§ (VOTE ON ACCOUNT.)
§ Resolution reported, "That a sum, not exceeding £30,889,000 be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1913.
§ [For details of Vote on Account, see 7th March, cols. 558–561]824
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. JOWETT
In the sums included in this Vote on Account, I do not myself think that there is any more important than that which is placed opposite the title of the Local Government Board, and it is for a total of £115,000. It is with the object of making some comment on the business connected with the suggested expenditure of that money that I wish to address some remarks to the House. The President of the Local Government Board is a most cheery and optimistic person. He is one of those who are never downhearted; and no matter what his colleagues may think about current events, and as to the necessity for action being taken in order to alleviate poverty, and some of the other ills from which Englishmen in common with men of other nations suffer, he himself is always cheerful. Indeed, one might almost call him the Mark Tapley of politics. I wish to put a word or two in of the opposite vein to those which are generally used by the President of the Local Government Board. Whatever he may say there is much work for his Department, to do, and more especially in connection with the administration of the Poor Law in this country. We were told by the late. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman that some 13,000,000 persons in this country were continually on the verge of pauperism, or practically one-third of the entire population at that date. If that testimony is not sufficient to remove that cheery optimism which the President of the Local Government Board always entertains, then one may refer him to his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who also is of opinion that much remains to be done, and of what needs to be done I am going to suggest that the President of the Local Government Board should do some of it.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in this House some time ago, told us that of the 420,000 persons who died each year, no fewer than 350,000 died without leaving any property to speak of. The President of the Local Government Board himself has told us that Poor Law relief, for which his Department is responsible, costs this country no less than fifteen millions a year. If it were possible, and in my opinion it ought to be possible with a President of the Local 825 Government Board so active as the present President is, to get full particulars of the expense to which the people of this country levied in the shape of voluntary charity, and in providing for voluntary hospitals; and if we were to add that to the £15,000,000 spent in Poor Law relief we should see what an appalling expense poverty, which the right hon. Gentleman speaks about so cheerfully, is to this country. In common with every other Member of this House, I have a very great affection for the President of the Local Government Board. I look upon him, or looked upon him, as a kindred spirit; we were in a sort of way comrades-in-arms. I all the more regret—and I think my colleagues feel like me in this respect—that, considering his past, considering his knowledge of the facts of life, he has done so little to alleviate the conditions under which a large number of people—men, women, and children—in this land have to exist. For instance, he once held very strong opinions about the duty of the State with regard to the unemployed, and opinions that one could hardly differentiate from the opinions which are now held by the Members amongst whom I now sit. He felt, he said, that it was the duty of the State to see to it that work was provided. We think so too, but we are at a loss to understand why, having regard to those opinions which he once held, he has not done something, at any rate, to try and provide that work for the unemployed which would do a great deal towards alleviating the poverty which is in our midst at the present time.
All we get, or almost all we get, from the President of the Local Government Board in answer to our continued demands for action so as to alleviate poverty is chunks of Poor Law statistics of a sort which need some explanation, and which, if the explanation were given, would, I think, hardly suit his purpose. He tells us over and over again that the number of persons in receipt of Poor Law relief—paupers, as he is not ashamed to call them—is continually diminishing. The fact of the matter is that two or three factors are at play and have caused the diminished number, for which, I am afraid, with all due deference, we can hardly hold the President of the Local Government Board responsible, or give him the honour. It has been his fortunate part, his most fortunate part, to hold his present position in a time of unparalleled prosperity and has helped him 826 largely in being able to show figures such as he frequently quotes. Moreover, there are other influences at work, some of which are unobjectionable and others of which are very objectionable in bringing down these Poor Law figures. I may mention as one cause of the recent diminution old age pensions. It is true that old age pensions have affected favourably, poor law statistics, but the President of the Local Government Board has no right to remain satisfied because old age pensions have removed a number of people from the list of those who are in receipt of Poor Law relief. It is quite true that he and his Government and the majority of their supporters passed the Old Age Pensions Act, but it is also true that public opinion demanded old age pensions before the Government acted, and many obscure persons to whom credit is not often given helped to produce this pressure. My point is that these are factors that have helped the right hon. Gentleman, apart from any action of his own, and helped to reduce the figures regarding Poor Law relief. To another influence, which bears specially on the policy of his Department, I take serious objection—namely, the discouragement by all sorts of direct and indirect methods of the granting of outdoor relief by boards of guardians. It is all very well for the Minister to say that outdoor relief is given to so many fewer persons now than used to be the case. All that the Minister has to do, if the Poor Law authorities side with and carry out his wishes, is to draw the regulations strict enough and he can clear the list entirely—there will be nobody getting Poor Law relief at all. But that would not do any good, because the people would be starving in their homes. It would not be relieving destitution, the poverty would be there just the same—and it is there, in spite of the deterrents that have been adopted to discourage the giving of outdoor relief. On 27th April, last year, the President of the Local Government Board told us that outdoor pauperism had diminished from 54 per 1,000 in 1850 to 11 per 1,000 in 1911. I have mentioned three great factors in that reduction—two of them unobjectionable, and one very objectionable, because it does not remove the cause, but merely reduces the number, while the poverty is there undiminished, or, if anything, worse than before.
What is the policy of outdoor relief which has produced this result? It is generally 827 known as the Whitechapel system. Speaking generally, it consists in the adoption of certain rules which act as deterrents to those who would apply for outdoor relief, by practically putting before them the alternatives of going into the workhouse or going without relief altogether. The result of that policy is, to my mind, indicated, but nothing more than indicated, in the Return made annually to this House of the number of deaths from starvation. In 1910, according to that Return, there were 119 deaths from starvation, eleven of which took place in the union of Whitechapel itself. I need say very little more in order to condemn the system. The system works by the application of two factors, by the tyrannising the poor and by the stigma which it continually applies to those in receipt of relief. It is the desire of the Local Government Board to extend the Whitechapel system, and the reason I am specially referring to this particular aspect of Poor Law work is that the President of the Local Government Board is proposing to issue a new Order which will facilitate the extension of the Whitechapel system throughout the country. The administration of Poor Law is made tremendously difficult by the legal phraseology of the large number of Orders which have accumulated through a series of years, a phraseology that makes those Orders very difficult for a layman to understand.
By way of a general explanation I may say that the object of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was to give relief when necessary in workhouses, and if at all possible to abolish outdoor relief altogether. It was found before long that workhouse accommodation could not be provided for the number of persons that would have to be dealt with under such a system, and there grew up a number of different modifying Orders, by which the Poor Law authorities are allowed to grant outdoor relief without strict regard to the principles of the 1834 Act, and to institute workhouse tests of a less severe character than had originally been intended. There was also issued a modifying Order allowing men out of employment to be relieved inside the workhouse and their families maintained outside. As I understand the situation, a large number of the Poor Law authorities have got into the habit of utilising these powers, and, in accordance with the true Whitechapel principle of discouraging outdoor relief, the President of 828 the Local Government Board and his officials desire to take it into the power of the Board itself to say whether or not a union shall be allowed to utilise these modifying Orders. That, as I understand. is the meaning of the suggested new Poor Law Order. If it is accepted no Poor Law authority will be able to exercise these modifying influences on the Poor Law system, unless the Local Government Board approves. That is a centralising proposition, to which many of us object. I object to it very seriously, because the effect of all this tightening up of the conditions under which outdoor relief may be granted, whether to unemployed or to sick and poor persons, and the giving of more and more power to the Local Government Board, has been not only to increase the cost of Poor Law relief, but to increase the amount of unrelieved destitution. That can be proved beyond any shadow of doubt. To show a very large proportion of the present expenditure goes to the maintenance of the indoor as compared with the outdoor poor, I will give the figures for last year. According to the Local Government Board Annual Report, on 1st January, 1911, there were 298,877 persons relieved under the Poor Law at a net expenditure of £7,478,280. There were 499,020 persons relieved outdoor, almost double the number of indoor persons, but the cost, instead of being nearly £7,500,000, was £3,898,319. That goes to show the expensive character of indoor relief.
I want to put in some facts regarding the experience of one of the unions which administers its relief, generally speaking, on the Whitechapel plan. It is a union of which I have some experience, namely, the Bradford Union. If there be a union in this country that administers relief on the Whitechapel plan efficiently, I think I may say that it is the Bradford Union. It has an excellent Poor Law hospital, which is exceedingly well staffed in every respect. I think if the Whitechapel plan can succeed anywhere it certainly ought to succeed in Bradford, where it is so exceedingly well worked and in connection with a union so extremely well managed. I find that the result—I will make a qualification directly—of applying the Whitechapel plan—that is the discouragement of outdoor relief—the plan that this Order has been brought into operation to further and bring into general practice—has been that in fifteen years from 1897 to 1911, the cost of Poor Relief in the Bradford Union 829 has increased from £44,220 to £86,968. The number of persons relieved in those two years is practically identical.
In 1897 there were 806 persons relieved indoor, and 1,577 outdoor, making altogether 2,383. In 1911, when, as I have indicated, the cost had nearly doubled, the total number relieved was only 2,454 or slightly in excess of the number relieved fifteen years before at half the cost. That is my point. It will be observed that a practical transference had taken place between the proportion of the numbers relieved indoor and outdoor between the two years. In 1897, when the cost was £44,220, there were 806 persons relieved indoor, and 1,577 relieved outdoor. In 1911, when the cost had increased to £86,968, there were 1,656 indoor and 798 outdoor. I do not want to mislead the House in any way. I am ready most freely to admit that there has been better staffing of the hospital and better appointments. Even when due allowance is made for all that, it still remains a fact that the cost of outdoor relief is tremendously higher than that of indoor relief. The consequence of the Whitechapel plan has been to increase the cost, quite apart from any increased efficiency and quite apart from any increased expenditure on account of a better equipped hospital. The population of Bradford is 280,000. The city area is not identical with the area of the union; therefore I cannot give a comparison in that direction. I would not complain, nor would the Members with whom I sit, if in consequence of that increased expenditure we could feel that the relief work had been better accomplished. But such is not the fact.
The fact is entirely opposite. I have had three years' experience of administration of the system which the new Order seeks to establish throughout the country. I am not satisfied with it. I know of my own knowledge that the result of presenting the alternative which I have mentioned, that is, the Bastile, or "stop-at home and get no relief," is undeserved and unmerited destitution in hundreds of cases. I know the methods applied in order to tighten up the mesh, so to speak, to make smaller and smaller the sieve through which poor people can penetrate to relief. The result of it is not to consolidate home life, but, in many instances, to disintegrate home life. When you think of it, surely it is absurd, for instance—and this is part of the system—that a 830 union can give relief to an aged person so long as she lives alone, but if she can find some relatives—who are not, bear in mind, legally liable for her maintenance—to give her her bed free, that you then take the income of the whole of the members, of that household into account, and if it amounts to a certain figure the relief to the old lady must be withdrawn. I have known at least one case where as a result of the application of that principle a youth left home. It is in the interests of home life, and parents recognise it, that their young people should stay with them if possible. The youth that I refer to worked hard for his money, and wished to save, as many young men do if they want to get on in life. This youth, with some 18s. or less weekly, was asked to throw his money into the common pool. It was to be reckoned, at least, in the common pool—and he paid for his board and lodging.
He declined; rather than allow his money to be taken into the common, account he went to live elsewhere. One cannot wonder that a young man placed in such a position should do so. It could not be expected that simply because his parents took an aged relative in that he should be kept poor all his life. That is not the worst of it. The worst of it is that the household having to count its income as a common income the effect in many instances is that relief is refused because the income is more than the guardians, under this precious Whitechapel system, think should suffice. It follows that the little children, who ought to be well-fed, well-clothed, and well-shod, cannot, because of their parents' generosity in maintaining an aged relative, get these requisites. Fortunately for a better investigation of the results of this Whitechapel system, it has been tested in detail. It would be a pity not to make some use of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law which sat so long, and at such great expense. One thing that the Royal Commission did was to appoint one of its investigators to check off a number of cases which have been refused relief by unions which acted on the Whitechapel system. This was done with a view of finding out whether or not the refusal of that relief was attended by good or ill results. I will just give one or two of these test cases. The first is a case where relief was refused because the guardians thought that the person ought to get a 831 nurse for her child and go out to work. The Report proceeds:—Case of Mrs. C, who is a nice-looking, capable woman. I feel very sorry for her, for evidently her struggle is more than she can manage. All her spirit is being taken out of her, and she begins to feel that she cannot bear things any longer. She has been fighting against tremendous odds for over two years. When her husband was taken ill she nursed him at home for over eight months, the doctor and the nurse calling at the house every day. Her son, a boy of thirteen, who had commenced work as a half-timer, was at home. He looked pale and tired, but had a nice face. He disliked his work, but his mother told him he would have to do it whether he liked it or not, and that he had not finished yet, for he had got the home to clean up. She asked him to start by taking up and shaking a big hearthrug made of cloth pieces. It was too heavy for the boy to manage alone.Here is the comment:—Mrs. C—is quite overwhelmed with the task of supporting her family. It is impossible for any woman to spend all day and every day working in the mill, and at the same time keep a decent home together and bring her family up respectably. I feel that with adequate out relief this woman might have been helped and saved much physical and mental suffering, and very probably kept from moral deterioration. If she goes to the bad it will simply be force of circumstances which have sent her there. If the Poor Law could have helped her adequately she would have been a good citizen herself, and would have brought up her children to be the same. She is a good, competent woman in the process of being crashed by misfortune.'The number of these cases which have been refused relief under this wretched system, which we are objecting to to-day, is shown to be a very large one. I will not trouble the House with more quotations than I think absolutely necessary, because the Blue Book itself is available. Hon. Members would find it advantageous to read it. There is another case here that I think it is necessary for the House to know.
