HC Deb 08 June 1880 vol 252 cc1472-96

in rising to move— That the care of the insane is a subject of Imperial obligation; that the placing of insane persons, not of the class of paupers, in the category of paupers on account of their insanity, is inexpedient; and that the cost of maintaining Lunatic Asylums is an unfair burden upon the ratepayers, said, that there were 70,000 prisoners in England, 18,000 in Ireland, and 6,000 in Scotland, and all these persons were detained by the authority of the State and for reasons of public safety. Each one of these prisoners was suffering under a feeling of intense wrong, whe- ther in reason or not. Their sad case was at least worth considering. Pew would deny the axiom of J. S. Mill, that to the State legitimately belonged the care of the insane; or the legal doctrine of Blackstone, that to the Sovereign, as parens patria, belonged the guardianship of lunatics. He should show that the State had failed in its duty—that it had delegated its functions to others, and thus had sprung up a system under which money was wasted and abuses existed. He should contend that the remedy for this was the acceptance of the doctrine that the care of the insane was a subject of Imperial obligation. They had divided the insane into two great classes—the rich and the poor. Rich lunatics were sent to private licensed houses, where private persons made profit out of their maintenance. The middle-class and poorer lunatics were handed over to the Poor Law and the ratepayers, and were degraded into paupers. They were not paupers in the ordinary sense of the term, nor were the rules of the Poor Law applicable to them. Many of them were clergymen, men of letters, artists—some even had held Her Majesty's commission. Others were farmers, tradesmen, and skilled artizans, everyone, in fact, whose family could not afford to pay £75 a-year to the owner of a licensed house. There were 1,000 Chancery patients, who were highly favoured. For these there were provided three Visitors; but for the whole 69,000 other lunatics, whether in licensed houses or in pauper asylums, there were only six Visitors. But the duty of the State could not end with that sort of visitation—the guardianship over the insane ought to be something more. It was inexpedient for the State to allow private persons to obtain money and advantage from the maintenance of those who wore incarcerated under the authority of the State. If a profit was to be made, it ought to go to the public, and be spent on the whole body of lunatics, and in that way a self-supporting system might, to a certain extent, be established. He did not wish to press too strongly the argument that there was a temptation—as undoubtedly there was—to retain profitable patients longer in such places than was necessary; nor did he seek to bring any general accusation against the keepers of private asylums. They had put into their hands exceptional powers and privileges, which he did not desire to charge them with using more for their own than for their patients' benefit. But he said that the law ought not to have parted with the powers which had been given to those men. In their last Report, the Lunacy Commissioners—gentlemen who did not make the worst of things as they were—said that the system of placing the insane in the charge of persons who made a profit by them was, no doubt, objectionable in theory, and its practice, like many other things, might be open to abuse. That Report itself gave a number of instances of such abuse, among them the following—a suicide from inadequate attendance, for which the proprietor of the house was to blame; another a suicide from neglect of precaution; another a suicide owing to sufficient care not having been taken; another in which the proprietor was described as a person entirely unfit to be intrusted with the care of the insane. These were only some of the cases of abuse mentioned in the Report. A little further on the Commissioners objected to licence a house, in an excellent situation, which was adapted for four patients, and which had 100 acres of ground. He need hardly remind hon. Members that where there was a small number of patients the chance of cure was greater than where there was a largo number. The Commissioners, however, objected on the principle that such places caused a waste of public time in the constant visitation they entailed on themselves. Thus the Visitors, true to the weakness of poor human nature, thought rather of themselves than of the unfortunate people under their charge, and they were too ingenuous to veil the fact in their Report. But he found an unintentional, and, therefore, much stronger, support to his argument in the statement which the Commissioners made as to those few institutions called hospitals for the insane, which were neither licensed houses where a profit was made nor pauper asylums, but were supported by charitable endowment. As to those places, the Commissioners made this admirable suggestion—that no person, either directly or indirectly, concerned in supplying such hospitals, and no medical officer thereof, should be a member of the Governing Body. Who could deny the justice and propriety of that re- mark? And yet every owner of a licensed house was the sole purveyor, medical officer, and governor of the establishment. How could there be a stronger condemnation of the system than was implied in that single fact? He next turned to the class of lunatics confined in pauper asylums. When an unfortunate person belonging to the middle class was afflicted with insanity his family had to consider whether they would send him to one of those expensive private houses or to the pauper asylum. He had received a number of letters from families so placed, all expressing the bitter humiliation they felt at being obliged to make themselves paupers in order to place their relative in such asylums. Why should those people be forced by the action of the law to become pauperized? In the present combination between the Poor Law and insanity the Poor Law element was paramount. The result was that gigantic houses were being built all over the country in which enormous numbers of the insane were herded together under one medical superintendent, who, being physically unable personally to attend to all the inmates, was obliged to look on them in broad classes in order to carry on the business of the house, and had to trust, in a large measure, to his assistants. The cures in the pauper asylums were fewer than in the private houses. A more dreadful effect of the present system could hardly be imagined. The conflicting authorities who governed the pauper lunatics were the Home Secretary, the President of the Local Government Board, the Visiting Commissioners, the Courts of Quarter Sessions, the Visitors of the Asylums, the Boards of Guardians—a congeries of authorities which often produced a deadlock. The other day, in his own county (Shropshire), the President of the Local Government Board suggested one thing, which was accepted by the Court of Quarter Sessions, and no sooner was it so accepted than the Home Secretary refused to sanction it, and the whole thing came to a stand. A somewhat similar case occurred in the counties of Carmarthen, Cardigan, and Pembroke. The Home Secretary altogether overruled the local authority. The very principle by which local taxation was justified, was absent—namely, the power