TUESDAY, 20th APRIL, 1926.499
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Davies, Mr. Ellis (Chairman).
*Allen, Mr. Sandeman (Liverpool, West Derby)
*Applin, Colonel (Middlesex, Enfield)
*Chamberlain, Mr. Neville (Birmingham, Ladywood)
Cluse, Mr. (Islington, South)
Cockerill, Brigadier-General (Surrey, Reigate)
Colfox, Major (Dorset, Western)
Courtauld, Major (W. Sussex, Chichester)
Craig, Mr. Ernest (Chester, Crewe)
Davies, Sir Thomas (Gloucester, Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
Dean, Mr. (Holland-with-Boston)
Eden, Captain (Warwick, Warwick and Leamington)
Forrest, Mr. (Batley and Morley)
*Gates, Mr. (Kensington, N.)
Gault, Lieut.-Colonel (Somerset, Taunton)
Gibbins, Mr. (Liverpool, West Toxteth)
Glyn, Major (Berks, Abingdon)
Hammersley, Mr. (Stockport)
*Harris, Mr. (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
Hirst, Mr. George (W. Riding, Wentworth)
Jenkins, Mr. (Glamorgan, North)
Jephcott, Mr. (Birmingham, Yardley)
*Lansbury, Mr. (Poplar, Bow and Bromley)
Luce, Major-General Sir Richard (Derby)
*March, Mr. (Poplar, S.)
Meyer, Sir Frank (Great Yarmouth)
*Morrison, Mr. Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)
Oliver, Mr. (Derby, Ilkeston)
*Peto, Mr. Geoffrey (Somerset, Frome)
*Preston, Mr. (Walsall)
*Remer, Mr. (Chester, Macclesfield)
*Remnant, Sir James (Holborn)
Riley, Mr. (Dewsbury)
Sanderson, Sir Frank (Lancaster, Darwen)
*Scurr, Mr. (Stepney, Mile End)
Shepherd, Mr. (Darlington)
Slaney, Major Kenyon- (Devon, Tavistock)
Stott, Lieut.-Colonel (Birkenhead, E.)
Sugden, Sir Wilfrid (The Hartlepools)
Sykes, Major-General Sir Frederick (Sheffield, Hallam)
*Thorne, Mr. William (West Eam, Plaistow)
Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan (Middlesbrough, W.)
Tinker, Mr. (Leigh)
Warner, Brigadier-General (Bedfordshire, Mid.)
Womersley, Mr. (Grimsby)
*Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
* Added in respect of the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Bill.—April 20, 1926.
Mr. WILLIAMS, Committee Clerks
Mr. KINGDOM, Committee Clerks500 501 STANDING COMMITTEE B Tuesday, 20th April, 1926.
[Sir CYRIL COBB in the Chair.]
The provisions of the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1923, mentioned in the Schedule to this Act shall, as amended by the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1924, have effect as if for references therein to nineteen hundred and twenty-six there were substituted references to nineteen hundred and twenty-eight.
Mr. MARCH: I beg to move to leave out the word "twenty-eight" ("nineteen hundred and twenty-eight"), and to insert instead thereof the word "thirty-two." I move this Amendment in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr). I am not prepared to use the arguments Mr. Scurr would use, because I do not know what exactly is his mind, except that he told me in conversation that he considered the Bill should be extended for a longer period than is suggested, and I take it he has in his mind that it has met a need in the past and will do so in the future. I believe he thought, as I think, that it is inadvisable to keep bringing the Bill up before the House. I presume we may consider there is a possibility of the Bill being continued even for a longer period than 1928. That is why we desire to insert these words.
Mr. W. THORNE: I am sure it must appeal to all of us that the Bill having been brought before the House on more than one occasion, it has already been of benefit to borough councils. One hopes that eventually the Bill may be amended, and made more beneficial than it is at present. There is a possibility, between 502 now and 1928, of a change of Government, and we might possibly have a Government of our own way of thinking which would endeavour to make the Bill more beneficial. I hope the Minister will accept the Amendment.
Mr. GATES: On behalf of the contributing boroughs I oppose the Amendment. I do not know whether the hon. Member who moved it really represented the views of the hon. Member in whose name it stands, because I see that he did not propose this in the House. I gathered from the views he expressed in the House that he wanted the Bill for a very short time, and that is most certainly the view of the contributing boroughs, whom I represent on this Committee. We feel that the present position inflicts very grave injustice upon the contributing boroughs, and the shorter the time for which the matter is extended the better we shall be pleased, and the more just and fair it will be to the general ratepayers.
