HC Deb 03 May 1898 vol 57 cc189-217

Amendment proposed— In page 4, line 37, to leave out the words 'Lord Lieutenant,' and insert the words 'Local Government Board' instead thereof."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)


The proposal in this Amendment is one that will be viewed with disfavour by many Irish Members. It proposes to transfer to the Local Government Board new and very large powers, more especially in connection with this important matter of the treatment of lunatics. The question is specially important, because we are brought face to face with the dismal, and disheartening fact of a remarkable increase of lunacy in Ireland. We must at present be prepared to accept the statement of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, that we shall have Parliamentary control in connection with the treatment of lunatics in Ireland, by the fact that the salaries of the inspectors of lunatic asylums are upon the Votes of the House. Last night, too, the Chief Secretary pledged himself that in all matters connected with this service in Ireland, he would be prepared to defend the action of the Lord Lieutenant. Of course the right honourable Gentleman is aware of the difficulty in which Members of this House are placed, especially in supply in a matter of this kind, owing to the fact that we cannot discuss the executive or administrative action of the Lord Lieutenant, because his salary does not come before the House, but is put upon the Consolidated Fund. But, in view of the Chief Secretary's statement last night, we must recognise the fact that the House will, at any rate in the future, have control of this department, as it had in the past. With regard to this particular matter, however, I object to taking the control from the Lord Lieutenant and placing it under the Local Government Board, and I believe that the majority of Irish Members would not view with favour, but with considerable disfavour, a change from the law as it is to a system which would place these matters under the control of the Local Government Board.

MR. JAMES DALY (Monaghan, S.)

After long years of experience as a poor law guardian, and having also some knowledge of the Local Government Board, I look with the greatest suspicion upon any proposal to give that Board new powers. I found the Local Government Board to be an iron-bound, inflexible body, and no board of guardians could get them to do anything reasonable, except in connection with a Motion to increase the salaries of officers, although the work of the officers might not be increased in the slightest. So far as the Amendment now before the Committee is concerned, it is just about the "toss of a button" whether it is accepted or not, and I think the Committee might throw up the button and vote according to the way it falls. But from my experience I am not in any way enamoured with a proposal for placing any more powers in their hands. It has been suggested, and suggested very wisely, I think, that this whole question should be placed under the control of somebody separate and distinct from either the Lord Lieutenant or the Local Government Board.


I desire to support the Amendment, because I have no doubt that the change it proposes is absolutely necessary. We have been told that the management of lunatic asylums in Ireland could be no worse than it has been in the past, and if it is so it shows that a change is absolutely necessary in the future. I support the Amendment on the ground that the management of asylums would be better under the control of the Local Government Board, than under the inspection of some dark horse appointed by the Lord Lieutenant—an inspector whom we do not know, and who would not be responsible to this House. The Chief Secretary has stated that he would defend any action of the Lord Lieutenant, but that is because the right honourable Gentleman has a chivalrous instinct to defend the acts of any official. I repeat, Sir, that the asylums would be better under the management of the Local Government Board than of some appointee of the Lord Lieutenant, who would perhaps know nothing of the work, about whom we would know nothing, and about whose actions we would know very little. I think the Local Government Board have stepped in very frequently on behalf of the poor when the guardians were parsimonious or indifferent. I believe I should speak out what I feel, and my impression is that it would be a happy change for the poor lunatics in Ireland if this matter were placed under the management of the Local Government Board. They have machinery at their disposal to inquire into the management of these institutions, whereas the two inspectors of lunacy in Ireland have not the time and cannot give that patient and detailed examination necessary for the proper management of the asylums. I therefore desire to support the Amendment proposed by the honourable and learned Member for North Louth, and I do trust that before the Report stage is reached the Chief Secretary will give the matter his consideration and see if effect cannot be given to the representative opinion of Ireland on the matter; for I hold that the vast majority of those who understand the management of such institutions are in favour of the duties being transferred to the Local Government Board.


I am in favour, as far as I can see, of this Amendment. A great deal of the success of this Bill will depend on the Local Government Board, and I think the Board ought to be the one body dealing with the Bill in Ireland, as it will be ultimately responsible, through its representative in the House of Commons, for what is done. It is a mistake, to my mind, to bring the Lord Lieutenant into contact with the counties under the Bill. I do not think that the Lord Lieutenant would personally know anything about the questions brought before him. You would not expect him to visit a lunatic asylum, or to himself inquire whether the county councils were properly managing the asylums. The real way to deal with questions arising in the county councils is by one authority, not two. That one authority should be the Local Government Board, which we can bring to book in the House of Commons, and not the Lord Lieutenant, who is to the House of Commons a vague personality, which cannot be pinned down to any particular action. With regard to the Local Government Board, I hope that before this Bill leaves the House of Commons that Board will be considerably stronger than it is at present. I do not think that the Local Government Board is at present a strong Board. It ought to be made stronger, and made strong enough to have an opinion of its own—not merely to reflect the opinion of the Chief Secretary. It appears to me that on the status of the Board will mainly depend the success of this Bill. No one will doubt that in Ireland, when this Bill becomes law, a vast number of questions will arise involving a great deal of expense, and the Local Government Board will have constantly to deal with such questions; and I venture to hope that the Lord Lieutenant will not be dragged into affairs of this kind. Local administration ought to be dealt with by one body, and there should be no division of powers. The Local Government Board ought to be able to deal with the inspection of lunatic asylums, as it will have to deal with other matters. The county councils will, of course, have a very great influence on how the Act will be administered, but I do not think that the Local Government Board is at present a sufficiently strong Board to deal with questions which will arise in the future. I agree with the Amendment, and hope the Local Government Board will be the authority to deal with all questions arising under the Act.


