justice. In saying that, however, the learned judge forgot to mention that nobody was ever cremated in this country without tenfold more precautions being taken than were now taken in ordinary cases of death. So loose was the law and its administration in connection with ordinary burials, that there was abundant evidence that crime constantly escaped detection, and the meshes were drawn so loosely that criminals were easily able to carry on their iniquitous practices. There were cases brought before the Select Committee of 1893 in which in one case eleven, and in another twenty, murders were perpetrated by persons who, under the present loose system of death certification, were able to escape detection, it only being towards the end of a long series of crimes that it was possible to bring them to justice. Surely such a system of administration deserved some consideration at the hands of Parliament. I have thought it my duty to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this matter, and to ask him some questions which will enable him to give us some information as to the steps he proposes to take, with a view to improving the administration of the law in this respect.
Every person who dies in this country has to be buried under a system of death certification laid down in the law of 1874, and in the previous Act of 1836. The Departmental Committee of last year which sat to consider the question of the disposal of bodies by cremation, in the course of their report stated that in some cases it had been found that the bodies of murdered persons had been buried without any certification of the cause of death, and that in other and more numerous cases certificates were given without sufficient inquiry, sometimes by medical men who had not seen the dead persons in their last illnesses or even after death. That 654 Departmental Committee, which only reported this year, gave, as the result of their investigations, statements calculated to create a great amount of public disquietude and apprehension as to the proper detection of crime. He wished the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee to take particular note of the criticims of that Committee, which were made with a view to making if possible the administration of the law more stringent. As the law now existed people might be buried without any certificate whatever, these being called uncertified deaths. He thought he might congratulate the right hon. Gentleman that, during the last few years, the number of these deaths had been diminishing. On looking at the statistics in regard to the number of persons buried without any evidence being forthcoming as to the cause of death — a thing which ought not to occur in any civilised community—he found that the percentage in the five years ending 1882, was 4.36; in the following five years it had fallen to 3½ percent. in the succeeding quinquennial period it had gone down to 2.8 per cent., while in the five years ending 1897, when the question was receiving attention at the hands of a Select Committee, the percentage was 2.32. Finally, in 1898–99, it was just under 2 per cent., and he believed that this satisfactory state of affairs was due to a stronger administration of the law. The Registrar-General, in one of his Reports, had pointed out that in some cases as much as 15 and even 18 per cent. of the deaths in certain districts were uncertified. This was a really scandalous condition of things. In 1893, when it was examining into that question, the Select Committee found the astounding fact that while only 3 per cent. of the deaths were uncertified in Glasgow, no less than 42 per cent. were uncertified in Inverness shire, thus showing the enormous possibilities for the occurrence of crime in some of the less densely populated districts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The Select Committee at that time said they were forced to the conclusion that vastly more deaths occurred annually from foul play and criminal neglect than the law recognised. That was a statement 655 which, in his opinion, ought to exercise the public mind, and to lead to some definite improvement in the administration of the law. The Committee also made a remark which he thought every one should take to heart. It was as to the proper basis for bringing about a better administration in connection with this matter. They said it should be made impossible for any person to disappear from his place in the community without satisfactory evidence being obtained of the cause of his disappearance. That was almost a truism as regarded the safeguarding of human life in a civilised community. So loosely, however, was the law administered that in 1893 a distinguished medical witness asserted that he saw no difficulty for anybody to perpetrate a crime, to get the whole matter certified, and registered, and the body buried, without anybody detecting it. That was a deliberate statement made before a Select Committee of this House ten years ago, and it was an unfortunate fact that since then the administration of the law had not been improved to any great extent.
With reference to these uncertified deaths, they were certified on the information of a person who was called a "qualified informant." What occurred was this. A person died without being medically attended, and someone representing him went to the registrar and made a statement as to the death. The statement might be fictitious or fraudulent, but, on that statement, and after, probably, a comparatively cursory inquiry by the registrar, who was not in all cases a fit person to undertake such duties, a certificate was granted and the body got rid of. The other day not very far from that House an extraordinary incident occurred. A medical man was called upon, I am informed, for a death certificate for a patient whom he had seen a little time previously. The doctor was a little more suspicious than some doctors are. Possibly he was a better reader of human nature than many. He doubted the statement as to the death, and went across to the house in which the supposed corpse was lying. He was shown the bed gear, but found that it only covered a dummy. Had it not been for the suspicions entertained by that doctor the man 656 would probably have drawn his insurance money and have had a jolly time for himself. Seeing that such a thing was possible in the present state of the law, did it not point to the necessity for a stricter administration with a view to preventing such occurrences? It was also a fact in connection with the insurance of infant life that an appalling state of affairs existed in some populous centres, and the Select Committee discovered that numbers of children, insured for various sums, were, by neglect, sometimes criminal, and by actual crimes, got rid of and the insurance money drawn from the companies. Now, they wanted an administration so exact, so strict, and so thorough that these things should be rendered impossible in the interests of the community.
So much for the ordinary uncertified deaths. There were a certain number of bodies which were buried after inquiries held by the coroner. Unfortunately these inquiries were not made by the coroner himself in the form of an inquest; very often they were made by the coroner's officer, who was not always a competent person to find out whether a person had come to his or her death by fair or foul means. These inquiries, therefore, were not altogether satisfactory. Even coroners juries' verdicts were in some cases extremely unsatisfactory. A Committee of that House which sat a year or two ago—the Water-Gas Committee—especially drew attention to this matter by observing, in their Report, that they were so much impressed with the insufficiency and untrustworthiness of the statistics relating to particular causes of mortality, which could be gathered from the returns of the verdicts of coroners juries, that they ventured to strongly recommend that some steps should be taken to secure that those verdicts should lend themselves more readily to clear classification by the Registrar-General. They went on to recommend further that where the coroner was in possession of a medical certificate, or where medical evidence was taken at the inquest, a copy of the certificate or an abstract of the evidence should be appended to the coroner's certificate when it was sent to the Registrar-General. He thought if 657 the right hon. Gentleman would express a desire that this should be done by the coroners throughout the country it would render the statistics of mortality much more accurate, and be useful in causing a more careful investigation into many of the uncertified deaths. An illustration was given to the Committee, by an official from Somerset House, of the unsatisfactory nature of these verdicts. An inquest had been held on the body of a child three months old, found dead, and the verdict was that there was no evidence to show that this child was born alive. When they had a verdict like that sent up as a deliberate expression of opinion as to the death of a child three months old, they could easily understand what remarkably little value attached to those verdicts in connection with the preparation of vital statistics. He thought he had said enough to show that, in connection with these uncertified deaths, there was great opportunity for crime, because no sufficient care was taken to examine into the condition and circumstances under which people had died. Some municipalities had taken up this matter and arranged that where there was no evidence how a person came to die there should be a local investigation. In Manchester when a person died and the death was not properly certified, the local officer of health employed one of the sanitary inspectors or visitors, to go round the locality and inquire into the circumstances under which the person died. It was an inquiry simply carried out by the local authority in the way of administration. It was an inquiry which led to the detection of fraud and sometimes to the detection of crime. In Glasgow and Edinburgh the municipalities adopted a similar method. The local medical officer of health reported these cases to the Procurator-Fiscal, and he held what was equivalent to an inquest in England, or granted a certificate for burial on the application of the medical officer of health. He thought the right hon. Gentleman might well encourage that system, and especially in the more populous centres.
