HC Deb 10 August 1887 vol 318 cc1882-97

Order for Second Reading read.

THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

Sir, in moving that this Bill be now read a second time, I do not think it is necessary to detain the House long, because all the Members for Scotland who are interested in the Bill have the matter thoroughly in their knowledge already. I may say shortly that the object of the Bill is to restore the power which existed before the Act of 1877, by which lunacy districts in Scotland can be properly adjusted. Before the Act of 1877 the Prison Boards of Scotland, which existed at that time, had that power, but the Prison Boards were abolished in 1877; but neither in the Act of 1877 nor since has any provision been made with respect to the establishment of these lunacy districts. It is proposed under this Bill to confer on the General Board of Commissioners of Lunacy in Scotland this power which formerly existed in the Prison Boards, and I trust that the House will give the Bill a second reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The Lord Advocate.)


I rise to move the rejection of this Bill. In doing so I may be permitted for a few moments to call attention to the very singular circumstances under which the House is called upon to consider this and the other measures which stand on the Order Paper for to-day. Towards the end of one of the longest and one of the most laborious Sessions in all our Parmentary annals the House of Commons is called upon on a Wednesday afternoon in the middle of August to discuss in a few hours the entire legislative programme of the Government as regards Scotland. So far as Scotland is concerned the Session is beginning to-day. Not merely is this the first time when we are called upon to pass judgment on the Government Bills for Scotland, but these Bills are almost absolutely new to us. Nearly every one of them has been sprung upon us in the course of the last few days. This is a state of things with which the people of Scotland cannot be expected to rest contented. We were told the other day by a distinguished supporter of the Government—the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright)—that Scotland was the best regulated portion of the United Kingdom. I think it would not be exaggerating much to say that the Scotch Members are among the best conducted and best regulated Members of the House. That is a modest claim, which I think all sections of the House will admit. But what is the good of all this superfluous virtue and respectability if it merely ends in this—that while those who are clamorous and while those who are guilty of what the Government call Obstruction are listened to and deferred to, Scotch measures are thrust into the background and are submitted to this House at a period of the Session when they cannot properly be discussed at all? I think the situation is such that the Members from Scotland who are here to-day would be amply justified in taking strong measures against the Government, and rejecting the entire legislative programme which they have submitted to us to-day. If my hon. Friends accept that suggestion favourably I hope they will begin by making an end of this Lunacy Bill, which stands first on the programme. Now what is the Government programme? I do not want to go by anticipation into the various measures proposed; but the fact is the only two Bills which the Government seem desirous to pass are two measures intended to remedy legal or legislative blunders—the blunders of the Executive itself or the blunders of the House of Commons or the House of Lords—perpetrated some years ago. They are measures of a legal or personal character rather than of a general character involving the interests of the whole country. It is, I think, a singular commentary on the action of the Government, and on their conduct of Business in this House, to say that at this time, in the middle of August, they arc asking us to discuss two such measures as this Lunacy Bill, and the Bill which immediately follows, the Lanarkshire Sheriff Bill. The First Lord of the Treasury stated the ether day as a reason for proceeding with the Bill now before us that the most serious consequences were to be apprehended in Scotland if this Bill was not passed. The right hon. Gentleman made an unintentional joke, or, if he did not, then he simply wanted—about this Lunacy Bill— '' To show by one satiric touch No nation ever wanted it so much. But the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to be aware that the serious consequences which he apprehended—the only serious consequences involved in the rejection of this Bill—are confined to one part of Scotland. The measure is mainly for relieving the Parochial Board of Lanarkshire of a difficulty in which they are placed; but it is a curious thing that while the relief required will be extended by this Bill to Lanarkshire, the Bill will in a corresponding degree injure Forfarshire, and this is mainly the ground on which I ask the House to reject this Bill. The Lord Advocate has said that the purpose of this Bill is to remedy the unintended consequences of the Prisons Act of 1877, and that it is simply intended to restore the powers of making application to the Board of Lunacy for the division of districts which were in existence before the passing of that Act. That is not exactly a true description of the contents of this Bill. If the main purpose of the Bill had been limited to that, I do not think I should have risen to move its rejection. But the Bill does not merely restore the provisions of the old law. I have myself an Amendment on the Bill, or at least I intend to put upon the Paper an Amendment, which will have the effect of restoring the powers of the Lunacy Board as they existed before the Bill of 1877 was passed. But there is a more serious objection to the Bill, and that is that it places the new districts which are to be created under this Act under a very objectionable clause of the old Lunacy Act of 1857. That is the gravamen of my case. The 59th clause of this Act of 1857 provides that in case there should be any asylum established in any district which shall have sufficient accommodation for the pauper lunatics of such district, or which can be rendered adequate for the reception of such pauper lunatics, or any portion of them, the Board of such district shall, before proceeding to assess for or erect in any district an asylum, contract with the parties interested in such asylum for the use of the whole or part of the asylum for the reception and maintenance of the pauper lunatics of such district on terms to be arranged, and, in case of differences arising, a form of arbitration is provided on an appeal to the General Board sitting in Edinburgh. I want the House to consider