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Casual Wards, Durham (Stone Pounding)

Volume 155: debated on Wednesday 14 June 1922

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asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that in the case of Rex v. Baddeley a London stipendiary magistrate declared that a task of stone pounding imposed in a casual ward governed by the general order of 18th December, 1892, was illegal; that the Local Government Board or its President or the Minister of Health subsequently to this decision made such a task legal in various unions; whether he will now state the names of the unions (if any) in the county of Durham in which it was so made legal, and the dates at which it was legalised in each such union; whether he will cause the casual wards in Durham county and their methods of administration to be examined to see whether proper sleeping accommodation and suitable bed clothing has been supplied in all the Durham county casual wards; whether there is any severity of task of work, strictness of detention, defect of dietary, or harshness of administration likely to account for persons dying of starvation or privation instead of applying for Poor Law relief; whether the Regulations as to giving a mid-day meal to casual paupers on the day of discharge are complied with, and also, in cases where it is not given, are the reasons entered in the admission and discharge book in all the unions of Durham county; and, if not, which union or unions is or are in default?

The hon. Member has mistaken the effect of the judgment referred to. The task of work in question would have been perfectly legal if the guardians had passed the necessary Resolution and obtained the necessary approval. I will make inquiries into the other matters referred to, but the information which I have obtained in response to the hon. Member's request does not support the suggestion that the deaths from starvation or privation in the county are attributable to any defect in the administration of the Poor Law.