Poor Law Act, 1927.

– in the House of Commons on 23rd July 1929.

Alert me about debates like this

Mr. CHAMBERLAFN:

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying that the Orders, dated 27th June, 1929, entitled (1) the Bodwellty Union (Default) Orders (Continuation) Order, 1929; (2) the Chester-le-Street Union (Default) Orders (Continuation) Order, 1929; and (3) the West Ham Union (Default) Orders (Continuation) Order, 1929, be annulled. This Motion, which stands upon the Order Paper in the names of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) and myself, prays His Majesty that certain Orders having reference to the unions in which appointed guardians are now functioning, should be annulled. The actual Orders in question purport to extend the period of office of the present appointed guardians until the 2nd August next. We, on these benches, have no objection to that, but we understand that it is the intention of the Minister of Health to dismiss these guardians upon the 2nd August next and, by a new Order, to substitute for them other appointed guardians, who will function until the 1st April next. There are words in the Orders which indicate clearly the intention of the Minister: Whereas the Minister proposes to vary the said Order as from the first day of August, 1929, by substituting for the existing guardians other persons to be appointed by a further Order, and in order to enable the said substitution to be affected it is necessary that the term of office of the existing guardians should be extended. Then it goes on to extend the term of office until the 1st August next. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has inserted these words in the Order to give us an opportunity of challenging the course which he proposes to take, and as it seems likely that the Order making the substitution cannot be laid in time for discussion in this House, I appreciate the motive which has caused him to put these words in the present Orders, thereby giving us the opportunity of raising the question at this stage.

That the House may be fully in possession of the situation, it is necessary that I should say what is the difference between the proposal of the present Minister of Health and the proposals which the late Government intended to carry into effect if we had still been in office. Under the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act, the guardians who were appointed were appointed in the first instance for 12 months, but under Section 1 (2) of that Act the Minister is empowered at any time and from time to time to extend the terms of office of the guardians for a period not exceeding six months. Under the Local Government Act, the boards of guardians come to an end on the 1st April next year, and their duties and powers will be transferred to the larger local authorities—the county borough councils and the county councils, but in one Section of that Act the Minister was empowered to make special exception in the case of the unions where appointed guardians were functioning. Those hon. Members who were Members of the last House of Commons may recollect that, in the course of Debate upon the Local Government Bill, I stated that it was not the intention of the Government to exercise those powers so far as two of the unions were concerned, namely, the Bedwellty Union and the Chester-le-Street Union, but that in the case of the West Ham Union it was my intention to exercise those powers in so far as the two County Boroughs of East Ham and West Ham were concerned. The remaining parts of that union were to follow the ordinary course of procedure laid down by the Local Government Act.

It will be seen, therefore, that there are two periods to consider. One is the period after the 1st of April next. There, there is no difference between us as far as Bedwellty and Chester-le-Street are concerned. In both cases the old board of guardians will disappear and their functions will be taken over by the the county council. In the case of West Ham there is a difference. I understand that the Minister of Health does not intend to use his powers under the Section of the Local Government Act but intends that the functions of the guardians shall be performed by the county borough councils of the two county boroughs. I may perhaps have something to say about that a little later, but I want now to devote myself to this period between the 2nd of August and the 1st of April next year. It is a comparatively short period; it is a period of only eight months, and one wonders what is the purpose of the Government in making this great change, in substituting for the present appointed guardians not a board of guardians but other appointed guardians appointed under a system invented by the Minister of Health himself, appointed guardians who will only be able to function for a few months, who will be strange to their duties and take some considerable time before they can make themselves acquainted with the problems in front of them, and who will displace men who have had now some considerable experience of these unions, who have formulated plans which they were carrying out, and who are working smoothly in all cases.

One wonders as to the reason why the Minister thinks it is necessary to make this disturbance in the present arrangements all for the sake of a change which is only to last for a few months between now and April next. No one can imagine that he really thinks that the administration of the Poor Law is going to be improved by this change it is hardly possible to believe that it will not be worsened, seeing the great inexperience of the guardians who are to be put in. On the face of it, it is clearly obvious that this is not a move to improve the administration of the Poor Law but a political move.

Mr. J; JONES:

So was yours.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

It is a move designed to satisfy the more extreme supporters of the right hon. Gentleman. It is purely political in its character, and that is very obvious indeed from the proceedings which have taken place since the change was announced. It is further a wanton and gratuitous slight upon a body of public servants who have had to work in an atmosphere of misrepresentation and calumny, who have shown very great courage, perfect honesty and sincerity, in their work, and who have performed a most valuable public service not only to the locality itself but to the country at large by the example they have set. There is one other consideration, and really to my mind it is the most serious of all considering the change which is proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. This change will be taken, in fact is taken, by hon. Members opposite and by other people in. the country as a gesture on the part of the Government, an indication, that they wish to discourage the reforms which have taken place in these areas and encourage a return to the old methods of the boards of guardians who were superseded.

When I introduced the Boards of Guardians (Default) Bill into this House I stated that my purpose was not the destruction but the salvation of local government. To me it had been clear for some time that the system under which boards of guardians functioned, a system under which the persons elected were elected in order that they might administer relief to people who were their own constituents, was a system which had indeed worked for a number of years without disclosing the dangers which lurked within it but which finally disclosed these dangers owing to the deliberate adoption in certain particular areas by boards of guardians of a policy which has come to be known familiarly as Poplarism. One feature of that policy, which was not confined to Poplar, was the giving of unconditional outdoor relief to able-bodied men, but it was accompanied in various places by different variations. The general effect of it was to give relief according to a scale, not according to the merits of the individual; to subsidise wages, to make no proper inquiry into the circumstances of the home, and consequently to encourage the pauperisation of the population to such a degree that where it had unrestricted sway the result was enormously to increase the number of per-sons upon relief, put up the rates to a condition which made things almost intolerable for the industries of the neighbourhood, and finally to bring the local authorities concerned in sight of bankruptcy.

In Poplar that condition of affairs was concealed or to some extent avoided by the fact that Poplar, being a Metropolitan Borough, had the benefit of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund and were able to draw from that fund so large an income at the expense of the wealthier boroughs, who had no control whatever over the expenditure, that they pursued their course without bringing upon themselves the natural economic results which followed in other places. That was a state of things which clearly could not go on. It was a state of things which in my view was bound to lead to the breakdown of local government, and it seemed to me that sooner or later we should have to decide whether we were going to continue to try and work democracy or whether we should have to substitute a bureaucracy in its place. The Boards of Guardians (Default) Act was avowedly from the beginning nothing but a temporary measure. It was never intended to deal more than temporarily with a situation which had rapidly become intolerable. It was my hope when I introduced the Bill that it would not be necessary la extend its operations beyond the area of West Ham, which was the actual cause of its introduction.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I hoped that it might have been confined to West Ham.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

It was not.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

Everyone who was a member of the last House of Parliament will recollect the reluctance with which I extended it to other places and the long period of patience which I showed in dealing with a place like Chester-le-Street, which flouted the Ministry of Health over and over again, and broke faith with it after they had obtained advances of money on conditions which subsequently they refused to carry out. Indeed, I am surprised that I did not draw upon myself greater criticism than I did for having waited so long before putting into operation the powers which lay ready to my band. At any rate, this Act, which of course is now repealed, has served its purpose. It has demonstrated what many hon. Members opposite refused to believe, that the bankruptcy of these places was not the inevitable result of the economic and industrial conditions in those places. It was true that in each one of these three unions the position was exceptionally difficult. All of them were poor unions; all of them suffered from great unemployment. In every ease the task before any board of guardians was an exceptionally difficult one, but the work of the appointed guardians has shown that the difficulties were multiplied many times over by the policy deliberately adopted by the old boards of guardians; and it has shown that if they had stuck to the sound principles of Poor Law administration there would never have been any necessity for them to get into the financial difficulties they did. Hon. Members opposite, with the exception of one or two, will agree that the experience in these unions has shown that the old system of these bodies giving relief to their own constituents is a system which was bound to break down. I suppose that hon. Members opposite will doubtless disagree with many of my actions when I was Minister of Health—[An HON. MEMBER: "All of them"]—but I think they will agree that experience has shown how impossible it is for a body of popularly elected persons to undertake with any propriety the distribution of outdoor relief to their own constituents—[Interruption]. That statement I notice is received not only with dissent but with derision by hon. Members opposite, and I also notice that an hon. Member of the Government associates himself with that dissent.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I have inadvertently disclosed one of those deep differences which lie in the heart of the party opposite, because the words which I have just used, and which I have just read, are not my words. They are the words of a member of the present Government. They are taken from page 963 of the second volume of the great work on the Poor Law by Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb. Indeed, the authors of that book point out that it is not merely the unemployed or even the applicants for relief who are subject to the sort of temptations which arise from a system of this kind. They point out that in one of these areas the shopkeepers, the licensed victuallers, the proprietors of picture houses, even the landlords themselves—all of them are interested in there being as much money as possible circulating through the neighbourhood. It is that consideration, no doubt, which has led the authors to the conclusion which is received with so much dissatisfaction by Members of their party. They go on to say: When, as in recent years 10 to 20 per cent. of all the wage-earners in a given locality are involuntarily unemployed and almost all the others are apprehensive of unemployment, it is quite impracticable for members elected by popular vote and dependant for re-election on that vote, to determine with accurate and unbiased judgment to which of their constituents they will grant the legal dole which saves the household from dire privation, and from which of them this saving succour shall, on any ground of law or policy, be sternly withheld. It will be seen that the authors of this book go a good deal further than I should be prepared to go myself. They say that any system under which a body of elected persons is made responsible for out relief is wrong. If they are right in that view, then the Local Government Act itself is wrong, because, although the Local Government Act provides for the disappearance of boards of guardians, it still hands over their powers and functions to elected bodies. I personally do not go so far as the authors of the book. I draw a distinction between the two sets of bodies; I draw a distinction between the set of bodies whose sole function is the administration of the Poor Law, and those like the councils of the counties and county boroughs, in which case this is going to be only one of many functions. I am sanguine enough to believe that with these new larger bodies general problems of local government will still be the deciding issue at elections, and that we shall not find that the return or otherwise of members to these bodies will be determined by the amount of their promises as to the relief that they will be prepared to support. But no one who has read these passages and others of a similar kind in the book referred to or who has followed carefully what has been happening, will Le disposed to deny that there is a certain element of risk even when these functions have been transferred to the councils of counties and county boroughs.

It is because it seems to me that the action of the right hon. Gentleman in making this unnecessary and uncalled-for change at this time does increase that risk, and does seem to indicate that the Government have a certain view about the right way in which to administer the Poor Law, that to my mind the change is unfortunate, undesirable, and dangerous, and for that reason I have put down the Motion which stands in my name. It will be remembered that the operation of the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act turns upon financial considerations. It can only be applied in cases where, owing to the policy of the Board, they were unable any longer to carry on their functions, where in fact they were unable either from the rates or from the banks or from the Ministry of Health to obtain those loans which were necessary for them because their expenditure had so far outrun—

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

On a point of Order. In connection with the right hon. Gentleman's statement, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman, is it not a fact that the old board of guardians at West. Ham met all their responsibilities?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young):

The hon. Member knows perfectly well that, if it is a point of Order, he must ask it of me and not of the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Then I will ask it of you.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER:

No point of Order arises.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

The statement was made that the guardians were unable to meet their responsibilities. The right hon. Gentleman knows that he is not telling the truth.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER:

That is not a point of Order.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I would remind the House for a moment of the financial position of the several unions at the time when the guardians were superseded. In the case of the West Ham Union, which of course was much the largest of the three, there was a debt to the Ministry of Health of nearly £2,000,000; there was a bank overdraft of, I think, nearly £200,000; and the guardians at that time, in Older to meet current expenditure, were borrowing at the rate of £700,000 a year. That was bound to increase too, because they were only meeting their loan charges out of fresh loans. So they kept piling up the charges which they were unable to meet except by borrowing afresh, and indeed one may say that bankruptcy stared them in the face. At Chester-le-Street, where the whole assessable value of the union was under £350,000, the old board of guardians had accumulated liabilities of £178,000. That included a bank overdraft of £79,000, a Goschen loan of £41,000, and at the time when they were superseded they were demanding another Goschen loan of £35,000. In Bedwellty the debt to the Ministry of Health was about £1,000,000, and there were other liabilities of over £170,000 upon the guardians.

What has happened since the appointed guardians have been at work? All further borrowing has ceased. In several cases they have begun to repay the debts to the Ministry of Health or to the banks, as the case may be, and there is no doubt that in each case, in spite of the extraordinary difficulty of the situation, the financial position has been materially improved. It is going to be still further improved by the operation of the Local Government Act. I am not now referring to the actual relief in general rates in those areas owing to the operation of the Act, but merely to the mitigation of liability for those various loans, Under the extremely generous provisions of the Clause which mitigates liabilities the bodies which take over the liabilities of the guardians will receive from the taxpayer a contribution which will to a very large extent reduce the liability which now lies upon them. So far that is satisfactory enough from the financial side, but, as was frequently pointed out, during the discussions on the Local Government Bill in this House, by hon. Members of the Labour party, even so, after all its operation, the financial position of some of these local authorities will still remain somewhat precarious, and any alteration which involves the expenditure of large new sums of money by the guardians might well make their financial position impossible.

Therefore, since the Minister is making all these disturbances, I think we are entitled to ask him how he is going to treat these new bodies. Is he going to give them a free hand? Are they to be allowed to do what the old guardians did, to set up a scale of their own, to make up wages to that scale even if there were only a difference of ed. or 1s. between them? If so, how does he think they are going to meet their liabilities? Is he going to insist that any extra charges shall be met out of the rates, because if so, I would warn him—I think it is not necessary, for I am sure he knows—that in a Union like Bedwellty, for instance, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to collect more from the ratepayer than is being asked of him now, for indeed the arrears of rates are still very heavy. But if he is not going to do that there is only one other alternative, and that is to give these guardians a loan. Is he going to give them a loan? If he is, is he going to make any conditions to be attached to that loan? There again I would point out that at the time when these guardians were superseded hon. Members opposite, or some of them at any rate, used to complain bitterly that the Minister of Health would not advance money to these boards without attaching conditions to it. They always lost sight of the fact that in all human probability some part, if not the whole, of any loans which were then granted to these boards of guardians, never could be recovered from them, and so what they were asking for was that a free grant of the taxpayers' money should be given to these extravagant boards without any conditions being laid down as to the way in which that money was to be spent.

I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether he is going to give loans in future without conditions, as his party demanded in the past, or whether he will give us some assurance that at any rate these new guardians who, I understand, will be appointed or nominated by local authorities, will be 6.0 p.m. so guided that they will preserve financial prudence and will not put the local authorities who will have to take over their liabilities next April in a position which will be financially embarrassing, if not impossible for them. I would like to say a little more about the case of West Ham in particular, because West Ham was the first offender, and, in some ways ways perhaps the worst offender. We have more information about it than we have from the other places and it is right that hon. Members should appreciate the remarkable revolution which has been brought about in this place since the appointed guardians first took over their work in 1926. For some reason or another, although the appointed guardians regularly issued reports which were laid as Command Papers while the late Government were in office, that practice has been discontinued and the right hon. Gentleman has given no encouragement to the appointed guardians to present any report upon their most recent doings. That seems a strange proceeding on his part just at a time when he is going to bring them to an end and substitute somebody else for them. That is just the moment when one would suppose he would desire to give the public the fullest possible opportunity of judging what were the reasons for such action on his part, but, although the right hon. Gentleman has not called for any report, the guardians have issued a report to the ratepayers giving a very interesting account of some of the changes which have taken place since they have been in office.

If the figures for the last week in June of this year, be compared with the figures for the last week in April 1926—a date which is taken because it comes before the General Strike and is, therefore, not complicated by any exceptional circumstances of that kind—it will be found that the number on outdoor relief has been reduced from 27,853 to 6,759; weekly costs have come down from £28,000 to £3,860, and, if we take the figure of unemployed only, it has been reduced from 15,700 to 1,046. It is easy for hon. Members opposite to suggest that these people have been driven off relief and are starving somewhere in the neighbourhood, but that is not borne out by one shred of evidence. On the contrary, the appointed guardians have taken particular pains to ascertain what has become of these people and have been able to show that, of those into whose cases they inquired 60 per cent. to 84 per cent. have obtained work, whilst 13 per cent. to 32 per cent. of those who have not been able to obtain work have obtained unemployment benefit. The guardians, knowing the sort of people with whom they had to deal, took the precaution of obtaining the names and addresses of the employers of those people so that their evidence could not be refused. Indeed it is only in accord with the general policy of the guardians throughout that, at the same time as they discouraged people from coming to obtain relief unless they were really unable to get work, they should have done all in their power to help these people to get work, and one of the great sources of satisfaction in the account of what they have done is that they have been able to instil into so many of these people who had really lost it, the desire to find work and the ability to find it too.

Photo of Mr John McShane Mr John McShane , Walsall

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the commissioners asked the employers of labour with whom these men had been employed, for characters or testimonials?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

That is not what I said. [Interruption.]

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

If the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) insists upon interrupting any more, I shall have to ask him to leave the House.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I am very sorry. [HON. MEMBEES: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, you may say "Hear, hear," but you do not know. I can answer everything which that man has said.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The hon. Member can do it at the proper time.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I will. I withdraw and apologise.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

What I said was that the appointed guardians took the view that the people who ceased to apply for relief had, in the great majority of cases, obtained work. To test that view they took a number of sample cases and found that in those cases the people had obtained work. In order that it might not be said that they were making statements which would not bear investigation, they also obtained the names and addresses of the employers of these people. That is all I said, and I said it in order to show how careful the guardians had been to buttress their statement with unimpeachable evidence.

