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evidence was submitted by certain parish councils in Scotland and certain poor law authorities in England. The report of that. Committee had not been published at the end of the year, and further comment is therefore deferred.
The question of grants from Government funds to poor law authorities that have required to meet a heavy expenditure in relieving destitute able-bodied unemployed persons was again under consideration. In the last Report reference was made to the appointment of a Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Harry Goschen, K.B.E., " to consider and report on any scheme which may be submitted to them for special assistance from the Exchequer to local authorities in necessitous urban and quasiurban areas." That Committee reported in March, 1926. Various schemes were submitted to the Committee for consideration, including a scheme formulated by the Adjustment Committee of the parish councils of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Govan. A separate memorial was also submitted by the parish council of Govan. The following extract is quoted from the conclusion of the report of the Committee on Schemes of Assistance to Necessitous Areas :
"Throughout our inquiry we have endeavoured to divest our minds of any personal views we may hold on the merits of the case for special assistance to heavily-burdened areas, the existence of which we recognise, and to confine ourselves strictly to the examination of schemes in their practical working aspects. We have to report that none of the schemes placed before us can be regarded as providing a fair and equitable basis of distribution of special assistance from the Exchequer. The terms of our reference have necessarily restricted us to an examination and report upon schemes submitted. Certain members of the Committee wish, however, to record their opinion that it is not impossible to adapt some of the principles embodied in those schemes, so as to give a basis of assistance to areas which are suffering severely from the heavy burdens due to postwar conditions."
The administration of relief to the destitute able-bodied unemployed has continued to work smoothly, and few difficulties of importance have arisen during the year. Reference has already been made to the reductions made in the scales of relief to persons in this class. Arising out of the reduction in the scales a number of parish councils sought advice on the question of supplying boots and clothing to able-bodied persons (or their dependants) who were in receipt of relief from the parish council, or to unemployed persons who were in receipt of benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Acts. Hitherto the practice of councils in dealing with applications for the supply of articles of clothing from able-bodied persons had been to fix the allowances to such persons at an amount intended to cover the cost of necessary articles of clothing. If in urgent cases clothing were granted it was the general, though not the invariable, practice
to make a small weekly deduction from the aliment until the cost of the articles supplied was recovered or until the case ceased to be chargeable. After careful consideration the following views were expressed :
1. The Board would be opposed to any general extension of the scale of relief recommended in their circular of 13th July last, either by way of additional cash aliments or by way of supplies of boots and clothing.
2. Apart from the general position, however, parish councils may, in special cases, find that a child is, in fact, so inadequately clothed as to make it probable that injury to health would follow a refusal to supply boots or clothing. In such cases, if the parish council are satisfied that the parents themselves are unable to make immediate provision for the child, the Board would have no objection to the parish council doing so, provided that a small weekly deduction is made from the aliment until the cost of the articles supplied has been met.
3. When the dependant of an able-bodied man is ill and is being attended by the parish medical officer, the parish council should, of course, supply any articles of clothing recommended by the medical officer without deduction from the weekly aliment.
4. With regard to applications for clothing, etc. by persons in receipt of unemployment benefit, the Board are of opinion that such applications should be refused except in cases in which the parish medical officer recommends that clothing, etc. should be granted in respect of any of the dependants who are actually ill.
8. Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905.-During the year Edinburgh Distress Committee provided work for a few unemployed persons at their estate at Murieston. Glasgow Distress Committee continued their operations at Palacerigg Farm Colony. The work provided employment for a daily average of 110 men during the year. The parish councils of Govan and Glasgow again contributed towards the expenses of the Distress Committee the amounts paid as aliment in respect of men chargeable to these councils who were provided with work by the Distress Committee. The balance of the cost of the work was met, in part, by Glasgow Corporation under the powers conferred on them by the Glasgow Corporation Order Confirmation Act, 1923.
9. State-Assisted Schemes of Relief Work.-The Unemployment Grants Committee continued during the year to assist local authorities in respect of works promoted by them for the relief of unemployment subject to the restricted conditions mentioned in the Report for 1925.
From December, 1920, the date of the appointment of the Committee, until the end of 1926, schemes for Scotland amounting to approximately £9,000,000 have been passed by the Committee as eligible for grant. This sum was allocated as follows, viz. :—
10. Poor relief during the Coal-mining Dispute.-The stoppage of work in the coal-mining industry, and the general strike, immediately placed parish councils in a position of difficulty and anxiety. It was inevitable that there would be numerous applications for relief both from persons directly involved in the dispute and from persons thrown out of work in consequence of it. With a view to securing some measure of uniformity in dealing with such applications, and in order to check any tendency towards extravagant expenditure, it was felt to be necessary to issue a circular for the guidance of parish councils. Accordingly on May 8th a circular was sent to all councils setting forth the legal position in regard to relief to strikers and making certain administrative recommendations in regard to the destitute dependants of strikers. The most important points in that circular may be summarised as follows:-
(a) Men directly concerned in the general strike or in the coal-mining dispute were not entitled to poor relief.
(b) Notwithstanding the ineligibility of the men for relief, parish councils should bear in mind that in cases where acute destitution existed, and suffering on the part of a man's dependants was immediately threatened, temporary relief might have to be afforded.
It was also suggested in the circular that where it was found necessary to relieve the dependants the amount of relief should not exceed 12s. weekly for the wife and 4s. weekly for each child; and, further, that the amount of relief granted under the Poor Law Emergency Provisions Act, 1921, to destitute ablebodied men (not themselves strikers) thrown out of work in consequence of the dispute should not normally exceed the scale. on which unemployment benefit is paid, i.e. 18s. weekly for the man, 5s. weekly for the wife and 2s. weekly for each child.
On account of the early termination of the general strike, action by parish councils on the recommendations in the circular relating to the dependants of strikers was confined almost wholly to the dependants of miners. Most councils in mining areas agreed to afford relief to such dependants where necessary. Many councils did so, however, only under protest, and with the firm conviction that relief to the dependants of an able-bodied man on strike was not authorised by the Scottish Poor Laws. The Board were aware that the legal position was not free from doubt. Before the circular was issued the Scottish position had been specially considered by the Government, and it was felt that in view of the legality of relief to the destitute dependants of strikers in England, it would be administratively impossible to maintain a position whereby in a dispute affecting both countries the dependants on one side of the Border could be
relieved and those on the other side could not. It was accordingly the Board's policy, throughout the dispute, to endeavour to secure that parish councils would relieve genuine destitution among the dependants without waiting for the physical disability that would follow unrelieved distress. It would have been alien to national sentiment to allow women and children to fall into ill-health through lack of food. In passing, it may be mentioned that the policy of anticipating disability was not a new one. It had in fact been followed since 1878. that year the Board of Supervision had advised parochial boards that in considering the question of disability the letter of the law should not be carried to an extreme, but that immediate relief should be afforded without waiting for the actual disability that would arise from lack of sufficient food.
Reports from the Board's officers indicate that in general the relief of miners' dependants was administered with discretion by the parish councils. In spite of their own doubts as to the legality of the course they were asked to follow, and in spite of their view that they were the unwilling instruments of a policy that they regarded as threatening to undermine one of the vital principles of Scottish Poor Law, the majority of parish councils in mining areas loyally carried out the onerous duties in which they became involved through the considered policy of the Government. We desire to place on record our appreciation of the valuable assistance received from those parish councils and their officials.
The prolongation of the dispute, which lasted for almost seven months, had inevitably a serious effect on the financial position of the parish councils. In parishes that were wholly or largely mining it became evident, as the dispute proceeded, that it would be impossible to meet the whole of the expenditure out of the assessments of one year, and that it would therefore be necessary to authorise loans repayable in a term of years. About August many of the parishes reached a position of having already borrowed on overdraft from the banks a sum equal to the statutory limit of temporary borrowing under Section 89 of the Poor Law (Scotland) Act, 1845. Under the powers conferred in Section 2 of the Poor Law Emergency Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1921, further temporary borrowing was authorised where necessary. No doubt influenced to a considerable extent by Actions of Suspension and Interdict that were raised against certain parish councils (to which detailed reference is made later in this Report), the banks expressed themselves as unwilling to make further advances to parish councils whose overdrafts were equal to or beyond the statutory limit. In these circumstances the Government decided to make available to parish councils on loan the amounts for their immediate requirements until the collection of the assessments began. The amounts required by the parish councils were paid into Special Emergency Accounts periodically, usually at fortnightly intervals. When the probable expenditure for the year to 15th May, 1927, can be more
closely estimated, the question of the period over which these advances are to be repaid will be considered. The total amount of such advances up to the end of 1926 was £502,910.
The doubts that had been expressed as to the legality of affording poor relief to the dependants of able-bodied men on strike crystallised into definite action in three parishes in Lanarkshire, viz. Bothwell, Dalziel and Hamilton. In these parishes actions of suspension and interdict against the parish councils were raised in the Court of Session by ratepayers. Interdict was asked against the action of the parish councils in continuing to afford relief, and against any part of the assessments for the relief of the poor being applied to meet the expenditure already incurred. In all three cases interim interdict was refused by the Court. The actions in their final form did not come before the Court until December, after the termination of the dispute. The actions were heard before Lord Constable, who decided that in the case of an able-bodied man for whom work was available, relief could not legally be given out of the poor rates, either under the 1845 Act or under the 1921 Act, for the man himself or for his dependants living in family with him, and that therefore the relief afforded during the dispute to the destitute dependants of miners following the circular of 8th May had been illegal. Lord Constable stated that he gave his decision without prejudice to the discretionary power vested in the Board, in connection with the audit of the accounts, to refrain from surcharging parish councillors responsible for the illegal payments. After considering the position created by that decision the Government authorised an announcement in the press to the effect that they proposed to introduce legislation to validate the payments made by parish councils. Accordingly the Poor Law Emergency Provisions (Scotland) Act, 1927, was passed to give effect to this undertaking.
The total expenditure by parish councils in providing relief to the destitute dependants of miners was approximately £650,000. In parishes that are almost wholly mining the extra burden thrown on the poor-rates was naturally considerable. In many of such parishes only a small proportion of the expenditure could be met out of the assessments for the year 1926-27, and the balance had to be carried forward to be rated for in succeeding years. The following table shews some of the parishes where the burden of expenditure was heaviest :-
Rate per £ of gross rental. 8. d.