My apology for reading this very unpleasant case is its importance. It is the case of "J. A." The total income of the whole family was 22s., the rent was 4s. 9d., and there were five persons in the house; relief was refused because it was not a case of destitution. This is the report:—J. A is an oldish man, sixty-two years of age, who is out of work and is living with a married daughter. Her husband is employed in the Telephone Company and earns 22s. a week. The house is comfortably furnished, but was very dirty and untidy. The daughter apologised, saying that she was feeling so badly that she was quite done up. Her father and children were getting their dinner when I called, but she was sitting by the fire and was evidently in pain and could not eat. J. a wants to get some work. He has tried to get taken on by the corporation as a night watchman, but there are so many for jobs of that kind.… Some one had given him a penny in the street so he had bought a few potatoes and had just cooked them for dinner. He was sitting at the table when I called, and a little grandchild stood one on each side of him, and they where all eating with their fingers from the same plate. An abscess had just broken out in Mr. A.'s neck. No attempt had been made to bandage it or to protect it in any way. The pus from this wound was simply 832 pouring down in a long stream on to his coat or edge of the plate, according to the position he was sitting in. He, however, continued eating greedily, as if he were really hungry, and took no notice whatever of the suppurating abscess. I think that I have never seen a more revolting sight. Like Micawber, he kept on expressing the pious hope that he might get some work soon, 'and that he meant to start looking for it next week.'And the remarks of the investigator are as follows:—It must be a pinch to this family to be keeping J. a His daughter is expecting another baby almost directly, and I cannot imagine how they will manage then unless he gets some work. As the daughter said to me, 'It is always such an expensive time, no matter how cheaply you try to do it.' She seemed ill and anxious.That is the result of the application of the Whitechapel system, it leaves poverty un-dealt with, as this case most conclusively shows. If that is the result, then, I say, the sooner we make an end of the Whitechapel system the better instead of perpetuating it by bringing into force an Order the object of which, I am quite certain, is to perpetuate it. I will read one other extract from the investigator's Report, it is under the head "Refusal to grant outdoor relief," and says:—Having given the above particulars with regard to the families visited, I am now in a position to discuss the results. These may he summarised as follows:—(1) In no case was the support by relatives increased through the refusal of outdoor relief. In practically all the cases they were so poor themselves that they were not in a position to give systematic assistance; if such additional help had been given it must have been at the cost of the physical efficiency of the younger generation. (2) In no case has any charitable agency effectively dealt with the destitution. Occasionally I found spasmodic gifts were made, but with one exception no effort was attempted definitely to place the family upon a sound economic footing, (3) There was no evidence to show that the applicants themselves had been stimulated by the refusal of relief to greater personal effort; on the contrary, the denial of assistance seemed to have discouraged and disheartened many whose energies would have been aroused by wise guidance, accompanied by sufficient temporary aid, so as to enable them to maintain physical efficiency.And she goes on to say later on:—In more than half of the cases the refusal of out-relief led to the gradual dispersal of the household furniture and wearing apparel, often not even excepting the most necessary clothes. There was also unmistakable signs of marked physical deterioration on the part of the family … If eventually the applicants are forced to enter the workhouse they will do so with health gone, home gone and spirit and courage shattered. This deterioration is, from the national standpoint, probably most serious in the case of children. The homes which were being broken up were of two classes. First, respectable homes, which in the past were thoroughly comfortable; and secondly, homes which possibly have never reached a high standard. Six of the applicants accepted the order for the workhouse.These are the results following the application of that system of Poor Law Relief which has come to be known to those engaged in the Poor Law work as the "Whitechapel system," which is discouraging outdoor relief. 833 That is the system which this Order is to extend throughout this country, because it seeks to give the Local Government Board powers which will enable it to unify outdoor relief on lines carried out and adopted by the Whitechapel Board of Guardians, and others who follow that system. On that account I very much regret that it is impossible, with all our respect for the right hon. Gentleman, to support him in his administrative action at the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman has told us, and, I have no doubt, quite correctly, for he would have information at his disposal which would enable him to tell us so correctly, that one-half of the cost of the Poor Law is due to sickness. The cost of the Poor Law is £15,000,000 a year; one-half of that is due to sickness. Yes; but what did the right hon. Gentleman tell us in the same speech? Let me recall it, as it is most important. He told us of the remarkable effect which had followed the institution of better housing conditions in Ireland, and he spoke, apparently with pride, because the Irish Local Government Board had spent £6,000,000 and built over 30,000 houses for Irish labourers. He told us that on 7th April, 1911. "The Irish Local Government Board," said the right hon. Gentleman, "have grappled with the housing of the Irish labourers and in five years have built 50,000 cottages at a cost of £6,000,000 with untold benefits in the reduction of disease."
I want to ask the right (hon. Gentleman a plain question. Is he willing to do the same for England? It will not suffice for the right hon. Gentleman to say that the English Local Government Board are advancing money on very different terms altogether. The millions of which he spoke are lent at 1 per cent, under the current rate of interest, and they are accompanied by subsidies. We all know what tremendous influence good housing has upon the health of a nation. We should not need to spend much upon consumption and sanatoria if we had good housing conditions in this country. All the most responsible men in the world who have ever studied consumption and spoken with authority upon its causes are agreed that it is the bad housing condition of the people that cause consumption, and the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges that the Irish Local Government Board have improved matters by lending public money at less than the current rate of interest for assisting a scheme of better housing. Will he do the same for 834 England? If he does I maintain the same results will follow. If he will get his colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to provide a proportionate amount to what is granted to Ireland for the needs of the English people, we shall not be building 30,000 labourers' cottages, but a much larger number, and the results would be equally important from the health point of view. Incidentally whilst the right hon. Gentleman was building these houses he would be doing something to give effect to the speeches he made in 1880 and 1885 when he talked about municipal work and putting people that, needed it to public work. Let him enable the idle worker to do some good work, and there is no better work than building houses, and whatever else he does let him for God's sake keep the Poor Law authorities of England from putting into force the abominable system of the Whitechapel Poor Law.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I wish to join with my hon. Friends in discussing for a short time the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board and also the new Poor Law Order. I would like, first of all, to clear up one or two matters to which I called the right hon. Gentleman's attention on the last occasion when we were discussing his Department. They were matters relating primarily to the Metropolis. The first is in regard to fees paid for certifying lunatics and generally speaking the arrangements whereby doctors and others in one union draw much larger sums than are paid in others, and where a very Considerable waste of public money takes place, and one is not at all sure that a very great deal of corruption does not exist. Those of us who took up this matter feel that certifying people as lunatics is a very serious business, and it will be very much better if no one made any money out of particular cases and particular individuals. At present the arrangements in a good many unions are that men are paid fees for each particular case, in other unions better arrangements have been made whereby the salary of the medical officer to the workhouse includes the cost of certifying any person he knows to be insane, and I would like to know what progress has been made in getting a uniform system established in London. 835 With regard to contracts, this House has on various occasions heard a good deal about Poor Law contracts, and the union, part of which I represent in this House, years ago made reports to the predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman, asking that at least for London there should be a uniform system set up, and the President of the Local Government Board on the last occasion promised to give that matter his consideration. So far as I can see we have not any power at present in regard to this matter, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what steps have been taken. The boards of guardians concerned do not know very much about it. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking outside and hero in this House, took a great deal of credit to his Department for a reduction of pauperism in the Poplar Union, and the relative increase of pay given to cases of outdoor relief. I am not going to quarrel with his figures, except to point out that his experience as President has covered a period of abnormally good trade, and that in the Poplar Union alone we proved, when old age pensions came in, the truth of our statement that we had a large number of aged people kept alive by a humane administration of the Poor Law, and that when the State took over that liability obviously the number went down and is going down each year. No less than 1,000 went off the Poor Law roll in Poplar when the Old Age Pensions Act came into operation. I join with others in congratulating, not the right hon. Gentleman, but the people who agitated for old age pensions outside who induced this House to pass the Act conferring that boon.
With regard to the able-bodied and the sick, the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing a policy in London which in theory is an excellent one, but the manner in which he is carrying it out is about the most extravagant one that could be adopted. For instance, he has allowed the Fulham guardians to take a workhouse at Belmont and turn it over into a sort of mixed workhouse in which all kinds of men are jumbled together from epileptics to able-bodied, under what I cannot help calling, a very harsh sort of administration which the Fulham board set up, and very few boards of guardians have been able to get able-bodied men to go there. That may be to the credit of the Fulham Board, but I would point out that in many cases the women and children and de- 836 pendents of these men suffer very great hardship because those sent to that workhouse will not endure the hardship at Belmont of what is little better than a prison. People are sent there from various boards of guardians. They first go through all the paraphernalia of inquiry and investigation, and these persons are sent to Belmont and the boards of guardians responsible have no part or lot in the administration or the treatment meted out. I want to give another similar case. We have had set up in the Bow Road an infirmary which formerly belonged to the City of London. If the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) had been in his place we might have congratulated him upon reducing the pauperism of the City to such an extent that they have a workhouse or infirmary to let. Although this infirmary is in the Poplar Union, the right hon. Gentleman has issued an Order by which the City of London authorities are to go on administering this institution into which they will not send a single person, but will receive boarders for the Poplar Union and for one or two other unions. In this case all the Poplar Board has to do, or any other board interested is to send people there, and the City of London authority does the rest. I want to ask where does the unification we have all talked about so much come in Where is there any popular control over either of these boards I When some of us say that the right hon. Gentleman has removed the administration of the Poor Law from popular control he has always contradicted that statement, but here are two instances where local authorities have no sort of control over their people in these two institutions, and where two other authorities are set up miles away from the authorities concerned with the people, and they are given the control instead of the directly elected representatives of the people, and those who have to pay the piper are not allowed a voice in the administration at all. I want, as a London Member, to protest very strongly against that kind of unification, and when the proper time comes we shall be able to argue with the right hon. Gentleman as to what our scheme is if you are going to continue the Poor Law—and I would like, to get rid of it—but I am not in favour of giving the central authority absolute power in this fashion.
There was a proposition made to appoint Commissioners by the Local Government Board to administer the Poor Law 837 throughout the country. That is an arguable proposition, and one that we can understand, but I feel certain that the President of the Local Government Board dare not put a proposition like that before this House, because it would be thrown out immediately. No one would tolerate a Board of Commissioners administering the Poor Law. The right hon. Gentleman, in a scheme which the Gentlemen under the Gallery have framed for him, has been able to remove the control of people chargeable to the Metropolitan unions absolutely away from popular control, and that is a pretty scandalous state of things, and one which this House ought not to sanction. We ought not to allow one or two unions to have this power at the expense of the others, because those who have taken any interest in Poor Law administration know that this grouping of unions, as it were, is not a new thing. At the present time you have school districts, districts for the sick, and so on, but you have always maintained up to now that the institution to which the people from various unions go should have control through the representatives of the people who send their paupers there, and who foot the bill when it has to be footed. I hope, if the right hon. Gentleman is going to continue this grouping of unions, he will take the other view and allow the unions who pay to have representatives on the board of management. We are asking as a favour that which ought to be done as a matter of right, because each board that pays ought to have its representative on that body.
Then there is another point with regard to the children. I raised this question on the last occasion, and, as usual, the right hon. Gentleman, instead of answering me with regard to outdoor relief children, went off and gave us a splendid picture of the Poor Law child in a Poor Law school or home, which none of us had queried. I want, in as clear language as I can, to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I do not dispute his picture with regard to the children in scattered homes, Poor Law schools or institutions of that kind with the exception of the workhouse. I object to any children being in the workhouse. I want the right hon. Gentleman this evening to devote his mind to the Poor Law children on outdoor relief. I do not know whether the Local Government Board auditors act under his instructions or not. Auditors should be independent men, but I question whether any of them are. I know, however, that they are continually 838 surcharging Boards of Guardians for giving too much relief. I would like to join with my hon. Friend in saying that the Local Government Board can drive that policy much too hard, and in many cases it is driven much too hard. It is very hard for a young man of eighteen, nineteen, or twenty years of age to have placed upon him part of the burden of keeping a widowed mother or family when the breadwinner has gone. Very often this leads to the breaking up of homes, and you drive out of those homes the people who otherwise would be a real help. The auditor goes round and in such cases and for other reasons surcharges Boards of Guardians for giving too much relief. I wish to recall to the right hon. Gentleman the fact that the Poor Law Commission, through its investigators, said that 130,000 out of 200,000 on outdoor relief in England and Wales were underfed, badly clothed, and badly housed. They pointed out that large numbers of these children came back to the workhouse as physically, mentally or morally unfit.
The reports of those investigators have never yet been questioned, and the right hon. Gentleman has not questioned them either. These reports are two or three years' old, and yet the Hammersmith Board of Guardians during the last few weeks informed the public that none of the children on outdoor relief in that union were receiving adequate outdoor relief to maintain them without the necessity of meals from the local education authority. Whose business is it at the Local Government Board office to see that the relief granted is adequate? Is there any official whose business it is to do that? I do not know of one. I have seen officials at the Local Government Board sitting on relief committees, and I have sat on the same committees with them for hours, and I have never heard one suggest that more relief should be given in any case. I have heard them querying the amount of relief given, and I have known auditors surcharge Boards of Guardians for charging too much, but what right have they to protest after the relief has been dealt with? What right has the auditor to step in and determine whether the relief has been too liberal or not? If you admit that it is the auditor's business to do this when the relief is too liberal surely, it is his business to interfere when it has not been dealt with liberally enough. You cannot say that all the duty of the officer consists of is to see the poor do not 839 get too much. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do with regard to the Hammersmith Guardians who have definitely passed a resolution that their relief is inadequate? What does he propose to do to compel them to pay adequate relief? What does he propose to do with the Goole Boards of Guardians, whose relief is also totally and admittedly inadequate both for men, women, and children? What does he propose to do with the Wisbech Board of Guardians who pay 2s. 6d. per week to people to take care of pauper children? Does anybody imagine that people are going to take a child and do for it thoroughly and properly for 2s. 6d. per week? What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do with these three unions, and scores of other unions? What is the rate paid in the bulk of unions, and specially rural unions, for the boarding out of children? I would like him to tell us out of the fullness of his heart whether he agrees that 2s. 6d. per week is a proper sum. He told us the other day that a poor child cost from 8s. to 10s. per week in an institution, and I know out of that the food costs anything from 4s to 5s. I do not believe that in his heart he thinks the sums I have mentioned are anything like fair for dealing with a child in a single home. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to go off tonight on institution children, but to stick to the out-door-relief children, because it is from these that a large number of the men and women who later on become chargeable are recruited. That is not just the fancy of a person like myself, it is the deliberate report of Dr. McVail and other investigators, and the Hammersmith, Goole, and other Boards have quite clearly proved that the same evil is going on.
