§ Mr. LONGBOTTOM
I beg to move, in page 8, to leave out from the word "if," in line 35, to the word "poor," in line 37, and to insert instead thereof the words "and so long as he is in receipt of."
This Amendment is self-explanatory, and is introduced because we on these 2724 benches feel that Clause 9 is reactionary in its suggestion so far as local government representation is concerned. As the law exists at the present time, a member of a board of guardians who happens to be so unfortunate as to have to receive Poor Law relief is disqualified—and, may I say, rightly disqualified—from being a member of that 2725 board of guardians; but, under the Local Government Bill, the duties which hitherto have been attached to boards of guardians are now to be transferred to county councils and county borough councils, and it is suggested in Clause 9 that in future any member of a county council or of a county borough council who has to receive Poor Law relief shall be disqualified from remaining a member of that council, with this further disqualification, that he is not to be allowed to remain a member of the council if he has received Poor Law relief during the past 12 months.
We suggest that that disqualification is, to say the least, most unreasonable. We agree that, if a man is receiving outdoor relief, it should not be competent for him at the same time to remain a member of the council which is giving him that relief, but, having regard to the fact that in future the duties of boards of guardians will be undertaken by bodies which are much larger numerically, and also to the fact that the man who is receiving Poor Law relief may not be a member of the Public Assistance Committee of that council, it is a severe hardship to disqualify him from being able to be a member of the council because he has received Poor Law relief within the previous 12 months. It has been said, and rightly, that there is a great and growing need throughout the whole of this country for all men and women to take a more active interest in civic affairs, and I know of nothing which will act more as a deterrent to bringing the best people forward to take that interest than Clause 9 of this Bill. May I say, too, that, as a member of a local authority, it has been my pleasure to listen to the Minister of Health as the chief speaker at many of the conferences I have attended, and to hear the wonderful plea that he has invariably put forward that all men and women should take an interest in this great work of local government; and when I come to the House of Commons and listen to the right hon. Gentleman introducing this Local Government Bill, may I say again, without offence, that the Minister of Health in the country addressing conferences is a totally different gentleman from what he is in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. LONGBOTTOM
I am sorry, Sir, to be out of order, but I am simply using that as an illustration of what we think about many of the suggestions contained in this Bill, and particularly Clause 9. I want to suggest to the Government that, if they are satisfied with disqualifying a member of a county council or a county borough council only for the time during which he is actually receiving Poor Law relief, they will be doing nothing to undermine that purity which we rightly claim is the basis of local government service throughout this country. It is, however, wrong, and it is a reactionary suggestion, that men and women in this country who are living under abnormal conditions, so far as trade depression is concerned, should, by Clause 9 of this Bill, be denied the right of becoming members of local authorities simply because they are victims of unemployment and have to come to the Poor Law to enable them to eke out an existence. I suggest to the Government that they have nothing to fear in accepting this Amendment. They need not fear that, by giving every man and woman the opportunity of becoming interested in local government work, they will be doing anything to undermine the foundations of that claim which we invariably make that our local government service is the best throughout the land.
§ Mr. RILEY
I support the Amendment on the ground that the disqualification in the Clause is unnecessarily stringent. In some cases it may not be for more than a year, but obviously if a person has received poor relief on 2nd November, 1930, and there is an election on the following 1st November, he will not be eligible until the year following to become a councillor of his county or county borough. Our Amendment would limit the disqualification to a person who may at any time actually be receiving relief. That, we think, would meet the merits of the case. I think we might also argue that the object of the Government could have been adequately met by limiting the disqualification to persons serving on the public assistance committee. No one would quarrel with the general principle that one ought not to receive relief from a committee of which 2727 one is a member, and without depriving citizens of their right of public service, the object of the Government could have been met by limiting the disqualification to persons who happen to serve on the public assistance committee.
Further, I want to ask the Minister to elucidate what really will be some of the implications if the Clause goes through as it stands. The objection to the Clause is not that it makes poverty an actual crime, but that it puts a stigma on the entirely undeserved misfortune of poverty, and it puts that stigma upon tens of thousands of citizens who may came under its ban at any time. There are tens of thousands of men who, through no fault of their own, are suffering the disadvantages of unemployment, many of them for two and three years in industries in which there has been no chance of getting employment. The Clause lays down that if any of these, who may be steady, sober, intelligent citizens, should be unfortunate enough to have received poor relief, they have the rights of citizenship taken away. Does that imply that if a man's wife or children receive assistance, he will be disqualified? The Clause says:A person shall after the appointed day be disqualified for becoming or being a member of the council of a county or county borough if he has within twelve months before becoming or has since becoming such a member received Poor relief except that he shall not be so disqualified by reason only that he or a member of his family has received medical or surgical treatment or been an inmate of an institution for that purpose.Let me take what might be a common case, and I will ask the Minister to interpret what the words mean. Take the case of a man who may have a wayward son or daughter, leaving home and resorting to vagrancy, and receiving relief as a vagrant. What is going to be the position of the father or mother? The fact that the Clause mentions medical and surgical treatment implies that there are other forms of relief which will disqualify the father from the right to citizenship. We ought really to know how far the Clause is going before we assent to it.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Longbottom) spoke very clearly and incisively in moving the Amendment. He thought it right and 2728 just that a person in receipt of poor relief ought not to serve as a member of a local authority, but the quarrel he had was with the further extension, which says that the disqualification should continue for the further period of 12 months. The hon. Member who followed him was far more confused, and certainly presented very inconsistent arguments in support of his case. First; he said he agreed with the Mover. Then he thought the disqualification ought only to apply—
§ Sir K. WOOD
What that means only the hon. Member himself knows. I am assuming that be endeavoured to express some sort of concurrence in the views of the Mover. Whether he did or not, I will admit that he does agree with the Mover when he says it is not proper that a man in actual receipt of relief should be a member of the authority. 13tit then he went further, and said that in any event he agreed that the individual ought not to be a member of the public assistance committee. Then, to add to our confusion about his argument, he said all this was a stigma. The fact that a man was in receipt of poor relief was a misfortune, and it was a disgraceful thing that in such circumstances a member of an authority was to be deprived of his citizenship. What he meant only the hon. Member himself knows. I will take the case that has been put by the Mover. There is a good deal to be said for his point of view, but it is idle to talk, as the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) did. He alluded to the receipt of relief as a stigma. It is an ordinary common-sense precaution—
§ Sir K. WOOD
As a matter of fact, I heard the hon. Member for Bow and 2729 Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) say that, so far from being a disgrace, the fact that a man was in receipt of poor relief meant that he was only receiving something in return for citizenship and that such a man had contributed in one form or another just as much as any other person in this country.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I do not think that it is a disgrace, as a matter of fact, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley thinks that it is not a disgrace.
