§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £142,089, 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, 1905, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board."
§ SIR EDWARD STRACHEY (Somersetshire, S.)
said he wished to know what had been done in regard to regulations affecting the speed of motor-cars on main roads. Under the Motor Cars Act of last session large discretionary powers were placed in the hands of the Local Government Board to settle what was to be done as regarded regulating the speed of motors on roads, and as to setting up notices warning travellers and 633 the public of the danger of travelling beyond a certain pace. So far as he was aware, the Local Government Board had taken very little action in the matter at all, and all that had been done had been on the line of suggesting to the various local authorities that they should do nothing in the matter, but should rather rely on the section of the Act throwing the responsibility on the drivers to see that they did not run any undue risks. He regretted that the Local Government Board had not given attention to applications from local authorities for power to enforce regulations. Indeed, in one case there had been a refusal to allow any regulations to be put in force. He wished to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there were very narrow roads, especially in the West of England—roads with many winding turnings in them, where motorcar traffic was not merely a nuisance but was really dangerous. He believed that if there were some general regulations restricting the speed to ten miles an hour, motor-cars would prefer not to use those narrow roads, but would rather make a detour over main roads, and thus the general convenience of the public would be consulted. Then again, a recommendation of the County Councils Association in regard to notices to motor-car drivers was certainly worthy of more consideration than it had received. It had been suggested that the warning notices might be suspended from the lamp-posts, but the Local Government Board had prohibited anything of the kind being done. He thought it very desirable that the Local Government Board should set up one standard for these notices so that they might be easily recognised by car drivers who were dashing about all over the country. The effect of the attitude taken up by the Local Government Board had been to induce local authorities to believe that it was not worth their while to take the trouble to make any recommendations in regard to regulations.
Then there was the question of the cost of putting up the notices. One county council had estimated that each such warning would cost about £2, and that the total cost of placing danger boards within its limits would amount to something like £8,000. Was not that a 634 burden which should fall on the Imperial Exchequer? The right hon. Gentleman might say that that was not a matter with which he had to deal, and that it was the fault of the House if, when the Bill was under consideration, steps were not taken to throw this burden upon the Imperial Exchequer. As to that he would say nothing, but he would urge the desirability of having one standard for these notices. He had made inquiry of the Cyclists' Touring Club, and they had informed him that the cost of the iron discs which they were in the habit of distributing about the country was only 3s. 6d., and that the cost of the posts to which they were attached ranged from 5s. to 10s. Well, that would give a maximum outlay of 13s. 6d. for each signal as against £2 which had been estimated by a certain county council. But even that 13s. 6d. would not be required if the right hon. Gentleman would consent to allow the discs to be slung from the lamp-posts. There was one other point to which he would like to draw attention, and that was the damage done to the roads by traction engines travelling along the roads at ten or twelve miles an hour. These engines not only caused great obstruction in I narrow lanes, but they cut up the roads in a most terrible fashion. A Departmental Committee had been appointed to go into the question, and he could not help thinking that it was a mistake that the Rural District Councils Association, which was very much interested in the matter, seeing that the rural district councils had to contribute very largely towards the expense of making and maintaining the roads used by these heavy motors, was not granted special representation upon that Committee. He hoped, however, that, as the outcome of the deliberations of the Committee, some regulations would be laid down in regard to this traffic, for it was not infrequently the case that these engines cut a rut something like nine or ten inches in depth in the road. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, in conclusion, whether he had issued any regulations in regard to a speed limit for these traction engines, and he begged, in order that he might get a reply, to move the reduction of the salary of the President of the Local Government Board by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries and Wages) be i educed by £100."—(Sir Edward Strachey.)
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said the whole crux and essence of the Bill passed last year, and of the arrangement by which that Bill received the almost unanimous consent of hon. Gentlemen of that House, was that the local authorities should be practically the masters of the situation. That point was thoroughly and fully brought out in the course of the debates, and the right hon. Gentleman almost gave a pledge that his Department would not interfere in an unjustifiable manner in reference to the control of the local authorities. For himself, he would not for a moment have pressed for a speed limit of twenty miles an hour provided the local authorities had been left alone to regulate the traffic. But matters had not been very much improved by the passing of the Bill of last year, because the local authorities had been set at brought; they had been, he would not say snubbed exactly, but their recommendations had not been treated with any respect whatever. Cases had been brought before the Department in which motor-cars must of necessity have been travelling at a speed far beyond that to which they were entitled to go by law, but the right hon. Gentleman in reply to a Question put to him in the House simply told them that he could do nothing in the matter. The whole of his attitude had been discouraging to the local authorities and had encouraged the owners and drivers of the cars to think they were promoting a British industry by careering over the roads, highways, and by-ways at the speed of express trains. The other day he was nearly run over in London within a quarter of a mile of that House, and only last Sunday a motor-car went through the village near which he resided at a speed of something like forty miles an hour. That was a serious matter, for children, dogs, sheep, and chickens had to be hustled out of the road to make room for rich men who for purposes of selfish pleasure were rendering themselves a nuisance to the whole community. It was perfectly true that the cars were under magnificent 636 control and could be stopped nearly dead when travelling at a speed even of something like thirty miles an hour, but what had to be borne in mind was the condition of the man who was in charge of the car. It was not always the case that he was equal to an emergency. He remembered a case in his own county where a man driving a horse met a motor - car and asked that it should be stopped. It was not stopped, and his horse became very restive, with the result that in the excitement of the moment he; used his whip, the end of which touched a lady, and there was a most tremendous-row over the affair. He confessed that, personally, he was somewhat nervous, about these motor-cars and the way they careered over the country. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman must recognise the assistance he obtained from Members on the Opposition side of the House in getting the Bill carried last year, and that assistance showed that they were not actuated by any spirit of hostility towards him. They simply asked that the roads should be used for the purposes for which they were originally constructed, and not for the pleasure of a few rich men who desired to travel about, the country at express rates of speed.
§ MR. NUSSEY (Pontefract)
asked who was responsible for regulating the traffic in London. It was very noticeable that motor-cars travelled at a terrific speed in populous parts of the Metropolis and also in the Parks. He did not hear of anyone being pulled up, and he, therefore, hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would tell them who was responsible for the regulation of the traffic, and in how many cases there had been prosecutions of motor-car drivers in the past year for exceeding the speed at which they were entitled to travel.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOAKD (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Bristol, S.
said it was true that under the Act of last year large discretionary powers with regard to fixing the speed of motor-cars on roads were placed in the hands of the Local Government Board; but it was incorrect to say that he had entirely neglected the applications of local authorities for further I powers, or that he had absolutely de- 637 clined to consider applications to old local inquiries. On the contrary, what he had done had been to hold local inquiries, when applications had been made, and to ascertain from his inspectors what the local requirements were. He had intimated to these local authorities that, while he was quite prepared to exercise the powers invested in him to impose a special limit in particular places where, owing to the nature of the road or the amount of the traffic, there seemed to be special danger, he was not prepared to impose the ten miles limit over the whole area Of course, in some towns where the streets, as a rule, were narrow, it a night be necessary to enforce the ten miles limit in a wider area than he would otherwise have been disposed to contemplate. He had been assured that the Act was working very satisfactorily, and that it had very materially reduced dangerous driving throughout the country. Now that the police could take the number of a car and thereby identify the owner and the driver it was no longer necessary to lay traps, a practice which nobody favoured. That was the great reform that had been carried out by the Act. After all it was rather early to judge the effects of the Act. With regard to the cost of danger boards, he was as anxious as anybody that there should be no unnecessary addition to the rates. He would inquire into the matter, and if le could in any way reduce the cost he should be very glad to do so. He was not aware that any application for permission to attach them to lamp-posts had been refused but he would inquire further into that point, although it must he remembered that lamp-posts were only available in towns and in the large villages. As to the damage done to the roads by traction engines, there was only one way of preventing that, and that was by not allowing them to use the roads at all. The damage was caused by too heavy weights being put on too narrow tires. They had had considerable experience of the harm done by them in Wiltshire during the military manœuvres. He assured the Committee that he was doing all he could to secure the loyal carrying out of the Act, and he thought that if a little patience were exercised on both sides the Act would be found to work very satisfactorily. In answer to the question of 638 the hon. Member for Pontefract, the metropolitan boroughs were the authorities in London for making regulations under the Act, and the police were responsible for their enforcement. He could not give the number of prosecutions.
§ MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somersetshire, E.)
said the hon. Member for South Somerset had complained that a certain association was not represented on the Departmental Committee which recently inquired into this question, but he could assure him that the Committee had taken the interests of the ratepayers into most careful consideration. They had endeavoured to protect those interests by making representations that a proper width of wheel for traction engines should be laid down, as the damage done to the roads depended mainly on carrying heavy weights on an insufficient width of tire. The evidence laid before them was almost unanimous on that point. There was no power to stop this class of traffic in certain kinds of weather, for it was when the roads were excessively soft and wet that the chief damage was done. He could not help thinking that if the new regulations for motor traffic followed on the lines recommended by the Committee the public would have no real cause of complaint, neither would those who were interested in what was undoubtedly a rapidly developing industry and one which might be of great use to the agricultural community as well as to other classes.