I want again to call the attention of the House to the grievous overlapping that takes place in regard to children. First of all, every Poor Law family is investigated by a very expensive machine indeed, the machine of the relieving officer and the Poor Law generally. Then they go to school, and they are found underfed and in need of food. A care committee is set up, and another expensive machine sets about investigating the conditions of the home. There is at present a huge administrative system, costing thousands of pounds per year, for the investigation of the conditions of children who have already been investigated under the Poor Law, but who have been inadequately dealt with. There are 840 only two courses open to this House. You can either frankly say that every child for whom public provision has to be made shall be considered a pauper, and put under the guardians—I do not think the House will do that, or that public opinion would allow it—or you can say the education authority shall take over the whole of them. At present it takes over part of them. I believe nearly every child on outdoor relief is getting free feeding, very often free medical inspection, and I am not at all sure it does not get free medical treatment also at the hands of the education authority. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what he proposes to do with regard to this matter. There is a frightful waste—first of money and then of effort on the part of the voluntary boards of guardians and the voluntary care committees. These unhappy poor are inspected from every quarter. They are inquired into and investigated from all the four corners of the earth for the miserable pittance they get, and the end of it is that a lot more money is paid than is necessary to do the thing ineffectively. If the treatment of the children was efficient one would not grumble so much, though I should think the investigation was very much too thorough. Now we all admit—the right hon. Gentleman will himself have to admit—the children are still left underfed and underclothed and under-housed. Neither he nor his Department will really face the fact that a woman who is bringing up her children ought to be considered as doing decent work, and, if there is no breadwinner, then the State ought to maintain her, and maintain her, if possible, in her home. If she is a decent and respectable woman, she will do much more for the children than any number of foster-mothers or matrons of hospitals or schools. She will spend the money more economically, and do much better for the children.
I want to say a word or two about this Order, Article 4. I know the President of the Local Government Board is a very powerful person, but has he the right to override the Statute? This Article 4 forbids outdoor relief being given in certain cases to sick persons, not able-bodied people, but people who are lame, blind, or otherwise impotent. If 4 and 5 of William IV. enables the Local Government Board to prohibit outdoor relief in such cases, then the Article is valid; but I have taken the opinion of certain people who are better lawyers than I am; and I am told the Statutes 43 of Elizabeth, Clause 2, and 4 and 5 of William IV., Clause 76, say that 841 the guardians shall relieve the blind and impotent poor. The new Article that the Local Government Board has laid down says they shall not except under certain conditions. The Statute does not lay down any conditions at all. It says the guardians shall relieve them. The Local Government Board have said they shall only relieve them when the medical officer says they may. I propose to interrogate the Attorney-General on the matter when he comes back, but I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether he has taken the advice of his legal advisers whether the Board can override the Statute. I want him to tell us by what right he says that in future the guardians shall only exercise this power when the doctor certifies they may do so. There is nothing in the Statute to say the doctor shall be called in. The duty is imposed by the Statute on the boards of guardians.
I should like to clear up two or three misunderstandings in regard to Hollesley Bay. I am more or less responsible for that colony, and I sit in this House and hear the right hon. Gentleman answering questions which more or less prejudice the whole position. It was established under the auspices of the London Unemployed Fund, set up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long). I have always been extremely grateful to that right hon. Gentleman for his permission to carry through that experiment. The House the other day heard that a man and his wife and family got 30s. per week if he went to Hollesley Bay, and a few days later it heard that a man and his wife, with an average family of four, cost from 48s. to 50s., and probably more, in a London workhouse. Therefore, on the score of actual money, the balance of the advantage is very considerably with Hollesley Bay. The right hon. Gentleman may twist the figures round as much as he pleases, but the fact remains that the maintenance of a man and woman in a workhouse and their children in schools would be very considerably heavier than under the system in vogue at Hollesley Bay. I am willing to admit with regard to workhouses, to relief, and to Hollesley Bay that it is very much like bailing out the ocean with a spoon, but the right hon. Gentleman has not helped us since he has been at the Local Government Board to find any better way of dealing with the matter. We have had to deal with it with the means at our disposal. The right hon. Gentleman gives us workhouses. The right, hon. Gentleman the 842 Member for the Strand Division did at least allow us to experiment and to try different methods. The extraordinary thing is that, although no one has denounced labour colonies more than the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Burns), when he started an able-bodied institution he repeated the Laindon experiment at Belmont and put men on the land just as we have done. He copied a few of our ideas and tried to put them in operation there. Whenever you deal with able-bodied men, the problem is to know what work to find them to do. Hollesley Bay is a huge estate of from 1,200 to 1,300 acres. It has on it a very fine building. We thought we had put in vogue there the modified workhouse test Order without the pauper stigma. We took men, 500 at a time, and maintained their wives and children in London. The wife got 10s., the first child 2s., two more children 1s. 6d. each, and any others 1s. A woman, if she had six children, could never have more than about 17s. per week, and no one will say that is extravagant for people living in London. The idea was not that we were going to make money. It was a very difficult time, a time such as the right hon. Gentleman has never had to face yet. When he does have to face such a time, he will have to do it in a very different spirit from that which he has shown in criticising other people. We had to face the problem at a time when thousands of men in the East End of London were out of work. In discussing the question of what we should do with these men, we wanted, if possible, to secure that they should not go back to London and restart the weary old job of going round the streets looking for work. We had three objects in view: the first was to temporarily relieve some of the men; in the second place, we wished to help those who desired to emigrate; and, in the third place, we wanted to give the incapable men some training In agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman scorned our attempts. He appeared to have an idea that one could not train men from London to do country work. He was mistaken. I myself went out to Australia when I was very much younger than now; I had hardly ever seen a cow, yet I started there milking cows—a very difficult business. Down at Hollesley Bay we had many men who were not born Londoners, but who had only a few years earlier come up from the country. Heaps of these men—it is no use saying there 843 were only seventeen, as the right hon. Gentleman; has done—proved by their work that they were fitted to live on the land. We thought that these men who had proved their competency might have been placed on some other land and been set up as co-operative small holders. But we never received a scrap of support from the right hon. Gentleman or his Department. I know in his heart he never believed in it; although he visited the place once or twice, he never really thought that that was the thing we ought to do. He appeared to think that we ought just to have the men there and let them go back to London and fight their own way out.
It is no argument against the colony to say that it failed in its purpose because we did not get the men settled on the land. We never had an opportunity. The truth is that very large numbers of the men have gone to Canada and are doing well there. There is no earthly reason why, under proper conditions, an Englishman should not get his living in his own country. I do not believe that the last word has been said on the development of agriculture. If we spent a little of the money we now waste on workhouses and on deterrent methods in trying to pick out men who have not lost their love or their knowledge of the country we could do good work for them, while the men who do not want to go back to the land might be used to prepare some of the waste lands in England for the men who are willing to settle on them. I am perfectly certain that that is a sound proposition. I devoted not one month, but thirty or forty months in going to the colony to see how the men worked. Experience is worth any amount of theory, and it is on experience my opinions are founded. I hope the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to reply will deal with the case of the Poor Law children, who are at present inadequately fed and clothed and who are badly used, and I hope he will tell us what he proposes to do to get rid of the frightful overlapping that is taking place in London to-day, and to avoid the fearful waste of public money that is going on.
§ Mr. J. W. HILLS
I also propose to criticise the administration of the Poor Law. I do not think that law has a single friend in this House unless it be the right hon. Gentleman, and I am not so sure that his friendship is so strong as it used to 844 be. The right hon. Gentleman may be a strong supporter of the Poor Law, but I think he is a strong opponent of reform of that Poor Law. It is rather remarkable that when we come to the administration of the right hon. Gentleman we find the most pregnant and useful steps which his Department have taken are in the direction of, although a long way behind, some reform of the Poor Law. For instance, in regard to his treatment of children, I think I shall show that it does not go as far and cannot go as far as we all want to go, and, in fact, that the activities of the right hon. Gentleman are nullified by the very system which he has to administer. Reformers have an idea that you should get children out of mixed workhouses. The Local Government Board itself sent round a circular to boards of guardians impressing upon them the importance of taking children out of mixed workhouses. As far as I can see, boards in some parts of the country are doing their duty in this respect, while in other parts of the country they are not. The right hon. Gentleman's inspectors inform him that in certain cases there are large numbers of children still in the workhouses, and that no step have been taken to get them out. On this point there appears to me to be a need for some unification of the system. You cannot get what you want merely by issuing circulars. I quite believe the right hon. Gentleman is as anxious as I am; I am, in fact, sure that he wants to exclude children from mixed workhouses, which are the worst places in the world for them. But he cannot do it under the present system. I see that, according to his Reports, there are 24,000 children of school age in workhouses and infirmaries. I hope when the right hon. Gentleman comes to answer he will give us figures showing how many of these are in the workhouses. Then I come to the case of the feeble-minded. Here, again, exactly the same thing is happening. Certain unions are segregating the feeble-minded, but, although this question has been talked about for the last thirty or forty years, very little advance indeed has been made in dealing with it, and one of the inspectors of tine Board, in a very pregnant passage in one of his reports, suggested that meetings and speeches were ineffective, and added—You might just as well hold your meetings by gramaphone.Until you have changed the system you cannot really attain an improvement. I hope it is not true that, as the last speaker 845 said, in certain, cases so small a sum as 2s. 6d. a week is paid for the maintenance of children. Really that reminds one of "Oliver Twist." I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that larger sums are paid in similar cases, as, for instance, by the Children's Holiday Funds, which allow 5s. a week per child. Surely, then, it cannot be suggested for one instant that a sum of 2s. 6d. is sufficient! Then I come to the case of the feeding of children. If one looks around I think it will be admitted that enough money is being spent to carry out this work. But the real evil is that it is spent by too many authorities in diverse ways. It has been said there are five separate authorities feeding children in London. There must, consequently, be a very large amount of overlapping. There must be a waste of money, resulting in deserving cases being neglected. When the right hon. Gentleman conies to reply, I hope he will be able to tell us how far he has succeeded in clearing the London workhouses of children. As far as I can understand, the chief evil exists in the smaller country unions, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will follow up his circular by some more stringent form of order to the smaller unions to compel them to deal properly with the children. It is now three years since the Poor Law Commission reported, and the system has been universally condemned. The Majority Report condemned it; the Minority Report condemned it. Mr. Booth's Report condemned it, as did also the excellent report published last year by the County Councils Association. Surely it is time something was done. It is not quite sufficient to keep reform of the Poor Law for liberal perorations. This is a social reform which cries put for something to be done. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not content himself to-night with defending his administration. We all enjoy listening to his speeches; we all enjoy the very drastic way in which he deals with criticisms, but we think that something more than defence is required. We think he should hold out some hope; that he should tell us the Government are intending to introduce legislation on this matter. We want to know what is the nature of that legislation. My friends and I are quite willing to undertake the job If the right hon. Gentleman will not. We have already prepared a scheme which it is hoped this House some day will have an opportunity of considering, so he had better take time by the forelock and see 846 that his efforts are not forestalled by another party.
§ Mr. CROOKS
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman when he gets up to reply just to dismiss himself as at were from the office argument, to detach himself from his office, and to endeavour to meet one or two of the proposals which have been made. He is in a dreadfully unfortunate position. If he carries his mind back to when he was first appointed to the office, he will remember that I was the first man to sympathise with him. I said, "You have got the biggest job in the Cabinet." He said: "That is why they have given it to me." I hope the House will forgive me for saying that I know very much more of the Poor Law in its application than most men. I have been associated with it from my earliest infancy, and I suppose, unless I have good luck, I shall wind up with it. It has been charged against me more than once that I attempted to make things too comfortable. I have only one answer; it is every man's duty to look after his future and to make it as comfortable as he can. The Poor Law administration and Poor Law reform are not the platform of any one party. I have frequently had to make grateful acknowledgment to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) and to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Walter Long) for the efforts they made to master the office over which they were supposed to have control. After all they were only the Parliamentary mouthpieces, and they had to do nothing except defend the office here. The Order made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon was a great and humane Order, and it will never be beaten. It was an order that reflected the greatest credit on any statesman in our time. No man has even issued such an Order. It was to the effect that where the guardians found it necesasry to give relief that that relief should be adequate. The right hon. Gentleman was rebuked for making that Order. What was the rebuke? That it would make paupers. Mark his reply. "Our Department never makes paupers, its duty is to relieve poverty." That is the whole point, and it is a point which is missed from time to time.
My memory goes back to within the last twenty years, when efficient and proper administration was considered satisfied so long as you could keep your people quiet: If you look at the records of the first prosecutions in the police courts for 847 rebellious conduct you will find that the magistrates would read a little homily to the rebellious pauper as to his duty towards the citizens and towards the country which was keeping him in idleness and luxury. God help the luxury! I have seen old men and old women wearing garments till they fell off their backs. I have seen old women take their petticoats and put them round the old men's shoulders while they washed their flannels, and there was never a word from the auditor or inspector, who would say, "This is an efficiently administered institution," and they would commend it for its efficiency of administration. It is said there are wicked and glaring extravagances taking place under the new regime. Heaven help us when the people get power. There used to be boards of guardians who thought it right to send workhouse children out to work when they were eight or nine years of age. On one occasion I heard a, man from the country exclaim, "It is no part of your duty to endeavour to educate these children. Your duty is to teach them how to get their daily bread." In 1898 a man said, "The law is that you may not send these children to work before they are eight, and therefore it supposes you may send them to work after they are eight." Imagine what has happened since. There has been no alteration in the law, but there has been a wonderful alteration in the administration of the law. If we keep to that we shall get an improvement.
