§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT
of the COUNCIL), in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was the same measure which passed their Lordships' House last Session. Their Lordships would remember that the Bill was very fully considered by the House, and that, after considerable discussion and amendment, it was sent down to the other House of Parliament. The Bill was not rejected by the House of Commons, because it was never discussed in that House. It had never been found possible to find time last Session for even a single discussion on the principle of the Bill. Under these circumstances, it appeared to the Government to be the best plan to bring the Bill in again in its original form, and to send it again to the other House, where he hoped this year it would receive due discussion, and, he trusted, be adopted for the benefit of the Medical Profession and of the public. The Bill had been improved in points of drafting in some respects; but there was only one thing that he should mention, and that Amendment referred to the constitution of the Medical Board for Scotland. It would be remembered by those who took an interest in the subject that it was thought right, in accordance with the strong opinion expressed by the Royal Commission which considered the subject, that the Scotch Universities should have a preponderance of representation upon the Medical Board for Scotland; but he (Lord Carlingford) thought it could hardly be doubted that that principle was pushed rather to an excess in the Bill of last year, and that the disproportion between the representation of 609 the Scotch Universities and the Scotch Medical Corporations was somewhat excessive. The number of representatives of the Scotch Universities upon the Scotch Board was placed at eight, while the Scotch Corporations were only given three. In the present Bill he had raised that number of three to five, which would still leave the Universities with a majority, which they were entitled to enjoy. The Bill had some other minor, but still important, provisions—for instance, one dealing with the status and privileges of Foreign and Colonial practitioners in this country, a branch of the subject which had long called for revision and improvement, and on which the status and privileges of our own practitioners in foreign countries and the Colonies entirely depended. But their Lordships would recollect that the main object of the Bill was to put the system of licensing and registration for the purpose of practising medicine and surgery in the Three Kingdoms on a more satisfactory basis than it was on at present, so that security might be given to the public that every practitioner who should have conferred on him the right to practise should be reasonably qualified to do so. This was a matter of great importance to them all, and seriously concerned the credit of the Medical Profession itself. He could not say that the present system attained that object. It was a system under which the right of conferring licences to practise was left in the hands of a number of professional bodies, all independent of one another, acting under a very imperfect responsibility, and all beset with the temptation to compete one with another, and to compete, of course, in a downward direction. That was a temptation which, as was well known, it was not always possible to resist; and the result was a tendency in too many cases to a system of underbidding one another among those bodies, for the purpose of drawing pupils and members each to its own body. The Bill, in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Commission, proposed to remedy that state of things by creating a Medical Board in each of the three countries, the Boards to be fairly representative of the present Teaching and Licensing Bodies, and to act under the superintendence of a Central Medical Council, and they 610 alone would have the right of conferring licences to practise. Such a Bill as that, he thought, ought to have a fair chance of success, although several previous Bills had failed. It had the great advantage of being based on the full inquiries made, and the able Report which was furnished, by the Royal Commission, which was presided over by the noble Earl behind him (the Earl of Camperdown). It had also the great advantage of having a large amount of support on the part of the Medical Profession. In point of fact, no previous Bill had enjoyed anything like the same support. The only danger apparently to be expected arose from the alarms—greatly exaggerated and even unfounded alarms—of some of the Licensing Bodies in the Three Kingdoms. These alarms were not entertained by the Universities, but by some of the Medical Corporations, who feared that their privileges and incomes might be sacrificed, or their position injured, by the operation of the Act. The Government did not believe, nor did the Royal Commission believe, that those alarms were justified, or that that would be its effect. They desired that the Medical Corporations should hold their ground, and should flourish and prosper in proportion to the service they rendered to the Profession and the public; and he believed that the Corporations would do so under the provisions of this Bill. The alarms to which he had referred were not felt by all the Corporations by any means; they were not felt by many of their most distinguished members; and the hope and belief of the Government was that they would prove entirely groundless; indeed, he trusted that as the Bill became more thoroughly understood all alarm would be removed. The Government would spare no effort for the purpose of passing the Bill into law this Session; and he hoped that it would be as much for the benefit and credit of the great Profession with which it dealt, as for the advantage of the public generally, who were so deeply interested in it. He begged to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Lord President.)
THE EARL OF MILLTOWN
said, he greatly regretted that there had not been a longer time allowed to consider the de- 611 tails of this very important Bill. It had only been issued yesterday, and if it were to be read a second time, then it would be without the Profession being able to make itself acquainted with its provisions. Two of the most famous of the Medical Colleges in Ireland were under the apprehension that it might lead to their virtual disestablishment and disendowment. He hoped that the noble Lord opposite (the Lord President) would postpone the Committee on the Bill to a reasonable distant date.
THE EARL OF GALLOWAY
said, he was grateful to the noble Lord opposite (the Lord President) for having altered the composition of the Board for Scotland as he had announced. The noble Lord had seen his way to do this year, what he had been asked to do last year, and what he (the Earl of Galloway) had then contended for—the giving a little consideration to the Colleges of Scotland as well as the Universities. He thought the proportion of representation as it now stood would meet all the demands of the Scottish Colleges or Corporations.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Milltown) appeared to be under some misapprehension. The Bill was passed through the Upper House last year, so that the Medical Profession had had ample time to consider it.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LOUR. PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
replied, that the measure was identical with that of last year, with the one exception he had mentioned.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
asked that some interval should be allowed before the Committee stage was taken.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
said, the Committee would be fixed for that day fortnight.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday the 20th instant.