11 JULY 1908, Page 13



[To THE EDITOR OW THE "SPECTATOR."] Sin,—A. petition, of which I send you a copy, will be presented to the House of Lords when the Old-Age Pensions Bill comes before it early next week. May I suggest that those of your readers who approve of it should cut it out of your columns, and get it signed by as many influential and representa- tive people as possible in their neighbourhoods, and especially those who have made a study of social work or have been actively engaged in it P It would be well to append the descriptions of the signatories. Kindly, as time is short, forward the petition direct by post to :—The Right Hon. the Earl of Wemyss, The House of Lords, Westminster, S.W.

"Your Petitioners pray the attention of your Honourable House to the following facts in regard to the Old-Age Pensions Bill now before Parliament, and present a humble petition on the following grounds :— (1) The Bill affects the whole management and character of the Poor Law, yet it is brought forward whilst a Royal Com- mission called upon to examine into the effects and defects of the Poor Law is actually sitting and has not yet returned its Report. The Report will be returned (it is said) within a few months. (2) The Bill has been forced through the House of Commons by use of the Closure without discussion of the most vital points. (3) The Bill alters the whole position and threatens the destruction of Friendly Societies, and is opposed by many of the leading members of such societies. (4) The Bill discourages thrift, and by introducing what is really a new system of outdoor relief threatens to revive and extend the evils partially removed by the Poor Law reforms of 1834.

(5) The Bill commits the country to an expenditure to which no one can fix the limits, without providing the means by which such expenditure, or even the expenditure which can certainly be foreseen, may be met. (6) The debates in the House of Commons, curtailed though they have been by the use of the guillotine, and the constant change of front on the part of the Government, prove to demonstration the dangers which the Bill involves and the want of due provision by the Government of means to meet them. (7) The Bill has not received the sanction of the electors. (8) To delay the passing of the Bill can do no serious injury to the country and will enable the nation to consider calmly the policy of a measure which, for good or bad, produces a social revolution.

In view of the above statement of facts it is the prayer of your Petitioners that your Honourable House should postpone the consideration of the Old-Age Pensions Bill until such time as the Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law has been issued and until an opportunity has been given to Parliament to consider the said Bill in the light of that Report. Hy refusing to proceed beyond the Second Reading of the Bill until such Report has been received your Lordships will give proof that you are determined not to acquiesce in legislative measures which are not based on the fullest information and best advice obtainable."