As to this new Poor Law Order there are some good points in it. One is reminded of the curate's egg; it was only good in parts. We want to deal with the poverty of the land. How do you deal with it? When your Charity Organisation Society examines applicants do you inquire into the ancestors of the poor creatures who come to seek relief? Do you ask if their grandfather had ever been guilty of poaching a rabbit and, if so, say that they are totally unfit to receive any charity whatever because their character will not bear the strictest investigation? I carry my mind back to 1861, when I myself walked into a board room at my mother's skirts, and I remember how I was pointed at, a mere lad of under nine, as one who was able to get his own living. They asked me what I was doing, and when the reply was made that I was earning 6d. a week and doing something towards my own maintenance, the chairman, looked 848 benevolently at me and said, "Time, too." A minute or two afterwards we were turned out, and after my mother had returned into that board room she came back with big tears rolling down her cheeks. Why? Because she was not a good woman? Because my father was not a good man? No; it was because we were poor that we were abused by the chairman and ordered into the workhouse. It is no wonder that a man like myself hates a system that treats little children so. Happily for us we have said we will refuse to listen to a woman applicant who brings her children with her. We say we will consider your case another time; keep your children away from the associations of the Poor Law. The chairman, even in these days, will read a little homily to a woman who comes for relief and who prays that they may help her to keep her children outside the workhouse. Even 2s. 6d. a week would be a perfect Godsend to her. Yet when you look up another Local Government Board Order you find that it is not desirable to relieve able-bodied women outside the workhouse. It is desirable that a woman should be left with two children so that she may keep herself. Who wants a woman with two children with her? We talk to her about morality; we talk of religion to her, and of the danger of an unknown hell if she does not behave herself. I believe it has no terrors for her. That unknown hell does not keep her straight; it is this awful earth that is her worry and bother. It is because we know that that we try to help those people.
The Local Government Board, by issuing these Orders, only saves up trouble for the future. Go anywhere in the country, and you will find an abnormal number of young men and young women broken down, consumptive, rickety, worn-out, useless and almost helpless. Who are they? They are the children who have been neglected when they might have been helped. You say, once a pauper always a pauper. Of course, if you keep them in to serve a hard time, what do you expect? At the time when they might be useful to the community they are broken up. We are told an able-bodied man may be relieved under the conditions the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has been telling us about. You have the sudden and urgent necessity Order. I have a case in mind of a man who had actually in relief six weeks in succession sums amounting to no less than £2 10s. 849 The auditor said that was illegal, and that, there was no right to give a man relief for six weeks. We said we did not give him much at a time, but he said that the Order was perfectly clear, and that we could only assist in the case of urgent and sudden necessity, and that the man could not have been suddenly in want if he kept on for six weeks. We said that if a man was hungry he would not get hungry suddenly, and that it would come on gradually. If he were hungry it would be urgent, but it could not be sudden and urgent, and the auditor looked at us as if we were unfolding a new revolution. This very Order is in the book to-day. The House has discussed many times the desirability of having people who understand the administration of the Poor Law from the poor man's standpoint. When you are waiting for people to starve before they can get relief, remember what you have done. It must be a case of absolute destitution before a man can be relieved, and if he is not a destitute person he cannot be relieved. I remember perfectly well a family who had applied for outdoor relief. There was a widow with five children. I believe I could turn up the relieving officer's report, which says that this family was apparently well nourished, and that they had had adequate food. He went into the house and found the woman was cooking a cod's head and shoulders. Not a bad feed for a woman and children on a winter's day! What they call adequate for somebody else would be starvation for themselves.
I want to say something as harshly as I can. A man is out of work, he sees his little home slipping from him, and he goes down to the guardians and practically says to them: "Will you help me? I may get work in a week or two—it may be more. I know a Member of Parliament, or I know a county councillor, and I may get work soon." They say, "We cannot help you." He knocks at the door—it may be of any Member of this House, and says, "Can you give me a job, Sir? I know you will if you can, Sir. I am very anxious to get work." You reply, in your kindest tone, "I do not know of anything; I wish I did." In a month's time he comes again, and says, "Have you heard of a job for me, Sir?" You reply, "No, I have not." No, of course you have not. You are a Member of Parliament, or you are a county councillor. You are one of those important persons who say, "Vote for me, and you will have rest all your life." You meet him in November, and you ask him, "Have 850 you heard of a job?" He says, "No; don't want one." You ask, "Have you given up looking for it?" and he says "Yes." Let the House remember what it has done by its sheer neglect of the powers that be. You have robbed that man of the only asset he was to the nation—you have robbed him of his manhood. The right hon. Gentleman, when he set up the Unemployed Committees, wanted to save a man before he was down. The Poor Law says he must be down first before you can help him. You have made him go and beg for bread for his little children from people who are unworthy to unlace his shoestrings, and you have broken his heart, and then you call him a wastrel and a ne'er-do-well who would not work if it were offered to him. But there was a time when he was a willing worker. If the original idea of the Unemployed Act had been carried out, it would have saved thousands of homes. We could have saved a man before he got low down. The administration of the Act even to this day is to take the man who is worse off and to lift up the man who has been down. My idea would be to save the man from getting down there. That would be a new reading of the Poor Law and of the whole system of Poor Law administration. The Local Government Board deals with human beings. Every other Department can make mistakes, and they can be remedied, but here you are dealing with human life, and a mistake cannot be remedied. You cannot get back again under any circumstances.
I should like to see this House give itself up entirely, for a month or six weeks, to discuss all the intricacies of the present administration of the Poor Law as it stands. The wicked part of it is that we get up and state our case and find fault with the right hon. Gentleman and his Administration; we devote ourselves to criticising him, and he gets up and punches us back again, but the poor get no better off. We are living, happily for us, in a period: when everybody wants to help the child and everybody wants to do something. Then do not be pushed off by your officials and say you are going to create paupers by doing a bit better. The right hon. Gentleman could not ask the House for too much to help the children of the nation. We live in a period when we say the children of to-day are the administrators and governors of a great Empire to-morrow. It is for us to fit them out. We are told that one never hears nowaday of families being reared at the ratepayers' expense. My reply to that is they knew what they were 851 getting for their money. "Be content with the position in which it has pleased someone or other to place you." Our reply, and the reply of the right hon. Gentleman to that is, that it does not lie in the mouth of anyone inside or outside the House to say what the position of a workman's son or daughter is. If they do not get their fair chance of any position which they are capable of filling, it is our fault. I feel pretty keen about this whole business; I feel that the Department, instead of being ornamental and critical, might be useful. Do not interfere with the responsibility of the guardians. If they go wrong and spend too much money, put them on their trial, like you did me, and send those who go wrong to prison. We do not want to stop anyone. But when it comes to surcharging the master of a workhouse because he puts currants into the old people's bread it is carrying it a bit too far. There are many useful things they could do; and I hope some day, and I hope I may live to see the day, the House will thoroughly overhaul the administration of the Poor Law from top to bottom, and that, like Oliver Twist, it will be a memory.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I am very glad this question has been raised. I am the last person in the world to advocate indiscriminate out-relief, but I protest most strongly against the view that a policy of restriction either maintains the economic independence of people or elevates their moral character. I know the right hon. Gentleman considers that the Report of the Poor Law Commission is obsolete—he said so a year ago—but still it is a storehouse of useful facts for hon. Members who wish to bring forward arguments against a reactionary policy. The hon. Member (Mr. Jowett) has quoted the investigations of a lady inspector who investigated forty-nine cases of persons in receipt of out-relief, and it is a very remarkable fact that she found that in half of the cases which were refused the homes were broken up. If, as regards out-relief, we are faced with the alternative of restriction or indiscriminate relief, I consider it time we reformed our policy generally. With regard to the deplorably inadequate relief given to widows and children, the right hon. Gentleman, I believe, has issued two or three circulars, but hitherto without any striking results. In fact, we have the Hammersmith Board of Guardians confessing openly that the 852 relief which they give to the children is seldom or never adequate. I believe the attitude of the Hammersmith Board of Guardians is typical of a great many, especially in rural areas. I know of a village in Nottinghamshire where the Board of Guardians were in the habit of offering 2s. 6d. to a widow and 1s. for each child. That means that although most people would agree with Sir George Newman, when he said in his annual report this year that a very small increase in the well being and the health of the children leads to a very large increase in the well being and wage earning power of the great mass of the people, yet Boards of Guardians live in a little world of their own. They still go on manufacturing paupers, and if there is one thing more certain than another it is that the ill-fed child is the dull backward child at school, and the dull backward child at school develops into the casual unemployable person in after life.
We hear a great deal nowadays about equality of opportunity. It is a catch phrase of hon. Members opposite. But what equality of opportunity is there for the child whose parents are so poor that they have to take him away from school at the tender age of thirteen? I am a member of a Juvenile Advisory Committee, and our greatest difficulty is with the children of fourteen years of age, for whom we cannot find employment. There is a great number of them, and they are knocking about the streets doing nothing and deteriorating fast. What makes the problem more difficult is that the education authorities are perpetually feeding this school of unemployment by allowing children to leave school at the age of thirteen. The thirteen year old children are depriving the fourteen year old children of their employment, and when we protest against this system the education authorities say, "What can we do? A widow comes to us and says, 'I am starving myself. For goodness sake allow my boy away from school so that he may bring 2s. into the house?'" I really do not know what answer there is to that question. I do not know what the education authority ought to do, but a system and a policy which denies to the children and the widow this very minimum of education, and which only offers her the alternative of working herself to the bone and starving her children or else figuring in the annual statistics of the Poor Law, is a system which is no longer fitting for a Christian and a civilised country. There is nobody more 853 ready than myself to admit how much the President has already done, but he cannot conceal from himself that he has not really touched the heart of the question yet. We have still got a mixed workhouse, where children and deserving old people are still crowded with the vicious the idle, and the loafers. You have loafers and cadgers and immoral women drifting in and out of the workhouse, and you have still an infantile death rate in the workhouse which is twice as high as any slum. You have still got scandalous waste and overlapping in the medical service—two authorities both working on different principles. I feel that the conscience of the country is thoroughly aroused on this matter and that it is looking to the Government for prompt action. We are told that the Parliament Act has cleared the ground for Liberal legislation, but unfortunately there is a great gap between what the Liberal party want in this matter and what the country wants, and while Liberal legislation is being attended to the interests of the poor are being neglected. I protest against this attitude of helplessness in the matter. Personally, I cannot help thinking that a little sympathy, a little intelligent action, and a little understanding would do a vast amount to drain away this morass of poverty and misery which exists in the country. If the Government are not prepared to deal with it, it is high time they stepped aside and allowed others to do so.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Lord ALEXANDER THYNNE
I feel at a certain disadvantage in offering any criticism on the administration of the Local Government Board, because during the past year the administration of the right hon. Gentleman offers such a very small target for criticism. In so far as the Poor Law of this country is concerned, he has covered such a very narrow portion of the very wide field that it is difficult for us on this side of the House to find sufficient material for criticism. But when we come to what I may term his sins of omission we have an almost unlimited field. It is about three years since the Poor Law Commission reported. I cannot altogether agree with one of my hon. Friends who referred to the Report of that Commission as obsolete and as merely a storehouse of useful facts from which hon. Members could draw. This question has been recognised as urgent for the last six years, ever since that Commission was first appointed. The present Government have been in power now for 854 over six years, and they have shown no inclination at all to deal with this question. I do not think I shall be going too far in saying that if they remain in power another two years, they will still maintain this amazing policy of in action with regard to one of the most urgent problems of the day. What has been the line taken by the right hon. Gentleman whenever we have asked him what action he is going to take on Poor Law reform? First of all, we were told that a very able, and influential Royal Commission had been appointed to inquire into this matter, and that we must wait for their Report. That Report has been presented, and now we are told that certain measures passed by this House—the Old Age Pensions Act and the National Insurance Act—are going to achieve indirectly, if not directly, certain objects which the Royal Commission had in view. We are told that these enactments are going to simplify the problem with which the right hon. Gentleman's Department has got to deal. I venture to suggest that, although undoubtedly both of these measures may do something to relieve the problem which he is called upon to tackle, what they will do is of such a very small extent that the problem of Poor Law reform is as urgent to-day as before the passing of these Acts.
The Old Age Pensions Act undoubtedly simplified the problem with regard to the aged over seventy, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to acknowledge that what I may term industrial old ago often occurs before the age of seventy, and that you have got a very large class—I put the case as moderately as I can—between sixty-five and seventy who receive no benefit from this Act, and who must in the ordinary process come within the sphere of the operations of this Department. The right hon. Gentleman would have us wait also to see the effect of this National Insurance Act before embarking on Poor Law reform. I would point out that under that Act there is a large gap which it fails to cover and which must come under the operations of the Local Government Board. The Act was passed to deal with those normally healthy and normally in employment. There are large categories I need not enumerate here—those who are broken in health, the casual labourers, the chronically unemployed, the mentally deficient, and, still more important, there is that class of persons it is customary to term the non-combatants in the 855 industrial strife—women and children, who do not come under the operations of the National Insurance Act at all, or if they do, they only come under it to a very inadequate extent. There are all those classes which will come under the operations of the right hon. Gentleman's Department. I might also mention the case even of those who are fully insured under the Insurance Act and who in case of sickness or serious illness will get the full allowance of 10s. They have to find not only rent and fuel, but also the means of subsistence for a wife and perhaps three or four children. I do not think we can regard that class as altogether immune from all possible contact with the Poor Law, especially when a very large proportion of that class have been unable to protect themselves by other resources or by extra benefits under the National Insurance Act. I submit that the whole of that class, as well as that very large class called deposit contributors, estimated by the Government actuaries as 882,000, but which experts believe will number more nearly 2,000,000, which constitute in the main bad lives, or, if not bad lives, people in bad employment—these people will, in spite of any hopes we may form with respect to the effect of the Insurance Act, most undoubtedly come under the operations of the guardians.
I think, therefore, we are justified in saying that the right hon. Gentleman must abandon this policy of continually asking the House to wait, to put off, to procrastinate in these questions until we see the effect of this or that reform, or this or that Act of Parliament. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is at present endeavouring to grapple with a portion of this question by means of Departmental Orders. I dislike this system of legislating by means of Departmental Orders. In the first place, it is wholly impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to deal with the most serious aspects of this problem by means of Orders issued by his Department. The net effect of all these Orders issued since the right hon. Gentleman has been in power has been to bolster up and prolong the life of a system which on all sides of the House hon. Members regard as an absolutely rotten and condemned system. Another feature of the work of the Local Government Board is one that probably commends itself most to the right hon. Gentleman. I regard this system of Departmental Orders as 856 used by the Local Government Board at present as one of the worst symptoms of bureaucratic government. We do not see why these matters should be dealt with on the initiative of Ministers, however energetic and however able.