I am unable to accept this Amendment, which would hand over to the Local Government Board the duties now exercised by the inspectors. As the honourable and gallant Member has announced his intention of supporting the Amendment, I may state that I have already explained that the acceptance of the Amendment would involve an alteration in the administration of the existing Lunacy Acts which I am not prepared to make in connection with this Bill. The honourable and gallant Member has given us his idea of what the Local Government Board should be, but I may point out to him that one of the greatest difficulties in connection with the government of Ireland is the existence of boards which are more or less independent of the Parliamentary representatives of the Government, and I certainly would be no party to so alter the constitution and powers of the Local Government Board as to remove responsibility from the Chief Secretary. I would rather increase that responsibility. As regards the powers and duties of the inspectors, it seems to have escaped the attention of most honourable Members in this Debate that we are proposing a very important change in the arrangements as regards lunatics in Ireland by trans- ferring to the county councils powers, and throwing on them a direct responsibility which the governors have not hitherto shared. It is not intended to reduce or diminish the powers at present possessed by the inspectors; and, in so far as the Executive in Ireland is to take any part under this Bill in the management of lunatic asylums, of course, the Chief Secretary, as representing the Irish Government, will be responsible.

MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

This is undoubtedly an exceedingly important Amendment, but I would suggest that it has been sufficiently discussed now. I have been listening to the Debate, but I still retain the view I expressed at the commencement of the discussion. The honourable Member for Mid Tyrone, in giving his views as to the administration of lunatic asylums, does not appear to have fully investigated the present system and the system now proposed. Under the Bill the whole administration is given over to the county councils, and only the question of inspection practically remains to the Lord Lieutenant. I cannot depart from this particular Amendment without saying a word on behalf of those inspectors of lunatic asylums who have come in for such a flood of abuse. I differ from the view put forward, that these officials are not efficient, and that the administration of the Lunacy Acts has gone from bad to worse. I believe that since the present inspectors were appointed the condition of the lunatic asylums in Ireland has vastly improved, and I think it is cruel that men should be abused who, apart from politics, have not given offence to anybody, who are engaged in the important task of alleviating suffering, who came to that task at a time when the condition of the asylums was appalling, and who have laboured hard, and I say laboured successfully, in spite of enormous difficulties. There is one other fact to which I wish to refer. We have heard last night and to-day an extraordinary display of trust in the Local Government Board. Although I admit fully that the Board sometimes gets on well—for instance, in the case of the Labourers' Acts—I cannot at all share the trust displayed even in the present Local Government Board. Our latest experience is in connection with the distress, and what I hold is that, from the natural operation of the inspection of the Board, its tendency is to cut down and pinch, and be on the look-out for extravagance, and in that respect is father disqualified for dealing with the administration of a department where more freedom and generosity should be exercised. Therefore, I do not agree that the Local Government Board is an ideal, or even a desirable, body to superintend the administration of the Lunacy Acts. But if we want any further argument to strengthen that view we have it in the speech just delivered by the honourable and gallant Member for North Armagh. If we do not altogether trust the present Local Government Board, I should like to know what the future Board is going to be. If I were inclined to support this Amendment I should require to know the nature of the mew appointments to be made, and whether they would increase the hold of the Local Government Board on the confidence of the Irish people.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 272; Noes 98.—(Division List No. 84.)

MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)

The Amendment I have to propose is— Clause 9, page 4, line 43, leave out 'one-fourth,' and insert 'one-tenth.' It was understood, Sir, when this Bill was introduced that this Measure, as far as possible, would constitute public boards on an elective basis, and that there would be as little as possible—and very little, if any at all—of the ex officio element introduced on these public boards. Now, Sir, one of the most important public boards in Ireland is the Lunatic Asylums Board, and it seems to me that in proposing this clause as it stands, the right honourable Gentleman has taken away with one hand a considerable portion of what he has given with the other. He proposes, in the second section of the clause, to set up a committee. It reads— The duties of the Council under this section shall be exercised through a Committee appointed by them, and if the Lord Lieu- tenant fix a number, of the number so fixed; and out of that Committee a number not exceeding one-fourth may be persons not members of the Council. From that it appears that the Lord Lieutenant is to still retain the power of nomination.


That is a misapprehension on the part of the honourable Member. The Lord Lieutenant will not appoint.


If that is so, then there is no necessity for my Amendment, and it at once falls to the ground. I understood from the words of Subsection 2 that the Lord Lieutenant was to nominate.

Amendment withdrawn.


The Amendment of which I have given notice in some degree serves the same purpose as that of the Amendment proposed by the honourable Member for Louth. On that Amendment the Member for Armagh made a statement with which I very much agree, when he said that it was not desirable that in these matters the Lord Lieutenant should be unnecessarily brought in. I do think that these are duties quite outside the Lord Lieutenant's position, and I do think it is most unsatisfactory, from every point of view, that his name should be introduced into every detail of local administration in Ireland. My Amendment is— Clause 9, page 5, line 6, leave out subsection. Now, I think that sub-section is totally unnecessary. I was under the impression that under this Bill these matters could not be gone into, except with the concurrence of the Board of Works; but even then, I think the sub-section is unnecessary, and it seems to me to be outside the province of the Lord Lieutenant that he should be called in to decide plans and contracts for the purchase of land and buildings, and for the erection, restoration, and enlargement of buildings. These things should be dealt with by the county council, because they are matters which the Lord Lieutenant will have very little information upon, and therefore I think the sub-section is unnecessary. It may not be a very important point, but I submit that there is no necessity for it.