of local control and management. Heavy burdens were thrown on the ratepayers by the arbitrary mandate of the Central Government. He did not want to disparage the reforms which had been carried out of late years in regard to lunacy, and he readily acknowledged the great work in that direction which had been done by Lord Shaftesbury and his coadjutors. But the taxation was put on the wrong shoulders, and the effect of beginning on wrong lines was that they ended by impeding improvement. Certain remedies had been shadowed out for the evils of the present system. One of these remedies was that licensed houses should be bought out of the rates. Licensed houses were not worth buying. If such a provision were made compulsory it would be a hardship on the ratepayers, if it were made permissive it would be inoperative. Another suggestion was that the State should build hospitals. The objection to that was that the remedy would be too slow, and would leave unabated the eveils of the present pauper asylums. There was another suggestion which seemed to be far-reaching and to be capable of being put into practice—namely, that the Government should take over at once all the pauper lunatic asylums of the country. It would then separate once and for ever pauperism from insanity, and insanity from pauperism. Accommodation might be afforded according to the means of the patient. The rich would be able to take advantage of these houses, and only the best licensed houses would be able to stand. Most of the licensed houses would die a natural death. To sum up his argument, he would say that, in the first place, it was the duty of the State to take charge of the insane; in the second place, the abuses of the present system demanded reform; in the third place, there was a great hardship on the families of the middle class by the association of insanity with pauperism; and, lastly, the whole system was an outrageous grievance to ratepayers. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


in seconding the Resolution, said, he should trouble the House at very little length in reference to the country from which he came—Scotland—and he believed that there they could share the views already expressed by the hon. Member in favour of transferring to the nation the expense at present borne by the local rates, especially when they found the disease of lunacy was on the increase to a very marked extent, more particularly in pauper lunatic asylums. In Scotland they had 9,386 lunatics, and out of that number no less than 7,751 were pauper lunatics, supported by the parochial rates of the different parishes. The increase was noticeable in almost all the institutions fostered for the express purpose of taking care of those unhappy persons; also in the public asylums, and even among the criminals in Perth prison. True, the increase for the year 1878 was not very large, being 272 on the whole; but still, out of that number, again, 265 were paupers. He believed it would be found, on searching the records of the Lunacy Commissioners, that there was no evidence of a tendency to increase in the number of private lunatics. Since January, 1858, when the Board of Lunacy was first appointed in Scotland, there had been an increase up to the 1st of January, 1879, of from 5,823 to 9,386 lunatics, or 61 per cent, while the population had only increased about 19 per cent. Then, in regard to pauper lunatics, the rise had been from 63 per 1,000 in 1861 to 126 per 1,000 in 1879. Many hon. Members might be disposed to attribute that to the grants in aid made by the late Government, and to the fact that before these grants were made the local boards were more in the habit of sending their pauper lunatics to large asylums, instead of keeping them at home, or sending them to the wards in the combination poorhouses. But one thing was quite certain, and that was that since the State had in this sense taken in charge these unhappy persons they had been much better cared for. Before the Government grant was made for lunatics, it was the habit of many Parochial Boards, in order, no doubt, to save the rates, to maintain that many of these persons could not be charged as lunatics, but rather must be looked upon in the light of paupers. But since the new law came into operation, granting an aid of 4s. per head, they had been much more disposed to transfer them to proper keeping, and the Government inspections had also, undoubtedly, been very useful. There was one point especially which he wished to urge in considering this matter. Many of their combination poor-houses in Scotland were not well filled. They were built a good many years ago, and, generally speaking, were far in excess of the requirements of the population. They were held up as a kind of terror over the heads of persons claiming relief of the Parochial Boards, and who, if they did not take the amount offered them, would be sent to the combination poorhouse. Those poorhouses possessed sufficient spare space to accommodate many incurable but harmless imbeciles; and it was very important, he thought, that this point should attract more public attention than it at present did. In his own district they had one of those combination poorhouses, and in it they had some 10 or 12 imbeciles, persons who were kept at very small cost in comparison with the much larger sum that would have to be paid for them if they were sent to the county asylums. There could be no doubt that many of those county asylums would very soon have to be overhauled, owing to the marvellous increase of pauper lunatics, and the scant accommodation within their walls. In regard to cheapness, they could keep an imbecile in one of the combination poorhouses for 10½d. a-day, as against 15d. or l8d. a-day in the county asylums. This applied only to harmless cases; yet he thought that in those combination poorhouses they had opportunities, not at present much used, and which might assist them in settling this question, although, of course, they could not obtain in such institutions the best medical advice always at hand, or the best means of providing the imbecile with suitable entertainment or occupation. There was a growing feeling that the charges in connection with this question should be removed entirely from local to Imperial funds, and the feeling was natural. They found in many parts of the country a most marked increase, for which they could assign no cause, of pauper lunacy; while, in other parts, if there was no diminution, there was, at all events, no increase. It was very hard that one portion of the country should bear all the expense, which, if fairly dispensed, would not be so burdensome. In seconding the Motion of his hon. Friend, he hoped it would receive the sanction of the House; and he trusted that the Government, before the debate concluded, would give some assurance, not only that the present system would be fairly carried out in relieving the local rate, but that some further extension of the principle on which the late Government acted would be brought into operation.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the care of the insane is a subject of Imperial obligation; that the placing of insane persons, not of the class of paupers, in the category of paupers on account of their insanity, is inexpedient; and that the cost of maintaining Lunatic Asylums is an unfair burden upon the ratepayers.—(Mr. Stanley Leighton.)