Photo of Mr Vernon Hartshorn Mr Vernon Hartshorn , Ogmore

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the figures for the last week in April of this year instead of the last week in June?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I cannot find it at the moment, but I think I can give it to the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Major Sir Frank Markham Major Sir Frank Markham , Rochester Chatham

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain further as to the cases into which inquiry was made? There is a considerable suspicion that those were selected cases.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

Suspicion on the part of some hon. Members is ineradicable. Whatever statement is made it is always challenged by hon. Gentlemen opposite. They never really believe that there is any honesty in anybody but themselves. I believe, however, that these figures can be substantiated with a completeness which would satisfy the hon. Member. Whilst it was obviously impossible for the guardians to inquire into every case, I am certain that the oases were not selected, but were merely a fair sample of all the cases dealt with by them. Altogether, as compared with the old administration, the appointed guardians in the West Ham Union are saving £1,000,000 a year for the ratepayers. In addition they have reduced their call upon rates from £766,000 in a half-year to £463,000, and in this last report they say that there will be a sufficient surplus available to justify another reduction of about £60,000 for the half-year ending 1st April next. When I add that they are repaying principal and interest of the debt at the rate of £300,000 a year, I think it will be agreed that, as far as the financial side is concerned, they have done their duty admirably and provided an object lesson for the whole country.

There are other matters, however, to which I would call the attention of the House in this interesting report. The appointed guardians have not given their attention solely to the reduction of expenditure but have given a great deal of time and thought to improving the arrangement for the people to whose needs they were attending. For instance, they give a list of various improvements which they have carried out at the hospital. They have increased the efficiency of the medical and nursing service by appointing four consultants—a gynaecologist, an orthopaedic surgeon, an ophthalmic surgeon and a neurologist; by the appointment of a dentist and an anaesthetist; by the addition to the staff of one medical officer and by the substitution of 14 staff nurses for a corresponding number of probationers. They have put in hand a considerable extension of the arrangements for giving occupational training. In the childrens' homes they have provided a new and more varied diet at additional cost, and they have changed the clothing of the children which was heavy and unsuitable for lighter and healthier clothing. They have encouraged games and outdoor exercises for the children and also encouraged them to join the local groups of boy scouts and girl guides. [Laughter.] Hon. Members will not sneer at this sentence in the Report: The excellence of the training received is evidenced by the fact that the children on leaving the homes become in almost all cases self-supporting. Further, in place of part-time district medical officers, full-time medical officers have been appointed and the number of district nurses has been increased. The report brings home to one's mind that, not only was the administration of the old guardians extravagant, but also grossly inefficient; and these hardhearted callous bureaucrats, as they are described by those hon. Members who do not approve of anything which the last Government did, have really effected a revolution in the efficiency of the service as well as in its financial implications. Now these people are to be swept away and dismissed as if they had done something to be ashamed of instead of having pulled West Ham out of chaos into order, and in their place are to be put people to be nominated by the local authority. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman has seen any account of the proceedings when the names of the people to be nominated by the town council of West Ham were discussed. It is a very illuminating document. It throws a lurid light upon the atmosphere in which this matter is discussed in West Ham.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Un a point of Order. West Ham is only a part of the Union area, and if the right hon. Gentleman is singling out West Ham for special attack, we want him to deal with the other parts as well.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman proposes that of these guardians four are to be nominated by West Ham, two by East Ham, one each by Wanstead and Woodford, and one, I think, by Walthamstow. [Interruption.] I am told that there was an understanding among the parties on these authorities that in making their nominations they should have regard to the rights of minorities, and that there should be a fair distribution of the places on the new board. I am told that understanding was honourably carried out everywhere except in West Ham, but that in West Ham the local Socialists insisted on having all four places for themselves. A certain Alderman Devenay, who seconded the proposal for the nomination of four names belonging to the Socialist party, said it probably required some explanation as to why the Labour party should take the whole of the representation. I should think it did. As, at the Parliamentary election, the actual votes recorded for the Socialist party were considerably less than the votes recorded for candidates on the Liberal and Conservative sides, it would appear indeed that some explanation would be required. He went on to explain: Now, they wanted to ensure— At that point there seems to have been some interruption, but he continued: Wanstead and Woodford would send one representative, and that representative would not be a Labour representative. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nor Leyton."] Leyton could send two of one colour, and even if they sent only one, the fact remained that they were anxious, and he thought it was the desire of the Ministry of Health Someone there said "Question," and the Alderman continued: At any rate, he recognised they had a Labour Government.Councillor Ridgwell: What is party to do with the administration of the Poor Law?Alderman Devenay: It has to do with it.…Now they had a Minister of Health who was a Labour man, and he (the speaker) was certain, although he had not got his views, that it was his wish that the predominant party of the whole of the parishes should be representative of the people, and if they took the last election in the West Ham Union, there was a predominance of Labour representatives … They wanted to ensure that the Labour party got a majority of the 12 guardians. I think that may be left to the judgment of the House as a whole. Here you have an open admission that the opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman has given is to be seized by the local Labour party in order to exploit it for their own political ends, and it is a curious thing that even then the nominations which were put forward did not by any means please other members of the Labour party, who had hoped to get the nominations themselves. There is a gentleman whose name used to be familiar in our Debates on West Ham, Councillor Killip, who was one of the old guardians and took a prominent part in all the discussions and arguments that used to go on between the old board of guardians and the Ministry of Health. When the time came for these appointments to be made, Conucillor Killip thought he had established some claim, by his honest service to his party in the past, to be one of thorn. He was very bitter about it. He said: He was not one to kick over party traces, although he had sat there many a lime and bitten his cheek till the blood flowed down his throat. He had bitten his tongue, too. That must have been after he had made one of his old speeches. But it was left for another member of the party, Councillor Rumsey, to say: When there were any plums of office—and this plum had an extra amount of sugar with it— including, I suppose, the travelling expenses and other reasonable expenses that were to be covered—[Interruption.]

HON. MEMBERS:

Withdraw!

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

You have just drawn £5,000 a year.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

If any hon. Member says anything unparliamentary, I shall call him to order.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

On a point of Order. What right has a man who has just drawn £5,000 for his services for a year to object to workmen drawing their expenses?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

This Councillor Rumsey said: When there were any plums of office—and this plum had an extra amount of sugar with it—the 'house of lords' at Cumberland Road got to work, and the division was settled before it came to the group. It is true that Alderman Devenay called him a liar shortly afterwards, but that was the expression, no doubt, of his views at the time. When the House considers that those are the people to whom is to be entrusted the administration of the Poor Law in that particular area, when it considers that under the Local Government Act something like a quarter of a million of public money is to be handed over from the Exchequer to be distributed in that area towards the local rates, I say that that indicates the class of material with which we have to deal in West Ham, and it indicates the danger of the course which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take. I know it is thought by some people, who do not in the least agree with the methods of the old boards of guardians in these places, that, nevertheless, the change which the right hon. Gentleman is making is really a trifling one and is not one about which any particular fuss should be made, seeing that not much mischief could in any case be done in the course of eight months. I wish I could take that view. To my mind, the real difficulty is that it is the attitude of the Government which is here in question. One of the speakers I have quoted put certain views into the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, but I do not believe he holds those views, and I hope that, when he comes to reply, he will say something which will indicate that he does stand up for the best principles of Poor Law administration and that ho is not prepared to commit himself to practices such as those which led to the introduction and the passing of the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act.

I have not infrequently heard it suggested that the stamina, the independence, the self-reliance of the people of this country is not what it used to be. I do not believe, myself, that there is any real deterioration in the character of our race—not for one moment—but I do say that, human nature being what it is, to show people that they can be maintained by somebody else—[Interruption]—in idleness, at the same standard of living as those who are doing an honest, full, week's work, is something which might, if it were carried on, undermine and weaken the fibre of the character of our people; and I have been—[Interruption], Hon. Members may scoff, but I know very well that there are many hon. Members opposite who agree with every word I am saying now. It is not the desire of the regular, ordinary, working man to see the wastrel put in the same position as himself. I know it is not an easy thing, it is not a popular thing, to have to try and tighten up the administration of the Poor Law where it has been unduly lax and extravagant, but that it has been both lax and extravagant is freely admitted by both Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb in their book, and it is agreed, I think, by every impartial person. Every politician must expect to have his reverses of fortune and occasionally see his opponents reverse his policy, but there is nothing which the right hon. Gentleman opposite could do which would give me so much distress, because I believe it would be so bad for this country, as if he were to do anything which would encourage a return to those methods of laxity and extravagance and make no proper distinction between the man who works and the man who does not.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Nelson and Colne

I have no desire whatever to shirk the action which I have taken on the question of the appointed boards of guardians, and I welcome this Debate. At least it can be counted to me for righteousness that I did what I could to avoid it coming on after Eleven o'clock at night. I would like the House first to understand the position in which I found myself a few weeks ago. The three Orders made by the right hon. Gentleman affecting the boards of guardians in West Ham, Chester-le-Street, and Bedwellty would have come to an end on the 30th June. I had to do something, for had I taken no action at all, then, from the 1st July onward, no poor relief could have been paid in those areas without further legislation. I had, therefore, to take immediate action. Mad I had the time, Is should not have prolonged the lives of the present guardians by one month. I had to take time, and, therefore, I appointed them for what seemed to me the shortest period, to enable me to make the new appointments that I desired, and I should imagine that hon. and right hon. Members opposite would have been astonished if I had reappointed the old appointed boards of guardians.

Now let me explain to the House what it is that I propose to do. I propose to get back to normality for all boards of guardians on the 1st April next year. The right hon. Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain), in his Local Government Bill, gave himself power to retain the three appointed boards of guardians for a further five years, and during the actual passage of the Bill he changed his mind and decided that he would not prolong the lives of the appointed guardians in Chester-le-Street and Bedwellty, but he kept his stranglehold on that bête noire of his, West Ham. It seems to me that to retain a little enclave in the London area, under an Act of Parliament now abolished, would have been absurd, and I am prepared to take what risk the right hon. Gentleman thinks there may be in bringing that West Ham Union area within the general framework of the Local Government Act at the earliest possible moment, for, believe me, the muddle which would have been left in that area if the right hon. Gentleman had been able to prolong that appointed board of guardians would have been infinitely greater than any muddle that might arise by trying to fit that area into the normal structure of local government. That is on the general question.

As regards the three particular boards of guardians, I should have liked to have reintroduced the representative principle. I was unable to do that. Under the Local Government Act, elections ceased, and it would in any event, I think, have been absurd to have had three boards of guardians elections, with the preparations hanging on for several weeks; and, on the whole, it seemed to me undesirable to go to the trouble of elections. I decided, therefore, to get as near to the representative principle as I could, and what, in fact, I have tried to do is to pre-date the operation of the Local Government Act. With an exception to which I shall refer in a moment, I am putting in charge of Poor Law administration people who will be responsible for it after 1st April of next year. I am doing that in this way. On three different occasions I asked representatives of the Durham County Council, the Monmouthshire County Council, and the various local authorities comprised within the West Ham Union, to meet me. I asked, in the case of Durham and Monmouthshire, that the county councils should each appoint three people who would be prepared to act as guardians until 1st April next year, these three persons being members of the county council. In the case of West Ham, where there are two county boroughs and part of a county area, it seemed to be better, in order to get some balance of representation for the various areas, to have a somewhat larger body. I am therefore appointing for West Ham a board of 12 members, distributed as the right hon. Gentleman has already explained, the representatives of West Ham, East Ham, Leyton, and so on, being appointed by the respective local authorities. The local authorities agreed to take on this responsibility, and the names have now been presented.

The third point which arose was the question of remuneration. I did not feel that it would be right to pay the guardians whom I appointed the salaries which the existing appointed guardians received. I thought that the people who might be invited as representative persons to take this responsibility on their shoulders would much prefer that loss of time and out of pocket expenses should be met than that they should receive a salary, and I have no reason to believe that these appointed guardians will try to swell their expenses to the handsome emoluments that the right hon. Gentleman gave. I am quite convinced that one result of this economy will be that more money will be available for relief and less for salaries.

I would like to remind the House of the objection which was always taken in the last Parliament by the two Opposition parties to the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act. On the many occasions when we had a Debate on a Prayer, the two Opposition parties opposed the Bill primarily on constitutional grounds. I have never from that Box on any occasion glossed over extravagance or lax administration on anybody's part. I have never defended the individual acts of particular hoards of guardians. The front of our opposition was constitutional in its character. The right hon. Gentleman, faced with one or two difficulties in one or two areas four years ago, cut the Gordian knot by destroying local government. It was an unprecedented action. I remember the then Minister of Health bringing forward what he alleged were precedents, where a Department might act in cases where local authorities were in default. None of those cases was parallel to the action which he took, which was to wipe out of existence completely the whole directly elected authority carrying on a complicated piece of administrative work over a large area. That, so far as I know, has never been proposed before in the history of Parliament, and even the very limited rights which State Departments have obtained to compel local authorities in default to act in a particular way have been very rarely and sparingly used. The right hon. Gentleman, however, rushes into the breach, and in one Act of Parliament, takes powers which would enable him to destroy half the local government of this country. It was to that that we took objection—to the proposal that he should appoint persons who would have the full powers of guardians, the full freedom of guardians, and over whom he himself had not the vestige of control.

There never was a more absurd constitutional situation created by an Act of Parliament. It was not as though the Minister himself had said, "I am going to be responsible for the administration, and then I can stand in my place in the House and defend my action." Not at all. He appointed three people, and, once they were appointed, they were in precisely the same position as any other board of guardians. He had no powers over them and he could not really answer questions about many of their actions in the House of Commons. You had a house of nabobs appointed in three parts of this country, and it needed a good deal more Justification than it has received. It meant that, while the ratepayers were being called upon to pay rates for Poor Law purposes, the whole expenditure of their money was in the hands of people over whom they had no control whatever. The principle of no taxation without representation has created rebellions and wars in this country. It is the thing on which the whole British constitution has been built. The party which prides itself upon being the great defender of the Constitution, when faced with a real difficulty, is the first to throw that Constitution to the wind. We stand, as we stood when that Bill was first introduced, for the principle of no taxation without representation, and, although it may be for a period of only eight months, I have got as near to that principle as is possible in the circumstances.

Let me say something about the particular points raised by the right hon. Gentleman. He shook a minatory finger, and asked, "What is the purpose of all this? Is it to improve administration 1 No, it is political in character." What, may I ask, is the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act? It is political in character in this sense, that I could never have dared to face this House if I had not taken this action. On every conceivable occasion when the opportunity arose, not merely on the discussion on the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act itself, but whenever there could be a Prayer, and even on the Estimates of the Ministry of Health, this question has been in the forefront; and it was a duty to myself, as well as to my party, that I should deal with it in a way that we thought was right. To suggest, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, that I have somehow or other been captured by somebody he called extreme supporters, is absurd. On this question, there never has been, and there never will be, any division in the ranks of the party. I am told that this action of mine is a wanton and gratuitous insult to public servants. I did not put them there. I took this act as an act of policy. So far as I know, I have never seen any of these gentlemen. They may be distinguished public servants, but I am told that in one board of guardians, at least, two out of the three have not been known in public life before. I am not sure that we are losing a lot of valuable experience. In the board of guardians which I have in mind, I think that at least two if not three, out of the three, had never been inside a board of guardians office. They knew nothing about the administration of the law. Some of them are still novices, and their places will now be taken by men of wider and longer public experience.

It is suggested that this action has been taken to discourage reforms, and to encourage a return to the old methods. I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman and I agree as to what are reforms. I am not quite certain that we agree about what would be called sound administration. If he means that these people have been put there deliberately in order to plunge local authorities into bankruptcy, it is an absurd suggestion. The people who are going to be responsible from now to 1st April are the people who will have to be responsible after 1st April. I think that that is the best reply to the right hon. Gentleman on that point. We get to a real clash of opinion when the right hon. Gentleman reminds us of his statement on the Second Reading of the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act, that he regarded it as the salvation of local government. That is a very large claim for it. I do not believe that by suppressing democratic government in three areas you are going to save local government in this country. Nor does anybody else.

The right hon. Gentleman said that this had to be done, because there had been an adoption of a policy of Poplar-ism. All the right hon. Gentleman's energy in the sphere of Poor Law administration was devoted to discovering Poplar-ism. I know of no single case where he has admonished a board of guardians for being too mean. What about the deliberate policy of anti-Poplarism? What about the deliberate policy engineered by the right hon. Gentleman in the last three years in an entirely contrary direction? If it be true, as it well may be, that there has been lax administration and extravagance, the right hon. Gentleman has encouraged parsimony which has brought down relief to far below what it ought to be. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] There is the real grievance. I would myself oppose waste, I would oppose the excessive distribution of anything, but, on the other hand, I am equally opposed to the niggardliness which characterised the late Government. There is a happy mean, and it is the happy mean which I would try to reach—that in our administration we should at least give justice. I am not asking for generosity, but for justice, at least, and not the kind of administration which the right hon. Gentleman regards as sound.

We have had a long quotation from Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb's latest book from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston, but I think he drew the wrong moral. I would commend the whole chapter to him. I do not propose to go over all that ground. He spoke of the grave possible danger of almost certain demoralisation which must come from people giving relief to their own constituents. It does not matter very much whether the authority is a county borough council or a board of guardians, they are giving it to their own constituents; and the right hon. Gentleman's argument that in the ease of the County Borough Council they are doing other work as well does not alter the case, if there is anything in the case at all. The logical comment on the right hon. Gentleman's argument about the danger of boards of guardians giving relief to their own constituents is that he ought to have abolished all boards of guardians and have taken over the job himself; but that is a large question which I feel he shirked when he had the Local Government Bill before the House.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me how I was going to treat the new bodies. He knows that those new bodies do not yet exist. I have never seen them. How should I know how I am going to treat them? I was asked whether I was going to give them a free hand, and give them loans without conditions. Those are hypothetical questions which I cannot answer until the questions have been put to me, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. [Interruption.] They cannot have been put to me by a body which does not exist and whom I have never seen. If the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that I have held some communication with them, let me assure him that he is entirely wrong. I have not seen these new bodies, I have had no communication from them, and obviously it would be absurd for me to say anything until I have seen them—if I am called upon to see them.

Let me say something about the famous West Ham report. Complaint is made that I have not asked for a report from the West Ham Guardians. Why should I? I am not responsible for them. The right hon. Gentleman has not asked for a report from the Chester-le-Street or the Bedwellty Boards of Guardians. If he insists that reports should be presented, why did he not carry out his own policy a little more effectually? In any event I have before criticised the publication as Command Papers of the reports of these boards of guardians. I do not think the Government are called upon to publish as a Command Paper the annual report of a board of guardians which it cannot control, and in regard to which its relations have been precisely the same as its relations with any other board of guardians. That, I think, is the answer to that point.

