Henry Norris at the London County Council July 1917-19
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Last updated: July 2008
Something that surprised me very much when I first started reading the LCC minutes of proceedings was to find industrial action going on in wartime. At the Tuesday meeting of 3 July 1917, which Henry Norris attended, councillors heard an update on the dispute between the LCC and its teachers who wanted a war bonus. War bonuses had rather replaced pay rises during the war, at least for those employed by local government; they were one-off payments voted for (or against) by the councillors. The LCC had refused to pay a war bonus, but in the end it came off worst: the teachers had taken their case to the President of the Board of Education. On 18 June 1917 the Board of Education made its response: it recommended a series of pay-rises for LCC’s teachers to reflect the big rise in the cost of living since the war began; and it back-dated these payrises to November 1916. Although it would make a big dent in its budget there was nothing the LCC could do to stop the pay-rise; the new pay-scales were agreed without debate.
During the spring of 1917 the Accommodation and Attendance sub-committee of LCC’s Education standing committee, of which Norris was a member, had been coping with one of the many unforeseen consequences of the war. In November 1915 the LCC had decided not to make any more places available in special schools for children with severe myopia. Two years later there were 325 such children awaiting a school place and doing something for them could no longer be put off. The sub-committee had had to spend time trying to find room to teach classes of them in existing LCC buildings; one of the buildings chosen was St Dunstan’s Road school in Fulham. The sub-committee had also recommended buying the lease of land next to Tooting Grove LCC school; the site could be bought for £200 from its current owner, a brewery. This is just the sort of negotiation Norris had experience in, so maybe he played a part in reaching agreement on the price. He may also have had some views to contribute to a consultation exercise carried out by the Education standing committee in spring 1917 about the future direction of technical education - the skills required by the building industry would have been one of the areas the LCC was seeking advice on.
One meeting of the Education standing committee which Norris didn’t attend was that held on Wednesday 1 August 1917. This was well into the summer holiday period and the meeting has an ‘emergency’ feel to it. One of the problems discussed at it was the continuing lack of volunteers amongst its members for serving time on its local school attendance sub-committees - which presumably involved going to schools and looking at their attendance registers. There had been an increase in the number of parents served with warning notices about their truanting offspring; some had had to be followed up as far as taking the parent to court. This all took time, money and manpower (though by this time, with so many men in the armed forces, it was more likely to be woman-power). The other big problem the meeting considered was a petition from the LCC’s caretaking staff, wanting a pay-rise now the teachers had been given one. If the LCC agreed to it, it would add £583 to the Attendance and Accommodation sub-committee’s budget for the coming year. The meeting actually awarded the caretakers a pay-rise higher than the one they were demanding!
The Education Bill 1917 had its first reading on 10 August 1917 and when the LCC got back from its summer break, the first meeting of the Education standing committee had to consider how the LCC would be affected by it. As its chairman, Cyril Cobb had written to the Government expressing concern about grey areas LCC had detected in the wording of the clauses on enforcement, and in how relations between central government and the local authorities would be defined. And as well as a rise in truant numbers there had been a rise in the number of labour certificates received by the LCC Education standing committee allowing someone under the school leaving age to be excused attendance - an inevitable result of the staff shortages that were biting everywhere by now, including the LCC.
In July-August and again in October 1917, Henry Norris missed more meetings than he attended, both of the full LCC and its Education standing committee. He was probably not amongst those Education standing committee members who went in deputation to meet the President of the Local Government Board to discuss the Education bill, as this happened on 16 October 1917.
He didn’t attend two Tuesday meetings in succession until November. The shortage of secondary school teachers had grown so acute that on 19 April 1917 it had been discussed in the House of Commons. Another pay increase had been recommended so the meeting of the LCC’s Education standing committee attended by Norris on Wednesday 7 November 1917 discussed and took a series of votes on proposed new pay scales, which were meant to be a permanent alternative to the war bonus agreed only a few months before. This latest pay-rise would be back-dated, like the last one, to 1 January 1917.
Despite the staff shortages in LCC’s schools there were some people not allowed to plug the gaps. December 1917 was another period when Norris missed a lot of LCC meetings. He didn’t attend the meeting of the Education standing committee on Wednesday 5 December 1917 to hear the LCC confirm its decision not to allow conscientious objectors to teach in their classrooms, even if they were medically unfit to serve. And I think he missed an emergency meeting at which the Education standing committee agreed to pay its caretaking staff the proposed pay-rise even though it hadn’t yet been ratified by the full LCC. However he did get to the Tuesday meeting of the full LCC on 18 December 1917 to take a vote on midwives salaries. There were staff shortages amongst midwives as everywhere else. Norris voted with the majority, who opposed the idea of having a specific, stated fee per case for midwives; so no fee was stated in the LCC’s report. This particular vote of Norris’ is consistent with his view on footballer’s wages: that there should be a free market (not a maximum wage) with every player - or in this case midwife - free to negotiate their own wage/fee.
