HC Deb 20 June 1856 vol 142 cc1758-66

Order for Committe read; House in Committee.

Clause 3. (Appointment of Officers for Asylums heretofore made to be valid.)


called attention to the appointments which had been made under the old Act by the Lord Lieutenant. Some time ago the Lord Lieutenant had appointed a chaplain to the Belfast Lunatic Asylum, the legality of which appointment had been disputed, and the Court of Queen's Bench had decided it to be illegal. With regard to chaplains in asylums, he might say, that he did not think there ought to be any such appointments. He did not mean to say that lunatics should receive no spiritual consolation or religious instruction; but those were points which ought to be left to the judgment of the medical attendants and the governors. The Clause declared that appointments of officers to asylums heretofore made by the Lord Lieutenant should be valid, and he objected to it, because it set aside the judgment of the Queen's Bench; and he had therefore to move the insertion of the words, "save and except all such appointments as have been decided by the Court of Queen's Bench to have been illegal."


said, that the question how far chaplains were necessary in lunatic asylums at all was not raised by this Bill which was merely declaratory. The Lord Lieutenant had always been considered to have the appointment to offices in lunatic asylums in Ireland, and it was only when the question came before the Court of Queen's Bench that the legality of the appointments was disputed, and the decision given by the court showed that all such appointments were illegal. As all the appointments were made in good faith, and under the impression that they were legal, the clause proposed that the gentlemen holding the appointments should not be sufferers by the mistake that had been made. It would also place future appointments in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant. In reference to the appointment of chaplains at all for lunatic asylums, that was too large a question for him to enter upon on the present occasion.


said, that as representative of a borough in the county of Cork, he was an ex offcio governor of the Cork County Lunatic Asylum, and he felt that he should be in a very invidious position if this Bill passed, for it would make the governors responsible to the public for the management of the asylums, while it placed in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant the power of appointing as many officers with such salaries as he pleased without consulting the governors at all. He would not be the cat's-paw of the Lord Lieutenant or a jobbing Chief Secretary; for he thought that, when responsibility was imposed, it ought to be accompanied with power. He spoke the more freely on the subject because he did not for a moment believes the present Chief Secretary would ever be guilty of a job. If the Bill passed, he would never enter the walls of the County Lunatic Asylum again as a governor. The Amendment proposed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman was most reasonable, for it was a most indecent thing to take such a course as the Government had proposed, while the decision of the Queen's Bench remained un-reversed.


thought the hon. and learned Gentleman was wrong in supposing that he was an ex officio governor of the Cork County Lunatic Asylum in virtue of being a representative of a borough in the county. He believed the hon. and learned Gentleman owed his appointment to the Lord Lieutenant, who usually nominated the various county and borough members. There was no new principle introduced into this bill, its only object being to declare the power which the Lord Lieutenant had always exercised. If the clause were rejected, the lunatic asylums in Ireland would be left practically without any officers at all.


denied that the right hon. Gentleman had given a correct representation of the effect of the Bill. He also had his doubts as to the propriety of appointing chaplains for asylums. He knew one case where the Lord Lieutenant appointed three chaplains to an establishment where there were seven different sects of inmates. He thought it desirable that the decision of such questions should be left with the governors.


said, the only point to which the decision of the Queen's Bench went was the legality of the appointment of three chaplains to the Belfast Infirmary; and he wished to know whether the effect of this clause would be to give the Government power to confirm these appointments?


said, the effect of the Bill would be, not to give the Lord Lieutenant the power of confirming appointments already made, but actually to confer them. The Bill was rendered absolutely necessary by a recent decision in the Queen's Bench. He had never heard until that night that the governors of the asylums either had, or claimed to have, the power of appointing the officers.


thought the appointments were in the hands of the ratepayers, and that it had been usurped by the Lord Lieutenant. This Bill was not a declaratory Bill at all, but conferred upon the Lord Lieutenant powers which he never legally possessed. There was no reason why Irish gentlemen were not as competent as English gentlemen to manage such institutions.