Colonel APPLIN: I also oppose the Amendment and I should like to move to insert "twenty-seven" instead of "thirty-two," because as an emergency provision it would be quite wrong to extend the Act for more than twelve months. If it is continued for two years it is obviously no longer an emergency; it becomes something permanent.
Mr. HARRIS: I find myself in rather a quandary. I think this is a most inadequate Bill, which does not at all meet the situation. The amount it allows is far too small to meet the great expense of out-door relief and other charges. It would be unfortunate if it was felt that this is the last word to be said on poor law problems till 1932. I am not sure that the Minister would not be rather glad to see the question shelved till 1932. Every Minister seems to run away from it. I want to be in a position to bring pressure on him again next year to do his duty to London and to the whole poor law problem. It is not fair or right or just that the great burden of maintaining the unemployed should fall on the poorest boroughs in London. A great number of the men who live in Stepney, Whitechapel, Bethnal Green and Shoreditch work in other parts of London. They are pushed out by Westminster and Kensington to go and live in the poorer 503 districts, which are asked to bear the greater part of the burden. The Measure is entirely inadequate. If I could amend it, which I am afraid is not possible under the narrow wording of the Bill, that would be another story. If we are to be precluded from drastically amending it the shorter the period the better pleased I shall be. I want pressure to be brought on the Government every year to deal with the problem courageously and on sound lines, and to do justice to these poor districts which are now being crushed by the heavy burden of having to maintain their poor. For that reason I cannot support the Amendment.
The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain): The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) has taken the same line as that which he took in the House. He is perfectly consistent in expressing a desire that this should not be a permanent Measure, but should be only of a temporary character, in order that the House of Commons may exercise any pressure it desires on the Minister every time the Measure is brought up for renewal. Therefore I am puzzled to know why the hon. Member should say that he is in a quandary. His course is clear and it is to oppose the Amendment. The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment have followed, fairly well, the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) on the Second Reading of the Bill, when he said "I submit that this Bill should have been made a permanent Act". This Amendment does not make it permanent, but carries it on for another six years. At the same time, we must remember that the hon. Member for Mile End desired, before making it a permanent Act, to amend it considerably and, as I understand the new Clauses which appear on the Paper are out of order in a Bill which is merely an extension and not an amendment of an existing Act, I cannot imagine that the hon. Member for Mile End would desire to see the Measure in its present form made permanent or even extended to a longer period than that proposed in the Bill.
Mr. MARCH: It is the best we can get.504
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN: Does not the hon. Member see that his hon. friend the Member for Mile End wants to amend the Bill. If we make the Bill extend to six years, he will have no opportunity of amending it within that time, whereas, if the Bill is only carried on for two years and if some superseding legislation has not been brought in by that time, it will be open to him to move this Amendment once again. I think the proposal of the hon. Member is inconsistent with his avowed aims. Now I come to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin) who only wants to extend the Bill for one year and who says that if it is to be extended for two years, it can hardly be called an emergency provisions Bill. I take it, Sir, that the manner in which you will put this Amendment from the Chair will be "That the word 'twenty-eight' stand part of the Clause" and if the Committee pass that, any further Amendment as to time would be ruled out. Let me put to my hon. and gallant Friend our reason for making the period two years and not one year as might naturally be expected. It is in connection with the declared intention of the Government to bring in a much more comprehensive Measure the object of which will be to reform the whole Poor Law system. I do not think such a Measure could become operative within one year and, therefore, if we do not carry this Measure on for two years we should have to extend it further for such brief period of time as might elapse between its expiry and the operation of our new proposals. That is the reason why we are making the period two years. It is in order to give us time to bring in our new and more extensive proposals. If and when those proposals are brought in and made operative they will, of course, repeal this Measure, in case it has not then expired. In those circumstances, I think my hon. and gallant Friend will understand the reasons for our action.