§ SIR CARNE RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)
urged the desirability of giving to justices the power of awarding imprisonment after the first instead of the third offence in cases where a driver had caused injury to man or beast, and had refused to stop when called upon to do so. A resolution on these lines had, he said, been unanimously passed by the Essex County Council.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ SIR ERNEST FLOWER (Bradford, W.)
said it had been customary on this 639 Vote in past years to raise a discussion on the subject of the treatment of children under the Poor Law. Since a Departmental Committee examined the subject in 1895, and made a sweeping condemnation of what was known as the barrack school system, interest in the matter had grown steadily, and as a result there had been a very considerable modification of the system of barrack schools. In the schools which remained there had been no doubt a notable improvement both in the condition of the schools and the character of the education imparted to the children, but still in some cases the guardians had failed to do as much as could have been desired. Still those who entertained the view that these schools did not afford the best means of dealing with these children had no reason to abandon that opinion, and he proposed to name one or two cases for the information of the President of the Local Government Board which would, he thought, afford basis for an inquiry by his Department. The first was the case of the schools under the Barnet Board of Guardians. At these schools there had, ever since 1892, been successive outbreaks of contagious diseases, and the schools had been infected as a result of the last one for a period of not less than sixteen months. Schools such as that ought to be abandoned. They were told that the history of the schools was very bad. The medical officer had reported that the sleeping accommodation was very inadequate, the dining-room having to be used for sleeping purposes, and there being no room available for purposes of isolation it was impossible to prevent the spread of the infection. Unhappily this school was not controlled by an enlightened board of guardians, and it afforded a concrete illustration of the evils which tended to flow from this barrack system. Another case of overcrowding was to be found in the West Ham schools; but there, he was informed, the guardians were endeavouring to arrange to board out some of the children, of whom there were 169 beyond the number which the schools were certified to accommodate. He had followed up this case pretty closely, and he could not find that any attempt had been made by the guardians to enforce the "call" system. As the Committee were no doubt aware, a systematic inquiry by 640 the guardians into the particular circumstances of each child generally led to a considerable reduction in the number of children retained in the school, and he remembered that when the Whitechapel guardians resorted to that system of examination the number was reduced by a very large percentage indeed. He believed the West Ham guardians were proposing to remove some of the old inmates of their workhouse to a new building being erected in Mare Street, Hackney, and to put the children into the vacated blocks. He did not think that was at all a satisfactory way of dealing with this question. What was desirable was to get the children removed from what might be called the taint of workhouse surroundings, and he wished the Local Government Board had seen its way to point out to the guardians that the scattered homes system afforded a much happier method of dealing with this class of children. He felt that a mistake was being made in urging upon the guardians the establishment of large central institutions. They not only injuriously affected the development of the system of individual treatment for the children, but the expense of building and maintaining them was very much in excess of the outlay required for scattered homes, the more general adoption of which he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would do his best to promote in the ensuing year, for he believed such a system was fraught with advantage both to the children and to the ratepayers.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL (Yorkshire, Cleveland)
drew attention to a circular issued advocating the emigration of Poor Law children to Canada and other Colonies. He said they were all agreed that such emigration was desirable and they wished it to prove successful. But in this connection a scheme had been proposed to which considerable objection was taken. Emigration of Poor Law children to the Colonies was desirable in order that they should have better opportunities of employment than in this country and be able to make a completely fresh start in the new land altogether free from the taint of being Poor Law children and from the drawbacks arising from their 641 origin. A committee or delegates of the Metropolitan Poor Law Unions met to consider this matter last December, and passed a resolution declaring that a united scheme of training was desirable to fit the children for emigration and that there was a necessity for the establishment in Canada of homes or certificated schools under the auspices of the Dominion Government. He sincerely hoped that the President of the Local Government Board would not give his consent to such a proposal. At present the children were sent out to Canada through Dr. Barnardo, Miss Macpherson, the Roman Catholic Emigration Society, and other similar institutions. When they arrived in Canada they were placed in small receiving homes and afterwards drafted to various employment throughout the country, where they were subjected to visits by the inspectors of the society and of the Canadian Government. That system was quite efficient and worked vary satisfactorily, but now it was proposed to practically establish a wing of the English workhouse on Canadian soil and to segregate the children and place them in a special home. There they would be inevitably labelled as Poor Law children and known as children who emanated from the British workhouse system. The cost of such a proposal would be exceedingly heavy, while the present cost of sending children out and maintaining the system of inspection was only so me £20 per head. The main objection to the proposal was that it would seriously work to the detriment of the prospects of the children in Canada, because there was a certain amount of natural prejudice in the Colonies against such children, and if they were specially labelled they would be subjected to great drawbacks. The metropolitan unions were not unanimously in favour of the proposal, and several o£ them had passed resolutions against it, but there were persons who wished this scheme put into operation in Canada, South Africa, and other Colonies. He therefore hoped the President of the Local Government Board would assure the House that he would not consent to each a proposal.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said he concurred in the appeal 642 which had been made by the hon. Member who had just sat down to the President of the Local Government Board not to establish British workhouses in Canada. He did not think this annual conversation—it could not be called discussion, because all the speeches were invariably on one side, and the President of the Local Government Board always gave a sympathetic answer—with regard to Poor Law children had been satisfactory, and he simply rose for the purpose of asking the President of the Local Government Board whether the influence of his Department could not be exercised in the direction of securing the carrying out of some of those reforms with regard to Poor Law children upon which everybody was agreed. The Departmental Committee which had been referred to sat to consider this matter as long ago as 1895, and it reported unanimously against the retention of children in the workhouses and the workhouse infirmaries, and everybody concerned with the improvement of the treatment of these children agreed that it was most desirable to get them out of the workhouse. The Committee would hardly believe that, although nine years had passed since the unanimous Report of that Committee was issued, in the metropolitan area, which was the area with which the Committee was particularly concerned, there were actually 10 per cent, more children in the workhouses and workhouse infirmaries than when the Report was issued. At the time the Committee reported there were 2,994 children in the metropolitan workhouses and workhouse infirmaries, and now there were 3,367. Besides this, there were in the provincial, workhouses and workhouse infirmaries 18,873 children, which brought up the total number of Poor Law children in these places to 22,240—rather more than one-third of the total number of children at any one time under the care of the Poor Law guardians. Could not something be done by the Local Government Board to carry out the recommendations of the Committee, so that next year, when this conversation again took place, the Secretary of the Local Government Board could tell the Committee that the numbers of the children in the workhouses and the workhouse infirmaries had decreased instead of having increased?
He also desired to call attention to the large district schools. Some people were 643 still of opinion that that was a desirable way of dealing with these children, but the Committee reported unanimously against it; and so impressed was the Local Government Board by that Report that they came to the conclusion that these vast aggregations of children should no longer be allowed, and many of these schools were broken up, to the very great advantage of the children. Some schools, however, still flourished in spite of the Report. The Hanwell School, for instance, built for the reception of the children of Southwark and the City of London, was certified by the Local Government Board for 746 children. In May of this year there were in that school 817 children, or seventy-one more than the school was certified for. He had mentioned this fact in the debate which took place last year, when a rumour was current that the Local Government Board was to be asked to certify for a larger nnmber; but his right hon. friend then said no such certificate should be given, and, as a fact, no such certificate had been given. He had also called the attention of the Local Government Board to the fact that not only were there more than 10 per cent. more children in the school than it was certified for, but that old ophthalmic buildings, which had previously been abandoned, were being used for the reception of these children, and that the children were being taken into the schools without any period of what was called probation—a period during which the new children were kept apart from the others, so as to make sure that they were not suffering from any complaint which might be otherwise communicated to the school. It was very necessary that there should be a period of probation. He had read a reply from the Local Government Board, in which they said that they disapproved of the managers of the school dispensing with the period of probation. Nevertheless, this school, in the month of May last year, admitted eleven children without any term of probation, and subsequently admitted five more. That was one instance where a reform, which was entirely in consonance with the Report of the Committee and with the view of the Local Government Board itself, was desirable.