how this clause operates. It gives a monopoly in those districts where they exist to what are known as the chartered asylums in Scotland. The Local Authority—the representative authority—charged by the law with the j maintenance and care of pauper lunatics must offer their patients to these chartered asylums, and must offer them on conditions which the chartered asylums are at liberty to accept or refuse. Practically the patients must be accepted only upon the terms fixed by the asylum itself, because I believe that the arbitration of the General Board in Edinburgh is an arbitration only in name. In Forfarshire, at all events, it is true that the effect of this clause is to give a one-sided monopoly to those chartered asylums, and to compel the Constitutional authorities having the charge of the lunatics to accept any terms which may be imposed by these private and irresponsible authorities in charge of chartered asylums. I have in my hand a statement which was lately made to the Lunacy Board in Edinburgh by the Representatives of Forfarshire, showing how this works out in regard to the cost of lunatics. There is no use in denying the fact that this is mainly a question of cost, and we object to this Bill because it saddles us with an extravagant expenditure over which we have no control, and which, we believe, We could get rid of if this Bill were withdrawn in the meantime, and a more just and adequate measure brought in at a later date. The official statements made by the Montrose Asylum in the year 1886, tested, as I believe, by the results of other figures, show that a pauper lunatic patient costs them not more than £20 0s. 3d. per annum. The amount which they charge, or which the existing law enables them to charge, upon the Local Authorities of Forfarshire is £28 12s. per annum, or nearly one-third, or 30 per cent, per patient more than the Local Authorities would be bound to pay if they had the control over their business, which I think they ought to have. The case is all the harder because these chartered asylums in Forfarshire represent the contributions of Forfarshire itself. They were brought into existence by the voluntary contributions of the whole county. They were maintained for a long time by this means, and now they are chartered and managed by persons entirely irresponsible to the public opinion of the county or to the ratepayers of the county. We are asked under this Bill to give them powers of indirectly taxing the ratepayers, by forcing them to pay an excessive amount for the patients. We are bound to send to them. It seems to me that on these grounds we have a right to protest against this Bill passing in its present shape. Lanarkshire, which is clamouring for this Bill, and to which the serious consequences that may arise from its rejection are confined, is not affected by this state of things, because Lanarkshire, or at least the parishes of it which are affected by this Bill, have no chartered asylums to which they will be bound to send their patients. The Bill has this curious effect, that it will prevent Forfarshire from doing the very thing which it will enable Lanarkshire to do. It will be an enabling Bill for Lanarkshire; but it will be a disabling Bill for Forfarshire. It seems to me there is a grievance—I do not deny it—in the case of Lanarkshire and other counties in the West of Scotland. But whore the grievance is local, it is surely common sense that the remedy should be local also; or, if yon proceed by means of a general measure, you should take care that the measure is not so conceived as to injure other localities. If the Government would meet us, I will not say half way, but a quarter of the way, and remove some of those features of the Bill to which we object, I do not know that this opposition need be carried any further. Clause 4 of the Bill not merely repeats and confirms and perpetuates the injurious provisions of the Act of 1857 by applying it to now districts which may be created by this Bill, but it actually increases the evil. Forfarshire, as I hope I have satisfied the House, is in a position altogether different from Lanarkshire in this matter, because it not only has one chartered asylum but it has two. It has a chartered asylum at Montrose, and it has a chartered asylum at Dundee. If a new district is formed under this Bill in the neighbourhood of Dundee the effect would be that the now Dundee lunacy district, instead of being thirled as it is now to the two County Asylums, and having the benefit of some competition between them, would be limited to the single chartered asylum situated in its own lunacy district. I believe that would be one of the effects of the working out of Clause 4. If Clause 4 were withdrawn from the Bill it would still meet the grievances of the Local Authorities in Lanarkshire, and I think the Bill might in that form be allowed to pass; but otherwise the measure ought to be greatly deprecated. What is wanted in this matter is Free Trade and Home Rule. We want to be allowed to discharge at our own risk and on our own responsibility the serious duties which the Legislature has imposed upon us, and we object to Parliament saying that we must contract with a body which is not compelled to contract with us, and under conditions practically enabling these irresponsible Authorities to fix their own terms. I have only one word more to say, and that is to repeat my avowal that I do not for a moment wish to stand in the way of Lanarkshire obtaining the redress of any grievance it may have. I am perfectly willing that this Bill should pass under conditions which will not impose disabilities upon us. Therefore, if the Government will do one or the other of the following things, I shall not press my opposition any further. If they will leave out Clause 4,I shall willingly allow the second reading of the Bill to be taken. I should prefer—though I know the Lord Advocate will not accept it—the adoption of an Amendment declaring that the old Clause 59 of the Act of 1857 should be declared to be optional—that is to say, that instead of being hound to contract with the chartered asylums the Local Authorities should simply be empowered to do so; but if the Lord Advocate will not accept these suggestions, I have another offer to make, that he should confine the operation of the Bill to Lanarkshire—[Mr. ESSLEMONT: No, no !]—and to Aberdeen if my hon. Friend wishes it. If he will not do that, then, as a last alternative, I ask him to leave the county of Forfar out of the Bill altogether. If he accepts any of these three courses, then our opposition to the Bill will cease; but as he has hitherto given no indication of a friendly reception to any of these suggestions, I have no alternative but to move that the Bill be read a second time this day three months.