§ Sir K. WOOD
He does not think that there is any disgrace in receiving poor relief. What we are following up here—and I am sorry that there is so much excitement about it—is merely Section 7 of the Poor Law Act, 1927. The hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment, and certainly the hon. Gentleman who seconded it, thought that it was some extraordinary change in the law, but we are simply re-enacting here the Poor Law Act. We are transferring, of course, the functions of the Poor Law guardians to the other authorities, and that transfer is made from the considerations which have been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, because he has agreed with the principle that people in receipt of relief ought not at the same time to be dispensing philanthropy. It is for these reasons, and not because there is any malice, disgrace or anything of that kind behind this proposal, that we are re-enacting the principle of the law. All I say to the Committee is that as far as the Government are concerned we are simply endeavouring to interpret the present law in view of the changed circumstances, and I hope that the Committee will see that as far as any departure is made we are endeavouring to preserve the intention of the present law.
§ Mr. K. GRIFFITH
The Parliamentary Secretary is evidently so anxious not to face the real difficulty which has been put to him from the benches above the Gangway that he has invented a discrepancy between the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment which exists nowhere save in his own mind. It is one thing to say that it is a practical point to disqualify a man at the time he is in receipt of relief. It is merely like saying that a man shall not vote upon matters in which he is personally financially concerned. But if you continue it after that condition has ceased, you are imposing a stigma, and there is no ether way of treating it. When that point is realised, it will be seen that there is no distinction whatever between the grounds put forward by the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment. The fact remains that by continuing it for 12 months you are perpetuating the whole penal idea of the Poor Law, the idea that instead of this being a form of relief as relief should be understood, helping a lame dog over a stile, it is the crack of a whip at a bad dog instead. That is the way in which it is being treated and in which it is being perpetuated. I do not say that it has not existed in legislation before this Bill. A great many things that ought not to be have existed in our legislation before this Measure. This is being perpetuated, and it ought not to be, and we ought to protest. If by the main provisions of this legislation we were sweeping away the old Poor Law and leaving upon the Poor Law only the broken people, the flotsam and jetsam, the down-and-outs, the people, who, perhaps through misfortune or whatever the cause might be, were not perhaps the ideal people to be on a council, there would be something to be said for the disqualification. But if you have the old Poor Law remaining in essence, it is not these people alone who are left under its provision. Anyone at any moment may find himself in that position and it will be a misfortune to continue a disqualification of this kind for 12 months. In the place which I represent it is a pure accident whether a man is able to continue under unemployment benefit or go through the door of the Poor Law. It is a pure accident, therefore, whether he becomes disqualified or remains qualified, and we should 2731 consider it on the basis that every one of these people was disqualified. In that spirit we ought to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I sincerely regret that the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept this Amendment. To me it is most contemptible that anyone should be denied this privilege. Here is a man who is selected by his peers, so to speak, because they have every confidence in him, they believe that he has the capacity to represent their opinions on the local council. He is sent there because he is their choice; because they consider that he is just the man to give expression to their views. It has been said that it is a disgrace to receive Poor Law relief. I think that it is a disgrace not to the man himself, but to the damnable economic system that puts a representative in the position, after he has been elected by his fellows to do their work, of having to seek assistance through becoming unemployed during his term of office. A man may fall out of employment, and perhaps be out of employment until he has exhausted what is called "the dole." Having exhausted that, he goes to the Poor Law. The son of the same man who has contributed to unemployment insurance and is out of a job, may go on tramp and apply for Poor Law relief. That fact alone is likely to disqualify the father. It is disgraceful. There is no other word to describe it. It is not the fault, of the man but the fault of the economic conditions which place him in a position which demoralises him. He is willing and anxious to work, but he cannot get work. He is chosen by his fellows to represent them on a public body and because he becomes the victim of a system which denies him the opportunity to work, that is the reward he gets. Under such a system a man is driven down and down to his death and then he is jogged along in a handcart, a pauper whom nobody owns. These are the inherent rights of the British electors to which the right hon. Gentleman is going to appeal. I hope that he will get his deserts.
§ Mr. MARCH
I desire to support the Amendment, and further to point out the difficulties which arise for many men. It is a disgrace that when a man has been elected by the burgesses of his district if something befalls him which is unfore- 2732 seen, or something befalls a member of his family, he may be disqualified. The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) has referred to the case of a son or daughter who has left home and met with misfortune. A case was brought to my notice during the last week or so of a young woman who had been in service and who through some misfortune had been put out of employment. She went home to her widowed mother and tried to live there, but she was unable to do so because of the want of proper accommodation. Therefore, she went to stay with some friends, and whilst seeking employment, in which search she failed, she was taken ill on the wayside and conveyed to an institution. In that case, if she had been the daughter of a man who happened to be a member of the council while she was seeking Poor Law relief, he would have been disqualified, although he might know nothing about the circumstances of the girl.
