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Poor Law Administration, Poplar

Volume 154: debated on Tuesday 23 May 1922

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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?