HC Deb 04 April 1838 vol 42 cc429-32
Mr. French

moved the second reading of the Medical Charities (Ireland) Bill. He said, he had already explained to the House the object and nature of this Bill, and should not detain them by a repetition of his former statements. He was glad an opportunity was at last afforded him of drawing attention to the wretched condition of the sick poor of Ireland, and to the necessity of establishing a systematic and efficient plan of public medical aid. The subject of medical reform was not only important in its nature, but difficult in its execution; it was, he assured hon. Members, no easy matter to effect such a change as would at once promote the public welfare and secure the approval of the members of the medical profession, both of which, he frankly admitted, he considered it desirable to accomplish, if possible. It might be supposed, from there not being any connexion between political controversy and medical reform, that the subject of this Bill was one which could be debated on neutral ground, free from excitement of any kind; he was not, however, sanguine enough to suppose that a question affecting several influential interests, could be free from the irritation which usually followed the collision of hostile opinions, and, indeed, the petitions already presented to the House, and some publications sent forth to the world, showed that some angry feeling did exist amongst the parties immediately interested. Differing, however, as to the expediency of the contemplated alterations, all had concurred in admitting that a change of the present system had become indispensable; in the present thin state of the House, he did not deem it advisable to detain them by enumerating the different Acts of Parliament under which existing medical institutions were founded, nor should he enter on any general history of the medical profession, although it might serve to enliven the dull detail he should be obliged to trouble them with. He should go at once to the Bill, the second reading of which he was about to move, and to his doing so he did not anticipate any objection. Some Members might differ with him as to its details, but he did not imagine they would refuse their assent to its principle, which was to establish a competent professional inspection over the medical charities in Ireland, the only species of relief as yet afforded to the poor of that country. His only object was, that that relief should be properly administered and proportioned to the necessities of the people, neither of which it at present was; but although the medical charities were far from sufficient to afford adequate relief to the sick poor in Ireland, they were numerous, being between six and seven hundred, and a sum of 175,000l. was annually expended on their maintenance. From them upwards of a million and a half of persons annually obtained aid. Of these, including intern and extern patients, 146,000 were relieved by the infirmaries, the medical officers of which were gentlemen of a very superior class of education. About 17,000 were relieved by the fever hospitals and lunatic asylums; the remainder, considerably upwards of a million, depended solely on the dispensaries; the funds of which, he regretted to say, were frequently injudiciously applied, or grossly abused, and for the discharge of the medical duties of which no professional qualification whatsoever was requisite. Doctor Corr, Doctor Barrett, Surgeon Roney, and others, had pointed out numerous instances of persons presiding over dispensaries, not having any licence to practise as a physician, as a surgeon, or as an apothecary. It could not, then, be a matter of surprise to the House to learn from the medical reports which have been for some time before them, that with regulations so defective and an administration, if possible, still more loose and objectionable, abuses had arisen by which the funds destined for the relief of the sick poor were diverted to selfish purposes, and that a number of persons whose circumstances should place them beyond anything resembling gratuitous relief, now absorbed the funds, and occupied the time of the medical attendants of these institutions—time and funds which should be devoted exclusively to the sick poor, who were alone the legitimate objects of this species of relief.

Sir E. Sugden

interrupted the hon. Member, stating, that as there could be no objection to the principle of the Bill, he thought it would be better, as the House was so thin, to take the second reading as a matter of course, and reserve the discussion until the Bill was in Committee.

Mr. Lucas

said, that he was favourable to the principle of the Bill, but as the House was so thin he suggested that the Bill should be read a second time, and reserve the discussion for the Committee.

Mr. Warburton

thought, that the House would not really be doing justice to the subject, which was a very important one, if it permitted the second reading to take place without a discussion. He was himself so far favourable to the principle of the Bill, that he thought that a superintending authority was required for the medical charities in Ireland; but then he differed in opinion with the hon. Mover of the Bill, as to the manner of carrying that principle into execution. On that account he must object to many clauses that were in the Bill. If the hon. Member went on, and if he had an opportunity of making a statement as a supporter of the Bill, it would not be right to allow the Bill to have a second reading without there being any answer to that statement.

Viscount Morpeth

remarked, that his hon. Friend who had moved the second reading, waved his statement, upon the understanding that a discussion should take place at a future time. Perhaps, then, the hon. Member for Bridport would not object to the Bill going through a second reading that night, upon the understanding that an opportunity for debate would be given on the motion for going into Committee. He could assure that hon. Member, that although he wished the Bill to be read a second time, yet there were many provisions in it which he should not give any pledge that he would be found to support

Mr. Warburton

remarked, that there was only one inconvenience in the course suggested by the noble Lord, and if it could be obviated he would mike no objection to the course proposed. What was wished for was, that the arguments of those who were in favour of the Bill, and also the arguments of them who objected to it, should go forth to the public; and then that some interval of time would be allowed to elapse between the day upon which that discussion took place, and the day upon which the proceedings in the Committee should begin. The inconvenience the course suggested might be, that no interval would be allowed between one period and the other. If the understanding was as to the proceeding in Committee, that the discussion should take place on the motion that the Speaker do leave the chair, and then that the Bill should not be immediately committed, but that there should be an interval between that and the day for the Bill going into Committee, he should not object to any such course; but then the interval ought to be not less than a fortnight or three weeks.

Mr. Wakley

felt the bill to be so objectionable in character, that if he possibly could, he would not permit one clause of it to be carried; and the principles of the hon. Gentleman's measure were so odious, that he must then notice that there were not forty Members present.

House counted out.