§ Mr. T. RICHARDSON
asked the President of the Local Government Board whether he had noticed that in the list of starvation deaths for 1915 seven were tramps; that again in the list for 1916 six or seven were tramps; that in both lists there were besides several homeless persons; what steps, if any, does he propose to take to prevent like deaths; whether the Local Government Board has been advising many boards of guardians to close their casual wards; whether he is aware that if this advice is followed tramps would in many cases have to walk more than fifteen miles, and in some cases more than twenty miles, from ward to ward; whether letters similar to the letter from the Local Government Board, dated 28th June last, and sent to the guardians of Leighton Buzzard, telling them that if while the casual wards of the union are closed a vagrant makes application for relief and the master is satisfied that he is unable to proceed to a casual ward which is open, and has not the means of obtaining a lodging, the case should be admitted to the workhouse, have been sent to other boards of guardians; whether, having regard to the legal responsibilities of masters of workhouses and relieving officers, and the decision in Clark v. Joslin, he will send round a circular informing them that if while the casual wards of the union are closed a destitute wayfarer or tramp makes appli- 2053W cation for relief, and has not the means of obtaining lodging an 1 also necessary food, the master should admit him to the workhouse, unless he is satisfied that the applicant is able to proceed to a casual ward; whether he will also send a similar circular to relieving officers reminding them of their duty of giving an order for the workhouse or other relief in the like circumstances; whether the Local Government Board intend to keep any of the casual wards closed permanently in cases where this would involve more than twelve miles walk from one ward to another; and if he will order that in any case where a tramp has to walk more than fifteen miles from one ward to another he shall be allowed to start on his journey without doing work first, and that he shall not be required to do more than six hours' work on the following day?
If the hon. Member will examine the particulars given in the Return relating to the deaths referred to, he will see that none of them can be attributed to the closing of casual wards. With a view to avoiding such difficulties as the hon. Member has in mind, letters similar to that referred to in the question are sent in every case, in which assent is given to the closing of a casual ward, and I am satisfied that the Poor Law officers concerned clearly understand the nature of their responsibilities. The question of permanently closing any provincial casual wards has not been considered. As regards the last part of the question, the guardians and their officers have ample power under the existing Regulations to relax the provisions as to detention and work in cases of the kind indicated.