§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. Rathbone.)
§ MR. PELL
objected to the provisions of the Bill. It might be asked why he did not oppose the Bill in an earlier stage? His reason for not doing so was his unwillingness to appear in the light of obstructing the Bill during the whole Session. It ought to have been opposed by the Government, for he would ask, what was the use of a Government if it permitted so mischievous a Bill as this to arrive at the 1277 stage which this had reached? This Bill was mischievous, inasmuch as it removed from one class of persons a disqualification which everyone underwent who permitted himself to become a pauper. The general idea was that the unhappy persons who were suffering from infectious diseases were thrust into asylums. As a member of the Metropolitan Asylums Board, his experience was that, so far from that being the case, they were embarrassed by the eagerness of persons who were only too ready, instead of isolating their children and keeping them at their own cost, to avail themselves of the accommodation provided for paupers. He would relate his own experience in other ways. A few years ago inquiry was formally made among the small-pox patients in the Metropolitan Asylums District Hospital at Hampstead. Certain questions were put. Amongst them were these—"What is your profession or calling?" "Have you ever, in your life, applied for relief?" Only 11 per cent of the persons seeking admission had ever applied for relief—that was, 11 per cent only of the inmates belonged to the class for whom the asylums were built. And there was something more than that. A number of the patients did not consist of artizans or ordinary labourers, and such as would naturally be expected to be found in the class of paupers; but included, he thought, a commercial traveller, clerks, and a number of domestic servants. Now, this hospital was for the use of paupers only. Why should persons be exonerated from the duty of having their servants properly isolated and treated at their own or the servants cost? This was one of the not infrequent attempts during the last year or two to nibble away the fringe of the Poor Law of 1834. They should be very jealous of any attempt at reform or amendment of that code of laws. The Bill spoke of persons who were receiving medical relief as in-patients in dispensaries. He had never heard of dispensaries giving medical relief to in-patients. Before sitting down, he must again express his regret that his right hon. Friend who had charge of these matters had not thought it right to oppose this Bill. He did seriously ask him, in the performance of his duty, not to allow such a Bill as this to pass. He begged to move, 1278 as an Amendment, that the Bill be re-committed.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "now read the third time," in order to add the word "re-committed,"—(Mr. Pell,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'now read the third time' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that the hon. Member for South Leicestershire had given his experience in connection with a Metropolitan Board. On Tuesday last, at a meeting of one of the Boards in London, of which he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was a member, the medical officer reported 17 cases of small-pox which had occurred in a single parish, and that not a large one, in the Metropolis. The outbreak was traced conclusively in 14 cases, and was suspected to have arisen in the remainder from one single case. It was noticeable, also, that all the cases occurred within a period of five days. The medical officer concluded his Report by strongly advocating the principle of this Bill; and he believed that the whole of the medical officers in the Metropolis were likewise in favour of the measure, which had, in fact, been introduced at their instigation and by their wish. The hon. Member had treated this matter entirely as one relating to the Poor Law, and had left out of sight the scientific aspect of the question. Viewed as a matter of public health an entirely different light was thrown on the question; and he, for one, would not have allowed his name to be placed on the back of the Bill unless he was satisfied that the medical officers thought its provisions would be a great gain to the public health of the Metropolis. The hon. Member was also incorrect in stating that the Bill contained an allusion to in-patients in dispensaries; there was nothing of that kind in the Bill.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
admitted they might have occurred in the connection pointed out; but certainly the hon. Member had not conveyed to his mind the idea that he was going to introduce any Amendment touching the principle of this Bill. If he only wished to re-commit the Bill with a view to alter- 1279 ing its phraseology, there could have been no possible objection to that course. As to the principle of the Bill, he would maintain that it did not in the least infringe the spirit of the Poor Law. The hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) was the first to raise any question on the point; but he thought that it had been shown that the Bill was no infringement of the Poor Law.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
could not support the Bill as it stood. It was laid down by the Bill that the receipt of medical relief out of the rates was no longer to be an electoral disqualification. That was an objectionable proposal. In Ireland the Poor Law contained a provision to the effect that if a person who had received medical relief afterwards repaid the cost of it he should cease to be disqualified, and that seemed a proper principle. Some confusion existed in the minds of the promoters of the Bill between medical relief under the Poor Law and medical attendance under the Public Health Act. The Bill provided that a person was not to be disfranchised by receiving medical relief at the hands of a sanitary authority; but, in truth, there was no such condition of disfranchisement, and the Bill in that respect pretended to deal with what did not exist. It was well known that hospitals set up by the sanitary authority under the Public Health Act pauperized no one. This and other objections constituted, he thought, sufficient grounds for his refusal to accept the Bill in its present shape.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, that when the Bill was before the House on a previous occasion it had been discussed fairly and fully. The House was so much in favour of it that the Government, very wisely, did not push their opposition. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had told them that a man was not allowed to vote who had received relief out of the rates in the hospital built by the guardians; but that there was no objection to his doing so if the hospital was paid for out of the sanitary rate. The meaning of that was that the great expense which had been incurred in building hospitals for small-pox and fever under the guardians of the poor would have to be doubled to provide another set of hospitals for a sanitary authority. In his opinion, the 1280 ratepayers would thereby be placed under very great additional burdens. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) had said that people were crowding into the hospitals. As a guardian he (Mr. Rathbone) had taken an active part in these matters, in what he believed was one of the largest parishes in England. They had many cases of small-pox and fever, but were so far from finding people ready and willing to crowd into the hospitals, that it was with the greatest difficulty they could be got into them when it was absolutely essential for the benefit of the crowded districts in which they lived that they should be isolated. He had never known an instance of a person seeking to go into these hospitals without being pressed. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire had also informed them that there were a great mass of domestic servants entering the hospitals. To that he would answer that the Bill did not touch them as they had no votes. Under the present system people were made to pay for these hospitals, and were afterwards compelled to go into them; and it was not right that they should be made paupers because they had been compelled to enter the hospitals.
§ DR. BRADY
remarked that the object of the Poor Law regulations with regard to infectious diseases was to prevent the spread of contagion. A man might be taken into one of the leading hospitals suffering from disease, and he might come out of that institution perfectly well; but if he did not pay for the assistance he had received he was disfranchised, and precluded from giving a vote at any Election. He did not think that that was right or just. The clause of the Act had only this one effect—to deprive a man of a privilege he ought to enjoy, because by accident he had happened to get into the power of a Poor Law medical officer. He hoped this Bill would pass, and that they would have no more restrictions put upon people in such circumstances.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 40: Majority 25.—(Div. List, No. 7.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed, with an amended Title.