There were two methods by which these large district schools were being superseded, one was that of the "village 644 community," in which the children lived in different houses instead of one high barrack and there was a playground and school and chapel and various building of that kind common to all. So far as the health of the children was concerned that system was far better than the district school, but it still had the effect of separating the children from the other children of the country and separating them from our social life. The other system was that of "scattered homes," a system under which the Poor Law children were put out in, various houses in the district from which they came. They attended the ordinary schools of the district and played with the other children of the neighbourhood and were thus removed as far as possible from the taint of the workhouse, living as they did in these artificial homes. A Return made in 1902 showed that there were twenty-five village communities which were most expensive to build and to maintain, and not nearly so economical as the scattered homes, and, although he admitted that economy was not to be so much considered in a matter of this kind which so much affected the welfare of our Poor Law children, he asked why the Board, instead of being neutral in this matter, should endeavour to force the village community system upon boards of guardians who would prefer to have the scattered homes system.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said that last August the Wigan Board of Guardians, after visiting Reading, Mile End, Bradford, and Leeds where the scattered homes system was in full swing, held a meeting to consider whether they should adopt the scattered homes system and abandon a village community scheme for which they had actually secured a site. In order that the matter should not be hurried the consideration of the question was adjourned for three months. The matter was finally dealt with in January last, when, by a majority of twenty to three, they decided to adopt the scattered homes system. The Local Government Board inspector, who was present at the meeting, took part in the discussion, and vehemently urged the adoption of the 645 village community instead of the scattered homes system.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
pointed out that the inspector was present in his official capacity, and in the Local Government Journal for;25th May, he was reported to have said—The official view of the Local Government Board was that the best system was the group system, and it was his duty to press that view on the hoard, and to say that as far as his view went he entirely agreed with the Local Government Board.What he desired to suggest was that the officials of the Board should be instructed to adopt a neutral attitude in the matter, and that where a local authority after careful inquiry and full discussion, had decided in favour of a particular course, their decision should be respected by the Local Government Board.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said that sanction had not been refused, but the official of the Board had done his utmost to prevent the local authority from deciding in favour of scattered homes. But by far the cheapest and best way of dealing with Poor Law children was the boarding out system. That system suffered from two things. One was the discouragement it always received from headquarters. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would say that he encouraged boarding-out.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said he was glad to hear that, because many of the regulations of the Department discouraged the system. A great number of children could not be boarded out; but many might be who were not. He had often thought that the cases of widows with large families deserved the attention of the House of Commons, but as the widows were not voters the cases received no attention, but went to form one of those social incidents which were passed over. There were two ways in which 646 such cases were at present dealt with. Sometimes a poor pittance of outdoor relief was given, and by working herself to the bone the widow managed to scrape an insufficient livelihood and to "drag up" her children after fashion. The more worthless and less energetic widows went into the energetic widows went into the workhouse and the children were sent to district schools or otherwise dealt with at great cost by the guardians. How much better it would be, in the case of a widow with six children, to say that she should bear the cost of the herself, while the guardians boarded out with her the other four. She would then be able to bring up her family at much less cost to the ratepayers and in a much more satisfactory manner than under the present system. The second hindrance to the boarding-out system was the inspection. He agreed that inspection was necessary, but as now carried out it was so inquisitorial that the more respectable people would not take the children. In an establishment before a woman was permitted to adopt a child, but once the child was adopted it was handed over for good or for evil and no further inquiries were made. He held very strongly that the inspector should be a medical woman. On one occasion he visited some boarded-out children with Dr. Barnardo's inspector a medical woman, and he was greatly struck by the pleasure with which she was received in every house and by the extreme value of the advice which she gave to the mothers. The inspection, though very searching and complete, was not looked upon as at all inquisitorial, and the inspector was welcomed as a friend.
He desired to protest against a practice of some years standing by which destitute children who ought to be boarded out were Bent to industrial schools. In this connection he might tell the Committee a story. Eight years ago when visiting an industrial school he saw amongst all the rough boys a charming child of six years of age. He inquired what offence the child had committed, and found that he had been sentenced to over. There were two ways in which be kept at an industrial school until 647 he was sixteen years of age for the monstrous crime of being found destitute. Surely a child six years of age found destitute ought to be taken in hand by the Poor Law authorities, but, so far from this being an exceptional case, he found upon inquiry that it was the regular practice to send such children to industrial schools. He did his utmost to rescue that child. The Home Secretary, who was communicated with, did his best, but neither the authorities of the school nor the guardians would agree to the child's being taken out although he himself offered to bear the extra cost of maintenance and education. Subsequently inquiries were made as to what had become of the boy, and he was found to be a strong boy of fourteen years of age. He was asked what he had been taught, and he stated that he had been employed all the time in the school darning stockings. Had he been under Dr. Barnardo, he might now have been on the point of going out to Canada, or at any rate he would have known some trade. The result was that this boy was turned out into the world with no other accomplishment but that of being able to darn stockings.
With regard to the question of vagrants, there was no doubt that vagrancy was on the increase. County councils, quarter sessions, and boards of guardians had all addressed the Local Government Board upon this subject and had called attention to the serious spread of vagrancy. The official statistics showed that this class numbered, according to the Poor Law Returns, 30,000, but a great many vagrants lived on commons and dragged about with them a lot of verminous children who were not included in that total, and they were a real source of danger to the country. The children in particular of the class known as "the ins and outs" could not be looked after in any way whatever. If they were put into the Poor Law schools they were taken out again in the summer time and came back again in the autumn, and they were undoubtedly the worst class the Poor Law authorities had to deal with. They did not go to the casual wards because in the summer they were well off and were a most valuable asset to tramps because children were better beggars 648 than adults. As a matter of fact, these children were often hired by tramps, for begging purposes. The Salvation; Army and the Church Army were the only institutions which appeared to be dealing with this class in this country. In America, Germany, and Switzerland labour colonies had been established for tramps, and though they had not succeeded as well as they might have wished, at all events they had done much to mitigate the evil, and they had kept the tramp class from increasing. A tramp was a diseased member of the social body who required reformed treatment. They were incapable of working as they were, but they could be taught to work. The Salvation Army had taught them to work and they could make them work. He wished to know whether the Local Government Board intended to take this quest ion of vagrancy seriously in hand. They wanted some form of inquiry in the first instance, either by a Royal Commission or a Departmental Committee. There was a good deal to be learned upon this subject from foreign countries. Legislation might take the form of giving powers to local authorities. No time ought to be lost and inquiry ought to begin at once. Next session they should have a Bill to clothe local authorities with powers to deal with this question. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he brought in a Bill it would be treated with the greatest desire to pass it through in all quarters of the House, because all hon. Members would unite in any serious effort that was made to put down this great social evil.
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
said he desired to associate himself with what had been said by the right hon. Gentle-man opposite in regard to the control of vagrant children. Children who were brought up as beggars grew up quite useless for anything else but begging. He wished to congratulate the President of the Local Government Board upon some of the work he had done, especially in regard to education. He wanted to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would take a personal interest in the desire which existed that the children chargeable to the various unions should have the right to go to the elementary and secondary 649 schools outside. The Bethnal Green Guardians had under their care a clever boy who they believed might win a junior county scholarship, but because the school happened to be in the county of Essex that county had refused him admission to their school for training. He thought that was most unfortunate. He was aware that a good many children were in those schools in consequence of the thriftlessness of their parents, but if it was true that technical education was paid for out of wines and spirits, then these children had all the more claim upon these schools. Scattered homes were all very good in their way, but he did not want to see boards of guardians become competitors for houses in crowded neighbourhoods, where there was already a house famine, and where, it was now extremely difficult to get houses at reasonable rents.
He was glad that for years there had been a sympathetic view taken of the claims of various localities in regard to the treatment of these children, and it had very properly been held that the locality was the best judge. Where scattered homes had proved to be the best, let them have them. Boarding out when it was good was good, but it wanted a lot of watching and inspecting. The difficulty in connection with inspection was that sometimes it relieved the foster parents of their responsibility to some extent. He thought inspection was good, and that it ought to be carried out. What was this boarding-out system of which they had heard so much? It might be good, bad, or indifferent. He knew villages where the keeping of boarded-out children had become the staple industry. He remembered the first time he visited a village in Suffolk where there were boarded-out children, and truly he was undeceived. He had been advocating the boarding-out system, believing that the children would work into the village life, and that the workhouse taint would never visit them again. When visiting the children he was sent to look after he inquired if there were any more there. "No," was the reply, "we have no more Hackneys, but there are a few Poplars over there." He was told also that there were some "Bethnal Greens" in another place. He asked the secretary of the 650 boarding-out committee whether, when these lads got old enough they would go to work with the farmers in the neighbourhood. He replied, "We have trouble enough to find work for our own boys. We look after them when they are young and you can get them into the Army or Navy." Who were the applicants for boarded-out children? Ha could give a whole list of them. They were people who had applied for outdoor relief. Instead of giving them outdoor relief the boards of guardians gave them a couple of London "kids" to look after. Assimilate with the horns life of the people! Rubbish! There was nothing of the kind. He rejoiced to say that lie had known people who had taken youngsters and brought them up splendidly, but these were not the people to be found in villages where boarding-out was the staple industry. He knew a case; where a lady was engaged in the making of stockings, and the boarded-out children helped her. The average wage for labourers in the district was 11s. a week. The lady had four boarded-out children and received 16s. a week for them. She was the duchess of the place. She was absolutely better off than anyone else there. The hon. Baronet said these children in scattered homes were not known from the other children of the village when they went to school, but he laboured under a mistake in regard to that matter. They were known, and personally he had no difficulty in distinguishing them. He once visited a "scattered home" where there were fourteen children. Just imagine a working man's house with fourteen children under fourteen years of age. He never knew anybody who had fourteen children under fourteen years of age. When he asked the lady who was minding them if she allowed these children to go out to play, she stated that they were out a week ago. "Don't you allow them to go out to play in the street?" he asked, and the lady answered, "You've not got their heads to keep clean, I have." It was quite easy to pick out these Poor Law children in school. The ordinary child who went home to his mother did not care whether his collar had spots on it, but the boy who went to a cottage home knew that he was not going to be received with motherly love if his collar 651 was dirty. The whole difficulty of the situation presented itself when they tried to find out the proper class of people to take charge of those children. He thought the boarding-out should be limited to certain villages and people, and that the children should always be boarded with able-bodied men and women who had one or two children of their own. In that way the system would be good.
