HC Deb 24 August 1887 vol 319 cc1724-36

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(The Lord Advocate.)


said, that he had a Motion on the Paper that the House go into Committee on the Bill that day three months, but he proposed to withdraw it. He would, however, make an appeal to the Lord Advocate. He hoped the Government might see their way to accept one of the two Amendments he had on the Paper in order to carry out the views of the East of Scotland on this matter, and he would ask the Lord Advocate if he could now state how far he would be disposed to agree to these Amendments?

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

said, he had already stated that the Bill was introduced for a special purpose only, and that the Government were not prepared to accept any Amendment as to any special district or place. Having given that pledge, in consequence of which, doubtless, Scottish Members had refrained from putting down Amendments, he was afraid he must adhere to it. He was, therefore, unable to accept the Amendments of the hon. and learned Gentleman.

SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

said, he desired, if he was in Order, to move that the Bill should be postponed until after the Secretary for Scotland Bill as a protest against the order in which the Bills had been placed for discussion. The First Lord of the Treasury gave a pledge that the wish of the majority of the Scottish Members would be consulted as to the order in which the Scottish Bills should be taken; but that pledge, unintentionally, no doubt, had not been fulfilled, and the wishes of the majority of the Scottish Members had not been ascertained. If they had been, he believed it would hare been found that they were in favour of taking general in preference to purely local Bills, like the one before the House. Only two places, Glasgow and Dundee, were interested in the measure; but their position was neutralized, for while Glasgow very much wanted the Bill, Dundee was strongly against it. It was not right that the Bill should be put before a Bill like the Secretary for Scotland Bill, referring to the whole of Scotland, and proposing to give a small measure of Home Rule to that country. If it had been a question of the second reading, he would not have troubled the House on the matter; but, as the Committee on this Bill would be a continuance of the great fight between Glasgow and Dundee, he would, if he was in Order, like to move the Bill be not considered until after the other Orders of the Day were disposed of.


That Motion would not be in Order, and, in any case, the hon. Member is too late, as the Motion is, that I now leave the Chair on this Bill.


said, he could assure the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, that he was not aware of the pledge referred to by him; but two days ago, he saw the Order of Business to which objection was now taken in the handwriting of the First Lord of the Treasury, and it was then shown to a Scottish Member, who raised no objections. Had he known in time that there was any objection, he would have taken steps to have ascertained the wishes of the majority of the Scottish Members.


said, on Tuesday the Order Book showed the Secretary for Scotland Bill to be the first Order for to-day.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

said, he thought the Government should be complimented for having placed the Bill first. They ought not at that stage of the Session to enter into contentious matter, and all they ought to do was to pass such measures as this, whereby, in consequence of draftsmen's mistakes, powers given had worked unjustly. After what the hon. and learned Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) had said, they would run through the measure in a few minutes The hon. Gentleman (Sir George Campbell) surely did not expect that they were going to pass the Secretary for Scotland Bill, unless the Session were prolonged till October. He (Dr. Clark) did not expect it.


I do.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (General board may alter or vary districts subject to the sanction of the Secretary for Scotland).

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 11, before the word "application" insert the word "combined."—(Mr. E. Robertson.)

Question proposed, "That that word be there inserted."

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

I am afraid that I cannot accept this Amendment. The clause as it stands, in our opinion, provides for all that is necessary in the matter of application.


The object of this Amendment is simply to restore the law under which the Commissioners of Supply in counties were in all cases necessary parties to the application. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate means that he wishes to restore the law to its old position, I think he is bound to accept my Amendment.

MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

I must oppose this Amendment; because the object of the clause is that, in order to determine the question of altering or varying districts, the General Board should hear any party making the application. If the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dundee were put in it would practically leave it in the hands of the Commissioners of Supply, who might do the very reverse of that which the Act is intended to do.

Question put, and negatived.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 19, after "and," insert "electors, the appointment."—(The Lord Advocate.)

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 26, after the word "only," insert the words "or combination."—(The Lord Advocate.)

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 severally agreed to.

Clause 4 (Power in certain cases to contract with existing asylum before erecting new asylum).


