THURSDAY, 20th MARCH, 1924.715
THE COMMITTEE CONSISTED OF THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS:
McCrae, Sir George (Chairman)
Alden, Mr. (Tottenham, S.)
Becker, Mr. (Richmond)
Bird, Sir Robert (Wolverhampton, W.)
Bowater, Sir Vansittart (City of London)
Campion, Lieutenant-Colonel (East Sussex, Lewes)
Chapple, Dr. (Dumfries)
Church, Major (Leyton, E.)
Churchman, Sir Arthur (E. Suffolk, Woodbridge)
Clarke, Mr. (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)
Cluse, Mr. (Islington, South)
Crittall, Mr. (Essex, Maldon)
Dalkeith, Earl of (Roxburgh and Selkirk)
Dickie, Captain (Gateshead)
Dodds, Mr. (Chester, Wirral)
Duckworth, Mr. (Blackburn)
Duffy, Mr. Gavan- (Cumberland, Whitehaven)
Dukes, Mr. (Warrington)
Ednam, Captain Viscount (Hornsey)
Edwards, Mr. Charles (Monmouth, Bedwelty)
Erskine, Mr. (Westminster, St. George's)
Finney, Mr. (Northumberland, Hexham)
Fletcher Lieutenant - Commander (Hants, Basingstoke)
*Gates, Mr. (Kensington, North)
Gorman, Mr. (Lancaster, Royton)
Gould, Mr. Frederick (Somerset, Frome)
Greenall, Mr. (Lancaster, Farnworth)
Greene, Mr. (Worcester)
Harris, Mr. John (Hackney, North)
*Harris, Mr. Percy (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
Harvey, Mr. Edmund (Dewsbury)
Henderson, Mr. Thomas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Hillary, Mr. (Essex, Harwich)
Hogbin, Mr. (Battersea, N.)
Huntingfield, Lord (Suffolk, Eye)
*Joynson-Hicks, Sir William (Middlesex, Twickenham)
*Keens, Mr. (Bucks, Aylesbury)
*Lansbury, Mr. (Poplar, Bow and Bromley)
*Lawrence, Miss Susan (East Ham, North)
Lee, Mr. Frank (Derby, N. E.)
Lindley, Mr. (Rotherham)
Lyle, Sir Leonard (Essex, Epping)
Martin, Mr. William (Dumbarton)
Mason, Lieutenant-Colonel (Croydon, N.)
Milne, Mr. Wardlaw (Worcester, Kidderminster)
Mond, Mr. (Isle of Ely)
Mosley, Mr. (Middlesex, Harrow)
Nesbitt, Mr. (Kent, Chislehurst)
Newton, Sir Douglas (Cambridge)
Palmer, Mr. (Greenwich)
*Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Raffety, Mr. (Bath)
Remnant, Sir James (Holborn)
Richardson, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Philip (Surrey, Chertsey)
Sinclair, Colonel (Queen's University, Belfast)
Sutcliffe, Mr. (Grimsby)
Sykes, Major-General Sir F. (Sheffield, Hallam)
*Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan (Middlesbrough, W.)
Titchfield, Major the Marquess of (Nottingham, Newark)
*Wheatley, Mr. (Glasgow, Shettleston)
*Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
* Added in respect of the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Bill.
Sir J. S. HORSBRUGH-PORTER. Committee Clerks.
Captain DIVER. Committee Clerks.716 717 STANDING COMMITTEE B Thursday, 20th March, 1924.
[Sir GEORGE MCCRAE in the Chair.]
The provisions of the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1923, mentioned in the Schedule to this Act, shall have effect as if for references therein to "nineteen hundred and twenty-four" there were substituted references to "nineteen hundred and twenty-six."
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY: I beg to move to leave out the word "twenty-six," and to insert instead thereof the word "twenty-five". I move this formally, on behalf of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson).