He agreed with what the right hon. Gentlemen said about using an abandoned ophthalmic building as a school. It was a positive scandal that this should have been allowed, but the difficulty was that they could not find at five minute notice the accommodation required for these children. A school might be largo or small, but according as the personal supervision was good or otherwise so would be the results far as the best interests of the children were concerned. He rejoiced that the Local Government Board had seen their way to deal with mentally deficient children. They were always troublesome and difficult to deal with. Until a year ago, whenever children arrived at sixteen years of age, they became adults, and, no matter how backward their training had been, they had to return to the workhouse. Now they could be retained in suitable places of instruction until they were twenty-one years of age, and an amount of success had been achieved in educating that class which formerly would hardly have been dreamt of. He could testify to the good which was being done in this direction. Reference had been made to the number of children in workhouses and infirmaries as compared with a few years ago. He dared say that there had been an increase in the number of sick children, but that was because they had been removed for treatment from the slums in great cities. In order to ascertain the true state of matters in regard to these children they should find out how many were "ins and outs," and how many were permanently there. In Yorkshire some years ago a Poor Law child captured a junior scholarship in a technical school, and he was going on to try to get a senior scholarship. He regretted that boy was not a London child. The right hon. Member for Croydon got a clause inserted in the Juvenile Offenders 652 Act to enable the magistrates to place children under remand elsewhere than in the workhouse. But a step farther should be taken. When a child, sir years old, was charged with being a wanderer it was sent to a reformatory instead of to the workhouse. But that was a mere shuffle. Instead of being sent to Holloway Gaol for the night, these children ought to be sent to remand homes where the magistrate might go and deal with them instead of their being brought to the Police Court. He would like to ask how it was that when there were these remind homes in London certain children were dragged off to the provinces? The provincial guardians had no more right to neglect their duty in this respect than the London guardians.
Again, he would like to know how it was that when an East End union desired to give an increase of salary to a deserving officer the Metropolitan Poor Law Commissioners invariably refused it. What he was afraid of was that these Metropolitan Poor Law Commissioners lived in West End parishes and did not want to contribute to the expense of the East End parishes. They said that they had no objection to the East End parishes granting an officer a gratuity or raising his salary, but that that must be charged to the local rates. That was manifestly unfair. Why should the extra cost be put on the poor localities? Here, in London, there were cities of the poor and cities of the rich. It was to the advantage of the State, he supposed, that there should be industrial communities at one end and, should he call it, idle communities at the other end living in delightful quarters where there was no smoke or worry to upset their nerves. But what about the worries and woes of the poor widows and children in the East End, where they were compelled to aggregate? Was it unreasonable to say that the rich and poor localities should be put together, and a common charge should be made on them for extra services? One of the best officers he knew had not got a rise of salary for fifteen years, and he was told he might get another rise after five years more service. Another point was sending children into the workhouse. Why should they not be left in the care of their widowed mothers, if they were respectable? A contribution was made 653 for these children from the common fund by the Metropolitan Poor Law Commissioners if they were in the workhouse schools, but why should not 9d. a day be given for those who lived with their mothers, instead of in the workhouse schools, which were overcrowded? If that were done it would brighten many a home. He also wanted the Local Government Board to insist that in sick asylums and infirmaries there should be no pauper help; that there should be fully-qualified paid labour to look after the patients. There had been great improvement in the administration of the Poor Law during the last ten or twelve years, but he hoped that the appeal made that afternoon for still further improvement would not be in vain.
§ *MR. CLAUDE HAY (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said he sincerely hoped that his right hon. friend would be able to follow up what he had in comtemplation in regard to carrying out the reforms urged upon him. He himself was keenly interested in the question of vagrant children. He believed, with his right hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University, that little good could be done for these under the existing law; and he hoped that next session matters would be put on a footing to enable the House to deal with this question. He was anxious to know, in consequence of an answer he had received to a Question on 2nd May last, what progress had been made in carrying out an important clause of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, by which the duties relating to the administration of all the Housing Acts should be concentrated in the Local Government Board instead of being divided as now between the Local Government Board and the Home Office. Surely the ingenuity of the Treasury, the Local Government Board, and the Home Office could have brought about that concentration, and he emphasised the keen disappointment of all who had housing reform at heart at the undue delay. He dared say that his right hon. friend might reply that the delay in the transfer was due to the fact that in the particular clause of the Act the sacred word. "may" was inserted instead 654 of "shall." He sincerely trusted that the President of the Local Government; Board would not hide himself behind the word "may" and that only a very short time would elapse before the concentration was made.
There was another point of very I considerable importance as to which a great deal of discussion had taken place. He referred to the clause in the Act dealing with loans. Owing to the Public Works Loans Commissioners being permitted to advance money for a shorter period than provided by the Act it was rendered somewhat nugatory. Re-housing administration which the Act placed in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman, was another subject upon which no information had been forthcoming, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman, to tell the Committee what he had been able to do under the Act of last year. If the right hon. Gentleman was not able to do that it might be possible to initiate a set of Returns, brought up to date, which would give some information on this subject to show how far this administration had been beneficial or otherwise. It was very difficult to get any practical information on the subject of insanitary areas, and upon this subject it would be most beneficial if the Local Government; Board could see its way to keep up a set of Returns in the same way as did the Board I of Trade in respect of various matters relating to trade and to labour. He admitted that the suggestions he made would not be easy to carry out so long as the work of the Local Government Board was distributed in the manner in which it was at the present time. He ventured to point out that there was not a single officer whose whole time was given to housing. The various duties with regard to the housing of the people were distributed over a great number of officers, and there was not one officer whose salary and whose duty related entirely to this important subject, He contrasted this I state of things with that which obtained at the Board of Trade in connection with certain labour matters, where there were men whose official duty was concentrated on a particular subject instead of all these matters being muddled up together as was the case at the Local Government Board. The officers of the 655 Local Government Board were, he was quite aware, most industrious, and the fault did not lie with them but with the system. They were bound up with red tape. He was quite satisfied that the time had arrived when public opinion would value very highly a statement from the right hon. Gentleman which would indicate that there had been great progress made with the reorganisation of his Department. At the same time the right hon. Gentleman might be able to inform the Committee whether he had received the Report of the Committee appointed to consider the reorganisation of the duties of his Department of the Board of Trade and other public Departments.
§ *MR. CLAUDE HAY
said the right hon. Gentleman had also promised some time previously to appoint a Departmental Committee to deal with the question of vagrants' children and also a Royal Commission to deal with the question of vagrancy itself. Neither of those two bodies were yet in operation and the right hon. Gentleman would perhaps acquaint the Committee with the decision at which he had arrived in regard to those promises, because, although these questions might not excite a great amount of interest inside the House, there was a g owing opinion outside which took deep interest in them and which looked with great disfavour upon any delay in carrying out reforms which were absolutely necessary if the housing of the poor and evils of vagrancy were to he improved.
§ *MR. JOHN HUTTON (Yorkshire, Richmond)
expressed the hope that the President of the Local Government Board would take up the question of vagrancy most earnestly. It was a very difficult problem and one which required further investigation. At the present time there seemed to be a competition between the boards of guardians and the prison authorities as to how this class should be treated. The vagrants apparently found the policy of the prison authorities the kinder of the two, and the result was that our prisons were full and 656 the boards of guardians were only too glad to see the cost of the maintenance of the vagrants taken off their hands. He would also like to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman had considered the case of the imbecile and weak-minded at present in the workhouses, and whether he would be able to hold out some hopes that he would be prepared to deal with that question shortly. With regard to the general condition of the workhouses throughout the country, it was possibly thought that he (Mr. Hutton) had exaggerated the condition of the rural workhouses. He had always maintained on every opportunity that the condition of some of our workhouses was a disgrace to the country. If the right hon. Gentleman would appoint a Committee consisting not only of officials of the Local Government Board, but also of some experienced gentlemen from outside the Department with at least two competent ladies, who should have an opportunity to visit the various workhouses in different parts of the country, to ascertain for themselves whether the facts he had stated were correct or otherwise, then if it was discovered that things were as bad as he had pointed out no one would be more glad to be able to put them right than the right hon. Gentleman, while if on the other hand it was found that he (Mr. Hutton) had exaggerated the case then he would be only too happy to withdraw all he had said.
