§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. G. Hardy.)
§ VISCOUNT ENFIELD
said, that speaking on behalf of a large constituency which would be affected by its provisions, he fully justified the President of the Poor Law Board in dealing with the question. Referring to The Lancet Commissioner's Reports, he earnestly wished to see increased cubical space provided in workhouse infirmaries. In coming to the consideration of any changes in the administration of the Poor Law in the metropolitan district, the House had to deal with a very 747 strong impression on the public mind that some sweeping reform was required; whilst, on the other hand, they must remember that the parochial mind was very sensitive on the subject of local self-government. He gave credit to the right hon. Gentleman for the impartial Committee which had been appointed to inquire into the subject, and was fully convinced that the state of the workhouses required immediate attention, and that some additional buildings were requisite. He thought some further information was desirable as to the distinction between the cases of lunatics to be removed to county and separate asylums, The separate asylums had been recommended by the Lunacy Commissioners in 1859; but he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would inform him how he proposed to distinguish between those cases which were now sent to the county asylums and those for which he proposed to provide separate asylums. With regard to cases of fever and small pox, there were only two institutions in the metropolis where these cases were treated. It was now proposed to establish two institutions on the north and two on the south side of the Thames; but he was afraid that the extraordinary prices demanded for laud around London would considerably increase the difficulties of carrying out the measure. With respect to the provision of separate asylums for various classes of the sick poor, he believed the Bill carried out the recommendations of the Commissioners of 1834. With regard to the removal of children from the workhouses to district schools, the District School Act of 1844 proposed that they should be so removed, and there was no part of any scheme for the improvement of workhouses more useful than that. He gathered from the Bill itself that the managers would be nominated by the existing Boards of Guardians, together with certain gentlemen who should be appointed by the Poor Law Board. He approved of the provision that the drugs and medicines should be provided by the districts. At present there were only five unions in the metropolis which provided expensive medicines at their own cost, and it was unreasonable to expect that the surgeons receiving small salaries should themselves provide those drugs and medicines. He now approached the financial part of the question. He was well aware of the extraordinary difficulties which hampered the subject, and of the pressure which had 748 been put on the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) for the equalization of the poor rates throughout the metropolis. He would not give full expression to his own views upon this important subject—it might be imprudent just now; but he would say that in going as far as the right hon. Gentleman had done, he had not gone one bit further than public opinion was ready to support him; and if at a future time he saw his way to further progress in the same direction, he would find that waste, bad management, and want of responsibility would vanish, and with them the bugbear of centralization. If the whole metropolis was obliged to pay for the expense of lunatics, fever and small pox patients, children's schools, fees for birth and death registration, vaccination, and other such matters, more than half the battle was already fought. So far as the right hon. Gentleman proposed to go, he gave him his most cordial and hearty support. He also approved of the arrangement by which the money was to be paid from the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. A few years ago the Metropolitan Board of Works objected to be receivers of the fund raised for the support of the casual poor, and perhaps the plan contemplated by this Bill was the better. There was one portion of the Bill, however, which might meet with some opposition—namely, the repeal of the local Acts, which were, he believed, ten in number. Now, there must be something radically wrong in a system under which, year after year, unseemly contests arose between the Poor Law Board and the parishes under local Acts, which refused to recognise the authority of the Central Board, and were perhaps unable to carry into effect those improvements which the Central Board and public opinion pressed upon them. He was afraid that some opposition would be made to that part of the Bill which dealt with the parishes under those local Acts, but he would give it his support. In conclusion, he earnestly trusted that a measure of this paramount importance would be pressed forward, not with undue haste, but with all possible despatch. The question was too important to brook delay. Other triumphs might be won in this House, but the triumph of the right hon. Gentleman, if he carried this Bill, over poverty, disease, misery, and affliction would be one well worthy of the previous reputation he had won; and so far as his humble support was concerned, he promised 749 that he would give it most sincerely and cordially to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, that the metropolis was much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) for introducing this Bill, and so far as it went he (Mr. Locke) would give it his most earnest support. There was one point, however, where the right hon. Gentleman might have gone a little farther, and that was with regard to building the extra asylums in certain portions of the metropolis called districts. It would very frequently, and must indeed generally happen, that those districts would be composed either of rich parishes or of extremely poor ones. If they were composed of rich parishes it was quite obvious that they would be very well able to erect them at their own expense, and feel it no great burden. But let them take another district—the one, for instance, in which he was principally interested on the other side of the water. He presumed that Lambeth and Southwark, or portions of those two boroughs, would be united together to form a district, which would be called upon to erect these new buildings at its own expense. He thought, and the opinion was entertained by the guardians and authorities in the poorer localities, that the expense of erecting these buildings should be borne by the common fund. The Bill, however, provided that the cost should be borne by the parishes forming the district, although it went on to say that after the asylums were built certain expenses might be borne by the common fund. The Bill further provided, by the 67th clause, that the expense of treating for small pox and fever in the hospitals should be borne by the common fund. He thought that provision should extend to all forms of disease, and he did not see why any distinction should be made between persons suffering from fever or small pox, and persons suffering from any other diseases. The same remark applied to the medicines; and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to take those points into his consideration. Objection had been taken to the proposal as to the introduction of guardians not elected by the ratepayers, he had received a deputation on that subject, and some gentlemen of great experience assured him that it would not be possible in many parishes to select persons, whether magistrates or otherwise, rated to the amount of £100. It was therefore suggested that a £50 rating would be sufficiently high. With 750 regard to magistrates, they were at present ex officio guardians, and it was suggested that where there might not be a sufficient number in the parish there might in the district, and that the district might be made available for their selection. As bad been well stated by the noble Lord, public opinion was favourable to a larger measure than the present, and he hoped the common fund would not be so restricted in its operation as was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. Taken as a whole, he approved of the Bill; but he was sure that if the measure were extended it would meet with the approval of the metropolis generally.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LAWRENCE
said, he had no desire to oppose the Bill, but he wished to point out one or two imperfections contained in it. He saw that the City of London Union would have to pay £27,000 to the common fund, which was nearly 4d. in the pound, and the City of London had a right to complain that while it had lately re-assessed its property to a very high amount, there where twenty-four parishes in the metropolis which had not been re-assessed for several years, and that, of course, involved a much larger payment from those unions and parishes which had been re-assessed very lately. In those twenty-four parishes the total rating amounted to £9,134,800, which represented three-fifths of the whole rating of the metropolis, which amounted to £14,730,200. The whole metropolis should be fairly assessed, so that every part should bear its own fair proportion, He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) on having framed a measure which would mitigate the pressure which now rested on the poorer districts, but predicted that the principle of a more equal apportionment of the poor rates would have to be carried further. Statistics showed that only 14 per cent of the pauperism of the country attached to the land, and that 36 per cent was traceable to domestic servants. It was in the West End where this class were most largely employed, yet the burden of their support, when they were obliged to resort to parochial relief, mainly fell on the poorer districts. When the new Poor Law passed, it was with the idea of crushing out poverty and pauperism throughout the country. It was found, however, that with increase of prosperity and all the appliances that administered to the comfort and luxury of a people, 751 there must always be poor, and he hoped that by the relaxations indicated in this measure, that class would be better cared for than they had hitherto been. The separation of the sick, who were only temporarily in the workhouse, from the other inmates, would be a great benefit to the masses of the poor of the metropolis.