There had been so much criticism of the Education bill that the Government had allowed it to lapse, so the LCC was not obliged to prepare for the problems of it becoming law. A completely different education bill had been introduced to the House of Commons on 13 December 1917. However, a decision in the case Gateshead Poor Law Union v Durham County Council was adding to LCC’s staffing and money problems because it had allowed free admission of children in the workhouse into the local schools, the local Board of Guardians no longer had to pay for them to attend. And the Education standing committee had come up against an awkward limitation of its effectiveness. The standing committee’s meeting on Wednesday 19 December 1917, which he attended, heard that the Attendance and Accommodation sub-committee (Norris was a member of this) had been investigating rumours that a large number of underage children were being employed on Sundays selling newspapers on the streets. They had uncovered 184 instances of the law being broken, only to discover that they couldn’t enforce the law in a lot of them because they were taking place within the City of London, where the LCC had no jurisdiction.
Whereas the LCC had had a lot of objections to the first education bill of 1917, the one that died a death during the autumn, the new education bill had its full support. When Norris attended the Tuesday meeting of 5 February 1918 it was to hear the full LCC make a statement urging the Government to make it law as soon as possible because the effect would be to release more money for education. The meeting took several votes on a number of other bills currently in Parliament, where gas companies in the London area were asking to be allowed to raise more capital to buy land. There was a vote on whether the LCC should oppose these bills (they were likely to push up land prices). Norris voted to oppose all of them and so did everybody else at the meeting: 75:0.
Having missed a few in January 1918 Henry Norris was able to attend meetings more regularly in February when the Education standing committee was trying to finalise its budget for the coming 12 months. The process was hampered by a lack of statistics and the conditions of wartime which saw people moving house more often than previously: the LCC was no longer sure how many children of school age there were within its boundaries. The budget, including the new pay-scales, was finally agreed at the meeting on Wednesday 20 February 1918. But before the full LCC had a chance to discuss it the women teachers at least were protesting against the pay-scales. The full LCC didn’t like them either. At the Tuesday meeting of 5 March 1918, which Norris was present at, the full LCC voted to reject them and sent the budget back for revision. All the argument over it meant that the meeting finished later than usual, at 6.22pm.
During 1917 the LCC’s staff shortages had been exacerbated by the number of employees who had reached retirement age. Norris missed the Education standing committee meeting on Wednesday 13 March 1918 when the members discussed a proposal to make employees work on after they reached retirement age, provided they were fit enough.
Henry Norris’ twelve months on the Education standing committee came to an end at the Tuesday meeting of 19 March 1918; however he had signified that he would be willing to continue. Or had he? By some sort of procedural mechanism he was first put onto the Education standing committee until March 1919; then, removed from it on a recommendation by the chairman of the LCC General Purposes standing committee and replaced by a Mr Hobson. He did attend this first-of-the-year meeting, so his removal from the Education standing committee didn’t happen behind his back. I suppose he had agreed to it, because no complaint by him was put into the minutes of the meeting. Or it might have been the usual punishment/release for those who had not attended enough meetings of the standing committee in question. Norris was the only person this happened to. He was certainly not elected onto any of the LCC’s other standing committees, and ended with a much lesser commitment to the LCC than in the past year. In the midst of all this bureaucratic stuff I hope he noticed a small leap forward for women: Miss Katharine Wallas became the first woman to be elected deputy chairman of the LCC.
Norris does seem to have been missing more meetings, even of the full LCC on its Tuesday afternoons; although he did get to the meeting of 14 May 1918 which was the big one financially, needing to reach agreement on the LCC’s spending for the next 12 months. However he doesn’t seem to have voted when a vote was taken on a proposal to not allow the new pay-scales for teachers into the spending plan, but to refer them to arbitration. The motion failed. So did one which would have given equal pay to women teachers; Norris didn’t vote at all then either. He did vote to raise women teachers’ starting salary; but he was on the losing side, 16:49 and women kept their second-rate status at the LCC. The teachers’ pay-scales were included in the spending plan eventually but it took all afternoon. Everyone finally got to go home at 6.34pm. The next two Tuesday meetings were also about the LCC’s budget, on 11 June 1918 and 25 June 1918. Norris attended both of these.
No doubt the LCC councillors thought that after the meeting of 14 May 1918, the teachers’ pay-scales were sorted. However, the teachers’ unions now demanded that they be paid their war bonus in addition to the new pay-scales. On 25 July 1918 members of the LCC Education standing committee met representatives of the teachers’ unions to explain that the LCC hadn’t got the money to pay them both items. Norris won’t have been involved in the meeting, of course, which ended with the LCC agreeing to pay the pay-rise and the war bonus despite their stance at the beginning of it. Of course, such a decision had to be ratified by the full LCC - perhaps the negotiators at the meeting knew very well that the full LCC was unlikely to agree. Anyway, the new pay-scales were back on the agenda at the meeting on Tuesday 30 July 1918, another meeting Norris attended after missing a few- as if he was only attending those meetings that were sorting out the LCC’s budget. In a series of votes on whether to accept the new pay-scales, Norris voted yes every time (yes, pay them their pay rise and the war bonus) while Cobb (the other Fulham councillor) voted no (pay them only their pay rise). The no vote won, the teachers were refused their war bonus and the councillors went home at 6.38pm, after the longest LCC meeting Norris attended.