MR. LACAITA (Dundee)

seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. E. Robertson.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

MR. HOZIER (Lanark, S.)

said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had moved the rejection of the Bill complained that it had been sprung upon Scottish Members, and later on he declared that the question dealt with in the Bill was a local and personal one.


I said Bills generally had been sprung upon us.


said, he would remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that for the last two months he had had a block against this very Bill, and it was owing to that circumstance that they only got to the Bill to-day. Therefore, the hon. and learned Member had no good ground for complaining that a Bill which had been blocked by himself for two months had been sprung upon Scottish Members. In view, however, of the inordinate length of the speech of the hon. and learned Member, he would strongly advise the Government always to spring Bills upon him, because there was no knowing to what length he would go if he had more time for consideration. With regard to the statement of the hon. and learned Member that the Bill was a purely local and personal one, he would remind him that Scottish Members were; as a matter of fact, almost unanimously in favour of the Bill; but that, even if the benefits of the Bill were confined to Lanarkshire, that county contained about 1,000,000 inhabitants. That was a considerable locality, to say the least of it; and a question that affected that vast county—the most important in Scotland—could hardly be treated as a mere local matter. He quite admitted, however, that there was a local and personal question about the Bill; but that was the miserable local and personal quarrel between the towns of Dundee and Montrose. ["No!"] Oh, hon. Members belonging to Scotland would recognize the truth of what he said. It was entirely due to that local and personal quarrel that they were now obliged to devote a considerable portion of a valuable day to the discussion of what was called a local and personal Bill. He could only say, on behalf of Lanarkshire, that they were very grateful indeed to the Government for having introduced this Bill as the first Order of the Day, because, owing to the action of the Representatives of Dundee, no other course was open if progress was to be made with this measure, which they were united in considering as absolutely necessary for them.


said, he hoped the hon. and learned Member for Dundee would not persevere in his Motion. Montrose Asylum was closely connected with the county that he represented. They had no less than 50 patients from that county in the asylum—all well taken care of. He had no objection to the Lord Advocate taking steps by which he could investigate the accounts of the Montrose Asylum. He thought the hon. and learned Member for Dundee had only done his duty to his constituents in bringing forward this matter.