§ Mr. MARCH
I have not read all the Bill. When we meet with circumstances where a man is disqualified because his son or daughter or his wife receives relief, it is hard upon the person who is disqualified, particularly if his wife has had to seek relief. The Government have never made proper provision for the case of a man who is thrown out of employment and remains out of employment for many months, and has to seek assistance from the guardians because his unemployment benefit has ceased. If the man in such a case goes to the guardians when they are under the council, he will be disqualified, not only for the period during which he may receive assistance but for 12 months. That is a disgrace and ought not to be permitted. It seems that the Government are doing all they possibly can in all their legislation to penalise the downtrodden and the unfortunate. They are trying their level best to crush those who are down, instead of trying to lift them up.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
We are accustomed to hearing ourselves described as inhuman monsters, lost to all feeling, and to hearing hon. Members opposite suggest that there is no outrage which 2733 we would not commit in driving the under-dog deeper down into the mire. If we thought that hon. Members opposite believed what they were saying, some of us would be a little concerned about it. The fact is that hon. Members opposite do not believe what they are saying. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I say that to their credit. They do not believe what they are saying. Some hon. Members talk so hastily upon these matters that it is impossible to give full weight to what they say. The hon. Member who has just spoken gave, as an illustration of his argument, the case of a young woman who had received medical or surgical aid in a time of necessity.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman opposite is very fond of interrupting. He has had four opportunities in this debate of rising to make a contribution. If he wishes to make one now I will sit down, and let him; if not, perhaps he will allow me to continue. The hon. Member gave as an illustration of his argument the case of a young woman who in time of necessity received medical or surgical aid.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Member said that she was not feeling well and that she went into an institution. Is not that medical aid?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Member does not do himself justice in taking objection to my representation of his argument. His illustration was that she went in to receive medical aid.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
If the hon. Member had read the next two lines of the Clause he would have seen that, for the first time in the history of the Poor Law, we have made provision for such a case. No longer will the receipt of such medical aid be a disqualification, such as it has been up to the present time in one small branch of 2734 the public service. That is something to the credit of the inhuman monsters who are perpetrating this iniquity. The right hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb), who has interrupted the Parliamentary Secretary and myself with so much vigour, says that the receipt of Poor Law relief is a disgrace. He states that as if it was a question of fact, just as is the question of whether a man has a black face or a white face. He is much too learned not to know the difference between a matter of opinion and a matter of fact.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The law does not say so. The receipt of Poor Law relief may be a disgrace; that is to, say, that if a person has not served the public community properly by helping himself, it may be a disgrace to go to the community to support him, when lie ought to have supported himself; but on this side of the House we do not say that it is a disgrace.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
No, we do not penalise him. I would ask hon. Members opposite to consider a principle which I will suggest to them. Is it not a good principle that a man should not be responsible for the administration of funds in which he has an interest? I should he very much surprised to hear that hon. Members opposite object to that as a principle. If we are agreed upon the principle, the only question is how we shall put it into practical application. Hon. Members opposite go this far, that as long as a man is in receipt of relief he is to be disqualified. I should like to know what that means. Does it mean that a man who is going to receive Poor Law relief, and knows that he is to do so, shall sit upon the committee which is going to give him that relief next week 7 Under our provision he can, but I am trying to see how the principle will work out. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Miss Lawrence) must not imitate the right hon. Member for Seaham and interrupt.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Yes, I know; and the right hon. Gentleman should answer it at the proper time, not at the wrong time.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Let hon. Members opposite consider the application of the principle upon which we are all agreed. They say, and I say also, that a man ought not to be responsible for administering public money in which he has an interest. They say that he is not to be responsible for administering public money while he is in receipt of relief. Does that mean that a man is not to be responsible in the week in which he has received the relief, or on the day he has received the relief, or for how long is the disqualification to operate?
§ Mr. WEBB
He has now sat down in order that the answer should be given. The answer is that the law at present, with the support of the Attorney-General, does not disqualify a man immediately before he has received relief. It is when he receives relief that he is disqualified. That position we do not desire to disturb. I have now responded to the hon. and learned Member's inquiry.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
And I am delighted the right hon. Gentleman has responded, because he has admitted my principle. He agrees with me that a man is not to be responsible for the administration of public funds when he has received relief.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Then the only question is how long that disquali- 2736 fication is to last. The right hon. Gentleman I suppose would have it last for a week—
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Yes, but a man receives that relief once a week, or once a day—in the case of out-relief it is once a week. Does his disqualification last for one week?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I really think this is becoming too conversational. The hon. and learned Gentleman had better finish his speech and then the right hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) can make his. We do not want to have it bisected and quadrisected in this way.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I repectfully agree, but the right. hon. Gentleman was so anxious to answer the question that I thought it was more polite to sit down. It has come down to this, that it is not a disgrace for a man to receive Poor Law relief, and the right hon. Gentleman and I, indeed all of us, agree that it is only a question of how long disqualification shall last.
§ Mr. WEBB indicated assent.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I am delighted to see the right hon. Gentleman nod his head. All these attacks upon the inhuman character of the Government have come down to this, that we think that this principle should be put into operation for a rather longer period than hon. Members opposite think it right a man should be disqualified. They agree with 2737 disqualification for a short period; we say that it shall be for a longer period, the principle being that if a man is to receive Poor Law relief he is in a category in which he may likely be again and, therefore, for 12 months such a person shall be disqualified because he is a person who may at any moment be responsible for the administration of public funds in which he has an interest. We say that this is a good principle. We have put it in this Clause with modifications which are humane, and which appear in our legislation for the first time. We think that the attacks which have been made upon our good nature and humanity are absolutely unfounded.
§ Mr. KELLY
I do not apply that term to the hon. and learned Attorney-General and his friends, but I am also almost inclined to do so after the concluding words of his speech, which, if they meant anything, mean that there is no one in this country who ought to be allowed to sit on any of these councils anyone who is potentially an applicant for relief should not sit upon these bodies. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman give me an assurance as to every person in this country being in a position 12 months from now of not having to ask for relief?
§ Mr. KELLY
Certainly, if we allowed the lawyers to have full play we should get into bankruptcy much quicker. The Parliamentary Secretary made great play of the differences between the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. There was no need for him to take advantage of apparent differences; and I am quite willing to make him the present of another. I would refuse to disqualify those who are in receipt of relief. I say that without hesitation. Anyone who is in receipt of Poor Law relief is allowed to become a Member of this House; and they are entitled to sit in the other House and decide upon questions affecting the administration of public funds. But, although they may sit here, they must not sit on these local councils. One would imagine that this disqualification is because the person who is in receipt of relief would have a voice in saying how much relief the particular individual 2738 should receive. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that that is not the case. There is a stated scale of relief; and there is no question of the vote of a particular individual affecting the amount they receive. Through no fault of their own, but because of the conditions prevailing at the moment—
§ The CHAIRMAN
This Amendment does not help that class. The hon. Member appears to be arguing against the Amendment.