Another matter which he wished to press on the attention of the Committee was that a large number of death were certified, but they were called uncertified because they were notified by 658 illegal practitioners of medicine. Those persons often gave their certificates on their own forms and not on the prescribed forms. Although these certificates were not regarded as certifying the cause of death, they were regarded as information on which burial was allowed to take place. Consequently by this practice they had the door open widely to what might lead to the commission of crime. It also afforded an opportunity for the spread of disease and injury to the public health, which, in some instances, became serious. In the county of Durham cases of infectious disease had ended in death and had not been notified, and, not being notified, the disease was liable to spread through the districts and cause epidemics to occur. The County Council of Durham called the attention of the Registrar-General to the fact, in the interest of public health, and the Registrar-General decided that such certificates should in future be referred to the coroner for inquiry, in order to check the loose method of administration. Unfortunately a few months afterwards—probably without the cognisance of the President of the Local Government Board—the Registrar-General withdrew that salutary arrangement and allowed the old system to go on of permitting burial on the certificates of those unqualified practitioners. The same danger to public health was now going on in the districts. He thought the right hon. Gentleman might encourage registrars to go back to the more wholesome system, and so prevent uncertified deaths from being a danger to the community. Medical practitioners moreover often gave certificates of death in a very loose fashion. Deaths were sometimes certified by medical men who had not seen the patient in his last illness; and sometimes months after the patient had been seen by the doctor. One striking instance was narrated to him when Chairman of the Select Committee that inquired into this matter. A gentleman, who was known by his family and his doctor to be suffering from heart disease, died in London. The doctor, at the request of the family, was willing to grant a certificate that the gentleman died from heart disease. On examination a wound caused by a pistol shot over the region of the heart was found. The gentleman had died from suicide. That case opened 659 up a whole vista which showed a way in which people with chronic disease might be got rid of, sometimes by their own action, and sometimes by the criminal action of others. Such things ought not to be possible. There ought to be something done in the way of stricter administration of the law to prevent such occurences. If medical practitioners granted certificates without having seen the patients for weeks or months before death, then the possibilities of crime were absolutely appalling. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to turn his attention to this matter, and to endeavour to bring about a better administration of the law. An alteration of the law might be required to remedy this state of matters, but he could not help thinking that something more might be done than at present to make the administration of the law more strict, and to guard the public against the commission of crime. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the registrars throughout the country had been warned to accept certificates only on the prescribed forms, and so check the acceptance of loose forms of certificates that were often sent to notify death; whether any steps had been taken to induce registrars to refer uncertified deaths to coroners with the view of preventing the spread of disease and the commission of crime; and whether any steps had been taken to carry into effect the recommendation of the Water-Gas Committee. He further asked what steps the right hon. Gentleman or the Department had taken to encourage local authorities to carry out local inquiries into the cause of death in all uncertified cases within the area of their jurisdiction as was done in Manchester, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. He believed that if some such steps were taken they should guard against, not only danger to the public health, but also opportunity for the commission of crime.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said the hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division had introduced his observations by proposing to reduce the salary of the President of the Local Government Board. He would like to see the right hon. Gentleman very much 660 better paid instead of having his salary reduced. They would all agree that that Department was overworked and underpaid. He failed to understand why the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board should be placed on a different pecuniary basis to the Home Office and other Departments where the work was less hard. Since the introduction of the County Councils the work of the Local Government Board had very largely increased, whilst it is known that the work of the Home Office had diminished year by year. A Parliamentary inquiry was wanted into the status and emoluments of the different officers. It was a curious thing that the clerks of the Local Government Board and the Board of Trade were paid a less salary than the clerks of the Home Office and other Departments, who were said to belong to a higher grade. In answer to questions asked on several occasions, they had been told that higher qualifications were required, for the Home Office than for the Local Government Board and the Board of Trade. He would have thought that the case was exactly opposite. They all appreciated the highly scientific investigations that were carried on by the Local Government Board, and which showed that the qualifications of its officials were higher rather than lower than those of the Home Office, where the work was that of the ordinary jogtrot routine. He had always been an advocate for the appointment of a Minister of Public Health. It would be an excellent arrangement to have a Minister to take charge of difficult and delicate questions relating to public health, which were now discharged by the Local Government Board. That Department was under-staffed, and there should be established a bureau for collecting information for which a medical man or sanitary officer could apply, and for establishing public laboratories for scientific and hygienic work. They had heard a great deal about infected bedding. The Minister for War was asked the other day to carry out a scientific investigation into the question of blankets, but they were told that no investigation could take place until the Officer Commanding in South Africa had sent in his report. Was it not possible, 661 he asked, to have an investigation before the means of carrying it to a successful conclusion had been removed? There was no real evidence that the boys in the training ship were infected by these blankets. There was a school who alleged that such diseases were borne by the air, and he thought it would be of very great importance if the right hon. Gentleman, in combination with the Minister for War, were to investigate the matter. A unique opportunity was now afforded of finding out what were the real facts of the case.
He was glad that his hon. friend had brought forward the question of registration of deaths. He had sat on a Commitee on the question, of which his hon. friend was chairman. That Committee gave in a Report, which was entirely conclusive, that some legislation was necessary. Ten years ago 5,000 people died without any registration; and at the present moment a large amount of crime was going on undetected by the law, in consequence of the loose and insufficient method of death registration. Moreover, poisoning was now carried on by a much more scientific method than in the old days with arsenic. If any scientific person were to lay his mind to making murder a fine art—by the use of these terrible alkaloids which came from decomposing fish and other foods—fearful results, which would be entirely unchecked under the present law, would follow. He pressed on the Government to take up this question before long and introduce a Death Registration Reform Bill. He should like to see the French system introduced into this country, by which a scientific man, detached from ordinary practice, should be appointed to every registration district, whose sole duty would be to attend all cases and see that all the evidence was complete so as to enable him to certify that death was due to natural causes.
He had always taken an interest in the poor children under the Local Government Board—their education, morals, and health. He must confess that while certain benefits had been introduced by recent legislation, and a great deal had been done by the Local Government Board to improve matters, the state of things was still not highly satisfactory. He would not speak of the 662 morals or the education of these poor children, but he was entitled to speak of the medical conditions under which they were brought up and of the unsatisfactory nature of the physical training which they received in these establishments. The system of segregating children in large masses, in barrack schools could not be good for them. They could not stamp out many of the blood diseases from such prisons—for they were far more like prisons than hospitals or schools. Then they were managed with hard officialism; and it took a very strong-minded, highly-educated man to stand up against such management It would be much better to break up these schools altogether and put the children into little homes where they should have something like the care of a father or a mother, and have their health, morals, and education improved all round. The present system was, at all events, bad physically for the children.
§ MR. FLOWER (Bradford, W.)
said that this question had been brought so often before the Committee that it seemed to be a well-worn topic; but it was so important as to justify their bringing it again to the attention of the Local Government Board. It was a fact that there were in England and Wales 50,000 children under sixteen years of age who were under the control of the boards of guardians. That constituted a problem in itself of very considerable magnitude. This sum-total of 50,000 might well be reduced if the guardians were from time to time to adopt the policy, carried out by some boards of closely examining the circumstances of each child for which they were responsible. He believed that the result would be a very startling reduction in the number of the children with which they would require to deal. He referred to the experience of the Whitechapel Union. An exhaustive examination wag made there in collaboration with the Charity Organisation Society, with the result that thirty-five out of seventy-six children were discharged to the care of parents and relatives. The Lambeth Guardians on one occasion were able to discharge eleven out of fifty-three children in six months; the Edmonton 663 Board got rid of eleven; and the Norwich Board seventy-four; and only a fortnight ago the Gloucester Board of Guardians found, on close investigation, that they were maintaining many children whose parents were residing in the town. He thought the Local Government Board would do well to call upon all boards of guardians to have a more frequent call-over of the children depending upon them. He agreed with the hon. Member opposite as to the evil results which followed from the segregation of children in these large barrack schools; and it was a matter of regret that the tendency towards institutionalism was still receiving some favour and support from the Local Government Board. He know the difficulties which the Local Government Board had in dealing with the plans and projects of what he supposed would be termed popularly-elected bodies; but he thought that the Local Government Board could do a great deal more than it did by Provisional Order with regard to the disposal of those children. Certainly it was remarkable that out of the 50,000 children of whom he had spoken, up to the present only about 8,500 were boarded out. Every hon. Member would recognise that the boarding-out of those children, if wisely and thoughtfully carried out, was an ideal method of disposing of them. It was not only that it was far and away the most economical method, but it was the best for the children morally and physically, and would relieve them in their after career, as far as possible, from that taint of pauperism which was so painful to think of in connection with a young and opening life.
The Local Government Board might do more than it had done in encouraging the system of boarding out. He thought that the difficulties which had been alleged against the extension of the system were theoretical rather than practical. Certainly, one had only to apply to the institutions which boarded out their children to find that, by taking a little care and a little trouble, they had no difficulty in finding suitable foster parents. The secretary to the Home for Waifs and Strays stated that the boarding-out system, in his opinion, 664 was one of the best possible methods for providing homes for young children. He added that his Society had always adopted that plan, during its existence of twenty-two years, for all young children under the age of seven, and that the reports received every fortnight from the Society's lady inspectors, one being a qualified doctor, showed that, with very few exceptions, the 700 children boarded out were thoroughly well treated and cared for by their foster mothers. It frequently happened that when children were old enough to learn a trade in one of the special industrial homes of the Society, the foster mothers preferred to adopt them entirely rather than part with them. The children, therefore, not only got a real home, but, oftentimes, also a mother's affection. The secretary of the Children's Country Holiday Fund said that they commenced with sending nineteen children for a month into the country; now they sent 35,000 every year. The experiment was attended with the greatest success, and the secretary was of opinion that no difficulty need be found in obtaining visitors in the country willing to undertake the supervision of the children. The inspectors who visited the villages during August found very little to complain of in the treatment of the children, the villagers displaying extra ordinary kindness and generosity towards their London guests; and the Fund had a considerable number of applications from persons who were willing to adopt children permanently. He would appeal to his right hon. friend to do what he could to extend the system of boarding out. If projects from boards of guardians for the erection of large buildings for schools for children were sanctioned by the Local Government Board, a considerable expenditure of money would inevitably be incurred, and a step would be taken which it would be very difficult indeed to retrace. He described the system as an ideal system; and he would remind the Committee that it was also a very economical system. The contrast between the various average amounts expended per child per annum under the different methods was really quite remarkable. The average annual minimum charge per child per annum in a barrack 665 school was from £28 to £30. In one large school of 640 children the average cost was £34 per annum, and in another school of 350 children the annual cost was £40. That in itself was a strong argument in favour of boarding-out. He would appeal to his right hon. friend to extend the power of boarding out beyond London so that children adopted under the 1899 Act could be dealt with in that way.
Another method of dealing with children—the method of scattered homes—had also a considerable measure of success. In the city of Bradford, which he himself represented, that system was in force, with highly satisfactory results. The plain fact of the matter was that the best way of dealing with those children was to endeavour to bring them as much as possible within the ordinary child life of the locality in which they were placed. Many guardians already did that; and he knew of no instance where the experiment was ever regretted. The Stepney Board of Guardians sent their children from Stepney Workhouse to a Board school in the Tower Hamlets. That certainly was better than a barrack school; but he did not regard it as an entirely satisfactory solution as the children returned every evening to the workhouse. They were treated with kindness and consideration, but he did not want to have children in a workhouse at all. It seemed to him that those institutions were admirable for abnormal children, but altogether undesirable for normal children. The ordinary child was much better dealt with by some such separate method as he had suggested, either by boarding out or in a scattered home; but for children who were mentally or physically deficient, institutional life was almost inevitable. He wished he could think that there had been more progress in the matter; but he was sorry to say that that was not the case. During the last five years no less a sum than £48,000 had been spent in adding to the existing Metropolitan Poor Law schools. The Local Government Board had sanctioned, on a large scale, schemes which were a more or less modified form of institutionalism. The Woolwich Board of Guardians, with 350 children, had built a village community at a cost of £77,000 for building alone; the Greenwich Board of Guardians, with 600 children to pro 666 vide for, had laid the foundation of a village community which was to cost about £150,000; the Stepney Board of Guardians, with 300 children to provide for, was building an institution at a cost of about £40,000. The evils of such an aggregation of children had been pointed out with great force by his hon. friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, who had spoken with great knowledge of medical matters on the subject. Unfortunately, from time to time one heard of the outbreak of easily preventable disease, but not easily preventable if a large number of children were aggregated together. During the past twelve months in those schools for only thirteen weeks were they free of illness. The same story ran through the whole of the schools. He drew attention to the condition of things at the Holly-mount School, Tottington, Lancashire. Out of 200 children, only eighty-three were free from disease. No condition of things could be more painful, and all these diseases were such as spring from want of cleanliness and proper nourishment. The diet was—Breakfast—tea without milk, and bread and butter. Dinner; potatoes mashed with the water they were boiled in—on one day peas and pea water, and on another day rice and rice water.It would be seen there was neither milk nor meat in the dietary. For tea and supper, weak tea without milk, and bread and butter. Such a diet was not sufficient, and a board of guardians which handed over its children to such an institution should be blamed, and some censure should be passed upon the inspector of the Local Government Board who passed such a dietary. As a result of the inquiry that was instituted the President of the Local Government Board declined to certify further Hollymount School, and withdrew the certificate. Some changes had taken place in the management of the school, and it had now been recertified. So far as this school was concerned it had now been placed on a proper basis, but what a reflection it was for the Committee that this school should have been carried on for so many years before the full facts came to light. He concluded with an earnest appeal that his right hon. friend would do what he could to extend the system of dealing with these children by means of boarding-houses and scattered homes. It 667 would be hard, no doubt, for the Local Government Board to withstand the demand of boards of guardians and to reject their proposals, but much could be done by advice and sympathetic encouragement to those working in the direction of reforms.
§ *MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
said he had listened with considerable interest to the two previous speakers, and his mind had been carried back to the practical application of the systems of the suggestions made. He had seen the system alluded to at work, and he complimented the Local Government Board on the enormous improvement which had take place in the conduct of these schools in the last ten years. The hon. Member for Bradford had quoted several authorities who had successfully boarded out, but the Waifs and Strays Society would have nothing to do with either Poor Law officials or Poor Law children, nor would the Country Holiday Society. When dealing with Poor Law children a totally different condition arose. Twelve years ago there was no warmer advocate for the settlement of the whole difficulty by the system of boarding out than he. It was an ideal system in theory but its success by practical application had yet to be proved. They were limited as to the class of children who could be boarded out. They were only allowed to board out orphan and deserted children; that limited the number to begin with; they were also limited to the number of homes. Many applications were made by old people to be allowed to adopt children on charitable grounds, but when inquiries were made as to the incomes of these people the guardians generally discovered the charitable reason which actuated them to board these children. He knew one case where a widow boarded four children, which was two more than she ought to have done according to the law, for which she had 16s. a week. She lived in a district where the labourers' wages were 11s. and she went about like a duchess in the district. In another case which he personally investigated, he wanted to see the child, and asked how the boy was getting on, and he was told, "Oh, all right; but he is growing so big and eats such a lot. Could not you take him away and send me a smaller boy?" The boarded-out children, so far from losing the pauper 668 taint, were known frequently more by the name of the union from which they came than by their own names; in fact "boarding-out" was the staple industry of the village. Instead of being merged into the village life, the boys were frequently sent into the Navy or the Army. When boarding-out was good there was nothing better, but the difficulty was to find suitable homes, and then only a special class could be dealt with.
Then as to scattered homes. Sheffield was the Mecca of Poor Law administration, and it was there the scattered home system was really started. The children in the homes were said to be so contented and so lovingly looked after that they really did not know they were Poor Law children at all. He did not believe it. A child had only one mother; everything else was a substitute. A "scattered home" with fourteen children under one woman was nothing like a working man's home; it was a little workhouse, and not a home at all. As these children were playing with others in the school-ground, he was challenged to pick out those from the home, but as they marched past he placed his hand on the shoulder of every one. How did he do it? It was Friday afternoon. The boy with the dirty collar or the boots with untidy or broken laces was going home to his mother; the boy with the spotless collar and carefully cleaned boots was going back to the institution. He went to the home and asked whether the boys ever played in the streets. He was told that they did sometimes, but when he said the place was their home and they ought to go out to play every night, he was met with the reply "That's all very well; you haven't to keep them clean; I have." So that although it was a "home," institution law prevailed. He disagreed entirely with the suggestion that institutions were wanted for abnormal children; they were just the class for whom small homes were necessary. With regard to the physique of the children in the so-called barrack-schools—although he objected to the term, which was equally applicable to Eton—he invited Members generally to attend an exhibition of physical training to be given at Church House to-morrow by these very children. It would then be 669 seen that the schools were not such dreadful places as they were sometimes made out to be. An open mind should be kept on these matters. He was glad to say that that was the attitude of the Local Government Board. Wherever they saw a good thing they should be ready to adopt it. Foster-mothers could not be had for the asking. It seemed to be thought that they had only to put a penny in the slot in order to get the finest mother in the world. Plenty could be secured who would make the children do all the work, but that was not the class desired.
