HC Deb 14 July 1851 vol 118 cc649-56

On Question that Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair for the purpose of going into Committee of Supply,


said, that as the forms of the House prevented more than one Motion being brought forward as an Amendment upon going into Committee of Supply, he would waive the series of Resolutions which stood in his name on the Notice Paper, and bring forward, with the concurrence of the hon. Baronet the Member for Clare (Sir L. O'Brien), the Motion which stood in that hon. Member's name on the Paper with respect to the Dublin hospitals. He understood that the determination of the Government to reduce the grant formerly allowed, was founded on the report of a person who was formerly an officer in the Chief Secretary for Ireland's office, had betrayed his trust and fled to America, and was now published in the Hue and Cry. Yet it was on the evidence of such a person alone that the charitable institutions of Dublin were to be destroyed by the withdrawal of the grants. The Irish Members were almost unanimous on this subject; and he himself that day had had the honour of attending as a member of a deputation which waited upon the Premier to represent the evil of withdrawing these grants; and an address to the same effect, signed by ninety-four Irish Members of Parliament, and by twelve English Members connected by property in Ireland, was presented by the deputation to the noble Lord. Yet not a particle of attention was paid to their remonstrance; but they were drily told by the Premier that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would explain in Committee of Supply what the Government intended to do. Not only the Irish Members, but all the public boards in Dublin, including the Dublin Corporation, had petitioned against the withdrawal of this grant. It was said it was to be withdrawn, because there were no such grants to hospitals in England. The hospitals in Dublin were differently situated from those in England, the latter having Royal grants and munificent endowments, which stood to them in the place of the Parliamentary grants which were hitherto enjoyed by the hospitals of Dublin. These hospitals were very useful to classes which received no relief under the Poor Law Act; and industrious artisans and labourers, reduced to destitution from temporary sickness, derived succour from them without undergoing the degradation of becoming inmates of the workhouse. But if the present grants were withdrawn, Dublin would not be able to bear the additional charge, being already too distressed by the withdrawal of the Irish nobility and gentry from that capital on account of the Act of Union; and therefore the hospitals would have to be closed. The Richmond and the Hardwicke Hospital, he understood, were to be spared, on the ground that they were important schools of surgery and medicine, and were, in fact, a kind of nursery for providing the Army and Navy with some of the best medical practitioners of whom the country boasts. But all the Dublin hospitals were valuable schools of medicine, and they were all, without exception, nurseries for supplying these services; and therefore they ought not to draw any distinction between them. The Lying-in Hospital more than fifteen years ago derived 1,000l. from a promenade on its grounds, used by the public on Sundays; but on a representation from the Government against what they viewed as a profanation of the Sabbath, the governors discontinued the promenade, almost on the pledge that the grant from Parliament would be continued. Their income had also been diminished 300l. by discontinuing the use of their vaults for the storing of East India sugar, which was now sent to the Custom House. Looking at these things, he doubted whether Ireland, generally, had derived any benefit from the Act of Union; at all events, it had seriously injured Dublin, where the Irish Legislature held its sittings. Of this benefit it had been deprived, while increased numbers of poor sought relief in its hospitals. Not a year passed but the Government did something to impoverish Ireland; this, he conceived, was the last thing of which they could deprive that unhappy country. The Irish representatives were unanimous in favour of his Resolution; all but six, who were not in London, and four who held office, had signed the memorial he had referred to. But for the unfortunate Act of Union, that vote would have been granted by the Irish Legislature without a dissentient voice. But now, after all these diminutions, the Government must deal a finishing stroke at this excellent charity by bleeding it to death, at the rate of an annual reduction of ten per cent from the grant. A breach of faith had been committed; and if this reduction went on, it would require very few years to extinguish these charities altogether. He hoped the House, however, would pause in such an impolitic and inhuman career, and that it would agree to the Motion which he had to propose.

Amendment proposed— To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'considering the public importance of maintaining as National Institutions the very valuable Schools of Medicine in Ireland, which have derived their chief efficiency from the instruction afforded by the Dublin Hospitals, to the support of which for a long series of years Parliament has contributed, it is unjust and impolitic to reduce the amount of the annual Grant which was allowed in 1848 and the preceding years to those Hospitals,' instead thereof.


seconded the Motion, having been made the organ of a great number of the Irish Members, who were unanimous in strongly deprecating the abolition of these grants. At the Dublin hospitals no fewer than 250 students were educated at one time; and these students were sent out to the colonies, to the Army and Navy, and, in fact, to every part of the world; and not only did students come to Dublin from England and Scotland, but they came even from America and the Continental countries, so far and wide had the fame of Dublin as a school of medical science extended. It had also contributed 600 most valuable works to the medical literature of the empire; and not only were these hospitals invaluable as affording relief to the afflicted poor, but many of them had interesting museums and collections connected with them, forming a school of science and art in Dublin, which must inevitably fall into decay if their resources were abridged by Parliament. Upwards of 3,000 beds were provided in these hospitals open to the poor of all nations. The case of Dublin ought not altogether to be treated as that of an ordinary provincial town; because the former resident gentry of Ireland, who previously supported its charities, now took up their abode chiefly in London, and many of them subscribed liberally to the hospitals there; and therefore he thought it was no great claim to make upon the Parliament of this country to ask them to continue those grants which in the aggregate only amounted to 16,000l. Why, they spent as much as that upon one of their parks, and double that amount was voted for the British Museum; and although it was alleged that the poor who were accustomed to be relieved by these charities would be assisted from the poor-rates, yet it was clear that that could not be the fact, because the patients at these hospitals were of an entirely distinct class from absolute paupers. In conclusion, he appealed to the House with confidence, whether it was Worth while for so small a sum as 16,000l., to break up institutions of such inestimable advantage to the nation as he had stated.


said, he had thought this question had been decided; but as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Reynolds) had thought proper to raise it again, he would state the grounds why he could not accede to the proposal. If there were any reasons for acceding to it, they were not those the hon. Gentleman had offered to the House. The inference from his speech and Resolution was, that large grants had been made by the Irish Parliament to these hopitals, and that their withdrawal was an act of injustice. The case was not so. Of eighteen of these establishments now receiving Votes of money from the Imperial Parliament, five only received any Votes at all before the Union, for the other thirteen had been subsequently established. He had been reproached with want of readiness in attending to the wishes of Irish Members; but when he found them perfectly unanimous with regard to a Vote of money for Ireland, it did not necessarily follow that the grant should be made. The Committee on the Miscellaneous Estimates had recommended, by a large majority, the discontinuance of these Votes. The Irishmen on that Committee were for retaining them; but every other Member of the Committee was in favour of their discontinuance, as no grounds were alleged in their favour which did not equally apply to the hospitals of Edinburgh, Liverpool, and other places, where a very large proportion of Irish patients would be found, far more than the number of English patients in the hospitals of Dublin. So early as 1817 a Committee had objected to the continuance of these grants. One ground adverted to by the hon. Baronet (Sir L. O'Brien) was of considerable weight, that it was desirable to maintain a school of medicine in Dublin. With a view to maintain that school, the grant to the two large hospitals which constituted it would not be diminished, nor had any diminution whatever taken place in the grants to the Richmond and the Hardwicke Hospitals. Since the Estimates had been prepared, circumstances had occurred which rendered it probable that the grant to another of these institutions might be favourably considered. As similar grants were not made to the hospitals in other towns, he had not the slightest reason for differing from the opinion of the Committee which recommended their total abolition; but in reference to those which were valuable as a school of medicine, that was a reason for abstaining from further reduction.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had given the strangest reason in the world for withdrawing these grants. First, he said he would not grant what Irishmen asked because they were united; and then he said that the majority of the grants had been made by the Imperial Parliament, adding, however, a very good reason why it could not be otherwise, the hospitals did not exist before the Union. Of all times the present was the most inopportune to withdraw the grants from these hospitals. Ruin was staring the people of Ireland on all sides, and, consequently, voluntary contributions were out of the question.


