HC Deb 01 August 1912 vol 41 cc2368-70

As amended, considered; Amendments (proposed by the promoters) agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Standing Orders 223 and 243 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the third time." [The Deputy Chairman.]


I have a Motion down on the Paper which I do not move, conveying my opinion with regard to a desirable Amendment which I sought to effect. I recognise that the matter was discussed upon the Second Reading, and the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Lane-Fox) and the hon. Member for South Leeds (Mr. Middlebrook) spoke on that occasion; and treated those of us who presented my view with respect, and therefore I do not think it would be right to go over the same ground again. I would, however, say that I must express my deep regret that the work of the Poor Law guardians in the West Riding has not been recognised as I should have wished in the framing of this Bill. There may have been some difficulties, but at the same time there are chairmen of boards of guardians and clerks of distinguished ability who have had as much experience in the treatment of lunatics as any persons in the country can have had, and their services and experience have not been utilised by giving them representation on the Board. I wish to protest against legislation on this subject proceeding on those lines, assuming that the guardians are people who have failed, and consequently ought not to have any representation. Some indications have been given of future legislation on the Poor Law, and that must embrace the treatment of pauper lunatics. I hope when the House approaches this question again there will be a little more sympathy shown to the guardians and the officials of Poor Law unions, who are experts on this matter are now serving the public in an excellent way. It will be a pity if legislation continues to proceed on these lines without these people receiving some consideration, and without them being invited to help the State in this larger sphere.

I will content myself by making my protest in this way. I cannot believe that the county councils and the county borough councils have really lost confidence in other public authorities, and I do not believe for a moment that they do not appreciate the work of the guardians, although this Bill entirely ignores them. My own Constituency is a small and humble one, but it is an ancient part of the West Riding, and although my own board of guardians feel very strongly on this matter, we cannot hope to carry our policy against the larger towns and the county council itself—in fact, we are like lambs at the mercy of wolves. At the same time I am conscious that if I went into the Lobby I might not get another hon. Member representing the West Riding to vote with me, although to a certain extent I have the sympathy of some of them. Nevertheless my own opinion has not changed. I may say that if I had chosen to exhaust the forms of the House I do not think this Bill could have passed before the holidays, but I do not think it would be fair upon private legislation to allow myself to be guilty of adopting what I might call indirect methods of defeating a Bill. At any rate, I am not one who would introduce those practices into private Bill conduct. This is the only opportunity I shall have of expressing my regret that guardians are not recognised in this matter and their work fully appreciated. I hope when the House comes to pass future legislation on this subject we shall give credit where credit is due, and call to the assistance of the State men who have done such excellent public service.


I am glad the hon. Member for Pontefract has withdrawn his opposition to this measure. The hon Member has suggested that this Bill contained a direct attack upon the character of boards of guardians, but it does nothing of the sort. The work of the guardians has been fully recognised, and there is nothing to suggest that they are not capable of doing their work or have not done it well in the past. The only reasons why the guardians were not given direct representation on the new Asylums Board set in motion by this Bill was that it was found perfectly impossible to give representation to all the various bodies in different parts of the constituency. It is obvious that the boards of guardians could not have had the same representation as other bodies without giving them complete control of the whole thing. This claim for representation of the guardians was made before the Committee in another place, and it was abandoned because it was found to be absolutely impossible, and the question really ought not to have been raised again in view of that fact. I wish to state that the county council have no desir whatever to cast any slur upon the board of guardians in the West Riding. We wish to have their co-operation in the future, and there is nothing in this Bill which in any way reflects upon them.


I wish to support the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract. Although there may have been no intention of discouragement to the guardians yet the establishment of this board is in direct opposition to their appeal, and I think in opposition to the sound principle of representation that those who contribute to the expenditure should be represented. Out of the thirty-eight boards of guardians in the West Riding thirty-one appealed against the establishment of this board, and they represent a population of 2,983,228 out of a total population of 3,045,749. Those who appealed against it represent a rateable value of £15,000,000 out of a total of £15,435,000. The point is this: The guardians contribute £150,000 per annum to the cost of lunatics in the West Riding, and yet under the Bill they will not have any reperesentation or any voice in the expenditure of that money. We feel, as representatives of boards of guardians, it is an unsound and unfair principle that while the guardians, through the rates, contribute this large sum of £150,000 per annum, they should have no power whatever to compel the board to make the necessary provision for the patients they will have to send. I join in the protest of the hon. Member for Pontefract.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed