HC Deb 27 May 1878 vol 240 cc812-9

(3.) £4,754, to complete the sum for the Lunacy Commission, Scotland.


said, that before the Committee passed this Vote, he wished to call attention to the Lunacy Board. A good many years ago an inquiry was held, which recommended that the Lunacy Commission should be amalgamated with the Board of Supervision in Scotland. Paupers in Scotland were under a divided authority, the Board of Supervision had the control of the sane paupers, while the lunatics in the same poorhouse were in the charge of the Lunacy Commission. In consequence of that divided control, pauper lunatics were kept in a much more expensive way than the ordinary paupers. The Lunacy Inspectors had, for example, in one case with which he was acquainted, ordered that large mirrors should be placed in the common rooms of the lunatics. Altogether their interference had caused a largely increased expenditure in the maintenance of pauper lunatics in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had said that the matter was under the consideration of the Government; and he wished to ask whether the Government had yet come to a conclusion, and determined, with the view to economy, to transfer the duties of the Lunacy Commission to the Board of Supervision?


observed, with reference to the statement that the paupers in the poorhouses were under the control of the Board of Supervision, while the lunatics were looked after by the Lunacy Commissioners, that the fact was that the Commissioners in Lunacy had charge of the whole of the lunatics in Scotland, whether paupers or non-paupers. The distinction between the Scottish system and that existing in this country was, that in England wealthy lunatics were under the care of Chancery, and pauper lunatics were either under the care of Boards of Guardians or of the Commissioners of Lunacy. There were thus two classes of lunatics—those in workhouses and those in asylums. In workhouses, the lunatics were under no special authority but that of the Boards of Guardians; while the Asylums were managed by the Lunacy Commissioners. The hon. Gentleman who had brought forward this subject was less perfectly acquainted with it than he usually was with matters which he brought before the House. The truth was that no two public Departments could work together more harmoniously than the Board of Supervision and the Lunacy Commission had done for many years past. No change that could be made would effect any saving to the public in the administration of Lunacy in Scotland. In 1870, there was a discussion in the House with regard to these questions, and some of the evidence given before the Commission appointed was, as he had reason to believe, afterwards withdrawn by the parties who made the statements with regard to the excessive expenditure. The explanations given showed that the statements were made under a misapprehension of the facts.


said, his complaint was that there were two authorities having jurisdiction in the same poorhouse—the Board of Supervision and the Lunacy Commissioners. He complained of the expenses to which the Inspectors in Lunacy had put the ratepayers by insisting on pauper lunatics being better kept than ordinary paupers. As the expenses of the maintenance of these lunatic paupers had increased very largely, there was ground for interference. So far as he knew, the Report of Lord Camperdown's Commission had never been contradicted, and upon that he relied.


said, that with regard to the lunatics having been put upon a superior dietary to the other paupers, it was well known to be essential that they should receive more nutritious diet than was usually given to paupers.


said, it had been in contemplation to amalgamate these two Boards. He did not think, however, that there would be any actual reduction in the expenditure from so doing. As to the distinction between the two classes of paupers, it was clearly necessary that there should be such a division; and, so much was the importance of the distinction felt, that not long back the Government gave pauper lunatics in Scotland the same allowance as was made in England. He did not think that if the distinction between the two classes of paupers were abolished there would be much saving of expenditure.

Vote agreed to.

(4.) £5,654 to complete the sum for the Registrar General's Office, Scotland.

(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £15,618, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1879, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Supervision for Relief of the Poor and for Public Health and Vaccination Act, including certain Grants in aid of Local Taxation in Scotland.


wished to know till what hour the Government intended to go on with Supply?


hoped the Committee would take two more Votes in Supply before Progress was reported.


complained that they had already been in Supply between seven and eight hours. He objected to proceeding with the debatable Votes at that late hour.


did not think that the discussion which would arise on the Irish Votes would conclude that evening in any reasonable time. The best arrangement would be to report Progress when they came to the end of the Scotch Votes.


proposed to move to report Progress at the first Vote that gave rise to considerable discussion.


said, that before the Vote was agreed to, he wished the hon. Baronet to consider the propriety of having something done with a view to putting Scotland on the same footing as England with regard to the grants for medical attendance and extra food for the sick poor, and for the education of pauper children. There should be some corresponding grant in Scotland for the maintenance of pauper lunatics in workhouse schools. The same difficulty was felt in Scotland as in England—where to put them? The course adopted in England was pursued in Scotland, only that country not having the same population or wealth, the maintenance of the lunatics pressed very hardly upon the ratepayers. Therefore, Scotland asked for the same consideration as other parts of the United Kingdom. Nor did they get anything in aid of the education of pauper children, or any grant corresponding to their population or taxation, in aid of medical relief to the poor. He trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would introduce a measure for providing a grant in aid of the education of the children of the poor, and that some arrangement would be made to increase the grant in aid of medical relief to the poor to the same proportion as in England. At present, the amount allowed for vaccination in England was equal to the whole sum granted in aid of medical relief in Scotland.


said, he hoped that the hon. Baronet would also promise to have a revision of the sums voted for the medical service in Ireland, and that he would be able to give to the Irish Members a similar assurance to that which his hon. Friend had asked for.


thought the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) must be aware that the difference between the two countries must arise very much from the difference between the Poor Law and its action in each country. There was more thrown upon the country in Scotland than in England under the existing Act, and all he could say was, that the subject was one well worth inquiring into.


said, that the hon. Baronet appeared to be under some misapprehension. The sum of £10,000 was voted for the relief of the ordinary paupers in Scotland, while, in England, a sum amounting to about £180,000 was voted for the same object for which £10,000 was voted in Scotland. Now, what was wanted did not involve any necessity for a change in the law. It was in the practice that they wanted a change made in that respect. The fact was, that they gave to Scotland, in payment of medical relief, less than one-eighteenth of the sum that was voted in England.