§ MR. HARVEY LEWIS
said, he must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman who had brought this measure forward, although there were several objections to the measure itself. It destroyed in a great measure the principle of local self-government, and it might have the effect of inducing a great amount of carelessness on the part of those who had hitherto been careful in looking after the poor. There was also this danger to be apprehended in increasing the taxation, that the poorer ratepayers who were only just able now to keep their heads above water, and, by great exertion, to pay their rates, might be brought down to the level of paupers themselves. He believed it was the fact that there were a great number of ratepayers at this moment who were wholly unable to pay their rates. In the borough which he represented there was necessarily a considerable amount of pauperism, and though many of the residents were, no doubt, in affluent circumstances, there were many ratepayers who, if the rates were increased, though only to a slight extent, would be reduced to the condition of paupers. The Bill provided in one of its sections for the reception of the sick and infirm and other classes of the poor into the asylum. It struck him that that provision was exceedingly elastic, and that there was no reason why any of the poor, even the able-bodied, should not come in under the designation of "other classes." As to the gentlemen to be appointed to act with the guardians, he quite agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) that the proposal for nominee guardians was objectionable, and that the qualification might be reduced to £50 with greater likelihood of finding persons able and willing to undertake the duties of guardian. As a rule, the persons who were most likely to take an interest in the administration of the Poor Law did not live in houses rated at £100 a year. What he feared was, that if the Poor Law Board added one-third to the number of the guardians one of two things might happen: either that parties might be selected who would not attend at all; or, if they did so, they would create, by reason of their 752 being nominees of the Poor Law Board, so much jealousy as against themselves, that they might be induced to act as a compact body, and they would then rule things very much as they liked, and the guardians, who were elected by the ratepayers, would take very little trouble upon themselves. He feared that the expense of the measure would be considerable. He had to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy to a deputation which waited upon him yesterday, and trusted that their representations would have his best attention.
said, that the House seemed so nearly agreed as to the merits of the Bill, that it would seem a work of supererogation to continue the discussion for any length of time. At the same time, having had the honour of being concerned with the Poor Law Board for some four or five years, it appeared to him the right hon. Gentleman opposite had done a great work in a very good manner. The Bill was one that was very much required. Were he disposed to enter into the details—which he was not, as the present did not appear to him to be the proper time to do so—he would allude for one moment to the multiplicity of Boards, and suggest whether there might riot be a greater simplicity of management. If the Boards were not quite so numerous—if, in fact, they were more of a Central Board—he would say that the Bill itself was, in the main, an admirable Bill. He did not take entirely the views of one or two hon. Gentlemen who had preceded him in the discussion upon even some of the details, and he could only assure the right hon. Gentleman opposite that, as far as his influence went, he should have great pleasure in working with him the Bill through Committee, and doing all he could to support it.
said, that the parish with which he was connected—St. George's, Hanover Square—was one of the parishes under local Acts, but the local authorities did not intend to offer the slightest opposition to the Bill. The Board of that parish had, he thought, done their duty very well, but they could not expect exceptional legislation in their favour. The parish had set the example of adding to their burdens, having raised their assessment because it was not so high as it ought to be. He suggested that, under the existing system, sick casual poor were thrown on parish rates, who ought to be brought on to the common fund. He 753 thought that his right hon. Friend had decided on a very just medium, and he should give a hearty support to the measure. He feared, however, from the largo number of offices and buildings required, that the administration expenses would be larger than his right hon. Friend supposed.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would include all the sick and insane poor in the common fund. Pauperism only should be dealt with by local rates. As to fever cases, it would be well to remember that they were better treated separately in huts, isolated from hospitals and infirmaries, than where large numbers were congregated together. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that 850 cubic feet of space was necessary for each individual. If so, he imagined there would be only room for 14,000 instead of 20,000 in these London workhouses. One Board for the uniform management of the sick poor in London, just as the general drainage, &c, of London was placed under the Metropolitan Board of Works, would be preferable to the numerous local Boards provided by the Bill. That was the only plan for introducing economy and good management. He must unite in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman in undertaking a very difficult and important subject, and he trusted that in Committee they would make the Bill work satisfactorily.
§ MR. THOMAS CHAMBERS
said, he must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the singular clearness and candour of the speech with which he had introduced the Bill, and he was glad to find that the Poor Law Board was so well represented on both sides of the House. He was, however, unable to give the measure his entire approval. He entirely approved of the proposal to separate from the mass of paupers those who were suffering from fever or small pox, or imbecility or insanity; but he could not give his support to that portion of the Bill which would subvert the whole of the present mode of conducting the Poor Law system in the metropolis. From the right hon. Gentleman's speech on introducing the Bill the inference might have been drawn that no such measure was required. The Commission of 1864 did not Report in favour of such a measure, but sanctioned the course followed during the last thirty years for the management of these affairs. Although the public mind had been naturally excited by the circumstances which had lately oc- 754 curred in four of these London unions, yet the right hon. Gentleman thought it highly creditable that only four cases could be cited which had called down, and very properly so, the public indignation. If a very few isolated cases of that kind in thirty years were to justify them in condemning the present system as administered by the local Boards of Guardians, as good grounds could easily be discovered for condemning the Central Board itself. For example, had not the Central Board reprimanded the guardians at Croydon for appointing nurses to attend the sick? He had never heard any argument adduced in favour of the proposal for empowering the Poor Law Board to nominate guardians of the poor who were to sit in conjunction with the elected guardians. The Bill would take the management of the poor out of the hands of the guardians for the purpose of intrusting it to a Central Board; but that, to say the least, would be a mere experiment, and many persons well acquainted with the subject doubted very much whether that experiment would prove successful. Those people believed that the introduction of nominated guardians would not work satisfactorily, and that cither those gentlemen would not attend, and then their appointment would be nugatory, or else they would only come when there was some special work to be performed; such, for instance, as the disposal of some piece of patronage, and then their presence would create irritation and jealousy. Moreover, if Boards of Guardians were to be put so entirely under the Central Board, they would become only ministerial officers without any discretion, and then they would not give their time and attention to the business. He had no personal experience of these matters, and was altogether at the mercy of those from whom he derived his information; but these persons said that no sufficient case had been made out against the guardians, and they complained of the unjust censure cast upon them. They objected also to the election of guardians being taken out of the hands of the vestries, and thought the Poor Law Board would be disappointed by the results of that change. Though approving the earlier part of the Bill, he was of opinion that the rest required very careful consideration in Committee.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, that on the whole he approved of the Bill, but he thought that it might be improved in many 755 of its details. He doubted whether the inhabitants of the poorer districts would be able to construct asylums at their own expense, as was proposed in the 5th and the 6th clauses. He had, in the first instance, approved of the principle of the Bill; but some of the objections urged by those who were practically acquainted with the management of the poor were so strong as to strike him with great force. It was a laborious, anxious, and often thankless task which those men undertook in giving up so much of their time and taking so much trouble respecting the management of the poor. As a rule, they did not occupy the best houses in the world, and the clause requiring nominated guardians to occupy houses of £100 a year would exclude the most valuable of this class of men, whom it certainly ought to be their object to encourage. No end of Boards for schools, hospitals, and so forth, were to be created, so that the administration of the poor would be far from being simplified. By Clause 17 it was proposed that twenty years should be allowed for the repayment of any loans that might be raised; but, in his opinion, it would be desirable to allow twenty-five or thirty years for that purpose. On the whole, he thought this Bill would pass easily through the House, and he had called the right hon. Gentleman's attention to one or two matters of detail which would render it more acceptable to the public.
