§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
, in moving that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, briefly explained its provisions, and hoped the House would decide that it was for the benefit of Ireland that the Amendments which the Bill proposed should be made in the existing law. The provision which enabled loans to be raised by sanitary bodies in Ireland, he thought, would commend itself to the House. With regard to loans for paving, he proposed to introduce a clause providing that where any Act empowered any urban sanitary authority to cause the streets or footways under their control to be paved or flagged, such Act, so far as it related to that work being carried into effect, should, for all the purposes of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, which had reference to the borrowing money for the purpose of the Sanitary Acts, be deemed to be a Sanitary Act within the meaning of that term. No new matter was comprised in the Bill, which was merely an amending measure; and he hoped that, as Amendments might be offered in Committee, the House would now agree to the Motion he would make. He wished, however, to say, with reference to an Amendment the hon. and learned Member for Kildare had upon the Paper, that it raised matter which was new to the Bill in a rather inconvenient way. The object of the hon. and learned Member's Amendment might be good or might not; but it was hardly one which ought to be pressed upon the consideration of the 1141 House upon the Bill. The Select Committee, which then sat upon the subject, had decided against introducing the provisions the hon. and learned Gentleman sought to draft into the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. J. Lowther.)
§ MR. MELDON
said, he had an Amendment to the Motion upon the Paper, which was to the effect—That no Bill to amend the law relating to Public Health in Ireland can he satisfactory which fails to provide for the supervision by properly qualified medical officers of health of the sanitary arrangements throughout the country; and this House is of opinion that this supervision can best be carried out by Local Government Boards having power conferred on them to divide the whole of Ireland into districts, and to appoint inspecting medical officers of health for the purposes of such sanitary inspection.He also had another Amendment down to the Bill; but he proposed now to postpone them until they got into Committee on the Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Preamble postponed.
§ Clauses 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.
§ (Loans for paving.)
Where any Act empowers any urban authority to cause the streets or footways under their control to be paved or flagged, such Act, so far as it relates to the paving or flagging of streets or footways, shall, for all the purposes of the sections of The Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, which have reference to the borrowing of money for the purposes of the Sanitary Acts, be deemed to be a Sanitary Act within the meaning of the term Sanitary Acts, as defined by The Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he had intended to oppose the introduction of this clause, 1142 and, therefore, it was necessary that he should state shortly why he did not oppose it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in moving that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, said that this was merely an amending Bill, and there was no introduction of new matter whatever. Those remarks were directed against the Amendment of which he (Mr. Meldon) had given Notice. And yet the right hon. Gentleman himself introduced a clause of the greatest importance, which was quite foreign to the object of the Bill. It was now proposed, in a Bill to amend the Public Health Act, to give the Corporation of Dublin most unlimited powers of borrowing money. It was estimated that the Corporation required some £400,000 or £500,000 for the purpose of paving the streets. The powers of the Corporation were confined to certain matters, which did not include the power to borrow so enormous a sum of money to pave the streets. As they could not borrow that money for any ordinary purpose, the right hon. Gentleman now wanted to say that the paving of the streets was a sanitary purpose; and, therefore, in this merely amending Bill, he put down a clause giving this enormous power to the Corporation. In his (Mr. Meldon's) opinion, it was not a power that ought to he conferred in this way. When the town of Belfast wanted similar powers in a modified form, the course pursued was not to attempt to introduce a provision of this kind in a secret and covert manner into a Bill; but they got a Provisional Order of the Local Government Board, which was afterwards passed into an Act, after full discussion, and the attention of the House had been specifically called to it. But in this case this enormous power was slipped into a merely amending Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary called it. He (Mr. Meldon), therefore, could not, consistently with his duty, assent to the introduction of this clause. But he now understood that hon. Members of the House who represented the citizens of Dublin were in favour of the clause. The hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Gray), as leading Member of the Corporation, in whom all the citizens of Dublin had confidence, had given his assent to the clause; and the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. M. Brooks) also concurred 1143 with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in the desirableness of this being done. That being so, he (Mr. Meldon) left the entire responsibility with them, and would not seek to oppose the clause.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND(Mr. GIBSON)
said, there had not been the slightest desire to increase the taxation on the citizens of Dublin. He could not agree with the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Meldon) as to what he had said in respect to sanitary purposes in England. The paving of the streets was regarded as a sanitary purpose, and so it was regarded in a good many towns in Ireland. The citizens of Dublin did not think it unreasonable that they should be in an exceptional position, and this being represented to himself and to his right hon. Friend he had thought it proper to give effect to the suggestions made to them.
