HL Deb 21 May 1867 vol 187 cc860-2

presented a Petition from the Guildford Board of Guardians praying for an Alteration of the Law respecting, and for increasing the Authority of Poor Law Guardians, stating that their medical officer had been guilty of what was considered by them gross neglect of duty, that they suspended him in consequence, and that the Poor Law Board, after inquiring into the circumstances of the case, had censured his conduct severely and then re-instated him in his office. The Petitioners complained that, in such cases, it was the practice of the Poor Law Board to send as Inspectors gentlemen who, from their absence of legal training and professional experience, were not fully qualified to sift the evidence and determine its real value. This, he thought, was a point that deserved consideration; and he could say, from his own experience as a member of a Board of Guardians, that there had been a great want of legal knowledge exhibited by some of the Inspectors holding office under the Poor Law Board. The Petitioners moreover complained that facts furnished to the Poor Law Board affecting the previous character of this officer, and bearing materially on the question they had to decide, had been suppressed. It was said that the Poor Law Board denied the receipt of those facts; and he believed that there must have been some error in reference to this part of the complaint. The Petitioners desired that larger powers, and especially that of dismissal, should be conferred upon them. It was true that they were already empowered to suspend any of their officers; but if they suspended any officer for neglect of duty and the Poor Law Board re-instated him, the suspension was rather an advantage than a punishment, because the officer did no duty, but obtained nevertheless the whole of his salary in arrear. He merely laid the Petition on the table, and expressed a hope that the noble Lord the President of the Poor Law Board would cause inquiry to be made into the allegations which it contained.


said, he had made it his business to inquire into the circumstances to which the Petition referred. He believed that the experience of all their Lordships who were members of Boards of Guardians would satisfy them that, on the whole, the working of the Poor Law system would not be advantaged by lodging the power of dismissal in any other hands than those of the Poor Law Board. The facts were correctly stated in the Petition. The Poor Law Board carefully considered the whole of the evidence laid before them by their In- spector, and came to the conclusion that though the misconduct alleged against the medical officer deserved censure, it was not grave enough to necessitate his dismissal. It was true that the Inspector in this case was not a lawyer—but one of the two medical men who had been appointed to that office of late years; but his noble Friend would recollect that the whole of the evidence laid before him was submitted to the President of the Poor Law Board, and the other gentlemen, legal and other, connected with the Department, who would not have taken into consideration any evidence which ought not legally to have been admitted. He should feel it is duty to again look carefully over the documents; but his impression, at all events, was that the decision of the Poor Law Board fully met the justice of the case.

Petition Ordered to lie on the Table.