said, that being connected by property with a part of London, where the pressure of the rates was heaviest, he wished to state that he approved generally of the Bill, but there were one or two points to which he wished to call attention. It was provided that one of the Commissioners of Lunacy should attend at the meetings of the Board for the management of pauper lunatics. He thought it would be of great advantage if the constitution of the Board of Lunacy itself were altered. Any business that required to be transacted with regard to pauper lunatics should be attended by some one more connected with that House than was the case at present. They all knew the expense that had been inflicted on counties in the matter of pauper lunatic asylums by the Lunacy Commissioners, while if anything went wrong a long and angry discussion ensued, which went through various Departments till it reached the Home Office, where, he must say, it generally received a courteous and amicable 756 settlement. There had been a meeting lately of no fewer than twenty chairmen of quarter sessions, and they were all of opinion that it would be a great improvement if the management of pauper lunatics were more immediately connected with some Board represented in that House.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, though he was not a metropolitan Member, he wished to make a remark or two on the Bill now before the House. He objected to, and protested against, the Poor Law Board being allowed to nominate members to act on the Boards of Guardians. If that were once admitted it would become a precedent for the same thing being done in the country. And wherever it was supposed that a guardian Board failed in its duty, the Poor Law Board would step in and claim the power to nominate members. He thought that was unnecessary, and if the right hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with the present composition of Boards of Guardians it would be better to raise the qualification, so a to get a higher class of men to undertake the duty, or to allow the Poor Law Board to send a paid officer of their own to attend the different Boards of Guardians in the same way in which it was proposed that the Lunacy Commissioners should be represented. This, he thought, would be of further advantage as tending to introduce unity of action. He also objected to the salaries of the different parish officers being thrown into the common fund. The best course, he thought, to adopt was to establish a Central Board by which all those charges might he brought within one settled rule. If the amount in each case was left to be fixed by a Board of Guardians, the result would be that we should have one Board attempting to raise it to the sum which happened to be paid by another.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
Sir, I rise to express my concurrence in the sentiments which have fallen from those hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in favour generally of this measure. I coincide entirely in their view as to its purpose and principle. It is a Bill, which, if I understand it properly, is meant to provide for the better treatment of the sick poor in the infirmaries of the metropolitan workhouses—an object greatly to be desired, inasmuch as it seems to be proved that the present system has failed in this respect. I look upon the principle on which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) proposes to proceed in that direction as a sound one, 757 as being in conformity with the principle of the Poor Law Act itself, and of that more recent legislation by which the area of charge was extended, and the burden of maintaining the poor distributed over a larger district than the mere locality supposed to be peculiarly liable. The principle of extending the area of charge touches, in my opinion, as the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) stated the other night, the root of mismanagement, whether in town or country. By extending the area of charge you weaken the motive for that kind of local parsimony which is very frequently mistaken economy, and is attended with great mischief to the poor. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the view he has taken as to the mode in which the condition of the sick poor in the metropolis is to be improved, as well as upon the fact that after the experience of a few months he sees the wisdom of asking fresh powers from the Legislature not relying upon the imperfect authority under which he acts, or engaging in unseemly contests with Boards of Guardians. I felt sure that with his ability he would at once perceive the difference between the technical interpretation of the law from which his powers are derived, and its practical application under existing circumstances. I think, moreover, that the right hon. Gentleman is quite right in losing no time in coming to this House for the additional powers which he requires. At the present moment that feeling of distrust and jealousy of the Central Board which has prevailed ever since the enactment of the Poor Law thirty-two years ago, seems to have subsided for a while. Perhaps this is the first time since the creation of the Board when a reproach that it docs not act with sufficient rigour would not be received with ridicule. It is the antagonism to that Board on the part of the public which has prevented the full development of the law, and the right hon. Gentleman must concur that it has in consequence been almost impossible to give effect, until very recently, to its provisions. To the same hostile feeling, he must also know, the appointment of the Committee to which he himself alluded, is to be attributed. That feeling was at its height in 1860, when an applicasion was made for the renewal of the Poor Law Commission. All that had ever been said against the Board was then urged by Members representing important constituencies; and, notwithstanding the appeal 758 which was made by Lord Palmerston, Sir George Lewis, and other distinguished persons, there was a majority against the renewal of the Commission for the usual period, and against the Government of no less than 3 to 1. The Commission was, however, renewed for a shorter period than was proposed, on the undertaking that a searching inquiry should be instituted into the administration of the Poor Law Board from the time of its existence. It was at that time, I think, that upwards of 100 memorials from as many unions I were presented to this House, praying that the Board might either be deprived of the powers which it possessed or discontinued altogether. Thus matters stood in 1860, and in the following year a Committee was appointed to investigate the subject. That Committee was not appointed by the Government, but was emphatically a Committee appointed by this House voluntarily. There was a most unusual number of Members placed upon that Committee for the purpose of making a searching investigation into the operation of the law, and so strong was my feeling upon that occasion that it was a question as to whether the Board should be continued or not, that I stated to the Committee that it would be improper for the President of the Poor Law Board to preside over that Committee, and, indeed, it was only in consequence of the great courtesy shown in the unanimously expressed wish that I should take the chair, that I consented to do so. I mention this to show what was at that time the general feeling towards the Central Board, which was censured because, as it was thought, it had not acted with sufficient energy and had not engaged in conflict and collision with the local authorities. For some weeks the Committee were engaged in investigating the charge, which was generally believed throughout the country, that owing to embarrassing and vexatious interference on the part of the Board with the local authorities, the guardians of unions and parishes in London had not been able to make effective arrangement for the relief of the poor during the season of 1861, when swarms of people were thrown out of employment, and were in the greatest distress. There was almost a panic in the metropolis, and the impression was that the guardians would have met the emergency but for the interference of the Poor Law Board. Perhaps the prejudice against the Board was at its height at the period to which I am referring. The Com- 759 mittee began its labours in 1861, and did not bring them to a close till 1864. After having examined witnesses of every class, the Committee, though it commenced the inquiry with some prejudice against the Board, came to the conclusion that the Board ought to be continued, and that the power which was especially objected to—namely, the power of issuing orders which were said to have the effect of law, and therefore to be unconstitutional, ought also to be continued. The Committee also expressed their opinion that these orders had been issued for the benefit of the poor, the persons whom they concerned. Looking at the spirit in which that inquiry was commenced, and the very hostile feeling manifested by the guardians, and, I may almost say, by the public, towards the Central Board, it would not have been prudent on the part of the Board if they had chosen that opportunity to proceed against the guardians in courts of justice, and to engage in what the right hon. Gentleman termed "unseemly collision" with the local authorities. And I think if the right hon. Gentleman shrunk from doing so in the past autumn that I cannot be blamed for not having commenced legal proceedings during the time that the Committee was sitting. I do not complain at all of the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman; but when reflections are cast upon the Board for not having acted with more energy against the local authorities, I wish to remind the House of the state of feeling against the Central Board during that period. If the right hon. Gentleman