HC Deb 09 July 1857 vol 146 cc1169-87

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he did not rise to prolong the discussion on this Bill, as enough had already been said to cause no pleasant feelings in the minds of those who were conscious of a dereliction of duty sis regarded the insane poor of Scotland. It was for the House, by a bold and vigorous measure, to apply a remedy to those evils which all acknowledged to exist, and which no one desired to see any longer perpetuated. He hoped, therefore, that there would be no objection made to the second reading, because he thought that no candid and impartial man could have read the Report of the Commissioners, and the evidence on which it was founded, without coming to the conclusion that legislation was absolutely necessary, and that there was no time for delay. He greatly regretted that any portion of the people of Scotland, in their dread of centralization or of increased taxation, should have shown an inclination to treat lightly the evils which had been exposed by the Commissioners; but, while he admitted, on the one hand, the evils that prevailed, and the existence of a small party in Scotland who were disposed to pass them lightly by, he contended that the great majority of the educated and influential classes had evinced every disposition to deal justly and humanely with the poorest and most to be pitied portion of our fellow-creatures. He feared that there existed in this country a serious misapprehension as to the true state of the case, and that it was supposed that the people of Scotland had altogether neglected the proper treatment of the insane poor. He assured the House that this was not the fact, and in proof of his statement he would refer to the Report of the Commissioners themselves, in which they stated that they had reason to believe that there was no country in proportion to its population which had done so much voluntarily for this class of sufferers as Scotland; and, although it might be said that she contrasted unfavourably with other civilized States in having no national institutions for the reception of the insane poor, yet that in respect to voluntary efforts she was entitled to honourable distinction. He wished to speak with all possible respect of the Commissioners who had drawn up the Report, because he thought that they had performed their duty faithfully, impartially, and thoroughly; but he could not shut his eyes to the fact that in their very natural and proper anxiety to bring to light the abuses which prevailed they had not been sufficiently liberal in their commendation of the admirable chartered asylums of Scotland. What was really wanted in Scotland was an increase of the large public asylums. He held it to be utterly impossible to remedy the present state of things without erecting all over the country a very great number of large public asylums; and to do that was, he understood, the main object of the Bill. Whatever might be the case in other parts of Scotland, in that part of the country with which he was connected the evils to which the attention of the House was called were utterly unknown. In Forfar-shire there existed two large and admirably conducted asylums. He should be glad, however, to see a clause introduced into the Bill prohibiting the confinement of pauper lunatics in any private asylum whatever, where a sufficient number of public establishments were open. He also was pleased to find that the Bill did not propose to interfere with the management of existing asylums otherwise than by supervision of their accounts; for they were already most admirably managed. He would further express a hope that the Lord Advocate would abandon the proposed temporary Lunacy Board, and place the inspection of lunatics at once, instead of at five years hence, under the Secretary for the Home Department, and this change would be attended with the advantage that there would then be a responsible Minister in that House to answer any inquiries which it might be necessary to make respecting the state of lunatics in Scotland. Believing the state of things in Scotland in connection with the treatment of lunatics required remedy, and agreeing in the general principles of the present Bill, he was anxious to see it pass into law in the present Session, but he did not believe that that would be the case, unless the learned Lord deferred to public opinion in the matter he had just mentioned, for hoards, besides being cumbrous and ineffective in general, were especially unpopular in Scotland.


