HC Deb 02 July 1851 vol 118 cc119-24

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee; Mr. Bernal in the Chair.

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Appointment of Inspectors).


moved that the medical inspectors should be practitioners of at least ten years' standing, instead of seven years', as proposed.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 35, after the word "being," to insert the word "practising."


did not think the Amendment would be an improvement, or, indeed, that it was so well calculated to secure efficient inspectors.

Question put, "That the word 'practising' be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 51; Noes 44: Majority 7.

Clause, as amended, agreed to; as were Clause 3 to Clause 5 inclusive.

Clause 6, which empowers the Commissioners to divide a union into medical districts.


moved the omission of the words which empowered the Poor Law Commissioners, as they saw occasion from time to time, to regulate the amount of salaries or allowances payable to the medical officers, and the time and mode of payment thereof.

After some conversation, this Amendment was withdrawn.


moved an Amendment giving the Boards of Guardians, in certain cases, a power of appeal to the Lord Lieutenant in Council against the division of districts effected by the Poor Law Commissioners.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 18, after the word "necessary," to insert the words "subject to an appeal in Council as hereinafter provided."


said, there were so many Amendments on this Clause that perhaps the best way would be to move that it be expunged altogether.


said, he had endeavoured so to frame the Clause as to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite. He thought it desirable that the Commissioners should have the same power under this Bill as they had with reference to the administration of the Poor Law generally.


defended the Clause as it stood, on the ground that it would work in the most satisfactory manner. The Amendment now proposed would look like a distrust of the Poor Law Commissioners.


thought they had had too much of the Lord Lieutenant.


said, if the hon. Gentlemen who represented Ireland considered this appeal to the Lord Lieutenant in Council necessary, the Committee would doubtless accede to the proposition; but for his own part he could not see that the result of such would be satisfactory.


supported the proposition of appeal, because the experience of the past showed that the appeals to the Commissioners were treated with perfect indifference.


said, that the appeal would not be resorted to except in cases where the great majority wished it.


hoped the Government would yield on this point. It was not surely reasonable that the Commissioners should have the power of making electoral districts without any appeal whatever. The Guardians were an elected and responsible body, and the Commissioners were not. He had seen the condition of Ireland last year, and he considered that such a measure as this was a complete farce. He could state, from his own obseraation, that in districts through which he passed the people were dying for want of food, or from diseases produced by starvation. The medical officers of districts were not empowered to order relief for the people in the shape of food; but here was a measure to give them as much jalap and Epsom salts as they wanted! He entertained different notions of Ireland until he visited the country; and he should say a more noble, generous-hearted, and industrious people did not exist; but they were badly legislated for. The fact was, that the Bill did not give medical men any power to order such food as might be requisite for the sick poor; and he did not think, therefore, that it would be attended with any practical benefit. He had been told last year, by a Guardian of the poor in Ireland, that in the previous summer, between the 18th of June and the 3rd of October, 1,100 persons perished in the workhouse at Listowell, and that they were nearly all taken into the house in a dying state from starvation. He thought, therefore, that medical officers should have the power of ordering food and nourishment for the people when they thought it necessary.


said, that what the people of Ireland wanted was efficient control over an arbitrary hoard with irresponsible powers. In cases of abuse or misuse of power, it was absolutely necessary that there should be an ultimate appeal to the Lord Lieutenant in Council.


wished to know what would be the expense of those appeals, and who were to pay the costs.


apprehended that the Guardians would have to pay the costs, which would not be as great as hon. Gentlemen seemed to think.


said, that as the law at present stood, the Guardians could not pay the costs out of the rates.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 70: Majority 12.


thought this Bill would invest the Commissioners with tremendous powers, giving them authority to appoint local officers in each district. It was a perfect farce to pretend that the Bill would be carried out by local government, for it took away all control from the ratepayers. He moved to strike out the word "number" from the 30th line of the Clause, which, as it stood, gave the Commissioners unlimited discretion as to the number of local officers.

Amendment proposed, in line 30 to leave out the words "Number and."


did not pity the Irish Gentlemen. It was all their own fault. They had parted with the power to legislate for their own country and affairs; and it was foretold them what would be the consequence. The Government were about to take all control in local affairs from the country gentlemen. The condition of Ireland was daily becoming so degraded that no gentleman would be found resident there in a few years. Its revenues were expended by absentees in this country; and its Crown rents applied in beautifying London. Had they a Legislature of their own, no such proceedings would be sanctioned. Whilst he lived he would never cease to denounce these things; and doubtless the day would come—he hoped not in his time—when those millions of the bone and sinew that were being expatriated to America would lift their arms against this country, whose legislation impoverished and disinherited them.


said, that in promoting this Bill, their object was to give relief to the poor of Ireland. He was surprised at the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. H. Herbert) complaining of the powers which this clause gave. No new powers were given by the clause.


said, that the dispensaries in Ireland were conducted under local administration; but this clause proposed to give the Commissioners of Poor Laws the whole control over them, both as regarded salaries and numbers. There would be no end of extravagance and mismanagement under such a system.


hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland would reconsider the clause: He trusted the word "number" would he left out of the Clause. At present dispensaries were generally superintended by one medical gentleman.


thought that local authorities should not be destroyed where they existed, and should even be Created where they did not exist. Above all, he did hot think that the central authority should have the power of regulating salaries and allowances.


said, he did not object to the Poor Law Commissioners being empowered to decide upon the qualifications of the medical officers; but they were not willing to entrust the Commissioners with the power to decide what should be the number of medical officers in each Union.


said, the operations of the Commissioners of Health in Dublin were a sample of the evils which might be expected to flow from giving the Commissioners the power to decide upon the number of medical officers necessary for the poor-law districts throughout Ireland. He believed that if they were entrusted with such a power, a door would be opened to gross jobbing.


thought this Clause had been much misunderstood. He could not account for the jealousy which seemed to be entertained against the appointment of medical officers by the Poor Law Commissioners. He thought that if they empowered the Commissioners to appoint these officers, it would be wise to leave the Commissioners to say what should be the precise number In particular districts, inasmuch as in times of disease it might be found necessary to increase their number, and at others it might be desirable to assign at least two districts to one medical officer.


thought that the word "number" should be retained in the Clause, and the power of appointment vested in the Commissioners, who were responsible for their conduct to that House. He found the poor of Ballinasloe, of Kilrush, Enntistymon, and Ennis, so badly treated, that he thought it best for the poor to have the power vested in the Commissioners.


thought that the power should rest with the Guardians, on the principle that taxation and representation should go together. He thought the persons who were best qualified to form a correct opinion as to the medical necessities of the district, were those who had to pay the rates.


said, his opinion was that the whole power should rest with the Guardians; but the Committed having already decided that the Commissioners should have the arrangement of the medical districts, he considered it would be wrong to limit them as to the number of medical officers.


supported the Clause because the Commissioners had the power of naming the districts, otherwise he should have preferred to vest the power in the guardians.


said, that his experience led him to believe that it would be more economical, and would be safer td vest this power in the hands of the Commissioners. If it were left in the hands of the local board, the chances were that they would not make a provision which would be sufficient for an emergency, although it might be for ordinary cases.


said, that there were evils in the present system; but those evils would be aggravated fourfold by this Bill.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 44: Majority 13.

House resumed.

Committee report progress.

The House adjourned at six minutes before Six o'clock.