is able to take action now it is because a better feeling exists towards the Central Board. The right hon. Gentleman, at the commencement of his speech the other night, referred to the opinion of the Committee, that the provision made for the medical relief of the poor was satisfactory, and that they saw no reason to recommend any change in it. I do not think the Committee can fairly be blamed for having come to that conclusion. They examined witnesses, called before them a number of medical men, and had besides a vast amount of documentary evidence on the subject. They also had before them the Reports of two Committees of this House, which were appointed for the distinct purpose of inquiring into that matter, and the recommendations of both those Committees had been faithfully carried out by the Poor Law Board. The Committee arrived at its conclusion in consequence of 760 its having seen what great improvements had taken place in the position of the medical officers, what additional facilities were given to the poor to gain access to medical relief, and that at the time this matter was being investigated, the poor were treated better than they ever had been before. I cannot say that that is an excuse for the system which exists now, for I cannot deny that the present system is very defective. But, in justification of that Committee, I must say that at the time they were pursuing their inquiry the arrangements in respect of medical relief were better than they had been at any previous period. The Committee of 1854 recommended that the medical officers should be made independent by being elected for life instead of annually, and that any suggestion of theirs respecting the poor should be complied with by the guardians. Now, that was a very important change in the position of the medical officers who became independent of the will and caprice of the guardians. The Committee of 1861 found likewise that the salaries of the medical officers had been increased, that their districts had been diminished, and that more officers had been appointed. They also looked to the regulations which the Poor Law Board had framed with a view to the guardians and medical officers attending the poor in the workhouses, and I believe that had much to do in leading the Committee to express their satisfaction with the arrangements made for the medical treatment of the poor. The regulations to which I am referring were drawn up by some of the wisest and ablest men who ever acted in connection with the Poor Law Board—namely, Sir George Nichol, Sir George Lewis, and Sir Edmund Head. They devoted much of their time to the subject, and drew up orders for the general relief of the poor, giving especial attention to the relief of the sick poor. In their orders they required that the medical officer should be a competent person—that is to say, that there should be no longer any competition by tender, as was formerly the practice, and that no person should be appointed who had not received a diploma, or certificate from some University or other competent institution, declaring that he was a fit person to practise medicine and surgery throughout the United Kingdom. They next decided that his salary should be fixed, and that he should be as much aware of the circumstances of his position as any clergyman or 761 curate should be before he accepted a preferment. They then empowered the medical officer to call upon the guardians to provide everything which could conduce to the comfort, health, and recovery of the patient. There was another thing which was directed by the Commissioners of that time. They made a regulation which was for the future to be binding upon every medical officer to prevent improper crowding, and they state in their Report that they felt it desirable to take such precautions as would render it difficult for any overcrowding of inmates to occur again. They made it a part of the duty of the medical officer to report in writing to the guardians any defect in diet, ventilation, warming, or any other arrangement of the workhouses, and any excess in the number of inmates which would be detrimental to the health of the inmates. That is one of the regulations which every medical officer is acquainted with when he accepts his office. But the Commissioners were not satisfied with this direction to the medical officers. They provided likewise that the guardians should appoint a certain number of their body for the purpose of forming a visiting committee, and the persons so named or told off by the guardians for this purpose were called upon to visit every sick ward, to see every sick patient, and to make an entry in writing of the condition in which they found each person. And not only were they called upon to make these entries in a book, but that book was to be printed and brought before the Board of Guardians every week, in order that its contents might be taken into consideration. Looking at the fact that the management of every workhouse is vested in the guardians by law, that they have complete control over every department, and that every person connected with these establishments is employed by them, it would appear that if these directions were attended to cases like those which have been lately made public could not occur. The Committee of 1861 undoubtedly expressed their satisfaction at the manner in which the Poor Law Board had carried out the recommendations of former Committees; but if the regulations of the Poor Law Board are not attended to by the guardians abuses and irregularities of every kind are certain to occur. It was only a few months after the Report of that Committee was published that the unfortunate case of the man Gibson, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred the other night, occurred in the 762 Bloomsbury Workhouse. That is precisely a case in point, for the observance of the Poor Law regulations would have prevented the neglect and the abuses which are said to have occurred. At the coroner's inquest which took place in reference to this event the jury found that, although the unfortunate man must have died in any case from the effects of serum on the brain, yet that his death was accelerated by the neglect of all the officers of the workhouse, including the master, the doctor, the visiting committee, and the attendants upon the patients. This neglect occurred in a very wealthy and important district, and not only had these very guardians received a copy of the regulations, but proceedings had been instituted against them in the Court of Queen's Bench by the Poor Law Board. In these proceedings, however, the Poor Law Board had been unsuccessful, as the guardians were protected by a local Act, which gave them the entire and independent management of their poor. On that occasion I had an interview with the Board of Guardians of that district, and I declare I never saw a more highly-respectable body of gentlemen than those who were associated in that office, and one would have thought that it would have been impossible to select any persons to fulfil such an office who would have been more likely to be attentive to their duties. I do not doubt that no persons were more shocked at the disclosures that took place than those who formed that Board; but they knew nothing about the matter. Every regulation which had been made, every precaution which had been directed had been neglected. The doctor had not attended the man. The visiting committee had not examined the wards. There had been no report made as to the doctor's request for the improvement of the wards. There was no evidence of the mismanagement that was going on to be found in the books, or in the entries made by the direction of the Poor Law Board. No doubt the public were greatly shocked at the disclosures that were made. That case, however, had the effect of awakening the feelings of a great many intelligent and benevolent persons relative to the manner in which these infirmaries were conducted and how the sick poor were treated, and no doubt this unfortunate case has tended more than anything else to change public opinion with reference to the Poor Law Board, and to the necessity of giving additional powers to the Board rather than 763 to deprive them of any. After this case was brought before the public numerous communications were received by the Poor Law Board with regard to other unions, and a very general impression appeared to prevail that the unfortunate sick were greatly neglected in the workhouses. Among other communications which reached the Board was one from Miss Nightingale, who pressed upon them the great importance of training those who attended upon the sick in the workhouse infirmaries; and I believe that lady almost went so far as to say that the attendance of trained nurses upon these unfortunate people was of even more importance than the attendance of doctors or the administration of medicine. The case also gave rise to that very important and interesting inquiry which was conducted by three well-known medical gentlemen—Dr. Hart, Dr. Farre, and Dr. Anstie—who, after visiting every workhouse infirmary in London, came to the conclusion that these workhouse infirmaries, judging them by the standard of our public hospitals, were in every way unfit for the treatment of the sick poor. Their evidence was well supported by the very intelligent and able report drawn up by Dr. Smith and Mr. Farnall, and again by the gentleman appointed for the purpose by the right hon. Gentleman. These inquiries have produced a great effect on the country, and thus the matter has been brought to such a point as to be ripe for legislation. The question for the decision of the House is a very important one. A vast number of sick and destitute people have claims for relief upon the State, and from the benevolent feelings which have been manifested, both in and out of this House, it is evidently the universal desire that these people, numerous