§ *SIR A. HAYTER (Walsall)
said he was most anxious to emphasise his earnest and cordial sympathy with what had been stated by the Member for Cambridge upon the other side of the House. He had determined to bring the matter before the House himself because the question of vagrancy at the present moment was in a very critical position. I He was able to speak from experience, since he happened to be a magistrate for Berkshire, which was in what was described as the home circuit for vagrancy. The number of vagrants had very largely increased in that county owing to race I meetings which took place in the neighbourhood. It was, however, not only on account of the vagrants themselves but also on behalf of the poor children dragged about with them, that something ought to be done. This question had been under the consideration of the Lincolnshire 657 Quarter Sessions, who had issued a very valuable report upon the present mode of dealing with offences against the Vagranoy Act. They appointed a committee to see if any changes in the present Act were necessary and if it were desirable to establish labour colonies to which magistrates would have the power to sentence habitual offenders. The only difficulty in the way of dealing with vagrants was through their hatred of steady labour. They hated anything like a steady day's work, and the benefit of labour colonies such as had been established by the Salvation Army and in Belgium, was that they gave a man ten hours steady labour per diem: they taught him to work on a farm or gave him manufacturing and industrial employment which fitted him for an industrial life. No good was done by putting vagrants in prison, because they were not afraid of that treatment and said, as a man once said in his union, "I have never done a day's work in my life, and please God I never shall." The committee reported to the Lincolnshire Quarter Sessions in favour of approaching Parliament with the object of initiating legislation for the amendment of the Vagrancy Law either by way of establishing labour colonies or by other means. He knew perfectly well that the matter would require serious consideration because at the present time magistrates had no power to send vagrants to such colonies. He thoroughly endorsed the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the member for Cambridge University for establishing lab our colonies in this country. The difficulty had been solved in Belgium by those means. The first, offenders were not there regarded as criminals; but in the case of second offenders there was power to order a detention ranging from two to seven years for professional beggars and other classes of vagrants. He cordially recommended the report to the President of the Local Government Board, and hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give some hopes that there would be some systematic treatment of vagrants in the future, and that, if necessary, he would prepare a Bill on the subject for next session.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said he had noticed with considerable satis- 658 faction that so far as Poor Law children were concerned, what he might call the area of attack had considerably diminished. For many years the debates on the subject had been very fruitful. In the past the large school at Sutton was the main object at which criticism was levelled. The word Sutton was not, however, mentioned that afternoon because, as he understood, the school had altogether disappeared. He should like to learn from the President of the Local Government Board what had become of the children sent by London unions to that school, and, secondly what had happened to the enormous buildings erected for their accommodation. With reference to Hanwell school charges were made against it last year or the year before. It was alleged that the accommodation for the children had been increased, but he did not think that that was the fact. He thought it was the kitchen accommodation that had been increased. That was practically the only barrack school attacked that afternoon and he thought that was a testimony to the work the Local Government Board and the local guardians had been doing during the last few years. As regarded Wigan the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University complained that the Local Government Board had not left the question of scattered homes and village communities an open question. But the scattered homes system was practically a recent development. Up to a few years ago the only experiment of the kind was at Sheffield. Two years ago the Camberwell Board of Guardians made the experiment, and he could quite understand the inspector of the Local Government Board, who he knew was a most competent official, advocating a system of village communities which had been tried and had succeeded and for which a site had actually been purchased by the Wigan Guardians. In regard to the whole question of the treatment of those children the Committee ought to recollect that that was a matter on which the Local Government Board had no coercive powers. It was a question for the local authority, and all the power the Local Government Board had was of an indirect character. Hon. Members knew perfectly well that the question of the rates was a very serious 659 question in all those cages, and, having regard to the large Imperial and local expenditure now existing, he thought that the Committee should not ask the Local Government Board to recommend any scheme of great expenditure against the wishes of the local authority. Either the local authorities should be given local government or they should not, and the Committee ought to make up their minds which horse to ride.
The only other question he would mention had reference to the education of those children. For years it had been a burning question. Deputation after deputation had waited on the Local Government Board and the Board of Education asking that the inspection of the schools in which those children were educated should be placed in the hands of the Board of Education, and taken out of the hands of the Local Government Board. The Local Government Board had no facilities for testing the educational progress of the children and he saw no reason why the children should be differently treated from children in the ordinary schools. He should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether any change in that respect had taken place and, if so, what had been done in regard to it. It was a question which had caused a great deal of feeling. He only wished to add that those debates in the House of Commons for eight or nine years had been most fruitful of good for the children, and if the Local Government Board would only continue to exercise the legitimate pressure it could apply, the time would soon arrive when the children would be taken out of the workhouses altogether and provided for in separate homes or cottage homes.
§ MR. THEODORE TAYLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe)
said that the vagrant population was rapidly increasing. In 1900 the mean average number of casual paupers relieved was 9,400; in 1902 it was 10,793; and in 1903 it was 12,963; or an increase of 30 per cent, in three years. There was no doubt that there was a tendency on the part of vagrants to prefer prison to the vagrant wards; and but for that tendency the increase would be greater than it was. This was a very serious question, which was arousing the anxiety 660 and dread of many boards of guardians throughout the country; because vagrants spread infectious diseases, particularly smallpox. It was a very serious financial question so far as many local authorities were concerned. The great bulk of vagrants were not genuine out-of-works at all; they were looking not for work, but for as good a time as they could get without work. That view was shared by most of the inspectors of the Local Government' Board, and a striking instance was given by one of the inspectors. A tradesman in a small town in Somersetshire applied to the poorhouse for six working men. Six, all professing to be anxious for work were supplied, but, although the wages offered were eighteen shillings a week, only one man turned up, and he was working there still. That was probably about the proportion; not more than one-sixth of the vagrants really wanted work. The question of how to deal with the out-of-works who wandered about the country was one of the most serious aspects of the social problem. When localised and living in the workhouse for a while they could be dealt with to a certain extent, but there must be something wrong with the Social system under which men prefer; ed prison to the tramp ward, and it was really one of the most important questions to which a Minister of the Crown could address himself. He earnestly urged the President of the Local Government Board, who had done good work during his short tenure of office, to take up this question of vagrants It was not that vagrants were made too comfortable; he believed boards of guardians did their best to discourage vagrancy. There had recently appeared a pamphlet by "A Lady Amateur Casual," which perhaps the right hon. Gentleman had seen. The daughter and the wife of a clergyman, in the course of a five days tramp through Yorkshire and Lancashire, had experience of two workhouse tramp wards, two common lodging-houses, and one women's shelter, and the last-named was the only place in which anything like decency or cleanliness was observed. It was a great blot on the Poor Law system that paupers should be permitted to have charge of the lodge of admission. At each of the workhouses to which they applied these two ladies were improperly accosted, and 661 in one case personally assaulted, by the pauper in charge of the lodge. Such a state of things was almost incredible. It appeared to be due to lax local administration, for which the Local Government Board could not be blamed, but he mentioned it in order that it might be more publicly known, and in the hope that the right hon. Gentleman would instruct his inspectors to look into the matter.
§ MR. THEODORE TAYLOR
said he was very glad to hear it. Other irregularities were discovered to which attention should be paid, and if the right hon. Gentleman desired to ascertain the views of one of the ladies he would be glad to arrange an interview. He fully agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Walsall as to the desirability of dealing with the socially unfit men who had become so demoralised by begging that they had got out of the habit of working. Great national economy could be effected by converting these men, as had been done in Germany, Holland, and Belgium, through the instrumentality of labour colonies, from parasites upon the community into producers of wealth and honest working men. This was in no sense a Party question, and should he be a Member of the Home when a Minister of the Crown introduced a Bill to deal with the question on the only possible lines—viz., by the establishment of labour colonies—no matter to which Party the Minister belonged, he would give him his heartiest support.