said, he should he glad to see a remedy applied to the evils brought under the notice of the House by the Report of the Commissioners, but perhaps he would be found to differ in opinion with many Scotch Members, as to the most likely means of permanently and usefully remedying them. He regretted that he had been unable to attend the former discussion on the subject of the Bill in that House, or the meeting of Scotch Members which had been convened by the Lord Advocate for its primary consideration; but he would beg English and Irish Members not to consider themselves dispensed from the necessity of attending to Scotch measures, because they were told that the Scotch Members had assembled together in a private meeting, and given their sanction to them. He, for one, saw no ground for creating a new Board in reference to this subject. He entirely concurred in the remarks of the hon. Member, but he also believed that the Commission had allowed itself to be carried away by exaggerated statements; nevertheless, whatever case their Report might make against private houses, it was, as regards the public asylums, highly favourable to Scotland. In some parts of Scotland, the asylums built and supported by voluntary contributions were amply sufficient, and it behoved Scotch Members to see that the country was not saddled with unnecessary expenses. There was no doubt that, in some instances, the Commissioners had exaggerated the existing evil, having taken the number of insane poor, not from the Poor Law Board, but from the reports of constables, and having collected together all sorts of stories from different parts of the country. By the present Bill a new Board was to be appointed, and the Board of Supervision was entirely passed by. Why was that done? He believed that the Board of Supervision had not neglected its duty, for, from the first, it had uniformly, and year after year, called the attention of the Government to the deficiencies in its power. It was, then, the duty of the Government to have given it increased power. In 1852 the attention of the Lord Advocate, who held office under Lord Derby's Administration, was called to the condition of the lunatic poor in Scotland, and he addressed a letter to the Secretary of the Scotch Poor Law Board, requesting to be informed of his views as to the existing evils, and the remedies which he thought it desirable to adopt. He (Mr. Bruce) regretted that, on a former occasion, the hon. Member for St. Andrews (Mr. E. Ellice) had thought it necessary to make some very severe and unjust charges against the distinguished Chairman of the Board of Supervision in Scotland (Sir J. M'Neill), to whom, in his opinion, the country was under great obligation for the manner in which he had discharged his difficult and important duties. He (Mr. Bruce) did not think it possible that so voluminous a Bill as that now before the House, containing no fewer than one hundred clauses, could receive adequate consideration during the present Session; but powers might, without difficulty, be conferred upon the Board of Supervision, which would enable them to provide for the satisfactory administration of the law. He believed that, if two inspectors were appointed, who, if it were thought desirable, might report directly to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, much would be done towards remedying the evils which were now complained of. In reply to the application of Lord Derby's Lord Advocate, the late Secretary to the Board of Supervision said, that it was almost impossible to put an intelligible construction upon many portions of the existing statutes relating to lunatics, and that the codification or embodiment of the law in one Act of Parliament would be a great advantage. The Secretary further stated that the condition of pauper lunatics had, undoubtedly, been much ameliorated during the last ten years, since the Poor Law Act had been in operation; that, during the inquiry which took place in 1844, many cases of a most painful nature were brought to light, such as the chaining of lunatics to trees, or their confinement in a sort of cage; but that measures had since been taken by the Board of Supervision to prevent such proceedings, and to provide for the due administration of the law. Half-yearly returns, containing the names of persons chargeable as pauper lunatics, accompanied by medical certificates, were now required by the Board of Supervision from every parish, and when lunatics were placed in asylums, the jurisdiction, as well as the responsibility, passed to the sheriffs. He (Mr. Bruce) quite agreed in the observations contained is that communication, and he thought that all that was required for the immediate improvement of the law relating to lunatics in Scotland was, to see that additional and efficient inspectors and more ample accommodation were provided. He considered that it would be impossible to pass this Bill in a satisfactory form during the present Session, and if it was hurried through the House, it would be found necessary at a future time to propose another measure for its amendment.