could not vote against this clause, as its omission would cause the greatest confusion in Ireland, because it appeared that, as the matter now stood, the whole of the appointments were illegal. Hence the necessity of a retrospective clause declaring the appointments valid. But along with this he wished to see an attempt to assimilate the government of these institutions to that which prevailed in England, by vesting all future appointments in the governors.


said, the Amendment would entirely nullify the clause, except so far as related to the three chaplains of the Belfast Asylum. He should prefer an Amendment which stood on the paper, and would be afterwards proposed. He was favourable to the appointment of the matron, manager, and chaplain being vested in the Lord Lieutenant.


said that the law, in order to be acceptable should, as far as possible, be assimilated to the law of England by leaving the whole of the local appointments in the hands of the governors, who were themselves nominated by the Lord Lieutenant. If the Government would agree, that in those cases in which the governors of the asylums should think proper to appoint chaplains, the Lord Lieutenant, with their concurrence, should have the power of making such appointments, he should offer no objection to that course. When the local governors were of opinion that the appointment of chaplains would be injurious rather than otherwise, he must contend that the appointments ought not to be made.


said, that the Lord Lieutenant had hitherto exercised the power of appointing matrons, and he did not know of a single instance in which a matron so appointed had been complained of.


said, that a decision had been taken of the highest court of judicature in Ireland, the Court of Queen's Bench, and he did not think it would be very decorous of the House to override that decision. He should, therefore, support the Amendment of his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Dunne). It was said to be very hard for certain parties to lose their salaries, but nothing had been said of the hardship upon those who had to pay those salaries without getting equivalent services performed.


said, he must differ from his colleague, as he believed the appointments by the Lord Lieutenant had proved satisfactory in all cases.


said, he must object to ex post facto legislation in any shape.


said, that his acquaintance with matrons was not so extensive as that of many other hon. Members who had undertaken to speak in their favour. But he knew one matron—the matron of Mullingar—and she had long been considered the nuisance of the establishment.


objected to the words in the preamble of the Bill, "that doubts had arisen" as to the validity of these appointments, when the Court of Queen's Bench had declared them invalid, and there could, therefore, be no doubt as to their invalidity.


said, that the Court of Queen's Bench had merely refused its order to compel the governors to pay the salaries of chaplains. The Court threw out words to the effect that the appointments were not authorised by law, but nothing more. The money had been given out of the public funds to the governors for the payment of those salaries, but notwithstanding that they had refused to pay.


explained that it was compulsory upon the governors to have the presentment made, and that the money had been paid into Court, and there remained.


did not see with what propriety or justice they could give the appointment of the officers of the asylums to the Lord Lieutenant instead of to the ratepayers.

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

The Committee divided:—Ayes 82; Noes 81: Majority 1.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 4,

MR. DAVISON moved the insertion of certain words, the effect of which would be to enact that the governors of the asylum should with the approbation of the Lord Lieutenant and Council, fix and determine from time to time the number and description of officers to be appointed.


complained that the Amendment was at variance with the spirit of the Bill.


thought otherwise, and submitted that it was a very proper matter for the Committee to determine whether the administration of these institutions should be vested altogether in the Lord Lieutenant or whether the local authorities also should have a voice in it. The question was, whether Ireland was to receive the benefit of the old English principle of local self-government or was to remain under the despotic system of centralisation? The governors of county lunatic asylums in England appointed their own officers and fixed their salaries, and why should Ireland not have the advantage of the same system? In the name of common sense, let Irishmen be told whether they could or could not be trusted with the powers of local management that were enjoyed in the rest of the United Kingdom. He was one of the governors of the Cork Lunatic Asylum, hut if this Bill passed into law he declared that he should never again enter into the boardroom of that institution. He would not consent to bear the odium of acts over which he had no control. He must be intrusted with more than a nominal power if he was to be responsible to the ratepayers. The Cork Lunatic Asylum was built by a Government department at double the cost which would have been necessary if the matter had been left in the hands of local managers; and, indeed, so profligate was the expenditure found to have been, that the Government were compelled to refund a considerable sum to the county. The Chief Secretary for Ireland talked of granting the local bodies the right to manage their own affairs; but then he made lunatic asylums an exception to this rule; he made another exception in the case of prisons; in short, every practical question was in turn to constitute an exception; and all that the people of Ireland had was the admission of a barren abstract principle. Bill after Bill was brought in after midnight by the Government, frittering away the right of self-government in Ireland, and Irish Members were obliged to fight the battle against centralisation on matters of detail. He had spoken, he confessed, with some warmth, but if a similar injustice were about to be practised upon England, he was sure the English Members would evince still greater indignation.