MR. M'EWAN (Edinburgh, Central)

said, he should have preferred to have given a silent vote on this question; but, inasmuch as the Bill was objected to by the Parochial Boards of Edinburgh and St. Cuthbert's, he felt it necessary to state his reasons for supporting it. These Boards did not object to the principle of the Bill. They approved of it. Indeed, it was very difficult to see how they could do otherwise. The Bill did not pretend to change the law, and these Boards were in no way affected by it. They would remain exactly as they now were. But why did they object? They objected to it because they were bound at present to send pauper lunatics to the asylum at Morningside, which was governed by a self-elected body. They thought it ought to be governed by a representative body. He had as strong an objection to the government of self-elected bodies as those Parochial Boards had; and if a Bill was ever introduced for the purpose of placing this and all other asylums of a similar character under representative bodies it would have his cordial support. The objection of these Boards was that the expenditure in Morningside Asylum was lavish, and that they had to pay a larger sum for the maintenance of the pauper lunatics of Edinburgh than was exacted by any other asylum in Scotland. The Parochial Boards had issued a statement of the cost of paupers in the various asylums in Scotland, in which they professed to bring out this result; but no uniformity had been observed in the preparation of these Returns. In the great majority of cases no rent was charged. Where rent was charged it was not based upon actual facts. In order to show that this allegation of excessive cost in Morningside was not borne out by facts, he would compare it with the cost in the Mid Lothian District Asylum. The cost in the latter was said to be £28 1s. 3d., and that was exclusive of rent. But they had to pay an annual instalment of £3,050 in redemption of principal and interest; and as there were only 230 beds in that asylum, that brought out a sum of £13 4s. per annum for rent, which, added to the £28, made the cost of the maintenance of a pauper in this district asylum £41 6s. 3d. He would compare it with another important parochial asylum. The Barony Asylum in Glasgow professed that the cost of lunatics there was only £28 0s. 10d., including rent; but they put down the rent at £3 3s. 3d., which was a mere assumption based upon a principle unknown to anyone but themselves. There was a debt on this asylum of £160,000, redeemable in the usual way in 30 years; and, as there were 533 beds in the asylum, this involved a cost of over £15 for rent. Deducting the £3 3s. 3d. which they admitted, and adding the £15 which it actually cost for rent, that brought out the cost of paupers in this asylum at £38. The rate charged in the Royal Asylum at Edinburgh was £33 10s., including rent and everything. This being the case; he thought there was no call for excessive urgency in interfering with the existing state of affairs in Edinburgh; and as they understood from Lanarkshire that that county was almost in a state of chaos in regard to lunatics, and that great inconvenience would result if the Bill were postponed, and as no in-ury was to be done to Edinburgh or any other district, he should support the Bill.

MR. SHIRESS WILL&c.) (Montrose,

said that, as Montrose had been so often mentioned, he hoped the House would allow him to say a few words with respect to this matter. The Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dundee in regard to this Bill was to obtain once more for Parochial Boards the jurisdiction over and the care and management of the unfortunate class of pauper lunatics which they had up to the passing of the Act of 1857, but which was purposely denied by that Act after a careful investigation by a Royal Commission and a very long Report going fully into the subject. Up to that time no provi- sion had been made by the State for the housing of pauper lunatics. The matter had been largely one of private enter-prize and charity. The Montrose Asylum was founded originally by charity in 1782, and gradually it was extended from time to time, and was one of the existing institutions when the Act of 1857 was passed. That Act, following upon the Report of the Royal Commission, provided, in the interest of pauper lunatics as well as of the ratepayers, that no unnecessary building should be put up by any of the district authorities constituted so long as there was within the district a chartered asylum liable to the supervision and regulations of the head Board in Edinburgh, and so long as these asylums were willing to receive the patients upon terms which, if the parties did not agree, were to be determined upon by the Board in Edinburgh. What was the grievance put forward as the excuse for this opposition to the Bill? It was stated by his hon. and learned Friend that the Montrose Asylum charged £28 per patient per annum, when they could be kept at a charge of £20. The argument was untenable for this reason. Assuming—though he disputed it altogether—that the hon. and learned Member's figure of £20 as the actual cost per patient was correct, the Board in Edinburgh was constituted a Board of Arbitration; and if any of his hon. and learned Friend's constituents had any ease to go upon they had only to carry the matter before them on appeal. The figures must be adjudicated upon and would be adjudicated upon by the Board in Edinburgh, which had power to call for information bearing upon the point, not only from the Montrose Asylum authorities, but from the authorities of every asylum in Scotland, and to decide what was a proper charge. Therefore, that could not be the reason for the opposition to the Bill. But the true reason of the opposition to the Bill had leaked out. His hon. and learned Friend desired to make the application of the Clause 59 of the Act of 1857 optional. This Clause 59 was the one he (Mr. Shiress Will) had adverted to, which prevented in the interests of the ratepayers the unnecessary building of house-room for pauper lunatics. Now, what would happen if they accepted his hon. and learned Friend's suggestions? The asylum of Montrose was the second largest in Scotland. Its Governors had from time to time spent large sums of money in extending and improving it. There was no question of reward or profit; whatever surplus there might be was spent in the improvement of the building and of its internal accommodation, and in keeping it up to modern requirements. In that asylum there were 200 or 300 pauper lunatics from Forfarshire. What the hon. Member would like would be that the Parochial Board—not an absolutely representative institution, by the way—should be able to go to Montrose Asylum and say this—" You are doing your duty. You are under inspection. You are bound to conform to the regulations, and you cannot make any profit. You have from time to time spent large sums of money relying upon Section 59. You have provided accommodation for between two and three hundred pauper lunatics from Forfarshire. You have this accommodation on your hands; and now either you must take our paupers at our price or they shall go elsewhere." That was the sort of Free Trade the hon. and learned Member wished in regard to the treatment of this unfortunate class. Could anything be more reprehensible? Were those unfortunate people to be put up to public competition, as if they were so much washing to be given out? Was it in the interests of humanity that they should endeavour to cut down prices, by means of competition, so as to bring about such a state of things as that paupers would be stinted in this direction or that—in their food, in their clothing, in their medical attendance, and in their efforts to improve and benefit their condition, and restore them to a healthy state of mind? He said that was exactly the policy that in 1857 a Royal Commission and an Act of Parliament put a stop to. Parliament had provided a remedy in that there should be a head Board in Edinburgh, controlling the asylums and regulating the charges to be made for them. For those reasons, he trusted the House would not see fit to reject the measure.

MR. ASHER&c.) (Elgin,

said, he hoped that a decision would shortly be arrived at on this Bill, so that they might proceed to consider other important Business. It seemed to him, from what had been said, that both sides of the House were in favour of the principle of the Bill, which was the only question which properly ought to be discussed on the Motion for second reading. The principle, as he understood it, was that the Lunacy Board in Scotland should have the power of regulating the lunacy districts in Scotland. They had that power under the Act which constituted the Lunacy Board; but, by what had always been regarded as a mistake in legislation, it was taken away from the Board by the Prisons Act of 1877. Before that Act was passed the Prison Boards had the power to move the Lunacy Board to create lunacy districts, and when by the Act in question the Prison Boards were swept away there was no authority to take their place in this matter, and the Lunacy Board could not take action on its own initiative. The Bill now before the House sought to constitute an authority which should have the power to apply to the Lunacy Board to fix the districts. The objection taken to the Bill was strictly limited to the 4th clause, and the point which his hon. and learned Friend had raised in regard to it was very fairly open to discussion. There was a great deal to be said in favour of the existing system in reference to the protection of the interests of large asylums which had been established at very great cost. On the other hand, they could not help sympathizing with the desire that these institutions should be placed under the control of persons popularly elected. But what he would suggest to his hon. and learned Friend was that the proper time for raising those questions was in Committee. It would then be open to him to move that the clause should be omitted. Since they were all agreed that legislation was necessary on the main lines of the Bill, he would suggest that they should now come to a decision on the subject, and get on with the other important Bills before them.