said, as reference had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for Elginshire (Mr. C. Bruce) to a meeting of Scotch Members held on Friday last, to consider the provisions of this Bill, he would take the liberty of telling his hon. Friend and the House that meetings of Scotch Members were not always beneficial even to the intersts of Scotland; for he remembered Lord Rutherford telling him that it was by a meeting of Scotch Members that his Bill, which was a very excellent one, was entirely destroyed, and that after that, he found it utterly hopeless to attempt to carry it through the House. The hon. Gentleman would leave everything to the care of these Poor Inspectors. Why, these inspectors were the main cause of all the mischief that had occurred, and it was the frauds they had committed on the poor that had rendered legislation on this subject necessary. But then, it was said, the Board of Supervision was popular in Scotland. Popular with whom? Why, popular with the "lairds"—popular with the ratepayers, and men like the doctor who had been referred to, and who was afraid to tell the truth, for fear he should incur the censure of the ratepayers. They were totally incompetent to perform the functions assigned to them, and it was suspected that those were the same gentlemen who opposed Lord Rutherford, and who had prevented anything being done for the last ten years. Now, some hon. Members objected to the proposed Lunacy Board for Scotland. He was not standing up for any board at all. He contended they would never have the care and treatment of lunatics in Scotland properly regulated except through the instrumentality of experienced Lunacy Commissioners, such as we had in this part of the kingdom. But he would say, let there be any sort of machinery rather than that things should go on as they did now. The impression created throughout the country by the Report of the Scotch Lunacy Commission, as lately brought under the notice of that House, might be a short-lived one. He suspected there were not many persons who had read that Report. Be that as it might, he would say—"Strike when the iron is hot." Let them not be deluded into deferring this measure to another year. There was no man in that House, or in Scotland, who dared to vindicate the things which were stated in that document. So long as there was not some person whose special duty it was to inquire into those things—so long as these lunatics were left in the hands of the Sheriffs alone—there would never be a remedy applied, and therefore it was absolutely necessary to have some machinery organized with the view to a remedy. It was not, however, for machinery that he contended, but that something should be done for the immediate and permanent protection of these poor and ill-treated people. Letters had recently been sent to him from Scotland on this subject, written on the part of the poor, which gave it a very melaucholy aspect. He said the treatment of the poor in Scotland was scandalous. [An ironical "Hear, hear!"] Yes, he repeated, it was scandalous, and he warned the House against being led away by the cant that they were breaking down the spirit of the poor, by saying that they should support themselves. Support themselves ! It was a perfect mockery. It is bad enough in England, but it is ten times worse there; and he should like to see another Commission sent down to Scotland to see how the poor fared there, just as a Commission had been sent to see how the unfortunate lunatics were treated.


was understood to say, that he perfectly agreed with the hon. Member for West Surrey, that it was not desirable that this measure should be postponed till next Session, as he doubted whether the House would be able then to entertain it. He had risen, however, for the purpose of stating that, in the part of Scotland (Dumfries-shire) which he represented, the only real objection felt to the provisions of the Bill of the Lord Advocate had reference to the constitution of the Board of Commissioners in Lunacy. The leading men in that part of the country who had given their attention to this subject would be perfectly satisfied with the most stringent inspection, and they wished to see the most complete publicity. They desired to see the proposed inspectors appointed; but, at the same time, to hold direct communication with the Secretary of State; and if a change of that kind were made in the Bill, he believed it would meet with general approval. The county with which he was connected was fortunate enough to possess an asylum conducted on the most admirable principles, which afforded very excellent accommodation, so far as it went, for pauper lunatics; and he was authorized to state that the trustees of that institution, at the suggestion of a benevolent lady, who took much interest in ameliorating the condition of this unfortunate class of persons, had passed a resolution by which accommodation for upwards of 200 additional pauper lunatics would be provided. He should like to see the Bill amended so far as to allow such asylums to receive pauper lunatics at a rate of charge not exceeding a given limit to be fixed by the Bill; and he thought, also, that it was only a matter of justice to exempt them from parochial and county rates.


said, he must complain that a vast deal of odium had been thrown on the Board of Supervision for acts of omission and inefficiency over which the able man at the head of that board bad no control, and for which he was not responsible. That, however, appeared now to be the usual fate of the most distinguished public servants both at home and abroad. He would remind the House that the Board of Supervision had annually reported to Parliament and pointed out defects which called for a remedy. But that board had no power to act. It rested entirely with the Secretary of State, or the sheriffs of counties, to carry out the recommendations which were made by the board from time to time. That a state of things existed as regarded pauper lunatics which demanded a remedy there could be little doubt; but the duty of applying that remedy, he repeated, devolved on the sheriffs of counties throughout Scotland and the Secretary of State, and not on the Board of Supervision. He had no hesitation in saying that there was throughout the whole of Scotland an earnest desire that the unhappy people afflicted with lunacy should have the greatest amount of care bestowed on them, and for that purpose they wore ready to consent to any measure, which was not inconsistent with the principle of self-government in local matters. The city he represented had one of the best asylums in the country, and the authorities connected with it invited inspection; but what they did not want was the interference which would disgust those who were voluntarily giving their money and their time to the care and relief of the unhappy inmates of the asylum. Again, the asylum at Perth was managed with all the care of a private Family, and had been productive of the happiest results. He held in his hand a newspaper called Excelsior, which was got up by the so-called mad people there, and in which were several papers translated from German and French into English; and he assured the House that he saw fewer indications of madness in that little sheet than were occasionally to be seen in newspapers with which the community was daily familiar. He took exception to the board contemplated by the Bill; but if the counties were compelled to build asylums in which pauper lunatics could be located, and if the inspection of them could be made by persons sent directly from the Lunacy Commissioners in London, or from the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he should give it his hearty concurrence.