I do not want to go into details of the report of the West Ham Guardians. No doubt there are other things that might be said about it in addition to the unstinted praise given to it by the right hon. Gentleman who appointed them. If he thinks that many of us on this side are suspicious, let me tell him that we often have grounds for our suspicion. It may well be that there is another side to that report which, as a matter of fact, I have not personally examined: I have only skimmed through its pages and found much what I expected to find there. I am amused to think that the right hon. Gentleman should regard these three imported persons as the people who have redeemed the name of West Ham, My view is that the name of West Ham can only be redeemed by West Ham, and by no imported dictators sent down by the late Minister of Health. They have not redeemed the name of West Ham. They have saved money, as the right hon. Gentleman has said and that I am not denying, but they have done nothing whatever to redeem the name of West Ham. The name of West Ham will begin to be redeemed. I believe, when the newly-appointed guardians take up their offices.

The right hon. Gentleman has been pursuing his researches into what has been happening at West Ham. He knows a great deal more about it than I do. He has got a long newspaper report of the meeting of the West Ham County Borough Council. I wonder he did not get reports of the meetings at East Ham, Leyton, Walthamstow and all the other parts of the area. He complained because in the West Ham Council meeting there was some discussion—a pretty vigorous discussion I gather—referring to four people of the same party. When I saw the representatives of the West Ham local authority I never raised the question of party at all. I could not. I was bound to leave it to the free choice and discretion of the local authority. The right hon. Gentleman is complaining that in the composition of the new board there will be seven who are Labour members and five who are not. I understand that had the Board been chosen on a party basis the representation would have been ten to two. In those circumstances, though I have had nothing whatever to do with it, and though much of what the right hon. Gentleman has said is news to me, I think that the local authorities in that area have, on the whole, acted very fairly, and, taking the area as a whole, have secured a large minority representation—having regard to the political colour of a large part of that area.

I was as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman to maintain the self-reliance of the people. I believe in human nature. We do not believe in quite the same kind, I think. When I am told by our political opponents that human nature is what it is, I know there is going to be some insult to the human race behind it. That human nature is what it is is responsible for all the volume of public spirit there is in the country to-day; and there is another side to human nature Besides that which rouses the antagonism of hon. Members opposite. The right hon. Gentle-man's method, given free scope, is pure, sheer, unadulterated deterrence. He quotes with approval the number of people who have got work in West Ham. They may have got work in West Ham, I am not denying it, but if that is the right hon. Gentleman's policy why did he not abolish all out-relief everywhere? Because he dare not, because he knows in his heart of hearts that merely to chivy the poor from pillar to post, harrying them to look for jobs, does not create one new job the more. Whilst you might get rid of a number of out-relief recipients from the Poor Law in one area, believe me you probably produce nearly the same number somewhere else. There is no solution of the problem of unemployment along that line, and so long as people are genuinely unemployed—and the overwhelming majority are genuinely unemployed—and so long as there is no work for them, they are entitled to something which will enable them to keep their homes together and to keep their personal dignity.

Viscountess ASTOR:

May I ask the Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down!"] May I ask the Minister, if that be so, how did the unemployed figure fall from 15,000 to 1,000? What work did they get?

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Nelson and Colne

Believe me, the Noble Lady will make inquiries, she will find that unemployment did not fall.

Viscountess ASTOR:

But they got jobs.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Nelson and Colne

The figures which were quoted by the right hon. Gentleman do not necessarily cover the whole field of out-relief cases in the West Ham Union. The point I am making is a perfectly simple and reasonable one. It is that boards of guardians have their statutory duties to perform. If they go beyond their duties they are obviously breaking the law; but the law does require them to relieve destitution. I wish to see boards of guardians doing their honest duty in an enlightened and a humane way, without extravagance and without placing an enormous burden on the other people who are paying the rates, and who in many cases are little better off, as I realise; but I want to see enlightened and humane administration of the Poor Law. I have no reason to believe that we shall not get wise and fair administration from the newly-appointed boards of guardians when they take office. All of them, I believe, are persons of considerable experience. All of them, I imagine, or most of them, will be engaged in carrying on this Poor Law administration eight months from now. They are being given a trial trip. They will be able, ultimately, to introduce the county councils and the county borough councils in those areas to the real problems which they have to face in those three districts.

7.0 p.m.

I claim that my action in taking this line is really in support of good administration for the right hon. Gentleman's own Measure, and the fact that these people will be permanently responsible, as members of their local authorities, for Poor Law administration will mean, in effect, that they will do their best by the responsibilities that have fallen upon them, and will do their best by the local authorities who have appointed them to this office. I can think of no other way of dealing with the question than the one I have taken. I could not have squared it with my con-science to leave the three appointed guardians there for another eight months. Action had to be taken, and I commend the action I have taken to the House in the full knowledge that the majority of this House to-day stands with me on this question of taxation and representation, stands with me on the rights of the ratepayers to persons who are elected. The persons I am choosing have not been elected for a Poor Law purpose, but I cannot help that. They will be so elected after April of next year, and I therefore have done a little more than did the right hon. Gentleman himself to smooth the transition period before the coming into operation of the Local Government Act.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

We are now in a very different House and atmosphere from that of the last Parliament. I should have thought that the late Minister of Health would have been in favour of the action which has been taken, and I shall try and make my point clear to the hon. Members behind him. After all, what was the main thesis of this Local Government Act, as regards the first part which deals with Poor Law administration? Its main thesis was that it was a good thing to take away the administration of the Poor Law from the guardians and transfer their functions to the county boroughs or county councils. I have never been able to understand the sentence which is at the root of our discussion to-day and which appeared in the original Clause 17. And except otherwise expressly provided by this Act. That is the provision that gave the right hon. Gentleman power to exclude three particular boards of guardians from the main stream of his own development. I have never been able to understand why he imported into the untrodden area of the future the arguments and facts of the past. He is generally one of the most relevant speakers in the House, but nine-tenths of his speech to-night was utterly irrelevant to the action of the Minister of Health. He brought forward figures and facts which convinced him so that in these three areas he appointed dictators instead of elected guardians. But those facts and figures had all to do with the past; they have nothing to do with the future, because the new bodies have not yet begun to develop. In those discussions in the past, it always seemed to me, sitting in opposition then as I am to-day, that the right hon. Gentleman had rather a "down" on West Ham. I heard a story of a batsman who complained to the umpire that his captain had a "down" on him. When he was asked why he thought that, he said, "Well, he always puts me in in the middle of the hat trick." It always seems to me that West Ham is in the middle of a hat trick.

The House, as a whole, is entirely against extravagance in Poor Law administration, but that is not the issue now. The issue is a double one. First of all, there is the simple administrative issue which need not detain us more than a minute or two, namely, as to what kind of machinery is to operate the Act in these particular areas. Had they been treated as normal by the right hon. Gentleman there would be no difficulty whatever. In West Ham part would go to the Essex County Council, part to the County Borough of West Ham, and part to the County Borough of East Ham, while Chester-le-Street and Bedwellty would go to the Durham County Council on the one hand and the Monmouthshire County Council on the other. It all comes back to the area formerly governed by the elected guardians of West Ham and now by the three appointed dictators of the right hon. Gentleman. It has always seemed to me that this country can be either one thing or the other, either slave or free, but it cannot be half slave and half free. Either we have to trust the elected bodies to govern the country, whether in this House or in our local authorities, or we have to submit to dictatorships throughout the whole of our political and administrative life.

I can see no reason whatever why the late Minister of Health should complain of the action taken by his successor, because he and his party gave that power to the Minister. He gave a number of powers to the Minister of Health by that Act, and some of us objected very strongly to some of them. It is rather ironic to those of us, who objected in vain to the giving of those powers and who were voted down by the mechanical majority of the last Government, that the very first thing that was done should be done, not by law, but by an order of the Minister. I have no doubt that to the Minister of Health there is an ironic satisfaction in what has happened. The fact is that these areas have to be administered, and the question is how are they to be administered. I see no reason for prejudging the action of future bodies. I have no doubt whatever, since the right hon. Gentleman embodied it in his Act, that it is wise to transfer the functions of boards of guardians throughout the whole country, and he must accept the logic of his own Act and not say that it is wise to transfer their functions to county councils and county borough excepting West Ham. He must say that West Ham must also come within the general ambit of his own Act of 1929.

There is another issue. There is always heat in these Debates, and there always will be, not merely because there are charges and counter-charges, allegations of meanness on the one hand and of waste on the other, but because this country up to this moment has not really faced the underlying problem which is at the root of our Poor Law services in the necessitous areas of this country. It was the main flaw in the Local Government Act of the late Government that, when they came to deal with Poor Law reform, they did not reform the Poor Law, because they shirked the main problems at the root of it. I moved an Amendment in the last Parliament to make the able-bodied poor, who are the most difficult of all the problems of Poor Law administration, a national instead of a local charge. If the right hon. Gentleman had met us on that point, we might not have been faced with this discussion to-day in the sense in which we are now discussing it, namely, that we have to argue whether or not we are to have this or that piece of machinery. The right hon. Gentleman's Act shirked the real problem of Poor Law administration. Until these problems are faced by the country and by all parties in the House, there will be these poverty stricken areas where thousands of men have been unemployed for years, and consequently there will be heat in every debate on this subject. It is interesting to me as one who has heard all the debates on Poplarism to recall that one of the districts where these Guardians were not appointed was Poplar, which gave its name to the whole of these discussions.

I am always interested when men and women talk about human nature. Perhaps I might be allowed to add my view about human nature and that of my friends. I hold two views. I believe that on the whole human nature is more good than evil. There may be a doctrine of original sin, and it may be true, but there is also a doctrine of original goodness. If I understand my history and theology right, man was more original than his sin. Those behind me may smile, but I think that is sound theology. At any rate, it is my root view. The second view I have is one that makes me a democrat. If I did not hold these two views, I should not be sitting now as a Liberal Member of Parliament and fighting for Liberalism in the country. My second view is that, over a long space of time, larger masses of people are more likely to do justice to their fellows than small cliques of people, whoever appoints them. I held those views in the last Parliament, and I see no reason to change them. I appeal to the House not to prejudge these new bodies. Let bygones be bygones. If in the months ahead the new bodies prove to be wasteful and extravagant, then let us do one of two things. Let us face the logic of the situation and alter the whole administration of our Poor Law system or let us see if we cannot face our Poor Law problems in a new way.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I would not have intervened in the Debate but for the fact that the whole of my constituency is within the Bedwellty area. Therefore, I feel I am entitled to reply to the observations of the late Minister of Health. The worst thing I can say about democracy is that it has tolerated the right hon. Gentleman for four and a half years. Had we in our district had the opportunity, he would not have been left there so long. After it was known that the Labour party had been returned to this House strong enough to form a Government, there was a sigh of relief in the Ebbw Vale not only from Labour men but also from Liberals and Tories. The right hon. Gentleman in the Debate this afternoon has compared the administration of the present commissioners and of the old board of guardians. The Chairman of the present commissioners is a member of the Abergavenny Board of Guardians, and we are told by the Monmouthshire County Council that, where he has a tree hand as an elected guardian, his administration is reasonable and humane, but, as chairman of the commissioners, he has had a reputation of being more barbarous than any other administrator ever known in that district. Why? Why is it that one man as an elected representative of one board of guardians is considered to be humane, and yet when he is under the supervision of and appointed by the Tory Government he introduces administration which is admitted to be barbarous in the extreme? Are we to understand that the complaint which is being levelled against the action of the Minister of Health is that he is selecting representatives who have been appointed to the county council? If that is so is the right hon. Gentleman apprehensive of the administration upon which those gentlemen are going to embark? If that is so is the right hon. Gentleman not equally apprehensive of the body to which they belong? Is it reasonable to expect that these men are likely to embark upon an unreason-able and extravagant administration? The gentlemen who have been appointed were members of the old Bedwellty Board of Guardians who have had considerable experience of Poor Law administration, and I am satisfied that when they come to do their job they will do it in a much more humane manner than it has been done under the Commissioners.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) said that these appointed commissioners have reduced expenditure in the Bedwellty and other areas, and he also hinted that they had relieved the burden of the rates. Perhaps hon. Members will be surprised to hear that the poor rate in the Bedwellty area has not fallen by a single halfpenny, and the appointed guardians have not reduced the poor rate. It may be true to say that they have reduced the Poor Law expenditure, but my point is that the Poor Law was never intended to carry such burdens as those which have been imposed upon Poor Law areas like Bedwellty. For a long time a heavy charge has been placed upon the administration of the Poor Law in those areas on account of the interest which had to be paid on the Goschen loan. It was under these circumstances that the Government made an appeal for relief to be sent to those areas from the Mansion House Fund. A more unreasonable state of affairs could not be imagined than that.

When comparisons are being drawn between the expenditure of the Bedwellty Guardians and the appointed Commissioners, let us have the real facts. The Medical Officer of Health for Monmouth-shire reported that a very grave deterioration had taken place in the physical condition of the children in Monmouth-shire. The ex-Minister of Health asked that an investigation should be made into the physical condition of the children in Monmouth-shire and his own medical officer reported an alarming deterioration in the physical condition of the children who had to be relieved. That kind of thing has been going on for years. In those poverty stricken areas the ministers of religion have condemned the Poor Law administration carried out by the gentlemen of whom the ex-Minister of Health is so proud. Even the Conservative clubs in those areas have passed resolutions condemning the Poor Law administration. The Free Church Council stated that the administration of the Poor Law in those areas, both inside and outside the workhouse, was inhuman, and they asked for some alleviation.

The last contribution which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston made to the humanising of the Poor Law was the introduction of tests in the workhouses, and many poor people were told that they could not have relief unless they did the test work. I know cases of colliers who had to walk four or five miles in the morning to do work connected with building walls, cracking stones, and weeding turnips. In some cases these men worked from 7.30 o'clock in the morning to 5 p.m.; in one case a man was paid 16s. a week for doing that kind of work, out of which he bad to pay 4s. 6d. per week rent, and he had a wife and two children to maintain. In face of these facts, how can the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston expect hon. Members on this side of the House to listen to his remarks with patience? The wonder is that the right hon. Gentleman's merciless administration was tolerated so long. I never thought it possible that any man from a detached position in. this House could encourage an administration so in-human, but after listening to the speech which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman I am not at all surprised.

Three weeks before I came to this House a medical officer of health, representing a Poor Law authority, asked that a man suffering from asthma should be taken into the infirmary. The man was almost in a dying condition. He was taken into the infirmary at Bedwellty, and he was scarcely able to sit on a chair which was provided for him. That man was kept for hours sitting in a chair without any refreshment and without anybody seeing him at all, and he received no attention whatsoever. As a matter of fact, it is now admitted in the Bedwellty district that if you go into the Bedwellty Workhouse you had better shuffle off this mortal coil as quickly as possible. In the Bedwellty Workhouse the inmates get up at eight o'clock and they are given for breakfast a chunk of bread and margarine; at 12 o'clock they have a cooked dinner, and the tea is a repetition of the breakfast. It is a fact that from five o'clock in the evening to eight o'clock the following morning they receive no food at all—I am speaking of people between 70 and 80 years of age. I have known them during the winter months being driven out of the rest room into the yards to walk around in the perishing cold.

If I lived with my mother-in-law or my father-in-law, I should be expected not only to maintain my wife and children, but every member of the family who lived under the same roof. I know a case where a woman was refused relief because she had an aunt living in the same house. In another part of my area a collier had a son 23 years of age living with him. The son had been a prisoner of war for a year and a half and he had never done any work since he came back from the War, because he suffered so badly from neurasthenia. This poor man had six children and he appealed to the guardians for relief, but they refused him relief on the ground that his father-in-law could keep them out of earnings amounting to £2 4s. 6d. per week. That is the kind of administration we have had in the Bedwellty area. Of course anyone can save money by reducing the amount of the Poor Law relief. It requires no courage to do that, and the gentlemen who do it simply motor into the district and out of it as quickly as possible after insulting and bullying the people who come before them.

It does not require any courage to do that. If that is the sort of courage which the ex-Minister of Health admires and if he really wanted to be courageous he should have taken the job on himself. I know that it will be difficult within the financial limitations for the three men who have just been appointed to make substantial improvements unless they get financial help. I do not think it is the desire to increase the poor rate, but if they do increase the poor rate the burden will fall on the people who are suffering the most at the present time. In some districts the industries are exempted from three-quarters of the rates, but although those particular areas may be relieved the increase in the poor rate will fall mostly upon the cottagers in those districts. It would be impossible to increase the poor rate, but what is being said throughout my Division is that, while it may not be possible for us to get much more money, while we may not have the revenue out of which to pay a little more money, we ought at least to be able to get decent civility and courtesy from these men, and we have not got it. It is amazing to me that men from my Division, who have earned from the benches opposite very eloquent eulogies because of their courage, should, after all these years, have tolerated the inhumanity for which the right hon. Gentleman has been responsible. I hope that their patience will not be further taxed, and that, in the eight months ahead of us, those three gentlemen who have been appointed are going to succumb, not so much to pressure from their constituents, but to a higher kind of pressure—the pressure of their recognition of common humanity.

I hope that, if it is necessary that they should have financial assistance, sufficient support will be forthcoming from the opposite side of the House as well as from this side, in order that they may have whatever assistance they may require. We all hope that they will not be extravagant, and I do not believe that they are extravagant. We do not admit that in their general administration the guardians who were deposed were extravagant. All that we say is that they had to carry a burden which the Poor Law was never intended to carry. We have asked of Government after Government that that burden should be taken off the Poor Law. It is not a retrospective judgment; it was prospective reasoning. We knew that the Poor Law could not carry this burden; we knew that the mining industry would have to face this burden of high rates. We appealed to the House of Commons by deputation and by demonstration. Men went to the guardians—I led 7,000 of them one day—to demand that the guardians should bring pressure to bear on the Government to take the burden of maintenance off the shoulders of the Poor Law authorities. The unemployed in our districts do not ask for more relief, but simply that the Poor Law authorities of the country should do their normal work, and should not be asked to carry the burden of abnormal difficulties. No doubt we shall experience some difficulties in humanising the administration of the Employment Exchanges, but those difficulties can be easily tackled. If the administration can be improved, the burden will not be so great, and I am satisfied that, whatever the present Minister of Health may do, there is nothing that will earn for him the gratitude of those who are poor and harassed more than the action which he has now taken.

Photo of Mr James Lovat-Fraser Mr James Lovat-Fraser , Lichfield

The Labour party would have been very disappointed if their spokesmen had not made some gesture of disapproval of the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) in appointing commissioners to supersede the popular representatives in the three areas of which we have been speaking. The right hon. Gentleman's speech, if I may say so without wishing to be offensive, appeared to me to be a long tirade against democracy. In particular, I listened with regret to his attack upon the individuals who are going to replace the dictators whose term of office is now approaching an end. We of the Labour party, the alleged party of revolution, are here defending constitutionalism. The Conservative party arrogates to itself in particular the designation "Constitutional party." We are here defending constitutionalism. I remember reading that Mr. Gladstone once said, in comparing the Liberal and Conservative parties, that the Conservative party professed to be the party which upheld tradition and precedent and the Constitution, but that the Conservative party were much more ready than the Liberal party to violate tradition and precedent if it suited their purpose. They are doing that now. I heard a cynical laugh from the back benches opposite when the Minister referred to the fact that one of the bases of our Constitution was that taxation and representation went together. We have had a deliberate violation of that principle, and I consider that we of the Labour party are doing good work now, and I hope that the Liberal party will support us. I have great hopes of their doing so, especially when I see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in front of me. I hope that the Liberal party will bear out the statement that the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston was a violation of the basic principle of our Constitution. It is better that men should govern themselves inefficiently than that others should govern them efficiently from outside. When men govern themselves inefficiently, there is some hope for them; they may improve; but if they are governed from outside they never get the chance.

The principal remedy for all our difficulties with regard to the guardians and unemployment is to transfer the burden of unemployment to where it ought to be—to a central authority. It was never intended, as has been said ad nauseam, that the boards of guardians in the different localities should bear what has become the enormous burden of unemployment. Let that burden be moved to a central authority, and we shall have no more trouble with the guardians. The guardians are all right. They want to do right, and the right way to deal with them is to give them the opportunity of carrying on their work without this enormous and terrible burden. It has never been the English way, when popular authorities have disobeyed the law or have gone beyond their functions, to supersede them. What has been done has been to find out the cause of their action, and to remove that cause. May I give one historical illustration of what I mean? Members of this House know that 100 years ago there was an enormous number of very savage penal Statutes on on the Statute Book, and a great number of offences were punishable with death. That state of things was brought to an end, not by the Government, not by Parliament, not by the lawyers, but by the juries refusing to bring in verdicts of "Guilty" which would condemn to death the person guilty of the offence. They did that persistently. A woman would he charged with breaking into a house and stealing a loaf, and the jury would return a verdict of "Not Guilty." If she had been found guilty, she would have been sentenced to death and would have perished on the scaffold. The juries persistently disobeyed the law. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston would probably have abolished the juries, but they did not do that; they abolished the savage Statutes which caused the juries habitually to break the law.

I have said what I wanted to say. I wished to make my protest on behalf of democracy, and I wish, before I sit down to bear out what was said by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan). The right hon. Gentleman the Member Edgbaston quoted from the book of Mr. Sidney Webb, but I would like to call attention to the fact that that book does not quite flatter his representatives in Bedwellty. In the Circular of the 18th March, 1910, it was stated to be the plain duty of guardians to take precautions to ensure that the relief was adequate and that the pauper was sufficiently fed, clothed and lodged. It is stated by Mr. Sidney Webb that, during 1927 and 1928 in Bedwellty, destitution existed which the appointed guardians of the right hon. Gentleman did not adequately relieve. Indeed, so bad was the state of Bedwellty, according to Mr. Sidney Webb, that one of the strongest arguments for the institution in 1928 of the Lord Mayor's Fund was the condition of Bedwellty.

Viscountess ASTOR:

After hearing the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), I think we should rejoice that the Socialist party are at last in power. For many years we have heard them talking about the miseries and sufferings of the great masses of the people, and how their hearts were bleeding at the inhumanity which existed, while we on this side of the House, Liberals and Unionists, were hard-hearted. I think we should rejoice that at last the country is going to see, when it comes down to what might almost be called brass tacks, that, no matter how big the hearts of hon. Members opposite are, they will find, when they come to face certain conditions, that they are up against hard, economic facts. I think we should rejoice, and I myself do, that at last they have got the chance to prove to the country that, no matter what party is in power, human nature is very much the same, and economics are very much the same. We have not seen any great departure, so far, from the policy of the Opposition, and we rejoice at that. There is only one thing that can bring democracy down, and that is corruption. I wonder what the present Government, if they had been in power when we were and had had to face West Ham, would have done?

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

May I ask the Noble Lady if she would give me any single instance, any proof, of corruption in the West Ham Union in the years in question?

Viscountess ASTOR:

Will the ion. Lady tell me that—

HON. MEMBERS:

Answer!

Viscountess ASTOR:

If you get corrupt administration, you may not be able to point to one single instance of corruption, but the whole administration was corrupt.

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

"Corruption" is a word with a perfectly definite meaning. It is a criminal offence. Where was the corruption in West Ham? I press that question.

Viscountess ASTOR:

I say it is a criminal offence to spend money which you have not got and to give away money which you have not got.

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

Does the Noble Lady withdraw the word "corruption"?

Viscountess ASTOR:

I am very sorry I cannot withdraw the word—

HON. MEMBERS:

Prove it!

Viscountess ASTOR:

I consider that, unless the whole policy of the West Ham Board of Guardians had been corrupt, the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Health would never have brought in his Act. The hon. Lady knows that she would never allow the things to go on that went on—

HON. MEMBERS:

What?

Viscountess ASTOR:

General corruption of administration.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the Noble Lady to make accusations of corruption generally against a body of people without giving proof of them?

Viscountess ASTOR:

I think the speech of the late Minister of Health, and the figures that he gave to the House, showed that there had been corruption of administration. If there had not been corruption of administration, do you think for one moment that he would have done away with popular government, as he had to do? That is the only excuse. I am certain the Government, if they had the same situation, would have to do something very much the same as the late Government did. I am certain that they are not going to allow anything to go on the way it was before the late Government appointed the three commissioners. If the Government had waited until next April, when these three appointed men would have gone out, it would have been better for the whole moral standards of West Ham.

We all know what the administration has been and what it has done. I know-people who live in West Ham and are interested in the social conditions of the children there, and they have said that under the present administration the children of the very poorest have had a chance which they never had under the late guardians. You are going back on that and on the work of the appointed men, which has been in every way so much better for the welfare of the children. No one can get round the facts there. I am certain the hon. Lady will say that they have made an enormous improvement, and this will be the test. Suppose for a moment the appointed men went back to the old ways of the other boards of guardians. Would the hon. Lady sit down under that? Not for a moment, and it is ungenerous, after the wonderful work that these men have done in a most difficult situation, that they should be turned out and that you should appoint new guardians from now to April.

When I hear the late Minister of Health attacked by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale about his callous administration, I say "face the facts." I am not speaking only of Monmouthshire and one or two devastated areas, but the general health of the country as a whole is better than it has ever been before in the history of the country. Infant mortality was lower last year than it has ever been, before. We have reduced tuberculosis. Our health services were never better, and for hon. Members opposite to talk as though" we had had an administration that did nothing for the health of the people is a gross exaggeration. Is it not bad for the whole of local government, after that scandal of West Ham, that those three men should be put out, if only for a few months? It looks as though the Government were down on them and were applauding the administration of the elected guardians. I do not for a moment believe that is really what the Government want. I am certain that they are going to be just as careful as the late Government in seeing that the administration of West Ham is up to what they want it to be. I do not believe for a moment that it is going to be extravagant. We on this side know a little about social reform. We remember very well when the Chancellor of the Exchequer came in pledged to widows' pensions, and, when the Labour women went to him and asked about pensions, he said that he was not ready for it. In the late election he boasted of the money that he had left in the Treasury. We can trust him not to be extravagant. An hon. Member just now talked about taxation without representation. The people to whom that was applied were not wasting money. They were building a new country and they were standing on their own feet, not trying to be supported by someone else. It is a most gross misrepresentation of the phrase.

It is not that the late Government stepped in to do away with local government. They stepped in to save local government and to prevent mis-government, and they did it, and we are thoroughly grateful for the wonderful reforms which the late Minister of Health brought in, and this Government will not dare to go back on them. We were told the other day that the present block grant was going to out down welfare centres and health services. They know perfectly well that under the system of the late Government they are going to get more spent on welfare than they would have had before. All these are things that you have to face. I am very sorry in some ways for the Government. [Interruption.] I have heard the right hon. Gentleman say that he believes in forced labour for the unemployed.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I think the Noble Lady is in error once more. May I ask what authority she has for her statement?

Viscountess ASTOR:

I cannot remember—

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

On a point of Order. I want to say that that statement is untrue and to ask that the Noble Lady shall be requested to withdraw it.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I think the Noble Lady should substantiate the statement or withdraw it.

Viscountess ASTO R:

Is it not true that the right hon. Gentleman said he thought it would be better to put the unemployed in camps, in battalions, and train them to work rather than leave them as they were? That is what you call forced labour. Is that not true?

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I said that, if I had the power, I would offer every single able-bodied young man work, either on the land or elsewhere, and, if he refused it, that I would not give him relief. That is not forced labour. I am not going to allow the statement that I am an advocate of forced labour to go without it being withdrawn.

Viscountess ASTOR:

I am perfectly willing to withdraw. I should not be surprised if the right hon. Gentleman went a step further.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

That is not the point. Never mind what I would do.

Viscountess ASTOR:

If the right hon. Gentleman does one quarter of what he has promised—[Interruption.]

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

Perhaps the Noble Lady will return to the particular point of the question which is directly before the House.

Viscountess ASTOR:

I ask hon. Members opposite to give a little credit—because it is going to be very difficult for them—for the work of these three appointed guardians of West Ham who have saved local government. Watch yourselves and watch your Ministers. You talk about cruel administration but we heard that about the Employment Exchanges, and, when we asked what was cruel about them, we were told that it was the very reverse. Patience ceases to be a virtue when we have to hear our Ministers attacked as though they were not thinking about the welfare of the people and only thinking of saving money. Our record is as good as any that has ever been before the House. Hon. Members opposite will be very proud if their record in connection with the health services is half as good as that of the late Minister of Health. I beg of them once more to do nothing to encourage corruption. [Interruption.] As an hon. Member has made a rather rude remark to me, he must remember that we had a plea the other day for a more Christian atmosphere. I do not make any pretensions, but the worst of all attitudes is to think that you alone are good and that every man who does not agree with you is a cheat and a liar.

Photo of Mr Philip Snowden Mr Philip Snowden , Colne Valley

The Noble Lady has made a statement in regard to widows' pensions. I want to say that there is not one atom of truth in what she says.

Viscountess ASTOR:

Is it not true that, when the right hon. Gentleman was in power before, Labour women went in a deputation to him asking about widows' pensions, and he said that he was not ready to bring it in? Further, did they not say during the last election that their pensions were going to be non-contributory, and, when I pressed him to say whether they were going to be contributory or not, he never said a word? Yet hon. Members opposite are going round the country saying that the Labour widows' pensions are going to be non-contributory.

Photo of Mr Philip Snowden Mr Philip Snowden , Colne Valley

The Noble Lady has no right at all to extend the statement she made. She said that I stated to a deputation of women who saw me on this question of widows' pensions that I was not prepared to give such a pledge. I repeat that there is not an atom of foundation for that statement. I suppose she refers to a deputation of Labour women that I met upstairs. I told them what I was doing and gave them an outline of what was in my mind. The impression the Noble Lady tried to convey to the House was that I was not prepared to consider it. If she and the younger Members of the Tory party want to know what I said, they will find a full statement of my attitude in a speech I delivered in this House, I believe about the beginning of May, 1924, in which I said we had appointed a Committee to inquire into the question, and we were waiting for their Report. I gave the utmost sympathy and support to the private Members' Motion which was then under discussion. I should not have intervened in this Debate were it not that the Noble Lady has repeated a statement which has been made thousands of times from Tory platforms during the last few years.

Viscountess ASTOR:

I myself remember perfectly well the whole of the circumstances, and I never pressed the right hon. Gentleman when he was in the Government to put forward a widows' pensions Bill, because I knew he was not ready. I never said that he said he was not going to bring it in, but that he was not ready and had not the plans. That is all I said. The right hon. Gentleman is the one person we can depend upon to stand up against wild extravagance—not that that was wild extravagance, but it was a promise.

8.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

I am glad to have an opportunity of saying a few words on a subject of which I have had some personal experience and of following the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). I want to say to the Noble Lady, through yon, Mr. Speaker, that the statement which she has made in regard to a district with which she is certainly not familiar is altogether untrue. I want to say to her that my personal experience leads me to believe that there are many children, and many adults too, who would have been alive to-day had it not been for the brutal and barbarous treatment meted out to them by the three commissioners still sitting at West Ham. It is probably true that the Labour victories in nearly the whole of the West Ham area were very largely attributable to the gross incompetence and to the general barbarity of the three commissioners who were sent there by the late Minister of Health.

I have had experience of local administration in the West Ham area, although not a member of the West Ham board of guardians at any time, for a considerable number of years. I know men and women who have been giving their services freely without any reward whatever in that area. I am certainly familiar with the persons who were elected guardians and the type of administration that they carried out, and with the type of administration carried out by the three gentlement who are still commissioners and whom the Noble Lady, apparently, is very anxious to defend. I can say with truth that probably between 200 and 300 persons have either come personally to see me or have written to me from time to time as the late Member for one of the constituencies within that area, and I have had occasion to represent individual cases to the commissioners in the early days of their administration which had they been brought personally to the notice of the Noble Lady she would have come to the conclusion that they were eases of such urgent poverty that they ought to be relieved.

As I say, I personally brought some of these cases to the notice of the commissioners, and the reply I received, to put it mildly, was discourteous. The Chairman of the public health authority, members of the urban district council of which I am a member, the medical officer of health in the district and his department made it their business, at the request of the council, to make an investigation of cases of real hardship so that we might be able, in accordance with a public statement which was being made by Sir Alfred Woodgate that cases of real hardship should be brought to his notice, to bring such cases before him. These eases were personally investigated by the department of the medical officer of health, tabulated with full details, and then sent to Sir Alfred Woodgate and his assistants. It is on record that the reply sent by Sir Alfred Woodgate did not concede in a solitary case that there was any real degree of hardship. It was not even a courteous reply to the public authority which had forwarded eases to him. In many of these cases the poverty was so extreme that I am certain that several deaths have occurred in those families as a direct consequence of the inhumanity which was carried out by Sir Alfred Woodgate at that time. We have tried in the Walthamstow area, which I represent in this House, every possible way of bringing cases of real hardship to the notice of the commissioners, and I have no knowledge that the commissioners, by any act of theirs, relieved a solitary case. Many persons holding public positions in the town, some of them Ministers of religion, have been to see Sir Alfred Woodgate by appointment. They told me personally after the interview that the gentleman named was a man who was utterly callous and in no degree influenced by any poverty or statement of poverty that could be brought before him. He merely appeared to have one thing in his mind. Let me say that I am not in the least surprised at his attitude acting under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Health, because my experience of the right hon. Gentleman in this House has led me to the opinion—I think rightly—that he is probably one of the most hard, callous and cruel men who ever sat on the Front Bench.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I really must ask the hon. Member not to use offensive language against any hon. Member.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

I Have no desire to say anything that is offensive to anybody personally. I am speaking merely of the policy that was carried out by the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and, although that policy may have been carried out by some official, and although it may not even have been known to the right hon. Gentleman to whom I have made reference, he, as the head of that Department, at that time, must tales the blame for the acts of his subordinates I say that those acts were callous, hard and brutal. I am certain that there are many people in their graves to-day, nay I would say that there are many scores in their graves to-day, who would have been alive but for the acts carried out by the three commissioners to whom I have re ferred. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division, like the commissioners, appears only to be concerned with one thing—the saving of money.

Viscountess ASTOR:

Not at all. I resent that very much. I was thinking of the health of the children in West Ham and of their treatment.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

I am expressing the opinion which I formed from the speech of the Noble Lady opposite, and I want to repeat that the whole of that speech indicated to me that the only thing with which she was concerned was the fact that these three commissioners were able to publish a few days ago a set of papers in which they appeared to prove to have made a very great reduction in the amount that they had spent as compared with the guardians who carried on the work before they were appointed. That was the impression she left in my mind. I did not hear one word of pleading for the children who have been starving. I can prove the statement which I make when I say that children in the West Ham area have been starved. [Interruption.] By starving children and in preventing men and women from getting the barest necessities of life they have been able to show a reduction in expenditure. I have known the people in my area intimitely over a period of 32 years. I know their opinions. I question the moral right of the right hon. Gentleman who was at the head of the Ministry of Health in the last Government to come down upon my people who are finding the money and say to them: "You have no right, or will have no right in the future, to prevent starvation in your area by paying the money that you yourselves have earned."

The Noble Lady made reference to corruption. Let me put this to her, and I hope that she will listen. I wonder if she would dare to come to a public meeting in the West Ham area and make the charge which she made in this House of corruption against any member of the elected guardians during the period prior to the appointment of these commissioners. She would not dare to do so. I know something about West Ham. I know something about corruption in the West Ham area, and there has been very serious corruption in the West Ham area; in fact, people have gone to gaol in the West Ham area, but I would remind the Noble Lady that it was before the Labour party came into office. Nearly all the people who went to gaol, convicted of corruption, in the West Ham area were members of the party which the Noble Lady is upholding in this House to-day. I can remember when the appointment of a doctor in the West Ham area cost the man who got the appointment £50. I remember when the appointment of storekeeper could only be obtained by the payment of £20. I remember, during the period of the Tory guardians and the Liberal guardians, that appointments could only be obtained by certain payments to people, one of whom was called, if I remember rightly, the human bleeder. Knowing that contracts could only be secured by people prepared to pay for them during that period, I am amazed to hear the Noble Lady inside this House where she knows she has protection make charges of corruption against people who are, at least, as incorruptible as she is. I say that she has no right to make such charges, and she would not dare to make them but for the protection that she is afforded in this House.

