HC Deb 22 April 1885 vol 297 cc430-2

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the present measure dealt only with private lunatic asylums in Ireland; but a Bill had been introduced in "another place" with regard to English asylums, and had much the same scope as the present Bill. This Bill aimed at gradually getting rid of the vicious principle of keeping private lunatic asylums for pecuniary profit, which was at the root of all the evils connected with private asylums. The Earl of Shaftesbury, Chairman of the Lunacy Board, the highest living authority on the subject, stated before a Select Committee of the House in 1859 that the evils of the system could hardly be exaggerated. One could not conceive how, in the face of all that had occurred, and all the evidence recorded against them, private lunatic asylums kept by individuals for personal gain had so long been tolerated. There had recently been some very notable cases of attempts made to shut up persons who were not insane in establishments of this kind. There were three classes of lunatic asylums in Ireland— asylums for charitable purposes, the district lunatic asylums, and the private asylums. The first two were satisfactory, although he believed the ratepayers should be represented on the Board of Governors. If capital for the purpose of building asylums to be under the management of Government, in which the medical and other officers should have no pecuniary interest whatever beyond their salaries, could be introduced into the country, or procured from some public fund, such as the Church Surplus Fund, it would be a blessing to the country and to the insane.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. J. Corbet.)


said, he fully recognized the pains which the hon. Member had taken in this matter, and his earnest desire to improve the arrangements affecting the management of lunatics in Ireland; but the Government could not assent to the second reading of the Bill. In the first place, the Government had introduced a Bill into the other House for England, which indicated the general lines on which he thought legislation should proceed in this matter. That Bill did not apply to Ireland, and it would be impossible for the Government to be legislating at the same time upon one system in the other House, and upon another system in this House. The two countries, although their circumstances were different, ought to be dealt with on substantially the same lines, making allowance for the difference of their circumstances. The system in Ireland was far from perfect; there was a deficiency of inspection and control by Local Authorities; but the Bill would intensify these evils by centralizing the management of the asylums, which would be a step altogether in the wrong direction. He knew and admitted all that could be said in favour of doing away with private asylums; at the same time, to get rid of them in a summary way would raise large questions of compensation. To transfer in a summary way all the private asylums to the Central Executive Government would be an unfortunate step. He looked forward to the time when there would be in Ireland Local Authorities who could take charge of asylums. The hon. Member assumed that asylums would be self-supporting if they were erected; but money would be required to erect them. The hon. Member said he would get it from the Church Fund Surplus; but, to the best of his belief, there was nothing to be obtained from that source, and that would be a considerable obstacle to the successful operation of this Bill.

In answer to Mr. WARTON,


said, it would be impossible to put Ireland in the Bill now before the House of Lords, because the details of the two countries were so different; but that Bill indicated the general lines on which the Government thought it desirable to proceed.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 42; Noes 77: Majority 35.—(Div. List, No. 123.)

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