said, he wished to know whether the Lord Advocate was ready to proceed for penalties against any of the parties who had been guilty of the enormities reported by the Commissioners. The case to which he desired more particularly to call attention, was that of the establishment at Hill-lane House, near Greenock. On the day on which the Commissioners visited it there were seventy-one inmates. Most of them were pauper lunatics, paying £22 a year each; but some were of the better class, paying from £40 to £50. The gross receipts where from £1,500 to £2,000 a year. It appeared that the Commissioners had reported against a prosecution in this case because there was no power to mitigate the penalties; but he did not think a penalty of £200 at all too great for the crimes and atrocities which had been committed at that house. The true way to effect a revolution in the treatment of pauper lunatics was to touch the pockets of those who lived by them; and if a few of these persons were prosecuted it would show that the House and the Government were in earnest on the subject.


was understood to deny the truth of the case mentioned in the Report, respecting the removal of a female pauper lunatic from Kirkwall to Edinburgh.


(St. Andrews) said, ho regretted that hon. Members had not noticed the facts upon which he had made his statement. He would not say that the Report was accurate in all its details; but he believed it might be taken as a fair average of the state of things which existed in Scotland. There might be some exaggerations and misstatements; but, on the other hand, there were many cases that never came before the Commissioners, and consequently never appeared in their Report at all. He would not enter into the particular statements; but he would say this much, that while there had been the greatest improvement on the part of the Government, the inefficiency of the system of inspection was abundantly proved. He complained very much that whilst the letter which had been read, stating that great atrocities existed before the Poor Law, but that since the passing of the Poor Law they had ceased, was being written—at the very time when that letter was being penned—two of the worst cases, that of the man who was chained to his bed for thirty years with a two-foot chain, and that of the two women who were confined in cages under very revolting circumstances, were still in existence unaltered. The House of Commons never dreamt of what the state of things really was. Some hon. Members thought the Bill was hard upon individuals. He was ready to admit the eminent services of the gentleman who presided over the Board of Supervision, but the fact was, that the inspection of the poor was more than one individual could undertake. When there was a board consisting of one paid and of several unpaid officers, the whole duty always fell upon the paid officer. The superintendence of the pauper lunatics of Scotland demanded continuous care; it was a continuous charge, and he did not understand that any member of the board attended it continuously. The laches of the board was no doubt to be attributed to its constitution; but the duty of any official who found himself overworked was to state the circumstance to the Government, and consequently he could not acquit the head of the board for not having written to the Government, and said he would no longer be responsible for duties which he had not the means to perform. He dissented from the suggestion of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) to have inspectors come to Scotland from the Lunacy Board in London, It would be centralization with a vengeance, and most distasteful to the people of Scotland. At the same time he was aware of the objections to a new board in Edinburgh, and he had come to the conclusion that all the evils might be remedied without having recourse to it. The three great objects of legislalation were—first, the establishment of proper asylums in which pauper lunatics could be kept; secondly, proper inspection, not only of those asylums, but of every place in which lunatics were confined; thirdly, power in the Board of Supervision, under certain circumstances, of exempting pauper lunatics from confinement in asylums—a power which he thought should be reserved—and some guarantee by way of inquiries from time to time that such exemptions did not lead to abuse. He intended to leave the whole responsibility with regard to the details of the Bill upon the Government. Discussion of the details would be perfectly useless, and would hazard, in point of time, the passing of the measure. He thought it was of the utmost possible, importance that there should be legislation upon the subject, and that an Act should be passed in the present Session. He thought that no inconvenience would result from passing the Bill now, and if from experience they found that amendments were necessary, a measure for that purpose could be introduced next year. In the meantime a new system would be inaugurated, and a basis laid upon which action could be taken immediately. The point upon which he felt the greatest anxiety was that relating to the appointment of inspectors. He was bound to say that the Bill had been greatly improved in that respect, but it still provided for the permanency of the central board in a way which he could not approve. He disliked centralization, about which the people were so justly jealous, and could not see what they wanted with a board in Edinburgh to interfere, beyond simple inspection, with the different local authorities, who were charged by the Bill with the duty of carrying out its provisions. All that was required and desirable was to lay down what the law should be, to say what the counties should do, and then to take care that the Act was properly enforced. There should be two general inspectors— he did not like the name of Commissioners —with no power beyond an absolute right of inspection at all times and under any circumstances, but with the imperative obligation of visiting every place in which lunatics were confined. If they found that the law was not carried into effect in these asylums, they should be empowered to call upon the local authorities to discharge the duty incumbent upon them, and, in the event of the latter refusing to do so within a reasonable time, they should be bound then to make a representation to the Secretary of State, under