HC Deb 07 August 1866 vol 184 cc2135-7

said, he wished to ask the President of the Poor Law Board, Whether there would be any objection to lay before the House Copies of the Correspondence between Mr. Hart and the Poor Law Board, and the Poor Law Board and the Shoreditch Guardians, as to the complaints of Edward Wynne, an inmate, concerning cruelty alleged to have been committed in the infirmary of the Shore-ditch Workhouse; and also, whether he proposes to hold an official inquiry touching those complaints, seeing that no satisfactory investigation has been made into them by the Board of Guardians?


said, with reference to the subject to which the hon. Gentleman called his attention, the correspondence was in progress at the time he (Mr. Hardy) came to the Poor Law Board. As he thought the House would like to hear the circumstances of the cases involved, he would state them as briefly as he could. It appeared that a pauper, whilst an inmate of the workhouse, wrote a letter to a local paper in Shoreditch, which letter contained an account of three cases of alleged cruelty which had taken place in the workhouse. The one was the case of a woman who, it was stated, had been left suffering from the pains of labour, standing for an unreasonable time at the door before she was taken into the ward. The second was the case of a man who was described as being left with insufficient clothing, and kept sitting up at a time when he ought to have been in bed. The third appeared to be the most serious case of any. It was that of a man who it was alleged had been exceedingly ill-used and struck by a stick by the wardsman on account of his filthy habits. Immediately after the publication of this letter it appeared that Mr. Hart called the attention of the Poor Law Board to the statements contained therein. A letter was accordingly written to the Poor Law Guardians requesting them to institute inquiries into the truth of these allegations. The Guardians did institute such inquiry, and had Edward Wynne brought before them. On being asked certain questions regarding his statements, Wynne appeared to a certain extent to decline giving information as to some of those cases. In respect to the woman referred to, as the matter occurred two years ago, it was found impossible to identify the case. In respect to the man said to have been kept sitting up in a chair without proper clothing, it was proved that the medical officers had recommended that particular treatment in order to prevent him getting bed sores; and that he had a rug on his shoulders which had accidently fallen off, and was seen lying beside him. In respect to the third case, the circumstances were somewhat different. When his (Mr. Hardy's) attention was first called to it he directed an inquiry to take place respecting it. He had seen the evidence that morning, and it seemed to him, upon the admission of the wards-man himself, that he did use harsh treatment to the man in question, being provoked to do so by his extremely filthy habits. He (Mr. Hardy), therefore, thought it is duty to write a letter to the Guardians, calling their attention to his conduct, and expressing the opinion that he was not a fit person to be intrusted with the care of others. With respect to the question of the hon. Gentleman as to whether lie (Mr. Hardy) proposed to hold an official inquiry touching those complaints, it should be recollected that the circumstances alluded to took place in 1864, when the Guardians had themselves inquired into them, but had experienced great difficulty in identifying those transactions. There had been no complaint made by the supposed injured parties, and it was only in consequence of the publication of the letter of the man Wynne that the attention of the authorities had been called to those transactions. It must be also borne in mind that the Guardians who were in office two years ago were not the Guardians now in office. It seemed to him therefore that an official investigation into the cases would now be wholly unnecessary. With respect to the papers asked for, if the hon. Gentleman thought them worth having they would be produced. At the same time, he (Mr. Hardy) did not think that it would be wise to load the table with a correspondence which would lead to no useful result.