Reference has already been made by previous speakers to the subject of Poor Law children. I do feel that that question is probably the most important that comes under the whole group requiring to be dealt with in connection with Poor Law reform. I think sometimes those who speak on the subject of the Poor Law make the mistake of concentrating their attention too much upon the failures and the foibles of the present generation, and do not pay sufficient attention to what is probably the smaller and simpler problem of seeing that the rising generation of young children who come under the Poor Law are given an adequate start in life and are brought up removed from the very contaminating associations which at present surround our Poor Law institutions, so that they may not fall among the unfit of future generations. There is one thing we should like the right hon. Gentleman to do. There are at present 254,000 who come within the sphere of the Poor Law. We on this side of the House would like to see the whole of these removed altogether from any association with the board of guardians, and from any control by the Local Government Board. I think it is logical that you should have but one authority in this country to deal with the question of the children. I do not wish to confine my illustration to the county of London. You have in every county and every great city at the present moment a body of experts in child management and education, and I submit it is only common sense and prudence that we should hand over to the control of the local education authorities those children who are being dealt with by the guardians under the Poor Law. Of the 254,000 there are 71,000 who are living in Poor Law institutions of one sort or another, some of them under the control and supervision of the Local Government Board, some under the control of the Home Office, and others under the control of the Board of Education.
We have at present a system which is not only chaotic, but most unsatisfactory in its results. There are 167,000 children receiving outdoor relief. If the local education authorities are sufficiently skilled to deal with children who are not paupers in this country, I submit they are still more fit to deal with this particular class of 857 children. I would call the attention of the House to the amount of over-lapping and confusion which prevail under the existing system. Under one set of Acts you have children beingfed, medically examined, and medically treated by the local education authorities, and at the same time under another set of Acts you have these very same children being relieved by the Poor Law. It is incredible at this time of day that we should have in the administration of this country a system so involved and unsatisfactory. There is one particular class of children, I am sorry to say, the right hon. Gentleman has never turned his attention to at all. I mean the childen who are known as "ins" and "outs." I submit that the time has arrived—I do not think any Member of this House will quarrel with the view—when we must definitely acknowledge that there are in this country a number of parents who are wholly unfitted and unable to discharge the ordinary duties of parentage. I think the State as represented by the local education authorities—or if the right hon. Gentleman would prefer it, by some other authority—should have no hesitation at all in removing those children from their present unsatisfactory surroundings, and in assuming the duties of the parents, provided that the State is able to do so entirely outside the Poor Law system. I think everybody will agree that, bad as are the associations of Poor Law institutions, they are not so bad as the associations of the home in receipt of chronic Poor Law relief.
This question will undoubtedly involve very great expense. I am one of those who have always looked upon this question of Poor Law relief as essentially a national question, and if the right hon. Gentleman adopts the policy which we are now urging him to adopt, he must remember that it is absolutely necessary it should be accompanied by sufficient Grants from the Imperial Exchequer. I will only mention two more points, which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will refer to in the course of his reply. I hope, in the first place, he will be able to give the House an assurance that it is the intention of the Government to deal with the question of the feeble-minded.
The strides which public opinion has made on this subject in the last nine or ten months are very remarkable. Even the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the subject has ripened and is now fit for legislation. Many Members of this House who 858 may disagree on great questions of Imperial and domestic politics, would yet unite in supporting him if he saw his way to introduce a satisfactory measure dealing with this urgent problem. There is one other question on which, I hope, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to hold out the hope of some active measures in the near future, and that is the unification of the medical services in this country. No one in this House has better reason than has the right hon. Gentleman to know how very unsatisfactory is the present system of divided medical service, and what an enormous increase in the efficiency of administration and of the public health services and in other directions, would result if the Government were able to take some steps towards unifying that service. The time has come when the right hon. Gentleman must do something more than make speeches on this subject. We on this side of the House have got a great admiration of the right hon. Gentleman's ability, his energy, and the vehemence of his diction; but this has gone on now for the past six years, and we are not prepared—and I think there are Members on the other side of the House who are with us on this—to see the scandal continue. If the right hon. Gentleman and the present Government are not prepared to deal with what we are agreed is a most urgent problem of social reform at the present moment, then the time has come when they should make way for somebody who will. I appeal to those Members below the Gangway opposite who have been applauding those sentiments from various Members on this side of the House this afternoon to remember that the power of ensuring such a change lies very largely in their hands.
§ Sir JOHN SPEAR
As a guardian of twenty-five years' experience, I am much indebted to the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Jowett) and to the two hon. Members who followed him from below the Gangway for their speeches on this question. While no person can deny that a great improvement has taken place in the administration of the Poor Law during the last ten or fifteen years, we feel that there is still further room for improvement. The Noble Lord who has just sat down mentioned that more liberal out-relief should be given to women and children than is at present obtainable. I know that a great improvement has taken place and that much more outdoor relief is given than was the case some years ago. The hon. 859 Member for Bradford pointed to the fact that in Bradford the cost of the Poor Law has nearly doubled. That in itself is a proof of the great improvement that has taken place and the much better treatment of the poor, both indoor and out, in recent years, and it is a statement that I think can be used fairly in defence of the administration of Poor Law by boards of guardians; but while hon. Members below the Gangway have done a service in introducing this question, in my opinion the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has rendered still greater service to the community by the wise co-operation he has shown in recent years with boards of guardians, whereby he has done much to give effect already to some of the best recommendations of the Poor Law Commission. We are indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for his co-operation with boards of guardians in establishing an improved system of administration of the Poor Law. Especially is that the case with reference to the children. The right hon. Gentleman has been consistent in his appeals to boards of guardians to remove children cither into separate scattered homes or to place them in institutions where they can be boarded out. I feel confident that while the Noble Lord has complained that no steps have been taken to give effect to the Report of the Commission, the right hon. Gentleman is giving effect to the best part of that Report through the boards of guardians as at present constituted.
I may perhaps be differing from my hon. Friend around me, but I think that it would be bad for the poor and bad for the public if the administration of the Poor Law were taken out of the hands of boards of guardians and placed in the hands of county and borough councils. Those bodies are already overwhelmed with work. I am a member of the Devon County Council, who do not mind work, but we have as much as we can do properly at present, and if the administration of the Poor Law is transferred to the county councils I feel sure that it will drift into the administration of the Poor Law by paid officials rather than by members of the boards of guardians who are elected by the people themselves for the administration of the Poor Law in their districts. We know from experience, at least in the rural districts, that guardians do their utmost to administer the law conscientiously. I have been a member of a 860 county council, a member of a board of guardians, and a member of Parliament, and if I were to point to the one body that has acted most conscientiously I should point to the boards of guardians. Until the policy of the right hon. Gentleman be further developed, of co-operation with boards of guardians in utilising the present machinery to give effect to improvements which we all wish to see, and also in promoting the welfare of the poor, has proved a failure, I should not be prepared to support any drastic legislation, scrapping the guardians and putting the work on bodies such as county councils, who are already overworked. I would, however, ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can do something to deal with the question of vagrants, who are in rural districts the greatest trouble we have had in the administration of the Poor Law. We have tried almost every remedy. We have tried separate apartments, and that encourages them rather than otherwise. The week before last, in a small union, we had eighty vagrants to be dealt with. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is somewhat suspicious of labour colonies, but I do think that this great evil has to be dealt with. There is a limited number of these men who, through misfortune and no fault of their own, have got down and there is no chance of their getting up. I have great sympathy with those men. We ought to deal on generous terms with men who are looking for work. But four-fifths of the vagrants, from my experience, are men looking for work hoping they will never find it.
I cannot help thinking that those men ought to be made to work. Those who are really looking for work, but who through misfortune have got down would be glad of the opportunity to go to a labour, colony where they would be fairly remunerated, and thereby recover their health and strength, so that they could go, out of these colonies fit to fulfil their duty as citizens. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he cannot do something towards the establishment, at least, of experimental labour colonies, to which the vagrants may go, where they would be well fed and do some work, and where those who are recoverable would get an opportunity of recovering, while those who will not work would have to do some work to secure their maintenance. I also hope that something will be done very soon to deal with the case of the feeble-minded. In Devonshire and the 861 western counties we are moving on the voluntary principle, and combining to provide an institution for the feebleminded of these counties. But this is a national concern. We know very well that as regards some of these people it would be cruelty to put them into a lunatic asylum. They have sufficient intelligence to be distressed at their surroundings, and we think that they should be put into institutions of a different character, with a prospect and hope of recovering their health mentally and physically, and becoming useful members of society. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give his very able attention to the question of vagrancy. There should be uniformity of treatment. Some unions keep their vagrants over Sunday. Others have no accommodation, and they are going over the district and causing great annoyance to the cottagers by the roadside, who often subscribe to give food to them, partly from fear and partly from philanthropy. It is because it is a serious matter I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will hold out some hope of providing a State remedy for this evil, and that with respect to this and the care of the feeble-minded, in whom I am sure he is deeply interested, and for whom he is doing all he possibly can we shall have action on the part of the Government.
§ Mr. THOMAS RICHARDSON
I think that each succeeding discussion which takes place in this House on the subject of Poor Law administration emphasises the importance of the subject and the urgency of constructive legislation to deal with this very complex question. I wish to associate myself with the sentiments of the Noble Lord opposite who, when he made his appeal to the President of the Local Government Board, suggested that we were entitled to expect something more definite in the way of constructive reform than had been attempted even by the present administration in that particular Department. Most students who have given thought, attention, and consideration to this question are agreed that our present system is wasteful and is not productive of the best results to the unfortunate poor of this country. As a general proposition, I submit that that has been accepted by exponents of all schools of thought. But, notwithstanding the unanimity of opinion on that particular head, we still find ourselves, several years after the issuing of the important recommenda- 862 tions in the Report on Poor Law administration, with no reasonable hope of a fundamental change being attempted by the Government to deal with this important and very complex question.
I sincerely hope that the President of the Local Government Board in his reply will be able to give to the House some reasonable ground for our trusting that in the very near future he, on behalf of the Government, will turn himself with thoroughness to the reform of our Poor Law administration and our present Poor Law system. The hon. Member who preceded me was very generous in his commendation of the President of the Local Government Board, when speaking in the name of the guardians of this country, of the co-operation which the right hon. Gentleman had given to the guardians in trying to administer our present Poor Law system. I am bound to admit that I cannot join so enthusiastically as the hon. Gentleman in that word of commendation. I have substantial grounds for knowing that there is a strong volume of belief amongst members of boards of guardians, that there is a well-directed effort on the part of the Local Government Board to reduce, not only the number of recipients of Poor Law relief, but the amount of money expended in that particular direction. We on these benches are certainly in favour of a wise expenditure, of public money at all times. I anticipate that, in his reply, the right hon. Gentleman will, as heretofore, give us a mass of figures to demonstrate that the condition of the poor of this country is improved, but I respectfully suggest, even when he is able to state that the number of recipients of Poor Law relief and the amount of money expended in Poor Law relief have been reduced, that that of itself is not conclusive evidence that we have had wise administration in that Department of our; public life. I have been a member of a board of guardians for seventeen years, and I know that the board of guardians of which I was a member has been much harassed because of the pressure put upon them by the Local Government Boards and because of the Department's insistence upon the destitution principle being applied in all cases.
Of my own certain knowledge the insistence on that principle has inflicted great injustice, not only on aged men and women, but even injustice and injury on innocent and helpless children. I am pleased to note the presence on the Front 863 Opposition Bench of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Strand (Mr. Walter Long). I remember, as one of the same board of guardians of which I have spoken, he being head of the Local Government Department; and at that time a circular was issued to boards of guardians suggesting that the very opposite policy should be adopted from that which is now pursued by the Department. In that circular appeal was made to members of boards of guardians, in the case of applicants for relief who by their foresight and industry had made some little provision for themselves, being in receipt perhaps of 3s., 4s., or 5s. a week, that the act of such provision should not be considered as an embargo upon those applicants receiving outdoor relief. At present very rigidly and relentlessly the principle of destitution is being enforced and insisted upon by the Local Government Board. I submit that as a true statement of the policy that is being enforced by the Department. My hon. Friend who introduced this discussion made some reference to what is known in Poor Law administration as the Whitechapel system, and I think the hon. Gentleman suggested—in my judgment correctly—that the alternative is often the workhouse. I think those Members who heard my hon. Friend the Member for West Bradford (Mr. Jowett) will agree he proved conclusively that from the standpoint of cost it was infinitely more expensive to maintain the unfortunate poor inside a workhouse than it is to give them some reasonable assistance in the way of outdoor relief.
I recollect an experience I had some time ago, when meeting a representative of the Local Government Board and discussing with him at very close quarters the whole question of this new policy of the Local Government Board. I endeavoured, in conjunction with my colleagues on the board of guardians, to urge what we accepted was an elementary fact, acknowledged by all men of experience in Poor Law administration, that it was infinitely cheaper to give honest and deserving people outdoor relief on a reasonable scale than to bring them inside the workhouse. The representative of the Local Government Board to our surprise—and, to my surprise in particular probably—suggested that was just where we were wrong. We asked for an explanation, and, lo and forsooth, the representative of the Depart- 864 ment gave this as his answer to our criticism and objection to the policy that he was defending. He said it was this way: If you have three applicants for relief and you refuse to give them the option of an order for the workhouse, certainly not more than two of the three would be willing to accept an admission order into the house. I submit to the House that such a policy is not just, and if it represents the mind and will of the head of the Department, it is one that ought to be resented, or, if it does not express his mind and will, I hope as a result of the discussion to-day he will take effective steps to put an end to that policy. We all endeavour to reduce expenditure under our Poor Law administration, yet, even with every honest endeavour to reduce the cost, I do hope that the period of transition will lead to a new order of things and that the Government of the day will tackle this question in a thorough and a fundamental manner, so that the interests, the well-being, the comfort, and the happiness of the unfortunate poor will not be sacrificed to a desire to reduce the number of recipients of Poor Law relief.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I should like to say how I entirely agree with those hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who have expressed their regret in very strong terms at the fact that this is probably the only opportunity that we shall have of discussing on the floor of the House one of the questions which are not only most important, but which come more closely home to the lives of the people than any other. Hon. Members opposite have spoken strongly. I hope when the opportunity occurs, as I have no doubt it will before very long, they will follow up their words by deeds. They have expressed their regret that the time of this House should not be given up to work of this kind. I think it is thoroughly to be deplored, it is a tragedy and nothing less, that this House should be called upon, Session after Session, to devote itself to every sort of destructive measure and not be allowed to consider and deal with constructive measures affecting the lives and the comfort of the people. That is the unfortunate consequence which follows when hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite hand themselves over to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway. I am bound to say that such observation as I have been able to 865 give to the matter leads me to the conclusion that they generally content themselves with vehement speeches which do not produce very much, and speeches without action are not very effective. The President of the Local Government Board has spoken of the rather unkindly terms used by some of his most faithful supporters, but I do not think he will feel very distressed at their language when he knows that it will be only words and nothing will result. The hon. Gentleman who preceded me made a very admirable speech, and he appealed to the President of the Local Government Board in regard to this very difficult and very old question of outdoor relief.