whose authority and sanction, but subject to any explanation which the local authorities might have to give, legal proceedings might be taken, if necessary, against the offending parties, A provision of that kind would, he thought, prevent undue interference with the local authorities, and protect the central board against that jealousy which it might otherwise excite throughout the country. Again, there must necessarily, in the first instance, be a good deal of negotiation and correspondence with the different counties in Scotland relative to the erection of asylums, and he thought it would be desirable to have, in addition to two paid general inspectors, three unpaid members of the central board for the purpose of carrying out the preliminary arrangements. These three members, he thought, should be gentlemen in whom the people of Scotland generally had confidence, and should continue to act for the first five years the Act was in operation, after which period their functions were to lapse. In this respect, also, the Bill had been greatly improved, and he was not unwilling to take it as it now stood. Another matter to which he wished to direct the attention of the House was the combination of counties. He thought that, instead of having the counties divided into districts, as proposed by the Bill, the principle of the Poor Law Act ought to be adopted. Let every county be told that it would be required to provide a certain amount of accommodation for its pauper lunatics, either by building an asylum for itself, or, if it thought fit, entering into a voluntary combination with other counties for the purpose of erecting an institution for their joint use. That would be much better than taking counties and placing them arbitrarily in districts, for the county authorities would be much better judges than any other persons which plan would best suit their particular case, and could easily ascertain whether they could come to any arrangement. He thought, also, that there should be some power of detaching parts of counties and annexing them, for the purposes of the Act, to other counties. Some of the islands belonging to the counties of Inverness and Ross, owing to their communication with the south by sea, would find it more convenient to send their lunatics to Greenock or Glasgow than to their own district asylums. He likewise hoped that some provision would be inserted in the Bill with respect to medical men, whose position as connected with pauper lunatics, and, indeed, pauperism generally, called loudly for the interference of the Legislature. At the time that the Corn Laws were repealed, when it was supposed that that measure would be injurious to the proprietors of land in Scotland, Sir Robert Peel made a grant from the Consolidated Fund of £10,000 a year towards the payment of medical officers. Under these circumstances, he thought that the Government, seeing the arduous duties they had to perform, and that the working of the measure depended on them above all others, ought to fix a minimum allowance, below which the parishes should not be allowed to go. But there was one very important question which he must again repeat, and to the consideration of which he urged the Government. What was to be done—and done instantly—to alleviate the condition of the pauper lunaties? His hon. Friend had most justly called the attention of the Lord Advocate to the necessity of proceeding against those keepers of asylums who had, in contravention of the law, ill-treated and neglected the wretched creatures entrusted to their charge. He trusted that the hon. and learned Lord would consider the propriety of making some examples which would be a terror to the rest. He wanted to know, also, what was to be done now with that vast mass of lunatics who came under the superintendence of the sheriffs and the poor law authorities—those who were confined in workhouses and allowed to mix with the other pauper inmates, those who were permitted to run wild in their parishes, and those idiot women who—he was sorry to say—were rapidly increasing the population by the birth of idiot children. He wanted to know what was to be done with these poor creatures till the new asylums could be built. If the Board of Supervision were instructed to insist upon decent allowances being given for the maintenance of these pauper lunatics, he had no doubt that the state of things described in the Report of the Commissioners would soon pass away, because, after all, the question was merely one of pounds, shillings, and pence. In the case of outdoor lunatics nothing more was required than the enforcement of the existing law, and he believed that, had it not been for the negligence of the sheriffs and the Board of Supervision, nine-tenths of all the evils denounced by the Commissioners might have been prevented. As far as the Bill itself went, not only did he give it his support, but he felt grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for introducing it, as, subject to the Amendments of which notice had been given, he thought it would be useful; and, although the present Bill was not and could not be perfect, yet there would be ample opportunity next Session to pass a more complete measure. Before sitting down, he wished to make a statement for the satisfaction of the Sheriff of Orkney, who had felt himself aggrieved by a certain statement which had been made upon the Commissioners' Report. The case he had referred to was that of a female pauper lunatic removed from Orkney to Edinburgh, and who, upon her arrival at the latter place, was found to have all her ribs on one side broken, her backbone hurt, and altogether so severely injured as to endanger her life. The woman made a declaration that the injured had been inflicted by the gaoler of Kirkwell Prison. There was no doubt that the woman had been grievously ill-treated somewhere, but it appeared from inquiries instituted by the Sheriff of Orkney that she was mistaken in attributing them to the gaoler at Kirkwall, who was represented to be a humane man, and not at ail likely to behave so brutally. The poor woman had, therefore, been mistaken as to the place where she was ill-treated, but the fact remained that she had been ill-used somewhere, and therefore the deduction from that case remained unaltered—namely, that there did exist at present gross neglect in the supervision of pauper lunatics in Scotland.


