HC Deb 26 September 1831 vol 7 cc603-5

Mr. Robert Gordon moved the Order of the Day for considering the Lords' Amendments to this Bill. The hon. Member took that opportunity of expressing his objection to several of the amendments, particularly that of requiring that the reports of the Commissioners under the Bill should be made to the Lord Chancellor, instead of the Home-Secretary as heretofore, and all that part of the Bill which directed copies of these reports to be laid on the Table of that House had been struck out. Now, as they were to be called upon to provide for the surplus expenditure of some of those houses, it was but right they should have some account of the condition of those establishments before them. He would not press his opinions further, unless he saw it was the wish of the House; at present, he would merely move, that the amendments be read a second time.

The Attorney General

said, that his hon. friend deserved great praise for his attention to the subject. With respect to the transfer of the guardianship of lunatics to the Lord Chancellor, he was sure the House must know, he was by our laws the admitted guardian of that unfortunate class of persons. He believed the alterations in the Bill were made in a sound and discreet spirit, and ought to be willingly adopted by the House.

Sir Robert Peel

said, that the control of these matters had been originally transferred to the Home-Secretary's Office, at the request and for the convenience of the Lord Chancellor, who thought that a better arrangement. While he was in office he found no difficulties arise from that arrangement, and he saw no reason why it should again be altered.

The Solicitor General

was of opinion, that the jurisdiction should more properly be in the Great Seal, where the control of all matters relating to these unhappy persons was placed.

Lord Granville Somerset

said, that as he had for three years been one of the Commissioners who had been fortunate enough to be considered as having worked this Commission well, from his experience he felt himself entitled to say, that the control of the Commissioners was better placed in the hands of the Secretary of State than in the Lord Chancellor. He meant nothing disrespectful to Lord Chancellor Brougham, but he was convinced that he could not give sufficient attention to these subjects while his time was so much employed upon others. The consequence of this would be, that the Commissioners would be under the control of the Lord Chancellor's Secretary, which he thought no Gentleman would submit to—he certainly would not for one. He also objected to the appointment of legal and medical men on the Commission, and should oppose the adoption of the amendments.

Mr. Hume

was of opinion, that the Lord Chancellor did not take cognizance of the cases of lunatics in one out of twenty. The jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor had hitherto been confined to lunatics possessing property, and he did not think this was a time to add to his duties. The superintendence of these unhappy persons was properly a measure of police, and ought to be placed in the hands of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The clause preventing the House of Commons from knowing how its own money was spent was one which he could never agree to. He was satisfied that the alterations in the Bill would render it inoperative, and he should vote against the amendments.

Mr. George Lamb

said, it was probable that some of the remarks made by the Commissioners would not be fit to be laid before the public. The only real objection he could see, was that mentioned by his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, by which the House was prevented examining into the manner the public money was to be disposed of. If this was really to be the case, he should hold the objection fatal, but he apprehended they could, whenever it was necessary, have the accounts of the expenditure laid before them.

Two of the Amendments proposed by the Lords agreed to upon the Amendment transferring the control of lunatics from the Secretary of State for the Home Department to the Lord Chancellor being moved,

Sir Charles Wetherell

said, he feared, if the execution of the Bill was to be committed to the Lord Chancellor much of its beneficial effect would be lost. He had no hesitation in saying, that the appointment of the Commissioners should rest with the Secretary of State, with whom at all times they could have free communication, which it was impossible they could have with the Lord Chancellor. There was great danger that the legal and, not legal Commissioners might disagree, and as the Commission had hitherto worked well, he hoped the Bill would be restored to the state in which it originally stood.

The House divided on the question, that the Amendment be agreed to:—Ayes 55; Noes 66—Majority 11.

The other Amendments were agreed to: a Committee appointed to draw up reasons for disagreeing with their Lordships' Amendment.