§ *MR. TOULMIN (Bury, Lancashire)
associated himself with the remarks which had been made on the question of vagrancy. The aspect which had chiefly impressed him was that of the sufferings of the children associated with vagrants. In the picturesque and forcible speech of the hen. Member for Woolwich there was much with which he agreed, but in some points he was unable to follow the hon. Member. The workhouse taint, of which the hon. Member for Woolwich had complained was not removed by the scattered homes 662 system, was not a name, but a system of education; it was not that a child was called a pauper child, but that he was brought up amid associations which did I not bring out the best that was in him—among the moral and physical failures of the population. In the large buildings I everything was done for the child; he never saw anything of ordinary home life, and could do none of the little errands and so forth that were entrusted to children of the industrial population. He believed the instances given by the hon. Member for Woolwich in which, children were boarded out with people instead of relief being granted were altogether exceptional, and rather than an argument against boarding-out they were an illustration of a gross misuse of power by a particular board of guardians. A year ago the President of the Local Government Board held out the hope that the boarding-out Order might be extended, Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether anything had been done in that direction? It was a regrettable fact that boarding-out beyond the union, which was the most valuable method of dealing with difficult cases, had declined, probably in consequence of the limits put to the payments under the regulations of the Board. For instance, a clothing allowance of £2 a year for a growing boy was altogether inadequate. Twelve months back, in reply to a Question, the right hon. Gentleman stated that it was impossible for children adopted under the Poor Law Act of 1899 to be brought under the boarding-out Order. He hoped the right, hon. Gentleman had further considered the subject, because some of the objections advanced on the former occasions were capable of removal. It was very improbable that parents of the children of the class which ought to be boarded out beyond the union would trace the children if they were sent to a sufficiently distant place. It was essential that their old associations should be absolutely cut off and the method of boarding-out had always seemed to him to be the best. The present boarding-out Orders were made fifteen years ago and the circumstances had very much changed, and in his opinion the time had arrived when the right hon. Gentleman ought to consider 663 whether these Orders could not be revised. The Local Government Board had considerable power in preventing boards of guardians from taking certain courses, and they might prevent them engaging in large schemes for village communities, or other more expensive methods of dealing with children. These village communities were sometimes established in proximity to the workhouse, and there appeared to be a wobbling of judgment in this matter. Not long ago the Kidderminster Guardians asked permission to build children's quarters on their own land at some distance from the workhouse, but permission was refused. Recently the Poor Law inspector had informed the Kidderminster Guardians that if they would again submit their scheme to the Local Government Board it might receive favourable consideration. He trusted that the policy of the Local Government Board in this matter would not be reversed and that they would continue to insist upon the removal of the children as far as possible from the workhouse. He should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House whether he could not extend the boarding-out system.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said the debate had ranged over a very wide area. He agreed with what the hon. Member for South Tyrone had said in regard to the undoubted improvement which had been made in providing for pauper children. They were all agreed that they ought to do all they could to increase the number of children educated and trained away from the workhouse and that they should leave as few as possible in the workhouse. It was not necessary to trouble the Committee with figures because hon. Members were familiar with the facts of the case. The improvement he had alluded to had been steadily growing in recent years and a comparison of the figures now with ten years ago would show that the number in the work-house infirmaries were steadily decreasing. Where provision for the children was made in the work-house buildings they were becoming fewer, and the energy of the Department would be devoted to the promotion of an object which they all agreed was desirable in the interests of the children and of the community. The 664 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University quoted the case of the Wigan Board of Guardians, but the extract he had read showed that what he stated was not the view of the Local Government Board. The inspector said he spoke the official mind of the Department, but when the Department were approached they gave their assent, and therefore it was obvious that the inspector, however much he might have been justified in his statement, was evidently mistaken, because when the application was made to the Department consent was immediately given and the Local Government Board adopted in that case, as they did in almost every case, the very line suggested by his right hon. friend. He had been asked why the Department could not be neutral in this matter. As far as he was concerned he had never spoken upon this question without stating quite clearly that that was the position they would take up. He agreed with the hon. Member for Woolwich that the circumstances in each case ought to be separately considered, and, whether scattered homes, village communities, or larger schools were asked for, in each case they must deal with the circumstances, and it would be impossible for any Government Department to force upon boards of guardians the adoption of any one of these particular remedies against their own wishes and views. Boards of guardians took an immense deal of interest in their work and endeavoured to ascertain what was the best way to deal with the paupers in their charge, and, having made up their minds that scattered homes, or village communities were the best, any attempt on the part of the Department to force them to alter their view would be sure to do more harm than good. With regard to lady inspectors he agreed that they were doing admirable work, and he thought it would be desirable if a vacancy occurred that they should appoint another lady inspector. If the work was to be really efficiently and scientifically done it was advisable to have one of those lady medical inspectors which had been referred to.
During the debate they had had a revival of some of the cases which had been constantly quoted. There was the case of Hanwell in the central London district, 665 where there were a great many more children than the school was certified for and where the managers were dispensing with the system of probation. There again the Department came into conflict with the local authority. The figures were not quite so bad as his hon. friend seemed to think. The managers of these institutions were confronted with a very difficult problem, for they must either provide accommodation for a number in excess of the certificate or else they must keep them in the workhouse. Provided there was no serious overcrowding and the accommodation was reasonably satisfactory, he thought it was far better that the number actually certified should be exceeded than that the children should be left for any length of time in the workhouse. The figures which had been given by his right hon. friend were for May, but the total number of the children on the 28th of May was 784, forty-two of which were in the infirmary. Therefore, the number in the school buildings was 742, and that was by no means unsatisfactory. With regard to the probation system, they disapproved of that change in policy and they were doubtful whether it was a wise one or not. The managers of the schools had very strong views on the subject, and they had behind them the opinion of their medical officer, and so they were being allowed to try this experiment. The Department would not, however, approve of this course unless some very strong reason for the change were brought forward. He was confident that in no single case could it be shown that the Department had sanctioned the extension of the large barrack-schools system, except it was some extension for improving existing accommodation, and even in such cafes they had reduced the number allowed by the certificate.
His hon. friend the Member for South Tyrone asked whether they had dealt with the vexed question of the inspection of Poor Law schools. He was happy to say that the President and the Vice-President of the Board of Education had been good enough to meet him half-way in this question, and that the Board of Education had taken over the inspection of the Poor Law schools, 666 which in future would be on exactly the same footing as regarded examinations as the other elementary schools in the country. They bad been long in settling this matter, but he was very glad that they had succeeded and that the educational inspection would now wisely be separated from the inspection of buildings and general Poor Law administration. The hon. Member for Woolwich had dealt with a difficulty with which London Members were very familiar—the constant applications made to the Local Government Board to allow the guardians to increase the salaries of their officers. The hon. Member appeared to forget that London enjoyed a common fund for local government purposes, and that the burden of the poorer districts was considerably lightened by contributions from richer districts. It was obvious that there must be some standard of salaries all over the area, and that it would be unjust to allow salaries to be paid in one portion of that area which were altogether out of proportion to the salaries paid in the other portions when they were all charged on the same fund. Therefore the Board adopted the fair system, which he saw no reason to alter, of sanctioning a general standard of salaries, and of making any local authority which gave an additional sum to its officers meet the charge out of the local rates.
His hon. friend the Member for Hoxton asked some questions with regard to the housing of the working classes. The hon. Member took a very active interest in the Department with which he himself was concerned. He had had ten years experience of the Department, but his hon. friend seemed to know more about it than he did. What the hon. Member said would be very interesting if correct, but it was not. He said there was no one connected with the Department who had charge of the housing question. He could assure his hon. friend that he was wrong. He did not think the hon. Member would find more "red tape" in connection with, the Local Government Board than any other Department. Red tape was only, after all, the necessary precaution which must be taken in the carrying out of the administrative work of a Department. There must be some record of the work 667 they were doing. The work of the Local Government Board was divided into different departments, and the housing question was taken charge of by one of those departments, but if the hon. Member desired that there should be one secretary in charge of that work he would know, if only he had a few minutes experience of the work of the Department that that would involve a waste of time. He had been in communication with the Public Works Loans Commissioners on the subject, and he would point out that the Commissioners were not the only people from whom money could be borrowed by the local authorities. They could borrow on very satisfactory terms in other ways. They could borrow from the Public Works Loans Commissioners if they were willing to lend, but the Committee were aware that they were not anxious to lend money in small amounts, and in matters of this kind they had to deal with the money at their disposal as they thought best. His hon. friend had further asked whether some sort of Return could be given showing what had been done by the Local Government Board in regard to housing. If he could meet the wishes of the hon. Member in any way he would be very glad to do so.
§ *MR. CLAUDE HAY
repeated his question as to whether the administration of the Housing Acts had been entirely transferred to the Local Government Board.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said his Board would be willing to relinquish the work, but obviously there would be natural reluctance on the part of the Home Office to take it over. It would be more satisfactory if it could be arranged to have a fair exchange in the way of taking over some work at present done by the Home Office for the work done by his Department in regard to housing. He was anxious to see that change made, and he hoped the fact that the subject had been mentioned that day would act as a spur, and that they might be able to do something very soon. He quite agreed that it was desirable the work should be in the hands of one Department, and that it should not be dealt with by divided authorities.