observed, that he thought that the beginning and the end of the speech made by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down showed how necessary it was that they should obtain a statement from the Board of Supervision, founded upon an examination into the accuracy of the Reports of the Commissioners. In point of fact, it might turn out all a mistake that any individual whatever did the injury to the poor woman. An inquiry, he believed, had been made, and the Board of Supervision had shown them- selvee most anxious to investigate every case which had been brought before them by the Commissioners. No sooner had the Report been made, than the Board set about making inquiries into the truth of the statements it contained, and as far as they had been able to ascertain, those statements were even more erroneous than they had expected to find them. Out of four cases which had been brought before the Commission, it turned out that two of the parties were not lunatics at all, and immediate steps were taken to relieve the two others. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department would have no objection to lay before the House the correspondence which had been had with the Board of Supervision upon the subject. He had consented to produce the correspondence with the sheriffs, and this would show, in some degree, how many mistakes had been made. It was rather dangerous to legislate upon insufficient information, but at the same time he believed, with every Scotchman, that it was necessary that something should be done, and that at all events asylums should be built. Above all, he thought that there should be a proper inspection of existing asylums, especially of private asylums, and that the whole system should be very sharply looked after. The blame had hitherto been put upon the stinginess of Scotchmen; but what was the fact? A very large number of lunatic wards had been built in the poorhouses, because there was no power to build asylums. There were now three times as many lunatic patients confined in wards as there were in 1847. If public asylums were built, well and good; but if not, they should encourage the construction of those lunatic wards. With respect to the Bill itself, he agreed with every Scotch Member that there was no use for a permanent board. An unpaid Commission and a temporary board might work; but if they endeavoured to coerce the people by centralisation, they would do little other than raise a feeling of opposition against them in the counties, in regard to things which might be much better settled among themselves. His hon. Friend the Member for Elgin (Mr. C. Bruce) had been misunderstood, as he did not object to asylums being built, but merely to the board as proposed in the Bill, and it seemed to be unanimous on the part of the Scotch Members that there should be merely powers of inspection. If the right hon. Gentleman (the Lord Advocate) would carry out the Amendments of which he had given notice, he (Mr. Blackburn) should not object to the second reading.