§ Mr. KELLY
I am prepared to go further than the Amendment, I admit. I want to give the right hon. Gentlemen opposite the chance of finding another difference in the opinions of those on this side of the Committee. It is an injustice to an individual to be disqualified. As has been said, it is not disgraceful to receive relief, but it is made disgraceful and a degradation by the penalties that are put upon it here. A person can beg, borrow and steal, provided he is not found out. When I say that I know that the Attorney-General is watching me closely. Such a person can continue as a member, but if he receives sonic Poor Law assistance his position is different. I would like to see all disqualifications removed for those individuals who have to resort to Poor Law relief. I have seen men in many of the industries of the country. They were fairly comfortably placed, but as they went down the scale, and as the Government's method of administering or mal-administering the unemployment benefit deprived them of that to which I consider they were entitled, they have been obliged to resort to the Poor Law. They were no worse than before; they were as honest and as clear in their judgment as ever before, not thinking of themselves or endeavouring to line their own pockets by membership of this particular public body. Then, although they have all the qualifications that, fit them for the position, into this Bill there is inserted a disqualification which states "Because you are so poor, because you have committed the crime of poverty, you have rendered yourself unfit to be a representative of the public on this local authority." That is disgraceful. While I wish that the Amendment had gone further, I support it now in the hope that in the near future we shall be able to remove all the disqualifications.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I ask the learned Attorney-General how far he would push his theory about people participating in relief to themselves. I suppose it would not go as far as emoluments? You might get in this House half-pay Army or Navy officers. If there were a Resolution moved from this side to reduce their half-pay, would they be justified in being Members of this House and in voting on that proposition? As far as I know there is nothing to prevent their voting on questions which affect themselves personally. Of course they do vote on such questions. You get Members voting here on the subject of the Income Tax. I say to the Attorney-General with all respect that he is a member of a body that fixes his own salary and his own emoluments. I am not going to say that that is wrong or vicious, but how far does the learned Attorney-General want to push his own theory? According to his theory, if a man receives a few shillings a week, for which he may have paid all his life and for which he is compelled to apply through misfortunte that is not consequent on any action of his own, that man is to be penalised. It is not good enough. As the learned Attorney-General takes some credit to himself and his Government for introducing some slight modification of the hardships of the present Poor Law in regard to medical and surgical treatment, does he not see that after all the Clause that we are seeking to amend is in itself an application of a harsh principle?
It must be apparent that, generally speaking, men who become members of boards of guardians and public bodies, or who, as in this case, become members of county councils, have to run the gamut fairly well. They must be men of fairly clean morals. They are generally men or women who have lived their lives in the public gaze, and obviously they are not the type of people who would apply for relief except under pressure of extreme circumstances. To penalise them is pushing a theory to an extreme which is not justified by the facts. It is not a question of persons merely as individuals, for the Clause refers to members of their families. How are you to determine that? Suppose that a son is married and maintains a separate establishment. Is he still a member of the family? I do not know how the law deals with the matter. Suppose that he is 2740 lodging somewhere else and has left home, and that he falls into misfortunte and is compelled to apply for relief. Is he a member of the family? Where is the line drawn? What does the law say about it? Ultimately the law will have to be interpreted by the Courts. How will the law define the question of a man's family? Is he a member of the family when he is living at home, or when in lodgings, in the county or out of the county, under the authority of the Poor Law or not under its authority? It is a very important point.
When does a man cease to have control over the members of his family? Are his children members of the family when they have passed the legal age of 21? Must he be penalised for their action when they have passed completely out of his control? What is the definition? It would be extremely interesting to get a reply from the Minister of Health or the Parliamentary Secretary or the learned Attorney-General. I am not asking these questions in any flippant sense, but because there are doubts in my mind as to what the Clause really does mean on these several points. It must be recognised that no man accepts Poor Law relief unless compelled to do so by tragic circumstances which he does not and cannot control. To penalise a clean-living man who has clone his duty by the State and by the community for something which he cannot control, something which arises out of policies pursued by the House of Commons, such as Reparations—[Laughter]—is unfair. Yes, hon. Members can laugh, but there is a heap of poverty in this country to-day caused by policies passed years ago by the House of Commons. That is what we are suffering from now. Therefore I say that the Committee would be well advised to accept this Amendment in the spirit in which it is offered for the purpose of continuing that slight amelioration of which the Government boasts.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
The Parliamentary Secretary from time to time shows more than the usual talent for quibbling, and a frivolity which reminds me of a prodigal son dancing on his mother's grave. He has reminded us, as the Attorney-General has reminded us, that under the existing administration of the Poor Law, there is only one 2741 disqualification from service as a guardian—that is if a man is, or has been in receipt of Poor Law relief within a period of 12 months. It is now proposed to extend that principle and to apply it not only for Poor Law purposes but for all county council purposes. In effect, if a working man or woman experiences unemployment through causes entirely out of his or her control, and is compelled to have Poor Law relief, then at least 12 months must elapse before that person can become eligible under this Bill to serve on a county council. In addition, there are certain other disqualifying circumstances which have been referred to, relating not to the person himself but to other members of his family. I add my protest to those which have already been made on this Clause, and I hope it is not too late to have this matter reconsidered by the Department on the ground that it does, in essence, perpetuate that very spirit and practice in the Poor Law which we are trying to destroy and extend them to the wider area of county council government.
Who are the men and women who can best administer the Poor Law? When I was attached to the University of Sheffield, I had to handle men who were students in connection with my tutorial classes and more than one of whom had passed through the harrowing experience of unemployment and had had to apply to the guardians for relief. Are men of this type, just because they have gone through such an experience, to be disqualified from serving on public bodies? Why, that very experience is a supreme qualification for doing the work well. I could understand the point of view that it should he a qualification for membership of a board of guardians or a committee for administering Poor Law relief that, at some time or other in their lives, people had had to pass through the horror of an experience of this kind. How better can you get a just judgment of other men and women in such circumstances; how better can you get the imagination, sympathy and understanding required than by having gone through the experience? The attitude taken up in this Clause is a survival of the spirit of Bumbledom incorporated in the Poor Law administration nearly 2742 100 years ago. Imagine British citizens who have been victims of the industrial system having to wait at least 12 months before they can become public servants in this capacity.
I could understand this proposal better if we were living in time of abounding prosperity, when, perhaps, there would be a 75 per cent, argument that a man out of work was out of work because of defects in his own character. But we have had eight years of unemployment with between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 people habitually out, of work, and it is generally admitted that the problem is one of a large breakdown in the industrial system at home and abroad. It is the height of folly and madness from the point of view of the public service, to introduce, in such circumstances, a 12 months' disqualifying provision of this kind. If there is any case at all for disqualifying people I can conceive of other types of men and women in this country who are not competent to administer the Poor Law. If there is one type more than another who ought to be disqualified it is the type of person who has never had to earn his own living. There is a strong case for the point of view that, if the Committee want to introduce a discriminatory principle in Poor Law administration, it ought to single out those who have never had to earn their own livelihood. Of all persons in the community, they are the least competent to form a just judgment in regard to Poor Law administration.
§ Mr. SMITH
I am trying, by way of analogy, to help the Committee to appreciate the folly of this discrimination, but I shall not pursue that line of argument. I content myself by asking the Minister whether he is not prepared to take the view that in the England of 1928, where unemployment has no relation to individual merit of character, and in a case where we are handling not merely Poor Law administration but the whole work of the county councils, he does not think it right to remove this disqualification and prepare the way for a juster conception of Poor Law administration?
§ Mr. THURTLE
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give the Committee a little more explanation of the meaning of this Clause, particularly on the point in relation to members of a person's family being recipients of Poor Law relief. The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead) put the point that, possibly, if some member of the family of a person on a local authority were in receipt of relief, that might make such a person ineligible. Does the Clause bear that meaning? If so, it may lead to very unfair cases of hardship. Take the case of the poor man struggling against adversity, as so many are to-day. While contriving to keep himself and his own immediate family, without resort to the Poor Law, he may have elderly parents who for some reason or other are forced to accept Poor Law relief. In such a case, is it to be understood by this Clause that he will be regarded as a person in receipt of Poor Law relief, and, therefore, disqualified for membership of a local authority?
§ Sir K. WOOD
I do not think, in that case, he would. If the hon. Member wishes to pursue the matter, he should look at Section 42 of the Poor Law Act, 1097.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I should like to ask the Attorney-General what is the meaning of the words "or a member of his family," if the whole thing does not suggest that if a member of a man's family has been or is receiving Poor Law "relief it may prejudice his position as a member of a council? I do not understand a great deal about the law but, in the first place, the Clause says only "a person," and later on, when referring to the fact that a man will not he disqualified, it refers to "a 'member of his family." I want an interpretation.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
It may be, but I want an interpretation from the Attorney-General and not from the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley). A definition of the Government's meaning should come from a Government lawyer and not from the representative for Grimsby. The Attorney-General might give a definition or a reason why these absolutely useless 2744 words are inserted, unless there is some real reason for it. Like the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Rennie Smith), I could quite understand it if it referred merely and solely to a Poor Law guardian. Then there might be a strong argument why these men should be restrained from giving relief and doing nothing else, but there are hon. Members here who know you might possibly remove some most expert man from doing other work besides giving relief. In my own city of Glasgow, in the work of giving relief on the city council, I know at least half-a-dozen men with regard to whom there are only six weeks of unemployment between them and the workhouse. I know one man who does not average a wage of 20 shillings a week, and who has a wife and family to keep. That man is an expert on various committees of that city council. It is not only wrong but foolish to say that if that man has the painful necessity of coming to the guardians for relief—because no one goes to the guardians for the love of the thing —and to get food for his wife and children, he should be debarred from giving expert knowledge and advice which he has got as a result of many years' work on the city council.
As far as the guardians' work is concerned, we can understand the point of view of the Government in saying that a man who is in receipt of relief shall not decide how much relief it is to be when he is simply and solely on guardians' work, but I do think the Minister or the Attorney-General ought to make it clear why these particular words "or a member of his family" are inserted in the Clause if it does not, pre-suppose that a member of a council shall be disqualified as a result of one of the members of his family receiving poor relief.
§ Sir R. BANKS
I am in some difficulty as to what this means. I may be displaying ignorance, but it seems quite clear that where a man or a member of his family is receiving medical treatment, that shall not constitute disqualification, but with regard to the first part of the Clause I am bound to say I am in the same difficulty as the last speaker. The Clause says that a person shall be disqualified if he has within the 12 months preceding received poor relief. One would suppose, on the face of this Clause, that it was a purely personal matter, and that 2745 it must be the man himself who was receiving relief. The Parliamentary Secretary referred us to Section 42 of the Act, and I am afraid I am still in the dark. I do not know whether, as things are at present, a man is disqualified if a member of his family receives poor relief. [HON. MEMBERS "Yes."] Very well, if that be so, then unless this first part of the Clause alters it, hon. Members are right in suggesting these words mean that a person shall be disqualified if he or a member of his family has within the preceding 12 months received poor relief.