I know the people who have now been appointed. I am personally acquainted with them. I know their high standard of honour. I believe that their principal ideal, the ideal that will dominate their actions, is the desire to save the lives of children and of men and women. I feel that in doing that they will spend money wisely. I know that those who were on the old board of guardians, and those selected to administer the work during the coming eight months, are as responsible as any Member in this House. After all, is it likely that these people will squander the rates which they themselves have to pay. The Noble Lady may shake her head.

Viscountess ASTOR:

I never said they would.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

The Noble Lady was pleading that these people who are going to administer the work during the next eight months should not be spendthrift, and I am answering her. I want to prove to her that the people who have administered the affairs on the boards of guardians for a number of years are not highly paid civil servants, drawing £1,500 a year from the ratepayers, with their pensions, in addition, but they are men and women devoted to public service and prepared to give the whole of their time in the interests of the people in their area, to serve them to the best of their ability and to promote their social welfare. When we compare people who give their services freely with people who are appointed from Whitehall, who have no sympathy with the poor because they have never known poverty, and who have no sympathy with suffering because they have probably had little of it in their lives, and who are paid fine salaries to come down to these districts to spend the money of people who are very much poorer than themselves, one realises how great is the contrast.

The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown), and another hon. Member, spoke about human nature. If there is anything in human nature, human nature will protect its own class and its own people. If it is prepared, as it is, to give free service to the people, that free service will be a better service than the service which has to be paid for. The people in my area are just as qualified to look after their own interests and their own rates, which they have to pay, as are any appointed people. Let me speak for my own people in Waltham-stow. Persons have come to my house, day after day, suffering from the most extreme poverty. I have seen men with their souls torn, and women with their souls torn, because of the insults that were hurled at them by the appointed guardians. These people live in abject poverty, and when they have pleaded, as men and women probably never pleaded before, for the barest necessities of life for their children, I have known them to be insulted and spoken to as if they were the worst class of people on the earth. I am not speaking of hooligans, but of decent men and women, unable to get an opportunity to earn their own living.

I have in my mind the case of a young man, 22 years of age, who came to my house suffering so badly from tuberculosis that he was only barely able to crawl up to my door. He begged of me to write to the Commissioners to try to get some consideration for him. I did not write, because I came to the conclusion that it was useless, after the previous replies that I had had. I pleaded with a clergyman in the district to intervene on this young man's behalf, as he was doing on behalf of others. That clergyman, holding a high position in the Church, came away from the interview that he had had in regard to that case and the other cases, and he said to me that he had never seen such brutality in the whole of his clerical experience. These are the things that make us feel so keenly on this matter. During the next eight months, even if our people do not get one halfpenny more so far as relief is concerned, they will be glad if they can get decent treatment.

The Noble Lady spoke of Christian charity. I cannot understand the Christian spirit that would starve a little child or starve a man or woman, in order to save a few pounds. Let any hon. Member of this House go down to the areas where poverty prevails, as in West Ham, and let them make a speech breathing the Christian spirit, as did the Noble Lady, and at the same time let it be known that they are willing to save a few pounds by the murder of the poor people in the district. What is murder? I do not know how it is defined by some people, but if a man or a woman or a child is gradually starved to death by a system over which they have no control, a system which calls itself a Christian system, and a system that preaches brotherhood to them, whilst withholding from them the barest necessities of life; and if that is not murder, I do not know what is. If the ratepayers in the West Ham area were given the chance of voting to-morrow as to whether they would go back to the old conditions, and pay a little more in rates, or whether they would starve the poor, they would go back to the old conditions. The old system may have had its faults. Are there no other areas in the country which have faults? The former administrators may have made mistakes, and probably they did. Is there no other public authority in the country which has made mistakes?

If we went to the people of West Ham and told them of all the mistakes that had been made in Poor Law administration in the past, and we told them of the mistakes that have been invented against them, as they have been invented, and as they were invented during the recent election, and we asked them whether, with all its mistakes, they would go back to the old system, or keep on the present system, they would prefer the old system, and would decide by their votes to pay the few extra pounds to keep the poor people on a reasonable scale of comfort. I do not want to see money spent wastefully. I detest waste of any kind, and I detest to see the waste of human life that is going on as a consequence of the action of the Poor Law Commissioners there. We do not ask for luxury for the poor people; we ask for reasonable treatment. If the ratepayers of West Ham were asked whether they would prefer to save themselves a few pounds, and see the sights which anybody with an observant eye in the area can see to-day, sights of poverty and destitution, sights that are the consequence of the administration of the three Commissioners, they would have no hesitation in voting against the present system. The three Commissioners are hard-faced, brutal men. I say that, knowing full well what I mean. They are administering the Poor Law in the most brutal fashion possible, and I say that the people in the area, without any hesitation, would decide to spend their money in keeping the people under decent conditions rather than keeping them in misery and sorrow.

Photo of Mr John Colville Mr John Colville , Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern

On a point of Order. Is it in order for an hon. Member, using the protection of this House, to make personal attacks such as have been made by the hon. Member? Surely, it is a question of the policy of maintaining these gentlemen in office, or not, rather than the making of personal attacks upon them.

Photo of Reverend Herbert Dunnico Reverend Herbert Dunnico , Consett

The hon. Member, so far as I understand, is making a general attack and not a personal attack.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

I was not making a personal attack. Our system is full of brutality. We do not blame the people who are within that system, but we blame the system. When we have a system like this, where people are quietly and slowly starving to death, and we know it, we should be less than men if we did not make our protest against it. It is because I know these things that I am making my protest against the system, and I hope that this honourable House will retain its honour by giving the Minister of Health a vote of confidence, such as he has a right to expect from humane men.

Photo of Reverend Roderick Kedward Reverend Roderick Kedward , Ashford

I have listened closely to the Debate and I am sorry, in one way, that I have to intervene; but I should not be true to my conception of my duty if I did not say a few words on this matter, I have spent most of my life in helping poor people. All my work has been in poor areas. I should be very sorry if there went out from this House the picture that has been painted on the other side, of poor people clamouring for relief, while on the other side there is nothing but hard-hearted people, waiting to push them further into the mire. I have had very long administrative experience as a councillor and a Poor Law guardian, and I have met a few unreasonable people and a few hard faced people, but, in the main, I have found most of the people willing to lend an ear and to help those who are really in distress. What I feel sorry about is, that we have heard nothing from the other side of the House of the very grave abuses that were found, and which are found, in a measure, still. We have heard nothing about human delinquency, nothing about the intricate problems that the Poor Law guardian has to face in regard to the people who come before him.

I am going to ask the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary when she comes to reply whether she is going to tell the House that there was no necessity, no reason, no basis, for the appointment of these people? The Minister of Health said that their appointment was a denial and a breakdown of constitutional practice. A great many people who were administering Poor Law relief at that time boasted that the very thing they wanted to do was to break down the constitution, they wanted local administration to break down under the very heavy weights they were imposing upon it. I know what I am talking about; I am speaking from personal experience. I have been at close personal grips with this matter. How would the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health feel if she had sat with Labour guardians as I have to administer relief in particular areas and was face to face with this kind of thing. The relieving officer reports a family who are getting 42s. 6d. a week. I, as the Chairman, have to decide. The relieving officer reports that the man is a bricklayer's runner, that he is given to drink, that his children are ill-kept and half starved, and that the money does not go to them. He says, "I feel that I must report this case and ask you to take action." I call the woman in and have a chat with her.

What did I do? I said to the relieving officer, "I will make an order for you to pay the woman so much per week for rent in money, and the rest in food tickets"; and the man turns round and curses me and says, "I will tell my trade union leader about you and we will see if we are going to have nothing doing about this." He does so, and when the case comes up within a fortnight on revision the man is put back on full money, which he spends in the public house and on the bookmaker while I in paying increased rates have to help to keep his children. I could give case after case of men going on relief, and the scale constantly being raised. There was a case in which an illegitimate child was born to a married man and his relief increased in order to help him to pay the order made upon him in a London police court. The Ministry have all these facts in their possession; and the late Parliamentary Secretary knows that what I am saying is perfectly true.

Are the Government going to close their eyes to this sort of thing? Are we going to let it go from this House that there has been no abuse? I know that there is a great deal of hardship, and no one has more sympathy with the poor people than I, but I want to suggest that you cannot help the poor by allowing people who are utterly undeserving to batten and fatten on the rates. You cannot help the poor by raising the scale of relief until it is at a point where a man who is working all the week gets less than a man receiving out-door relief, living opposite, and whose rent is raised as the rates are raised in order to keep these people in a privilege position. Is it to go forth that this House commends this sort of thing. Hon. Members opposite have been putting hard cases, and I have been up against cases of hardship again and again, and every day, but you do not help the poor of this country ultimately by closing your eyes to these abuses and to the fact that there are many who do not spend their money wisely. When I have pleaded that these people should be protected and taken care of I am regarded as a reactionary. If it goes out that this Government condones the sort of action which brought the order into existence it is going to be a very grave thing indeed for local administration in this country. I am entirely sympathetic to democratic Government, and I should like to feel that we can proceed along democratic lines through public representatives. An hon. Member opposite made great play about people spending money who do not have to raise it. Does the hon. Member know that through the Metropolitan Common Pool Fund thousands and thousands of pounds are going to authorities and guardians in London from other boroughs to places like West Ham—

Photo of Reverend Roderick Kedward Reverend Roderick Kedward , Ashford

I am using it as an illustration. You cannot argue one way for West Ham and another for Bermondsey.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

Will the hon. Member also agree that the ease he cites of Bermondsey would be no justification for the imposition of a committee over the whole of the people who are genuinely poor as the result of unemployment?

Photo of Reverend Roderick Kedward Reverend Roderick Kedward , Ashford

I would grant that absolutely where you have guardians who are prepared to listen and accept at any rate the ordinary decencies of public life. But I am speaking from an experience of a number of boards and I know that the Ministry have been very long suffering, have given chance after chance, made appeal after appeal, and written letter after letter, to get these people to put their house in order; and probably because they overstrained their instincts for generosity they did not really help the poor people they meant to help. Ultimately they injured them; and it is always so. I want to ask the House not to let it go forth that there were not abuses. I would rather the Minister of Labour had taken the line of saying: We have had an experiment but we hope now that we can do without it. If it had been put along that line I could have supported the Motion. I entirely disagree with the speeches. It seems to me that the Government fail to see the position steadily, fail to see it as a whole, and until you do you cannot really help the poor people of this country and put Poor Law administration on a proper basis. I am sorry to have detained the House so long, but I speak from a deep and intimate knowledge of the lives of poor people; and the sort of thing that has been going on during the past few years does not help but ultimately imposes a heavier burden upon the poor of the country.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Gardner Mr Benjamin Gardner , West Ham Upton

It is rather difficult for a new Member to speak in a Debate of this kind. A great deal of heat has been engendered; but I cannot sit still and hear the West Ham Town Council taken to task. I have been a member of that body for nearly 23 years, and I am not a natural curiosity: I am an ordinary human being. When it is suggested that we are aiming at something of which this House would not approve, I say that it is not true. It has been said that the appointed guardians in West Ham have reduced the number of people unemployed by refusing them relief. I do not think all the credit can be theirs. There is some improvement in employment in West Ham just now; that is proved by the fact that the feeding of necessitous school children is fairly well down, so far as the numbers are concerned. That has happened under the West Ham Town Council, which has nominated the four members to whom objection has been taken because they are all of one political colour. Let me call attention to the fact that, after all, the objection to their being all of one political colour comes from a party which appointed three gentlemen who, although they were not in politics, had a policy, and that that policy happened to coincide with the policy of those who are opposed to me politically as a Labour man. Therefore their administration was a biased administration, and it was based on the theory that there should be no relief given unless there was destitution.

What is destitution? Can anyone define it? Are we to have it laid down that because of the exigencies of the capitalist system, because of the irregularity of the work provided by oceangoing traffic, part of the community is to be condemned eternally to a diet of bread and water? That contention will not do for me; men and women must not be treated in that way. West Ham contains a large dock area; the Silvertown district is full of people employed at the docks. Their employment is intermittent and they suffer over a period of years. They are at work one week and get nothing the next week, then two days perhaps in a week after; and the result is that because of their poverty they become what in this House is called demoralised. In other words, they are willing to vote for anyone who will offer them some mitigation of their misery. I cannot blame them for that. The only thing I can condemn is the condition of affairs that allows them to go down and down and down.

The policy which allowed them to go down and down, the policy which was carried out by the appointed Commissioners, has not been approved even by my political opponents. I happen, not only to be a member of the West Ham Town Council, but I sit on the local Bench. Hon. Members know that the rotas of magistrates are made up of persons who are of different political opinions. When the appointed guardians first began to bring to the local Bench the cases of those who were liable to support persons who had become chargeable, the amounts that they asked for were such that the Conservative and Liberal members of the Bench said, "This is quite unreasonable," and they did not grant what the appointed guardians had demanded. As a result the appointed guardians have not asked for such unreasonable sums in the past few months. I have never had anything to do with Poor Law administration in West Ham, but I hope that the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite is not to condemn the new administration that is being set up by the Minister of Health before it has done anything. The old guardians are dead, and we are making a new beginning. I hope that in West Ham the people will get better treatment. I hope, too, that there will not be, as in the past, any imposition on the guardians. We know that there has been imposition, because people have had to be prosecuted. I trust that that is coming to an end, but it can come to an end only if the people believe that they will get some consideration from those who are appointed to relieve them.

I do not like the situation at all now, so far as out relief is concerned. I do not think that a poor district ought to be called upon to support its own poor. The poor are always herded together in the industrial areas. The only criticism I have to make of the old guardians is that they accepted from a Government the work of dealing with a tremendous unemployment problem without any promise of help from the Government. The magnitude of the problem led to the loans that the old guardians raised. If there had not been some justification in their appeals for loans the loans would never have been granted. The further the guardians went the worse became their position financially, but that was inherent to the system under which they were working. There should have been some considered scheme that would have maintained Parliamentary control, in which I believe, and then some of the pitfalls into which they fell would have been avoided.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Living, and having been married and having brought up a family in West Ham, I have been keenly interested to-night in hearing the speeches of people who do not know where West Ham is and know nothing of its problems. One hon. Member went out of her way to charge the old board of guardians with corruption. Anyone who charges the members of a public body with corruption ought to be able to give some evidence to prove the charge. Probably it is because the Noble Lady comes from a country where they know something about it, that she is so glib in charging other people with corruption. When this matter was first raised in the House I suggested that we who represent the Poor Law area should ask the Government to establish an inquiry, as they had the right to do in law. Had not the late Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health the same power as Mr. John Burns had when he was President of the Local Government Board? Mr. John Burns established a court of inquiry, which discovered that certain members of the old board of guardians were guilty of corruption. Those members found themselves eventually at the Old Bailey. All of them went to prison, bar one, and he was an informer; and the whole of those who went to prison were members of the two parties opposite. Although there were some Labour members on that board not a single Labour member was convicted, except one.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Mostly in the cemetery. But there is another kind of corruption. There are Members of this House who take a very active part in providing turkeys, blankets and coal for their respective constituents. A board of guardians is doing wrong if it gives extra relief, but a candidate for Parliament is all right when he doles out coal and blankets and other things of that kind. There is a new kind of corruption that is not quite described as corruption. We find Members who have been elected to Parliament, as a matter of gratitude giving thousands of pounds away to make sure of their seats at the next election. That is a new form of corruption. I expect they have been to America in the meantime. What is the matter with West Ham? [Interruption.] I am not drunk, and when you use that word I tell you that you are a dirty liar.

Photo of Reverend Herbert Dunnico Reverend Herbert Dunnico , Consett

Order! The hon. Member knows perfectly well that he is not entitled to use language of that kind.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I have had so many insults from this Lady that I am resenting them every time. She does not speak to me straight; she talks under her breath. When she speaks about me, I like to know what she says.

Viscountess ASTOR:

I never said it.

An HON. MEMBER:

Yes, you did.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I will let it pass for what it is worth—[Interruption.]

Photo of Reverend Herbert Dunnico Reverend Herbert Dunnico , Consett

Hon. Members must permit me to keep order. I shall be glad if the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) will kindly keep quiet.

Viscountess ASTO R:

I really very much resent that expression—saying that you hope the Noble Lady will keep quiet—

Photo of Reverend Herbert Dunnico Reverend Herbert Dunnico , Consett

The Noble Lady has interrupted again and again. The Noble Lady must keep quiet during the Debate.

Photo of Mr Isaac Foot Mr Isaac Foot , Bodmin

An accusation was made across the Floor of the House within your hearing, Sir, and it has not been withdrawn. May I ask if that accusation was in order?

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I am not going to stand this much longer. It is quite a common thing for the Noble Lady to talk under her breath about drunkenness when I am speaking, but I tell her this to her teeth—that I am a better man drunk than she is sober. I was trying in my poor way to state the position of the place which I happen to represent and it is all very nice for hon. Members on he other side—

Photo of Reverend Roderick Kedward Reverend Roderick Kedward , Ashford

On a point of Order. Is it in order that an hon. Member should call another hon. Member "a dirty liar," and, without withdrawing the expression, that he should be allowed to continue his speech. It is very much resented.

Photo of Reverend Herbert Dunnico Reverend Herbert Dunnico , Consett

I have already said that it is out of order, and I understood the hon. Member to withdraw the expression.

Viscountess ASTO R:

No, he did not.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

In order to meet the opinion of the hon. Member, I withdraw the remark "dirty liar," although it is quite Biblical. [Interruption.] I am not going to stand this any longer.

Mr. DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN:

The hon. Member must address the Chair.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I am addressing the Chair, but at the same time I have to address something to the hon. Members who interrupt me. I only want to say this—that we in West Ham claim to be as clean in the administration of our public services as any town in Great Britain. We are the seventh largest town in Great Britain with a population of 308,000. This matter of the administration of the Poor Law was one of the main issues at the General Election, and every one of the 10 constituencies was won by Labour. The people of West Ham have as much brains as the people of any other district and are just as capable of exercising the franchise, and every one of us here representing that area are here to back the Minister of Health in the action he has taken. Could you have a greater condemnation than the figures which I have here? Noble Ladies and other people talk about their interest in child welfare and maternity and other things. They talk about these things on platforms. What is the position under the so-called commissioners with the sympathetic hearts? Their hearts are bleeding with sympathy for the poor, and they pocket £1,500 a year, as a result of their sympathy, for doing down the poor and doing it very well. There has been a 33⅓ per cent. decrease in the amount of milk supplied to expectant mothers. They cut down the relief of the mothers to such an extent that they were compelled to go to the town council to make up the leeway. Does the Noble Lady agree with that policy? Is that one of her methods for improving the health of the children of the country? Apparently, by the attitude she has taken up this afternoon, she backs up these people who are driving people oft the Poor Law, and driving them on to the local authorities.