said, that that grant for Poor Law expenditure had nothing whatever to do with Lunacy. It was merely for the Poor Law workhouses in Scotland; and a few years ago a large deputation of Scotch Members of Parliament from both sides of the House waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to represent the great injustice that was done to Scotland in that matter as compared with England, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed with that representation. Accordingly, there was a Scotch Bill introduced to remedy that evil; but, like most of the Scotch measures, it was allowed to sleep, and, doubtless, it was sleeping still.


said, that that Bill had already been brought in by the Government, and it was proposed to leave that very question to the Bill. He could not promise to re-introduce the Bill that Session, but he hoped to do so before very long.


wished to support the demand which had been made by the Scotch Members as regarded the assistance to medical relief. The allowance that had been made to England was 18 times as large as that which was given to Scotland. His hon. Friend the Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) had wished that the hon. Baronet should also direct his attention to the allowance made to Ireland. Now, he (Mr. Parnell) thought that Ireland was very fairly treated as regarded medical relief. It had always struck him that in the Estimates presented to Parliament the amount paid by Parliament to Ireland was one of the most advantageous Estimates presented; but he thought it would be fair to the Scotch to give them a larger allowance than they possessed at present.


said, he understood that the arrangement was that in England the Government paid one-half of the medical expenses of the Unions; but, in Scotland, a lump sum of only £10,000 was paid. Now, two years ago, a deputation had waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who then gave them an assurance that the amount would be increased. All that they asked was that the same treatment should be extended to Scotland as was enjoyed by England, and that the Government should vote to the Poor Law Board one-half of the medical expenses. He did not think that Scotland had been well treated in that matter; and, therefore, in order to give the Government time to consider the matter, he would move to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again. He believed that no other step would be effective. There had been a promise made, two years ago, that something would be done, but no Progress had been made; and, so long as they allowed themselves to be put off by promises, nothing would be done.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. James Barclay.)


hoped, that after what he had stated, the Committee would at least consent to take that Vote.

Question put, and negatived.


said, he really thought they ought to have some assurance from the Government that the promise given two years ago would be acted upon. It was merely a vote of the House that was required; and if the hon. Baronet would undertake that the promise made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be fulfilled without reference to further legislation, he should be very sorry, indeed, to put the Committee to the trouble of a division.


said, that the promise given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was one made upon a condition. An attempt had been made to carry out the engagements of that condition, and he felt that any pledge he might give them would be merely carrying out the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


said, that he saw the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place, and he wished to remind him of the promise he gave to the deputation that came up from Scotland two years ago, that the medical grant to the Poor Law Boards of Scotland should be placed on a similar footing to that in England. At the present time the grant was 18 times greater in England than was the case in Scotland. Some excuses had been made to the effect that the cases were not similar; but the responsibility of bringing in a Bill rested upon the Government, and he did not think it was fair to Scotland that, because the Government could not pass their Bill through, Scotland should be kept short of its fair and proper allowance. All that they asked was to be put upon a similar footing to England; and he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would offer them some opinion on this point.


said, he was not quite sure what the point under discussion was; but he understood that it was with reference to a promise which he gave to a deputation from Scotland two years ago. What he understood then passed was that he admitted that the case was one that required consideration; that an alteration should be made, and that the medical officers should be placed upon the same footing as in England, but that that would necessitate an alteration of the law. And he was in hopes that that might have been dealt with by an alteration in the Scotch Poor Law to that effect. He thought the Bill was introduced in consequence of the visit of the deputation, but it had not made so much progress as it might have done, though he believed there was an intention to proceed with it.


said, that the fact was that legislation was not necessary to do Scotland justice. He thought it would be very well if the amount to be paid to England, Scotland, and Ireland for local purposes could be estimated, because it was admitted that they received less money from the Treasury than England or Ireland, while they were twitted in that House with receiving a greater amount than they were entitled to. So long as monies were paid from the Imperial Treasury for local purposes, he thought it would be well if the people of Scotland were put upon the same footing as those of Ireland and England, for which purpose there need not be any change in the law whatever. He considered it would be advantageous to appoint a Select Committee to ascertain what proportion was paid to each of the three divisions in that Kingdom.


said, he certainly must add his emphatic protest against the delay which had taken place in not having already acceded to the request of the deputation, a request which was generally considered to be conceded at the moment. There was a very strong feeling in Scotland on this question, and that deputation represented opinion from all parts of the country. They asked for very few boons for Scotland, and nothing but what they believed was justice; and, therefore, he hoped that another year would not pass without an attempt being made by the Government to deal with that particular point, and render justice to Scotland.


said,that the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) had stated the case of Scotland quite correctly. The fact was, that where Scotland got £1,000 for Poor Law medical purposes, England got £18,000; and yet, where Scotland paid £1 to the National Exchequer, England only paid £7; so that while Scotland paid one-seventh, she only received one-eighteenth. A Bill had been brought in, but a variety of things had arisen which had stopped its progress. For his own part, he was not at all satisfied with a Member of the Government getting up, and saying—"You may depend upon it this will not be lost sight of." It might be taken up many times, and it might not be taken up at all. There was no need for any alteration whatever in the law, and it was in the power of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to put an additional sum in a Supplementary Estimate for the purpose.


said, that since he had last addressed the Committee on the subject, he had examined the Returns, and could new speak very confidently upon the subject of the unfair treatment of Scotland in comparison with either England or Ireland. He did not think, on the other hand, that the remedy for the evil which he admitted existed ought to be postponed until some general Poor Law Bills could be brought in, but should be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;

Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.