HC Deb 21 March 1881 vol 259 cc1495-7

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether the following allegations are well founded:—That at the late sworn inquiry held into the management of the Belfast Workhouse, by Messrs. Bourke and Brodie, Local Government Board Inspectors, evidence was given by a witness named Porter, who had been employed by the guardians as a temporary clerk in the master's office, that the names of 75 persons were enrolled in the workhouse books, for whom dietary was charged, although said persons were not in the house at all; that the inspectors at said inquiry ascertain how long this practice had continued in order to know what loss, or probable loss, the ratepayers may have sustained; that the system of book keeping was so imperfect that the assistant master, with the view to regulating the books, periodically issued to the gate-porter mythical discharge dockets bearing the names of persons who were not in the institution, and their keep charged for; and who, consequently, could not pass through the gate; that the assistant master and the gate-porter referred to, admitted on oath to this system being practised; that neither censure nor rebuke was given to either of these two persons, and that the Local Government Board still continue to permit them to hold office; that at the last stock taking by the guardians deficiencies in stock amounting to about £700 were found to exist, and that although these discoveries have been made several months ago, and the Local Government Board repeatedly informed of the facts, no action has yet been taken; that the Local Government Board has permitted the Belfast Workhouse to remain without a master for a period of two months, although aware that the institution was overcrowded during all this time; that the Limitation Order of the Local Government Board sets forth that not more than 2,500 persons can be accommodated in the Belfast Workhouse, whilst they are in possession of the fact that at the present time and for several weeks past, as many as 3,180 persons, 1,400 or 1,600 of whom are sick and unsupplied with beds, are inmates of the institution; that the Local Government Board have knowingly permitted the school rooms of the Belfast Workhouse to be converted into hospitals; and, if the foregoing assumptions be correct, if he is prepared, on behalf of the Government, to take into immediate consideration the urgent necessity and importance of a re-modelling of the present constitution of the Local Government Board in Ireland?


The hon. Member has asked me 10 Questions in one, relative to the evidence taken at the recent inquiry into the management of the Belfast Workhouse. With respect to the first three or four of his Questions, I find that though no sworn evidence was given on the inquiry tending to show that frauds had been committed in reference to the dietary, still it did appear that the books had been kept in a manner so imperfect and irregular as to necessitate the resignation of the assistant master, and he had resigned accordingly. Deficiencies had been found in the stores, but I am unable to say to what extent. That is a matter which must be dealt with, not by the Local Government Board, but by the auditor of accounts. It is not the fact that the Local Government Board permitted the assistant master and the porter to retain their offices. The workhouse provides accommodation for 2,500 inmates, but new buildings are in course of construction; and, pending the construction, temporary accommodation has been provided for 150 additional inmates. It is not the fact that the schoolroom has been converted into an hospital. The inmates have been supplied with proper bed-clothing, and the house has been cleaned and is free from epidemic disease. The hon. Member's assumptions being incorrect, I am not prepared on behalf of the Government to take into immediate consideration re-modelling of the present constitution of the Local Government Board in Ireland.