HC Deb 17 May 1912 vol 38 cc1443-519

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

The subject of this Bill is of a strictly non-party character, but it deals with a matter which has commanded public Attention for some time, and in which the public are taking an increasing interest. The Bill is one of the outcomes of the Royal Commission appointed to consider this subject, which met in 1904 and reported in 1908. The recommendations of this Commission are wide reaching, far too wide reaching for any private Bill to cope with, but the modest measure we ask the House to accept today meets one of those recommendations, and is a step forward in that great problem of the segregation of the unfit which is one of the pressing questions society has to solve. I saw with pleasure in my papers today that the Government have produced their Bill upon this subject. I trust they will accept us as labourers in the same vineyard and accept our little Bill as a tender to the battleship the Home Secretary has now on the stocks. This Bill originated, after due consideration, with the scientific and benevolent people who have been trying to grapple with this problem, but whose efforts have been largely futile owing to the fact that they have no means of carrying on their curative process to success because at present the powers of detention are so small that the remedies and cures they hope to bring about can be but short, at a moment's notice by the feebleminded themselves who can defeat the efforts made for their amelioration. In fact, to put it briefly, the object of this Bill is to regularise the lives, and, if possible, to prevent the increasing propagation of half-witted people. I may be asked the question, What do you call a feeble-minded person? I will give the definition of the Royal College of Physicians, which is:— Those who are not capable of earning a living under favourable circumstances, or who are incapable from mental defect existing from birth or from an early age, and (a) of competing on equal terms with their normal fellows; or (b) of managing themselves and their affairs with ordinary prudence. This Bill professes to meet that difficulty by providing licensed homes and colonies where these people can be afforded shelter and employment. It does not interfere with voluntary effort or with unregistered homes at present existing. The consent of the Lunacy Commissioners in writing is necessary to detain for eighteen months anyone after arriving at the age of twenty-one; the Commissioners must be notified within a week of the detention of any person. The keeper of a licensed home can discharge any patient on giving notice fourteen days beforehand to the Lunacy Commissioners; and the keepers of such homes must keep records, and the homes are subject to constant inspection by the Commissioners. A patient is not certified simply because he is feeble-minded. He must be (1) feeble-minded; (2) there must be proved need of further control, and (3) he must be a source of injury to himself or others. Evidence on those three points must be produced by two doctors, and the magistrate must be satisfied on these points. We regard the eighth Clause and the three short Schedules as the kernel of the Bill, and we shall be glad to accept any Amendment which safeguards the liberty of the subject without impairing the efficiency of the Bill. Since this Bill came forward it has attracted some interest. I have been interviewed by representatives of the Earls-wood Asylum and the Eastern Counties Institution, who seem to be afraid that this Bill might operate against some of the work they are doing at the present time, and they wish it to be made clear that nothing in the Bill shall operate to prevent feeble-minded persons being cared for as they are at present in their asylums. May I point out that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent such persons being certified as imbeciles under the Idiots Act, and furthermore there is nothing to prevent such institutions being registered under the Feeble-minded Control Bill as well as under the Idiots Act should the managers of the institutions so desire. I take the earliest opportunity of saying that nothing is further from the desire and intention of the promotors of this Bill than to do any damage to existing institutions, and if we get the Second Heading I, at any rate, will gladly accept any verbal alterations to meet their points.

