HC Deb 20 June 1878 vol 240 cc1885-6

asked the President of the Local Government Board, If his attention has been called to the case of Eliza Littlehales, a pauper receiving out-door relief, who was compelled by force to go into the workhouse of the Madeley Union on the 9th April last, by the order of the chairman of the board; whether it is true that the poor woman was so affected by this act that it became necessary to remove her into the county lunatic asylum in a few days; and, whether this proceeding was legal or not; and, if so, under what Poor Law Act or Act for the management of pauper lunatics can a person be arrested and sent into the workhouse?


Sir, the case alluded to in the Question of the hon. Gentleman has been brought under my notice, and I have received full information respecting it. It appears that Elizabeth Hales is a hysterical imbecile woman, who has been for some time in receipt of out-door relief in the Madeley Union, residing with her sister. The chairman of the Madeley Guardians, who had been in the habit of visiting her during the last four years, found her on a recent occasion in such a state of destitution, and so imperfectly cared for by her sister, that he thought it necessary for her to be removed at once, and gave directions that she should be taken to the workhouse infirmary, with the view of sending her subsequently to the county asylum. In this he acted, not as a Guardian or as Chairman of the Guardians, but as a magistrate; and, as he supposed, under powers vested in magistrates by the Pauper Lunatic Act. In reply to the second part of the Question, it is not the case that the removal had the effect supposed in the Question; for the district medical officer states that he would have given a certificate for the removal to the asylum from the cottage direct had the magistrate been present at the time of the removal. The removal to the workhouse infirmary was made on the Tuesday, and the further removal to the asylum on the following Friday, in strict accordance with the proper legal formalities. I may add that the woman is now discharged from the asylum greatly benefited by the treatment and good diet she there received, and is again in charge of her sister. As to the third part of the Question, I am bound to say that the interim removal to the workhouse infirmary was not in accordance with any statutory power; and, of course, there is no power under any Act by which a person can be arrested and sent into a workhouse.