I believe this question is of the very highest importance. The honourable Member seems to be quite unaware that this position we have taken up has been taken from the English Lunacy Act of 1890. Under that Act the plans and contracts for the purchase of land and buildings, and for the erection, restoration, and enlargement of buildings have to be submitted to the Secretary of State.


That is very different from the Lord Lieutenant.


The honourable Member says that is very different from the Lord Lieutenant. I am surprised that honourable Members conversant with the Government of Ireland seem unable to understand that the Lord Lieutenant is a constitutional expression for the Irish Government. The words "Lord Lieutenant" in this clause mean that the Irish Government is to decide.


Then all I have got to say in reference to that is this: if you persist in bringing the Lord Lieutenant into this Bill your administration of local government in Ireland will not tend at all towards the chance of its being a success. One of the things we complain of in Ireland is the very thing just stated with so much emphasis here by the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary—that the Lord Lieutenant is the representative of the Irish Government. I think the honourable Gentleman the Member for Armagh, and other Members sitting over on the other side, will not agree that that is a position which the right honourable Gentleman ought to take up now. The Lord Lieutenant ought to occupy a position, if any at all, of impartiality in the country, and to bring him into the position of Secretary of State for this country is to give something to his position which it was never intended that he should have at all. I think the Secretary of State under the English Bill occupies a totally different position from the Viceroy in Ireland, and it is upon those grounds that I move this Amendment. I said the matter was one of comparatively small importance, and I do not propose to proceed to a Division on it unless it is considered necessary. For myself, I altogether object to the Lord Lieutenant being brought into these things. It is most unwise, and the more you do it the less satisfaction you will give in Ireland.

MR. J. G. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)

The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary just now was astonished at the ignorance of the Irish Members in not knowing that the Lord Lieutenant was a constitutional expression. No one, I think, would be more electrified than the Lord Lieutenant himself to hear that he has been spoken of as a "constitutional expression." The right honourable Gentleman requires, before he uses such words, to have an extremely good memory. Now, let me take this constitutional expression, used here in reference to the Lord Lieutenant, and let me survey it by what took place only yesterday afternoon. Yesterday afternoon the right honourable Gentleman was asked across the floor of the House whether he had considered the propriety of giving some remission of the punishment to an unfortunate woman who was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for stealing some shillings' worth of eggs, and the right honourable Gentleman said that the honourable Member ought to know that that does not come within his department, but that it was the Lord Lieutenant's. There is the constitutional expression coming in. That, Sir, is a simple pretence; the Lord Lieutenant, I am sure, will be very much amused when he finds out what the right honourable Gentleman has stated to be the position of his heavy father. The right honourable Gentleman seems to have an alternative position. Sometimes he assumes all the responsibility, and sometimes he is the whipping boy for the Lord Lieutenant, and we have now to find out which he really is. The right honourable Gentleman has given us the constitutional position of Lord Cadogan, but his lordship differs from the right honourable Gentleman, and consequently he will be surprised to know this. I happen to know how Lord Cadogan describes his own constitutional position in public speeches in Ireland in which he has stated that in his hands is the responsibility for the whole Government of Ireland. That is his statement. I will not dwell in reference to this part of the subject except to say this much, that it is utterly absurd for these Bills and these provisions in Bills to bring in the name of the representative of the Queen, and to say, in a sentence which is supposed to express fair and proper language, that the Lord Lieutenant does so and so when you tell us upon another occasion that he does nothing of the kind. Let us settle the responsibility on the right horse, and let us—as has been described by an honourable Member of the opposite side of the House—not for ever be bringing in the representative of the Royalty to do most unroyal functions. I shall be very glad to hear the right honourable Gentleman's opinion upon that subject, and, better still, I should like to hear Lord Cadogan's opinion of the statement of the right honourable Gentleman.


I do hope that we hall not have to vote upon this Amendment, because that will strike out the whole of the sub-section. Now, whatever may be our opinion of the Lord Lieutenant or the Local Government Board with regard to matters of this kind, we all agree that there should be some control somewhere in some Government department over the purchase of land and buildings to any large extent, and over the contracts and plans in regard to the enlargement and building of asylums. In the Division which has just taken place with regard to this question I hesitated a good deal how to record my vote when I saw that honourable Members from Ireland did not agree amongst themselves which way to vote. I think, however, that having settled the matter for better or for worse as to whether the Lord Lieutenant or the name of the Local Government Board should be inserted, I do not intend to travel over those arguments a second time. Having put the words "Lord Lieutenant" in, I do not think we need now discuss the question of putting in the words "Local Government Board." What we are really discussing is, as the Chief Secretary has pointed out, as to what the control of these plans and contracts is to be. In England, as has been pointed out, the Lunacy Commissioners, who are really a branch of the Home Office department, are responsible to the Home Office, and these gentlemen constitute the body which holds the inquiry. And certainly, although the county councils may think their requirements are excessive, nevertheless, I do not think anybody will deny that, taking the operations of the Lunacy Commissioners together, their advice and their recommendations have led to a very important improvement in the lunatic asylums in England. With regard to the sanctioning of loans, I should rather like to clear up this point. I understand that the Board of Works or some other body will come in. It is only in reference to plans and contracts that they have to be submitted to the Lord Lieutenant, but when you arrive at the borrowing stage, then you have to come to another department. Although this machinery may seem a little complicated, you have to go to the Local Government Board to get your loan. This may, perhaps, seem cumbrous, but it has, on the whole, worked well enough in England, and so we need not be afraid of following the same course in Ireland.


The honourable Gentleman seems to have put this down as if it raised the issue between the Lord Lieutenant and the Local Government Board in Ireland, but that is not so. The point is this: that, as the clause stands, with this subsection in it with regard to plans and contracts for the buildings you require, you have first to go to the Lord Liedtenant and then to the Local Government Board.


No, no.


The honourable and learned Member says "no," but I think it is so. This sub-section deals with the erection of buildings and the acquisition of land. That means capital expenditure, and capital expenditure means borrowing, and borrowing means going to the Local Government Board. The honourable and learned Gentleman alluded to the Order in Council. Now, the borrowing powers of county councils can only be exercised by going to the Local Government Board. Now, it appears to me, Sir, that though the honourable Member who has last spoken suggests that the only objection involved is that of being cumbrous, I think that cumbrousness is itself a sufficient objection. I do not see why this matter should not be taken up by one Government department after one inquiry. But as the Bill stands, it will be necessary, when the county council wish to acquire or extend any building, first to go to the Lord Lieutenant, who, by this section, is given the power of approving plans and contracts and incidentally the power of altogether refusing to sanction them. The one thing involves the other. It is not so much a mere matter of the plans and specifications involved in the section, but it is the control the Lord Lieutenant has over the question as to whether the county council will be allowed to extend its buildings or not. Why should there be more than one inquiry? Why should not the county council make the proposal, as we have settled it is now to be the Lord Lieutenant? But afterwards, when they have got the approval of the Lord Lieutenant, they have to go through a second bother of going to the Local Government Board, who will again rake up the whole question of the necessity for the building, the official position, and whether the plans are proper plans; and they may compel in that way the county council to have the whole thing over again. There is a second point arising on this clause. It gives the Lord Lieutenant a special power in relation to expenditure on lands and buildings, and, curiously enough, that is the very one department of lunatic asylum administration in which the Imperial Treasury make no contribution whatever to the expenditure. As I understand, Sir, with regard to lunatic asylums, when the county council or the grand jury at present expend money, either on buildings or land, they get no Imperial assistance whatever for that expenditure, and under this Bill they will get none. The Imperial contribution is a contribution of so much per head for the lunatics maintained or provided for in the asylum, and that is a mere contribution for maintenance. But when capital expenditure of this kind has to be incurred, the Im- perial Government gives no contribution whatever towards that department of lunatic asylum expenditure, and for that reason, Sir, it is an expenditure which has been largely increasing, and which has become very oppressive. Now, it does seem unfortunate that the one matter, as regards which the Lord Lieutenant should exercise special control, should be that very department of the county council's duties relating to pauper lunatics, and the right honourable Gentleman defends that. I do not know whether there is anything to be said in favour of it, and how we are to get any satisfaction on the point I have raised that there ought not to be a double inquiry whenever land or buildings are required.

MR. J. J. SHEE (Waterford, W.)

My opinion of this clause is that the Lord Lieutenant will have to sanction the erection of all buildings or alterations, however small they may be. It seems to me that if those who have control of the lunatic asylums desire to provide additional sanitary accommodation, for instance, they will have to approach the Lord Lieutenant first for his sanction. In order to do so they must first draw plans for the purpose, and enter into a contract, and the expenditure itself on the plans and contracts must all receive the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant. Furthermore, it seems to me that if they desire to renew, for instance, the roof of the house—suppose the slates are falling off—this clause, as it stands, will compel them to go to the Lord Lieutenant to get his sanction for the purpose of putting on new slates to restore the roof to the building. Then, again, I think if the scullery is to be whitewashed the Lord Lieutenant's sanction will have to be obtained. I think some maximum of expenditure should be left to the Commissioners of the lunatic asylums. If the clause proposed that when the expenditure exceeded £500 of £1,000, then the Committee would have to go for the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant, I could understand it; but as it is at present, the Committee cannot enter into any arrangement whatever for the restoration of any buildings, or for the enlargement of any buildings; for instance, the adding of a scullery to a lunatic asylum—they could not go in for anything of that kind under the clause as it now stands. Therefore I think that unless some maximum of expenditure is allowed to the Committee of the lunatic asylums, which they can spend without the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant, the clause is extremely ridiculous.

*SIR B. W. FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)

With reference to this clause, we have in this country the Local Government Board on one side, and the Commissioner of Lunacy at the Home Office on the other, and although it seems acumbrous arrangement, it works on the whole fairly well in England. In Ireland we are now adopting a system of local government which is just as elaborate as the system in England. I think we should remember that while in England we have, to enable that to be carried out, various departments represented in this House, in Ireland we have neither the several departments nor their representation in this House, and therefore we are obliged to have resource to general method of central control over expenditure such as this, and consequently the Lord Lieutenant becomes a convenient expression for the Government of Ireland. It must be in all cases referred to some department in Dublin when there is any extension of buildings required. We have in England that sanction granted by the Local Government Board or by the Lunacy Commissioners. Now, we have no equivalent system in Ireland, but the real Home Office sanction in Ireland is given by the Lord Lieutenant, and that is the method of expressing the Government sanction in Ireland. Until you have in Ireland—which I hope you will have some day—a similar body represented in this House, or in some other House, until you have such a body I think you would be wise to put up with an expression like this, which carries out, as nearly as can be under the circumstances, which we have in England.


