HC Deb 27 June 1889 vol 337 cc868-70
SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devonshire, Honiton)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board if it is a fact, as reported in the Cornish and Devon Post of 18th May, that on the motion of Mr. J. Hawkins, an inmate of the Launceston Workhouse, named Dawe, was sentenced to 24 hours' solitary confinement, on bread and water in a cell, on the ground of alleged and disrespectful conduct to a Committee of the Guardians; whether such disrespectful conduct consisted in his refusing to stand up when ordered by the clerk and master, or to take off his hat to an official; whether any other inmates of the Workhouse have been threatened with, or subjected to, solitary confinement, and, if so, how many since February, 1888; what other punishments have been inflicted since that time; what is the average number of inmates in the Workhouse; whether the officials have exceeded their authority in inflicting the punishments referred to, and, if so, whether he will take steps to prevent any recurrence of such proceedings; and whether, under the circumstances of the case, he will consider the expediency of causing an independent inquiry to be held into the state of discipline and the general conduct of the Workhouse.


I have made inquiry of the Guardians of the Launceston Union as to the punishment of Dawe, an inmate of the Workhouse, and I am informed that he was punished by 21 hours' solitary confinement on bread and water under the direction of a resolution unanimously passed by the Board of Guardians. The punishment was in consequence of Dawe 's refusing to obey the lawful orders of the master of the Workhouse. He was requested to stand up on being addressed by a Committee of the Guardians holding an inquiry at the Board Room, and answer questions. The request was repeated several times. Dawe became abusive, and refused to comply with the direction. His conduct, it is stated, was most insolent and abusive both to the Committee and the Master. I have been furnished with a list of the punishments in the Workhouse since February, 1888, and I find that five inmates in addition to Dawe have since that date been subjected to solitary confinement. It appears that on seven occasions other punishments, such as the substitution of bread and water for dinner, have been imposed. The average number of inmates of the Workhouse during the year ended Lady-day, 1889, was 58. From the statement furnished to me I am unable to say that on none of the occasions referred to has the authority of the officers been exceeded. I am making further inquiry on the subject, and if it should appear to me to be necessary, I will direct an inquiry by an Inspector of the Board as to the punishments to which particular inmates have been subjected.


Is there any authority to justify the giving of a different diet from that prescribed by the Poor Law regulations?


Assuming that the Guardians were justified in awarding the punishment, I think they would be justified in altering the diet.