He agreed that children should not be kept in the workhouse a moment longer than was necessary, but when one union was quoted against another difficulties arose. The conditions and circumstances of every child had to be inquired into. Whitechapel had seventy-six children in the Forest Gate School, as against Poplar's 600. At first sight that seemed to be a magnificent achievement for Whitechapel. But Whitechapel had an enormous Jewish population, the children of which were looked after by the Jewish Board of Guardians. Much the same thing happened in St. George's-in-the East, although this union has schools at Upton Park. But the poverty in these districts, where they were supposed to have abolished outdoor relief, was simply awful. The whole question of Poor Law administration had to be looked at broadly; it must not be narrowed down to particular districts where they went on the Charity Organisation principle of giving nothing until diligent inquiry had been made into a person's antecedents. The Local Government Board recognised the principle that the need of a person was the reason he should be helped at once, and his antecedents inquired into afterwards. Poplar had 900 such children. Stepney had just opened schools at Stifford for their children. Woolwich union also had erected homes recently, and I question if hon. Members could improve upon either of these places. The boards of guardians could not be told to inquire into the circumstances of each individual child, and to turn a number into the street. Guardians had a greater responsibility to the State than the mere turning out of 670 the child. They had to see that he was not brought up a beggar, ne'er-do-well, or anything of that sort. Each case must be dealt with as it arose, as the Poor Law child had no parallel in any other class. He congratulated both the late and the present President of the Local Government Board upon the success of the new dietary scale. Now there was no earthly excuse for any board of guardians to under-feed the children. It was not the fault of the Local Government Board but the fault of many boards of guardians that the present dietary scale was not put into operation long ago. He wished to put three questions to the President of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman was reported to have said that in the near future the duties of boards of guardians would, in all probability, be delegated to the Borough Councils. He questioned whether any authority they might delegate these powers to could do the work so efficiently as the men and women who were now doing it. He wished to have a clear answer upon that point.
He also wished to know whether the Local Government Board had considered or would consider the desirability of equalising the charges in London for outdoor relief. They found in London that the poorer the district the greater expense it incurred in dealing with the poor. That was to say, it was to the advantage of the richer parishes that there should be an aggregation of workmen in other parts, and the toilers who broke down in health would be more frequent there than in the richer parishes. The poor they had to deal with, both indoor and outdoor, ought to be as much a charge upon the richer parishes as upon the poorer parishes of London. He did not offer any objection to the richer parishes being allowed such control as the Local Government Board might think desirable. Boards of guardians were not now inclined to say to every applicant, "You must come into the House, we cannot give you outdoor relief." It seemed to him that they ought not to be compelled to so enlarge their workhouses as to embrace all who applied, because the people inside were a charge upon the Metropolitan Common 671 Poor Fund. They should not be compelled to enlarge their workhouse when they could help to keep people outside the workhouse. Therefore he wished to ask if the President of the Local Government Board would consider the desirability of equalising the charges upon all localities for outdoor relief. Did the Committee realise that in England and Wales, under the heading of the Poor Rate, about £26,500,000 was raised every year. That was an appalling sum, but on the top of that they were going to ask for old-age pensions. The Committee would scarcely believe that this £26,500,000 had nothing to do with the poor as far as more than half of that charge was concerned. No less than £14,500,000 was for charges that had absolutely nothing to do with the poor, for only about £11,500,000 was for purposes absolutely connected with the Poor Law. When they got to still closer quarters they would find that the £11,500,000 included superannuation allowances, buildings, furniture, maintenance, and officers' expenses, but for the poor, indoor and outdoor, only £5,250,000 was spent. Consequently only £5,250,000 went to the people for whom this £26,500,000 was collected. Did the right hon. Gentleman not think it was a shame that his Department should be credited with the raising of £26,500,000 for the poor when they only actually got £5,250,000 of it. This always seemed to him to be an appalling state of things.
§ MR. TOULMIN (Bury, Lancashire)
said he wished to say a word or two in defence of the boarding-out system, but would first allude to Hollymount School which had been mentioned by the hon. Member for Bradford. He believed that an absolute and radical change had taken place there, and its present condition was such as would satisfy hon. Member's who desired that the children should be properly dealt with. At a private inspection made a day or two ago, a gentleman in the neighbourhood found the children in excellent condition, and the state of things there had been entirely changed. In regard to the outbreak of ophthalmia, it was gradually disappearing under the care of a specialist who was called in 672 before the inquiry took place. One ground of complaint had been that there was not a responsible Committee on the spot, but that had now been altered, and a responsible Committee of seven persons had been appointed. Another complaint was that the children had not been properly looked after because most of the sisters were unaccustomed to English ways. Now almost all of them were either English or British. Formerly in regard to medical attendance the doctor was paid for each visit, but now he received a salary and was under an engagement to pay so many visits. The old system in regard to medical attendance led perhaps to economy in calling the doctor in, and was consequently an objectionable system. The Nursing staff had also been improved by placing a certificated nurse of experience in charge of it, and the teaching staff had been improved by the appointment of a certificated teacher. As to the dietary scale, he had it in his possession, and his hon. friend sitting near him had examined it and declared that it was a very good scale. He had had some experience of the dietaries in similar institutions, and he thought this was a very good scale indeed, and if it was adhered to, the children at all events would not suffer from lack of food. A considerable number of the children attending these schools were in the scholars procession which took place in Lancashire towns during Whit week, and he was told that they looked remarkably well, and were exceedingly well clothed. Whilst he did not advocate these aggregations of children, he did not see how they were to do without them at the present moment.
The special point upon which he desired to address a question to the President of the Local Government Board was with regard to the regulations and conditions on which children were boarded out, and he also wished to know whether they could not expedite the rate at which children in the workhouses were being taken out and dealt with. There were various methods of dealing with these children, but the one method which was not desirable was that they should be retained in the workhouses amongst other paupers. Children who had to mix up with the other 673 inmates in workhouses were under the most unfavourable conditions, because they were surrounded by life's failures, and they had not those incentives which either cottage homes or the boarding-out system gave them to exercise their own intellects and advance themselves in life. The children had no opportunity in the workhouse for any home training, and the food they received there, so far as they knew, might come down from heaven. They did not know how it was cooked or prepared, nor did they feel that their own comfort and happiness depended upon their own exertions. Their own individual faults and failings were not discovered in the workhouse, and when children were taken out of the workhouse and put into a cottage home very often a number of them were found to have objectionable habits. That, however, was not the fault of the home to which they came, but the fault of the home from which they had been taken, The self-reliance and fitness of children for responsibilities was not developed under the workhouse system and children had been frequently returned after being sent out, because they were not familiar with the ordinary routine of daily life. He thought the boarding-out system had its own special dangers, which were recognised by those who were familiar with the system. These were dangers which had to be guarded against. There ought, of course, to be adequate inspection by lady inspectors and by capable voluntary committees who ought to be well kept up to their work. There was plenty of philanthropic aid available, and, properly directed, it could be usefully employed. His own experience was provincial and not metropolitan. He had no doubt the conditions in the Metropolis were very different indeed. As one safeguard, it might be advisable to increase the number of lady inspectors at present in the service of the Local Government Board. Of the 50,000 children for whom the administrators of the Poor Law were responsible, 8,000 were boarded out, an increasing number, but he was sorry to see the numbers boarded out outside their own unions decreasing. As to the objections which had been taken to the system, he found that children did get into the stream of life when boarded out in properly selected homes. They, to a 674 certain extent, formed home ties with their foster parents, which had a great steadying influence upon them when they grew up. The hon. Member for East Bradford had stated that in one union the number of children directly under the control of the guardians had been reduced by one half after the adoption of boarding-out. That was also his own experience in the union with which he was connected.