I rise to move the first Amendment standing in my name, the object of which, taken in connection with the words which I propose to insert by my second Amendment—namely, "Shall no longer be obligatory on, but optional to district boards," is to remove what I consider to be one great blot on the existing system. I will not repeat the arguments which have been already used by myself and others against the existing system, further than to say that it comes to this— whereever there is a chartered asylum, the district boards are compelled to con- tract with that asylum, so that they are at the mercy of a non-representative body. It is for the purpose of making it optional to contract with the chartered asylum or not that I move this Amendment. I have also, as an alternative to it, placed on the Paper an Amendment to strike out the whole clause, and the effect of this being to leave things in statu quo, it is therefore the milder Amendment of the two.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 1, leave out from the beginning of clause to "provisions," in line 2, and insert "The."—(Mr. E. Robertson.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

MR. SHIRESS WILL (Montrose, &c.)

If by this Amendment my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) had given representation to the ratepayers on the Chartered Asylum Boards, I would have heartily supported it. But what my hon. and learned Friend desires is to have an option left to the parochial boards to go to the Chartered Asylums or not. Now that is to alter the whole of the policy which has been in existence since 1857, and which has worked so well. Now, what is the cause of this action on the part of my hon. and learned Friend? There are in Forfarshire two Chartered Asylums—one at Dundee and the other at Montrose. The charge in each for pauper lunatics is the same— namely, £28 per annum. The Dundee people, having to pay this sum, appealed to the arbitrators in Edinburgh to adjust the charge. The Commissioners ordered the Dundee people to state their case in writing, and ordered the Montrose Board, also in writing, to answer the complaint. The Commissioners reported their decision as appears in the Blue Book. They took into consideration the rates charged by the other asylums in the district and other matters, and decided that there was no cause of complaint as regards the charge. That being so, the proposal of my hon. and I learned Friend is an attempt to get I behind the decision of the arbitrators, and in some fashion to re-open the question between Dundee and Montrose.

MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

The meaning of this clause is, that if a certain district is divided, then the existing law which applies to the district as a whole shall apply to the district when divided. It is desired to leave no doubt on that point.


This is not a quarrel between Dundee and Montrose at all. It is a quarrel between the representative authorities in Forfarshire, in Edinburgh, and in the East of Scotland generally, and the non-representative bodies for which my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Shiress Will) appears. It is not for me to propose representation for those bodies; that is n question which may conic up at another time; but, in the meanwhile, all we want is that we should no longer be compelled to contract with the chartered asylums. We want to contract where we can in conformity with the duties imposed upon us, and we want to build asylums for ourselves. That being the position, I think we should go to a Division at once.

MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)

This is not a question affecting Forfarshire alone. I am here to say that it excites as much interest in Edinburgh as in Dundee, and that the feeling is general that there is a great hardship in the parochial boards being bound to one particular asylum, and not being at liberty to select among the different institutions one which may answer their purpose. In short, there are particular asylums which are protected, and the parochial boards simply want the principle of free trade to be guaranteed to them, as it is to others who wish to procure any article of service. I may say that, looking at this as a general question, I sympathize very much with the direction in which the parochial boards of Edinburgh and Forfarshire desire to move. I would have been better pleased simply to have omitted Clause 4 from the Bill. At the same time, as I am challenged to go to a Division, I shall, on general principles, feel compelled to vote for the Amendment before the Committee. I cannot understand how it is that when no one is to be injured, objection should be raised to the parochial boards having the opportuniny of choosing the asylums to which they shall send their patients. There are no vested interests connected with these privileged asylums, and no one would lose a penny by withdrawing the existing monopoly. Economy, I believe, was the object origi- nally contemplated in the Act of 1857; but I think experience has shown that the danger which was then anticipated does not now exist. The only fault which I think can be found with the parochial boards is that they are too extravagant in their expenditure. I have always heard that parsimony, even to the extent of positive niggardliness, was the charge to which they were most exposed. The original object of the clause having disappeared, it seems to me that the clause intended to remedy that should also disappear.


I think the effect of dispensing with this clause will be to injure the public most seriously; if you give the parochial boards the power to choose the asylums to which they should send their cases the result would be that certain asylums might have rooms for accommodation standing empty, whilst other asylums might be over-filled to meet the demand. Now, the object was to prevent over-filling. We are only asking that if sufficient accommodation is provided, then the Local Authorities should be bound to send their patients to the chartered asylums. That is the object which the Act had in view, and we are seeking to continue the powers of that Act, so that the authorities shall not have power to make increased accommodation unnecessarily. By all means get the most efficient board, and get the work conducted in the most efficient manner; but these are matters for future settlement, and as regards the present Bill they are out of place.

MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)

I do not think the question is quite so simple as my hon. Friend the Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow (Mr. Caldwell) appears to suppose. The fact is that there is at the present time, under the Act which it is proposed to alter, an absolute monopoly in certain cases. Formerly, the payment to lunatic asylums from the parochial authorities in Edinburgh was at the rate of £15 a head. That rate was after some years raised to £22; but within the last few years, under the system of monopoly of protected asylums, it was raised to £33 10s. per head—an absolutely extravagant and unknown rate. Now, the clause as it is proposed to be altered would give to the Edinburgh people, who feel the charge very much, the power of going to other asylums and getting rates approaching to that which appears to them to be more reasonable, These are the plain facts. The payment now made by Edinburgh is something like£11,000 a-year for lunatics; whereas £8,000 a-year is considered to be ample.

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

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when a dispute arose as to the amount, a smaller sum was offered to be accepted for the patients in the asylums? That was refused on the part of those who are now complaining, and the Appeal Court raised the sum to £33 10s., as against those who would not accept the arrangement for a smaller sum.


I know all that, and that the judgment was a highly technical one.


It is a remarkable fact that the smaller sum was refused. I would point out that the proposal to leave out this clause, or set it aside, really comes to this—that the large asylums which have been built, and which are working efficiently, are to be placed at a disadvantage, although they are not working for profit, but entirely for the benefit of the community.

MR. M'EWAN (Edinburgh, Central)

The hon. and learned Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) has stated that while the parochial boards are compelled to offer all their pauper lunatics to the chartered asylums in the neighbourhood, these institutions are under no obligation to take them. But that is not the case with regard to the parochial boards in Edinburgh. In 1844 the parochial boards entered into an agreement with the Morningside Asylum to take all pauper lunatics; at that time the number of lunatics was 105, and it is now 500, or nearly three-fourths of all the occupants of the asylum. The parochial board pays £4,400 for the privilege of sending all their paupers to that asylum. The asylum was built at a cost of £158,000, of which £30,000 has been got from Scotsmen and others in different parts of the country, and £83,000 are the profits derived from rich patients kept in the asylum. There is still a debt of £45,000. Now, what will be the effect of the Amendment, if it wore agreed to? It would be that the parochial boards would have the power of building an asylum, which would entail on the ratepayers of Edinburgh an enormous burden, while they have an asylum which has cost £158,000, and is quite sufficient for the requirements of the parochial boards. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) has complained of the excessive charge for the pauper lunatics in Morningside Asylum; but on the second reading of the Bill I proved most conclusively that the charge of £33 10s. was far from unparalleled in Scotland, and in reality, as compared with the neighbouring Mid Lothian district, it is a very low rate. In the Mid Lothian Asylum the charge is nominally £28, but when the rent is added it comes up to £41; and in the Glasgow Asylum, when the rent is added, the charge comes up to £31; so that the charge in the Morningside Asylum, so far from being exceptionally high, is moderate. For these reasons, in the interest of the general community of Edinburgh, I must oppose the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dundee.

MR. LACAITA (Dundee)

I wish to call attention to the fact that the parochial board of Dundee has made a calculation of the cost of working their asylum; and the estimate is that they can maintain paupers at a lower rate than they are paying to the asylum at Montrose. The estimate has been fully worked out by the parochial board, and laid before the general board of lunacy.


I think it necessary to inform the Committee that the general object which, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) has in view is to enable competition to be carried on between Montrose and Dundee. I do not believe that any good can result from such a system. The asylum at Montrose is, in my opinion, carried on with great economy, and I believe the lunatics would suffer if there were any competition between the two asylums.

MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars, &c.)

I wish also to express my opinion that it would not be wise to have competitions between pauper lunatic asylums.


I rise to Order. I ask you, Mr. Courtney, whether the Amendment is relevant to the Bill?


It is relevant to the clause.