I think this power with regard to the plans and contracts should be given to the county council itself rather than to the Lord Lieutenant. It must be quite obvious to the right honourable Gentle- man that there must be a great deal in the arguments just put forward. I can quite understand that in the erection of new buildings and large edifices and substantial additions it is necessary that there should be some revision of the work by some other body; but in the case of smaller alterations or small expenditure, I think the right honourable Gentleman might very well accept an Amendment in the direction of a maximum sum—say £200 or £300. Of course, I do not like the sub-section at the present moment, but I think that the suggestion of the noble Lord is a very good one.


I think there is a good deal of force in what has been said, because, no doubt, as the section stands, it might set up a most absurd condition of things, because the smallest thing could not be carried out without submitting contracts and plans to the Lord Lieutenant. As I understand this sub-section, the real object of it is this: that the plans for additions should be submitted to the Inspectors of Lunacy. I take it for granted that the Lord Lieutenant, in dealing with these matters, will act in conjunction with skilled advisers, who would inspect the plans and give their opinion as to whether the proposed new buildings were up to the mark as regards scientific arrangement, and whether the accommodation was sufficient to provide for the efficient treatment of the lunatics in the asylum. That is the way in which I suppose this sub-section is intended to act. But if there is any force in the statement of the Lord Lieutenant that the expression meant him personally, that would enable the Chief Secretary to give, in respect of any action of the Lord Lieutenant's, the same answer he grave in the House last night, that it did not belong to his Department. I think there is a very strong case against the words in the subsection.


There are clauses in the English Lunacy Act dealing with this subject, and I daresay that they have been incorporated in some part of the Bill. Therefore, probably, the object of the honourable Member who has just spoken is provided for. In the English Lunacy Act, as honourable Members who represent English constituencies are aware, there are special clauses under which committees of the county councils have the control of asylums, and they have certain special funds provided to meet repairs and small alterations out of the funds which are provided in the manner laid down in the Act. It is only when they have to provide for matters which require a loan that the permission of the Lunacy Commissioners and the jurisdiction of the Local Government Board is called in. But, although I have not had time to consider it, the point having been raised rather suddenly, I think it exceedingly likely that the Government have incorporated in the schedule some of these powers; and, in any case, if they have not, it would be a very easy thing to extend the schedule and to deal with this very practical point raised by the honourable Members from Ireland.


We have not incorporated those provisions in the English Act, nor do I think it is at all necessary. I cannot imagine that any difficulty will arise in connection with the words in Sub-section 4, for, really, it is a condition which has been practically taken from the English Act, and in England it has given rise to no sort of difficulty, and has not caused any friction. Sir, it is clear that on the one hand it would be very inconvenient to take from the Local Government Board powers which it possesses in every other case of sanctioning proposals of local bodies. On the other hand, it would be equally inconvenient to take away from the Inspectors of Lunacy, who will be the advisers to the Lord Lieutenant, their discretion as to whether such enlargments and alterations are suitable.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

I should like to ask the right honourable Gentleman what in the English Act corresponds with the Irish Lord Lieutenant?


The Secretary of State.


The Secretary of State has an office, and a large competent staff to advise him. Will anybody tell me who are the gentlemen who are the engineers to the Irish Lunatic Asylums Board?


They have an architect attached to the Board.


Who is the architect? This Amendment shows the absurdity of the Government insisting upon retaining the decision in their own hands. The inspectors and directors, as I understand the matter, are the same people. That is to say, they go out as inspectors and inspect the lunatic asylums, and give their opinion upon the sanity of the inmates and the condition of the buildings. Then, on their return to Dublin Castle, they meet as a board, and as a board they recommend to the Lord Lieutenant what, as inspectors, they had recommended to themselves. That is the system in Ireland. Will anybody tell me that is comparable with anything that happens in England? Who are these inspectors? None of them were ever in a lunatic asylum until they were appointed. In addition to their ordinary functions they are to give opinions on the purchase of land. What do they know about the purchase of land? They are to settle contracts, they are to settle plans, they are then to provide for the erection, restoration, and enlargements of buildings, and these works are not to be carried into effect until they are approved by the Lord Lieutenant. Now, the inspectors who are to do this work are Dr. Plunkett O'Farrell and Dr. Courtenay. These gentlemen are to have the honour of revising the entire work of the county councils. I should like to know who made these gentlemen rulers and judges in Israel? Why should the opinion of these doctors be sought as to whether a building should be three stories or two stories high, or whether it should be slated or tiled? The Local Government Board have attached to their office a number of gentlemen who are well competent to act in these matters, but these two doctors have really no experience in them. They were appointed without experience, and yet the Government cling to the proposition that they are to override the 32 county councils of Ireland. And this is what is called local government! A more reasonable Amendment could not have been proposed. Why are plans to be submitted to these two gentlemen? What do they know about plans? We are told that the Lord Lieutenant has an architect to advise him. Who is the architect? His name is Mr. Ussher Roberts—C.B., I need hardly say—one of the well-known Roberts family who are employed in various situations in Ireland. Therefore it comes to this, that the whole of the 32 counties in Ireland are to sit at the feet of Mr. Ussher Roberts, C.B. He is practically the Lord Lieutenant. I condemn the hypocrisy of this system, which puts in his Excellency when you mean Mr. Ussher Roberts all the time. These legal fictions have come down to us from olden times, but the modern legal fiction is the creation of the right honourable Gentleman. Why not put Mr. Ussher Roberts in the clause, with possibly his photograph as a frontispiece? That would be the proper way to deal with this section. I cannot understand the mean action of the Government in dealing with the question of lunatics in Ireland. The Government have refused to do their duty by these lunatics for the last 50 years, and they now cast the responsibility upon the unfortunate ratepayers, who will have to build these asylums themselves, and pay the piper. Why didn't the British Government provide the necessary accommodation when the Treasury had to pay a portion of the cost? They neglected their duty, and now, forsooth, we are to do all the work ourselves, and Mr. Ussher Roberts is to have the advantage of compelling us to draw the plans in conformity with his views.