Many of the objections to the boarding-out system mentioned by the hon. Member for Woolwich were well known to those who advocated the system. They had been warned by the Local Government Board that there should not be too many boarded-out children in any one village. This instruction was given so that boarding out should not become the industry of the village. Even if the children were not merged in the life of the village he held that the training they received when boarded out, was healthier, better, and cheaper than the training they received in a large establishment, and was better for them if they afterwards went into the Army and Navy. In reference to Local Government Board limitations, he wished to ask definitely whether the age limit could not be removed for boarding-out beyond the union. He had found occasions where the limit of ten in the case of a dull child was rather an obstacle. He was afraid that the regulations of the Local Government Board were overlooked in those cases, and it might be better that the limit should be relaxed. With regard to the downward limit he thought a strong case could be made out. Children could not now be boarded out below two years of age. If a child of two could be boarded out he did not see why a child of one should not. As soon as a child passed the absolute nursing stage he thought the guardians should be allowed to board it out. When children were as young as two years of age they sometimes learned habits which were difficult to get rid of. He did not see the necessity for the limit. He believed this relaxation was recommended so long ago as 1896 by a Departmental Committee, and it had also been favourably considered by the North Western Poor Law Conference. Referring to children adopted under the Poor Law 675 Act of 1899 the hon. Member said these were frequently children of very unfortunate antecedents. He thought the relaxation of the boarding-out beyond the union order should also apply to these children because it would certainly be of advantage for them. He thought it would be advisable that the formation of voluntary committees in the union should be encouraged if not made absolutely necessary. There were strong arguments in favour of making it absolutely compulsory in regard to the boarding-out of children within the union. These committees could visit the children more frequently than the officers, and their visits were not so objectionable. Members of the committee frequently interested themselves in the lives of the children, and kept an eye upon them afterwards. He disliked chiefly the association of the children in the workhouse with the older paupers who were necessarily there. Many of them might be compared to old hulks lying up there with no prospect but to stay there in such comfort as was provided for them, until they died. But the children were young vessels starting out, and everything possible should be done to give them a fair chance of making a successful voyage through life.
§ *SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
said that as a member of a Bradford union which was the third largest in England he had had opportunity of gaining some experience in the administration of the Poor Law. There was one law which he thought must be universally applied, and that was that children ought not to be admitted into any workhouse. In his opinion it was totally unnecessary that any child should even for a moment enter those gloomy portals; it should be in some room entirely separate from the workhouse or Poor Law sentiment. He also thought that the "barrack" schools were wholly unnecessary; they were not required in the large union of Bradford, and he believed they were not necessary in any union in the country. They must remember the unhappy condition of some of these children, in far too many cases they were physically and mentally feeble, often diseased both in mind and body. He 676 did not think that in dealing with them it was possible to condemn any one system. Several speakers had denounced the boarding out system, and others had spoken of separate cottage homes. He believed there was no arrangement that was not open to dangers and criticisms, and he believed the best and wisest plan was to make use of all these different institutions, which, if not quite suited to all cases, would in many cases be found of great value. In Yorkshire they had found great benefit from the boarding-out system, but he agreed that it was a system which required most careful administration and continual thought-fulness. In many cases where the children were wholly and absolutely separated from the pauper community they had found great benefit from the system of separate homes. It was perfectly true that if there were fourteen children in a home that was not an exact reproduction of a working man's family; but they were dealing with what was possible. It was wholly impossible to find homes for all these children in working class families where there were only five or six children. They could not completely produce the family life which existed in the homes of the working people in the manufacturing districts; but the children were trained differently from those in the large institutions—their life was conducted by simple appliances instead of by pompous arrangements. They went to school—Anglican, R. C., or undenominational—and mingled with children of the same age.
There was one great difficulty in connection with separate homes, and that was the industrial training. A recommendation was made in one report that the children should be sent to some industrial training school. He believed there was much in that suggestion, and he hoped some system might be devised whereby these young people might have some part of their dependent life devoted to industrial instruction which would fit them for taking a place in society and obtaining an honest livelihood. In last year's report there was a reference to the practice pursued in the counties of Sussex, Surrey, and 677 Kent. It stated that the girls were most carefully trained in industrial work of every kind, and the result was that the number of applications for children going out to service was so large that the committee, who took the greatest possible interest in the work, were able to make a very careful selection of the places to which the girls were sent. The children, it was added, did better than the workhouse children, and in point of fact their training was a real education. There was a difficulty in the supervision of these homes. The utmost care had to be taken in the selection of the foster mothers, and the supervision of their conduct should be firm and at the same time gentle. He wished to refer to the great success which had attended the labours of the board of guardians of the Bradford union in dealing with the aged and deserving poor. The care taken in the investigation of these cases was, the ventured to say, absolutely exemplary. It was a great pleasure to find that, owing to the care taken by the guardians, the aged and deserving poor now received such an amount of outdoor relief as raised them out of the evils of penury. And as regarded those in the workhouses there was the most careful supervision to secure every comfort and solace for those of advanced years or debilitated by old age.
§ *MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
said the Prime Minister had informed the House yesterday that he had been nine years in the House when he made certain suggestions to Mr. Gladstone with, he hoped, becoming modesty. He had been in the House for exactly that term, and he trusted to make the few suggestions which he was about to make with a like becoming modesty. The hon. Member who had just sat down stated that many suggestions had been made as to the treatment of these pauper children—some of them good and some bad. Everybody however, he thought, believed that the system of large aggregations of these children was bad though it might be difficult to do away with. He wished to call attention to a few of the results of the system. At Ipswich, ring-worm was so bad that the children, against the wishes 678 of the board of guardians, had to be boarded out. At Norwood the death rate was thirty-six per 1000, or double that of the borough itself. At Hanwell eighty-eight children were in danger of their lives from suppuration, and 283 children were suffering from ophthalmia. In another union a child died from pneumonia only the day after it was discovered that it was suffering from the disease. That showed that in these institutions there was not proper supervision. At Richmond, scarlet fever broke out, and there were five cases in the home. His hon. friend had drawn attention to the mental and moral improvement that might be secured by putting the children into small homes. The development of character must necessarily be bad with such an enormous aggregation of children in some of these institutions. The system under which these children were treated was dull and mechanical, there was an absence of that healthy interest in the world about them which one would like to see developed in children. They were necessarily denied all affection and love in these large institutions. There were 1,000 children at Hanwell Asylum, and he understood that it was proposed to certify what was now called the Ophthalmic Block as a barrack school for over 750 normal children. He maintained that that building, which was only of corrugated iron, ought not to be licensed for such a purpose. The predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman had given an undertaking, that his Department would decrease the number of children in these schools, and in no case allow an addition to them to be made.
As to the Hollymount case, he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on having withdrawn the certificate from that school. It was an abominable case which one would have thought could hardly have existed in this country. But how came it about that the certificate was returned to that school? His hon. friend had already stated that the system of dietary was completely altered; he hoped it was; it had need to be. But it was not only a question of diet; it was a question of the general treatment of the children. The Committee would hardly believe it, but when the 679 children were examined and placed in a bath they screamed loudly, and the girls were found to be suffering from sore heads, eczema, skin eruptions, and other diseases. Further, they were practically starved. The Report said that "now and again" the children were suffering from ophthalmia. What were the facts? As soon as they were examined it was found that out of 230 children only eighty-four were free from disease, and only forty-nine out of 212 were found to be free from ophthalmia. That was what the gentleman who wrote the report described as suffering from ophthalmia "now and again." That was, of course, a form of deception, but was not quite so bad as what followed. A certain girl, Kate Mallon, was found to be suffering from phthisis, and was not expected to recover. That girl was supposed to have written a letter in which it was said that they had a jolly time, that Father Christmas had brought them sweets and toys and other things too numerous to mention, and that they were in the best of health with rosy faces and bright eyes. That letter was shown to the girl, and she was asked why she wrote it, and she replied that she had never written it at all. That disclosed a very serious state of things. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman withdrew the certificate from that school on the 14th October; but he was also informed—he did not know whether correctly or not—that the right hon. Gentleman recertificated the school before the end of the year. Considering all the right hon. Gentleman had ascertained as to what had happened in the school, it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman was very rapid in the measures he took in order to secure that the children should be treated in a better manner in future; that the diet, for instance, should be sufficient to nourish their bodies, that care should be taken that their health should be decently looked after, and that the system of intimidating the girls should not be continued. He sincerely hoped that the right hon. Gentleman had been able to assure himself on all those points. It appeared to him to be of the utmost importance that, in a case like that, an example should be made of the school. He was informed that this was only one of many religious institutions all over 680 the country where similar things, were going on; and it seemed to him a crying shame that they should be permitted.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said he should like to make a few observations on the general treatment of pauper children. His first observation was that the public authority should have complete control over all children whose parents received Poor Law relief, because, in asking for relief, the parents would have to submit to any conditions which Parliament, the Local Government Board, and the board of guardians prescribed. Those conditions should be conceived solely in the interests of the children themselves. He believed it was now generally accepted as both just and expedient that the public authority should do the best it could for those children; that it should give them the best education, and in every way fit them to become citizens. It was good economy to spend money in that way. The old idea of the time of Oliver Twist, to make the education of those children as cheap as possible, was now scouted by everyone. All they differed on now was not the object but the means of attaining it. It appeared to him that it was a very wrong thing for either the State or the local authority to use children for the purpose of putting some kind of coercion on their parents. He said that for two reasons. In the first place, a child was far too costly an object to be expended in that way. To sacrifice the whole future of a child in order to make the parent do his duty was an asset too costly for the object to be carried out. His second objection was that it was wholly illusory, and did not make the parent in any way do his duty by the child. He did not think that the public or the Local Government Board sufficiently realised the fact, which was unfortunately true, that a child was a very valuable asset. A child could be used for all sorts of purposes, such as begging, or performing in public, and so far from children being a burden, they were often brought to theatres, racecourses, and public entertainments of that kind, and were hired out to persons who found it worth their while to pay for their use. Many years ago a Departmental Committee of the Local Government Board under the 681 presidency of the late Mr. Mundella was appointed to consider the condition of pauper schools. He himself was a member of that Committee. The Report which the Committee presented attracted a great deal of attention, and the Local Government Board, under the presidency of his right hon. friend the Member for Sleaford, gave certain assurances to the House of Commons and the public that some at least of the recommendations of the Report would be carried out.