as they are, should be relieved and treated in a manner most conducive to their comfort and their recovery. Having this object in view, we have to judge of the measure which has been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman. In the face of our past experience no doubt can exist as to the principle that the sick poor must be treated distinctly and separately from other descriptions of paupers who have to be provided for in the workhouses. That I take to be the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman and of the public generally. The right hon. Gentleman has made certain admissions with regard to the treatment of these unfortunate persons which have excited great interest and, perhaps, appre 764 hension on the part of the public. He has made the admission clearly and distinctly that these persons form a charge upon the metropolis generally; that they should no longer constitute a local burden upon its various districts, inasmuch as their health and recovery are a matter of general and not of local concern; and that, therefore, the charge incurred in their behalf should be borne by the general property of the metropolis. This principle is one which has been contended for by individuals in this House for many years past. I have always considered it to be just, and that the time would come when it would be admitted. The right hon. Gentleman, however, goes somewhat further when he says that this is a class of expenditure connected with the Poor Law which may be regarded as ascertained and fixed—to use his own expression—as not liable to be jobbed. Expenses connected with the nursing of the sick are not likely to be increased by any want of judgment or want of principle on the part of the persons who have the control over them, and therefore it is perfectly fair to extend the limits of the area over which the charge is imposed. This is a very important principle, and the right hon. Gentleman believes himself to be supported in the course he has taken with regard to this point by the sanction of Sir Robert Peel, when he relieved the local property of the country from the charge of medical officers and placed it on the Consolidated Fund. I do not doubt that he is right in the view he takes of the matter, inasmuch as I believe that it is quite right to fix a charge of this kind, if possible, upon the whole property of the country. The charge for the poor is as much a national charge as the interest on the National Debt, and it is perfectly right when we can fix a charge on the whole property of the country to do so. The country has hitherto been reluctant to view it in this light; but, in my opinion, nothing can be more capricious or unfair than the charge of the poor rate. The State undertakes to support the destitute poor of this country, and it does seem—it always seems to me—that there is very considerable injustice and something like caprice in saying that persons only are liable to support the poor whose property is local and visible. That might be right when the Poor Law originated, because there was then little property that was not tangible and visible; but I do think it monstrously unjust that people possessed of such a variety of pro- 765 perty should not contribute in proportion to that property to this national charge. And it is very unfortunate indeed that a large class of that expenditure which cannot be increased by bad judgment, jobbery, or maladministration, cannot be fixed on the property of the country; for it seems to me that the same principle which casts these charges on the common fund of the metropolis points also to the Consolidated Fund. I do not complain of the reasoning of the right hon. Gentleman—I hail it with some satisfaction, but that is the way of carrying out this very legitimate principle to its proper consequences. I do not express that opinion for the first time. I was acting on the original Committee appointed to inquire into the Poor Law, and I was struck in that inquiry by seeing the extraordinary unfairness in which the charge for the poor fell in different parts of the country, and on different persona, and the vast number who were totally exempt from a charge which is national, and ought to fall on every man with the means of contributing to it. This shows the importance that ought to be attached to the measure now before us. Certainly, I should be the last person, seeing what a fortunate and happy commencement of a better system this Bill offers to the country, to throw any impediment in its way. Though I certainly will not offer the smallest opposition to the principle of the Bill, and though I should hope it may be carried for the sake of the great consequences I see likely to flow from it, I think the right hon. Gentleman must expect to meet with some, I will not say opposition, but some questioning as to the manner in which he has applied his principle. It seems to me that application is hardly sufficient. Considering the admissions he has made, I hardly think his principles are fully carried out by the Bill he has introduced. So far as I understood him—I certainly was not present when he delivered it, but I have read his speech in the newspapers—I collected that he was going to cast the sick poor of the metropolis on the property of the metropolis. In looking at the Bill, I find there are exceptions to be made in that respect, and he will, I think, be required to state his reasons for drawing the line where he has as to the class of sick to be supported by the common fund and those still to be a local charge. As I understand, all the sick that are to be charged upon the general fund are those who are visited with scarlet fever, 766 with small pox, and madness. All other sick are to be supported by the local fund. Now, I cannot quite understand the reason of this. I think it a very fair thing to say that this class will not stimulate diseases in that category for the purpose of getting on the general fund. I believe I am right in saying that the right hon. Gentleman intends to erect asylums for particular diseases. Acting on the principle of separating the sick from the other paupers, he intends to place them in asylums or infirmaries he is to build, and these are to be the receptacles of people afflicted with those painful maladies. Then, I want him to tell me why if persons with scarlet fever, small pox, and madness are to be placed in these infirmaries and thrown on the common fund—those with cancers, siphilis, and bronchitis are not to go on the general fund. Surely these diseases would not be simulated any more than fever or small pox. Indeed, I cannot understand why the sick in general in the workhouses should not be placed on the general fund. If they are maintained as sick in the infirmaries, why should they not be transferred to the general fund? Then, looking to the great conclusion we have come to from the inquiries we have made, I do not quite see that the guardians are exactly the persons to be placed at the head of medical establishments. The general belief that has hitherto existed is, that because guardians took one view and the doctors another as to what might be necessary for the treatment of their patients, the guardian, considering it to be their duty to their constituents to curtail the expenditure, the poor, in consequence of this difference of opinion, have not been properly treated, and the regulations of the Poor Law Board, which required harmonious action between the guardians and doctors, have not been successful. The doctors have called for more ventilation, more attendants, and some change in the structure of the house, but they have met with refusal from the guardians on the ground of expense—not because the guardians do not appreciate the present requirements for the treatment of the sick—not because they are chargeable with any want of humanity, but because they are persons whose previous experience and sense of duty lead them to look rather to expenditure than the importance of sanitary regulations, and object to what the doctors require on the score of increased expense. The doctors go on remonstrating, but the places remain ill- 767 ventilated, the attendance is insufficient, and the consequence is that disclosures take place. Under these circumstances, I cannot but draw the conclusion that these poor people should be treated as in hospitals, and superintended by persons whose interests may not be at variance with their proper treatment. Having seen so much as to the incompetence of the guardians superintending medical establishments, I do not quite understand why the right hon. Gentleman, in providing these establishments, should place guardians at their head. Is not this tantamount to the continuance of the system which has already failed? It is true the right hon. Gentleman proposes to prevent them from repeating the mischief they have already done by associating nominees of his own with them in the proportion of one-third. Their qualification for the office is to be rateable value. That is certainly a questionable qualification for persons who are to have the superintendence of medical establishments, and I should rather have thought that the best persons to associate with the guardians would have been persons who would have lost something if they did not properly discharge their duties. What we want is competency in those appointed to this office—persons who feel themselves bound to fulfil the duties imposed on them, and for which they should be properly remunerated. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will direct his attention to this point, because, as far as I have heard, some of the criticisms on his Bill are very much founded on the question of nominees. With respect to the provision for the better treatment of the sick poor, I must say that it will certainly be incomplete if we do not deal with that portion of the case which is not much mentioned in the Bill, but which, perhaps, is more important than any other—I mean the treatment of the outdoor poor. They exceed the indoor sick poor, and, of course, if their cases are not properly attended to, the spread of illness is much more likely to occur than in the case of the indoor sick. The outdoor cases of acute disease are more numerous than the chronic cases, and this again shows the necessity for dealing with this point, as these poor people are even more dangerous to the public health than those within the union. Consequently, one regards with interest the provisions of the Bill which proposes to establish dispensaries. I think that the right hon. Gentleman said that he took the idea of estab 768 lishing them from the experience of similar institutions in Ireland, and certainly it meets to a certain extent the case of the outdoor poor. At present nobody knows how they are treated, or what becomes of them; whereas, in the case of deaths occurring among the indoor sick, very often a coroner's inquest is held, and great sensation is produced. As far as I understand, there will be with the establishment of these dispensaries more attention paid by the medical officers to the outdoor sick, care will be taken that proper medicines are administered, the prescriptions are to be written by the medical men, and, I presume, recorded. That is, no doubt, a great improvement, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman has, as far as necessary, inquired into the case of some dispensaries at present existing, because it is said that great frauds exist, and that a great number of persons not entitled to be relieved at the public expense, yet obtain medical relief at the cost of the country. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the assistance he received in providing for this system very strongly recommended it to me, because I have such confidence in the acuteness and industry of the gentleman whom he consulted, and who went to Ireland, that I am sure the whole matter has been carefully considered. All I can say is that I think this part of the Bill introduces a most substantial improvement in the present system. What is not so easy to understand at present is why the expense of those dispensaries, and of all the persons relieved by them, though they may be persons without any specific maladies, is to be cast on the common fund, while the general indoor sick are thrown upon the local fund. If a medical officer should think more nutritious diet was required by a patient, the expense would be cast upon the union; but if he thought medicine was necessary, then the charge would be borne by the general fund. Why should there be a difference in dealing with the relief given, in mutton or medicine? There seems something like capriciousness in this arrangement, and it appears to me that the charge for persons applying to the dispensaries might be thrown on the local fund. There will, however, be an opportunity of discussing these various matters in Committee, and I admit that nothing can be better than the purposes and principle of the Bill, if thoroughly carried out. In the last clause there is a provision which ought long since to have been established, 769 and which ought to be more extended, for I am favourable to the extension of the authority of the Poor Law Board. The clause I refer to provides that, in case of an asylum or dispensary, or Board of Guardians failing on the requisition of the Poor Law Board to appoint to a vacancy any officer whom they are by law required to appoint, the Poor Law Board may nominate a fit person to be such officer. I am sorry, however, since the right hon. Gentleman has looked to the practice of Ireland, that he has not gone further, and adopted another provision to the effect that, in case the local authorities refuse to carry out the regulations of the Poor Law Board, the latter shall have the power of superseding them, and of appointing an officer of their own to administer the law in the place of those local authorities. I am informed that it has very rarely happened that the guardians in Ireland, who know that such a power exists, have refused to carry out the regulations of the Central Commission. I think a similar power ought to be possessed by the Poor Law Board in this country. At present there is a divided jurisdiction. There is the power technically given by the Poor Law Act to the Poor Law Board, and yet there exist no practical means of enforcing it. The Poor Law Board is very apt to be blamed for matters in respect to which that Board has practically no authority over the local Boards. If there is to be a central authority with responsibility it should not be allowed to be trifled with by the local authorities. The Board ought to have larger powers, and be fixed with the responsibility which attends the exercise of them. This question ought now to be decided, for at present it is most difficult to know who is in some cases to blame. It is said the time had come when the Board should be made a permanent establishment, but that will not be sufficient unless it is invested with sufficient power. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to some extent to increase the power of the Board, and I shall certainly support that part of the Bill—the only question with me is whether he has gone far enough. The Board ought to be responsible for the manner in which the poor are treated, and I believe they are better treated where the regulations of the Board have been fully carried out. This is a point which I trust the right hon. Gentleman will consider,
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
said, that as the representative of a large and popu- 770 lous metropolitan district, he had to express his satisfaction at the improvement effected by the Bill in respect to the distribution of burdens connected with the relief of the poor, but he wished the improvement had been carried still further. He would direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the propriety of making large public establishments, such as existed in Greenwich, Woolwich, and Deptford—in which parishes there was now great distress—contribute their fair proportion towards the expense for the relief of the poor.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that he fully appreciated the labours of the right hon. Gentleman who recently addressed the House (Mr. C. P. Villicrs). He presided three years over the Committee which had brought out in evidence the full operations of Poor Law administration, and had passed the measure for union chargeability, which was in fact the foundation of this Bill, therefore the right hon. Gentleman need not defend his Poor Law administration against imaginary charges. He was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman thought that the present Bill was likely to lead the House into entertaining a proposal for a national poor rate. Whatever principle of charge might be adopted for the relief of the poor, the metropolis would have to be made an exception; and the reason why the Report of the Committee was so general was that those who took an interest in the matter were not prepared, and did not desire, to submit a definite scheme for the metropolis. They thought it better that there should be a distinct recognition of the broad principle, and that it should be left to the Poor Law Board to develop the principle in details as time and circumstances would permit. The Committee, however, did recommend that the charge for casual poor should be thrown on the whole metropolis; but that decision was come to under the pressure of then recent circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board had heard some criticisms upon his Bill, and he saw that there was a general concurrence of opinion upon two points—as to the charge for inmates of asylums upon the general fund, and the manner in which the common fund should be raised and administered. If it were right to impose on the common fund the charge for the maintenance of asylums, it would be equally right to put upon it the charge for their erection; and that view seemed so reasonable that on re- 771 consideration he believed the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Hardy) would be disposed to adopt it. If any justification were needed for the introduction of a limited Bill, it was to be found in the speech just delivered, in the statement that there was an amount of antagonism to the Poor Law Board which rendered it difficult for the President to adopt a vigorous course. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman had deferred to some extent to the traditions of the office; but traditions must give way, and the President must not be alarmed by the long words "centralization" and "equalization," abstract terms which were used with very different meanings. In raising a common fund the great point was to consider how it could be usefully, economically, and efficiently administered. When it was proposed that the casual poor should be a charge on the whole metropolis it was also proposed that, instead of being raised by a Metropolitan Board and administered by guardians, it should be raised and administered by one authority, so that there might be uniformity in the relief and treatment. But a traditional measure was passed, and the guardians had been allowed to trifle with the question of the relief of the casual poor, which was one of great practical importance, and which required to be dealt with on large considerations and general principles. Guided by the experience which had been gained, let the right hon. Gentleman consider the objections to the form of his Bill, and see if he could not simplify it and provide for a more efficient administration of the fund. The Bill dealt with a great question of justice between the different parts of the metropolis, and it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to hold the scales and to ask for the decision of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton had gone far beyond his (Mr. Ayrton's) expectations, and with his assistance the President of the Poor Law Board could have no hesitation in dealing with the difficulties which surrounded this serious question.