wished it to be understood that he intended to proceed with the Motion on this subject which stood upon the Paper in his name, inasmuch as it in no way clashed with the present Motion.


desired to correct an error into which the hon. Mover of this Motion had fallen, when he stated that in consequence of a dispute which had arisen between the counties of Cardigan and Carmarthen the latter had been taxed for the joint support of the lunatics of the two counties by order of the Home Secretary. The fact was that for the purpose of the maintenance of lunatics the three counties of Pembroke, Cardigan, and Carmarthen had been united for some years; and it having been agreed that the existing joint asylum should be enlarged, the authorities of the county of Cardigan declined to pay their quota towards the cost of such enlargement, whereupon, an appeal being made to the Home Secretary, he, having heard what was to be said upon both sides, fixed the sum that each county was to pay. The result, therefore, of this convenient practice of referring the question to the Home Secretary was that the matter was amicably and speedily settled.


said, he had some difficulty in replying to the speeches in support of this Motion, because the views of its Mover and of its Seconder differed considerably. The hon. Mover explained that he wanted the central authority to take over all the pauper asylums in the counties and boroughs; to improve them, and thereby to destroy the private asylums, and to convert gradually the whole system of asylums into a State-managed concern. The Seconder only asked that the present system should be a little more supplemented by State aid, but that the existing system of administration should be continued. The first hon. Member criticized somewhat severely the present system of private lunatic asylums, complaining that one and the same person was the owner, the purveyor, and the doctor of such an asylum. It was, however, difficult to see how or why the private owner should not also be the purveyor, and, if he were a medical man, the doctor also of the establishment. The hon. Member then proceeded, somewhat inconsistently, to complain of the large number of Inspectors who were employed to inspect these private lunatic establishments; because if such institutions were too much in the hands of single individuals the evil was, to a large extent, counteracted by the number of Inspectors who visited them. The reason why the number of the Inspectors was so large was because the majority of the unfortunate persons confined in private asylums were possessed of property. With regard to the county and borough lunatic asylums, the hon. Member complained, first, of the paucity of Inspectors, and then of the multiplicity of persons who were engaged in their management and supervision; but these complaints answered each other. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion, while asking for State aid, admitted that the effect of such aid, if unduly given, would be to draw into the county and borough asylums those who were now maintained either in the workhouses or in their own homes; and this, no doubt, would be the effect of State aid. He thought, however, that the hon. Member had somewhat overrated the permanent effect of grants in aid in attracting numbers of lunatics to the public asylums. It was probable that when the system of grants in aid was first established its effect was to draw into the asylums a large number of lunatics who up to that time had been maintained elsewhere; but when once ail these outlying lunatics had been brought in, the accumulation of past years would be removed, and the stream would flow in more regularly and in diminished volume. The hon. Mover, having pointed to the various remedies which had been proposed to meet the evil complained of merely to dismiss them, suggested his own remedy. This was that the Government should take over all the lunatics in the Kingdom, and should maintain them out of the Imperial funds. The hon. Member urged that this would not increase the burden upon the taxpayers, because they would be merely paying for the maintenance of the lunatics by taxes instead of by rates. He was afraid, however, that the hon. Member would find after a few years that much more would be taken out of the second pocket than was now taken out of the first; because the cost of these institutions, when managed by the central authority and paid for out of the State funds, would be far larger than when they were under local management and supervision. The hon. Member started with the assumption that the care of lunatics was naturally and properly an Imperial function, and that, therefore, lunatics ought to be maintained out of Imperial funds. As far as he could see, the duty of the Imperial authorities in regard to lunatics ceased with the making of regulations to provide that such unfortunate persons should be properly cared for by local authorities, and should not be allowed to become dangerous to others. He could not admit that insane persons were on account of their insanity reduced to the condition of paupers, though there were pirobably many cases in which the friends of insane persons would have been able to maintain them if they were in any other than an insane state. But the friends of such persons were called upon to contribute towards, if they could not wholly provide, the funds for such treatment and maintenance; that was done to a considerable extent, the contributions from that source last year amounting to £67,000. Another argument against the proposal of his hon. Friend was that if asylums were taken over by the State the local interest maintained in them would cease, and it did not follow that the position of the lunatics would be improved. It was certain that the contributions from the friends would not be so perfectly looked after by the State as by the local authorities, and a larger burden would therefore be thrown on the taxes than was now imposed on the rates. He saw in principle no more reason for calling upon the State authorities to take over the lunatic asylums than for asking them to assume the management of the workhouses. If the asylums were to be maintained out of Imperial funds, Imperial management must follow, and this meant more centralization and a reduction of the duties now placed upon local authorities, magistrates, guardians of the poor, and persons who voluntarily undertook local functions. It meant, in fact, handing over the management of the asylums to State-paid officials quartered in a central office in London. He did not think the transfer of the prisons to the State furnished a very encouraging precedent in this direction. Such transfer had greatly increased centralization, had removed much influence and authority from the local authorities, and was, moreover, in the position of an experiment which bad not yet been fully tried. The main ground for making the transfer of the prisons was that it would effect an actual saving on the total cost of the prisons by substituting taxes for rates as the source of maintenance, such rates being supplemented by certain amounts paid out of the Imperial funds. It remained to be seen whether success would attend the experiment, and whatever might have been the result up to the present he was not sanguine that as years rolled on the transfer would prove to have been an economical step. If it should so turn out the result would be contrary to all precedent and experience; because the natural tendency of transferring the management of local institutions to central bodies was to increase the expense by reason of the fact that officials of State had not the interest in economy possessed by local bodies. He could not, therefore, in the circumstances, assent to the Motion of his hon. Friend, nor could he concur in the conclusions which had been drawn from that Motion.