The first point to which he wished to call attention was a point on which everyone was agreed, and that was that children should not be allowed to remain in workhouses. There were differences of opinion on other points; on that there was none. That was brought very clearly home to all the members of the Committee, not only by the evidence but by personal visits to workhouses, and by seeing the actual condition of the children. He defied anyone to see the condition of the children as the members of the Committee saw it, and not hold earnestly the opinion that no child should under any circumstances be in a workhouse. The great objection was that those children were in most workhouses mixed up with the adult paupers; very often they were attended by pauper attendants who were frequently people of extremely bad character, and quite unfit to look after any respectable and decent child. The children heard all the foul language which, he was sorry to say, prevailed in workhouses, and which was one of the chief objections which decent people had to workhouse life. In some workhouses where the children lived in the workhouse it was very deleterious to the children, but in others where the children were sent away to the Board schools and had separate quarters from the adults the conditions were not so bad as they usually were for the children in the workhouses. The Board of Guardians of Chelsea and Kensington kept the children outside the workhouse. They had a receiving house for them, and the children never came into the workhouse, and since the plan had been adopted by Chelsea and Kensington other boards of guardians had done the same. Having said all that, he pointed out that there were at this moment according to the 682 Returns of the Local Government Board more children in the London workhouses than before the Report was made. At the time the Report was furnished there were 2,294 children in the London workhouses. At the present moment the returns showed a total of 3,004. In the country generally there were in the Home Counties upwards of 20,000 similarly circumstanced, and in many cases those children were in the charge of pauper superintendents, and had no education worthy of the name. He appealed to the President of the Local Government Board to issue some compulsory order forbidding the guardians taking the children into the workhouses and compelling them to make some other provision for them.
The next point was what was to be done? There were four ways in which the children could be dealt with. One was to put them in those large schools which still existed; the second to place them in village communities where the houses were grouped together, but where the children lived in separate houses, and attended school, Church, and recreation in common. Then there was the system adopted many years ago by the Sheffield Board of Guardians, to have scattered homes, and the fourth system was boarding out. The one objection to the large schools was that it had been proved by experience that it was impossible to prevent in them epidemic disease, and particularly that scourge of the school, ophthalmia. Every effort, and there had been many, made to put a stop to ophthalmia had failed, and that disease was continually breaking out in these schools. The greatest proof of that was the large institution opened the other day by the right hon. Gentleman for the provision of 360 children suffering from ophthalmia. The treatment which the children received was excellent in every way, but anyone who witnessed the sufferings they endured; who had seen them stagger under the pain of having their eyes sponged out with a painful lotion, necessary though it was for their cure, would regret that such institutions were necessary. In recent times this Committee had come to a unanimous conclusion against the maintenance of these large boarding schools. The one 683 school at Sutton was broken up, and a promise given by the then President of the Local Government Board, the right hon. Member for Sleaford, that no addition should be made to the existing schools. Under those circumstances, he learned with astonishment that it was proposed to extend the accommodation of the school at Hanwell.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Bristol, S.
said that proposal did not emanate from him.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
expressed his satisfaction at the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and said he did not wish in any way to reflect on those who had the management of these institutions and who had been successful in mitigating many of their disadvantages. The village communities were undoubtedly an improvement on the great schools, and he learned with regret that instead of their being restricted to houses where a small number of children were boarded, large blocks were being put up, thus doing away entirely with the good of the village community, and making them like the large schools. It was also said the village communities were costly, but he did not object to them on that ground, because whatever money was spent if the result was good, was money well spent. Then there was the system of scattered homes. He had seen these scattered homes, and, so far as one could judge, a more excellent way of providing for the children not boarded out it was difficult to imagine. Many boards of guardians have imitated the plan, which he believed was better than either the big schools or the village communities. He could not help thinking that the experience of the hon. Member for Woolwich in regard to boarding-out had been rather unfortunate. If the boarding-out system was unsatisfactory, he thought it was rather due to some error of machinery on the part either of the Local Government Board or the local guardians than to any failure in the system itself. In the inquiry of eight years ago, nearly all the members of the Committee came to the conclusion that of all the methods of treating children, that adopted by Dr. Barnardo was by 684 far the most humane and successful. He previously had a strong prejudice against Dr. Barnardo, but, after seeing his institution and having practical experience of his work, he became a complete convert. Dr. Barnardo tried both the institution and the village community systems, but fell back on boarding out the children as being by far the best way of bringing them up. He was not certain about the cost; but he should not think it was so great as that of the large institutions, but, judging by results, it was by far the best system. Whatever system was adopted, he earnestly hoped the President of the Local Government Board would at once turn the children out of the workhouse. As to the desirability of doing that all were agreed. After the evidence given before, and the conclusion arrived at, by the Committee some years ago, it would be a great pity to extend the big school or the village community system. As many as possible should be boarded out, and those who could not be boarded out should be put in scattered homes. The greatest possible deterrent of pauperism was to take the children out of the hands of worthless parents. That was done in New Zealand, and the law had the effect of immediately diminishing the number of persons who became chargeable to the rates.
§ MR. CAMERON (Durham, Houghton-le-Spring)
said that when they considered the large number of children in charge of the State, they could not but feel that it was most desirable that such methods should be used as would save the children from becoming paupers in the future. He believed that if the guardians were urged to do their duty and wise methods were employed, the bulk of the children could be made into useful citizens, and be restored to industrial and normal life. Nearly twenty years of his life had been spent in connection with pauper children, as chairman of a large union in the North, and he believed the best work of his life was that which he did as chairman of the schools connected with that union. The first method they adopted was that of separating the children from the adult paupers; they built schools and engaged separate managers and 685 teachers. Then they endeavoured to improve the physique of the children, who were stolid and dull, having the stamp of the workhouse child upon them. Gymnastic exercises were introduced, and in an industrial school the boys were taught tailoring, shoemaking and other trades. But the best thing they did was to send the children to the public elementary school, giving them a variety of dress so that they should not be marked among the other pupils. The children improved in health and energy; their manner altered, and in a year or two they were like ordinary working men's children. One difficulty which they had to tackle was that of dealing with the girls when they left the workhouse. Many of them were taken by relations, who had been quite content to allow the State to bring them up but who wished to use them for their own purposes when they were able to earn money. Many of the girls, especially in large towns, were in great danger, and some became immoral. It was found that the best thing for the girls' welfare was to send them to Canada, and some hundreds had been sent out. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how far the Local Government Board were now dealing with the question of emigration. With regard to the boarding out, it was necessary to know the character of the parents and the homes, and to be sure that the children would be treated as they should be. In large towns boarding out was not the best system, although it might be in villages where everybody was known. By using such methods as he had described, by taking an interest in the children and by keeping in touch with them by correspondence after they had gone out into the world, he believed the guardians could do good work for the community and for the future.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said the question of the inspection of Poor Law schools had been discussed for a long time, and he noticed that in the present session the President of the Local Government Board had stated that the correspondence with the Education Department had been reopened. It was very awkward from the educational standpoint that the inspection of these 686 schools should be in the hands not of the Education Department, but of the Local Government Board. Nothing could be said in defence of such an arrangement, and he hoped his right hon. friend, among other reforms, would not lose sight of that point. He should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give them some assurance that the Report in regard to the disposal of sewage would be speedily presented. The question of the boarding out of children was a subject upon which there was more misunderstanding than upon any other subject connected with the Poor Law. A great many people thought that the barrack school system was responsible for all the mischief upon this question. The barrack schools were condemned; that went without saying; but to involve all these schools in a general condemnation was to make a mistake. Sutton had afforded the worst case; but he understood that that school had been broken up and that the girls' school was now set aside for children suffering from ringworm. It was often said that these Poor Law children were quite dull, but he thought if any Member of the House were to see these boys in the cricket field or in the gymnasium he would agree they were just as pleasant and joyful children as could be found in the whole of London. He never could understand why these children were charged with being specially dull. What was the difficulty the boards of guardians had apart from the Local Government Board? Boarding out had been suggested. Yes; but they had first of all to get their homes. That might be easy enough to do in the rural districts of the country, and he should say that boarding out was the real remedy in those districts; but when they came to deal with the urban districts the difficulty was greater. They had then got to find the homes and the foster parents, and to get a committee to take an interest in these matters was perhaps the greatest difficulty of all Hon. Members made a great mistake if they thought that the boarding-out system was a delightful thing to undertake. Then there was the religious difficulty to be considered, particularly with regard to Roman Catholic children. They could not 687 board out Roman Catholic children, because that would raise the religious difficulty at once. Having looked into the question most thoroughly, he could say it could only be settled by the establishment of schools of a moderate size, by village communities, by boarding out, and by scattered homes.