There is nobody who believes more strongly than I in principle, that the Poor Law in the main must be regarded as a law not intended merely for the relief of people who are in distress, but as a law which imposes on the rest of the community, including the poor amongst them, the obligation of paying for the relief which is given to others. That being so, the utmost care must be exercised in order to prevent this relief from being given indiscriminately or improperly. But, with that reserve, I have always felt, ever since I first went to the Local Government Board—now, I am afraid, more years ago than I care to think about—that the real problem of the administration of the Poor Law is its distinction between the relief of those who have fallen into the abyss, and the help given to those who, if we assist them in the struggle by timely aid, will be prevented from falling into that abyss. One of my hon. Friends on this side of the House spoke about the manufacture of paupers, and the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) spoke only the truth—and there was no exaggeration in his statement—when he referred to the condition of things at the time I was responsible for the Act of Parliament to which reference has been made. He described it as being very different from anything existing at the present moment, and very different from anything which I believe the President of the Local Government Board has dealt with during his tenure of office. I know, when the President of the Local Government Board replies that he will tell us with his great power of forcible eloquence, that everything is for the best in this best of all worlds, and that if there is anything wrong if we leave it to him he will put it right. The House of Commons when I was at the 866 Local Government Board was not quite so prepared to give those powers to me, and I am not sure that if they had that I would have been quite so confident that I would have been able to restore order out of chaos. Notwithstanding those assurances, which no doubt we shall in good time get, I do honestly think the time has come when we want something more than promises and something more than long strings of figures telling us that things are really very much better than we think and that a great deal has been done.
Before I come to the question of the Unemployed Act, let me say a word or two about the question of the children. For a quarter of a century the Local Government Board has been pursuing a policy of trying to get the children out of the workhouse premises and schools. I am not quite sure whether the suggestion made by my Noble Friend the Member for Bath (Lord A. Thynne) in his most excellent speech is one of which the House ought to approve, and it is that the children should be wholly transferred from the boards of guardians to the local education committees and the Education Department. At all events, before I could subscribe to that recommendation, I should like to be able to discuss it at greater length in this House. There is something no doubt to be said for it, but there is a great deal to be said against it. Substitute the local education authorities, if you like, in the place of the boards of guardians. Anything you can do to remove the taint of pauperism, even in the faintest degree, from the children ought to be done, and if it be felt that if to allow control by the boards of guardians over them will be to bring in some measure pauperism into their surroundings, then by all means make the change. But I would ask the House to hesitate before it commits itself to the consequential suggestion that the over-control should be vested in the Board of Education, and not the Local Government Board. I would remind my Noble Friend that the Local Government Board does not exist merely for the control and supervision of Poor Law administration in this country. It is a great central Department which is concerned with our home Government in all our branches. A great deal of what was done in my own recollection as a Member of this House by the Home Office is now in the hands of the Local Government Board, which is the great Department for domestic concerns and local government of all kinds. I believe it will be found that in the Local Government Board 867 there is a staff, and there are members of that staff who are more competent to exercise supervision over the work of the local authorities of this particular matter than anybody you could find in the Board of Education. Therefore I would rather not see that change made, at all events until we had a great deal more opportunity for discusing it in all its bearings than we have had up to the present.
I come to the great question which is engaging the attention of this House and of everybody interested in the Poor Law question—namely, as to what you can do in order to prevent the inadvertent manufacture of pauperism. Nobody desires to manufacture pauperism, and nobody does it intentionally, but undoubtedly a very rigid system must to some extent have that effect. You have, say, a period of unemployment. The House knows perfectly well that it is not in the first year of bad times that a pauper is manufactured, as we have been told by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks). Both of those hon. Members have long experience on this question, and have studied it very closely, and I recognise the advantage this House derives from the practical and personal experience which they have had in dealing with the question. They have told us to-day that this process of manufacturing pauperism is a very slow one, and that it is not very often in the first year, or, indeed, seldom or ever, but is met with usually in the second or third year. Cannot something be done to prevent paupers being created out of material which was never intended for the creation of pauperism? We have the man who was described by the hon. Member for Woolwich who goes about seeking work knowing in his heart that if he does not get it soon the last thing that binds him to his fellow men—namely, his home and the small contents of his home in the shape of furniture—will go. What happens to that man when the last shred of his goods has had to be disposed of to the pawnbroker in order to buy bread for his children? The man becomes wholly changed in his nature. He loses his self-respect. He not only ceases from physical weakness to be any longer able to contribute to the production of his country, but he ceases to have any self-respect, and becomes hopeless and degraded. From that time onwards he is ten times more difficult, and, in some cases, impossible, to lift out of the sloth, out of the morass into which he has fallen. Surely 868 it is our business to help him during all those years and to try and find some methods by which to arrest this deplorable fall among those human beings.
It was in the hope that something of that kind might be done that I, as a Member of the Government at that time, carried through the House the Bill for the setting up of an unemployed authority. I did not think it would do, and I never thought it would do, to let the guardians administer relief indiscriminately in one case with the inevitable consequences of pauperism, and, in the other case, let them administer it as a temporary matter which would carry with it noticeability. I think that is a confusion of adminstration and authority which it would be very undesirable to set up. But we thought, and we think still, that you ought to have a body to be able to take those men by the hand and prevent them slipping down the incline, and a body which also would be able to make experiments. It is in that part of the work I am afraid that the President of the Local Government Board has rather checked the work of the Unemployed Body. I do not think the President of the Local Government Board will contest the truth of what I say when I state that I am afraid it is true that he has never looked very sympathetically upon that particular Act of Parliament or the work done under it. I remember that when we were passing it through this House the right hon. Gentleman spoke in the strongest terms of criticism of our measure. I think he went so far as to say that he did not believe a measure of the kind would ever succeed. I do not think I am quoting him incorrectly. The right hon. Gentleman is a great authority on this question. He has now had six years of the Local Government Board, with its many consequential advantages. I do not care how long a man's experience has been either in office or in practical administration of these laws, or how close a student he has been of this question, when you have the views put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway, and when you have the views put forward by the most rigid believer in what is called by them the Local Government Board system, and when you have the views put forward by eminent gentlemen with great experience of this question, like Sir William Chance and Mr. Loch, or by members of the Charity Organisation Society, many of which conflict yet not one of them ought to claim, and I 869 do not think would claim, to be accepted as an authority against whose dicta there is not a great deal to be said from the opposite point of view.
What we really want is some experience gained by the kind of experiments which were made by the Unemployed Committee. I am sorry if there has been any arrest, as I learn there has been, of the work done by those committees, because I believe until we have that practical experience, until we learn whether we can give that temporary assistance which keeps a man self-supporting and enables him to go to work, and prevents him being manufactured into a pauper, and whether we can, as the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley believes, take some of those who have become paupers and hopeless paupers, and by a system of careful training bring them back to a condition in which they would become self-supporting, you may believe those things to be possible, as I do, or you may believe them to be impossible, as some of our critics do, but you have no right to lay down a decision one way or the other until you have made experiments over a series of years so that you may see what really can be done. It is because that experimental work has been checked that I regret the want of sympathy on the part of the President of the Local Government Board. I do not blame him, because if he does not believe in the method or policy which is represented by the Unemployed Act, he is quite right to adopt other measures, but I am quite certain of this, that we shall not have done our duty in this House, and those who send us here will not be satisfied, unless we grapple with this question of the creation of unnecessary pauperism, and do something by an Amendment in our law to enable those who are temporarily distressed to avoid falling into perpetual pauperism and becoming miserable beings, as we find them, either begging in the road or taking some temporary refuge under some form of Poor Law relief.
I am satisfied that this is one of the problems that has to be faced and dealt with. There are others to which my hon. Friends have made reference. I agree with those hon. Gentlemen on this side who have expressed their great regrets that time has not been made to introduce a measure as a result of the inquiry by the Royal Commission on the Poor Law. That Commission produced, as we all know, two Reports and a mass of the most invaluable 870 evidence, and I think a great deal might have been done by this time. There are two important matters, one referred to by my Noble Friend the Member for Bath, namely, that of the feeble-minded; and the second referred to by another hon. Friend, namely, that of vagrancy. Both those matters could have been dealt with. There was a small Departmental Committee appointed by myself, and presided over by Mr. Wharton, a respected Member of this House, and which made an admirable Report on this question of vagrancy, on which the local authorities have done all they could. They have striven in many ways to deal with the question, and I think it is time that the Government should do something to help them in what is a most difficult task, and I think it is time that legislation should be produced. With regard to the feeble-minded, here again I think the local authorities have done their best. They have tried very hard to make the most of the law as it stands now, while at the same time avoiding any undue burden on the people who have to pay. I think that on this question again they want the assistance and the guidance and the action of the Government. I began by saying that I think it is a tragedy that this is practically the only opportunity we have of discussing a question of this kind. But even now the time that we have for a discussion of this sort is wholly inadequate. Those of us who have been in the House during this Debate this afternoon know that during the greater part of the time a mere handful of Members has been present in the House, and yet I think that there is not a subject of greater importance than the reform and administration of the Poor Law and the various Acts of Parliament for which the Local Government Board as supervising authority are responsible. I venture to say there is nothing which more closely concerns the present comfort of the people and their future happiness. Some reference has been made to the question of the children. There has been, great controversy as to the best way of dealing with children in the different kinds of homes, and I am not sure that some of our critics have not arrived at a somewhat hasty conclusion when they condemn the larger homes. I am not going into that discussion now. I will only say that I have visited a great number of these institutions and have been at some pains to 871 ascertain what the boys and girls were like and to trace their history in after life. I do not believe there is much difference to be found between those who were in the smaller and those who were in the larger homes. Get hold of these children, take them out of the workhouse, get them away altogether from workhouse control, and educate them in establishments where they will learn not only book-knowledge but swimming and drill, and get that bodily training which will enable them to go out into the world, not merely as self-supporting citizens, but as among the very best of those with whom they will have to compete. I know that on the other side it may be said that in many cases you are giving these children better opportunities than a hard-working man can give his children. That is perfectly true, and it is in itself a sound criticism. But it cannot be helped. You must do this work; because if you do not, the children will gravitate back into the workhouse. And if you are going to do it, you must do it thoroughly. I agree that there must be as little waste as possible, and no doubt there is some waste in our present system. But I believe the time you spend in criticising the various ways of providing for these children is, like some of the money, wasted. The best thing to do is to unite in getting the children out of the workhouse into schools of one kind or another, so long as they are well conducted. You will by that means do more to deal satisfactorily with the children now and to relieve the pauperism of the future than by any other measures open to you. I thank the House for having listened to me on a somewhat technical subject. I would not have ventured to obtrude my opinion had it not been for the fact that I was for many years at the Local Government Board, first as Secretary and afterwards as President. During all that time I took, since that time I have taken, and as long as I have a seat in this House I shall continue to take, the deepest possible interest in what I regard as one of the most important questions, affecting not only the happiness of our people, but the future of our race.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Burns)
The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Walter Long) has had the great advantage, as it was his distinction, of being my predecessor at the Local Government Board. In 872 that great office he had the opportunity of collecting information and acquiring experience, and he always has the quality of imparting knowledge. But, fairly and frankly, although he had this advantage and distinction and the quality of imparting knowledge, I cannot say that he has delivered a broadside of justifiable criticism at myself, either for omission or for commission in respect to my duties at the Local Government Board. On the contrary, he has surprised me, and I am grateful to him for it, by the mildness of his criticism and the moderation of his suggestions. The only point on which he rose to that standard of fervid eloquence to which the Noble Lord who preceded him (Lord A. Thynne) needlessly refers when others follow his own example, was to disagree with the Noble Lord upon what I thought was the only pertinent suggestion he had introduced into his speech. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Noble Lord only for the purpose of disagreeing with him. The right hon. Gentleman said that he regretted that this was the only opportunity of discussing Poor Law problems. I cannot altogether accept that as true, because if one looks up the number of times Poor Law problems have been referred to, it certainly cannot be said that during my period of office I have had what one would term a rosy time, or that I have been denied criticism opposition, or suggestion. A year never goes by but either on the Estimates, on the Vote on Account, or in some other way the Vote in connection with the Poor Law is frequently challenged, and often at considerable length. But if the right hon. Gentleman says that the House of Commons has been denied the opportunity of deciding these problems by legislation, that is a matter of fact which I perhaps deplore as much as he does; but I do not think that either the right hon. Gentleman or I am to be held responsible for that.