§ Sir K. WOOD indicated assent.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
The law at present, I think, is that a man is deemed to have received poor relief if either his wife or child under 16 years of age receives it, and under the Section it is quite clear that disqualification ensues if a man or his wife, or any of his children under 16 years of age, receives relief. A perfectly good meaning is given to the words towards the end of the Sub-section:shall not he so disqualified by reason only that lie or a member of his family.That means a member of his family whom he is under a duty to maintain—a child under 16 years of age who has received medical or surgical treatment. My view is that it is perfectly clear what this Clause does. The existing law disqualifies a man if his wife or children under 16 receive relief, but the form of the relief here mentioned—medical or surgical treatment—does not have that effect.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I agree I am not a lawyer, but I have had some experience of administering Poor Law relief and other forms of local government. The position is quite clear. According to the Act, if a member of a person's family under the age of 16 or his wife receives relief, he is disqualified, but that relief is always given in the way of medical relief, because if it, is necessary for the wife or a child to have relief, the man has to apply for the relief, which is in kind or cash. But when it was a case, under the law as it stands at present, of a man's wife or child being removed to an institution, because medical treatment was needed, then the man was disqualified. Only last week I seconded an Amendment under which I did not agree that that should continue 2746 and I asked the Minister carefully to-consider the matter and see if it could not be put right. Here we have got the alteration made quite clear. I submit that to go further than this would be inadvisable, because it is not a question of penalising a man simply because his family are receiving relief, for they would not receive relief except through him.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I have now taken the advantage, that some of my hon. and learned Friends have not had, of reading Section 42 of the Act of 1927, and I am not quite clear in my own mind shat the intention of the Government really is. The meaning of Section 42 is quite clear:All relief given to or on account of a wife shall be considered as given to her husband, and all relief given to or on account of any child under the age of sixteen, not being blind or deaf or dumb, shall be considered as given to the father of the child or to the husband of the motherSo it is quite clear under the Poor Law Act, and there is no doubt at all that relief given to a child under 16 is deemed to be relief given to the parent. What I am not quite clear about is how far Clause 9 of this Bill does or does not intend to incorporate the whole operation of Section 42 of the Act of 1927. There is no reference in this Clause to that Section, and it is simply a matter of what the Government's intention is. If they mean to produce the result that a person receives poor relief in this Bill when the relief in fact is given to a child under 16, and that it would be a receiving of poor relief for the purpose of the Act of 1927, then I think this Bill had better say so, and we may express our opinion on the subject. At present the Bill only says that a person shall be disqualified if such a member receives poor relief. I do not know whether or not you are to leave in Section 42. I do not know whether this Clause should be read together with the Act of 1927, but that is a mere matter of drafting. If the Government intend that if the child under 16 actually receives relief it shall be treated as poor relief, it is a simple matter of drafting to say that Section 42 shall apply to Clause 9, but if they do not mean that, I think they ought to say so in terms. I quite agree that it is ambiguous. The real thing which we are 2747 discussing is not a legal technicality, but we want to know whether the Government do intend to disqualify a person from sitting on a council because his child under 16 is relieved.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The point of substance has Keen lost sight of in what I hope I may call without offence, a legal wrangle. I do not think there is any ambiguity at all in this matter. The law provides, by Section 42 of the Act of 1927, which is part of the general law, that if relief is given to a child under 16 years of age, it shall be treated as relief given to the father, the principle, of course, being that the father is responsible for maintaining his children up to that age. Then this Clause 9 says that a person shall be disqualified ii he has received poor relief, and if you remember the position of the general law, namely, Section 42 of the Act of 1927, of course that means that he will be disqualified if he has received relief in respect of a child for whose maintenance he was responsible. There is no doubt about that, and the only ambiguity or doubt which has been introduced into hon. Members' minds is by reason of the expression "member of a family" used in the latter part of the Clause. Hon. Members will realise that that is an exempting provision; it says that a person shall not be disqualified because he or a member of his family received medical relief. It is possible that the expression "member of a family is wider than is, strictly speaking, necessary, but in so far as it is wider, it does not do any harm at all; in fact, it rather helps to make it plain in favour of those who are to be relieved. It is really a drafting point, and I hope that what. I
§ have said will make it plain that in substance the intentions of the Government are properly expressed in the Clause.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
There are a number of Sections in the Act of 1927 which will be repealed, and I find that Section 42 is not among them, so that that appears to answer the question raised by the hon. and learned Member for South East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser).
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
Supposing the case were that of a child who, through an accident, say, became mentally affected and had to be maintained in a Poor Law institution or draw relief from the Poor Law, does it mean that the father would be disqualified from occupying a seat on the council in consequence?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
That is provided for in the Clause in the words:or been an inmate of an institution for that purpose.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If the children of one of these councillors gets food and medical attention at school, and boots at school, and perhaps later on clothes at school, will that person be disqualified'? Under this Clause he will not be disqualified; he will only be disqualified if the child gets those things under the Poor Law. No such ridiculous hotchpotch was ever brought, before this House.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
The Clause refers to medical and surgical treatment: I was referring to mental treatment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 219: Noes, 119.2751
|Division No. 79.]||AYES.||[9.42 p.m.|
|Albery. Irving James||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Alton)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman||Brass, Captain W.||Charteris, Brigadier-General S.|
|Applin. Colonel R. V. K.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Christie, J. A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Briggs. J. Harold||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.|
|Atkinson, C.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Balniel. Lord||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. H. I.||Cobb. Sir Cyril|
|Banks. Sir Reginald Mitchell||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Cohen, Major J. Brunei|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Buckingham, Sir H.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Bennett, A. J||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Berry, Sir George||Campbell, E. T.||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Bevan, S. J.||Carver, Major W. H.||Cope, Major Sir William|
|Birchall, Ma|or J. Dearman||Cassels, J. D.||Couper, J. B.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W, R., Skipton)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Courtauld, Major J S.|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Holt, Captain H. P.||Preston, William|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Ramsden, E.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Remer. J. R.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hurd, Percy A.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hurst, Gerald B.||Ruggles-Brlse, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Iveagh, Countess of||Rye, F. G.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Jones, Sir G.W.H. (Stoke New'gton)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Sanders, Sir Robert A,|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Savery, S. S.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montaith||Lamb, J. O||Shaw, Lt.-Col.A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Locker.Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Loder, J. de V.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lougher, Lewis||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Flelden, E. B.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh vere||Smithers, Waldron|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Spender-Clay. Colonel H.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Forrest, W.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Styles, Captain H. W.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Ganzonl. Sir John||Meyer, Sir Frank||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Gates, Percy||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Tasker, R. Inlgo.|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Golf, Sir Park||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Thomson. F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Grace, John||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Tinne, J, A.|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Murchlson, Sir Kenneth||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Grotrlan, H. Brent||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Warner, Brigadier-General W, W.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Hacking, Douglas H.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Hall, Lieut. Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Wells, S. R.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Oakley, T.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Harland, A.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Williams. Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Pennefather, Sir John||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Penny, Frederick George||Winby, Colonel L, P.|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Withers, John James|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Perring, Sir William George||Womersley, W. J.|
