HC Deb 23 May 1878 vol 240 cc493-4

asked the President of the Local Government Board, If his attention has been called to the proceedings of the Board of Guardians of St. Saviour's Union at a meeting held on the 16th instant, at which a day nurse chosen by the Workhouse Committee was rejected by the Board on the express ground that she was a Roman Catholic, the mover of the rejection arguing that the appointment of Roman Catholic nurses was objectionable, and the Chairman laying down the principle that Workhouses are Protestant institutions; and, whether there is any provision in the statute law, or in the Local Government Board's regulations, making it objectionable to appoint Roman Catholic nurses to workhouse hospitals, or imparting to Poor Law institutions a denominational character; and, if not, whether he will address to the St. Saviour's Board of Guardians an official correction of the misconception under which they seem to labour as to the theological status of London workhouses?


My attention was called to this case by the Question of the hon. Gentleman, and I have made inquiry respecting it. It is true that the Guardians of St. Saviour's Union, at their meeting on the 16th instant, declined to appoint a nurse who had been recommended by the Committee because she was a Roman Catholic, and it appears from a newspaper report which I have seen that expressions were made use of as stated in the Question. There is no provision in the statute law, nor in the regulations of the Local Government Board, against the appointment of Roman Catholic nurses, nor is there any provision imparting to workhouses a denominational character, except in so far as the Guardians are required to appoint a chaplain who shall be a member of the Established Church. The clerk to the Guardians informs me that the chief officers and chaplain being Protestants, it was expected that difficulties would arise if subordinate officers of other denominations were appointed who, in the ordinary course, would require leave of absence, probably at inconvenient periods, for attending to their religious duties. I am happy to give this public answer to the hon. Gentleman's Question; but seeing that the Guardians were acting within their right in declining to make this appointment, and that the language quoted was the language of individuals only, I do not consider that it is competent for me to address them officially on the subject.