HC Deb 17 March 1887 vol 312 cc517-9
MR. W. J. CORBET (Wicklow, E.)

asked the President of the Local Government Board, Whether he has seen, in this morning's Daily News, a report of an inquest held on the body of Eliza Ryan, aged 62, in the St. Pancras Workhouse; whether he will inquire if it is true, as stated in the report, that the woman was placed in solitary confinement for 12 hours on bread and water, In a cell at the workhouse some nine or ten feet beneath the basement of the main building, while suffering from inflammation of the lungs following on chronic bronchitis; whether he will inquire into the statement of the master that he ordered the confinement "as a punishment, in the exercise of his lawful authority," for offensive language to the matron; under what statute have masters of workhouses a power of summary jurisdiction in such cases; and, what steps will be taken in the matter if it is found death was hastened by the punishment?

THE PRESIDENT (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)

I have made inquiry respecting this case. I am informed that it is not the fact that the woman was placed in solitary confinement as stated in the Question. The room in which she was placed was on the basement of the main building. Although the woman had occasionally been under medical treatment for chronic bronchitis during the past five years, she had not, prior to her last illness, been under any treatment during the past three months, and she was not placed in the punishment room until after she had been seen by the assistant medical officer. On the day following she was apparently in her ordinary state of health, and was at work in the needle-room. On the second day she left the workhouse to attend the funeral of her mother, and on her return she told one of the inmates that she had caught a chill while in the cemetery. She died six days afterwards; and both the medical officer and the assistant medical officer concur in the view that the commencement of the illness from which she died was the shivering and chill taken at the cemetery. At the inquest the verdict was that the death was duo to natural causes, and 11 of the 12 jurymen desired to add to their verdict that no blame attached to the workhouse officers. The woman, I am informed, was punished for being very drunk, violent in her conduct, and for using abusive and insolent language, and per- sisting in doing so. The punishment was duly reported by the master in the punishment book, and was approved by the Workhouse Visiting Committee. The Rules as to the punishment of refractory paupers are contained in the Regulations of the Local Government Board as to the management of the workhouse.