said, he wished to explain the reasons why the correspondence with the Board of Supervision had not been laid before the House. A few days since he received from that Board a Report which it was his intention at once to have laid upon the table of the House, but upon looking over the statement he found some passages which according to the rules of the House, he conceived would prevent its being laid upon the table. He submitted the matter to the highest authority (Mr. Speaker), who at once confirmed his doubts, and therefore he (Sir G. Grey) returned the document with an intimation that upon an amended statement being sent he would be glad to lay it before the House. The reason for sending back the statement was that it contained distinct references to the debate which took place in the House upon the presentation of the Commissioners Report. He would admit that that statement might show the Commissioners of Lunacy to have been in some instances in error, which was not unnatural, considering the extensive and complicated naure of their duties; but at the same time he did not at all intend to admit that the general statements in their Report had been so impugned as to render legislation unnecessary or to diminish the necessity for immediate action. Upon this ground he was gratified to find there was to be no opposition to the second reading of this Bill, the explanation of the details of which he should leave to the Lord Advocate, simply remarking that in his opinion a central board would be necessary in the first instance, at least, to set the machinery in motion. He could not agree that the present evil could be removed without some compulsory power to require the erection of asylums. That power had been found to be necessary in England, and was equally necessary in Scotland. He agreed that counties should be permitted to combine to build asylums, and, indeed, great care ought to be taken that they should not be multiplied too much. The great object of the Bill, however, was to provide sufficient accommodation for the unfortunate class to whom it referred. Before sitting down he felt it due to Sir J. M'Neill, the President of the Board of Supervision, to express his concurrence in the observations of the hon. Member for Elginshire (Mr, C. Bruce) respecting that gentleman, with whom be (Sir G. Grey) had had frequent communications, especially during the period of the distress in the Highlands, and from that intercourse he had been led to form the highest opinion of Sir J. M'Neill's humanity, and of the zealous manner in which he discharged his important duties.


said, he thought that, with an efficient system of inspection, the Local Boards might do all the duties that were necessary, without the intervention of any intermediate central board whatever. He trusted that the learned Lord would attend to the suggestions which had been made with that view; but as it was impossible to deny the necessity of the measure now before the House, he would vote for the second reading, but the same time he hoped that as much encouragement would be given for local management as was consistent with the working of the machinery of the Bill.


said, he wished to express the great gratification which he felt at seeing something like a remedy proposed for those painful and harrowing evils which were so discreditable to Scotland in connection with the treatment of pauper lunatics. He had the highest confidence in the Commissioners, and no supposed inaccuracy in this Report should for a moment be made to stand in the way of legislation. Even if all persons had done their duty, it was impossible but that cruelty and ill-treatment must have taken place when they considered the way in which pauper lunatics were treated. There were about 4,500 pauper lunatics in Scotland. Of these only 1,500 could be provided for in public asylums; the remaining 3,000 had either been placed in poor-houses, which were not at all adapted to the purpose, or they were left in the hands of strangers, without any security against harsh treatment, or they were sent to licensed houses, in which profit was the great object. There was no care, superintendence, or inspection—nothing in short to prevent such evils as had actually arisen. Personally he would have preferred a system of efficient inspection without the establishment of any central board, but there might be good reasons why, for the present at least, that board should be appointed, and he would not give it any opposition. He rejoiced that another Session was not likely to pass over without something being done to remove what was at once a national calamity and a national crime from Scotland.