It is difficult to take the honourable and learned Gentleman seriously. His argument is that the Local Government Board should be entrusted with responsibility in this matter, and not the Lord Lieutenant. And for what reason? The reason assigned is that the Local Government Board has a staff competent to investigate such questions as those of buildings. Then the honourable and learned Gentleman decried the inspectors of unions, and went on to say that if they were to keep the Lord Lieutenant in the clause the effect would be that, instead of the Lord Lieutenant, it would be Mr. Ussher Roberts who would have complete control. Well, Sir, if that is a sound argument, it is an equally sound argument, against putting the Local Government Board in the clause, because the Local Government Board will also act through its officials. I should not have risen to point out what is obvious if it were not for the fact that this is the third time that the honourable and learned Member has depreciated the qualifications of the inspectors of lunatics and denied that either of them had any experience in regard to lunacy matters. Dr. O'Farrell is one of the best inspectors of the Local Government Board, and a distinguished doctor, and Dr. Courtenay was, I believe, resident medical superintendent of the Limerick Asylum for five years before he was appointed as inspector of lunatics.


I wish to quote the actual clause to which I alluded just now. I was rather disappointed by the reception given to what I can assure the right honourable Gentleman was a perfectly friendly suggestion. Section 266 of the English Lunacy Act, 1890, would meet the point raised by one or two honourable Members from Ireland. I will read the section, which will show that the right honourable Gentleman was mistaken in his observations with regard to a financial limit. There is a financial limit in this section, which is as follows— The Visiting Committee of an Asylum may, of their own authority, order all necessary and ordinary repairs. They may also, of their own authority, order all necessary and proper additions, alterations, and improvements, which the Asylum may require, to an amount not exceeding £400 in any one year. And then the clause goes on to say that— An order for repairs, additions, alterations, or improvements to an amount exceeding £100 shall not be given, unless the order is approved and signed by at least three visitors at a meeting of the Visiting Committee, duly summoned, upon notice that the proposed expenditure is to be considered thereat. I suggest that the section, which gives the necessary freedom to the committee up to a certain amount, should be included in this Bill.

MR. STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)

I should like to ask the Chief Secretary if he has ever acted as a visiting justice, or as a member of a visiting committee of a county council? I fancy he never has, or he would not have made the statement that there would be no difficulty in working in England such a section as the one to which the Amendment has been moved. Under this section it would be impossible for us, without going to a higher authority, to enlarge our cowsheds, to erect a pigsty, or to do anything that was necessary on the farm. Restoration may simply mean whitewashing or painting. It is perfectly ridiculous to have to go to the Lord Lieutenant for his sanction to do such work as that. I cannot see why the same free hand with regard to necessary expenditure on improvements should not be given to the visiting committees of lunatic asylums in Ireland, as is given to those asylums in England.


I was not aware of the sections in the English Act referred to by the noble Lord. I will consider the point between now and the Report stage of the Bill.

MR. KNOX (Londonderry)

It will not, in my opinion, be possible to carry out the clause as it stands without completely revising and consolidating the Irish Lunacy Acts, either by an Order in Council or by a subsequent Bill. It was found impossible in England to work the system in connection with the county councils, without amending and consolidating the Lunacy Acts. I believe it is possible to do this by an Order in Council under the present Bill, and, if that is so, I think the Chief Secretary would do well to consider the matter. The chief reason which he gave against the transference of these powers to the Local Government Board, will go, because it is impossible to attempt to set up this new system in Ireland without revising the Lunacy Acts. On the point as to whether the gentlemen comprising the Board of Control are fit people to revise plans. I have formed a strong opinion to the contrary, based on two cases. The first case was that of Belfast. Dr. Plunkett O'Farrell swore on oath before a Committee of the House of Commons, on the Asylums Bill of 1892, that the asylums standing in Belfast would be sufficient for the needs of Belfast for a great number of years to come. No sooner was the Bill passed than this same doctor, acting as the Board of Control, purchased 100 acres of land outside Belfast, and commenced building a new asylum for the city. And that is not all. In his evidence, which was sworn before the Committee, he gave the strongest testimony possible against the system of auxiliary asylums, which, he said, was a bad system, and one which ought never to have been permitted. No sooner had the Bill passed, than he approved, in the case of Belfast, of the very system of auxiliary asylums which in his sworn evidence he had condemned. What is more, he said that the worst of all systems was the system of using workhouses for the accommodation of lunatics that were not dangerous, and yet he is one of the professional advisers of the Chief Secretary, who are responsible for the provision in this Bill which proposes to adopt that very system—a system which, according to the sworn evidence of Dr. O'Farrell, is the worst possible system. I have formed an opinion of Dr. O'Farrell as a result of that, and I do not consider that the interests of the Lunacy Board in Ireland are improved by having Dr. O'Farrell in the position of a responsible official. The second case is the case of the asylum of Deny. Years ago it was decided that the condition of the lunatic asylum of Deny was horrible—a sin against civilisation. But what steps were taken to remedy this state of affairs? The delays of the Board of Control were something extraordinary. They delayed buying land, they delayed in getting the plans approved, and in inviting tenders for the work, and when the plans were approved they were so enormously above the estimate that it was found absolutely impossible to carry them out. The effect of their action has been to leave for five years the lunatic asylum of Deny in a most horrible condition. I understand that the department of the Board of Control which is specially condemned is the architects' department. I have heard from gentlemen engaged in the profession that they regard it as an indignity of the worst type that they should have to get their plans approved by a gentleman like Mr. Ussher Roberts, who cannot be said to be at all competent for the work. After the plans have been approved by Mr. Roberts, the contract has to be approved by Mr. Lane (solicitor to the Board of Control and the Board of Works), and then you have to go to a third department—the Local Government Board—to get their approval to the borrowing of the money for the carrying out of the work. The fact is it will be found impossible to carry out this section as it stands. The entire system of lunacy administration in Ireland needs to be put on a more satisfactory basis. Though most parts of the Bill before the Committee have been extremely well worked out, those relating to the administration of the Lunacy Acts have not been so well considered. That is because the Chief Secretary has been advised, not by the Local Government Board, but by gentlemen less efficient.