said, he should feel difficulty in assenting to the proposal of his hon. Friend (Mr. S. Leighton) in the form in which it had been moved, for the reason that it mixed up two very different, though important, questions. Whether the State should, or should not, take charge of all pauper lunatic asylums to a greater extent than it did now was one matter; it was an altogether different question to suggest in the same Resolution that the State should exercise a similar function in regard to private licensed asylums. The latter had occupied the attention of the last Parliament, and had been considered by a Select Committee, which sat for two or three Sessions; and, as far as they were concerned, he was prepared to admit the importance of taking steps to give the public the same assurance which they had in the case of pauper lunatic asylums, by providing that persons once lunatic should not be detained indefinitely for the mere purpose either of giving profit to the asylum keeper, or serving the private purposes of the relatives of lunatics. It did not follow, however, that to solve that question it was necessary that all asylums should be merged into one class. It was, without doubt, a grievous hardship that from want of means persons of the lower and middle classes were compelled to place their relatives and friends in pauper asylums; but in the great majority of these cases the hardship was accompanied by the comfort of feeling that their relatives were taken care of in the very best possible manner, and would not be detained when the necessity ceased. That was an assurance which the wealthier portion of the community had not yet got, but which he hoped they would soon obtain. He could not entirely agree with his right hon. Friend at the head of the Local Government Board (Mr. Dodson) in the view he took of the question as to whether the custody of pauper lunatics was naturally an obligation upon the ratepayers, or whether it was not an obligation which ought to be borne by the State. His right hon. Friend, if he looked into the history of the question, would find that the charge for pauper lunatics was, so to say, a new charge upon the rates. It was, in fact, a charge upon the rates within 30 years; and he thought that Parliament in 1850 and 1857, or 1859, when the Acts were passed, should at the time have required that the Government should undertake the charge out of Imperial resources. Parliament first threw upon the ratepayers the duty of erecting the asylums, which they did at enormous cost, and also the obligation of maintaining them. The Guardians and managers of the workhouses were obliged to place their pauper lunatics in the asylums, where their maintenance cost 9s., 10s., or 12s. each per week instead of 3s. or 4s. That was a serious new charge, and it was that which the late Government attempted to mitigate. For his part, he valued the system of local government so much that he was disposed to agree with his right hon. Friend in saying he should be sorry to see the management of the asylums taken away from the visiting justices; unless, indeed, some more representative body could be suggested to succeed them; but he should point out that the Guardians, who had to pay the money for the maintenance of the patients in the asylums, had no voice in the management of those institutions. Practically, the visiting justices had the sole control of them. With respect to the statement that the subvention had caused an undue flow of pauper lunatics into the asylums, he must say he very much doubted whether such was the case. It was true that the number of patients in the asylums had increased within the last five or six years; but it was equally true that the increase in the number of patients in the workhouses within those years was still larger. He entirely disputed the proposition of his right hon. Friend that the influx which he said had taken place in the asylums was of chronic patients. All his experience showed that the proportion of chronic patients soon after the passing of the Acts was as large as it is now, and the Commissioners in lunacy were then of opinion that chronic patients ought to have skilled supervision, which they would obtain in the asylums. He would also point out that 10 years ago there was a prevalent desire to clear out lunatics from workhouses into the asylums. Now that the asylums were full, it was worthy of consideration whether Guardians should not be prevented in some way from sending chroniccases to the asylums. It was quite new to him to hear that the subvention had had the effect which his hon. Friend the Member for Wigton (Mr. Mark Stewart) mentioned. He had watched narrowly the application of the grant for this purpose, and he did not believe that the sum granted could have been applied with more advantage to the ratepayers. In Scotland, unless his memory deceived him, the subvention was given in one lump sum to the Board of Supervision, who distributed it among asylums or the friends of patients in whatever proportions they thought reasonable. With regard to this country, in spite of all the objec- tions which might be urged against large subventions of this kind, he had never heard that a similar amount of relief could be given to the ratepayers without an interference with existing modes of conducting local business of which he was sure Parliament could not be induced to approve. In his judgment, therefore, the subvention, of 4s. per week was a just one, and had been a legitimate success. He did not, however, say it ought to be extended, although some arguments might be urged in favour of such a step. If it were determined to extend it, an additional grant of £200,000 would be needed to assist in like proportion the cost of lunatics in workhouses and boarding with friends. In conclusion, he would say that of all the new charges which had been thrown upon the rates this was the most unjustifiable, and the ratepayers should have insisted at the time that it should not have been thrown upon real property. However, as he had remarked, he was not prepared to say that the asylums ought to be taken out of the control of the local authorities; but he agreed that the incidence of the charge was still to a great extent unjustifiable.


