HC Deb 09 July 1847 vol 94 cc117-20

said, he wished to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department; and he must at the same time express his surprise that the hon. and learned Member for Bath was not in his place, because he had distinctly given him notice of his intention that evening to put the question to the right hon. Gentleman, for the purpose of showing the House that the hon. and learned Gentleman had, in contradicting him at the time he made to the right hon. Gentleman a statement to which his question referred, made use of language utterly unfounded. The question he wished to put to the right hon. Gentleman was this—"Whether the statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, on a former evening, that a medical officer of a union had the power of recovering the price of drugs distributed by him to the poor out of the poor-rates, was correct?" When he gave notice of that question, the hon. and learned Gentleman rose and said, that that was not the statement he had made; and about five minutes afterwards he again rose and said, he would state to the House what the statement was which he had made when he addressed it before, and from which address he (Mr. Ferrand) had extracted the question which he was now about to put to the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman then made a statement, he would not say where, in this language—[The hon. Gentleman was about to read from a document in his hand, but was interrupted by]


, who intimated to the hon. Gentleman that he might allude in general terms to what had occurred in a former debate, but not the particular terms used.


The hon. and learned Gentleman was reported or supposed to have said— In consequence of the question put by the hon. Member for Knaresborough, he felt called on to explain, that the statement he had really made was this, that a contract being made with medical practitioners in each particular union to provide not only medical skill, but medicine, if any surgeon told the hon. Gentleman that he had seen a patient die under his hands whom he could have saved, but would not, because the dearness of the medicine would take away all the profit of his contract, that person was guilty of a great dereliction of duty. He had stated further, that there was a regulation in the law which gave magistrates and boards of guardians power in special cases of extraordinary emergency to order relief both in food and medicine, such extra relief to be paid for by the union. But the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman, instead of being the one he had read to the House, was reported or supposed to be this— It was declared by law that every man who was a surgeon to a union was bound to administer medical relief; and if any medical man, being a surgeon to a union, told the hon. Member what he said he did, that medical man asserted a falsehood, for the law did not require him to pay for the medicine, as that would come out of the poor rates, and would form part of the legitimate expenses of providing for the poor. His hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury would bear him out in the statement he had made. Having vindicated himself for putting the question to the right hon. Gentleman, he now begged leave to put it to him.


could not refer to the statement that was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bath; but he thought he could give the most satisfactory answer to the question of the hon. Gentleman, by stating what he believed to be the law and practice in respect to medical relief. He believed the practice to be that, under the existing law, a contract was made by some medical gentleman for attending professionally to the poor, and that included, in most cases, though not universally, the supply of medicine. Consequently, so far the cost of the medicine must come out of the pocket of the medical officer. But there was a special provision in the law, by which, in cases of danger or sudden illness, justices of the peace might direct medical relief; and in those cases he apprehended that medicine could not be supplied out of the pocket of the medical officer, but would be charged on the general rates. At the same time, he was bound to say that he did not think the medical officer in the case referred to by the hon. Gentleman was altogether free from blame. The medical officer ought not to have taken a contract that would oblige him to witness a person dying for want of proper medicine. He ought to have taken care before entering into the contract that there was a reasonable prospect of his being enabled to perform the duties he had undertaken; or, when a special case arose, he should have referred it to the board of guardians, or to some magistrate, so that the patient might not die because he could not be provided by the medical officer with proper medicine.

House in Committee.