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NORTH WALES POOR LAWI CONFERENCE.

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NORTH WALES POOR LAW CONFERENCE. Old Age Pensions Severely Criticised. The Poor Law Conference for North Wales for the present year commenced on Tuesday, at Bangor. Among those present were Mr F J Bircham, the ex-Inspector of the Local Government Board for Wales, and his successor, Mr H H Williams. The chairman of the Guardians, Mr H Thomas, presided, and the delegates were cordially welcomed by the Mayor, Mr David Owen. Mr J R Davies, Ce;is, president of the conference, in his opening address, said that the problem of poverty and penury was a problem of vast antiquity. It loomed large upon the horizon it absorbed the time and energy of our clergy, it puzzled our statesmen, and it worried the taxpayer. The pitifulness of poverty bad appealed to the heart of humanity from the earliest days. Roman history, before the Christian era, offered two examples of the kind of remedies statemen of that great Empire tried. Four hundred years before Christ there lived a great Roman statesman Caius Licinius Stole, who, impressed with the inequalities of life, proposed to limit the amount of land that a man might hold, and sequestrated what surplus a man might have and distributed it among those who had none. Should I be wrong," asked Mr Davies, if I called it a Small Holdings Bill" (applause and laughter). Three hundred years passed away, Stolo and his law were long forgotten, but the problem of poverty and unemployment was a live question in Rome 100 years before Christ. Another tribune arose, bearing the famous name of Gracchus. He unearthed Stolo's law, and he proposed to revive it, and in the teeth of bitter opposition he carried the law once more in the Lower House, but, alas the matter was fought about in the street. Tiberius Gracchus was killed, and Stolo's oil law was buried once more, to be revived by the present Government 2,000 years afterwards (applause). A brother of Gracchus, one Caius Gracchus, came forward with a new remedy-shall I venture to call it Old Age Pensions Bill- but instead of granting a State-provided grant and instead of fixing an age limit they fixed a revised price of grain, and at last, in the year 27 B.C., grain was given away at the cost of the State to 200,000 Roman citizens-loaves without labour. Augustus Caesar when he ascended the throne of the C assars, tried to put an en I to it, but so great was its hold upon the Romans that even his power was nude- quate to the tauk, and the system continued until Rome fell. History seemed little else than a continuous effort to evade the evils of poverty and reach better things. War had something to do with the be- getting of poverty who knew that in the cassation of arraiments and the inaugura- tion of universal peace the remedy might exiit ? With our borders protected by universal peace we would be free to des- patch that near relative of war—intolerance and wauton poverty vloud applause). OLD AGE PENSIONS CRITICISED. Mr Joseph Brown, President of the Poor Law Unions' Association for England and Wales, read a paper on "Old Age Pensions and the Poor Law," contending that the Act did not inaugurate a new philanthropy; it simply changed t-te form and the method of conveying the help which the State bad all Mong been accustomed to provide. He resented the idea that there was some taint or degradation attaching to the old form of poor relief that did not attach to the new, but in the machinery of the pension scheme the Legislature had decreed that Giardian*, as such, must have no part experience might reveal this as a mistake. N J one could ever suppose that an old age penskns scheme, however liberal its pro- vision?, could ever do away with the work- house. Of what practical use would a j. nion of five shillings a week be to a bedridden parai)tic who was without relatives or friends ? Farther, the Act I did not attempt to solve the problem of poverty, much less of sickness and pain it only professed to deal with a favoured few amongst earth's stricken people. How much there was of suffering, of pitiable woe, long before seventy years were filled. And not every one even of seventy yurs of age could claim the assistance of the Act. TJe restrictions were many and c!ose. Mr Brown asked if it was not possible that s. le 11 indignity referred to consisted very largely iu the careful inquiry that was :"a:ed necessary prior to orders for relief b ;:ng made. Experience gained in con- nection with the administration of poor relief had compelled careful inquiry, as much in the interests of the poor as of the public, and was it not possible than an equally lengthy experience in the adminis- tration of the old-age pensions scheme might lead to an equally careful inquiry, which would become as distasteful as the former ? Another advantage supposed to attach to the new method was that it imposed no "disability" on the recipients of its benefits. But a stroke of the pen could abolish the disability attaching to recipients of relief under the older law. Mr Brown condemned the dealing wiih the New Act by County Councils, which would be disastrous alikcl to the Council, the p iblic, and the poor. Too often now the cUim to public office was based on any- thing but the public good, but if com- mittees of these local authorities were to be the almoners of public doles one c )uld not fail to see the public interests neglected, whilst corruption would naturally have a new stronghold and an extra impetus. In nothing was the wisdom of the framers of the Act of 1834 more conspicuous perhaps than in the creation of the union area, which formed a strong safeguard of public funds and placed a mighty embargo alike upon extravagance, injustice, partiality, and c,)rruption. It was worth remember- ing that the places noted for corruption were those places in which those safe- guards bad been conspicuous by their absence. He submitted that those who strove to preserve Poor Law Union intact would be found to have served the poor themselves, the ratepayer, and the country at large (loud applause).

AN EX-INSPECTOR'S CRITICISM.

CORWEN.

RHUDDLAN,

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