said, the hon. Gentleman who introduced the subject (Mr. S. Leighton) had divided it into two heads—one, as to the incidences of the charge; the other, as to the management and administration of the asylums. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the incidences of the charge as a matter of Imperial obligation; and in that view he (Mr. Floyer) was, to some extent, inclined to agree. There was nothing in the nature of the charge which would make it proper to call upon any particular class of persons in the country more than another to bear it. By the 43rd of Elizabeth every person who had ability to assist his unfortunate fellow-subjects was bound, out of that ability, to assist them. Lunatics were no exception to the rule; and, if it could be arranged, all persons ought to contribute in some way to the relief of all the poor, and especially of the lunatic poor. So far he agreed it was a universal obligation; and then came the question, How could it be enforced? The Mover said that the whole charge ought to be removed to the taxation of the country; and, if it were, the head of the Local Government Board said the administration must be transferred to the Imperial Government, and the local authorities must be superseded. For one, he was not prepared to say that he could give up all local administration; he would rather relieve local taxation by further assistance from the Imperial funds; and he thought that would be a safer mode of meeting any claim which the ratepayer had. There could be no doubt that the claims of ratepayers, and especially of agricultural ratepayers, were very urgent at this moment, and could not be overlooked. The agricultural part of the community had to carry on their business under the most trying circumstances. They were in competition with the whole world, and in many parts from which produce was brought competitors were free from the burdens and difficulties our own agriculturists had to contend with. Therefore they had a strong claim for any relief that could possibly be given; but he was not prepared on that account to give up the system of local management, which he believed was, in many respects, the best for these institutions. It was best to preserve the local management, and to relieve the local rates by grants from Imperial sources. As to the people a little above the labouring class, who, for lack of means, could not be sent to private asylums, no doubt the admission of such persons into county pauper asylums was in itself an evil: but, as had been pointed out, there were advantages in county asylums which were not enjoyed by the inmates of private asylums. The authorities of county asylums had no inducement to keep patients longer than was necessary; but the owner of a private licensed house had a strong inducement to keep patients in his house as long as he could do so with propriety. In the case of the superintendent of the public asylums his credit depended upon the number of patients who were discharged as cured. In the licensed house the inspection was necessarily rather limited; but the county asylum was inspected by the Commissioners of Lunacy and by the Visitors appointed by the Court of Quarter Sessions. But the admission of persons above the pauper class into the county asylums was an evil, if they were paid for out of the rates, because that pauperized them; and the object aimed at was to remove that evil. In his county they had endeavoured to meet that difficulty. When the new asylum was built £2,000 was subscribed to meet the cost of 20 beds, to be occupied by patients of this class. In the course of a few years the county population of 200,000 had produced 23 or 24 patients of the class of small farmers and shopkeepers, who were unable to pay the charges of the private asylums. The provision thus made had been found to be a very great boon; and the number of patients of that class had fluctuated but little, so that the accommodation had proved to be sufficient. In this way the difficulty had been surmounted with beneficial effects; and he would, therefore, recommend an extension of the system. It might be apprehended that the large number of applications on behalf of persons above the pauper class might trench on the accommodation for the pauper class, for whom the asylums were originally built; but as they would be kept with the pauper patients, and no great difference would be made in their favour, except, perhaps, in being allowed to wear their own clothes, and having some variety of diet, the friends of such persons would not send them there if they could possibly provide funds to send them to a licensed house. Upon the whole question, he certainly was not prepared to support the proposition of the hon. Gentleman who made the Motion. The question had very justly occupied the attention of the House; but he did not know whether the hon. Member would think it necessary to press it to a division. He thought the ratepayers had a claim to some relief, though he should be sorry to see it accompanied by so large an alteration in the system of local administration, which, with respect to lunatics, prisons, and other matters, was less expensive and more efficient than a system carried on under the immediate direction of Government.