thought there was much force in the observations of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Butt), and that there was too great a tendency exhibited by the Government of Ireland to encroach upon and absorb the powers which ought to be vested in the various local bodies. The Government had no claim to make the appointments under discussion, as the establishments to which the Bill referred were entirely supported from the rates raised in each district. The Amendment was, therefore, perfectly reasonable, and he trusted the Committee would preserve the rights of the ratepayers in opposition to the principle of centralisation.


regarded the remarks of the last two speakers as inapplicable to Clause 4. They should have been reserved for the discussion upon next clause. It would, he thought, be much better if the central authority stated what establishment each asylum should have, and that the governors should fill up the different appointments.


said, the number of medical officers, chaplains, &c. was regulated by Act of Parliament.


said, this clause would enable the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to appoint such officers or servants of lunatic asylums as he thought fit, and to fix the salaries they were to receive, and the ratepayers would have no security that that power would be exercised with any regard to uniformity or economy. He would support the Amendment of his hon. Friend, which would vest the appointment of officers jointly in the Lord Lieutenant and the boards of governors.


wished to remind the Committee that, although, according to the terms of the clause, the appointment of officers was given to the Lord Lieutenant and Council, their selection would practically rest with two inspectors of lunatic asylums. He certainly thought that the governors of lunatic asylums, in the various localities, would be far better able than the inspectors to judge what officers ought to be appointed.


observed, that in England a certain degree of uniformity with regard to the appointment of officers of lunatic asylums was insured by the provisions of an Act of Parliament; but it was proposed that in Ireland the power of making such appointments should be vested in the Lord Lieutenant arid Council, who, he thought, should not be the sole and exclusive judges upon such a matter. At the same time, he did not think it quite safe that the board of governors should have the entire control, as in some cases they might refuse to act.


had not the slightest objection to fix, by Act of Parliament, what officers should be appointed in lunatic asylums, leaving it to the governors to select such officers; but he thought the powers which this measure proposed to delegate to the Lord Lieutenant were inconsistent with the principles of free government. The real question was, whether a system of central or of local government was to be established in Ireland.


said, that in England the governors of lunatic asylums were appointed by the courts of quarter sessions, and if the power of selecting the officers of such asylums was to be given to the lords lieutenants of counties—who were likely to be far better acquainted with the circumstances of their respective districts than the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland could be with the circumstances of the country over which he exercised authority—he believed the governors would at once resign their positions.


considered that all these appointments ought to rest in the governors, subject to the approval of the Lord Lieutenant.


said, that the House seemed to lose sight of the fact that the care and treatment of the lunatics should be necessarily vested in persons of great experience; and he had yet to learn that boards of governors were the fittest persons to judge of their capability; but the feeling of the House being evidently in favour of the Amendment, the Government would consent to it.

Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.

Clause 7, referring to the appointment of chaplains, struck out.

On Clause 8,

On the Motion of Sir GEORGE GREY, a provision was inserted, vesting the appointment and removal of all officers in each asylum in the governors, subject to the approval of the Lord Lieutenant and Council.

The remaining clauses were agreed to.

House resumed. Bill reported, as amended.