Viscountess ASTOR:

May I ask the hon. Member has infant mortality gone up or down?

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Infant mortality has gone up, and every child that has died is a victim of Sir Alfred Woodgate and the people whom you have been backing up. That is why I cannot control ray temper. Every child that has gone down to its grave is the result of the policy which you have supported with this grinning hyena in front of you.

Photo of Colonel Albert Ward Colonel Albert Ward , Kingston upon Hull North West

On a point of Order. Is "grinning hyena" a Parliamentary term?

Photo of Reverend Herbert Dunnico Reverend Herbert Dunnico , Consett

It is a very vague expression.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Those of us who represent West Ham constituencies know what was going on. Every afternoon we had letters at our houses telling about the hardships which the people suffered. When we sent a petition to the commissioners, we got the sterotyped reply: "Full inquiries are being made," and there is nothing doing. We referred to the Ministry of Health, and we got the answer that it was all in the hands of the appointed guardians and, so, there was nothing doing either way. The people have been screwed down to the lowest possible point. There is no relief for a single man living with his parents. If I have a son 18 years of age, and he cannot get work, and has exhausted his unemployment benefit. He goes to the Employment Exchange and is told he cannot sign on. He goes to the board of guardians and is told, "You are living at home with your father, and your father has to keep you." That means at least 10s. a week off the father's wages. When there was a War on it was different. When we are fighting poverty they are all against us; but when we were fighting the Kaiser they were all with us. Your King and country needed you then; now your King and country bleed you.

Photo of Reverend Herbert Dunnico Reverend Herbert Dunnico , Consett

The hon. Member knows perfectly well that he must not refer to His Majesty in the debates of this House.

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I beg pardon, I did not intend to say anything offensive of His Majesty. We are all obliged to the doctors for what they have done for him, and I would only like to see as much done for the poor as has been done for His Majesty. I am very glad indeed to know that he is recovering his usual state of health. The poor are being treated in such a shameless way by these appointed guardians that I shall be very pleased to lead a procession to attend their funeral at the end of this month. We shall be glad to get rid of them, and we know their successors will be more humane to the poor—not extravagant, but humane, not to give anything away but to recognise that after all poverty is not a crime. These people during their tenure of office have tried to make it a crime, and, when I hear ministers of religion get up and tell us there are some sins in the world, all I can say is that there would be no work for them if there were not any sins. If it were not for the people who are not as good as they ought to be, the hon. Member would never be able to occupy a position in the pulpit. We hear this sob stuff talked about the poor by people who have never suffered from poverty, but those of us who have gone through it and who have tramped the streets of this city, with no shoes on our feet, to look for a job—

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

I am not swanking about it. I am trying to get away from it, and I want to prevent other people coming to it. Holy Joe wants to put them through the microscope. The man who cannot find a fault in himself can always find a fault in his fellows. The poorest out-of-work in West Ham can bear as good a standard of examination as the hon. Member opposite. He is a human being, and he deserves the consideration of a human being. I sat on the board of guardians for years, and when these people came before me for relief, I knew them, and I told them what I thought about them when I knew they were not straight, and they admired me all the more for doing it, but other people know them before they see them. We want to see the best men appointed as guardians, men who are not going to be led up the garden by appeals for sympathy, men who are not going to give out relief like pawn tickets, but men who will look into every case that comes before them and do justice all round.

We fought on the town council of West Ham to have our fair share of representation. Out of 12 members, it is not unfair to ask for seven, in view of the fact that we represent the great majority of the people in the Poor Law area, nearly 1,000,000 of the population. Out of the 12 appointed, we have taken seven, and that is not unfair, as the five will be able to bring a certain amount of influence to bear. I know some of them very well, as personal friends, although they do not agree with me politically, but I believe that they will play fair with the poor. That is all that we ask them to do. We are not asking for privileges, for something for nothing, but we are asking that poverty should no longer be treated as though a poor man or a poor woman was simply an applicant for our charity. We ask only for a modicum of justice, and that is what we stand for in the West Ham Poor Law area.

9.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Groves Mr Thomas Groves , West Ham Stratford

This is one of the happiest days in my career in this House, because I know that, following our opposition, we are going to get rid of the appointed guardians in West Ham. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) asked if there had been any increase in the infant mortality. The figures given by the medical officer of health for West Ham prove that under the age of two years there was an increase of 14 per thousand in 192S over 1927, and under five years of age an increase of 30 per thousand. Those are deaths taking place within the Poor Law institution at Whipps Cross. The-well-to-do do not go there. I only want to say that the people appointed by the late Government have imposed great hardships on the people of West Ham, and we are very glad to be getting rid of them. We look upon this as a great day. We have fought for this, and I believe that the people whom we have appointed will do good to the poor, will not waste money, and will do the best they can for this country.

Photo of Mr Cyril Atkinson Mr Cyril Atkinson , Altrincham

I should like to make quite clear what are my reasons for voting for this Motion. It seems to me that the Orders made by the Minister of Health connote several propositions, and those who vote for the continuance of those Orders must necessarily associate themselves with those propositions. Surely the very first thing that these Orders imply is this, that the nominated guardians were without justification; in other words, that there was no justification for any change in the old system and that what has been done should never have been done, and should be undone. We cannot very well go into the evidence and the facts to-night, but everybody who remembers them must surely find very great difficulty in getting up and saying that there was no justification for what the late Minister of Health did. Anybody who is accustomed to examining evidence and who tries to look at things impartially must surely recognise that there was an irresistible case for a change, and I, for one, am convinced of its necessity. Whether the best means for dealing with it were taken, is neither here nor there, but that there was the utmost justification for what was done I firmly believe. I submit that the maintenance of these Orders is simply advertising this proposition, that what was done was without justification, and I say that that is untrue and without any foundation whatever.

The next thing that these Orders imply is this: What was done by the late Minister of Health was something condemning waste and something that put in the place of waste a policy of anti-waste, but almost the very first thing that the new Government are doing is to declare, in the most positive way, that they condone that policy of waste and are opposed to this policy of anti-waste.

Photo of Mr Robert Richardson Mr Robert Richardson , Houghton-le-Spring

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what waste there was?

Photo of Mr Cyril Atkinson Mr Cyril Atkinson , Altrincham

Some people, I know, can never be convinced, even by facts, but no reasonable person who will approach that question with an open mind can possibly deny that in these eases there was a great amount of unjustifiable expenditure, which is equivalent to waste. What we did was to do something which expressed in the clearest way our party's disapproval of a policy of waste, but what the other party is doing is to express in the clearest way condemnation of a policy of anti-waste and, therefore, commendation of a policy of waste. The Minister of Health to-night made no suggestion that he has had any inquiry mad" into the facts. What has been done in making these Orders has been done without any inquiry. He himself made no suggestion that what he had done was justified by the conduct of the nominated guardians. It was simply that something had been done by the other side and was going to be undone, because he had always been opposed to it, not because it had failed or was unjust in operation.

If the Minister of Health had ventured to support what he has been doing by allegations against the nominated guardians of facts amounting even to a twentieth of what has been said to-night, I should not be here supporting this Motion. But the Minister of Health, who of all people would have most information at his disposal, made no suggestion whatever that the course he was taking was actuated by the conduct of the nominated guardians and because they had acted harshly or unfairly. I attach great importance to that fact. No one has an opportunity of answering the vague attacks which are made. They may or may not be true; one cannot say, but to a lawyer these vague charges mean nothing. We want particulars and proof, and, if anyone could have known of cases of hardship and unfairness, if anyone could have known of a case against these nominated guardians, the Minister of Health would have been the person best informed. He made no suggestion whatever that his conduct had been actuated by any facts of that kind. He never suggested that the guardians had failed in their work: and these Orders are being made simply because the Socialists said they would make them. So in the making of these Orders we get the first threat of the real Socialism, and it is just as well that we should appreciate it.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Leyton East

I represent one of the constituencies in the West Ham Poor Law area, and I shall support the other Members who have already addressed the House in the point of view which they have put. After all, the greatest justification for the step which has been taken by the Minister of Health is the result of the General Election in the West Ham area. In the last House, the area was represented by four Conservative and four Labour Members. In this House, it is represented by eight Labour Members. I admit that in making that statement, I overlook a fraction of the area which is represented by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), but, even so far as that fraction is concerned, I doubt whether he would be in this House if it depended upon the votes of that part of his constituency which comes within the West Ham area. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) complained of the absence of democracy because, in the newly appointed guardians, we are to have seven representatives against five of our opponents, I would remind him that in the General Election this was one of the foremost issues in our constituencies, and that the votes which were cast for the Labour candidates were supplemented by the votes cast for the Liberal candidates, all of whom on this issue took the same attitude as that of the Labour party.

There are in reality two issues with which we are faced in this question. The first is the issue of political dictatorship, which was imposed on West Ham and other areas. I do not intend to say much about that matter, because it has already been discussed, but, if I followed the speeches of the hon. Members on the other side of the House correctly, their belief in democracy amounts to this, that a board of guardians can be tolerated so long as it is carrying out a policy which they endorse, but as soon as the board of guardians carries out a policy to which they are opposed, then that board must be abolished and a Conservative dictator must replace them.

The other issue—and I use my words quietly and deliberately—is the sheer inhuman, brutal cruelty of the administration in the areas which we are discussing. That cruelty has two aspects, and may I just say here that I am going to bring facts. In the first place, the administration of West Ham has been cruel to its own staff. In the establishments in the area under the old board of guardians, the eight hours working day was the rule. As soon as Sir Alfred Woodgate became responsible for the area, the three-shift system of eight hours was destroyed, and two shifts were introduced with no increase in wages for the increased hours. That is comparatively unimportant, but it meant in those establishments the most gross overworking of the staff, and the most gross inattention to the wretched and often sick people who had been left in those establishments to the care of those staffs. I make that charge knowing the facts about which I am speaking, and I challenge any reply to my assertions from hon. Members on the opposite benches.

The second aspect of the cruelty which has existed in this regime has been the actual administration of the Poor Law to those who have asked for relief. Members on the opposite side have perhaps not understood the feelings of hon. Members on this side on this matter. I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston, and to the speech of the Noble Lady who represents the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). I did not interrupt, but I confess that it was with the greatest possible difficulty that I did not. Let me try to express the feelings that we have. It is difficult for us to tolerate speeches of the kind that have been delivered in this House by representatives of a party who live in wealth without working for that wealth, upon the poverty and the misery of the people, and then, when they defend that kind of interest in the community, lecture the working class for being wastrels. When we hear that type of speech, and when we see the type of smile with which that kind of speech is made, it is extraordinarily difficult for us to remain quiet under that kind of attack upon our people, upon our folk—[Interruption.]

Viscountess ASTOR:

Why your folk?

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Leyton East

I will tell the Noble Lady why they are our people. These people are our friends; they come to us week by week. We know that they are decent folk, anxious and eager for work, we know that they have a self-reliance and independence which would refuse relief, if they could get on without relief; and, when these people are spoken of as wastrels, when we hear of the demoralisation of their character which will result if they receive maintenance without work, we retaliate that the people against whom that charge can be made are the wealthy in the community, who are taking from the community and are not serving the community in return for the wealth they receive. Let me give actual cases which have come to me within the last month of the administration of Sir Alfred Wood-gate in the West Ham area. The constituency which I represent is not one of the poorest in the West Ham area; it is not a slum district, but it is largely a residential constituency, and the working-class houses there are largely of the artisan class, and yet the cases which I will give to the House are cases which have come to me, and which illustrate the barbarous rule of the regime under Sir Alfred Woodgate.

I will refer to the first as Mr. A. He has a wife, and three children under nine years of age. The mother is expecting another child within two months. The relief in that home has been 17s. in kind and 7s. in money—for a family of five. Within a week or two of giving up his post Sir Alfred Woodgate demanded that that man must go into the workhouse or else the relief would be reduced to the mere 17s. in kind which has been given. I give another ease, which I will call that of Mr. B. He has been unemployed since Christmas and receives no unemployment allowance. He has a wife and three children dependent upon him, and all the children are under nine years of age. The relief was 23s. in kind. The Poor Law authorities asked that the man should go into the workhouse and leave his family outside, and when he refused they reduced the relief to 16s. The right hon. Member for Edgbaston has been boasting that outdoor relief has been reduced. Outdoor relief has been reduced by breaking up families—by sending young, able-bodied men into the workhouse and compelling their wives and families to remain outside. Another case is that of Mrs. C. She has a son of 31 who has been unemployed since December, again with no unemployment allowance. The mother is 75 years of age. The total income has been the pension of 10s. she has been receiving. The mother is an invalid and has been cared for by her son. Sir Alfred Woodgate is insisting, even in that case, upon the son going into the workhouse and leaving his invalid mother to live alone on her pension of 10s. a week.

I give the next two oases because I have a clear memory of the people who came to me about them. I will call the woman Mrs. D. She was a girl of about. 24, and she came with her little boy, about two years of age. When she came to see me I thought it must be one of the many rent and eviction cases which come. She was well dressed, she was respectable; her little boy was well cared for and well tended. Her husband had been out of work for 18 months, and again there was no unemployment allowance. She has two children under the age of two years and three months. The relief has been 17s in kind and 8s. in money. In that case, again, Sir Alfred Woodgate has insisted that her husband shall go into the workhouse. You speak of Socialism breaking up the home. It is Capitalism which is breaking up the home all the time. That woman told me how she pawned little things in order to keep her home together and to keep her husband in her home and away from the workhouse. That case in itself is a sufficient indictment of the régime of Sir Alfred Woodgate to justify the action which has been taken by the Front Bench.

The last case I will give, which I will call the case of Mr. E., is that of a man of 75, with one of those faces of serenity despite terrible hardship which show that an individual must have found some secret bigger and deeper than material things. He was in no way full of the spirit of complaint, but genial and kind. That man has been receiving an old age pension of 10s. Two sons contribute to him 5s. a week between them, although they are working class folk with families. He lives alone. He pays 14s. a week for his board and lodging. The late guardians used to allow him 2s. 6d. a week. The new guardians, with Sir Alfred Woodgate, have stopped this, and the result is that that old man, who has spent 40 or 50 years in the service of this nation, has, after he has paid for his board and lodging, 1s a week with which to meet all his needs. That old man has served the nation just as honourably and just as usefully as any Member in this House.

Those men and those women with whom we are dealing are just as decent, just as full of the spirit of the service of the community, as any right hon. Member on the opposite benches or on our benches, and as any member of our families of whom we are so proud. Those people have as much right to demand that in their old age, in their sickness and in their destitution, for which we as a community are responsible and not they as individuals, the community shall see that they live in a condition of decency, and not endure that state of destitution for which this House of Commons more than any other body in the community is responsible at the present time. Therefore, we ask this House to reject the Prayer which has been uttered from the opposite bench. We have been accustomed to praying "Give us this day our daily bread." The prayer which is asked for on the opposite benches is "Withhold from the poor their daily bread."

Viscountess ASTOR:

Monstrous!

HON. MEMBERS:

It is true!

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I desire to offer to the House a few observations upon some of the speeches which have been uttered, and, if I can, to give at any rate my judgment and opinion—

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

We know it already; you need not tell us.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

—about matters with which I have had some association over a considerable period. I do not desire to offer much comment on the last speech which has been made. When an hon. Gentleman gets up in the House and cites a number of cases, it is obviously impossible to say what are the replies which may be made. I do not know whether Sir Alfred Woodgate has had an opportunity of considering those cases or whether he knew that they were to be raised to-day. I apprehend that if he had known it he would probably have communicated his side of the matter to some Member of the House. I would only say this, and I hope I shall be credited with the same sincerity which I am prepared to give to other hon. Members, that whilst one cannot absolutely agree with every decision which anyone in the capacity of a Poor Law guardian gives in relation to particular cases, certainly in the cases which I had an opportunity of examining when they were the subject of complaint in the last Parliament Sir Alfred Wood-gate generally had at any rate a case that he could make in reply. I want to say this on behalf of an absent man who has not had an opportunity of appearing in his own defence and who has been accused of all sorts of things this afternoon.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

You are responsible. You put him there. You have no control over him.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to say this. It is the only observation I want to make with regard to these cases. I have heard cases like them given again and again in this House, and, on examination, there has generally been some reply to be made by a man who was previously a public servant in the department with which I was associated and who as far as I know has simply been actuated, in carrying out his duties, by the intention to act honestly and fairly. I think perhaps, when the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) has been a little longer in this House, he may not be so apt to think that all the virtue lies on one side of the House, and, apparently, all the wealth on the other. That is not my experience. When I survey the two front benches, particularly, I am prepared to say that probably there is an equal amount of sincerity and wealth on both sides at the present time.