felt that the agricultural ratepayers of England had a right to complain of the increased bur-dons which had been thrown upon them for education, highway, sanitary purposes, vaccination, and other objects, many of which were national in their importance; and he thought the time had come when a searching inquiry, by means of a Select Committee, should be made into the whole question of local taxation, with a view of placing it on a more extended and equitable basis.


thought it was a great mistake to suppose that the grant of 4s. a week had increased insanity. No doubt it had increased, and that it formed an important phase of the great subject of local taxation; but it was rather from intemperance, or from some of the conditions in which the poor lived, especially in the towns. The effect, however, had been greatly to increase the rates. Notwithstanding all that had been said by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dodson), he hoped they would yet be told by some occupant of the Treasury Bench that the Government did propose to give this question their consideration with reference to the large question of local taxation at an early date. There was injustice in making paupers of lunatics, and there was difficulty in putting the county asylums under Imperial management. The ratepayers of different districts were unfairly taxed, since the Union Chargeability Act, the agricultural communities, which produced scarcely any lunatics, having to contribute towards the support of those produced, apparently, by the conditions of town life.


Mr. Speaker, I cannot but think that the subject which the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. S. Leighton) has brought before the House is eminently important, and I venture to urge upon the House, if an attempt is to be made to give relief to the agricultural interest by the remission of local taxation, that assistance from the funds of the State for the purpose of maintaining these lunatic asylums would be much better applied than it has been to the administration of the county and borough prisons. I hold that, if any local establishments are to be maintained entirely at the charge of the general taxation of the country, it is necessary that the central Government should have the control over such establishments. In my opinion it was a great mistake to centralize prison administration. So long as the administration of justice is local, so ought to be the administration and supervision of the prisons; for those who are charged with the punishment of crime ought to be responsible for the manner in which that punishment is administered. And I believe it will be found that nothing lies closer to the foundation of the freedom which this country has so long enjoyed, and which has contributed so largely to the efficiency of the upper classes, and, therefore, to the capacity of the whole country for free institutions, than the local administration of justice. More than that, the local administration of justice, and the local responsibility for prisons, gave publicity, which is the best guarantee against abuse. The case of the lunatic asylums is different. Two noble Friends of mine, one still living, and the other departed, applied their talents and their industry to the providing due administration in the care of lunatics—Lord Shaftesbury, who is happily alive, in the case of England, and the late Lord St. Leonards, in the case of Ireland. I had communication with both those noble persons, and, from the circumstances of the case, my impression is, that the supervision of lunatics would suffer less from centralization by far than the administration of justice. A certain degree of privacy is inseparable from the due administration of lunatic asylums. The unhappy inmates are afflicted for various, sometimes for considerable periods, and it is often desirable for their future welfare, that their admission, their treatment, and the reasons for their being liberated after treatment should not be altogether public. Central administration would, therefore, meet the case of the lunatic far better than it can meet the case of the criminal. Not only when the Prisons Bill was under consideration in this House, but at other periods, I have always urged that if there is one object to which the general taxation and a central administration were applicable more than to another, it was to the maintenance of the lunatic asylums. I admit that it might be expedient to have a combination of local with central supervision and administration; but, as I have said before, I do feel that it was a gross mistake to place the local prisons under a central administration, and to have omitted the lunatic asylums. This Motion is urged on the score of relief to agriculture, and I admit the necessity which exists for that relief. It is not accurate to say that when the measures of Free Trade were passed the whole of the consequences of that great change were foreseen, were contemplated. The extent of these conse- quences, Sir, was not then understood. The late Sir Robert Peel never contemplated the extent of the competition to which the agriculture of this country has been since subjected. ["Oh!" from the Ministerial Benches.] I speak as one of those who were engaged in the debates of 1846, and I broadly state here in my place that the competition which has arisen with the United States of America, and the extent to which it has reached, were not contemplated in 1846, and if hon. Members opposite doubt what I say, I would refer them to Hansard's record of our debates, where they will find little allusion to the possibility of such a competition on the part of the United States as has now arisen. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member seems to rejoice in that competition. Well, if the increase in the population of this country were unlimited, I could understand the reasons for an unlimited foreign supply; but it appears to me that while we have excess on one side—that of supply—we have limitation on the other, that of population and consumption. But this opens a wide sphere of discussion into which I will not now enter. I merely assert from my own experience, and it may be tested by the pages of Hansard, that the competition which has arisen from the United States of America, owing to the wide cultivation of the prairies, was not contemplated in 1846. Nay, I was myself in America not long before that time, and I venture to say that there it was not contemplated that the prairies would so rapidly be brought under cultivation, and yield such abundant crops as they now do. From my own knowledge, and from communications that I have had with Americans in their own country, I can assert that what has now happened was not in 1846 fully unforeseen. This circumstance gives occasion to the present Motion; but I trust the hon. Member for Shropshire will not press his Motion to a division now, and for this reason. At present we are awaiting the Report of the Royal Commission on the state of Agriculture, which was promoted in this House by the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire, (Mr. Chaplin), and which I anxiously supported. Until we have that report, I do not think that the House will consider this proposal upon any grounds that will be admitted as authoritative by the whole House. I have ventured to state what