« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
is not from the presence of representatives upon them, but from the exclusive predominance of these, and we believe that representatives directly chosen for the purpose, if associated with a reasonable number of nominated experts, supervised by an adequate Public Assistance Authority, and controlled, where needful, by the Local Government Board, would make a far more satisfactory committee than one from which the principle of direct representation was absent.
Side by side with the Public Assistance Authorities and Public Assistance Committees the Commissioners wish to call into existence Voluntary Aid Councils and Voluntary Aid Committees. The first of these, to be constituted by lords-lieutenant of counties and mayors of county boroughs, are to contain not only governors and trustees of endowed charities but also members of the Public Assistance Authority, officers of trade unions, and officials of Friendly Societies. Their duties will be mainly supervisory and consultative—the securing of organization and co-operation with the Public Assistance Authority on the one hand and among the various charitable agencies scattered throughout the area on the other, while the actual executive work will be left to the Voluntary Aid Committees. These latter are to be constituted under schemes drawn up by the Voluntary Aid Councils and approved by the Charity Commissioners. The members of these committees will belong to the same classes from which the members of the Voluntary Aid Council are taken, but will come from the different localities where the different charities are situated. In order to secure co-operation between them and the Public Assistance Committees it is further provided that certain of their members should serve on those committees and members of the Public Assistance Committees with them. It is not contemplated by the Commissioners that such Voluntary Aid Councils and Committees will be able to be called into existence at once. Experiments in this direction will no doubt be tried here and there; but as the charities which it is sought to co-ordinate and bring into line are independent and voluntary bodies, many of them
even outside of the purview of the Charity Commission, to induce them generally to unite in one joint scheme will certainly be a work of time, and will need no little skill and patience to bring it about. Indeed, the whole plan of the Commissioners, comprehensive and far-reaching as it undoubtedly is, seems often rather of the nature of an ideal to be worked towards than of a measure which it is possible immediately to realize. Yet it is possible to take steps towards it, even of a legislative kind, without undue delay and without exciting any prolonged or any formidable opposition. Increased powers, for instance, might be sought for and conferred on the Local Government Board, which might make maladministration and corruption difficult, if not impossible ; Public Assistance Authorities might be set up by law, and would gradually introduce greater uniformity and improved methods of administration in the areas they controlled ; Boards of Guardians might be mended, if not ended; classification among the workhouses and public institutions of a county introduced ; and initial steps, at least, be taken towards securing that co-operation between public relief and private charity, the entire absence of which is the greatest blot on our existing system. Besides this, there are a number of administrative improvements, chief among them an improved system of granting home relief, and a more effective supervision exercised over those to whom such relief is granted, which the existing authorities could and should adopt without any legislative action at all. Mr. Burns clearly thinks that it is in these, rather than in the more far-reaching schemes which it suggests, that the chief value of the Report lies. Perhaps he is right; yet we think that, as we have already suggested, a beginning should be made on some of the reforms which will require legislation to effect them.
In one department—the methods namely, of dealing with unemployment-such a beginning has actually been made, and a Bill introduced into the House of Commons. Yet the matter is one which if it is the most urgent is probably also the most difficult to grapple with of all those treated of in the Report, and it is one which will require the greatest circumspection in handling it. Of the causes which, in the Commissioners' judgement, have led to the present condition of chronic unemployment we have already spoken; it remains to consider the remedies which the Commissioners suggest for meeting it.
The first two measures recommended by the Commis. sioners aim not so much at diminishing unemployment as at diminishing the supply of those who are likely to suffer from it. (1) They adopt two recommendations of Mr. Cyril Jackson, the Chairman of the Education Committee of the London County Council, namely, that boys should be kept at school till fifteen, exemption being only allowed if they are being taught a skilled trade ; and next, that up to sixteen they should be kept under supervision and made to continue at school unless properly employed. (2) They suggest that our system of elementary education should be so amended as to conduce more directly to industrial efficiency than it has done hitherto.