668 The only other question which had been referred to was a very difficult one indeed, namely, the question of vagrancy. The Government had appointed an Inter-Departmental Committee, representing the Home Office and the Local Government Board, to deal with that question. It had been treated in the discussion very much as if it were a local government question alone; but it was not so, for probably not more than 25 per cent. of the total vagrants in the country came under the Poor Law administration. The remainder were not paupers in any form, and did not take refuge in pauper institutions, and the question of dealing with them was a conundrum which could only be solved after careful onsideration. Many attempts had been made to deal with this question. Reference had been made to the labour colonies in Belgium. There were several labour colonies in different parts of the Continent, and one of his inspectors who was probably as competent and experienced in matters of Poor Law administration as any official in the country, had more than once visited the countries in which these labour colonies existed, and only the other day he made a further report on the subject. The inspector, he thought, had not much hope of good results from the establishment of labour colonies. It was true that in some cases labour colonies might serve to redeem those who were young enough and were willing to be redeemed, but he was afraid that the majority of the men and women who were described as vagrants would not respond to any remedy of that kind. These, however, were matters that must be left for the Committee to report upon after they had heard the evidence of those who were competent to speak on the matter. He could promise that there would be no avoidable delay in setting up the Committee, and that it would have the freest hand in its inquiry. He agreed with everything that had been said as to the incalculable mischief done by these vagrants. They seemed to terrorise the wives of cottagers in lonely parts of the country, while the husbands were away at work, extorting food, and even money sometimes. They were unquestionably a curse and a pest to society.
669 As to the proposal to send children abroad, speaking for himself, he recognised the desirability of sending children to any colony, such as Canada, where they were likely to be well cared for; but anyone who had studied the question must realise that the colonisation plan was attended with risks, and might prove a curse rather than a blessing to some children. His hon. friend had asked whether he would appoint a Committee to examine into the inspection of workhouses. He did not think there was a case for a Committee, or that there was anything to justify it up to the present time. He would, however, consider any further information which the hon. Gentleman who had referred to the matter might lay before him. His hon. friend behind him made an inquiry as to outdoor hospitals for consumptives. He believed that there were two of them, that at Skipton, and another provided by the joint unions of Liverpool; and he understood that they had done very good work. So far as he knew, there was an inclination on the part of boards of guardians to unite and set up such hospitals, and the Department would be glad to do anything it could to help the guardians in work of this character. As to the extension of boarding-out, he was of opinion that the Order might be extended partially, although there had been some practical difficulties in the way. At any rate, he thought the orphan cases might be dealt with by the boards of guardians.
§ MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
said he wished to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the satisfactory answers he had given to questions in regard to Poor Law administration; but he was afraid he would not be able to continue in the strain of praise as to the administration of the Department in regard to the Adulteration Acts, especially in London. He had made a similar complaint last year, but he was sorry to say that instead of an improvement having taken place, the laxity in the administration had been rather aggravated. Under the Act of 1899 the President of the Board of Trade was given exceptional powers to take such steps as were necessary to stamp out the adulteration of the food supply of the people. For the first time the 670 Board of Trade, in association with the Board of Agriculture, was given power to coerce the local authorities which did not carry out the provisions of the Adulteration Acts. He might go further and say that it was generally understood that the Department of the right hon. Gentleman would not only constitute itself a coercer of the defaulting local authorities, but constitute itself an intelligence department, in regard to all these matters of adulteration, to which public analysts and local authorities could look with confidence for information and advice. He wished to direct attention chiefly to the great amount of adulteration which took place in milk. The percentage of adulteration for all food products was 8.8 per cent., and he was glad to say that that percentage had been speedily falling since the Act of 1885. But the adulteration of milk, he was sorry to say, had been steadily rising during the past few years, and the percentage of adulteration at the present time was 11.6. In London the evil was more marked than in other parts of the kingdom. The percentage for the twenty towns which came next in order of size to London was 10.3; but in London the percentage was 15.6, and in six of the leading Metropolitan boroughs it was 28 per cent In Hackney and St. Pancras it was 32 per cent., in Shoreditch it was 29 per cent., in Poplar it was 22 per cent.; but the average for the six leading metropolitan boroughs was 28 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman had laid down a standard of purity for milk which the public analysts thought unduly low. The most prevalent form of adulteration of milk was the addition of water, but preservatives and colouring matter were also introduced. The latest available information in the Report of the Local Government Board showed that 50 per cent. of the diarymen of London introduced preservatives into their milk. A Departmental Committee was appointed by the right hon. Gentleman in association with the Board of Agriculture to inquire into this very question of the introduction of preservatives and colouring matter into food products. That Committee made most startling recommendations, they recommended that the use of 671 formalin in food or drink should be absolutely prohibited; that the use of preservatives or colouring matter in milk should be made an offence under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act; and, above all, that a Court of reference should be established to supervise the use of preservative and colouring matter in food. What steps had the right hon. Gentleman taken to give effect to those recommendations, and to stamp out this hideous adulteration which was taking place in the metropolitan boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman had taken no steps whatever. His record for the past year was no better than his record for the preceding year. Really it was a mere farce for the House of Commons to be wasting time in passing Acts of Parliament if the Minister who was responsible for putting them into force failed to do so. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman take the slightest notice of the Report of the Departmental Committee, when, by a mere stroke of his pen, or the mere publication of an Order, he could have given effect to that valuable Report.
He would suggest that, as regarded London at all events, if the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared to carry out the responsibility which the House of Commons looked to him to perform, he should hand over the responsibility to the London County Council. At present, each metropolitan borough was responsible only to itself; but if the London County Council had the power they would soon teach Hackney and St. Pancras that they could not continue to disregard with impunity the powers given to them. It was a standing disgrace and discredit that this infamous swindling should be allowed to continue almost at the very door of the Local Government Board. What happened when the Acts were properly administered? In Salford, a few years ago, a similar state of things existed. The local authorities determined to stamp it out; and they gradually got the percentage of adulteration down until now it was as low as 2 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman was familiar with the question, because he himself had raised it in previous years. What was wanted was a man belonging to the Local Government Board, or some other Department, who would not consider it beneath his dignity to make a name for 672 himself in connection with stamping out adulteration. He did not know of any higher ambition to which a man could aspire than to secure a pure food supply for the community. He saw a skit in the Westminster Gazette a few months ago, with the legend, "He gave us cheap food." Who would earn the reputation of giving us pure food? He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should look to his laurels in this matter, and enforce on the local authorities their duty under the Acts. The Local Government Board had not at hand experts to advise them. The ways of the adulterators were devious, and wanted following and watching. No sooner was one form of adulteration stopped than another asserted itself. If the Local Government Board were really in earnest in the matter they would have a committee of experts to advise them; and on their advice the right hon. Gentleman by merely issuing an Order in Council could set up a standard of purity, or whatever else was required. He had spoken rather strongly, for he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman did his best to administer his Department. That Department had a great deal of work to perform; and he should like to see this important question transferred to another Department which could give more time to it. He was not suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman did not attend to the duties of his Department; but the right hon. Gentleman should put his shoulder to the wheel. He wished he had an opportunity of telling the right hon. Gentleman how it could be done. It was by no means difficult. Last year the right hon. Gentleman suggested that the very worst thing that could be done would be for the Local Government Board to step in and take over the responsibilities of the local authorities, and that it was the office of the Department to take steps to induce them to act on their own responsibility. He would be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee some information as to what steps he had taken and what he was prepared to do further.
THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. GRANT LAWSON,) Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk
said 673 that perhaps he might be allowed to reply. The hon. Gentleman stated that nothing had been done as a result of his speech last year. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that that was not so. The very next day after that speech was delivered the Local Government Board had a consultation with the Board of Agriculture, which naturally looked after the adulteration of milk and butter, because they had experts at their disposal, which the Local Government Board had not, as to whether any alterations should be made in the existing arrangements, and papers were then obtained showing what the Board of Agriculture had done in the matter in 1901 and 1902. The chief inspector of the Board continually visited the authorities in London and pressed them on this question of adulteration, but they could not, as his right hon. friend stated last year, take away under a system of local government such responsible duties from the local authorities. As regarded samples of milk taken in London, in 1902 8,411 samples were taken, of which 1,314 were found to be adulterated. In 1903 9,468 samples were taken, of which 1,275 were adulterated. He was not convinced that that was a sure test of the amount of adulteration. Everything depended upon where samples were taken. If they were taken from the best shops in the neighbourhood, probably the percentage of adulteration would be very small; but if they were taken from shops suspected of adulteration the percentage would be very high. It did not prove that there was more general adulteration in one place than in another. The samples taken in London were not really out of all proportion to the rest of the country. In the model borough of Devonport, for instance, with a population of 70,000, fifty-five samples of milk were taken. In Chelsea, with a population of 73,000, ninety-four samples were taken. In Hackney, with a population three times that of Devonport, twelve times as many samples were taken, and in the City of London, with a regular population of only 26,983, 605 samples were taken. These figures did not show any neglect of duty on the part of the London boroughs.