I gathered in the United States, and from long experience in this House; and naturally, perhaps, hon. Members opposite may not be disposed to agree with me, but may be inclined to dispute my statements. Well, let us have the authoritative Report of the Royal Commission before us, and then, I think, it will be found that the capital of the landlord and the capital of the farmer are more exposed to taxation than the capital of any other class of the community. And for this reason, that the capital employed in agriculture turns more slowly than that otherwise employed does in many cases, and is therefore less profitable, and when subjected to the same percentage of taxation is burdened more heavily than the capital of any other class. ["No!"] That is an economical proposition which an hon. Member opposite, whom I have not the pleasure of knowing, seems to dispute; but, among statisticians and political economists, it is a proposition which is not at all disputed. If you tax capital which turns slowly, at the same rate as capital that turns more quickly, you tax the income derived from the capital which turns slowly more heavily than the income from capital which makes its returns more quickly; and I never yet knew a political economist who disputed that. If the capital which yields three profits a year is taxed at the same annual rate as the capital which produces only one profit in the year, it stands to reason that the capital which makes its returns slowly is more heavily taxed than the other. Hence the complaint of county Members in this House. I hope, however, that the hon. Member for Shropshire will be satisfied with having done his duty in submitting this question to the House, and that he will wait until we have the Report of the Royal Commission on Agricultural Distress before us. Then, I trust, the House will retrieve the mistake which, in my humble opinion, it committed, when it centralized the administration of the local prisons—an administration which is intimately connected with the administration of justice—and that Her Majesty's Advisers and this House will consider that the management of lunatic asylums is a subject much more adapted for centralized administration than the administration of justice or the management of prisons.


said, that several references had been made to the Scotch lunacy affairs; and he thought, so far from favouring the Motion that was before the House, when properly understood, they went in an opposite direction. He could not agree with the two leading propositions before the House. The first was that the care of the insane was a subject of Imperial obligation. He altogether disbelieved in that proposition. The second was that the cost of maintaining lunatics in asylums was an unfair burden upon the rates. He likewise strongly demurred to that. What he rose particularly to say was this—that he thought all these subventions were mischievous, whether for prisons, for the maintenance of lunatics, or any other of the purposes to which they were now applied; and he agreed with the last speaker that the worst of all these subventions was that for prisons, and that was the opinion of many intelligent persons with whom he had spoken on the subject. Keeping to the case in hand, that of lunatics, the fact of a Government subvention being given on their behalf had apparently been to greatly increase the number of insane paupers in Scotland. One could hardly conceive how such a thing could happen; but it was true. There had been a gradual drain of the poor insane people who were previously kept in private houses into the asylums. Their friends had relieved themselves of the cost of their maintenance, and they had been put into the established asylums; and although the Government subvention had reached a considerable amount, the local expenditure had, notwithstanding, greatly increased in every locality. The last Report of the Lunacy Commissioners in Scotland showed that there would not be any increase naturally of pauper lunatics if it were not for some artificial cause of that kind, for during each period of five years, taking the last 20 years, the number of insane persons admitted into private asylums had remained nearly the same—that was, about 13 in every 100,000 of the population. During the 20 years they had only increased to 14 in the 100,000, and in the following year they came down to 13, so that the private asylums showed no increase in lunacy patients. During the first five years of this 20 years the number of pauper lunatics increased from 34 per 100,000 of the population to 37; in the following five to 44; in the next to 50; and in the last to 53. There had, the Commissioners said, been an increase of 50 per cent in the number of paupers in lunatic asylums during the last 20 years. That applied to the admissions, but as to the total numbers, here were the facts from the same authority. In 1859 there were 3,103 pauper lunatics in the registered asylums; in 1879 there were 6,292, being just as nearly as possible a doubling of the number in 20 years. Concurrently with that there was this remarkable fact, that a decrease had taken place in those that were maintained in private houses. Twenty years ago there were 1,877 registered lunatics in private houses, and last year the number tad been reduced to 1,319, showing a considerable diminution, though not to the extent of the other increase. Then, as to the expenditure, in 1859 it was £80,600; in 1878 it was £183,000, showing that it had much more than doubled. The steps of increase were remarkable, and to that point he particularly wished to call the attention of the House. The period of 20 years was divided into four portions by the Commissioners. The average increase during the first three periods of five years was at the rate of £4,500 yearly. But now, looking at the last four years when the Government subventions came into operation, they found the average yearly increase was £8,600, just about double the amount of the Government subvention that formerly existed. If they took the Government grant, they showed the same results. In 1875 the Government subvention was £59,500; but in 1878 it amounted to £68,500, so the more the Government gave the more the expense increased. It was quite inevitable, in his opinion, that such should be the case. Parties that got Government money seemed to regard it much as they looked on sand picked up off the sea-shore, and as if they were not bound to be economical. There were sometimes great discussions in Town Councils as to police grants, and he had heard it urged regarding proposals to increase the salaries of officers, and to increase the number of police, and to make extra payments, that they should be adopted, and the argument was—"Why, we need not grudge the increase because the Government will pay half of it." In many of these cases if the Government had not intervened the arguments of the economists would have prevailed, and these additional payments would not have been made. Holding that Government grants such as they were had been mischievous in their results, he was strongly opposed to the Motion, which contemplated an increase of these grants, or, rather, the taking over of the whole lunacy affairs into the hands of the Government. That would be certainly mischievous, and should be opposed by all who wished to promote economy.