The question of scattered homes was rather an interesting one. He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board what had been the results of the Camberwell experiment. There was an experiment thoroughly tried in a London community, and he desired to know whether it bad met with success, and whether the Local Government Board thought the experiment ought to be carried farther. There had been a charge made against the late President of the Local Government Board in allowing additions to the barrack schools. He thought he could say that more than one application had been made to add to those schools, but the late President found himself bound by the Report of the Committee on the subject. It was not the case that any real additions were allowed. What was done was to grant applications for increasing the size of the kitchen department, and applications as regarded expenditure on ventilation were rightly sanctioned. He did not think any application to enlarge the scope of the schools to provide for additional children had been allowed, and he did not think such an application had been granted since the Report was issued. He thought the House was perfectly unanimous that children ought not to be in workhouses at all. They must always bear in mind the difficulties in London, for example. They had in London to deal with an enormous number of ins and outs. A woman or worker arrived with three or four children at the workhouse at night, for instance, and left again in the morning. But they were reckoned as being in the workhouse. Supposing they had receiving houses; they were no good unless they had got places to send them to from the receiving houses. They were bound to have a certain number of these children in because of these ins and outs. All these difficulties could 688 only be appreciated by guardians, and he confessed he had never listened with more pleasure to a speech than to that of Mr. Crooks, the hon. Member for Woolwich, who went practically into the whole question. He believed the guardians were doing their best under difficult circumstances, and he believed the Local Government Board were encouraging the guardians to provide for these children in the best way they could.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
said he wished to ask for some information with regard to the administration of the Vaccination Acts. He did not wish at this time to challenge the policy of compulsory vaccination, or to restate the objections to the order of 1898, whereby the boards of guardians were deprived of discretion with regard to prosecutions, recognised for thirty years as almost a statutory power, or to refer to the circular letter issued by the Local Government Board in 1901, which seemed to him to interfere with the discretionary powers of magistrates in dealing with this question. What he wished to raise was two specific issues on which there might be common ground for those who wished good administration, without raising any controversial issues. It seemed to him that the whole scale of fees and charges introduced under the Order of 1898, and by the administration of the Acts by the Local Government Board was enormously high. Before this Order and the other circulars came into effect in 1898, the cost of the vaccination administration by boards of guardians in England and Wales was £72,655. In the following year, after the Act of 1898 was put into operation, the cost was raised to three times that amount—namely, £237,000, and, so far as he could see, it stood at that rate at the present time. The hon. Member for Aberdeen shire might think that the doctors who carried out this administration deserved to be well paid. He would admit that domiciliary vaccination did justify an increase in the expenditure, but with that exception he thought he represented the feelings of many boards of guardians when he said that this enormous growth of expenditure was a matter which deserved the attention of the Local Government Board with a view to reconsideration and revision. He should be glad if the 689 right hon. Gentleman could introduce any suggestions or modifications which would lead to economy in that expenditure.
The second point he wished to raise was this—without raising any question as to the legality or otherwise of the vaccination officer being made absolutely independent of the board of guardians, he wished to point out that the vaccination officer was placed in a position wholly exceptional amongst all the other officers, as far as he knew, of any local authority at the present time. The vaccination officer was under the board of guardians, but received instructions from the Local Government Board which practically gave him a free hand, and this enabled him to defy the authority of the boards of guardians. The Local Government Board might claim that the boards of guardians were not acting within the letter of the law, and therefore the vaccination officer was properly carrying out his duties by resisting his board in matters in which, he submitted, according to the ordinary principles of local government, boards of guardians ought to have some authority and discretionary power over their officials.
The particular case he had been requested to bring before the Committee was that of the Welling borough Board of Guardians, the principal union in the division he represented. He hoped that question would be considered by the right hon. Gentleman apart from any argument ad invidiam from the past. He was not going to raise any question as to the attitude the board might have had at some previous period in regard to the Vaccination Acts. He would deal with the question as it now stood. The board acquiesced in the carrying out of the Acts at the present time. They appointed two vaccination officers—one for a large district and one for a small district. The officer for the smaller district had carried out his duty with vigilance and precise inquiry into the facts. He had brought something like 200 cases before the Courts, and had carried out the whole procedure without imposing on the board of guardians any solicitors' fees whatever. None of the cases brought before the Courts were dismissed, so that whatever expenditure was incurred by the guardians was justified. The officer appointed for the larger district had dealt 690 with some 400 cases in the same period. He had insisted from the first on being accompanied in Court by a solicitor, whereas only in one, or two, or three, or four cases since the commencement of the vaccination prosecutions had the defendants been represented by a solicitor, or had any legal point been raised. By insisting, in the face of repeated protests, on being accompanied by a solicitor, this officer had imposed enormous costs on the board of guardians. In nearly all the cases the solicitor did not require to say a single word in court. The total cost in eighteen months amounted to no less than £431, and up to the present time they amounted to £583, which was equal to a ¾d. rate in the district, and a ½d. rate was actually imposed last year in order to meet these extra charges. Further, with regard, to this vaccination officer no less than ninety-eight cases were dismissed by the Court owing to the omission of inquiries prescribed by the circular of 1901. In some cases the child had died, or the parents had obtained a certificate, or had removed from the district. In these cases the solicitors' charges had to be met, although the dismissal of the cases was due to the neglect of the officer to carry out the regulations. It seemed to him a scandal that these costs should be imposed against the will of the board of guardians and the locality, when there was absolutely no necessity. He was informed that the guardians had offered the officer other advice which could be obtained at a lower cost to the ratepayers. The magistrates were willing to adjourn the hearing of cases in which a defence was offered. He submitted that it was a serious and improper course for the officer to employ a solicitor in circumstances where there was no need whatever for his services. The officer apparently had a perfectly free hand to impose on the ratepayers any expense he chose to incur. It was notorious in the district that the solicitors employed by the officer were not those to whom it would be natural to go. One was a young and inexperienced solicitor, and one had abandoned practice for some time but came back into the district. An offer was made by the officer that he would take the whole 691 thing over himself at 2s. 6d. a case, but very properly the Local Government Board refused to authorise such an arrangement. Were the words in Section 29 of the Order of 1898, which compelled guardians to pay the reasonable costs and expenses of vaccination officers in obtaining legal assistance consistent with the extraordinary proceedings he had described? Some time ago he brought this matter privately before the President of the Local Government Board, and an inspector was sent down to inquire. The result of that inquiry was practically a refusal on the part of the Local Government Board to remove this vaccination officer. In view of the officer's misconduct—he could not use a milder word—he thought it was a scandal that the Local Government Board had not dealt with the case on its merits and asked him to send in his resignation. They require the boards of guardians to appoint officials, and these boards should be required to provide their officials with proper funds to enable them to carry on their legal proceedings in a proper and effective way. But the Act never contemplated that any official should be set up in a position to expend the rates for his own advantage and that of his solicitor friends in this reckless and intolerable way He hoped his right hon. friend might see his way to do more justice to the people in the union which he represented that day, and that vaccination officers should not be exposed to the danger of corruption.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said it might be convenient that he should deal with the question raised by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down and one or two other points, before he came to the subject which had occupied the attention of the Committee during the greater part of the afternoon. He did not intend to discuss the attitude of the boards of guardians towards vaccination; but in the case to which the hon. Gentleman referred there was no doubt that the vaccination officer did incur unnecessary expense in taking legal advice, when he could probably have dispensed with it. He would, however, remind the hon. Gentlemen that when this officer was appointed he found an 692 accumulation of arrears of work, and since he had been in office he had done his work very well The number of cases had enormously increased, and there was nothing disclosed in the report of the inspector of any dishonest intention on the part of any member of the board of guardians or of the vaccination officer. The worst that could be alleged against him was that he had not sufficient confidence in himself or in the legal advice given to him. The matter, however, was to form the subject of local inquiry; and therefore, he would say nothing more about it now, except that he had seen nothing in the case to justify him in removing the officer from his position, though he had indicated to him, through the inspector, the way in which he thought he might do his work in the future, not less successfully, but at less cost to the guardians.