§ MR. M. BROOKS
said, really the intention of the clause was to assimilate the law in the case of Dublin to that which obtained in every town in the United Kingdom, and to which Dublin was now the only exception. He did not like to hear it said that the clause had been slipped into the Bill by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, as it had been the subject of well-considered Memorials from the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of Dublin for a long time.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
§ MR. MELDON
moved the insertion of the following clause:—The Local Government Board may, from time to time, appoint so many fit persons as the Lords' Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury shall sanction, being practising physicians or surgeons, to be inspecting medical officers of health, to assist in carrying out the provisions of 'The Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878,' as amended by this Act, and may remove all or any of such officers and appoint others in their stead.He said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was quite right in saying this was not the first time he (Mr. Meldon) had sought to introduce such a clause into the Public Health Code of Ireland. In 1877, when the Bill was introduced, he had endeavoured to show the necessity of giving the Local Government Board the power of appointing and exercising authority over medical officers of health. He had 1144 brought the matter before the Select Committee, and had not been met with any arguments to show that it was improper to confer such power on the Board. In England, full and ample powers were enjoyed by the Medical Department of the Local Government Board, and this was found to work successfully. The point was raised before the Committee on the 1878 Bill, and it was said the Local Government Board could exercise the same powers as in England; but that had turned out to be not so, and over and over again applications made to the Board had been met with the reply that they had no power to interfere with the officers of health. He did not wish to make the appointment of medical Inspectors compulsory; but he wished to give the Local Government Board the power of making the appointments for two principal reasons. First, because in the rural districts officers of health found themselves, owing to local influences, unable to discharge their duties as they would desire. If it became their duty to report upon the existence of a nuisance under the Guardians, their employers, they had considerable difficulty in making their reports, or in having those reports acted upon when made. Then, again, officers might be found who pocketed the money, but did not do their work. On the other hand, in Dublin there was a difficulty in getting the duties properly discharged; and to secure that the necessity of having a superintendent was severely felt. He merely wanted to give the Board power to depute an officer to see that the duties were properly discharged, and in the Amendment he had substituted the word "may" for "shall." There would be no necessity of appointing new officers; there were other officers in the service; but under the Act there was no power to make it one of their duties to see that the duty of the officers of health throughout the country was properly discharged. These superintendents would be sometimes required to stand between the officer of health and the persons against whom complaints were made; but often they would be required to go about and see that the officers of health were discharging their duties, and this last was most essential in Dublin. It was not easy to get the dismissal of an officer of health for mere neglect; he must be con- 1145 victed of misconduct, and what was wanted was the means of keeping a man up to his work; and this was what he desired in giving the Local Government Board the power of making these appointments.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he was sorry he could not consent to the insertion of the clause. It would necessitate many fresh appointments, for when the hon. and learned Gentleman said the Local Government Board had in its service competent Inspectors, to whose duties this might be added, without going into the question of how far their time would allow of this, he wished to point out that the words used in the clause, "being practising physicians or surgeons," would exclude all lay Inspectors; and there were no practising medical officers connected with the Local Government Board, for those accepting appointments had to devote their entire time to the service. The clause would, therefore, not only add many new appointments, but a new class of appointments, and would involve considerable disarrangement in the service as it stood. He hoped the clause would not be pressed.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he would not press the Amendment, for this reason, if for no other, that he saw he had no possibility of success in pressing it.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MELDON
said, the other two clauses, being consequent upon the first-mentioned, he would not move them.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Postponed Preamble read, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.