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Sir, I tender my best thanks to the hon. Members who have taken part in this discussion for the courteous, kind, and generous manner in which they have received the Bill. They have given me credit for laying down a principle which may lead to a satisfactory solution of a great difficulty, and I feel certain that with the assistance of the House we shall succeed in carrying a Bill which 772 I shall alter and materially improve the management of the workhouses of the metropolis. I make no complaint of any speech delivered in the course of this debate; but I wish that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. P. Villiers) had been here when I first addressed the House upon this subject; for from the report of my speech, or from something he may have heard from others, he seems to have misconceived its spirit and misinterpreted its intentions. I sedulously abstained from reflecting upon anything that had been done in past times by the Poor Law Board, or upon the conduct of the Committee who sat upon the subject of Poor Relief under his Presidency. On the contrary, I gave the highest credit to the Committee for the manner in which I it had conducted its investigations; and upon the result of its inquiries as laid down in its Resolutions, I founded some of the main provisions of my Bill. I therefore heard with surprise the answer which the right hon. Gentleman made to the supposed attack upon his administration and the Committee, because there was nothing like accusation in the language I used with reference to the one or the other. Sir, the question now before the House is a very simple one—it is whether or not you have come to the conclusion that the administration of the Poor Law in the metropolis—and I put the metropolis for this purpose separate from the rest of the country—is carried out in a manner which is just to those who find the funds, and merciful to those who receive relief, or whether I it has not been both indoors and out of doors, conducted on a system which has been almost the reverse. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Alderman Lusk), who spoke in a temperate and good-humoured manner, said he would speak a good word for the guardians. I think he will do me the justice to admit that I abstained from saying anything against them. I feel their difficulties—I sympathize with them. At the same time, when gentlemen have come to me, as some of them have, and expressed themselves in the highest terms of their own capacity, and of the ability with which they have administered the workhouses and infirmaries committed to their charge, and when at that very moment I had lying on my table reports which were directly the reverse, I am obliged to say that the system has failed under their management, and must be improved. It is all very well for 773 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton to speak of the excellent rules and orders laid down by the Poor Law Board. I fully admit it. Upon turning my attention to the orders, and particularly the general consolidated orders, I must say they reflect the highest credit upon those who framed them. But it is not of the slightest use to make orders or lay down rules unless you are in a position to carry them out and enforce them if they are not complied with. It is of the utmost necessity that any Board, and above all the Poor Law Board, should have eyes and oars multiplied; so multiplied, that day by day and hour by hour it may see and hear what is going on in the workhouses of this metropolis. The present mode of inspection does not suffice for the necessities of the case. Unless inspection is carried out with a firmness, minuteness, and care which it is impossible for one inspector to exhibit—unless there be some means found by which inspection can be supplied constantly and minutely, you will fail, whatever regulations you pass, or rules or orders you lay down. When you come to the guardians, you find among them men of intelligence, kindness, and a desire to do well; but not understanding fully the business they have taken in hand, being engaged in business of another kind, and not having an appreciation of the difficulties with which they have to cope, they fail in what they have undertaken to carry out. I do not believe they are unmanageable bodies if sufficient power is given to those who have to rule and regulate them. I am bound to say that when treated with firmness, combined with conciliation and a desire to do them justice, they are in most cases ready to yield to the wishes of the Board. There are instances, however, not so much of steady resistance as of what is worse than resistance—of considering, of continually deferring, of putting off, of hoping that something will turn up which will save them from the necessity of complying. These are the Boards of Guardians which are most troublesome, because if they resisted you could coerce them, but while they are considering you can do nothing. These are the people most difficult to manage, and they are what I believe to be among the most recalcitrant bodies in the whole metropolis. And that brings me to the part that has been taken in this debate by the hon. Members for Marylebone. These hon. Gentlemen represent two great parishes governed by 774 guardians who are elected by vestries. But while I can speak well to a certain extent of one of those parishes, the other, as hon. Gentlemen may have seen from accounts in the public press, has not done well. In that parish there has been a failure. Their management has broken down, and their workhouse has not been carried on in the way they claim to have conducted it, because they have not been able to look minutely into the business which they have taken in hand. With respect to these local Boards, I was very glad to hear my gallant Friend (Colonel Hogg) state that his parish, St. George's, Hanover Square, would not oppose the clause which I propose directed against their local Acts. These local Acts have been among the greatest impediments with which the Poor Law Board have to contend. The Board has constantly been liable to be tripped up in Courts of Law, for if a notice were sent to the directors it was held that it ought to have been sent to the vestry, and vice versâ. Everything went wrong in consequence of this double government. I cannot, therefore, consent to the representations of the hon. Members for Marylebone on that point. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Villiers) spoke of something which had fallen from me on a former occasion with reference to my shrinking from collision with the guardians last autumn. The time was not then ripe for collision. The inspectors were working almost day and night in examining the entire management and discipline of workhouses, and the number of visits they had to make was very large. Hon. Members, indeed, are hardly aware what enormous establishments they are, some of them more like small towns than institutions which can he looked over in a cursory way. In St. Pancras Workhouse, for instance, there are more than 2,000 persons, and to make a minute investigation into the treatment of each class of inmates requires great acumen and intelligence—qualities which I am bound to say the inspectors have shown—in order to frame their reports so that the guardians might fully understand what improvements were required. That investigation was going on from the time I entered office. It would have been unwise if I had, at the moment when Parliament was about to meet, come into collision with the Boards of Guardians instead of coming to the House and saying, "I am willing to be responsible for the condition of the 775 workhouses, if I have, and only if I have, power to enforce obedience to any orders I may issue." Unless this be done the responsibility of the Poor Law Board must be a myth, and their interference with Boards of Guardians useless. I do not wish to detain the House after so long a discussion, which has not, however, been upon the principle of the Bill. I do not pretend that the measure is a perfect one, and in the interval between the second reading and the Committee I shall direct my attention to those points to which hon. Members have referred, and see to what extent I can meet their views and adopt their suggestions. There are, however, certain misapprehensions which I think it well at once to correct. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, speaking of the proposed dispensaries, and warning me of the frauds which have been committed in Ireland, has objected to a distinction which he thinks is proposed in the Bill between the indoor and outdoor sick, and he asks why the former as well as the latter should not be charged to the common fund. I propose to charge on the common fund the salaries of the medical officers of workhouses, as well as of nurses and other officials, and the cost of drugs, so that, as far as medical relief and management are concerned, no difference is made between the indoor and the outdoor sick. The right hon. Gentleman, however, asks why I do not charge all the sick on the common fund, instead of cases of fever, small pox, and lunacy only. I explained this point on a former occasion; but as the right hon. Gentleman and also the hon. Baronet (Sir Harry Verney) have adverted to it, the House will allow me to repeat what I then said. I am unable to distinguish in principle the outdoor sick from the indoor sick; those who are not necessarily transferred to the hospitals from those who are in the infirmaries. For that reason I thought it advisable to take only those classes of disease which could clearly be separated from the rest, and which affected the health of the whole metropolis—namely, fever and small pox. The hon. Baronet will, I am sure, admit that these classes ought to be treated separately from other patients, in order to prevent the spread of fever and small pox throughout the metropolis. I propose, therefore, to charge these upon the common fund, and to make the hospitals for their reception common to the whole metropolis. As to 776 lunatics the noble Lord (Viscount Enfield) has asked me what distinction there is between the asylums proposed in this Bill and the county asylums. The distinction is one with which the Commissioners in Lunacy are quite familiar. The lunatics detained in workhouses are perfectly inoffensive, and require none of the restraints nor the luxuries and advantages which are provided for the other and more dangerous class in county asylums. The asylums for lunatics and the hospitals for fever and small pox being placed upon the common fund, it will be necessary to have a Central Board to manage them. The hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) urged that the expenses of these buildings should be thrown on the whole metropolis, and I may tell him that this will be done, because it is for the public advantage that if a hospital in one part is full patients should be transferred to another. All these buildings, therefore, will be charged on the metropolitan rate. With respect to the number of different Boards which will be created under this Bill, and on which much remark has been made, I admit that this has been one of the difficulties that have dwelt in my own mind. What, however, does the fact of the existence of these several Boards amount to? Take the case of the dispensaries. There will be a dispensary committee composed of guardians, who in almost all instances will manage their affairs. Suppose that five parishes or unions are united for all purposes, though that is not at all a necessary thing, because under the Bill there may be districts for one purpose and not for another, just as is already the case with district schools. I may remark here that nothing has worked so well as the district school committees, the guardians having elected persons who take a deep interest in the schools, and who, being elected for three years, are able to give new members all the advantage of their information and experience. The guardians generally, indeed, take a great pride and interest in these schools, though in some points they are still open to improvement. But supposing, I say, a case where there are five workhouses; one of them, perhaps, may serve admirably for a hospital for the sick, another may be suited for the infirm, and another for able-bodied paupers, with every appliance for making it what the workhouse system was originally intended to be—namely, a deterrent system, so that able-bodied persons should 777 shrink from applying for admission unless they were really compelled to do so. You might also separate the sexes, and separate the moral from the immoral. What I desire by this arrangement is to utilize in every possible way existing materials, efficient than existing erections. This brings me to the question of expense, and I wish the House to bear in mind that, even if this Bill had not been introduced, a considerable outlay would still have been made, because certain workhouses required additional space, and many of them had already plans for enlargement in hand. They were called on to enlarge the buildings they at present have, and I thought that for me, or whoever might be in my place, it would be an object to economize as much as possible. This is a practical matter, and if with the guidance of the scientific gentlemen whom I have selected, and the assistance of the inspectors who have given me such valuable aid, I can arrive at the in all cases. Neither do I make this pro position with any intention that the Poor Law or the nominated guardians should come into collision with the general body of the guardians. The object is to make some persons responsible who might be volunteers, and who could be removed if they did not discharge the duty which they had undertaken. There are persons in the metropolis—an abundance of them—who would willingly volunteer for this duty. I have been blamed because I did not bring in a Bill to enforce the performance of the duties which would be undertaken by volunteers; but if I can secure 778 by this Bill men of influence and also of mind and heart—men who from their exertions in connection with Societies for the relief of destitution, I find taking the deepest interest in the poor, not only without payment, but guaranteeing the whole in the metropolis not rated at all who would do those duties most efficiently; and if this House should think fit to strike out them to do it we must be in a position to say to them, "You have a right to go in and see every poor person; no one can stand in your way; no Board of Guardians can say (as has been the case in some instances), 'You have given information we don't like, and we will have you in this workhouse no more.'" Let us have persons to whom no such thing as that can be said by any Board of Guardians—persons who will have responsibilities towards the Poor Law Board, persons who will enter into some undertaking to do the duties imposed on them by the Poor Law Board. With respect to the rate paying value I may observe that as far as my Department is concerned I do not care the right hon. Gentleman, that I have laid down a principle which tends towards a national rate, [Mr. C. P. VILLIERS: No!] I must say that I object very strongly to having a mere verbally logical view cast upon everything proposed in the House. A deputation of gentlemen waited on me yesterday. They declared that I was one of the most revolutionary persons who had appeared in public life for a long time. They said I was trying to subvert everything, including local government. What will they say when they read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman? The right hon. Gentleman says that in 779 preserving so much of local government as I do I fail to secure the poor against the recurrence of evils now complained of. I submit that in this House we must legislate practically. I knew that if I had come to this House with the strongest possible opinions on the subject—and I confess I have not those strong opinions—if I had arrived at the conclusion that the rates of the whole of the metropolis should be equalized, I should have been met with an opposition which would have defeated any Bill which I might have brought in. I am certain of that from communications I have had with hon. Gentlemen within the House, and from others without. It has been said by many of them, "I should have opposed you if you had brought in a Bill for equalizing the rates over the whole metropolis; but you have only gone the extent of charging on the common fund expenditure in which there can be no jobbing, and thus a check is provided." Had the Bill been of a more wholesale character, instead of the few holes that have been picked in it, there would have been seventy-eight holes, the number of the clauses Great stress has been laid on the evils which will result from placing those charges on the common fund, owing to there being no system of uniform valuation in the metropolis. I feel that point, and consequently I have endeavoured to meet the difficulty by Clause 62—The Poor Law Board shall from time to time assess on the several unions and parishes in the metropolis the amounts of their respective contributions to the Common Poor Fund in proportion to the annual rateable value of the property therein comprised, to be determined according to the valuation lists, or, where there are none, according to the latest poor rate for the time being for the union or parish, or otherwise, as the Poor Law Board from time to time direct.It is quite true that we do not always know on what system a union or parish is assessed for Poor Law purposes; but the assessments for the Metropolitan Board and for the police rate we know are on the best available basis; and the Poor Law Board, in making an assessment, will be able to do as is done in counties. Though the assessments in the various unions of a county may be on different systems, the counties levy a rate on their own assessment, which is made on a uniform system throughout the whole county. So far, therefore, as it can be done, we have endeavoured to meet that objection by a clause in the Bill; but I propose to do more. My hon. Friend the 780 Secretary for the Treasury (Mr. Hunt) has brought in a Bill to provide a uniform scheme of assessment for the whole country, with the exception of the metropolis. I will wait to see what is done with that Bill; but I have sketched a Bill for the metropolis, which I propose to introduce if my hon. Friend's should receive the sanction of Parliament. By the Bill to which I refer I propose that for Imperial taxation and all rates the metropolis shall be uniformly assessed. I have now only to repeat my thanks to the House for the reception given to the measure under discussion. I ask them to examine it in no hostile spirit—indeed, I know they will not—but to regard it as what it purports to be, a Bill introduced for the better management of the indoor poor of the metropolis, and for affording assistance to the outdoor poor also. If they approach it in the spirit which they have shown on its introduction and during the debate on the second reading, I, for my part, will be ready to receive any suggestion which may be put forward for its amendment. Should I be so fortunate as to receive the assistance of the House in that spirit when we go into Committee on this day fortnight, I have little doubt that our united efforts will bring the matter to a successful issue.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday, 7th March.