MR. LACAITA (Dundee)

said, he should not detain the House; but he hoped his hon. and learned Friend and Colleague (Mr. E. Robertson) would not accept the advice which had been tendered to him, but that he would press his Amendment to a Division. They knew very well what the effect was of putting off their objections to measures till the Committee stage meant. It meant that I their Amendments were then proposed only to be withdrawn or to be defeated. The whole objection taken by Dundee was to the 4th clause, simply because it was quite unnecessary. It was a matter of serious importance to the ratepayers of Dundee, and did not at all arise out of any local jealousy or squabble. It was a matter of so serious importance that one-third of the whole of the poor rates payable by Dundee was due to the necessity of maintaining pauper lunatics. When the proportion was so great it was not in the least to be wondered at that the local Parochial Board, which, if not elected by popular suffrage, was most devoted to the real interest of the ratepayers as well as to economy, should offer strenuous resistance to the Bill. He appealed to the Lord Advocate to give them some assurance that he would leave out Clause 4. That clause was absolutely unnecessary for Lanarkshire, which was the county requiring the Bill, because in Lanarkshire there were no chartered asylums to which that section of the Bill might be applied. When they got into Committee they had been given to understand that there was no intention to divide Forfarshire into two districts. Therefore, as regarded that county, there could be no reason for the further extension of this system, which bore so heavily on every class of ratepayers.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

said, he hoped his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) would not take the advice of his hon. Colleague and divide the House. He very much, sympathized with his hon. and learned Friend's objection. It was not a question affecting Forfarshire alone. When he was a member of the Govan Parochial Board some years ago that body spent a large sum of money upon an asylum for the accommodation of their own pauper lunatics. As a portion of Govan was in Lanarkshire, the people of Renfrewshire would have not only to keep up their own very good asylum, but they would to pay for the asylum in Lanarkshire. he was in favour of the Bill, but he thought Clause 4 ought not to be in it, and he would support the hon. and learned Member for Dundee in endeavouring to got it struck out in Committee. As the same time, he considered it a wrong policy to oppose a measure which would do a great deal of good to the people of Scotland simply because they could not got a particular section modified.

MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)

said, he was very much inclined to agree with the views expressed by the hon. and learned Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Asher); but it seemed to him that the 4th clause had been elevated to the position of a second principle of the Bill. Although he desired to see the measure passed, yet if the retention of Clause 4 was insisted upon as of the essence of the measure, then he was compelled to regard that clause as the fly in the pot of ointment, and would have to vote against the second reading.

MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

said, it would be a great mistake to suppose that the Bill was required merely in the interest of Lanarkshire. As representing Aberdeenshire he might say that it very much affected that district. The law on the subject was uncertain. The present District Asylum in Aberdeenshire was becoming overcrowded, and it was necessary that additional accommodation should be provided. It was of the utmost importance that there should be no doubt about the law on the subject, and the Bill ought to be passed in order to clear up the matter. He looked upon the 4th clause as a necessary clause. He was as much in favour as his hon. Friends of having representative Boards, and such a change might be brought in in time; but this clause was required until they should have such changes as would place the Lunacy Law upon a more popular basis. If hon. Members thought it necessary to salve their consciences by taking a Division, let it be done; but they ought not to lose more time in discussing the matter.


said, the discussion that had taken place had been to a certain extent valuable; but he must express his deep disappointment at the tone of distrust of the Local Authorities which had been shown by hon. Members in the House. After the appeals which had been addressed to him to withdraw his opposition to the Bill at that stage, he would yield to the evident sense of the House and avoid an unnecessary Division; but he should renew in Committee his opposition to the more objectionable clauses of the Bill, and would rely with some confidence on the support of hon. Members who had expressed their sympathy with his objects, and to whose wish he then deferred. He would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.


hoped the Bill would be allowed to pass through Committee at once. ["No, no!"]

Bill committed for To-morrow.