Question, "That the word 'twenty-eight' stand part of the Clause" put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 (Short title) ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The following New Clauses stood on the Amendment Paper: 505 There shall be substituted for Sub-section (b) of Section one of The Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1923, the following Sub-section:— There shall be included amongst the expenses to be repaid out of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund the expenses (other than administrative expenses) incurred in respect of outdoor relief to an amount not exceeding one shilling for each person in respect of whom outdoor relief is granted for each day for which such relief is granted in respect of him.—[Mr. Scurr].
(Alteration of charge upon Common Poor Fund from 9d. to 8d. a day for out-relief and from 1s. 3d. to 11d. a day for institutional relief.) The charge upon the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund in respect of outdoor relief shall be seventy-five per cent. of the actual expenditure as allowed by the district auditor, but in no case shall the sum charged upon the fund exceed eightpence per head per day, and this Section shall be substituted for Section one, Sub-section (b), of The Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1923. The charge upon the Common Poor Fund in respect of the maintenance of indoor paupers in institutions, other than hospitals or infirmaries, shall be elevenpence per head per day, and this Section shall be substituted for Section one of The Local Authorities (Financial Provisions) Act, 1921.
(Right of ratepayers to withhold payment of rate in certain cases.) Where any order is made under this Act by which the scales of relief and conditions of administration are imposed upon any local authority, if any ratepayer in the area shall have reason to believe that such orders are being disobeyed he shall be entitled to withhold a proportionate part of the rate not exceeding one-fourth of the rate applicable to poor relief, and it shall be a good defence to any summons for payment of the said rate that the orders of the Ministry of Health have been disobeyed, and that members of the authority have been or are liable to surcharge.—[Mr Gates].
The following Amendment to the Title of the Bill stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. SCURR:—"After the word 'to' to insert the words 'amend and'."
The CHAIRMAN: With regard to the proposed new Clauses and the Amendment to the Title which appear on the Paper, I have to rule them out of order because they do a great deal more than make amendments with regard to the extension of the Measure. They actually purport to amend the Measure itself.
Mr. GATES: With reference to the proposed new Clause standing in my name—(Alteration of charge upon Com- 506 mon Poor Fund from 9d. to 8d. a day for out-relief and from 1s. 3d. to 11d. a day for institutional relief)—may I submit that it follows on the lines of Amendments introduced into previous Measures of this kind. It will be remembered that in the 1921 Act the amounts chargeable in respect of outdoor relief were to be on a scale to be fixed by the Minister of Health. That was amended in the 1923 Act by a new Clause fixing the amount at 9d. for each person in respect of whom outdoor relief was granted. I humbly submit that the present proposal would be in order, following on the Amendments introduced in the 1923 Act to the provisions of the 1921 Act.
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN: On the point of Order, may I submit that the 1923 Act was not merely one to extend but one to extend and amend. May I also call attention to the proceedings in Committee in 1924, when the Chairman ruled as follows: "I am afraid I shall have to rule that the new Clause standing in the name of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough is out of order. It seeks to amend the orginal 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 and West Woolwich." Those Clauses were similar to the proposed new Clauses now on the Paper.
Mr. THORNE: If an Amendment is accepted reducing the amount, will it not be open to us to move a verbal Amendment increasing the amount?
Mr. HARRIS: I think the previous proposals referred to by the Minister extended the area to districts as far as Middlesbrough, which is quite another story. If we are not to have the right to amend the Bill at all it is a very serious thing, because a form which was suitable two or three years ago may not be suitable at the present time, when costs and prices have changed so much. Would it not be possible to amend the title of the Bill by introducing the words "or amend," and making it a Bill "to extend or amend the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1923"?
The CHAIRMAN: The hon. Member must know that the House has sent this up to us as a Bill which is merely an 507 extension of the existing arrangements. We cannot, here in Committee, alter the Bill so as to amend it, except so far as Amendments with regard to extension of time are concerned. We have already dealt with such an Amendment.508
Schedule agreed to.
Bill, without Amendment, ordered to be Reported to the House.
Committee rose at Twenty-six Minutes after Eleven o'Clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
In the absence of Mr. Ellis Davies (Chairman), Sir Cyril Cobb took the Chair.
Chamberlain, Mr. Neville
Craig, Mr. Ernest
Davies, Sir Thomas
Hirst, Mr. George
Meyer, Sir Frank
Morrison, Mr. Hugh
Remnant, Sir James
Slaney, Major Kenyon-
Thorne, Mr. William
Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan