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Government Departments

Volume 154: debated on Tuesday 23 May 1922

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Ministry Of Health (Outdoor Staff)

74.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether the revised regrading of the outdoor staff of the Ministry of Health gives the same proportion of higher to lower posts for men and women; and, if the proportion is fixed with strict regard to the requirements of the work, what is the cause of the differentiation seeing that the men and women are engaged on the same work?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. The general position is that women inspectors are engaged to inspect trades where women are mainly employed and in inquiries as to the benefits of insured women. The proportion of higher to lower posts is fixed with reference to the requirements of the work, which is more limited in scope than that of the men inspectors. The proportion is rather more favourable in the case of the women.

Writing Assistants

72.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether a letter has been received from the Civil Service Clerical Association asking that a deputation be received to hear evidence for a justification for an increase of pay to writing assistants; and, if so, whether any action has been taken in the matter?

Yes, Sir. The Treasury is in correspondence with the Association on this matter, which is still under consideration.

Seniority Lists

75.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether it is the intention of the Government to abolish, if possible, separate establishment lists for men and women, so that vacancies shall be filled by the most efficient officer, irrespective of sex; and, if so, why women have been removed from branches where they have been for some years working side by side with men, and why the segregation of the sexes, which in many Departments had been abandoned during the War, has been reintroduced as a result of reorganisation?

A Committee is being appointed to examine and report on the application of the general principle of common seniority lists for men and women to the classes included in the Report of the Reorganisation Committee of the National Whitley Council for the Civil Service. The last part of the question raises matters referring to the detailed organisation of the various Departments; but, speaking generally, I should not regard the modification of special temporary arrangements adopted during the War period as in any way prejudicing the position.

The Committee which will be set up, if it has not already been constituted, will be of a very representative character. It will be set up without delay.

Customs Statistical Office

73.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether, in connection with a machine experiment in the Customs Statistical Office, girl machine operators of 16 years of age are allowed to be in attendance until 10 p.m.; why male and female staff employed on the experiment are not being paid overtime for excess duty; and whether the number of hours of excess duty thus performed is being taken into account in assessing the cost of work performed by the use of these machines?

No girl machine operator of 16 years of age or under has given attendance after 6 p.m., and no member of the staff of either sex employed in the experiment has been required to work overtime. Two or three of the other members of the female staff have voluntarily remained after official hours on a few occasions only. All relative facts will be taken into account in assessing the cost of the experiment.

Poor Law Administration, Poplar

78.

asked the Minister of Health how often a Poor Law inspector of the Ministry of Health has attended the Poplar Board of Guardians since November last?

Since the end of November seven visits have been made by the inspectors to the relief stations or the guardians' offices. The inspectors have also met committees of the guardians to discuss matters of detailed administration, and, in addition, there have been a number of interviews at the offices of the Ministry.

79.

asked the Minister of Health if, in view of the serious Report of the administration of the Poor Law in Poplar, he is now prepared to introduce a Bill to reform the London Poor Law administration on the lines of the Maclean Report (Cd. 8,917) or, in the alternative, as a temporary measure, to establish a central Poor Law authority for London to control Poor Law administration?

Pending the Report of the Royal Commission on London Government, I do not think it would be practicable to adopt either of the alternatives suggested by my hon. Friend.

80.

asked the Minister of Health if all the books and documents of the Poplar Board of Guardians exhibited to Mr. Cooper, who conducted the special inquiry, were at all times open to the officers of the Ministry; and, if so, will he give the reason for the maladministration being permitted to go on for so long a period?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The officers of my Department have taken such action as was open to them to check specific cases of maladministration, and no part of the expenditure of the guardians will be allowed to be charged upon the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, which is in excess of the scale or which contravenes the conditions prescribed in the regulations. As regards expenditure which falls upon the ratepayers of Poplar alone, in so far as such expenditure is unlawful it is subject to disallowance by the District Auditor, and the guardians have been warned that in the event of the auditor finding it necessary to disallow expenditure incurred by the guardians in granting relief to persons who are not destitute, the guardians will be surcharged accordingly, and the surcharge will not be remitted. When it became clear that the guardians' expenditure was likely to exceed their available resources, and that it would be necessary for them to apply to me for advances of money out of public funds, I decided, in view of the reports which I had received from my officers, to appoint a special Commissioner to hold a detailed inquiry into the whole of the guardians' administration.

May I ask whether, as a matter of fact, any of the guardians of Poplar have been surcharged? I could not gather whether the right hon. Gentleman said so or not.

Will the ratepayers of Poplar and the contributory boroughs have any redress against comrade Lansbury and his associates?