Norris missed the Tuesday meeting on 15 October 1918 but was back on Tuesday 29 October 1918 when councillors discussed the rates. In contrast to the recent long-drawn-ou tussles over teachers’ pay, this meeting was one of the shortest Norris attended at the LCC: starting as usual at 2.30, it was over at two minutes past three. Norris was also at the next meeting, whose scheduling meant that it took place on the day after the Armistice. On Tuesday 12 November 1918 the LCC passed a motion of “thankfulness...for the triumph of right”. Preparing for a life after the war, the councillors agreed that the LCC must take part in the series of conferences being organised in London about the future housing of the working population; these led to the expansion of local authority housing in London - something Norris consistently opposed.
On Friday 22 November 1918 there was one of the LCC meetings at which the only item on the agenda was the report of the Theatres and Music Halls standing committee. Though there were noticeably fewer councillors present than at the Tuesday meetings Norris did attend, probably because there was an application that he had initiated on the list: one to grant the halls at Fulham Town Hall (which could be rented by the evening) a license to be allowed to hold events which involved music and dancing. Perhaps Norris’ presence wasn’t necessary: the application went through without discussion and no special conditions were imposed.
Norris attended the Tuesday meeting on 26 November 1918 when time was spent discussing what was going to happen to those young people who had taken the jobs of men going to fight: now the soldiers were coming home, they would be made redundant. There had already been conferences in London on how to deal with this sudden rush of redundancies amongst the 15-18 year-old age group. The Ministry of Labour would be paying what the LCC called “out of work donations” to them for six months if they went to college to get more qualifications.
Norris didn’t attend the Tuesday meeting on 10 December 1918; it was the last week of the General Election campaign so he was busy elsewhere. The most important item at the meeting was a decision to build a refuse sorting plant - probably the first building project undertaken since the war began. Also discussed was a report on how the LCC should handle the consequence of the report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law of 1909; the war had intervened in the process of putting its recommendations into practice, but they were now likely to be implemented and would involve the abolition of the old boards of guardians and the transfer of their powers to the local authorities including the LCC.
Norris was back on Tuesday 17 December 1918 when yet again the subject of teachers’ pay was paramount: this time it was pay-rises for the LCC’s vocational staff and administrative staff. The question of equalising rates between the LCC’s boroughs was considered again: this process helped Fulham, as the idea was to cause poorer boroughs to end up paying less, and richer ones more. Nevertheless Norris voted for a motion to put off consideration of this until the next meeting. He was on the losing side though, 34:48, and the discussion went on.
Norris attended the LCC meeting on Tuesday 21 January 1919 as an MP-in-waiting. The councillors discussed matters arising from the Representation of the People Act 1918. This act had redrawn constituency boundaries and enfranchised women over 30, but there was no provision in it for soldiers still awaiting demobilisation either to stand as candidates or to vote in the local elections which had to be held in March and April. A vote was taken on a motion that despite the inability of soldiers to take any real part in them, the LCC elections Thursday 6 March, 1919. Norris voted in favour of letting the elections go ahead; he was in the majority (53:39). He also voted in favour of changing the voting day to Saturday 8 March; again he was in the majority, 54:38. I’m sure that Norris had never had any intention of actually standing as a candidate when the next set of LCC elections took place, so the end of his time as an LCC councillor was now in sight.
Norris missed the Tuesday meeting of 4 February 1918 - he was taking his seat for the first time in the House of Commons. In his own account of his time as an MP, Norris said he had attended virtually every session for at least part of the day. He certainly missed the next LCC Tuesday meeting, on 18 February 1918 at which 7 March 1919 was confirmed as the last day the current crop of councillors would be in office. He did get to the last LCC meeting before the local elections, on Tuesday 4 March 1919. New Government proposals about post-war housing had been published on 6 February 1919; they were discussed at this meeting but of course there was nothing the LCC could do in a practical way until the local elections were over. It was mostly the financing of the house-building programme that was talked about. A provisional budget for it had been agreed by the LCC in July 1918, on the promise of a particular percentage from central Government. Of course, in the months in between the Government had moved the goal-posts and LCC would now have to do a great deal more building work before it was likely to see any Government money. As an MP Henry Norris was going to have more say about the Government’s house-building programme than he would have got as an LCC councillor.
the change. The meeting finished at 5.11pm and Norris never sat in the LCC again.
As a result of the Representation of the People Act 1918 Fulham sent four (not two) councillors to the LCC in the elections of 8 March 1919. Beatrix Hudson-Lyall and Sir Francis Lloyd were elected in Fulham East, the area Henry Norris represented in Parliament. Cyril Cobb and William Ward Warner were elected in Fulham West. Cobb was the only one who had been an LCC councillor before; all four were Conservatives.
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Copyright Sally Davis July 2008