§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now a Second Time."
§ LORD NAAS
objected to a Bill of this importance being brought in at so late an hour, without some explanation being given. He could not help expressing some surprise that the right hon. the Irish Secretary had not prefaced the Motion by any statement. Medical relief was afforded in Ireland in 352 two modes—by the administration of the poor-law, and the establishment of dispensaries and institutions of that description, which were supported by voluntary contributions. He was anxious to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman which of these principles he regarded as the most effective and the least expensive.
§ SIR. W. SOMERVILLE
said, that his reason for simply moving the second reading of the Bill was, that he understood some hon. Gentlemen intended to object to the principle of the measure, and he was anxious to reserve his observations until he had heard their remarks, otherwise he assured his noble Friend that he would not have made that Motion without a statement. He begged to say that he was anxious that the Bill should be read a second time that night, if possible, in order to enable him to get it into Committee pro formâ., for the purpose of introducing a number of alterations. It was perhaps unnecessary to enter at any length into what he might call the demerits of the system existing of medical charities in Ireland. He believed there was no Gentleman who had paid any attention to the subject who was not convinced that it was unsatisfactory in every way; that it was at once unequal and expensive; that the expense, instead of pressing equally on rich and poor, pressed unequally on both. He intended to remedy these evils by appointing a central board, and by placing the expenses on the poor-rates. It was sometimes said that the wishes of Irish Gentlemen were not attended to. Well, he submitted to any Gentleman who was familiar with the subject of medical charities since 1835 if there was one subject upon which a more unanimous opinion had been delivered than that there should exist a central superintendence with reference to medical charities? With reference to the proposed mode of supporting these charities, he assured hon. Members that there was no individual in the House who was more convinced than he was of the necessity of husbanding the resources of Ireland in every possible way, and avoiding, as far as possible, adding a single shilling to the rates of the country. He held in his hand the data and details which had led him to the conclusion that to place the support of the medical charities of Ireland on the poor-rates, would, instead of an expensive, he an economical change, and that even with reference to the hospitals, dispensaries, and infirmaries—or what he might 353 call the permanent charities of Ireland-there would be a saving of at least 20,000l. a year. It ought not to be forgotten that a portion of the present revenue of these charities was made up of subscriptions, but which could scarcely be called voluntary. Look at the amount subscribed for the dispensaries, where the contributions of the grand juries were compulsory, and look at the amount subscribed for infirmaries, where they were not. In the former case the subscriptions were considerable, while in the latter case they were of a very trifling amount indeed. He begged the House also to hear in mind that under the poor-rate one-half of the expense would only be paid by the occupying tenant, and the other half by the owner, who might be supposed fairly to represent those who at present paid subscriptions, or who at least ought to have paid them. If he took into account the support of the temporary medical charities in Ireland, which at present fell upon the poor-rates, during the prevalence of fevers and other epidemics, he could not reckon the annual saving which would accrue from this measure at less than 30,000l. or 40,000l. During the year 1848, the charges which fell upon the poor-rates for the erection and support of temporary fever hospitals and other medical charities amounted to upwards of 80,000l. By this Bill, however, it was provided that all the medical officers paid by a compulsory rate under its provisions should be bound to give the medical aid during such epidemics without any fresh payment. He hoped that hon. Members, however, would not look at the question altogether as a question of economy; because there was no question more worthy of favour and consideration than the support of the sick and destitute poor of Ireland. His noble Friend the Member for Kildare had asked him whether he thought the present or the proposed plan the least expensive. He answered, without hesitation, the proposed plan. It might be objected that this was too much of a medical Bill. If that was the case, let it be altered. He believed that a more highminded, honourable, and humane body of men than the medical practitioners of Ireland did not exist; but at the same time he had no desire to consult their interest exclusively in the matter. Believing that the Bill was sound in principle, he hoped the House would be kind enough to allow it to be read a second time, and if there were any exception to 354 the details, they would be considered in Committee.
SIR. D. NORREYS
wished that his right hon. Friend had proposed to take the second reading of the Bill pro formâ. The principle of the Bill, which introduced a general central board, to superintend the charities of Ireland, was one of the most objectionable that could be devised. If it was to be independent of the Poor Law Commissioners, collisions would be sure to ensue; but if not independent, then he did not see why a separate board should be appointed.
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
said, there was but one opinion as to the expediency of making material alterations in the existing system of medical relief; but the Bill as it stood was open to very serious objections. His right hon. Friend proposed himself to introduce alterations into the measure, showing that he did not quite approve of it himself. He, therefore, thought it should be withdrawn, and a new measure introduced, particularly as if the second reading were now agreed to, they would be precluded from discussing its principle.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, hon. Gentlemen would not he deprived of an opportunity of discussing the merits of the Bill by consenting to its second reading, and its committal pro formâ. If it was the general opinion, as it appeared to be, that amendment was required, it would be advisable to consent to the second reading, and hereafter to make such alterations in the bill as might be deemed expedient.
§ VISCOUNT BERNARD
thought the question of medical charities of Ireland should be settled as speedily as possible. Great inconvenience resulted from the present anomalous position of those charities.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for To-morrow.