HC Deb 02 June 1892 vol 5 cc438-40


Bill considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Standing Orders 223 and 243 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. Caldwell.)

(4.25.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

The evidence given before the Committee on this Bill is not yet printed, as the convenience and usage of the House would require before this stage. It is a document of more than usual interest and importance on such a subject, which hon. Members will have to refer to from time to time; but, considering the course I am about to adopt, I am not disposed to insist upon the production of that evidence, there being, of course, an understanding that it will be placed in the hands of Members without any avoidable delay. As I have been very much concerned with the Bill, both in this House and in the Committee, I think it well to explain the course I intend to take. The opposition which, as a Member for Belfast, I felt bound to offer on the Second Reading has been vindicated by the Amendments and alterations made before the Select Committee. The promoters desired by the Bill first to obtain control of the lunatic asylum, and second to obtain control of the expenditure with regard to reformatory and industrial schools. I regarded the scheme with respect to the schools as the most objectionable part of the Bill. The clauses with regard to that subject have been struck out by the Committee. With regard to the asylum, important Amendments have been made. The Corporation proposed to vest the asylum in themselves, but that proposal has been withdrawn, and as a consequence this asylum, like all others in Ireland, will be vested in the Board of Control. The Corporation withdrew the clauses by which they proposed to nominate two-thirds of the governors, and the case will fall under the ordinary rule, by which half the governors will be nominated locally and half by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. I am disposed to accept the view entertained by the Committee, founded, no doubt, on the evidence before them—evidence of the total exclusion of the Catholic inhabitants from all representative Boards and public employments in Belfast—that the Lord Lieutenant may be relied upon to safeguard the interests of the Catholic body in the constitution of the Board. If the Irish Executive should fail in that respect, due notice of it will be taken here. I am also persuaded from the evidence, not only of the exclusion of the Catholics from the Belfast Corporation, but also of their scandalous treatment in Belfast, that the system of exclusion from the Corporation by deliberate contrivance, long and obstinately continued, will be speedily brought to an end. One other important Amendment was made in regard to the asylums. At my suggestion the promoters agreed that, notwithstanding the severance of the city and county, patients might be transferred from the city asylum to the county asylum when such change would be beneficial to their health. If that Amendment had not been accepted, I should have felt it to be my duty to oppose the Bill to the last. I cannot disguise the fact, however, that I still disapprove of the scheme. I think that, in the absence of the establishment of Local Government in Ireland, the scheme does not afford sufficient accommodation. I believe that in the long run it will lead to unnecessary expense, and press very heavily on the ratepayers of Belfast. But I am bound to take cognisance of the fact that under the Boroughs Funds Act the ratepayers of Belfast had an opportunity of which no doubt they might have availed themselves if they disapproved of the scheme. I am also bound to consider that the scheme has been approved of by a majority of the Committee, and there can be no doubt that the Bill is approved of by a majority of the House. Under all the circumstances, I am not disposed to press further my opposition to the Bill. With regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division, of course I am sensible if I insisted upon the Standing Orders this Bill would be kept before this House until after the Whitsuntide Recess, and probably it could not pass into law this Session. Therefore, as I have no desire to defeat in any degree the present measure, I shall offer no objection to the Third Reading.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.—[New Title.]

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