|Henderson,Capt.R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frame)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Hennessy. Major Sir G. R. J.||Phillpson, Mabel||Wright, Brig-General W. D.|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Pilcher, G.|
|Hilton, Cecil||Pilditch, Sir Philip||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Bichard||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Captain Margesson and Captain Wallace.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File. West)||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Hirst, G. H.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Day, Harry||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)|
|Amnion, Charles George||Duncan, C.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||John, William (Rhondda. West)|
|Baker, Walter||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Barr. J.||Gardner. J. P.||Jones, W. N. (Carmarthen)|
|Batty, Joseph||Glbbins, Joseph||Kelly, W. T.|
|Bellamy, A.||Gillett, George M.||Kennedy, T.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Lansbury, George|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Lawrence, Susan|
|Brlant, Frank||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan}||Lawson, John James|
|Broad. F. A.||Griffith, F. Kingsley||Lee, F.|
|Bromfield, William||Grundy. T. W.||Lindley, F. W.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Butt)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lowth, T.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orknty & Shetland)||Lunn, William|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hardle, George D.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. B. (Aberavon)|
|Compton, Joseph||Harney, E. A,||Mackinder, W.|
|Connolly, M.||Harris. Percy A.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Cove, W. G.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||March, S.|
|Maxton, James||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D.(Rhondna)|
|Montague, Frederick||Smillie, Robert||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Morris, R. H||Smith, Rennle (Penistone)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Oliver, George Harold||Stamford, T. W.||Welsh. J. C.|
|Owen, Major G.||Stephen, Campbell||Westwood. J.|
|Parkinson, John Allan (Wlgan)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Whiteley, W.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Strauss, E. A.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Sullivan, Joseph||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Potts, John S.||Sutton, J. E.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Richardson R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Taylor, R. A.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Riley, Ben||Thorne, W. (West Ham Plalstow)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Ritson, J.||Thurtle, Ernest||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Saklatvala, Shapurji||Tinker, John Joseph||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Scurr, John||Tomlinson, R. P.||Wright, W.|
|Sexton, James||Townend, A. E.|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Vlant, S. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Wallhead, Richard C.||Mr. Barnes and Mr. Paling.|
|Shinwell, E.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
§ Mr. WEBB
I beg to move, in page 8, line 40, at the end, to insert the words:or of any institution provided by virtue of the Lunacy or Mental Deficiency Acts.We have placed this Amendment on the Paper in order to inquire what is meant by the Government in drafting this Clause. Under this Clause a person is not disqualifiedby reason only that he or a member of his family has received medical or surgical treatment, or been an inmate of an institution for that purpose.The last Amendment concerned a hypothetical dozen or two dozen people who might he disqualified by receiving Poor Law relief, but this Amendment concerns 120,000 people a vast number of whom are dependants of members. If they receive relief in asylums, it is entered in the case books as poor relief, and it is in fact poor relief and the husband of a wife in that position, or the father of a child in that position, is, it seems to me, in receipt of poor relief. As a matter of fact, he is a pauper, even if the wife or child had been compulsorily carried off to an asylum. Moreover, he remains a pauper even if, as is the custom, the board of guardians charges him with the cost of the maintenance of the person in the asylum. Even if he pays the full amount, he is still a pauper. There are a large number out of the 120,000 cases in which the full cost charged by the guardians is paid by the relatives; nevertheless, it remains poor relief. That I believe to be the law.
The Bill as it stands proposes to remove the disqualification for this purpose ifhe or a member of his family has received medical or surgical treatment.Is the fact that a person is treated as a 2752 certified lunatic or a mentally deficient person the same as receiving surgical treatment? One would think that it was. I should be quite content if we can be told that residence in an asylum as a certified lunatic or in a mental deficiency home run by a Poor Law Authority as a certified mentally deficient is equivalent to receiving medical or surgical treatment. It must be remembered that not all these 120,000 are in receipt of medical or surgical treatment. There are places given up to creatures who are so incapable that they have to be turned over and fed, and who are unable to see, speak or hear or do anything until somebody turns them over to feed them. They are included in the 120,000, and can they be said to be receiving medical or surgical treatment? If the Government mean that these words do apply to this treatment, my Amendment is unnecessary, but I suggest that, in view of the grave doubt that there would be on the subject, it ought to be adopted. The disqualification is being removed in the case of a sick person but this is a much less guilty case, as it were, of a person compulsorily removed to an asylum and whose relative pays the full charge made by the board of guardians, yet the person concerned is to be disqualified. That is rather serious. I do not think it can be intended, and if it is not intended I humbly suggest that it may be made clear.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The point put by the right hon. Gentleman seems to be precisely the same as that raised in an Amendment earlier on the Paper which was not called. I understand there is some doubt as to whether relief given under a maternity and child welfare 2753 scheme in a maternity home really constitutes medical relief within the terms of the Bill.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Can the hon. Member inform me whether it is intended to move the next Amendment? If it is intended to move it, he cannot raise upon this Amendment the point he is now putting.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I also have a case to submit on the lines put forward by the right hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb). I have a case in mind of a person who suffered acutely from a carbuncle on the neck, and who was temporarily incarcerated in a mental institution. It was only a matter of a few days; he had lost his mental balance. However, it took about three weeks before the man could be rescued, as it were, from that environment, though he was perfectly sound and perfectly sane. Is it suggested that a case of that description comes within the words which are already in this Clause, or would it be regarded as a case where poor relief had been received, which was not in the nature of medical or surgical treatment? There may be dozens of other cases in the country where there has been no prolonged stay in an asylum, but where disqualification may follow unless we have a clear interpretation of the words.
As a preliminary, may I inform the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Brown) that a maternity home or similar institution is covered by the words in the Clause. The point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) is one of some doubt and perplexity perhaps and therefore I make no complaint that he has raised it, as it gives me an opportunity of telling the Committee what I think is the position. I must distinguish between the two Acts, or sets of Acts, which are mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, the Mental Deficiency Acts and the Lunacy Acts. Under the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913, the authorities are entitled to recover a sum towards the expenses of the maintenance of an individual, but they have no power to recover from the guardians, 2754 and therefore treatment in a mental deficiency institution is not poor relief. Section 37 subsection (2) of that Act states definitely that a person in a certified mental deficiency institution is not to be deemed to be in receipt of poor relief. When we come to the question of persons treated under the Lunacy Acts, I would point out that the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment speaks of institutions provided by virtue of the Lunacy Acts. A person is not disqualified by reason of being in an institution provided by virtue of the Lunacy Acts, but it is a fact that a pauper lunatic who is confined in an asylum and is chargeable to the guardians in his place of settlement is disqualified in certain circumstances. But there, again, comes in a question which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman, that is to say, whether he is receiving medical or surgical relief.