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Middlesbrough East

You say what is not the truth.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

Will the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to say that there is an equal amount of desire on the two sides to help to abolish the existing system.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

Obviously, on a question of that sort you are entering into a matter of party politics in which there is a legitimate division of opinion. I am talking on the question of sincerity, and I say that when the hon. Gentleman has been a little longer in this House he will be prepared to give to all Members an equal amount of credit in that particular connection. The subject of this Debate has been a very wide one, and I am very glad of it. The action of my right hon. Friend the former Minister of Health has been challenged and condemned. Many hon. Gentlemen are at any rate unacquainted with, or at least have forgotten, the facts concerning the appointment of those whom we call the commissioners. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite appreciate the point, but it is quite unnecessary, for instance, as far as the appointment of the West Ham Commissioners is concerned, to look very far for a justification of the step which my right hon. Friend took. One has only to recall the statements which were made at that time, not by Conservative Ministers or Members of my own party but by a member of the West Ham Board of Guardians. I refer to a gentleman who is now very well known in this House and who has recently appeared in this controversy, namely, Councillor Killip.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

How many more times are you going to call him in. He is a bit of sugar to you.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The hon. Member is a very old member of the House, and he is setting a very bad example.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

The right hon. Gentleman was just as bad in the old Parliament.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I can give the hon. Member no preference. If he continues to interrupt, I shall have to ask him to go outside.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

I want no preference; I will go outside.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I am very sorry if I have said anything in any way to wound the feelings of the hon. Gentle-man. I was about to quote a statement made by Mr. Killip who, as a matter of fact, at one time was the political agent of the hon. Gentleman who has just left the House. What did he say? He was Vice-Chairman of the board of guardians for West Ham, and he had been concerned with this administration right the way through. He made some statements which, hon. Members, I think if they will listen to them for a moment, will say fully justify every step that was taken as far as the West Ham Board of Guardians was concerned. He said: He must admit that Mr. Ward "— he was another of the guardians— was correct when ho charged Socialists with using the guardians' relief for political and personal ends. He regretted to have to say that the way in which some of his colleagues were canvassing the unemployed had become such a scandal that something should be done to put a stop to it. He said a few days later, when the matter was again discussed—and I would remind hon. Members that he was concerned with the administration all the way through: as to some of the things which have been done in the name of the West Ham Guardians, the least we can do is to be ashamed of them. When you are elected to the guardians, you do not go there to give out relief as though you were giving away handbills. We have been landed in this position "— he was referring to the action which my right hon. Friend was then contemplating. by people who have entirely abused their membership of the board of guardians. On another occasion, in referring to the whole course of administration in West Ham, he said: Poor Law relief is being abused and abused right up to the hilt. I say to hon. Gentlemen opposite who want to give "fair consideration to this case and who have heard many hard things said in the course of this Debate, that here you have a statement by a man who has been concerned in the administration right the way through, as vice-chairman of the board of guardians, and who is still engaged in public work at West Ham as a man of the borough council. These are his statements, and how in the face of such statements made by a responsible man of that kind, who would certainly be speaking under some difficulty, could you possibly allow those guardians who, as Mr. Killip has said, abused their position right the way through, to be left where they were?

If hon. Members refer to the other three cages, I would ask them to examine the facts on their own account by reading up the Debates in the OFFICIAL REPOET of that time. I suggest to them that they will find equal evidence of the necessity of similar action being taken both at Bedwellty and Chester-le-Street. Let me take the instance of what happened in connection with Bedwellty, which I do not think will really be defended by any hon. Member or, at any rate, by very few hon. Members in any part of the House. This is one of the things which they did. They made a number of appointments and instead of giving them—as I think everybody would desire should be done—to the best men and to the men who showed the greatest fitness for the work, they made certain appointments during a not very long period of administration. They appointed to jobs as receiving officers three brothers, three husbands, two sons and two sons-in-law of guardians, 15 members of the local trades and labour council, one brother of a miners' agent, five trade union officials, one member of the unemployed committee, and three members of a committee of the Miners' Federation. [An HON. MEMBER: "What does the Tory party do?"] Whatever other people may do, I am answering the accusations that have been made in this House, and I want to make a reply and give some of the reasons that actuated my right hon. Friend in the course which he took. It is obvious that, however good certain relations may be, however good the capabilities of certain trade union officials, you could not do anything but condemn the character of appointments of that kind.

Take the case of Chester-le-Street. Who could possibly defend the action which the guardians took there, known under the title of "Please remember the guardians." There the relief was given in a local picture hall, and, as each recipient went out of the hall, they had to pass a table at which sat members of the local unemployment organisation, and every recipient was asked to "remember the local guardians." If you examine the administration of those three boards of guardians, I think any fair-minded man would say that they were given opportunities again and again of carrying out their obligations. Anyone who has to bring forward legislation of that kind must conclude that a Minister would desire to avoid it if possible. I believe that it was the desire and the intention of my right hon. Friend if he could to avoid this kind of legislation. We summoned the Chester-le-Street and Bedwellty Boards of Guardians to the Ministry of Health again and again, and begged them to comply with the conditions laid down by the Minister of Health in connection with the loan which was to be granted. The conditions of the loan were not unreasonable, and, even if the present Minister of Health ever has to issue a loan to the new guardians, he will have to make just the same conditions. I am sure that the Minister of Health would resent the expenditure of money and the granting of loans when the conditions were not being complied with. When those loans were issued, those boards of guardians accepted the conditions when they were at the Ministry of Health, but, as soon as they got away to their own districts, they deliberately broke the conditions of the loan.

A number of extreme statements have been made, and cases have been put forward which it is very difficult to reply to, but, speaking on my own responsibility, I have no hesitation in saying that no other course could have been taken in respect of the three boards of guardians I have mentioned. If, as has been alleged, it was the intention of the Minister of Health to smash Poor Law administration or local government, he would not have started with three cases. The fact of the matter is that these three cases were a disgrace to local government, and they were ruining the administration of local government in this country. I would like to point out to the House that the Bedwellty, Chester-le-Street and West Ham Boards of Guardians are not the only boards of guardians in the country which are dominated by a Labour majority. There are any number of boards of guardians dominated by a Labour majority, but they never behaved like these three boards of guardians who desired to smash the ordinary Poor Law administration of the country. It is only fair to say that it is to the credit of local government and the Labour majorities on other boards of guardians that they never attempted the course taken by the three boards I have mentioned, and they carried out their undertaking in regard to any loans which they raised.

If it is found necessary to alter Poor Law administration, the proper way to do it is by Parliamentary action. I am very glad to think that these three boards of guardians did not receive the support of other boards up and down the country. Those are some of the reasons why we had to interfere in the way indicated with those three boards of guardians. I say emphatically that any fair judge of the facts in these three cases, who desired to do the right thing by local government, would have come to the same conclusion as we did, and they would not have allowed those three boards to continue their administration. The men who were appointed to take the place of those particular boards of guardians had a very difficult task, because from the very beginning of their administration they were attacked, and the people who had suffered defeat bitterly resented them and looked upon them as a challenge to the district.

Take the position of West Ham, where relief, according to Mr. Killip, had been simply squandered. Suppose anyone went into that district and had to administer relief on reasonable terms and on the same terms as other boards of guardians had been administering relief in other areas? It was a very difficult job to attempt to do that in those areas. So far as the appointment of these commissioners was concerned, my right hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston made them entirely apart from politics, and I do not think anyone knew their politics. Take, for example, Sir Alfred Woodgate. Sir Alfred Woodgate's history, as far as I know it, is well known. He served for many years as a civil servant at the Ministry of Health, where he had a very responsible and onerous post. He was head of the Establishment Branch, and I think that the fact that a man has been head of the Establishment Branch of a great Government Department for a good many years at any rate says something, not only for his capacity, but for his tact, because anyone who has had to deal with a large staff such as that of the Ministry of Health requires, in addition to capability, a good many other qualities. This man, whose name has been so reviled in this House, went down at the instance of my right hon. Friend, and became Chairman of the West Ham Board of Guardians. [An HON. MEMBER: "What was his salary?"] An hon. Member, in order again to discredit Sir Alfred Woodgate, asks what his salary was. He went down there in company with two of his colleagues and took up a whole-time job These three men took the place of a large number of ordinary guardians—[HON. MEMBERS: "Unpaid!"] I will deal with that in a moment. They took the place of a large number of guardians, and gave the whole of their services to the job. If hon. Members want to compare the cost to the ratepayers of the two systems—I have been led away on to this, but I may as well reply at once—if hon. Members want to compare the cost to the ratepayers respectively of the three appointed guardians and of the old board, and if the cost of elections and matters of that kind be included, it will be found that the cost to the ratepayers of the appointed guardians was £4,000 a year, and the cost to the ratepayers of the old guardians was £2,500: so that I do not think anyone can say that there was anything serious so far as money is concerned.

The point that I want Members of the House to appreciate and to give a fair hearing to, because I am very anxious that they should know the other side of the matter, is that at any rate these guardians had a very difficult job. They were criticised from the very beginning, and of the results of their administration we have had varying accounts in the House to-day. This, at any rate, cannot be gainsaid, that Sir Alfred Woodgate's greatest contribution to West Ham, and one which cannot be contradicted by his critics, is the fact that he has not been content with simply carrying out the ordinary duties of administering Poor Law relief, but has set an excellent example to other boards of guardians in the country by obtaining work for the people to whom this assistance has been granted. Naturally, living as he has done during the past few years in the atmosphere of suspicion and accusation which surrounded him, he has been very careful indeed with regard to the claims he has made as to obtaining employment for people in the district. The figures contained in this report are not selected figures; it is an unwarranted accusation to suggest that. Sir Alfred Woodgate has gone to great pains so that anyone who desires to do so can verify for themselves the figures showing that these people have, in increasing numbers and in a very large percentage, obtained work in West Ham. Surely no one can quarrel with that. I remember a statement made by the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, who was very suspicious of these figures in relation to employment. I remember that she stated on one occasion that she was going to spend a considerable time, I think out of her holiday, in going round to see whether employment was actually obtained in these eases or not. I never heard what the result of her inquiries was, but I am sure of this, because I knew Sir Alfred Woodgate at the Ministry of Health, that these figures which he has given in his report can be relied upon, and I think that they set to any board of guardians one of the finest examples of good work that could be put forward in relation to our Poor Law administration in this country.

These Orders to-day would sweep away the appointed guardians in these three areas. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has stated that he is really doing this—he said it again and again in his speech—in the sacred name of democracy. He said that he had nothing personal against Sir Alfred Woodgate, for instance, but he believed that the Poor Law, so far as possible in the circumstances of this case, should be administered by representatives of the people. He said that he could not have an election, but that he took the next best thing, and went to the various larger authorities and asked them to nominate people who would serve and whom he appointed. It is very necessary that the House should know what really has occurred, especially in connection with West Ham. Let me assure the House that, there has been no case there of the elected representatives of the people, so far as the Borough Council is concerned, exercising a real choice. Mr. Killip said a few days ago, "I knew the names of the four people who were going to be nominated for the new West Ham Guardians a week before the Labour caucus met. I was told the week before, 'You are not one of the men, Killip.' I went to the meeting of the caucus, and there was a ballot, and it was the most extaordinary ballot I over saw, because out of 35 people who-voted, 32 voted for the four who were nominated." Councillor Killip put this question. I am wondering whether it is a proper question. He said, "Was there any secret letter, or were there any secret instructions in relation to these names? "It is a curious thing that these four names did not include a woman—one would have thought a woman would have been a good choice in view of the heart-rending stories we have heard—and equally curious was the fact that they did not include a member of the old West Ham Board of" Guardians. I wonder why that was? Is it because someone thinks the old West-Ham Guardians are not to be trusted? Whatever the reason may be, the fact remains that we are assenting to-night to a rather solemn farce. We are giving up" the appointed guardians, it is true, nominated by my right hon. Friend, but we are assenting to the nomination and appointment of a considerable number of guardians by a secret ballot and caucus, of the Independent Labour party.

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

There is no branch of the Independent Labour party in West Ham.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I apologise to the Independent Labour party. It must be the Social Democratic Federation. Is this. the way the offended spirit of democracy is appeased? Is this the way we are going to return to the constitutionalism which the right hon. Gentleman was so anxious to bring forward? In East Ham and West Ham 39 per cent. of the rate-able value is represented by undertakings which have no part or lot or voice in the administration of the ballot at all, and yet, under the guise of this Order, we are asked to replace men who have done their duty, as I believe, to the best of their ability and in the interests of the borough, and in their place to adopt this procedure, which I believe will be condemned in every part of the House.

10.0 p.m.

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

The Debate has dealt with a considerable variety of matters, one of the chief of which is the position of the Minister himself. The constitutional question is of some importance, but the discussion has dealt mainly with the question of administration. We have been asked whether the old guardians were fit and proper persons and whether the new guardians are reasonable persons. I propose to deal with the question of administration first, and then to come on to the less exciting topic of what exactly is the difference between what we propose to do and what the late Minister proposed to do, and our real objection to this method of dealing with Poor Law questions however disgraceful and however wrong the conduct of any local authority may be. Several hon. Members have asked me whether we approve of irregular conduct among guardians. I hasten to say that no one more than my right hon. Friend disapproves of slackness or carelesness of administration. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are no cheers for that"] There is no more enthusiasm than there is for the ABC or the multiplication table. I am stating something which I should have thought did not need stating, and which I should not have stated except for the anxiety of certain persons opposite. I say that my right hon. Friend, and in a humbler degree myself, are the avowed enemies of anything like slackness or mal-administration. It has not escaped notice that the speech of the late Parliamentary Secretary was in the main devoted to the personal character and the eccentricities of the board of guardians whom the right hon. Gentlemen superseded in 1926 as a merely temporary measure. This is all related to the alleged conduct of certain persons in 1926. I think the right hon. Gentleman was in error when he said that in the case of West Ham none of the old guardians had secured nomination on the new Board. I believe there is one, and only one.

This Motion deals with three cases which are quite different. In the case of Chester-le-Street, I am glad to say the acute distress has passed away, owing to the fact that some of the pits have reopened. There is no comparison between the state of distress and the amount of relief required and the state of affairs in 1926. The men are at work, and there is enough money to give to Their elderly relatives. I will not say it has made Chester-le-Street rich, but it has taken away the extreme poverty that existed then. Bedwellty is not so fortunate. In Bedwellty the distress is acute; the distress is strong. The board of guardians in the Bedwellty Union in their report do not pretend that they have been able, by any sort of administration, to relieve distress. They say in their last report that the district is so poor that the guardians cannot collect their rates, that the arrears have increased during the year of which they speak by £4,000. They say that it is impossible to pay off any of the loans. The district is in a state of such miserable poverty that the guardians cannot even collect the rates they levy, [Interruption.] I am pointing out that in Bedwellty we have a district which is entirely different from that of Chester-le-Street. As the book of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb was quoted with approbation, I will quote again what was said as the result of the investigations: Destitution has continued to exist there which the appointed guardians do not relieve, if by destitution is to be understood what it has been officially held to mean, an inadequacy of toed, clothing or other necessaries. And it was the visit of the Secretary of the Mining Federation with a Poor Law inspector and his published report of the condition of Bedwellty and the district around which led to the Lord Mayor's Fund—which led to the Lord Mayors of London and other places, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to the Heir to the Throne issuing their appeal. There is no mistake at all about the misery in Bedwellty. Here, again, I am not so much inclined to blame these three appointed guardians. They have not the money. They are not by any means so violently unpopular as the present guardians of West Ham. What good did the right hon. Gentleman do to Bedwellty by taking away the elected guardians and putting those people there? That is one of the plague spots of the world; one of the distressed districts, where there, is no money for anybody, and where the poor are starving. That is the case, and no one can deny it.

I come to the West Ham Union. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) how inquiries were carried out by himself, by the medical officer of health, by the town council and by ministers of religion with regard to the condition of people there. He has repeated to the House, what is common knowledge to anyone in that district, what the town council, the medical officer of health, the ministers of religion and the hon. Member who is, as the House knows, a sober and careful man, a man whose word can be depended upon, say that the condition of the poor there is very painful and distressing. I do not know West Ham or Leyton or Walthamstow intimately, but I do know with painful thoroughness East Ham North, my own constituency.

The late Parliamentary Secretary asked if I spent my holidays investigating. I did. I investigated the homes of the sick. I got the case papers. The House, I hope, will believe mc when I say that I have never done more honest work or shown a more honest desire to arrive at a conclusion than I did in visiting, cross-examining, and taking down particulars of cases in East Ham. I brought such cases as I could to the House. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) asked for proof. You cannot take cases across the Floor of the House. I would ask the House to believe me when I say that—using the best industry and intelligence at my disposal for three years—I am convinced that the old and the sick particularly have suffered unnecessarily, and even cruelly, under the administration in West Ham. The children are looked after at the schools. The children are not as well looked after at they should be, but it is the old and the sick and the hopelessly infirm that are suffering, and suffering unnecessarily to-day.

With regard to the unemployed, I must ask the House—and this is a bit of a joke—what it is that Sir Alfred Wood-gate has said in this Report? On page 8 they say that they conducted investigations during one week among the people who during that week had ceased to apply for relief, and they found that the great bulk of the people who had ceased to apply for relief had either got a job or unemployment benefit. Hon. Members know that in numerous cases people cease to apply for relief because they have a job or have other resources such as unemployment pay. A little later on in the Report we have some figures. I will give the figures at the end of the table in order to show how much is due to unemployment for the period 1st May, 1928, to 30th October, 1928: Number of cases on outdoor relief, 5,747; number of cases where employers' addresses are noted, 439; number of cases off relief on account of having found work, employer not known, 182; 621 cases out of 5,747 have found work, and a further 260 have got unemployment benefit. They give the same sort of thing from 31st October, 1928, to 31st May, 1929–4,523 off relief; those who have found work, 503. That is not a very gratifying success in dealing with unemployment. These are the figures which are given by Sir Alfred Woodgate.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

Does the hon. Lady assume that the figures which are given are those who have actually found work out of 6,000?

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

The figures are the only ground for the claim of the guardians appointed by the late Minister that they have found work. Over and over again in the earlier report it has been said that they have found work. I have said, "Prove it!" We have the figures, and the figures show that from about 10 to 11 per cent. are known to have found work. They do not know what has happened to the others.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

Were these figures not 60 or 80 per cent. of those whose cases were investigated?

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Is it not a fact that where men have been thrown oa relief from boards of guardians the local authorities and councils have found employment on road works for them because they object to their being treated in the way in which they had been treated?

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

The right hon. Gentleman asked for particulars of the investigation; these are two different things. The question was what had happened to people who had ceased to ask for relief, and the bulk of these people have either got work or unemployment pay. This is a list of the people struck off, which is a different thing. Of the people struck off something like 10 or 11 per cent. are known to have found work. These are the only figures there are on which to base a claim. I am on the other side of the Table now. There are no other figures in the Ministry. These are the only figures we have, unless the right hon. Gentleman has conducted a private investigation.