Mr. GATES: I beg to second the Amendment. This I always understood to be a temporary Bill. We have had enough of temporary Bills, and it is time the Government introduced a proper scheme dealing with the administration of the Poor Law. I represent a contributing borough, which contributes very large sums of money. Our precept for last year was over £100,000. We feel very strongly that, although we agreed to do this from year to year, the time has come when the position should be stabilised, and that there should be proper control by the Ministry of Health and the central authority over these large sums of money handed out by the contributing boroughs and spent by the poorer boroughs. We, the contributing boroughs, realize that there is a considerable obligation on us to contribute to the poor law expenses of the poorer boroughs. At the present time the greater part of that expenditure is centralised. At the same time there is a considerable part which is not centralised 718 at the moment, but is left to the discretion of the spending authorities. We think that the time has come when the Minister of Health should take the matter in hand, and put an end to these temporary Bills and introduce a proper scheme for the centralisation of the Poor Law.
The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Wheatley): The arguments advanced do not seem to support so very much the Amendment on the Paper, and just as we had in the House complaints against the Bill rather for what it did not contain, than for what it did, I am inclined to the view that that applies to this case. I think that we may leave out of account any discussion of the necessitous areas on this Amendment, because that question does not arise. I think that there is a great deal in the arguments put forward by the hon. Member who has seconded the Amendment, particularly in his claim that the money as spent here is not sufficiently under the control of the people who have to pay it, but, as he knows, we cannot do that without a reform of the whole system of Poor Law local government in London. The Government has promised to do that with all possible speed, and I can assure the Committee that I am engaged on that just now, and I intend to carry out the promise made to the House of Commons in the spirit in which it was given as well as in the letter. I have no intention of trying to evade it in the smallest degree, but when you get down to it you cannot produce within a week or two a scheme for dealing with such a complex question as you are up against in London. But I want to face it, and I want to face it for personal reasons with which I think the hon. Member will agree. The fact that I escaped from the Debate on Poplar, did not relieve me of the difficulty of dealing with Poplar and other areas. Anyone who has had experience of the Ministry over which I am presiding at the moment will agree with me that we do want reform, and at the earliest moment. I can promise the Committee that, when the Poor Law reform Measure is introduced to the House, an effort will be made to introduce some system which will give control over the expenditure of the money to the people who are contributing the money. I do not think that we need discuss at any length the objection that the non-centralised part is being left free. The 719 case there is not so strong, because the money is being contributed by the people who are spending it, and if their own ratepayers cannot protect themselves against their own representatives, we who are here have no such grievance as we have in the case in which they are spending our money. In regard to the proposal to make the period two years, that was the provision contemplated by the late Government who issued a circular in December inviting Poor Law Guardians and other people who are interested to express their views on the matter. I submit to the Committee that two years is not too long to ask for the present emergency legislation to be continued, in order to enable us to deal with the question of London Poor Law. I hope that the Committee will pass the Clause as it stands.
Lord EUSTACE PERCY: May I say a word in support of the Minister? I think that it is immensely important that when any reform of the London Poor Law is introduced, it shall be a watertight scheme, and shall not be over-hurried by the feeling that one of these emergency measures is lapsing, and that therefore something has to be done at once. Even if it were possible for this or any other Government to introduce a Bill dealing with the London Poor Law in the Session of 1925, I am afraid that they would find that they could not deal properly with the London Poor Law with- 720 out dealing with the Poor Law in the surrounding districts, and that, I am afraid, they would be unable to do in the Session of 1925. Therefore, I do think that it is advisable to give two years' breathing space for consideration to those responsible, and I feel certain that if we do not do that now we shall only have to extend the Bill next year.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 (Short Title and Construction) ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The CHAIRMAN: I am afraid that I shall have to rule that the new Clause standing in the name of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) is out of order. It seeks to amend the original Act, which is entirely outside the scope of the Bill which we are considering. I have the same ruling to make with regard to the proposed new Clauses standing in the names of the hon. Members for Aylesbury (Mr. Keens) and West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) ["Right of ratepayers to withhold payment of proportion of rate in certain cases"] and ["Special provisions as to audit and surcharges in certain cases."]
Schedule agreed to.
Bill, without Amendment, ordered to be reported to the House.
Committee rose at Fourteen Minutes after Eleven o'Clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE.
McCrae, Sir George (Chairman)
Bird, Sir Robert
Churchman, Sir Arthur
Dalkeith, Earl of
Gould, Mr. Frederick
Harvey, Mr. Edmund
Lawrence, Miss Susan
Martin, Mr. William
Milne, Mr. Wardlaw-
Percy, Lord Eustace
Richardson, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Philip
Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Sir Frederick
Titchfield, Major the Marquess of