HC Deb 15 March 1843 vol 67 cc967-71

Mr. French moved that the Irish Medical Charities bill be referred to a select committee.

Sir D. Norreys

begged to ask the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, whether any arrangement had been made on the subject, between him and the hon. Member for Roscommon, which would have the effect of precluding any discussion on the principle of the bill previously to its being committed?

Lord Eliot

said, that although he did not approve of the present bill, yet as the subject was of great importance, and regarded with much interest in Ireland, he consented that the subject should be referred to a select committee; holding himself perfectly free to give any opposition to the further progress of the bill, should it come out of committee in its present shape; but he would suggest to the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it for the present, to give time for further consideration,

Mr. French

the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had assented a day or two back to this bill being referred to a select committee. He had communicated this arrangement to the different Irish Members who were anxious that the bill should pass into a law. Those Members, he had no doubt, would have been in the House at that moment but for the intimation that had been conveyed to them. This was doubly unfortunate, as the very few Irishmen who were opposed to this bill, such as, for instance, the hon. Members for Limerick and Mallow, were present. To his great surprise the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had just communicated to him the objection entertained by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department to his pursuing the course agreed on between them; and his wish that the report of the commissioners on the state of the medical charities in Ireland should be referred to the committee in place of the bills introduced by him—that that committee should report on what principles an act for the better regulation of the Irish medical charities should be founded. He had, in the House and out of the House, declared that he entertained no hopes of carrying a measure such as this, in opposition to her Majesty's Government, that he considered the subject one of such magnitude and importance—that it should be legislated for on the responsibility of Government, that his anxious desire was through means of a committee such as he proposed, to carry out the views of the medical profession, and to secure most important advantages to the public in such a manner as the noble Lord might consistently adopt and carry through Parliament. The bill before the House had received the sanction of medical men second to none in Europe, for personal character and professional ability—those in high practice in Dublin. He had that day presented four petitions in favour of the bill, one of which was from the medical association of Ireland. The college of surgeons had petitioned in its favour—so had, he had reason to believe, the college of physicians; and the apothecaries' company had likewise approved of the bill; it had the approval also of all the medical corporate bodies; it was supported by upwards of ninety Irish Members. Was the medical profession and the political representation of Ireland to be as nothing in the scale when weighed against the influence of the Poor-law Commissioners?—Was the opinion of Irishmen ever to have weight on the affairs of Ireland? or would the noble Lord act on the opinion of strangers in peference to those whose knowledge of Ireland was unquestionable, and to whose support he was indebted for the place he now held? He would accept the committee offered by the right hon. Baronet if he would undertake that its recommendations should be attended to by the Government. However, he would not waste his own time and that of others in such useless and unprofitable employment.

Mr. Smith O'Brien

conceived that no support ought to be given by the Government to a bill differing so essentially as that proposed by his hon. Friend (Mr. French)from that introduced by the noble Lord. Medical relief was virtually a portion of the Poor-law and ought to be administered under the direction of the Poor-law Commissioners.

Sir James Graham

thought that the question of inquiry into the state of the medical charities in Ireland was one well worthy the attention of the Government, and one which the Government ought to take up. A bill had been introduced on the subject last Session and during the recess inquiries had been instituted, and a report had been made. The accuracy of some of the facts alluded to in that report had been impugned, and it was necessary that further inquiries should be made on the subject? It would also be advisable that the decision of Parliament with regard to certain other legislative measures for the relief of the Irish poor should be known, before any Government measure for the regulation or the medical charities of Ireland should be introduced. The Government did not wish to shrink from the responsibility of dealing with the medical charities of Ireland and they were prepared to introduce a measure on the subject. They objected, however, both to the principle and the details of the measure proposed by the hon. Gentleman; but from courtesy they had not objected to his introducing his bill. There was however an objection to the bill being referred to a select committee; but there would be no objection to the appointment of a committee to inquire into the state of the medical charities in Ireland. That committee would conduct its inquiries while discussion might be going on in Ireland with regard to the other measure. He would suggest to the hon. Member, that he should postpone the further consideration of his bill to a distant day, and that he should give notice of a motion for the appointment of a committee to consider the subject of the medical charities of Ireland. If the hon. Gentleman would move for the appointment of such a committee, he (Sir J. Graham) would not oppose the motion.

Sir Denham Norreys

said, that the medical charities was but a secondary consideration; the whole subject should be taken into consideration. Something must be done with respect to the present unsatisfactory manner of administering the Poor-laws. An investigation as to the medical charities, without taking into consideration the Poor-laws, would be most unsatisfactory. They ought to consider the Poor-laws before the medical charities.

Mr. V. Stuart

recommended his hon. Friend to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet, and not press the bill further at present.

Mr. French

said that he, before stating to the House the course he meant to pursue, wished to allude to some communications he had received from gentlemen, in reference to the statement which he had made on obtaining leave to bring in his bill. He had stated on the authority of the Poor-law commissioners, that the average expenses of fever patients in the Bray hospital was 4l. 14s. 11d. He had received through the medium of the hon. and gallant Member for Wicklow (Colonel Acton) a communication from Sir W. Crosbie, the treasurer, showing, that it amounted only to 1l. 8s. 3d. It had been satisfactorily shown to him (Mr. French), that the Poor-law commissioners had omitted a sum of 98l. 5s., the purchase of a debenture, and further, that they had mistaken the figures 58 for 38. Doctor Nelson, of Killala, disputed the accuracy of the commissioners' report, and supported his statement by a document signed by the resident gentry of the neighbourhood. The medical officer of West Cove dispensary, in the county Kerry, was appointed after the report of the commissioners had been made, and, therefore, was not concerned in the transaction alluded to by the commissioners. On the contrary, the gentleman at present in charge of the dispensary was a man of high character, and gave the greatest satisfaction in the department which he filled. As to the course which he intended to pursue, it was to postpone the committee on the bill until the first Wednesday after Easter. In the meantime he would obtain the means of consulting the medical profession, and the general supporters of the measure, whether it would be advisable to adopt the suggestion thrown out by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department. He had no wish to obtrude on the House any opinion of his on the subject of the Irish Poor-laws; but as his hon. Friends, the Members for Limerick and Mallow, had taken upon themselves to state, that some satisfactory arrangement could take place, and that by altering some of the details of the present measure it could be made to work beneficially, and become popular, he (Mr. French), under those circumstances, felt bound to state, as his opinion, that it would take forty thousand English bayonets to collect the rates, to support the present system of Poor-laws in Ireland.

Bill to be committed after Easter.