I am not going to detain the Committee at any length. I certainly think this clause is objectionable, but not on exactly the same grounds as those put forward in other parts of the House. My objection to the sub-section is that, after plans have been prepared, contracts entered into, and other expenses incurred, the Lord Lieutenant will have the power of absolutely vetoing the whole work. I think the sub-section ought to be so framed that before any expense is incurred, the necessary approval should be given. I suggest that Sub-section 4 should be dropped for the present, and that at the Report stage a sub-section might be framed which would meet the objections which have been urged.

MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)

I do not know what course the Government are going to take, but I would advise my honourable Friend to go to a Division, unless the Chief Secretary consents to abandon Sub-section 4 and bring up fresh words at the Report stage, or some subsequent stage. My honourable Friend's object in moving this Amendment was not to get rid of all control. What we object to is that three or four Government departments will have to approve of these plans, contracts, and specifications before anything can be done. The right honourable Gentleman said the Board of Works would have nothing to do with the matter. I do not understand how that can be. The county councils will get transferred to them the business that is now transacted by the governors of lunatic asylums, and the governors of lunatic asylums cannot do anything in the way of erection, restoration and enlargement of buildings without bringing in the Board of Works architect, surveyor, and solicitor, and the Board of Works secretary and chairman. I do not see how the transference of the powers of the boards of governors to the county councils will get rid of the Board of Works. And then, after you have had the approval of all these bodies, you are to get the approval of the Board of Control. In my opinion the Chief Secretary has entirely evaded the essential point upon this matter, and if he does not agree to omit the sub-section and to bring in other words to meet the points that have been raised, I will advise my honourable Friends to go to a Division.


I support what the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down has said; this clause is very badly drawn from beginning to end. As the honourable Member on the Front Opposition Bench said, it is extremely absurd that, after the county council has incurred great expense, say, in the investigation of a title for the purchase of land, they should have to go to court for the approval of the Lord Lieutenant, which approval the Lord Lieutenant may possibly refuse on occasions. On that point alone I think I am justified in saying that this clause is very badly drawn. Then as to the point which I raised, and which was emphasised by the noble Lord when he quoted from the English Act, by which it appears that the county councils cannot move without the approbation of the Lord Lieutenant; the honourable Member who sits below me proved from his experience of the working of the English Act that such an arrangement is of no necessity. On all these points this sub-clause has been very badly drawn, and therefore I think that the honourable Member who has moved the omission of this clause should press his proposal to a Division.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 213; Noes 121.—(Division List No. 85.)


The Amendment I wish to move is not on the Paper, but I handed it in at the Table. My Amendment is with the object of leaving out the words "Lord Lieutenant," and substituting the word "county council." There is a great deal of difference between omitting a sub-section and trying to amend it; and I think it will be acknowledged by all that, if for the purposes of this section the power of revision is given to the county council, it will be a great improvement indeed upon the Bill. In the first place we are not supposed to think that the Lord Lieutenant himself has any special knowledge of the architecture of these buildings. The Amendment which I have ventured to bring forward is based upon this principle. The Government are supposed at first to have some control or some responsibility in connection with the management and maintenance of the general working of the asylums before they are handed over to the county council, but with regard to the buildings and erections, and so on, all the expenditure has to be borne by the county councils themselves. So that in other words the Government want to retain the power in connection with these enlargements and repairs, towards which they do not contribute a penny. All the expense falls upon the local rates and the county council, and whereas it would not be unfair that the Government should retain a power of revision in connection with the general work of lunatic asylums, it would be quite unnecessary and quite unfair that the Government, whether through the Lord Lieutenant or the Local Government Board or any other body, should seek to hamper the county council in connection with the committees of management. I may, perhaps, illustrate the argument I am endeavouring to put before the Committee very briefly by reference to the Cork Lunatic Asylum, one of the largest in the entire county. I regret to say that, owing to the great increase of lunacy, which I am sure is equally deplored by the benches opposite as by these benches, it has become necessary to erect very large additional buildings indeed. But the necessary work of erecting these buildings, bringing forward the plans, estimating the expenditure, etc., is at a standstill, owing to the deadlock which has grown up between the Board of Control (which would be abolished by this Bill) and the present governors of the asylum. It has never been denied that the present governors of the asylum carry on their work in the most efficient manner. They are representatives of the different classes and sections of politics in the country, and they do the ordinary work of the asylum properly and efficiently, and now they are face to face with this state of things, which illustrates the danger of passing this sub-section as it stands. Whereas they had a free hand in connection with the management, the maintenance, and the general conduct of the working of the asylum, in connection with any addition to the buildings, or enlargement, they possess no control whatever. But there is a worse state of things even than that, and I presume it exists with regard to every lunatic asylum in the country. The Board of Control (and, I presume, under this sub-section the Lord Lieutenant and his advisers will claim the same power), not only not sanction, but they send down their own architect and order the erection of buildings without consulting the local governors, who are supposed to be entrusted with the government of the asylum. Is there any reason whatever, or common sense, why the Lord Lieutenant should have the revision of these plans? You will have a county council whose powers are delegated to a local lunatic asylum committee. That local committee will have a great deal of power. Unquestionably there is no doubt they will have a large responsibility thrown upon them, and they are not likely to indulge in any extravagance of expenditure, and it is quite possible that, instead of there being extravagance of expenditure, it will be quite the other way. Besides, before a penny can be expended, the local committee will have to refer the matter to the county council—a body which can deal with it, and a body which is not likely to sanction extravagance or unwise expenditure; and, while I do not at all approve of the idea that there should be a transfer of powers to the Local Government Board, it is quite a different thing to transferring them to the county council, which most of us who are acquainted with the management of the work will agree is a proper body to exercise control over these matters, and, as far as buildings, important alterations, and enlargements go, the matter would, I think, be quite safe in the hands of the local committee, subject, of course, to the supervision and control of the county council. I beg, therefore, to move, in Sub-section 4, line 8, that the words "Lord Lieutenant" be left out, and the words "county council" substituted.