The object of the Amendment is to repeal a clause in the Act. I submit that it does not come within the Title or Preamble of the Bill.


If it were a question of introducing the clause I should have had to consider it; but I have no authority to exclude what is in the Bill as read by the House a second time.


I was saying that I did not think it would be wise to have competition between the lunatic asylums. Although there may be some ground of complaint, the proper way to remedy the grievance is to obtain representatives on the boards of these chartered asylums. The money for these asylums was raised on the ground that the pauper lunatics of the districts would be sent to these asylums. It may be that calculation has shown that lunatics can be maintained at a lower rate than that which is now paid; but, if so, I do not think that ought to be treated as a reason for introducing this Amendment. I find, with reference to Morningside Asylum, from a statement I have, that the directors formerly consisted, amongst others, of representatives from all the parishes in the district; but since they obtained the monopoly of pauper lunatics, those representatives, with the exception of two who came from Edinburgh, have been excluded; and, with these exceptions, the directors themselves fill up all the vacancies, so that they are really self-elected. This is what I think Parliament ought to set aside; and we should try to obtain some alterations in the directorate in the sense suggested by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Shiress Will)—that is to say, that there should be some proper representation of the parochial boards on the directorate of these asylums. When their representatives are on the board, they will be able to see whether the amount charged is in excess of the proper charge. I would point out that in the ease which came before the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the Court did not decide that £33 10s. was the proper sum; they decided that the parishes were bound to pay whatever sum the asylum directors expended, together with the sinking fund to pay off the debt, and that without reference to the question whether the money was well or ill spent. I admit that this is a ground of grievance; but the true way of remedying it is to go back to the former status, and have representatives of the parochial boards on the boards of those asylums, who will see whether the money is properly spent.

MR. FINLAY (Inverness, &c.)

I cannot help thinking it a great pity that the Committee should drift into a general discussion on the question of the monopoly enjoyed by chartered asylums. This is a Bill for one specific purpose— namely, to alter and vary lunacy districts in Scotland. To my mind, it would be rather absurd to suppose that when the new districts are created under this Act the law which has prevailed so long, and which does prevail elsewhere, should not apply in them also. I take it that this is the effect of the 4th clause, and therefore I hope that my hon. and learned Friend who has brought forward this Amendment will feel that he has done his duty, and not press it to a Division.

SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

Some time ago I prophesied that the Committee on this Bill would be a battle between Glasgow and Dundee; but this Amendment has raised a question between the sister burghs of Dundee and Montrose. I think it quite impossible that we should thresh out the multitude of details involved if we are to do any ordinary business this afternoon. I do not take any part in the discusssion of them in the hope that we may go at once to a Division.


In answer to the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I would point out that I am not responsible for the general discussion that has taken place; and I want to set an example of moderation to the Government, which I trust they will reciprocate. I am going to abandon these two Amendments, and ask the Government to leave out the clause altogether, which, as I have said, is the milder course to pursue. If this proposal is agreed to, the law will be left exactly as it is now, and I claim that on this point I have set the Government an example of moderation which they are bound to reciprocate. I claim also to tie them down to the pledge given over and over again—namely, that they do not want to make any change whatever in the law. Finally, by the course I am about to take hon. Members will not be committed to any expression of opinion upon the general question, to the discussion of which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) has objected.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 107; Noes 35: Majority 72.—(Div. List, No. 417.) [3.10 P. M.]

Clause agreed to.

Clause 5 (Statutory provisions relating to district boards (if consistent with Act) applicable to boards elected under this Act).

Amendments made.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be reported to the House."


Before the Bill is reported I should like to make a concluding appeal to the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, and it is that so far as Forfarshire is concerned there should no new district formed, because the effect of that would be to subject the county to a still greater burden than is now laid upon it. If the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate will give me such an assurance, or anything which implies that the Government will not look favourably on any proposal to establish any new district in Forfarshire I shall not object to the Bill passing in its present shape.

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

It is quite impossible for me to give any pledge upon the matter; but I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Lunacy Commissioners, in the event of any application being made, will look carefully into the matter.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

There is one thing the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate might well do, and that is to suggest to the Lunacy Commissioners not to make any change unless they voluntarily allow delegates from the parochial boards to be on the board of management, in order that these boards may have some representation here.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Friday.