said, it was true that grants were not made to similar institutions in this country, but he had ascertained that five of the great London hospitals had a revenue of 142,900l, but of that sum they only received 31,000l. in annual subscriptions, the remainder arising from the grants of the Crown in former times, and the gifts of private donors. If they refused the grant to the Dublin hospitals, they must either close them and shut up the medical schools, or support them by voluntary contribution amongst the citizens. The citizens of Dublin were already overburdened. Of 1,447 persons under medical treatment in the North Dublin Union, from the first of May to the first June, 688 were only connected with the county and city—the rest were strangers. He spoke upon public grounds, and for the purpose of maintaining the high character of the Dublin Medical School, and to prevent what he believed would be an unmitigated evil. Let there be an inquiry by a tribunal impartially selected, and he and the Irish Members would abide by the result of that inquiry, whatever it might be.


said, that, as he presided over the Committee to which reference had been made by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should say that, in curtailing these Votes, the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer was only acting in accordance with the views and opinions of that Committee. The Committee was of opinion that, in proportion as the grants from Government were increased, so did the voluntary subscriptions decline. He (Mr. V. Smith) could see nothing in the condition of Dublin different from that of Liverpool, or many other places, to justify them in granting these Votes. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir L. O'Brien) would have the House believe that the withdrawal of these grants would be destructive to medical science; but it was an abuse of public money to vote it for the purpose of propping up any particular charity, the necessity of which, moreover, had not been proved.


concurred in the general principle that annual votes of money for the support of charitable institutions were indefensible; but he asked the House to consider whether this case might not form an exception to the general rule. Although the sums hitherto voted might have been extremely small, the evils that would result from the withdrawal of such Votes might be very great. They must remember that the circumstances of Ireland differed materially from those of England; for in the former country there was not the law of settlement or the power of removal which existed here. It must also be recollected that within the last few years they had applied to Ireland, for the first time, the principle of the Poor Law, and had imposed upon that country, at a period of great distress, a very heavy burden of local taxation. It might, therefore, be a question whether the present time was well chosen for the withdrawal of these grants. He hoped that, at least, it would remain open to the Government to consider whether, instead of entirely withdrawing these Votes, a certain sum might not be given to the same institutions, and vested in the hands of trustees, which might be funded, the income continuing for ever after a portion of the funds of those hospitals. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was willing to make an exception in favour of hospitals serving as schools of surgery; and on the same ground he (Mr. S. Herbert) would recommend the maintenance of fever hospitals, which were especially necessary as schools of medicine in Ireland, fever being the national disease in that country. He was also strongly of opinion that it would be expedient to convert the annual grant into a permanent fund at ten or twelve years' purchase.


protested against the withdrawal of the grants as an injustice to Ireland, and denied that the Committee which recommended it represented the sense of the Irish Members. The question was whether the Irish were to be allowed, out of the enormous sums that arose from the Irish woods and forests, and from the surplus revenue that was transmitted to England, to contribute a certain sum from what was therefore their own money, to maintain medical schools in Ireland. He thought that they were very unfairly treated in this matter; for while this small Vote was refused to the medical establishments in Ireland, he found that the Government were about to propose a vote of 10,000l. for a medical museum in London. He hoped that his hon. Friend would bring this subject forward again as a specific question. The Government might depend upon it that the matter would not be allowed to rest until Ireland had obtained that justice which she had a right to demand.


said, that he should not call upon the House to divide, but should reserve to himself the right to bring the whole question again under the notice of the House at the early part of next Session.

[Notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. Mover of the Amendment, there were some "Noes" from the Opposition benches.]

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

The House divided:—Ayes 106; Noes 43: Majority 63.

Question again proposed.

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