On Tuesday a Blue-book was issued containing the Report of
the Departmental Committee on Vagrancy. After examining a very large number of witnesses, the Committee arrive at the conclusion that among casuals, except in a period of general depression of trade, "there is no appreciable element of honest poverty or of penniless industry seeking work." The evil is on the increase, for there are now two or three times as many tramps in our casual wards as there were six years ago. Of professional and chronic vagrants there are probably about forty thousand in existence. The present law is based on the Vagrancy 'Act of 1824, and provides no real solution of the difficulty, since the system of relief applied is neither uniform nor reformatory. The Com- mittee propose, first, a transference of the responsibility from the Guardians to the police, and of the charge from the Poor- rate to the county rate. A uniform treatment could then be introduced, and by means of a certificate-book the past career of a vagrant could be made to tell whether he is a genuine seeker for work or a casual. The former will be lightly treated, but the latter will be detained for two nights, and be compelled to work hard for his food. For serious offenders it is proposed to establish labour colonies on the Swiss model, which will be at once penal and reformatory. The suggestions of the Report are worthy of all attention, for a most difficult problem has been honestly grappled with. The present state of affairs is wholly unsatisfactory, for "between the Poor Law and the police the vagrant has flourished: the police authorities treat him as a criminal but do not punish him ; the Poor Law authorities treat him as a pauper but do not relieve him."