Since, however, this chance of dealing with Poor Law questions by legislation has been denied us, what I was listening for was any suggestion in this direction: in the absence of legislation has the problem of Poor Law relief been dealt with in other ways available to my Department and to myself? With all respect, I must say that when an hon. Member says that little has been attempted and hardly anything done in this direction, and, above all, that what has been done has been an attempt on the part, of the Local Government Board to restrict the extent and the 873 amount of relief, my answer is that the contrary is the case. Much has been done by circular, order, inspection, advice, and in various other ways, to which the guardians have often responded. If proof of that were needed, I have only to cross the floor from one guardian to another, namely, the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Spear), who speaks with great authority upon these questions. He answered the hon. Member on this side when, as a guardian of thirty-five years' experience, he said that there was no evidence that the county councils, who were overworked, wanted to deal with the administration of poor relief. Nor is there any evidence that the county councils and the county borough councils want to supersede the boards of guardians in undertaking that particular task. No one to-day has asked for the creation of a new body. Therefore, as a practical, simple, and energetic man, in the absence of other offers, I have been driven to utilise the existing local authorities, and to adapt existing means to generally desirable ends; and I had hoped that someone would have come forward and tried to prove, as they have not yet done, that, with the machinery and opportunities at my disposal, and the authorities with which I am able to deal, I have not utilised our position and made the best, of our opportunities. The hon. Member came to my aid, and I am grateful to him for it, because he said what I had intended to say, but, of course, I could not have put it quite so flatteringly to myself. He said that the President of the Local Government Board, by a wise system of co-operation with the guardians, had done a great deal. That is true. [Laughter.] Hon. Members smile. Some may think that that is too confident, or perhaps immodest. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I have said before, and I say again, that modesty was made only for those who have no beauty. The application of that remark is so obvious that I need not develop it. By administration, by order, by circular, by inspection, by visits, and by advice, and, above all—because the Poor Law problem is not one for my Department only, but for seven or eight other Departments as well—by collateral remedies and agencies, such as housing, pensions, small holdings, medical inspection, feeding of children, and sanatoria for the sick, an enormous amount has been done and a larger amount is now being attempted.
If we wanted evidence as to the need for care in carrying out this work, I need 874 only refer to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, when he told the Noble Lord that he had better be careful, on present information and advice, in asking in a general way for the transfer of all children from the Local Government Board and from the guardians to come educational authority that perhaps would not be able to deal with them as well as the local authorities, the guardians, and other bodies connected with the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman was wise in his advice. The Local Government Board not only deals with poor relief, but has to control and advise municipalities even on education and other matters that affect the daily life of children. It is a very serious thing to suggest, that all relief connected with the children should be taken from the Local Government Board or from the guardians. I will tell you why. It is very difficult to divorce the relief of destitute parents from the relief of children and rice versâ. If you do, in one case you will probably slacken all incentive on the part of the parents to support, protect, and feed their own children; while if you take the children right away from the parents, it may frequently occur that the best form that that relief for the child could take would be that you should by law compulsorily separate the child from the parent—a point we have not yet reached in the matter either of the relief, the education, or the training of children, except under the Home Office in connection with industrial schools, where an absolutely criminal intent, disposition, or environment on the part of the parents is brought home against the bread-winner.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is not supporting my statement? Are not boards of guardians allowed to take children from their parents, and under their control absolutely, under certain conditions?
§ Mr. BURNS
Yes; the hon. Gentleman has not heard what I said. There are only comparatively few instances in which the associations and environment were semi-criminal, or were wholly criminal, to justify the guardians in adopting the children against the parents' inclination. The fact that this is so makes the public rather suspicious of giving either Government Departments, boards of guardians, or education authorities power to go further in this direction.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he intends to keep 254,000 children under the control of Poor Law authorities?
§ Mr. BURNS
The Noble Lord is too sensible to assume that. I will deal with that point later. The right hon. Gentleman said that we must be very careful not to manufacture paupers. That is the difficulty of the whole problem. He went onto express the pious opinion, as it is, though a serious one, that something might be done to prevent this manufacture of paupers. What I want to point out to the right hon. Gentleman is that many attempts have been made during the last century to grapple with this problem. First it was thought that generous out-relief would be one of the best ways of dealing with the matter. That was tried to such an extent between 1800 and 1840 that it broke down simply—
§ Mr. BURNS
I am simply quoting what the right hon. Gentleman said. Cannot something more be done, he said, to prevent the manufacture of paupers. I leave it there, but I might tell the right hon. Gentleman that both recently and in other days attempts have been made to deal with the problem. I was about to give one or two of them.
§ Mr. LONG
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would permit me. He refers to what was done by Poor Law authorities between 1800 and 1840. All I asked the right hon. Gentleman to explain—and he knows it perfectly well—was what was done as a relief for unemployment. We know perfectly well—the Report makes it as clear as can be—that the breakdown was caused by very bad administration on the part of people who used the system to relieve their own pockets.
§ Mr. BURNS
That is just my point. I am going to give the first instance in which the relief of pauperism by generous out-relief invariably ends at other people's expense—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—by increasing instead of diminishing pauperism. It increased it to such an extent that the rigid Act of 1834 was passed to 876 diminish pauperism. The old system broke down because it was a bonus in favour of low wages; it ended in demoralisation, and in some parishes actual bankruptcy. The second instance is, that it was proposed to relieve pauperism and palliate unemployment by adopting the other extreme course of instituting indoor relief, which is not agreeable to many, and which is not sufficiently discriminating towards the cases which are dealt with. The third instance, in later times, is the establishment of labour works, which it is admitted universally, not only do no good, but stereotype the casual conditions and the very things that the labour works are supposed to remedy. A fourth attempt is now suggested—and here I come to the right hon. Gentleman, for I only wanted to deal with this matter in an evolutionary way. The fourth, and the most recent instance, is the suggestion that labour colonies are perhaps something better than out relief if it is indiscriminate; better than indoor relief, which breaks up the family. Labour colonies, it is suggested, are probably the next best step. The word or two that I have to say on this is: that it is not my fault that I have been compelled to visit nearly every labour colony in the world. There is only one that I have not been to, and that is the labour colony in Switzerland, at a place called Witzwyl.
§ Mr. BURNS
And I can assure hon. Members that a labour colony is not the kind of place you will get unemployed workmen or artisans in Liverpool or Poplar to select as an alternative to the present system of Poor Law relief, however good or however bad it may be. My chief objection, however, to labour colonies, especially when they are prisons, is that labour colonies, of whatever economic advantage they may be to the authority that establishes them—and none of them are; 877 where they are deterrents—and the experience of them is that they are not—is that from 90 to 95 per cent, of the people who go into them return infinitely worse for their incarceration. We have not yet got an ideal form of labour colony prison.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The right hon. Gentleman said that he had visited labour colonies all over the world, with the exception of Witzwyl. My interjection was that that was the best, and I meant that it was the best labour colony on the Continent. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks are concerned with the labour colonies abroad. If he will deal with his seven years' experience of labour colonies here, in this country, we shall know where we are.
§ Mr. BURNS
You will know when we come to them. I was dealing with the economic point of view, that these are deterrents that do not deter, and that morally the effect of interning men, whether it be in prisons or labour colonies, or a combination of both, is that the men, morally and mentally, and, I believe, industrially, leave the labour colony worse for their stay than when they went in. That is the experience I have gathered in America, Germany, France, and elsewhere. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman, although he did lip-service to the labour colonies, did not—
§ Mr. BURNS
I have never consciously done any Member an injustice, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that in the course of his speech he said that our business was to have some experiment by means of which the manufacture of paupers could be prevented. He did not tell us what it was, but I assume he referred to my supervision.
§ Mr. BURNS
The right hon. Gentleman referred to my supervision of Hollesley Bay, and the administration of the Unemployed Workmen Act, and he thought that I had checked these experiments. I had hoped from him some proof of my checking the experiments, and some evidence that we have not been fair at Hollesley Bay.
§ Mr. BURNS
I had hoped we should have had at least something better than that, in view of the rather limited opportunities we have been able to bring to bear on the administration of this particular problems. We are still waiting for that advice. The right hon. Gentleman got on rather firmer ground when he said that there was an opportunity for the Government to deal with the feeble-minded, and asked what had been done and what was being done. The hon. Member for Tavistock also asked. The right hon. Gentleman knows that pending legislation on this subject by the Home Office, I have done my best during the last few years to utilise the existing machinery to get boards of guardians, in combination, to deal with this problem, as many of them are beginning to do. It is the duty of the Home Office to do this work more effectively, and they promise a Bill this year to enable that to be done.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned vagrancy. That does not, as the right hon. Gentleman himself knows, strictly come within the jurisdiction, of the Local Government Board. That portion of vagrancy with which we are able to deal, and for which we are responsible, I am attending to. I am doing all that my opportunities will allow me. I have taken the most fruitful area for experiment—that is London. London provides a rendezvous for nearly 70 per cent, of the professional vagrants of the whole country at one time of the year. We have discovered that we were able to deal with this whilst the Home Office were considering what should be done. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear," and laughter.] That is no reproach to the Home Office. It is rather a compliment to the adaptable and prehensile qualities of the Local Government Board. The first place, I say, in which this matter of vagrancy can be dealt with by experiment is London. We have taken all the twenty-eight casual wards where vagrants go from existing boards of guardians, 879 taken from the local authorities what is obviously a central function, and handed the work over to the Metropolitan Asylums Board, so that we can keep a register of all the vagrants and devise a means by which the decent men amongst them can be put upon their feet, reinstated in the industrial sphere, and by which those who are not quite so good can be dealt with either by medical curative or preventive methods; and I am very much obliged to all the London boards of guardians and to all people who have co-operated in this, and particularly to the private persons and public authorities who have co-operated, for the way in which they have helped us in this regard.
The next point raised was that raised by several speakers, and especially the Noble Lord (Lord Alexander Thynne), the Member for Nottingham, and the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hills). The hon. Member for Durham first said we sinned against the light, and that we were against Poor Law reform, and he followed that with a most extraordinary and contradictory statement, which was, "That nearly all the right hon. Gentleman's efforts were in favour of reform." I have got here the monthly journal called the "Crusade," with which the hon. Member for Durham is honourably associated, and the fault they have to find with the President of the Local Government Board is that "while he disagrees with most of our theories he carries out in practice nearly all the conditions in our latest proposals"—For different forms of government let fools contest, Whate'er is best administered, is best.I am very much obliged to the hon. Member who first says that I am against Poor Law reform and who in the next breath says the right hon. Gentleman is showing practical speed in carrying out such a reform. The hon. Gentleman said that the President of the Local Government Board was rather good in his treatment of the children. I was very glad to hear that. How good we are in that direction it is necessary to show, because the Noble Lord said we were not doing for the children what we should do. My answer to him and to all the speakers who touch on that subject is, that so far as London is concerned there are only about 100 children over three years of age in all the workhouses. We have taken all the rest out. The workhouses are the receiving 880 places for the children, and they are drafted from these to cottage homes, scattered homes, hospitals, and infirmaries.
§ Mr. BURNS
The Noble Lord has alluded to what I am doing. As far as London is concerned, we have taken virtually all the children over three years of age out of the workhouses, and we are applying as rapidly as we can to England and Wales the same principle and process of taking the children out of the workhouses. I have here before me a list of thirty-seven localities, mainly in the country, seeking power to buy houses and to build houses and to erect special institutions in England and Wales. Thirty-seven boards of guardians in the last few months, have intimated their intention of doing what has been so successfully done in London. I am very glad to say the State Children Association have no complaint or criticism to make of the means, by which the Local Government Board is rapidly accelerating the removal of children over three years of age from the workhouses. The hon. Member for Durham asked, "Ought not something to be done to increase the amount to be given by guardians for children boarded out?" The guardians themselves have it within their power, and I admit that in some cases the small amount—and the minimum is always mentioned—given to a foster mother for the maintenance of a child is not sufficient. It is not the money allowance only that appeals in the boarding out of children. [An Hoy. MEMBER: "The work."] No, that cannot be said now. The children boarded out in cottages now are generally well treated. There are few instances of cruelty; that is the opinion of the large body of lady inspectors whom I have appointed to go into this matter. It frequently happens, and I wish it were more general, that people in the country would accept 3s. 6d. or 4s. for a child to be boarded with them, and it is not so much for the money, which in itself is not sufficient. Where there are no children in the family money is not the consideration; it is the human element, the company of the child, the elevating effect of the child. If it does not belong to the father or the mother, but is boarded out, the effect upon the family is worth more than 3s. or 4s. a week, and I am delighted to 881 say that increasingly, people rich and poor, are adopting Poor Law children, and if I had my way I would make it compulsory for a woman who kept more than two cats and one dog to have a Poor Law child on which she would devote some of her affection, and a great deal of the cash, and nearly all the wasted sentiment that so many people bestow upon animals to an extent that is absurd.
But here I want to raise a practical point. There is half-a-crown to a woman who wishes to board out a child, and this we are told for widows with children is not enough. Well, it depends upon the number of children. Like the hon. Member for Poplar, I come of a very large family. If a half-a-crown for the first and 1s. per child afterwards for each succeeding child, were given as out-relief for the boarding out in country districts to foster mothers, if there were so many children as my mother had, it would mean more money than the average agricultural labourer gets for a week's work to maintain wife and family and pay a rent as well. I mention that because I was the sixteenth out of eighteen children, and when we hear about a half-a-crown being insufficient unless it is qualified by the facts I have mentioned, and unless we have some limit put on outdoor relief, there is a possibility of outdoor relief being on too generous a scale and being considerably in excess of the average wages of agricultural labourers in their districts, and the effect of that upon labourers would be to diminsh their spirit of independence, and incidentally to do more harm than good.
The Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham spoke about infant mortality in workhouses. I dealt most effectively with that, and it has never been raised in the last three years since it was dealt with. The Noble Lord said that in some workhouses the infant mortality is twice what it was outside. Why did not the Noble Lord give the reason? Here is the reason. The reason is this: you have this increased infant mortality only in the first week in certain Poor Law workhouses. The difference in mortality is due to the fact that only 4 per cent, of the children born outside are illegitimate children. But in the infirmaries the illegitimates are not 4 per cent., but from 60 to 80 per cent., and everybody knows that illegitimacy of children invariably connotes, first, bad pre-natal conditions in the mother; secondly, she is badly treated, and 882 frequently the delivery of the child occurs on the road to the workhouse. It stands to reason, therefore, that the rate of mortality in these circumstances must be larger in the workhouse in the first week than outside. If the Noble Lord will come with me—and I make this challenge to him or to any Member of the House—to Lambeth, St. Pancras, Wandsworth, or I Poplar, I will guarantee that from the I moment the mother of the child, legitimate or not, goes into the workhouse infirmary she receives as good skill, feeding, clothing, protection, and everything else that medical attendance can give, and a standard of health, attention and comfort that no ordinary shopkeeper's wife and no artisan's wife can secure, and better than the average unskilled labourer's wife gets outside. Everybody knows that the wards of our infirmaries for dealing with childbirth and with children born in workhouses possess advantages not only equal to the best infirmaries outside, but equal to many of the best general hospitals. Everybody admits that according to our opportunity we are doing all we reasonably can, and the State Children Association are grateful to the Board for the way in which they have carried out their duties in this matter.
