HC Deb 25 February 1896 vol 37 cc1046-54

On the motion for the Second Reading of this Bill—

MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)

said, the Bill proposed to establish an infirmary in Waterford for the county and city of Waterford. At present there was no county or city infirmary there. There was what was called in Waterford the Old Leper Hospital. The charter dated as far back as the days of King John, and there were granted in perpetuity to the Mayor and Corporation certain lands and certain possessions in the city for the support of the hospital and for the relief of lepers and other diseased persons. Though the scourge of leprosy had ceased to exist, the hospital bore its old name. It was now proposed to utilise the present buildings and property for an infirmary. Hon. Members were on the present occasion at some disadvantage. He knew the lands in question, but he had no particular knowledge of the income derived from the property. He regretted that the promoters of the Bill had not given them some table showing what the income was, and also how the judicial rents, if they were judicial rents, bore with the valuation of the land. As to the provision of county hospitals for Ireland, he thought the Local Government Board might do a great deal towards meeting the want by utilising the hospitals now attached to the different Unions, which were, as a rule, well equipped. He knew some people would object to go to a Union hospital. He did not object to such people being provided for, but he objected to the mode in which they were to be provided for. His chief objection was to the source from which it was proposed to get an income for this hospital. It was suggested that the Grand Jury should have power to levy a rate to the amount of £800 a year in the country and £400 a year in the city for the maintenance of the hospital. The Grand Juries were not representative, and to such a course he strongly objected. As he had previously said, his main objection to the hospital was on account of the source from which it was to derive a considerable portion of its support. The Bill proposed that a certain number of Governors should be nominated, and in addition to that a list of non-official Governors was to be appointed, and they were to be elected for life with power to appoint their successors. It was true that, so far as he knew of, these gentlemen were men of standing, but not one of them occupied anything like a representative position in the city. In this connection, it was only fair to the promoters of the Bill that he should state that he had received a telegram from the Mayor of Waterford stating that the Infirmary trustees had agreed to add four names to the non-official list, thus equalising the number of Catholics and non-Catholics, and that the Bishop of Waterford and the Mayor thought that in those circumstances opposition to the Bill should be withdrawn. Doubtless the Bishop was of opinion that opposition should be withdrawn, and he should be glad if possible to accede to his Lordship's wishes, but his constituents were opposed to the Bill; they objected to any increase of powers being given to the Grand Juries, whose action was in reality a system of taxation without representation, and he was bound to act in that House for his constituency. ["Hear, hear!"] He at one time made what he regarded as a fair proposition to the promoters. He told them that if they chose to make the Bill a city Bill, and confine it to the city, he should have no objection to it, but the promoters did not see their way to adopt the suggestion and insisted that the county should supply a part of the funds for the maintenance of the hospital. A statement had been circulated that the two Boards of Guardians in his constituency had decided in favour of the Bill. That was not the fact. It was true that two resolutions in favour of the Bill were passed, but they were brought up merely on correspondence and without notice, and it was only recently that some of the Guardians waited upon him and said that, so far were the Boards from being in favour of the Measure, if a statement of the facts was placed before them the two resolutions referred to would be rescinded. The Waterford Board of Guardians, in fact, of which he was himself Chairman, had since unanimously rejected the proposal of the Bill. Another suggestion he made with a view to meet the promoters was that arrangements should be made by which certain powers in regard to the county rate should be transferred from the Grand Juries, entirely unrepresentative bodies, to the Boards of Guardians; but this also did not meet with approval. To show the absurd and incompetent way in which these Grand Juries sometimes acted, he would mention that about eight years ago, when the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway Bill was brought before that House, the Grand Jury pledged the county rate to the extent of paying the shareholders 5 per cent. for 35 years.


asked whether that passed the Presentment Sessions.


replied that the hon. and gallant Gentlemen knew as well as anyone that the Presentment Sessions were not in any way representative. They did not reflect the views of the ratepayers.

MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

Will the hon. Member say "yes" or "no." [Cries of "Order!"]


Does the hon. Gentleman mean to say that the Presentment Sessions represent the views of the ratepayers?


Yes, I do. [Nationalist laughter.]


said, that in that case he would mention two instances of their mode of action that came under his own knowledge. His late colleague in that House—Mr. J. D. Pyne—was one of the largest ratepayers in the County of Waterford, but owing to his political views he was never once solicited as an associated ratepayer to take part in the Sessions. The other instance related to himself. For years he was regularly summoned as an associated ratepayer to take part in the Presentment Sessions. In 1880 he was made a magistrate, and then it was not necessary for him to be an associated ratepayer in order to take part in the Sessions. But in 1887 Lord Ashbourne removed his name from the roll of magistrates, and, though he still possessed the same qualifications to serve on the Sessions, he had never since that day been asked to attend them. [Nationalist cheers.] He contended, therefore, that the Presentment Sessions were not representative in any way of the ratepayers, and were not entitled to speak or act for them. For the last 16 years they had been paying £14,000 a year for this county railway, owing to the incapacity of the Grand Jury. In his own place he was paying 11½. in the pound for the railway which he never used. This was a good specimen of the way in which these Grand Juries administered affairs. These Grand Jurors, who, by this Bill, they were going to give special powers to, had always prided themselves on standing aloof from the people. The Bill also made it impossible for the ratepayers, who were asked to con tribute this £800 a year, to have the assistance of any but lay persons. He wanted the poor to be well nursed, and he wanted proper accommodation to be provided for them, but what he objected to was this system, which necessitated the asking of the ratepayers, through the Boards of Guardians, to support these hospitals. He certainly objected to conferring further powers on the Grand Jury, which had shown its incapacity in the past. With that object he would move the Motion standing in his name.

MR. J. ROCHE (Galway, E.)

seconded the Motion.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

said, he sincerely hoped the opposition to this Bill would not be pushed to the extreme, but if they did he hoped the House would give it a Second Reading with a decisive majority. The object of this Bill was to carry out the intention of the hon. Gentleman when he said he was anxious the poor should be properly nursed and that proper accommodation should be provided for that purpose. The city of Waterford, with 20,000 inhabitants, and the capital of a populous community, was entirely without anything in the nature of an infirmary or county or city hospital. The absence of this accommodation necessarily entailed very great hardship and suffering, especially on the poorer classes. In the city of Waterford there was an intense feeling in support of the Bill. There was, in Waterford, an old institution called the Leper Hospital of St. Stephen, established in the reign of King John. It had a small fund, about £800 a year, but it had a magnificent building, capable of accommodating at least 100 patients. Owing, however, to insufficient funds, they were not able to provide more than about 20 beds, or a resident physician, or a nursing staff. The object of this Bill was to convert this old Leper Hospital into a city and county Infirmary, and to utilise the building and also the funds so far as they would go. Complaint had been made of insufficient notice, but he would remind the House that in the Session of 1895 he introduced this Bill as a public Bill, but he had to drop it because it was held by the authorities of the House that it must be introduced as a private Bill. He had now had to introduce it as a private Bill at a cost, if it was unopposed, of some £400, and at a very much greater cost indeed if the opposition of the hon. Gentleman went on. A public-spirited and benevolent gentleman in Waterford had provided the money necessary to pay the fees of this House and of the other House, so as to enable the Bill to be introduced. There was practical unanimity in the city and county of Waterford in favour of the Bill. What was its backing? He did not suppose a private Bill was ever introduced which was so influentially and universally supported as this was. The petition was signed by the Catholic and Protestant Bishops, by all the Catholic parish priests and administrators, by the Protestant Dean and all the Protestant clergy of the city, by the Mayor of the city, the High Sheriff of the county, and the High Sheriff of the city. The Grand Jury of the county and of the city also, unanimously passed resolutions in its favour. One of the objections originally taken to the Bill was that on the governing body of the new institution there was not a sufficient representation of Catholics as contrasted with Protestants. As the governing body stood in the Bill at the present moment there were 17 Catholics to 16 Protestants, but the promoters had, in order to obviate this expensive and irritating opposition, agreed to insert four additional Catholic names to act on the governing body. The governing body was to be composed of ex officio and non-official members. The ex officio members were to be the present Master of the Leper Hospital, the Catholic and Protestant Bishops, the Incumbent of the Parish, the Parish Priest and administrator of all the Catholic parishes, the Mayor, the High Sheriff, and the three Members for the city and county. The Grand Jury nominated a certain number in proportion to the amount which they contributed. The non-official members were to consist of the present Trustees of the Leper Hospital, thus bringing into this institution this magnificent building and the £800 a year. That was a very fairly-constituted body. The second, and really the main objection of the hon. Gentleman was the fact that they were asking the Grand Jury to contribute something to the maintainance of this hospital. He did not yield to anyone in his opinion of the non-representative character of the Grand Jury system. All the Nationalist Members for Ireland were in favour of substituting for these Grand Juries representative bodies, such as County Councils in England, and when these County Councils were established, as they must be sooner or later, then all the functions and all the powers of the present Grand Juries would of course be handed over to them. But in the meantime what were they to do? They had no other body to go to, and he submitted it would be an absurdity to suggest that they should go to the Boards of Guardians. There were county and city infirmaries all over Ireland, and there was absolutely no precedent in existence for a county and city infirmary maintained by the Guardians out of the Poor Rates. Poor Law Guardians had their own workhouse hospitals to support at the present moment, and if this power were to be given to them, and if, in addition to their own workhouse hospitals, they were to contribute to this new hospital, it would have still clinging to it the objection with which the poor people still regarded workhouse hospitals. As to the question of taxation without representation, he objected to that principle as much as anyone, and they only went to the Grand Juries because there was no other body to go to. They did not compel them to give a contribution, but they were empowered to levy a tax of £800 if they chose to do so, which would only amount to a halfpenny in the pound on the population of the county. He was pleading, in this matter, on behalf of the suffering and sick poor of the city and county of Waterford, and he regretted that this opposition—which had developed at the last moment, which had already entailed considerable expense, and which would entail more if it went on—had been allowed to impede the progress of the Bill. Beyond the opposition shown there that day, and by the one Board of Guardians that had been mentioned, there had been no opposition whatever, and no petition lodged against the Bill, and the whole length and breadth of the opposition might be gathered from what had been stated by the hon. Gentleman. He hoped that the opposition would not be persevered in. If it was it must entail considerable expense and delay, and if, by any chance, it were successful, it would entail years, perhaps, of additional suffering to the poor sick of the county of Waterford. In these circumstances, he hoped the opposition would not be pressed, but if it was, he appealed to men of all creeds and parties in the House to carry the Bill by a decisive majority.

DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)

expressed gratification at the fact that clergymen of both denominations were to be ex officio Trustees of the infirmary under this Bill, which was not the case in the County Cork Hospital, with which he had been connected for 10 years. He wished to point out, however, that only secular nurses were to be appointed.


That is not so. The governing body of the institution, in which there will be a large majority of Catholics, has ample power to have either nuns or secular nurses, just as they choose.


observed that the clause in the Bill said: "The existing system of employing only secular matrons, nurses and probationers shall be continued."


Read on.


"But this provision may be annulled by resolution." There had been, he believed, the same power in connection with the Cork South Infirmary, but although for years an agitation had been carried on to get Protestant nursing sisters for Protestant patients, and Catholic nuns for nursing Catholic patients, it had never been done by the Trustees. The same remark also applied to the Infirmary for County Kerry and the Barrington Hospital in the city of Limerick. He certainly distrusted the giving of so much power to the Grand Jury. His experience was, that the Grand Jury members of these institutions never attended the meetings of the Boards of Trustees except there was some job on. If the Bill was allowed to pass, he hoped that the various rules would be so modified as to give a proper preponderance in the government of the Institution to the people who were in a majority in the county and city of Waterford.

MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)

did not wish to intervene between the House and any decision, but he believed it was usual, on an occasion such as this, for the Chairman of Committees to give his advice in matters of the kind. The rule which the House had generally followed, and he thought very wisely, had been to allow the Second Reading of Private Bills to go through unless any strikingly new principle happened to be enunciated therein, and in such cases the House must pause before it accepted the principle. He had listened most attentively to the Debate, and he confessed he saw nothing of a new principle in any of the proposals of the Bill. On the contrary, so far as he had been able to gather, the Bill only carried out, in the case of Waterford, that which already existed in the case of certain other counties and cities in Ireland. Certain objections had been taken to the Bill by the hon. Member who raised the opposition to it, but he thought they were all Committee objections, and that the proper place to deal with them would be in Committee, not upon the Second Reading. All hon. Members were agreed as to the desirability of the object of the Bill, and that being so, the only difference of opinion was as to the machinery. The questions with regard to the representation of Protestants or Roman Catholics, the employment of secular nurses, and the means by which the funds were to be obtained for placing the hospital in an efficient condition, he ventured to submit, could all be fairly and properly dealt with in Committee, should the Bill be opposed; or, if unopposed, would be considered by the authorities of the House in the proper place, but no case had been made out for making an exception to the ordinary rule, and, no new principle being promulgated, the House would do well to follow the rule it had invariably followed in former Parliaments—namely, to give the Bill a Second Reading, and send it Upstairs, in order that it might be dealt with there in the usual manner.

MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

controverted the assertion of the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill adopted on new principle, remarking that it extended and perpetuated the bad principle of allowing the Grand Jury to deal with funds, no portion of which it levied upon itself. In the case of the County Hospital in Cork, the Grand Jury contributed largely to the institution, and so did the City Corporation. Both the Cork Grand Jury and the Cork Corporation were largely represented on the governing body, but there were other representatives, including the Members of the county. He certainly thought they were justified in objecting to a non-representative body like the Grand Jury, which paid none of the taxation, monopolising the representation on the governing boards of institutions of this character.

The House divided:—Ayes, 320; Noes, 57.—(Division List, No. 12.)