HC Deb 23 November 1920 vol 135 cc208-10
70. Mr. DEVLIN

asked the Minister of Pensions whether it is proposed to transfer the medical boards in connection with the Ulster region of the Ministry of Pensions from the Grand Central Hotel, Belfast, their present headquarters, in the centre of the city, to Hilden Convalescent Hospital, which is on the out skirts of the city; whether it would be most inconvenient for the disabled men to have to travel so far to be examined, as the long journey would cause unnecessary suffering, and the expense in tramway fares would be very great; and whether, as there has been no complaint regarding the present arrangement, he will take steps to cancel the proposed transfer?


The Commissioners of Public Works are responsible for the provision of accommodation for this Ministry in Ireland, and I understand that in the interests of national economy the Grand Central Hotel, which at present accommodates both the Ulster Regional Headquarters and the Ulster Medical Area Boards, must be vacated as soon as possible. As the medical boards are not likely to continue indefinitely at their present strength, the heavy capital expenditure necessary for the purchase of a building or site in the centre of the city cannot be justified, and as I am informed that suitable premises cannot be obtained on a short lease the provision of temporary hutting upon a vacant site offers the best solution.

It was first proposed to place the huts on the Old Asylums ground, which is centrally situated, but the Belfast Corporation declined to let the site, and in default of a more central site the Commissioners of Public Works have the Hilden Convalescent Hospital grounds under consideration as an alternative. I will inform my hon. Friend as soon as a definite decision has been reached by the Commissioners. My hon. Friend is doubtless aware that compensation for loss of time and travelling expenses may be claimed by the pensioners.


Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this convalescent hospital is several miles from the railway stations, and cannot he take some steps, in the interest of men who perhaps have great difficulty in walking, to obtain some kind of accommodation for these boards nearer in?


That is what we are hoping to do, to get some site, and we shall be glad of any assistance that either hon. Member can give us, by the use of their influence in order that we can get suitable sites offered, as I entirely agree that we want a site which will avoid this difficulty, but I would remind both my hon. Friends that if these men were seriously ill and under treatment, there would be no question of a medical board.


Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman bring pressure to bear on the City Council of Belfast to give a grant of land or some building for this purpose—a lease of land?


May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether it is not a fact that a deputation of Ulster Members waited on him three weeks ago suggesting to him an alternative site and that consideration of it was then promised? Has nothing been done since?


We want to get a site, and we are doing all we can to get one. I am in entire agreement with my hon. Friends on the matter.