In the case mentioned by the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), where a man was suffering from a carbuncle on the neck, I imagine that he would be receiving medical or surgical relief, and therefore he would come under the terms of this Clause. But there are lunatics who, I think, could hardly he said, except by rather stretching the words, to be in receipt of medical or surgical relief. We have made no particular mention of those cases because the Lunacy Acts were not included amongst the appropriate Acts in Clause 4, for the reasons I gave, namely, that a Royal Commission has reported on the subject of the Lunacy Acts and that legislation no doubt will follow very shortly, and as the Lunacy Acts were not included in the list of appropriate Acts in Clause 4 it would be better to leave the matter where it stands for the present. When legislation is introduced to deal with the recommendations of the Royal Commission the Lunacy Acts will, no doubt, he added to the list of Acts in Clause 4, and then provision will be made for those eases under the terms of this Clause.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. WEBB
Unfortunately, there are only about 5,000 mentally deficient; perhaps there ought to be a great many more, but I put it at 5,000. That leaves 115,000 people who have all got someone belonging to them and who will be disqualified. You do not intend that they should be disqualified but yet you suggest that they should wait for the introduction of new legislation. I submit that it is not fair to subject these people to this disqualification. This is a very real grievance. I know members of councils who have had their wives put away, and it is not fair to subject them to this disqualification when it could be so easily put right by including some such words as I have suggested.
I am not sure that it would be so easily put right, but I am ready to give some further consideration to this matter between now and the Report stage.
Dr. VERNON DAVIES
Is it not the fact that all the persons detained in asylums are under the direct control and supervision of the medical superintendent? In that case you could argue that they are receiving a certain amount of medical benefit and would come under this Clause. The medical superintendent is in control of all persons in an asylum.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
It would appear from the arguments of hon. Members opposite that there is a real point in the case as it relates to those with relatives in an asylum, but is it really argued that a man or woman who has been detained as a lunatic or a mentally deficient person should be eligible to be a member of a local authority? That is what this Clause deals with—the question of disqualification for membership or a local authority; and I should have thought that not even the Labour party wanted to elect those who are mentally deficient.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
The hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) really misunderstands the position. According to the Clause as it stands, a man whose wife was a pauper lunatic would be disqualified from sitting on any one of these county authorities. That is the position which the Minister has promised to look 2756 into, and if he considers it with the intention of seeing whether it can be altered I think that meets the case. But unless that case is met there will be a very serious position until such time as the lunacy laws be amended.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 8, line 40, at the end, to insert the words:or received relief which could have been granted under the Blind Persons Act, 1920.I move this Amendment in fulfilment of a pledge which I gave during the discussion of an earlier Clause.
§ Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 9, line 10, at the end, to insert the words:(3) Notwithstanding, anything in Section forty-six of the Local Government Act, 1894. a person shall not, on or after the appointed day, be disqualified for becoming or being a member of any local authority to which that Section applies by reason that he or any member of his family has received poor relief if by virtue of the provisions of this Section the receipt of that relief would not disqualify him for becoming or being a member of a county or county borough council.I have moved this Amendment in a slightly altered form. The alteration is in the third line in the Amendment as it stands on the Paper. I have left out the words "a district or parish council," and substituted the words "any local authority to which that Section applies." The object of the Amendment is simply to cover the metropolitan borough councils, which are constituted by Provisional Order. This is the fulfilment of a pledge which I gave in the discussion on Clause 4.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 233; Noes, 129.2759
|Division No. 80.]||AYES.||[10.9 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Albery, Irving James||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Ganzonl, sir John||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman||Gates, Percy||Oakley, T.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Apsley, Lord||Gllmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Goff, Sir Park||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Atkinson, C.||Gower, Sir Robert||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Grace, John||Perring. Sir William George|
|Balniel, Lord||Grant, Sir J. A.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Phillpson, Mabel|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Pilcher, G.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Berry, Sir George||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Preston, William|
|Bevan, S. J.||Hacking, Douglas H.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Ramsden, E.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks. W. R., Skipton)||Hanbury, C.||Remer, J. R.|
|Bowater, Colonel Sir T. Vansittart||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Harland, A.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hartington, Marquess of||Richardson, Sir P. w. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Haslam, Henry C.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Rye, F. G.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Henderson, Capt. R.R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hills, Major John Waller||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hilton, Cecil||Savery, S. S.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Holt, Capt. H. P.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hope, Sir Harry (Fortar)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Charterls, Brigadier-General J.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G.F.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hurd, Percy A.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hurst, Gerald B.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Streatfelld, Captain S. R.|
|Colman. N. C. D.||Iveagh, Countess of||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nalr[...])|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Con'l)||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cope, Major Sir William||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Couper, J. B.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Taster, R. Inlgo.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Lamb, J. Q.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Locker-Lampson. Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Davles, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Loder, J. de V.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lougher, Lewis||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Dawson. Sir Philip||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Dixey, A. C.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Wells, S. R.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Macmillan, Captain H.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Mac Robert, Alexander M.||Wilton, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|falrfax, Captain J. G.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Winby, Colonel L P.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Withers, John James|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Fielden, E. B.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Womersley, W. J.|
|ford, Sir P. J.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Forrest, W.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Wright, Brig.-General W. D.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Murchlson, Sir Kenneth||Captain Margesson and Mr. Penny.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Franels E.||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File, West)||Harney, E. A.||Scurr, John|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Harris, Percy A.||Sexton, James|
|Amman, Charles George||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Baker, Walter||Hirst, G. H.||Shinwell, E.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddenfield).||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Barnes, A.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Sltch, Charles H.|
|Barr, J.||John. William (Rhondda, West)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smillie, Robert|
|Bellamy, A.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, Rennle (Penlstone)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Jones, W. N. (Carmarthen)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Kelly, W. T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Briant, Frank||Kennedy, T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Broad, F. A.||Lansbury, George||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Bromfield, William||Lawrence, Susan||Strauss. E. A.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Lawson, John James||Sullivan, J.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lee, F.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lindley, F. W.||Taylor. R. A.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Longbottom, A. W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lowth, T.||Thurtie, Ernest|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lunn, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Compton, Joseph||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Connolly, M.||Mackinder. W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Vlant, S. P.|
|Davles, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Malone. C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Wellhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhougnton)||March, S.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Harry||Maxton, James||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D.(Rhondde)|
|Dennlson, R.||Montague, Frederick||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Duncan, C.||Morris, R. H.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Dunnlco, H||Naylor. T. E.||Wellock. Wilfred|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Oliver, George Harold||Westwood, J.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Owen, Major G.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Gardner, J. P.||Palm, John Henry||Williams, C. p. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Gillett, George M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F, W.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and colne)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Potts, John S.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Rlley, Ben||Windsor, Walter|
|Hall, F. (York. W.R., Normanton)||Ritson, J.||Wright, W.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwich)|
|Hamilton. Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —|
|Hardle, George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Paling.|