With regard to the question of death certification, he entirely agreed that it was a subject with which it would be well to deal if it were possible. He did not think the facts were quite so alarming as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ilkeston would have the Committee believe; but none the less the subject was a very serious one; he should be very glad if he could see his way to legislation. The difficulties of dealing with the question were, however, of a serious and practical character. Very shortly after he came into office he had the advantage of prolonged communications with Sir William Turner, Sir Dyce Duckworth, and with the Registrar-General and his advisers, who speak with singular authority on this and other questions. The Registrar-General was impressed with the desirability of doing something in certain selected localities, but the difficulty was that in many counties there was no medical officer. The practical difficulty was that if the proposals of the Bill which was prepared in 1894 were enforced, not only would very considerable additional expense be incurred, but very considerable difficulties in the indefinite and altogether undesirable postponement of burial would probably result. The matter, however, had been engaging his attention, and if he saw his way to an amendment of the law which would be 693 practicable and would carry out what they all desired, the hon. Gentleman might rely upon it that he would not fail to do his best to carry it through.
Turning to the question which had formed the main subject of debate, he was glad the Committee had devoted its time to the discussion of a question which went so deep to the root of our national life, because there was no doubt that the steps we took now to train and educate the children of the poor must have a lasting effect upon the nation. He had found himself in agreement with a great deal that had been said that afternoon. His right hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University said that notwithstanding they were all agreed that children ought to be taken out of the workhouse, there were more children in the workhouses in London now than when the Committee reported. Figures were more than usually deceptive in this case. As a matter of fact, the number of children in the workhouses varied enormously from year to year, and even from month to month; and if the Committee would put aside the more comparison of figures, and would look at what had lately been done both in the Metropolis and in the provinces, be thought they would see that real efforts had been made by boards of guardians to deal effectively with this difficulty. His right hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University said he hoped the Local Government Board would issue an order compelling the guardians to take all children out of the workhouses; but he did not think the Local Government Board could do a worse thing, in the interests of good administration, than to attempt to drive the guardians in that way. The boards of guardians in London and the provinces had made great strides during the last twenty-five years, and they deserved not only gratitude but commendation for the work they had done; but if we attempted to drive them all of a sudden into a course which would involve so complete a change, and of so expensive a character, it would not advance the cause of Poor Law administration. They were all agreed that children should be taken out of the workhouses and dealt with in another way; but the great difficulty was found in selecting another way of dealing with them. One hon. Gentleman advocated 694 an extension of the boarding-out system, and urged that it should be simplified and made more comprehensive. By the Act of 1899 guardians were given power to deal with deserted children; but he thought they should proceed very carefully when it was proposed to board out children who had both parents or one parent living. There was a danger of interference by the parents of the child with the foster parents. He hoped, however, to be able to extend the boarding-out order, so as to enable boards of guardians to board out children more freely than they could do now.
It had been said that, notwithstanding the promise made by his right hon. friend the Member for Sleaford, additions to these large Poor Law institutions had been sanctioned by the Local Government Board. That was a complete misapprehension. It was true that in some cases when the necessity arose for the improvement of the existing accommodation that improvement had been sanctioned; but he believed he was right in saying that in every such case the number of children accommodated had been reduced. Therefore, so far from its being true that the Local Government Board had sanctioned an actual increase in the number of children accommodated, the reverse had been the case; and the Local Government Board had taken advantage of every application to impress on the guardians the necessity of reducing the number of children accommodated in those schools. Surely where buildings were in existence, and where there was a heavy local expenditure, it was impossible immediately to force upon the guardians a fresh expenditure; but when the guardians had come to the Department with practical proposals they had taken advantage of the application to reduce the number of children. In so doing they were loyally keeping the pledge given by his right hon. friend. The boarding out, cottage homes, scattered homes, and barrack systems had been referred to. He confessed he thought the barrack system had been a little hardly dealt with, but it was too late to take that view now. They were tried and were condemned, and in the case of the great Sutton schools had already been broken up. When the guardians now made proposals for dealing with their children, the Department never lost an opportunity of recommending them to adopt the cottage home or 695 the boarding-out system. But the guardians were in possession of the facts of the case as well as the Department, and it was for them to make proposals. If those proposals appeared to depart from the principles that had been laid down, the Department insisted on their alteration. There was no doubt great truth in the remarks of the hon. Member for Woolwich. The boarding-out system was only superior when they got good foster-mothers and a very active and energetic committee. He had had before him cases where the boarding-out system was as bad and unsatisfactory as anything they could find in a barrack school or any other form of accommodation. A great deal depended on the locality. In some parts of the country it was comparatively easy to get plenty of foster parents of the right sort; but in other parts of the country it was extremely difficult. In each case the guardians must be governed by their own local knowledge, and what they believed to be best in the interests of the poor, and also in the interests of the ratepayers, whose trustees they were. But the Department would do their best to guide and help them to carry out what Parliament had practically decided they should do—namely, that they should not keep their children in the workhouses, but should provide for them in establishments outside.
As to the Hollymount School, that was not a Poor Law school, it was a religious institution certified by the Local Government Board, and thus enabled to take in children sent by boards of guardians. He entirely agreed that the condition of things that had existed there was extremely unsatisfactory and much to be regretted. It was extremely unsatisfactory that such a condition of things as had been described should have existed at the Hollymount School as long as it did without having been discovered by the inspector. Nothing would have justified him in declining to renew the certificate if he had satisfied himself that there was a complete change both in the system of management and in the general conditions of the school. What were the conditions which he imposed upon the school. He insisted on an entire alteration of the management, on the appointment of a committee of seven, that the majority of the sisters should be English, and that there should 696 be a thoroughly satisfactory dietary. He had also given instructions that the school should be periodically visited and that Returns should be made to the Local Government Board. He could assure the Committee that nothing would have induced him to issue a fresh certificate if he and his advisers were not satisfied that there had been a complete change in the management and general arrangements of the school, which would make it, not only probable, but as certain, humanly speaking, as anything could be, that the future conduct of the school and the care of the children would be altogether different from the disgraceful state of things which had prevailed before. As to the educational inspection of Poor Law schools, they had always been in favour of the transference of this work to the Board of Education. He hoped he should succeed in advancing the matter a little further very soon, and no difficulty should be raised as far as his Department was concerned. He was sorry to say the Sewage Commission was still sitting; it had been sitting a very long time. They had no power over Royal Commissions, but hoped the Commission would present its Report as quickly as possible. He hoped it might reach the ears of the Royal Commission that there had been anxious enquiries regarding it in the House; and that might induce it to present its Report as early as possible. With reference to the Camberwell Homes they had only been in existence three years; and that was too short a time in which to form a definite conclusion as to the result that was expected to flow from them. All the reports which had reached him, however, led him to believe that it was a very satisfactory experiment, and that it would give favourable results. He had now dealt with the various questions which had been raised by hon. Gentlemen, and he would only repeat, speaking for himself and also for his Department, that nothing should be wanting on their part to improve the condition of children depending on the Poor Law, an improvement which they all desired to see. They would do everything they could in conjunction with boards of guardians, who were also anxious to improve the condition of things, to secure that the number of children in workhouses should, as far as practicable, be reduced to the 697 lowest possible number; and they would do their best to secure that the provision made for those children should be the best and most humane that could be obtained. He could assure the Committee that he would do all he could to advance the cause they had all so much at heart.