said, that it would not be necessary for him to say more than two or three words in reply, as they were substantially unanimous upon this question. Even on points where a difference of opinion was expressed it would be found to be more in words than in substance. The hon. Member for Elginshire (Mr. Bruce) was under a mistake in his estimate of the particular clause to which he referred. The evils to be remedied were substantially two—the want of sufficient accommodation and the want of sufficient inspection, and by providing a remedy for these two wants, they would substantially lay the basis for a proper administration of the lunacy law. It having been admitted that these things were necessary, the question was how these objects were to be attained. Various suggestions had been made for that purpose. It was, in the first place, suggested that the duties to be discharged under the Bill should be intrusted to the English Board, with two Scotch Members, but if he had proposed such a thing it would naturally have occasioned much difficulty in Scotland, and, in point of fact, on consultation with the English Board, he had found that it would be impossible to work the system on that principle. Then, they were told that they should have connected the business with the Board of Supervision hut when that was proposed in 1849, Sir John M'Neill himself stated that he would not undertake it; and had such a course been taken it would have made little difference, for they must have had additional paid Commissioners, with a paid secretary. This, therefore, was a mere question of words, and not of substance. If the Board of Supervision could have undertaken the duty he should have been most glad to charge them with it, but in the face of Sir John M'Neil's declaration, he could not do so. The third proposition was that the Home Secretary, with the aid of inspectors, should do the duties of the Board. If the machinery of the system were once set agoing, that perhaps might be sufficient; but at the beginning of a new state of things like this the Secretary of State would be utterly powerless. It appeared to him that for the first five years at least it would be hotter to carry on the system with one or two paid members and paid inspectors than to put it under the management of the Home Secretary, who would be compelled to take advice from the Lord Advocate or other unacknowledged authority in carrying out the provisions of the Act. One or two questions had been asked relative to the Report of the Commission. All he had to say was that a copy of the Report had been sent to every sheriff in Scotland; and when answers were returned from those sheriffs then they would be able to judge of both sides. With regard to the Orkney case, he had sent for the papers relating to it, and had made every inquiry to get at the truth of the matter. It turned out that the unfortunate woman had gone into the hospital in Edinburgh with her ribs broken, that he had been unable to discover the slightest trace of any violence being exercised towards her by those who had charge of her from the time of her leaving Orkney to the time of her arrival at Edinburgh. She was removed in a state of complete mania, and no doubt in that state she met with the severe injuries which had been described, but whether by any undue roughness on the part of her attendants he had not been able to inform himself. He did not think it desirable to go back two years and institute a suit for penalties when there was so much more important work to be done. The Bill could not be called hasty legislation, for it was very much needed, and he hoped the House would consent to give it a second reading.

MR. E. ELLICE (St. Andrews).

—What is to be done with the pauper lunatics in the meantime?


Of course, until there were places to send them to they could not be sent anywhere. The hon. Gentleman had suggested that their allowances should be increased, but that could only be done by the Board of Supervision. He had sat frequently on this Board, and he knew that three or four hours a week were occupied in considering applications for increased allowances. No part of the duty of the Board was discharged more ably than this. There was an idea that the allowances generally were a great deal too low, but he should be very sorry to commit himself to that opinion. The habits and condition of the lower orders in Scotland were matters which must be taken into consideration, and it was vain to think of importing from the south ideas and opinions which were entirely foreign to Scotland. Great credit was due in this matter to the Head of the Board of Supervision, who had applied, with great advantage, his intimate knowledge of his fellow countrymen to this subject.


said, he had sat on the Board of Supervision as an ex officio member, and at no board with which he had ever been connected was the business better conducted. In regard to the question of allowances it was quite true, as the Lord Advocate had stated, that the habits of the people must be considered. What was given to the paupers in some of the counties in England would be looked upon as perfect luxury by many of the labouring classes of Scotland. If there was English diet in the Scotch workhouses he was afraid there would be no small competition to get a place on the pauper roll. Since the Board of Supervision had been appointed the poor assessment had been increased 50 per cent.


said, he must deny the statement of the hon. Member for West Surrey, that the former measure on this subject had been defeated by a meeting of the Scotch Members. He hoped that the attempt of the learned Lord to remedy a state of things which was disgraceful to Scotland would be successful; and although he had been requested to present a petition, signed by the Lord Provost, and magistrates of Edinburgh, seeking for delay, he did not like to incur that responsibility, and would therefore support the second reading.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Thursday next, at Twelve o'clock.