MR. GRANT LAWSON
said that could only be done by taking each article of food separately and making an Order with regard to it, which would be a very cumbrous method. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that if his words of last year had not apparently borne fruit the Department had done their best to carry out his desires, but, after all, the Board of Agriculture was the most suitable authority to deal with butter and milk, and they were, as a matter of fact, making efforts to insure purity in those articles.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said he was not surprised that the Local Government Board had endeavoured to place the burden of responsibility upon the shoulders of the Board of Agriculture. At the time of the passing of the Act every effort had been made by himself and others to relieve the Local Government Board of all responsibility in the matter, but they insisted upon coming in, and now, when pressed to prevent adulteration, they shelved the responsibility. No answer had been given by the hon. Gentleman to the figures which he had brought to his notice, and he should press the matter to a division, because it was one which he believed would have the assent of the whole Committee.
§ MR. ALFRED DAVIES (Carmarthen Boroughs)
called attention to the liability of rating officers to give particulars of the rates they levied. He had himself received a demand note from the Buckinghamshire County Council for a rate, and at once wrote to that authority for particulars of the rate demanded. He received a reply from the official of the Buckinghamshire County Council, stating that he had no authority to analyse a rate struck for county purposes. He then called attention to the question in this House, and put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, as to whether the Buckinghamshire County Council could not be compelled to give particulars. The right hon. Gentleman answered, evidently in error, that he (Mr. Davies) should communicate with the Buckinghamshire County Council on the subject. That, of course, he had already done. It was most important 675 that general details should be given to ratepayers, if required., of the rate demanded, otherwise they could not criticise the expenditure, and what he now asked was whether the right hon. Gentleman had not full authority to compel the Buckinghamshire County Council to disclose these particulars, and, if he had not, would he say what power there was, if any, to compel them to give them? All lie really desired was a proper answer to the Question he had put previously on this subject. There was another question on which he desired some information. He had for years taken a great interest in the importation of frozen and chilled meat. He had no objection to its being eaten if it was not injurious. But some time ago he asked the right hon. Gentleman for information as to whether the decomposition in meat from abroad was injurious to health, and the reply he got was that it was a subject for inquiry. In answer to a further Question, whether it was causing an increasing number of cases of cancer, the right hon. Gentleman stated that he would make inquiries of the Cancer Research Committee. Nothing, however, had since been done, although the matter was of vital importance. No one knew that this meat was injurious to health, but, on the other hand, no one knew whether it was beneficial, and he held that that was a point upon which the country was entitled to information. The President of the Local Government Board had at his command analysts and other officials who could soon settle the question, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take the matter into his consideration with a view to supplying the fullest information possible.
§ *MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
expressed his dissatisfaction with the reply given to the hon. Member for Devonport with regard to the adulteration of food. Whether it was milk, whisky, beer, or anything else, the people were entitled to have it pure and unadulterated. It was not expected that the Department would take up all articles of food at once, but why did they not start with one of the most used articles of food, milk? In two districts recently, viz., Finchley and Woking, 500 persons had 676 been affected through contaminated milk, The Local Government Board ought really to take steps, through their experts, to deal with the matter instead of leaving it to the Board of Agriculture. No I legislation was required; by an Order in Council the whole business could be settled at once. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken as though it depended upon the kind of shop in which the milk was sold, implying that it was only in little back streets that the adulterated article was sold; but only the other day two large firms were summoned for selling adulterated milk, though they had a guarantee from the farmer. It was time the Board gave up making such miserable excuses. If only Government Departments would give adequate replies to Questions, an enormous saving of public time would be effected, as it would not then be necessary to be constantly raising points in Committee of Supply. He recently asked a Question with regard to the issue of vaccination certificates at Brighton on which the local vaccination officer had had printed a number of notices to parents, and the right hon. Gentleman replied that there was nothing in the certificate to which he could take objection, and that it could be issued as a Government document. Who had to pay for the printing of all these additional notices? Why, the ratepayers! Had not the Local Government Board a staff competent to draw up a circular which would answer all purposes? If not, the sooner they made room for efficient men the better. Notices issued by Government Departments ought to be complete in themselves, and local vaccination officers should be prohibited from adding thereto their own fads.
A further matter about which he had to complain affected another official under the Board. A bacteriologist, in receipt of a salary of £600 a year, was permitted to carry on business on his own account, to use the calves, the laboratory, and the vaccine station belonging to the Government, and to sell lymph for his own profit. So unsound a system ought not to be permitted to continue for a single week. No commercial firm would tolerate this for five minutes. The Government Departments ought to be pure and free 677 from all that sort of thing. If the gentleman to whom he referred was worth more money, let him have it, but do not let this system of jobbery go on. The system was thoroughly unsound, and he asked the right hon. Gentleman to put a stop to it. He wished to know whether there were others in the department who were doing a little on their own account. In regard to the question of calf lymph, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to arrange that there should be a standard of purity, or rather of quality and strength. At the present time there was no standard, and medical men did not know where they were. There were Local Government Board bacteriologists who would be better employed in endeavouring to set up such a standard than in doing a little business on their own account and feathering their nests in the fashion he had described. The Government should be able to furnish every medical man in the country with a supply of lymph if he paid for it. According to a statement published in The Lancet in June last, there were something like 16 firms in the metropolis who sold vaccine lymph. It was rather rough on medical men that they should have to go to these private vaccine establishments instead of being able to go to the Local Government Board for their supplies. Vaccination being compulsory it was only right that the Government should make provision for furnishing pure lymph to medical men so that they would not require to go dancing all over the face of the earth for supplies. There was nothing at present to prevent anyone supplying calf lymph. The Local Government Board ought to stop this practice, because an enormous amount of disease arose from vaccination. He asked an explanation of Item P with respect to certain expenditure in the national vaccine establishment. There was a footnote on the same page which stated that £105 had been received from the Local Government Board in Scotland for vaccine supplied to that Department, and that part of this money was paid to the bacteriologist. We should know how much was paid to him. What an extraordinary method of conducting the affairs of this department! The right hon. Gentleman ought to know the details of expenditure in his 678 department. All that hon. Members asked was that the President of the Local Government Board should see that the business of his Department was not conducted on loose and unsound principles such as no employer of labour would tolerate. He begged to move the I reduction of the Vote on Item A by £200.
I draw the hon. Member's attention to the fact that if he does so he will preclude any answer being given to the various questions pat to the Minister in charge of the Vote.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £141,889 be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Weir.)
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that, in answer to the somewhat vague statements of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, he wished to say that Dr. Blaxall was one of the best public servants employed by the Department. No action of Dr. Blaxall had ever been previously challenged, and the arrangement to which the hon. Gentleman had called attention was arrived at between the Scottish Office and Dr. Blaxall with the full consent of the Treasury. It was not fair to accuse Dr. Blaxall of feathering his own nest and making money at the public expense. There was not the faintest foundation for any one of these vague charges. It was suggested that there should be a standard purity of lymph. In the first place, he doubted whether there was any necessity for it; in the second place, it would be difficult for any Government Department to under take the supply of lymph to the whole country; and, in the third place, there was no reason to doubt that, from scientific inquiry which had been made, the commercial lymph was not of admirable and excellent quality in every respect. The hon. Member for Carmarthen Boroughs asked if it was within the power of the Local Government Board to prescribe the form of the demand note for rates. The Local Government Board had no power to compel the local authorities to state 679 the different objects of their expenditure or to compel them to break up the rates so as to show the different purposes on which they were to be spent.
§ *MR. WEIR
said that the right hon. Gentleman had referred to one matter and one matter only, although he had I mentioned several. The question of pure unadulterated milk was a matter of vital importance; but the right hon. Gentleman treated it with contempt. The right hon. Gentleman smiled. Another matter he brought under the attention of the right hon. Gentleman was the question of vaccination officers expressing in print their own fads on the back of Government Vaccination Certificates, the right hon. Gentleman treated that also with absolute indifference. Then the right hon. Gentleman stated that he had made vague charges against Dr. Blaxall. He had done nothing of the kind. He condemned the system which allowed an officer of a great Government Department to carry on business on his own account. It did not satisfy him to be told that the Treasury approved of it. He, for one, did not approve of it. The officials of the Treasury were not infallible and made I mistakes; he thought they did a very wrong thing when they allowed this gentleman to carry on business on his own account. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a standard of purity for lymph. He, however, mentioned quality and strength as well as purity; but the right hon. Gentleman avoided quality and strength. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to refer to those who prompted him. He wished to tell the right hon. Gentleman that he was not prompted by anyone. He acted on his own account; he studied the questions he brought before the House for himself, and did not take his information second-hand. He did not think, therefore, it was fair on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to state that he was prompted. As the reply of the right hon. Gentleman was so unsatisfactory, and as vital questions were ignored, he could not see his way to withdraw his Amendment.
The Committee proceeded to a Division, and the Chairman stated that he thought the Noes had it; and, on his decision being challenged, it appeared to him that the Division was vexatiously claimed, and 680 he accordingly called upon the Members who supported and who challenged his decision successively to rise in their places, and he declared the Noes had it, Fifteen Members only who challenged his decision having stood up.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ And, it being after half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.