Next they propose a system of voluntary insurance against unemployment (to be supplemented by a subvention from the State), intended primarily for men of fifty years old and upwards, who under modern industrial conditions are gradually being thrown out of employment, or can obtain only partial employment, and yet are far from the age at which they become eligible for old age pensions. To such insurance funds the men themselves will have, of course, to contribute, but their contributions will have to be augmented out of public resources. The task of financing such funds will, the Commissioners consider, be rendered easier by the existence of old age pensions which fix an age beyond which provision, or at any rate provision on the same scale, need not be made.
Further, the Commissioners attach great importance to the formation of such voluntary Labour Exchanges as the Government are now proposing to create under the control and direction of the Board of Trade. They believe that
such exchanges will not only promote the mobility of labour within the country, directing men who are unemployed but have a good character to places where additional labour is required, but also that, aided by the Board of Trade, they may be able to collect such information, abroad as well as at home, as would enable them to foresee, and to some extent to provide for, periods of trade depression when likely to occur. In connexion with Labour Exchanges the Commissioners make the further suggestion that it would be desirable to have for every public elementary school an intelligence bureau, which would advise and teachers as to the branches of employment likely to give the best opening for children leaving school. The establishment of such bureaux would certainly supply a much felt want in our existing educational system.
As a fifth remedy they urge (while recognizing the difficulty of the task) the importance of doing something, even in the most uncertain employments like that of dock labourers' work, to increase the number of those regularly employed and diminish the tale of those who live by casual labour. They think that the Board of Trade might make inquiry to see how this might best be done, and then take initial steps to bring it about.
Lastly, to meet the difficulty of unemployment which arises from the existence of a class of unemployables they propose that the less hopeless of these people should be set to work, but without detention, in an industrial or agricultural institution or colony under the management of the Public Assistance Committee, their families at the same time being maintained, or partially maintained, in their own homes or in institutions. The aim is to be to impart habits of industry and perseverance to those who have partially lost or never acquired them. The most hopeless are to be maintained continuously under compulsory detention in a labour-colony established and managed under the Home Office.
The Commissioners quite admit that unemployment has grown to such serious dimensions and has assumed such a permanent form that it is not likely, were all the plans recommended by them to be adopted, to disappear either immediately or completely; but the first two suggestions would do something to cut it off at its source, the last to curtail the most permanent of the elements which create it, while the intermediate measures, and still more the revival of trade, should cause much of the fluctuating but not irremediable unemployment to disappear. Probably it is to a sustained revival of trade, if such a phenomenon is possible, that we must look in the immediate future for any considerable diminution of the present dearth of employment. Therefore it behoves the Government to be very careful to do nothing, whether by its financial arrangements or otherwise, to throw obstacles in the way of such a revival. The Chancellor of the Exchequer by rash words, by rash, ill-considered, ill-digested measures, has already done so much to scare confidence away and to drive capital to look for investment outside of the country, that it is doubtful whether he has not done more harm to the prospects of the working classes, whose interests he professes to champion, than he has done good by his Old Age Pensions Act, which he introduced without consideration of the sources from which the money it would cost was to be drawn. The Conservative Party, it is true, must be regarded as partly responsible for the difficult and even disastrous position in which we find ourselves; the least that the country can expect of them is to see that the taxes which have now to be raised be so adjusted that not more than the necessary amount be taken from the pockets of the taxpayers, and that the sums to be obtained be obtained in the way which will be least injurious to trade and confidence.
Viewing the Report as a whole one cannot but be struck with its monumental character. The diligence and thoroughness with which Lord George Hamilton, his colleagues, and their associates, have examined and marshalled the facts are beyond praise; so, too, are the fairness, the impartiality, and the clearness with which they have exhibited alike the merits and the defects in our existing system. The analysis they have made of the chief features in our present economic condition and their historical survey of the causes which