I have already expressed the opinion that it is essential that the plans for buildings and accommodation in connection with lunatic asylums should be subjected to the approval of some central authority. It is done in England, and it is done in Scotland, and I believe it is done in every country in the world where lunatic asylums are established. So far as the honourable Member proposes to substitute the county council for the Lord Lieutenant is concerned, I cannot accept the Amendment. If the county council desires, before sanctioning the expenditure of the money, to see the plans and contracts, I presume it will be competent for them to do so. They have a general power of control.


I desire to support the Amendment of my honourable Friend, which, I think, is a very reasonable one. If the county councils are placed, as they are placed by this Bill, in charge of lunatic asylums, they have proper officers to supervise any plans and specifications that may be made out. I think that the right honourable Gentleman is drawing the line a little too tightly. He refuses them any control over the alterations or additions that may be required in the lunatic asylums, although they have to find all the money that is required. I think there is every reason for an Amendment such as this, and I sincerely trust that every effort will be made to induce the Government to give their serious attention to this matter.


I hope that I shall be able to persuade the honourable Member that there will be very serious difficulty in working out his Amendment in practice. The Committee must recollect that the Asylums Committee is, in the eye of the law, quite independent of the county council, and may represent, and actually does represent, many different county authorities; and, therefore, in a case of that kind, which might happen fairly often in Ireland, you would have to go, not to one authority, but to several, and it would be a very considerable practical difficulty. Then, again, it must be borne in mind that the application for a loan, as I read this Bill, must, as is the case in England, proceed from the county council, and, therefore, supposing that the section is passed in its present form, it is a mistake to imagine that the county council will have nothing to say upon these points. The county and borough authorities are the bodies which contribute between them the expense of maintaining these asylums, and, that being the case, it would always be idle for the Asylums Committee to attempt to run, in important matters, counter to the views of the county council and the different borough authorities. Under these circumstances it appears to me that it is necessary, in order to get a sanction for entering upon enlargements, additional buildings, or new buildings, to go to some central authority, and not to the county council alone, and it does not much matter whether that central authority is the Local Government Board or the Lord Lieutenant. The subject is a highly technical one, and I trust that I have made it quite clear to the Committee; at any rate, I have endeavoured to do so.


The great fault of a central authority in a case like this, where the gentlemen who form the boards are also the inspectors of the board, is that they cannot put an intelligent view of their case before the central authority, and the returns of the travelling expenses charged by the inspectors who visited the outlying asylums show how little attention they pay to their business. The idea of a central authority as put forward here, is an absolute sham, and yet right honourable Gentleman will accept no change in this clause. It is the worst drafted clause in the Bill, and in the opinion of all who have studied the matter likely to prove most unsatisfactory in the working of it. Some one took the point against me that there was no power. The first clause provides that if it appears to the Lord Lieutenant that any council fail to perform such duty he may order that council to remedy that failure within the time and in the manner (if any) specified in the order. Now we are going to put in a power on Amendment in regard to the most important duties of the council. We are putting a most tremendous power into their hands. I think the supervision of the county council is sufficient, and I say the central authority is a sham, and the right honourable Gentleman knows it to be a sham at the present time, but it was intended to make it a reality in the future, but the Government took very good care that it should not be at their own expense. They have tolerated this system for 50 years, and now, for the first time, they are stricken with sympathy for the Irish lunatics, and will take care that they shall be provided for.


There is one point which I think very important, which the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary has not yet referred to, and that is that the whole of these expenses are to be borne by the local taxpayers. But these inspectors who go down to see the lunatics, of course, make reports and make suggestions, and it appears to me that the county councils are to be silent committees. Of course, I quite see the point that the lunatic asylum may be in two or more comities, but it is for us to amend that in that respect. I do not wish to press this matter to a Division, but I did hope the right honourable Gentleman would have given the matter some further consideration.

The Amendment was, by leave, withdrawn.