HC Deb 20 October 1899 vol 77 cc382-4

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been directed to the reported complaints made by rural district boards in Ireland to the action of the Irish Local Government Board in increasing the expenses of the working of the Irish Local Government Act. Will he explain why, although on the passing of the Local Government Act the Local Government Board made rules for the administration by boards of guardians of the dispensary districts, and provided that medical officers should be allowed an annual vacation not exceeding four weeks, they now insist that boards of guardians must give to medical officers an annual vacation of four weeks at least, and whether the Right Hon. The MacDermot, Q.C., has advised that the action of the Local Government Board in this insistance is illegal, and that the length of vacation is within the discretion of the board of guardians. Whether, in the case of the medical officer at Pettigo, to whom the board of guardians had consented to give two weeks' vacation, the vacation was extended to four weeks by the Local Government Board, and the medical officer was encouraged by the Local Government Board to take four weeks' vacation in defiance of the resolution of the board of guardians limiting his vacation on grounds of economising public money to two weeks; and what steps, if any, does he propose to take for the purpose of checking the action of the Local Government Board in increasing the burthen of public expenditure.


So far as I am aware no complaints of the general character indicated in the first paragraph have been made. Owing to the abolition of dispensary committees under Section 30 of the Local Government Act, it was necessary that the rules for the management of dispensaries should be revised. The Local Government Board took the opportunity, when revising the rules, to introduce several new regulations which had for some time been considered desirable, amongst others one intended to prescribe a period of four weeks as the amount of vacation to which the medical officer in each dispensary district should be entitled. The Board believe that the words used carry out this intention, but if they are obscure or insufficient, the rule can be amended. The necessity for such a rule had long been urged, and the Local Government Board felt that, as dispensary medical officers are called upon to discharge their duties on Sundays as well as on week days, and at all hours of the night as well as of the day, it was essential, in the interest of the sick poor, that these officers should have secured to them a definite period annually for rest and recuperation. The propriety of the rule has been generally recognised by the public, and is, I believe, objected to by only a very small minority of the boards of guardians. The rule in question was made under legal advice, and the wording of it is taken from the Civil Service Regulations. The Board have not seen any opinion of The MacDermot on the subject. The medical officer of Pettigo applied for four weeks' vacation, and his application was approved by the Local Government Board. The guardians reduced the leave to two weeks, but this order was contrary to the regulation and invalid.