HL Deb 18 June 1886 vol 306 cc1836-9

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it referred to a matter which was not new to their Lordships. Since 1870 there had been over 20 unsuccessful attempts at legislation on this subject. When he had the honour, in 1881, of filling the Office which he now held he recommended the appointment of a Royal Commission on the subject. That Commission was composed of very able men, and made a very exhaustive Report. The opinion of the vast majority was in favour of direct representation, and that enabled the Government to propose a Bill which for the first time provided for the representation of medical practitioners on the Council. That Bill was introduced in the House of Commons, and in 1884 it went through the same process. Last year no Bill was presented; but this year his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Committee of Council (Sir Lyon Playfair), who had very great advantages in dealing with the subject, introduced a measure, and succeeded in carrying it through its various stages. That was the first time a Bill on the subject passed through the House of Commons, and great credit was due to his right hon. Friend for the skill and ability with which he had conducted the measure. That was the Bill which he had now the honour to present to their Lordships. The subject was one upon which legislation was very much needed, as there had been for a long time very great uncertainty with regard to the whole question of medical education and examination. At present there were somewhat over 16,000 medical practitioners in the United Kingdom, who had received their licences from a great variety of bodies. He believed 19 in all gave certificates which enabled the holders to be registered on the roll of medical practitioners. In order to get on the register it was not necessary to pass through the schools of medicine and surgery; to pass through one or other would do. Consequently, no one knew whether those whose names were on the register had got a certificate of medicine or a certificate of surgery. The bodies which gave the certificates were the Universities of the United Kingdom—they had the power of giving certificates both in medicine and surgery—and such Corporations as the College of Physicians in England and Ireland and the College of Surgeons. The College of Physicians in London claimed, he believed, the privilege of giving certificates both in medicine and surgery; but the other Corporations had not that power. This Bill steered clear of some difficulties which had wrecked the other Bill. It dealt with points of great importance, but upon which there was practically agreement in the Three Kingdoms. The main principle of the Bill was that before anybody could be registered as a medical practitioner he should get qualification in the three subjects of medicine, surgery, and midwifery. The certificates might be issued by the Universities, and also by the Corporations capable of giving complete qualifications. There was also a provision that Corporations might unite, and when united might give a complete qualification, and the Medical Council might assist them by sending examiners to carrying out the necessary qualifying examinations. Means were provided under the Bill for securing the full sufficiency of the examinations, and, when required, for raising the standard. Another important matter dealt with in the Bill was the constitution of the General Council. It was proposed that there should be five members of that Council directly elected from the general body of medical practitioners in the United Kingdom—three to be elected for England, one for Scotland, and one for Ireland. That was a very important matter, and it was one for which the medical practitioners throughout the country had long contended. It seemed very just that so powerful a Body, who performed such important duties, should have some representation on the Central Council which was to regulate and superintend the Profession throughout the United Kingdom. The Bill also proposed that Edinburgh and Glasgow should each have a separate representative on the General Council, and that Aberdeen and St. Andrew's should elect one jointly. Power was given to the Privy Council to advise Her Majesty, when it thought fit, to allow foreigners to practise in this country on certain conditions. The Bill was not a long one, nor did it involve any very new principle, and he hoped it might receive as much approval in their Lordships' House as it had received "elsewhere." If it passed, he could not but hope that they would have done a great deal to settle a vexed question which had disturbed the medical world for a long time, and to put our medical prac- tice on a better footing, to the benefit of the Profession and of the people of this country, who owed the Profession so much. He begged to move the second reading of the Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl Spencer.)


said, he did not rise to offer any opposition to the Motion. On the contrary, he begged to congratulate his noble Friend on what he had done. He believed the provisions of the Bill had been carefully considered in the other House, and he quite agreed that it had been very skilfully managed by the Vice President. He would not now argue any of the points or clauses of the Bill, though he wished to give his noble Friend opposite Notice that he would move Amendments in Committee which would have the effect of permitting the University of Aberdeen and the University of St. Andrew's each to elect a member to the General Medical Council, instead of collectively as was proposed in the Bill.


said, he should support the proposition of his noble Friend. It was the only case in the Bill in which two Universities were tied together to make one appointment. As the Bill now stood the Irish Universities would each appoint one Member, making five in all, whereas in Scotland they would only have three Members.


said, he was afraid there would be considerable difficulty in re-arranging the measure so as to give effect to the Amendment. That, however, was a question for Committee. At the same time, the principle of combination of Universities for such a purpose was not a new one.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.