The late Parliamentary Secretary said that the old guardians of Chester-le-Street and Bedwellty were thoroughly unsatisfactory. Let us suppose that they were, What did he propose to do I He proposed to hand over the Poor Law there to the county councils. What we propose is to hand over the responsibilities of the Poor Law to the very same county councils to which they would have been referred if the Conservative Government had remained in office until next April. That is as near as we can get to putting the right hon. Gentleman's own Act into operation. We are advancing it by eight months. The people who will be appointed are the people who would have been appointed under the Act as the local Public Assistance Committee to administer the work of the Poor Law. There are not two pins of difference so far as Chester-le-Street and Bedwellty are concerned, between what we do now and what would have been done if the right hon. Gentleman had remained in office until the 1st of April next. I do not know what all the trouble is about in regard to these two cases. There is no difference in principle between the proposal of the late Minister of Health to hand the Poor Law over to the county councils in these two cases next April, and what we are doing in the coming August. That is the whole business so far as Chester-le-Street and Bedwellty are concerned.

I come to West Ham. What is the difference between what we propose and what the late Minister of Health proposed? He proposed to cut up the West Ham Union as from next April and to take away the richer portions of it, Wanstead, Woodford, Walthamstow and Leyton and to put them under the Essex County Council, while East Ham and West Ham were to remain under the appointed guardians until 1935. That would have meant that until 1935 there could be no proper break-up of the Poor Law in East Ham and West Ham. There could be no sharing of the institutions among the local councils, who would not then have got their powers under the Local Government Act. It would have meant something against which, without distinction of party, everyone in East Ham has protested, namely, that East Ham would have been left to pay a large tribute every year for the poor of West Ham. If they are separate. West Ham, standing alone, will quality for a larger grant under the Local Government Act, but if they are put together East Ham will have to pay to West Ham, out of its high rates, a sum which the Treasury otherwise would have to pay. That is a policy against which the people in East Ham have protested. The Conservative members of the town council and the members of the Ratepayers' Association were even more bitter than the Labour party against the suggestion that their borough was to be left the tributory borough to West Ham for five years. Our proposal is that as from 1931 Waltham-stow, Leyton, Woodford and Wanstead will go to the Essex County Council, while East Ham and West Ham, as separate county boroughs, will fall under the scheme of the Local Government Act. We are not abolishing the Local Government Act. We are putting it into force, whereas the late Minister desires to postpone its operations until 1935. He ought to welcome us with open arms as the only true devotees of his Local Government Act. The father of his own child wishes to put it away for five years, while we, the Labour party, are putting the right hon. Gentleman's Act into force, every letter and every bit of it, by 1930 instead of 1935.

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Chislehurst

Why did you vote against it?

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

The hon. Member asked me why I do not like the Local Government Act. I have spoken a great many columns of the OFFICIAL EKPOET against it, and I cannot repeat those columns to-night. If I did so, we should have to sit until one o'clock, or later. I am willing to do it, if the House wishes to sit up. There is a great deal of misstatement about the way in which the new guardians will be elected. According, roughly to the basis of population West Ham has four members, East Ham and Leyton two each and Woodford and Wanstead one each. All these councils have Labour majorities except two which send two Conservative members to the board of guardians. West Ham, which is overwhelmingly Labour, sends four, and the other borough where the representation is more or less equally divided sends one and one, so that there are seven Labour members and five for the other side. I cannot imagine that any body of people could have played the game better than these councils. Members opposite cannot expect that if we are in a majority we should have a minority of members. I put it to hon. Members opposite that under no circumstances would they give us a majority in this House or anywhere else on a Committee if we were in a minority. I think these local authorities have really showed their desire to play the game by dividing the representation so nearly equal between the two parties. They have shown their desire to have a clean slate, to begin all over again. They have made an entirely fresh start, and they have chosen from among their members people representing both sides but, with one exception, not one member of the old board of guardians has been elected.

Before I deal with the question of policy may I say just two words in reply to the hon. Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor). Theology tells us that you may go to Heaven on account of invincible ignorance. That is the case of the Noble Lady. She is like a child; and she flings accusations about just like a child. She repeats words she hears and uses them without knowing what she is saying and without any real reflection. That is what she was doing when she charged these people with corruption. She said they had been guilty of corruption and asked what the right hon. Gentleman would have done if he were face to face with a board of guardians guilty of corruption. I will tell the Noble Lady what the right hon. Gentleman opposite would have done, or any Minister of Health worthy of the name. He would not have superseded corrupt guardians; he would not have surcharged them. He would have done precisely what was done in the old scandals of 1906. He would have prosecuted them and sent them to prison. There was corruption in 1906 in connection with the West Ham, Stepney and Poplar Sick Asylum, and I am not sure whether Hampstead and Hammersmith were not involved. There was pure corruption, and many sorry rogues spent many sorry months in gaol. That is what is done where corruption is proved. If every word of the late Parliamentary Secretary was accurate they would have been guilty of negligence or carelessness but nothing in the nature of corruption.

Viscountess ASTOR:

What do you call corruption?

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

Corruption is mentioned in several Statutes. People guilty of corruption could be sent, are sent, and would be sent by this Ministry or any other Ministry to prison.

Now I come to the serious constitutional business. The late Minister of Health took to himself power to appoint three persons or any number that he liked as guardians. He fixed their salaries, and he could appoint them for a given time. That is to say, these persons were entirely dependent on the Minister for their appointment, for the emoluments that they took and for the extent of their appointment. For the acts of these persons he was not accountable to Parliament, When the Minister made the appointments he could not be called to account in this House for their actions. I will prove that statement by giving the answers to one or two questions that were put to the right hon. Gentleman. I asked a question about a well-known case, that of a partially blind and deaf man who sold flowers in the streets and was allowed 5s. a week by the guardians. I asked the Minister whether he would take any steps, and he replied: I am debarred by Statute from interfering in any individual case, but I will make inquiries. The Minister could not be held responsible because of the limitations of the Statute. The right hon. Gentleman was also asked whether he approved of the pensions of soldiers' orphans being counted as income so as to be available for the support of their stepfather and other relations? He replied that he had no authority to issue such instructions to the guardians. Another question was asked about the income of War orphans, and again the Minister replied, "I have no power to take such steps as are suggested." In a whole field of matters the appointed guardians are not under the authority of Parliament or the Minister. So we have the phenomenon in the constitution of persons entirely dependent on the executive for salary and authority with regard to whom the Minister was wholly irresponsible.

Photo of Mr Archibald Skelton Mr Archibald Skelton , Perth

Is not that the case with a large number of public servants, such as judges?

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

Judges are not the servants of the Executive. There is no stronger principle in the constitution than that the judges should be separated from the executive. If any judge was appointed by the Minister of Health to office at his will, the case would be different.

Photo of Mr Archibald Skelton Mr Archibald Skelton , Perth

I do not want to interrupt, but the Parliamentary Secretary is introducing an extremely interesting argument. Surely her point is that the Minister has no control over the appointed guardians. That was the analogy between their position and that of the judges.

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

If I can appoint first and fix a man's salary, and tell him to go at the end of six months, I do not want any more control over him. The Minister had control and if these persons had acted grossly against his policy they would have been dismissed. They were his servants. My point is that Parliament had no power.

Photo of Mr Archibald Skelton Mr Archibald Skelton , Perth

Surely Parliament had the ordinary power of censuring the Minister.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

Is it not the fact that the three men in question had to be reappointed every three months?

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

The point is that Parliament has no control over guardians with regard to certain matters. The Minister appointed these people and, as he had full control over their salaries and prospects and length of service, they were at his disposal but Parliament could not call the Minister to account for certain of their actions, and the ex-Minister when certain matters were raised disclaimed them. We could not move to take £100 oft the ex-Minister's salary because this poor blind person did not get relief and the ex-Minister said so distinctly, and perfectly correctly, in the House. I know it will be said that there are precedents. The ex-Minister tried to cover himself with the name of Mr. Gladstone by pointing out that the great Act of 1870 allowed of the supersession of a school board and the appointment by the Minister of substitutes. But Mr. Gladstone was uncommonly tender of the rights of the Constitution, and in that case, the Minister had to certify the expenses of the displaced school board which brought them under full Parliamentary control. So, in this later Acts—the Public Health Act of 1875 and other Acts—the power is contained to place the Minister, that is Parliament, in the place of local authorities, but there is not a single Act which allows the Minister to have at his disposal persons for whom he cannot answer to Parliament.

Members may think that we are too jealous on the Constitutional point, but it would be a real danger if such a class of persons were allowed to grow up, particularly in local government. The great beauty of the English local government system is the independence of local authorities. You can see abroad the degradation of local government by these quasi executive ambiguous officers like burgo-meisters and prefets, persons clothed with the authority of the executive and charged from headquarters to keep the local authorities in their places. We say that whatever may have been wrong, the remedy put forward by this Act was the wrong remedy. It might be necessary to get rid of a bad board of guardians but if the guardians had to go, then Parliament itself ought to retain full control over every action of the Minister. That is the Constitutional point and on that point we have made a gesture. If these people were the best administrators in the world I think we would still have made that gesture. We do not desire that there should grow up in this country what has not been known since the seventeenth century—a class of persons dependent on the Executive and with regard to whom Parliament has not full control.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

Will the hon. Lady explain how she has met that constitutional point in the change which is proposed to be made by these Orders?

Photo of Miss Arabella Lawrence Miss Arabella Lawrence , East Ham North

Unless some Order of this kind was made, there could be no' board of guardians, we could not have an election without legislation, and we could not allow all poor relief to lapse, so we made what I call a gesture and handed over in effect the nomination of these persons to the elected authorities, who will deal with them now.

Question put, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying that the Orders, dated 27th June, 1929, entitled (1) the Bedwellty Union (Default) Orders (Continuation) Order, 1929; (2) the Chester-le-Street Union (Default) Orders (Continuation) Order, 1929; and (3) the West Ham Union (Default) Orders (Continuation) Order, 1929, be annulled.

The House divided: Ayes, 154; Noes, 284.

Division No. 5.]AYES.[10.36 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelErskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)
Alexander, Sir Win. (Glasgow, Cent'l)Fielden, E. B.Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive
Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)Flson, F. G. ClaveringMuirhead, J. A.
Astor, ViscountessForestier-Walker, Sir L.Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Atkinson, C.Frece, Sir Walter deNicholson, O. (Westminster)
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Fremantie, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrst'ld)
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)Galbraith, J. F. W.Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert
Balniel, Lord)Ganzoni, Sir JohnOman, Sir Charles William C.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew HamiltonO'Neill, Sir H.
Beaumont, M. W.Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)Peake, Captain Osbert
Bellairs, Commander CarlyonGilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir JohnPeto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Betterton, Sir Henry B.Gower, Sir RobertRamsbotham, H.
Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)Grace, JohnRawson, Sir Cooper
Birchall, Major Sir John DearmanGraham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)Reid, David D. (County Down)
Bourne, Captain Robert CroftGreaves-Lord, Sir WalterRemer, John R.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartGreene, W. P. CrawfordRentoul, Sir Gervais S.
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. JohnRoberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Boyce, H. L.Gritten, W. G. HowardRoss, Major Ronald D.
Bracken, B.Gunston, Captain D. W.Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Braithwaite, Major A. N.Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Brass, Captain Sir WilliamHamilton, Sir George (Ilford)Salmon, Major I.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenrySandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)Savery, S. S.
Butler, R. A.Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome
Cadogan, Major Hon. EdwardHennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Carver, Major W. H.Hills, Major John WallerSinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)
Castlestewart, Earl ofHoward-Bury, Colonel C. K.Skelton, A. N.
Cautley, Sir Henry S.Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir AylmerSmith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)Hurd, Percy A.Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Cazalet, Captain Victor A.Iliffe, Sir Edward M.Smithers, Waldron
Chamberlain, Ht. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. CuthbertSomerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Chapman, Sir S.Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Christie, J. A.King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston SpencerLamb, Sir J. Q.Thomson, Sir F.
Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir GeorgeLane Fox, Rt. Hon. George R.Todd, Capt. A. J.
Colfox, Major Wm. PhillipsLaw, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)Train, J.
Colman, N. C. D.Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Colville, Major D. J.Llewellin, Major J. J.Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-an-Hull)
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. GodfreyWaterhouse, Captain Charles
Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)Long, Major ErieWayland, Sir William A.
Croom-Johnson, R. P.Lymington, ViscountWells, Sydney R.
Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)McConnell, Sir JosephWindsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir PhilipMacdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)Withers, Sir John James
Dalkeith, Earl ofMakins, Brigadier-General E.Womersley, W. J.
Dairymple-White, Lt,-Col. Sir GodfreyMargesson, Captain H. D.Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)Marjoribanks, E. C.Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)Mason, Colonel Glyn K.Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton
Dixey, A. C.Merriman, Sir F. Boyd
Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. HerbertMond, Hon. HenryTELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Duckworth, G. A. V.Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.Sir George Penny and Captain Wallace.
Dugdale, Capt. T. L.Moore, Sir Newton J, (Richmond)
Eden, Captain AnthonyMoore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. H. (Ayr)
NOES.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)Gould, F.Melville, J. B.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)Messer, Fred
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')Granville, E.Middleton, G.
Alpass, J. H.Gray, MilnerMillar, J. D.
Ammon, Charles GeorgeGreenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)Montague, Frederick
Angell, NormanGrenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Arnott, JohnGriffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro'W.)Morley, Ralph
Aske, Sir RobertGriffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Morris, Rhys Hopkins
Attlee, Clement RichardGroves, Thomas E.Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)
Ayles, WalterGrundy, Thomas W.Morrison. Robert C, (Tottenham, N.)
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Mort, D. L.
Baker, Walter (Bristol, E.)Hail, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)Moses, J. J. H.
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)Mosley, Lady C. (Stake-on-Trent)
Barr, JamesHardie, George D.Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)
Batey, JosephHarris, Percy A.Muff, G.
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. VernonMurnin, Hugh
Bellamy, AlbertHastings, Dr. SomervilleNathan, Major H. I.
Benn, Rt. Hon. WedgwoodHaycock, A. W.Naylor, T. E.
Bennett, William (Battersea, South)Hayday, ArthurNewman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Benton, G.Hayes, John HenryNoel Baker, P. J.
Bentham, Dr. EthelHenderson, Arthur, junr. (Cardiff, S.)Oldfield, J. R.
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)
Birkett, W. NormanHenderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)Owen, H. F. (Hereford)
Blindell, JamesHerriotts, J.Paling, Wilfrid
Bowen, J. W.Hirst, G. H. (York, W. R., Wentworth)Palmer, E. T.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Hoffman, P. C.Perry, S. F.
Broad, Francis AlfredHollins, A.Peters, Dr. Sidney John
Brockway, A. FennerHopkin, DanielPethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Bromfield, WilliamHore-Belisha, LesliePhillips, Dr. Marion
Bromley, J.Horrabin, J. F.Picton-Turberville, E.
Brooke, W.Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)Pole, Major D. G.
Brothers, M.Hunter, Dr. JosephPonsonby, Arthur
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)Isaacs, GeorgePotts, John S.
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)Quibell, D. F. K.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)John, William (Rhondda, West)Ramsay, T. B. Wilson
Buchanan, G.Johnston, ThomasRathbone, Eleanor
Burgess, F. G.Jones, F. Llewellyn-(Flint)Raynes, W. R.
Burgin, Dr. E. L.Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Richardson, R, (Houghton-on-Spring)
Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)
Caine, Derwent Hall-Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)Romeril, H. G.
Cameron, A. G.Jowett, Ht. Hon. F. W.Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)Kelly, W. T.Howson, Guy
Charleton, H. C.Kennedy, ThomasRussell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
Chater, DanielKinley, J.Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)
Church, Major A. G.Knight, HolfordSanders. W. S.
Clarke, J. S.Lang, GordonSandham, E.
Cilmle, R.Lanebury, Rt. Hon. GeorgeSawyer, G. F.
Cluse, W. S.Lathan, G.Scrymgeour, E.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.Law, A. (Rosendale)Scurr, John
Cocks, Frederick SeymourLawrence, SusanSexton, James
Compton, JosephLawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Cove, William G.Lawson, John JamesShaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Cowan. D. M.Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)Shepherd. Arthur Lewis
Daggar, GeorgeLeach, W.Sherwood, G. H.
Dallas, GeorgeLee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)Shield, George William
Dalton, HughLee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)Lees, J.Shillaker, J. F.
Day, HarryLewis, T. (Southampton)Shinwell, E.
Denman, Hon. R. D.Lloyd, C. EllisShort, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Dickson, T.Longbottom, A. W.Simmons, C. J.
Dudgeon, Major C. R.Longden, F.Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)
Duncan, CharlesLovat-Fraser, J. A.Sinkinson, George
Ede, James ChuterLowth, ThomasSitch, Charles H.
Edge, Sir WilliamLunn, WilliamSmith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Edmunds, J. E.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)MacDonald. Malcolm (Bassetlaw)Smith, H. B. Lees (Keichley)
Egan, W. H.McElwee, A.Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Elmley, ViscountMcEntee, V. L.Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)McKinlay, A.Smith, W. N. (Norwich)
Foot, IsaacMacLaren, AndrewSnell, Harry
Forgan, Dr. RobertMaclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Freeman, PeterMaclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)Snowden, Thomas Accrington)
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)McShane, John JamesSorensen, R.
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)M alone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)Spero, Dr. G. E.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)Mander, Geoffrey le M.Stephen, Campbell
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)Mansfield, W.Stewart, J. (St-Rollox)
Gibbins, JosephMarch, S.Strachey, E. J. St. Loe
Gibson, H. M. (Lanes. Mossley)Marcus, M.Strauss. G. R.
Gill, T. H.Markham, S. F.Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Gillett, George M.Marley, J.Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)
Glassey, A. E.Mathers, GeorgeThomas. Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Gossling, A. G.Matters, L. W.Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Thurtle, ErnestWatkins, F. C.Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Tillett, BenWatson, W. M. (Dunfermline)Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Toole, JosephWatts-Morgan, U.-Co). D. (Rhondda)Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Tout, W. J.Wellock, WilfredWinterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Townend, A. E.Welsh, James (Paisley)Wise, E. F.
Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir CharlesWest, F. R.Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Turner, B.Westwood, JosephWright, W. (Rutherglen)
Vaughan, D. J.Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Viant, S. P.Whiteley, wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Walkden, A. G.Whiteley, William (Blaydon)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Walker, J.Wilkinson, Ellen C.Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. A.
Wallace, H. W.Williams, David (Swansea, East)Barnes.
Wallhead, Richard C.Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)

Question put, and agreed to.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.