HL Deb 27 May 1879 vol 246 cc1338-40

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

House in Committee accordingly.


said, that by the Bill, as it originally stood, no one would be disqualified by the receipt of parochial relief in certain cases from exercising' the franchise. The question had been considered, and it appeared that the only relaxation of the Poor Law of 1835 was that by the Statute 25 & 26 Vict. c. 83, s. 6, an Act applying solely to Ireland. This provision he proposed to adopt in the Bill. Under the Act in question a person who had obtained medical relief in a Union fever hospital could ask to re-pay the Guardians the cost of that relief, and, if he did so, the fact of his having received it did not deprive him of electoral rights. The noble Duke concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice, as follows:— In Clause 1, page 1, line 9, after ("family") leave out to the end of the clause and insert ("has before or after the passing of this Act received relief and medical treatment as an inpatient of any hospital or infirmary maintained under the laws for the relief of the poor in consequence of such patient suffering from any dangerous disease, provided such person shall have repaid or tendered to the authority of such hospital or infirmary the cost of the in-maintenance therein of himself and any member of his family as aforesaid, such cost to he determined according to the average of the cost of in-maintenance in such hospital or infirmary during the half-year preceding the admission of the patient. The expression 'cost of in-maintenance' in this section shall he deemed to include the expense in and about the maintenance, treatment, and relief of the in-patients of the hospital or infirmary, exclusive of the repairs and furniture thereof, and the salaries, remuneration, and rations of the officers and servants, hut inclusive of the necessary expenses incurred in the warming, cleaning, and lighting of the building, and otherwise keeping it fit for use.")


said, that he had a sincere desire that there should be no improper exercise of the franchise where persons received poor relief. But this was a different matter. It was of the greatest importance for the purpose of preventing the spreading of infectious diseases that persons should not be deterred from accepting the benefits of hospital relief through the fear of losing their electoral privileges. Persons had been, upon the authority of medical officers, persuaded to enter hospitals where they had been maintained under the Poor Law, and, as a consequence, they had been disqualified from voting. That had occurred in several cases, and this Bill was intended to prevent disqualification in future where medical relief only was given. The Bill, as it came from the other House, was defective, and ought not to have been passed in its present shape without some notice from the Government. At present there were two forms of public hospitals, both maintained out of the public rates, one under the sanitary authority, and the other under the Poor Law Guardians. The acceptance of medical relief under the former did not disqualify, but under the other it did; and that was very inconsistent, there being really no substantial distinction in the relief given, nor in the fund out of which that relief was paid for. What he proposed was, that the matter should be left in the hands of the Guardians, and if they found that a man who accepted the benefits of a Poor Law hospital could not pay for his maintenance, he should not be disenfranchised. With that view, he should propose the insertion, in line 7, after "infirmary," of the words "on demand," in the proposed Amendment.


said, that if the Amendment were agreed to, and the words "on demand" were inserted, Boards of Guardians would be brought into connection with political questions for the first time since 1832. To his mind, that appeared to be very undesirable; and as he could not find out that there was any great demand from the public for the proposal of the noble Lord he should, therefore, oppose it.


said, that he quite agreed that if persons sought relief in hospitals they should pay for their maintenance during their illness, or be disqualified from voting. By agreeing to such legislation as had been proposed, they were more and more in danger of pauperizing the population. The Bill was to exempt persons from being paupers, while, in fact, they were receiving relief from the rates. He felt grateful to the noble Duke the Lord President for having made a stand against this Bill, and agreed with him that there would be great danger if they introduced this new element of politics into the Boards of Guardians.


would remind the Committee that all fever hospitals in the Metropolis were under the Poor Laws. If the exception proposed by the Bill were adopted, it would be impossible to draw a line between those who were, or were not, actual paupers. The Amendment of the noble Duke would, however, make a great difference between medical relief and ordinary Poor Law relief, and would maintain the existing principle of the Poor Law. He hoped that the Amendment proposed by the Lord President of the Council would be accepted.


said, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment (The Lord Aberdare) (by leave of the Committee) withdrawn.


ventured to think that neither proposed Amendment would be an improvement of the Bill.

Amendment (The Lord President of the Council) agreed to.

Other Amendments made: The Report thereof to be received on Thursday next.