said, he did not think, after the discussion that had taken place, that it was necessary to go much into the subject, although he did not at all agree with the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. S. Leighton's) proposal. He thought the discussion bad been of service, because in various English and Scotch counties much difficulty was felt in dealing with lunatics. It must be admitted that there had been a very great increase of charge, and of the numbers to be provided for during the last 10 or 20 years. He agreed almost entirely with the hon. Member for Edinburgh's (Mr. M'Laren's) remarks as to the general result of payments in aid of local taxation. Generally speaking, such payments certainly tended to increase expenditure. He also agreed with what the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had said in respect to prisons. He thought the measure relating to them was a most unfortunate one; and the country would, he believed, ultimately come to that conclusion. From what he had seen of the carrying out of the transfer of the prisons to the State he should strongly oppose the Motion now under consideration. At the same time, he could not but admit that the payments in aid of the lunatics that were undertaken two years ago by the late Government were worth re-consideration. He agreed that the grant of 4s. for each lunatic in an asylum had had the effect of inducing the Guardians to get rid of harmless and incurable lunatics, and the Lunacy Commissioners stated that something like 40 per cent of the lunatics of the country were harmless and incurable. He did not object to the transfer of such lunatics as were curable or dangerous; but he thought harmless and incurable lunatics need not be removed from the workhouses to the asylums. He thought that in the case of the latter, if many such persons had been transferred, a great deal of harm had been done. It was not necessary to have expensive establishments like the county asylums for the treatment of harmless and incurable lunatics, who might equally well be kept in workhouses. He should be glad, therefore, to see a re-consideration of the grant—as to whether some grant could not be made for that class of lunatics in the workhouses as well as that in the asylums. It would, indeed, be almost better to reduce the payment of 4s. for lunatics in the asylum to a smaller sum, and to apportion it between the asylums and the workhouses. In the North of England most of the Boards of Guardians had expressed that opinion strongly, and in many of the Lancashire workhouses preparations had been made at a great expense for the treatment of lunatics. In nearly every county increased accommodation was required for lunatics, and the money that was now being devoted by the magistrates to the enlargement of the asylums need not have been spent if the harmless lunatics could be kept in workhouses. The hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. S. Leighton) had said that the payments made had not, in his belief, any effect in filling the asylums. He (Mr. Hibbert) found, however, that the Commissioners had said that their experience of another year had confirmed the opinion already expressed by them, that the Parliamentary grant made to the Guardians had in many districts tended to the removal of cases from workhouses into asylums, and in some counties had rendered necessary a considerable extension of asylum accommodation. It had been said in the course of the debate that the number of lunatics in workhouses was not now the same as formerly. The great increase, however, as was abundantly proved by statistics, was in the county and borough asylums, in which, in 1874, there were 29,000 patients, in 1878, 35,000, and in 1879, 38,000; while the workhouses contained 15,000 patients in 1874, and only 15,900 in 1879. As to the non-pauper class, he would be glad if some plan were suggested by which that class of cases could be received into asylums, where they would be much better cared for than in licensed houses, and he did not think there should be any great objection to their being received into county asylums, simply because these were called pauper asylums. Those who were on the borderland of pauperism might if received into asylums, obtain their maintenance by, as it were, a loan, the Government to be repaid as circumstances would permit. If such a system could be established, he felt that very serious difficulties would be avoided. As to the class of chronic imbeciles and harmless idiots, it would be a great advantage if, in the larger counties, special provision could be made for them, because he thought it very undesirable that they should be placed in asylums, or even in workhouses. The whole question of the advance in aid of lunatics and idiots would most probably be considered by the Government before next year; and, therefore, he thought the question in its broadest sense should not be entered into until the result of this consideration was known. The present time was, therefore, unsuitable to the discussion of the proposal before the House. Still, he hoped that the hon. Member would be satisfied with what had been said on the subject, and not press his Motion to a division.


in reply, said, that not one of his arguments had been answered. He had never intended to limit the question to one of local taxation, but had put it on a far broader basis. His object had been to raise the entire subject of the reform of the Lunacy Law by pointing out defects that ran through the whole of the present system. He was even more satisfied with what had been said by the Government than he should have been at being in a majority on a division, because, reforming though they might be, they had distinctly said that they would not reform the Lunacy Laws, and did not think that the treatment of pauper lunatics inflicted any injury upon the middle and professional classes. Such a non possumus position it was impossible for them to retain. Their answer would make reformers work harder for reform. As for the few words which the late President of the Local Government Board said, the compromising support given to the Government by the right hon. Gentleman was even more in his favour than their antagonism.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.