§ Mr. BURNS
The number of children in the country is something like 8,000, or 12 per cent, less than last year, and 25 per cent, less than three years ago, and if I can get the country guardian to do what is so cheerfully done in London, there is no reason why in a few years hence the country should not give as good returns as London. Considering the amount which has to be spent, everybody will admit that we have made reasonable progress. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) dealt, as his wont, with the Poor Law problem. I have nothing to complain of in his speech except this. He opened his speech with a sustained 883 eulogy of Mr. Chaplin's well-known out-relief Circular. I have nothing to say against it. What I would point out to the hon. Member for Woolwich is that to the extent to which he eulogised that out-door relief Circular of ten years ago ought to be the standard of his approbation of the present Board for having more extensively enforced it, extended it, and emphasised many of its best points. If he eulogises the Circular of Mr. Chaplin, then I am anxious to know what he would say if he were to read the subsequent Orders and circulars which I have issued not only to sustain it, but to go still further. May I ask the House to bear in mind what the hon. Member for Woolwich said. He gave us a description of Poor Law cases twenty years old, but there has been a revolution in Poor Law during the last twenty years, a revolution to an extent that he at a later part of his speech was only too eager to Admit. He said there has been no change in the law, and he admits most heartily that there was much improvement by administration of the law. The hon. Member was tremendously reminiscent about what happened to him fifty-one years ago, in 1861. This is all interesting if in writing one's autobiography one collects together information from Hansard as the cheapest method of making a history of jour life, but it has no bearing upon the practical problems before us. I do not want to know what happened to Oliver Twist fifty or sixty years ago. I do know, however, that the average Poor Law boy in a Poplar Poor Law school costs 19s. per week per child, or 3s. 6d. more per week for maintenance than the average wage of the agricultural labourer, who has to keep a wife and probably three or four children. Therefore it is beside the mark to tell us what happened when a guardian interviewed the hon. Member fifty-one years ago. What happens to the hon. Member's successors in the Essex Poor Law schools? The sanitary conditions of the schools at Hutton are superior to Westminster, Winchester, or Harrow. The cricket fields, the opportunities for games, the amenities and the comforts of the Poor Law child are infinitely better from their purely structural and sanitary side than many of the best public schools in which hon. Members of this House spent five or six years of their life. With regard to what the boys at these schools can do let the Eton second eleven go down and play Poplar in a cricket match, and I be- 884 lieve the Poplar boys would beat them—at any rate, I think they would if I captained the Poor Law boys. Let a contrast be made, and it would not be to the disadvantage of the homes; but, as regards the food, the playgrounds, the games, the comforts, and the amenities of their environment, it would be rather in favour of Poplar and against the other schools.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
What about those cases in which 1s. per week is considered enough for out-relief?
§ Mr. BURNS
Hon. Members opposite seem to resent the relevancy of my remarks when I take up their questions; but, as my salary is at stake, I have got to do my best to defend it. The Noble Lord has a right to know in this connection what the effect of this system is on the boys after their discharge from school. That is the test. Out of 12,000 boys and girls who were turned out of the Metropolitan Poor Law schools—not under Oliver Twist conditions of fifty-one years ago, but under the improved conditions of to-day, which are infinitely superior to the conditions under which the working-class children of artisans and labourers live—in ten years under the conditions I have described only forty-eight were returned back to the guardians for inability to earn their living or for bad behaviour by their employers and the companies to whom they were sent. I think that puts Eton and Harrow to shame. Could it be said of any 12,000 public school boys that they could show a record better than that of only forty-eight in ten years being returned from their employers. May I point out that in 1851, only ten years before the hon. Member for Woolwich was badly treated by a board of guardians, it cost £5 6s. 5d. to maintain a pauper per annum. It now costs £17 0s. 11d., or more than three times than when the hon. Member went to that board of guardians Why? Because they are better fed, clothed, and educated, and better equipped. I am very glad to say that since I have been President nothing has given me greater pleasure than to visit these schools and encourage the kindly masters and matrons to develop and continue this good work, which is one of the best pieces of work any country can show in the treatment of its unfortunate children.
Now I come to the hon. Member who opened this Debate. I do not intend to deal with his remarks at any length, because I have dealt with some of his points already. The hon. Member made some 885 reference to the new Poor Law Order. I I can only say that when he says the new Poor Law Order is an attempt to apply the Whitechapel system of indoor and outdoor relief to all the unions of England and Wales, he must know that that is an absurd travesty of the facts. He ought not to have connected the deaths from starvation in the East End of London with the Whitechapel Board of Guardians, because the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley and the hon. Member for Woolwich know a better reason than that. Some 60 per cent, of the total lodgings of this vast city are in the area in which the Whitechapel Board of Guardians is situated, and it is because you have more lodging houses in Whitechapel in proportion to the population than elsewhere that you have these regrettable deaths from starvation, which are not clue so much to the denial of relief, but to the fact that the men on their way to secure relief have left it too late; they are suddenly taken ill, and I am sorry to say often expire on the road. For the hon. Member to attribute to a system of relief what is due to these lodging houses and other conditions is, in my judgment, not fair. The hon. Member gave us some figures with regard to Bradford, all of which confirm the view I have expressed about the increase in the cost of maintaining paupers during the last sixty years. I find that in a parish next door to Whitechapel, where this Order is in practical operation, that in the last six or seven years the out-relief per recipient has increased from £4 9s. to £9 15s. I think we shall have to have stronger arguments than those brought before the House this afternoon by the hon. Member for Bradford before we condemn this Order. The hon. Member says we do not want the Whitechapel Order to prevail everywhere. I am not seeking that it should, but I do say that unless the power which we are giving the guardians by the new Order does prevail there will be an opportunity for guardians in some cases to do as they like, and if they do not have the Whitechapel method the opposite will prevail. I am compelled to give the facts. There is a union close by which is known as Poplar, where the opposite to the Whitechapel method of outdoor relief and indoor treatment has prevailed, and what has been the effect of it in that particular area. What are the results? That, with a more rigorous system of administration, it was reported at a meeting of the Borough 886 Council that the Poplar guardians were spending this year £11,000 less on relief than last year, and £61,000 less than they did six years ago, when they were in the heyday of philanthrophic reform. The result is that Poplar in that period has reduced its paupers from 12,717 to 7,000, a fact that has been welcomed by all the ratepayers. It has also been a benefit to the poor because the people who in smaller numbers receive outdoor relief receive from 20 to 40 per cent, more per recipient than they did when this generous system prevailed, and if I have had any hand in this I am glad of it. If I have been at all helpful in assisting the Poplar Board of Guardians, "sane, clothed, and in their right mind," to arrest the distribution indiscriminately of public funds, often to the wrong people, with me it has not been a case of love's labour lost.
The hon. Member for Bradford asked what the Local Government Board has been doing to grapple with pauperism. In this work the hon. Member must not disassociate me from my colleagues in other branches of the Government. As this is a composite problem we must have multiform remedies. My business is to carry on the administration of the Poor Law, but, collaterally with that, what has been the effect of old age pensions on pauperism? The Government has a right to say that that is better than any of the remedies that have been suggested this afternoon, and I think the House will be startled by these figures. Old age pauperism of seventy years or upwards has been diminished, partly by administration, but mostly by pensions in the following percentages: In three years 21 per cent, indoor and 95 per cent, outdoor, a total decline of 75 per cent, in three years due to pensions mitigating pauperism, diminishing the actual number of people in receipt of outdoor relief, laying hold of potential paupers and taking them away from the purview of the workhouse altogether, and making them honourable independent recipients of a State bounty without any of the associations of the Poor Law. In face of these facts how can it be said that the Government is doing nothing to grapple with these problems. In pensions, sanatoria plant, the work of the Road Board, Development Commission plant, in the feeding of children and medical inspection, the Government to-day is spending £15,000,000 more in dealing with pauperism and those cognate problems, than they 887 were spending three years ago. In face of that, I do not think I need trouble to labour the point any further. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) criticised us rather strongly. He dealt first with lunacy. I agree that where you can get an inclusive salary for a Poor Law medical officer to certify lunacy it should be done, and, as vacancies occur by death or otherwise, I am doing that; but the certification of ordinary lunatics is a matter for the Lord Chancellor and the Home Office, and I will communicate the hon. Member's view to both of my colleagues. The hon. Member next dealt with the question of contracts. I am anxious to extend what the Metropolitan Asylums Board have already done, what some boards of guardians are considering, and what I hope many will do. He dealt rather critically with Belmont. If hon. Members will go down to Belmont they will find there have been 32,000 admissions in the last three years, and the effect on those people has been good from many points of view. He offered one or two criticisms with regard to Bow Road Infirmary, saying representatives of the board of guardians should be on the Belmont Management or on the Bow Road Infirmary. That, in my judgment, is impossible. When he said I have had Bow Road and Carshalton Hospital and other reforms put upon me by the Local Government Board I can only say that in these matters I have initiated many of the reforms. I am not going to say how many, because no chief ought to dissociate himself from his officers or from his Department. That we have done as well as we have done is due to the fact that there has been loyal and persistent co-operation between the officers and the President. The hon. Member also spoke about children getting adequate relief. The relief received by children in London comes from three or four different bodies. Private charity gives it, semi-public charities give it, boards of guardians give it, and the Education authorities give it through the Education (Provision of Meals) Act. It is true that in some cases there has been over-lapping, but I believe that overlapping will soon cease. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord A. Thynne) is in a great hurry, but I have had no suggestion from the London County Council, whom he represents in this House.
§ Mr. BURNS
Well, the hon. Member is an active member of it. I have had no suggestion of a fruitful kind from the London County Council by which this overlapping and waste of money can be stopped. When they do make such a suggestion I shall seize upon it, and if as the result of our co-operation we can devise a more economical way, so much to the good. Incidentally, I doubt whether it will help the children, because at present they do get more meals and more food than possibly they would with an economical county council cheeseparing in the matter of feeding, as they do in the matter of trams and other things.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
I must ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he sticks to the phrase "cheeseparing" in connection with the feeding of necessitous schoolchildren by the London County Council? I would point out that it is a very grave charge for the President of the Local Government Board to make against the largest municipality in the country.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
The right hon. Gentleman does not withdraw the word "cheeseparing." May I ask to which branches of our administration he applied the word?
§ Mr. BURNS
I have already said so. There was an instance of it the other night with regard to the Lambeth Bridge. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley gave three instances out of 644 boards of guardians. I admit that overlapping ought to be stopped and waste prevented if it is possible, with due regard to making the parents help their children, as is their duty and business. In the event of these considerations being maintained, I think we ought to have fewer authorities to deal with this matter than we have now, and I am working in that direction. The hon. Member referred to the Poor Law Order, and he wanted to know whether the Local Government Board had acted ultra vires in doing as they had done. I have taken every proper step. I have consulted the Law Officers with regard to this point, and they contend that the Local Government Board are entitled to issue 889 this Order. I must stand by the Solicitor-General and Attorney-General as against the suggestion of the hon. Member, who is not a lawyer, and those who advise him, who probably do not know as much about law as the gentlemen whom the Government employ for this particular purpose. Then the hon. Member mentioned Hollesley Bay. I do not know that it is necessary for me to go into this. I have dealt with Hollesley Bay; I have given the facts and figures connected therewith, and I have shown how the money has been voted and how it has been spent. I have brought before the public the results of that expenditure. In my judgment, neither the money spent upon Maylands, upon Boxted, upon Ockendon, or upon Hollesley Bay, warrant me in voting much more public money for the support of labour colonies. I can only say I provided them with ample money. I provided them with cottages where necessary. The only six cottages I refused they have since erected out of money I allowed them to divert for their erection. Therefore, no practical harm has been done. They have had many privileges and concessions, and the result at the end of five or six years is that £160,000 in round figures has been spent on Hollesley Bay, some 7,000 men have gone through that colony, and, apart from those who have emigrated—and there has not been a bigger proportion of them emigrated than of men who did not go to the colony—only nineteen men have been secured employment on the land. If I have made a mistake in regard to Hollesley Bay, I think it is that I have been too indulgent and too generous, and I think the time has arrived when even those who support Hollesley Bay will admit that just as similar experiments have failed at Boxted—Maylands is not a success—Hadleigh, Ockendon, and elsewhere, that colony must some day be put to a purpose quite as good and in some respects more useful. I have done my best to meet the various points that have been submitted by critics. I have listened to the suggestions that have been offered from various quarters of the House. In my judgment, no case has been made out against the Department, but if there is anything fruitful in the suggestions that have been made I will adopt them, and I believe when next I have the opportunity of laying the, facts before the House it will be found that in other matters, as in the case of the children, we have adopted what was practicable in the suggestions, listened to what was rational in criticism, 890 and taken safe steps forward to ameliorate the lot of the unfortunate poor who depend upon guardians and the Local Government Board for their maintenance and support.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Speaking in connection with something said by the Noble Lord behind me (Lord A. Thynne), the right hon. Gentleman said that if he was ever President he would, like him, be "holding the fort." What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "holding the fort"? I am very much inclined to believe he means he is holding the fort against legislative reform of the Poor Law, and is carrying out his administration in such a manner as to put off for a very long time dealing with the Poor Law by methods of legislation. I am most anxious, if any legislation is undertaken, that it should not be of a doctrinaire kind. We have been waiting for years for legislation dealing with the problem of the boards of guardians. There are far too many of them, some of them with vast areas, and some with small areas, some administering their work well and others incapable by their very constitution—not owing to their lack of willingness—of carrying out some of the reforms which the right hon. Gentleman, as well as we, is most anxious to see carried out. The right hon. Gentleman's remark, "If I could get the country boards of guardians to follow the example of London with regard to the children," bears out our case that you have got to have better control by the Board or by some central authority of the country boards of guardians. It is absolutely essential if the problem of the children, and far more if the problem of vagrants, is going to be dealt with scientifically, that the country boards of guardians should be brought up to date and more into line with such efficient boards of guardians as exist in London.
And, it being Quarter-past Eight, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further proceeding was postponed.