What we ask for in this Bill is only an extension of existing powers, and it is only another step in the direction asked for by those best qualified to express an opinon and inspired by the truest desire for economy both of money and of effort. We ask it both for the benefit of the taxpayer and for the health of future generations. What we really wish to do is to free the sufferers as far as we can from the bondage of their own defects, and to save society from having increased responsibility thrust upon it unwittingly by those who are unable, owing to misfortune, to assist society to bear the burden they impose, and whose increase is not a strength but a weakness to the health and vigour of the nation. If these unfortunate people were not so prolific and fertile the question would not be so urgent. At present the country looks after them while children, educates them as far as possible until they are sixteen, and then turns them adrift on to society at the very age they become dangerous, to produce another generation of feeble-minded individuals. What we advocate is that these persons should be segregated in homes and colonies, especially the women during the child-bearing period, where they can be given congenial employment, and, to their credit be it said, they are happier when employed. I think they could to a large extent be made self-supporting, and their lives would be spared much of the unhappiness and misery they are called upon to endure. The last census gave the population of England and Wales as 36,000,000, and the mentally deficient of all sorts, lunatics included, at, about 271,000, or 83 of the whole. It is now somewhat greater, the total being 282,000. That means that very nearly 1 per cent, of the population are incapable of taking care of themselves. This is not apparent in everyday life, but imagine for a moment if in our daily walks one person in every hundred was seen to be suffering from some fell disease, we should at once say that steps must be taken to correct this, and steps would be taken. That is the position at the moment, but it is hidden away by the fact that 133,000 are in lunatie asylums, and many thousands are in Poor Law institutions, such as workhouses. A great many are in prison, and some are in voluntary institutions, and about 50,000 are in our elementary schools. There these unfortunates are, and they are suffering from an incurable disease which may not cause death, and which certainly does not impair their powers of propagation. The Royal Commission puts it down that charity provides beds for 3,000 of these people, and there are 66,000 of them in the country unprovided for at the present moment. The disease is incurable, and they are turned loose amongst us. The children of the feeble-minded seem to follow a descending scale, and tend to become more seriously defective than their parents. This is going on, and they become worse and worse. I know of one case where a man of forty-six has been condemned to thirty-seven years detention in school and gaol; and I know of another case where the man is sixty-eight years of age, and he has been fifty years in gaol. One-tenth of the prisoners in gaol, one-tenth of the tramps and two-thirds of the inmates of inebriates homes are mentally defective. And so we have amongst us an army of people mentally defective greater than the number of soldiers in the British army, an army of people incorrigible and irresponsible through misfortune, and from no fault of their own. I am not going to theorise as to the cause of this disease, because there are hon. Members present more capable of dealing with that point who can speak with greater knowledge. Of this, however, I think we may rest assured that no feeble-minded person can ever be made an efficient citizen, and two feeble-minded parents can never have a normal child. At this very moment the prison authorities are themselves doing to a large extent what we ask in this Bill. They are applying to these people special treatment, and they advise the police to keep an eye on them when they go out. We desire that these people should not find themselves in prison at all. We must realise that they are the nidus of every form of crime and of vice, and that when they are thrown out into the world they are subject to temptations which they have not the power to resist. They are paupers in the making from the very cradle, and, when the females get to a certain age, they are, I am sorry to say, exploited to a very considerable extent by unscrupulous men to their own undoing and to the great increase of youthful depravity in both sexes. Half the girls in rescue homes are feeble-minded, and of 15,000 births that take place annually in our workhouses a very great number come under the same category. The Report teems with examples of this sort of women coming in year after year and producing children from different fathers and from fathers perhaps whose names they do not even know. There is one paragraph in the Report that says the workhouse authorities in a certain locality have admitted that sixteen women of defective mind have given birth in the workhouse to 116 illegitimate children. Those children the ordinary taxpayer has got to carry from the day they are born until the day they die. How does that effect the efficient? It adds to the burdens, the taxpayer and ordinary ratepayer has to bear at present. He has all the risk of loss of his own health, and loss of employment; he has his own children to provide for; and he has, in addition, the enormous current expenses of the State. We have under our present system to provide hospitals and homes of all sorts, schools and special teachers, extra prisons and warders; the work of the police and their expense are largely augmented; the guardians have extra work thrown upon them; the doctors are in the same position; and all the philanthropic people who are endeavouring to meet this difficulty are asked to do the impossible in trying to restore and to reclaim a section of the community which is irrestorable and irreclaimable. If the matter is carefully gone into and thought out, it will be realised that there is not only a prodigious expense incurred by the community but that there is also a prodigious waste of energy, often duplicated and overlapping, which is probably avoidable. If we systematised more, I think we could effect considerable economy.

There are those who say, "leave the matter to nature." That is impossible. Our whole existence is a contention with nature. If you put a colony of these people on an island and said "take care of yourselves," of course, after a few years of awful and increasing misery they would be blotted out. There are others who say, "You have legislation already; surely you have enough legislation of this sort," My reply is this: We did not know until the present time the extent of the evil we had got before us and the dangers which it entails. We did not know that until the whole population had for two generations been subjected to the searchlight of educational activity. In the old days, when so many were illiterate and dull, it might have been more difficult to say where honest stupidity ended and abnormal incapacity began, but now that the educational authorities have their fingers on the pulse of the young and the children under their observation from their infancy we are in a better position to decide where honest stupidity ends and where abnormality begins. The whole social body now cheerfully and willingly submits itself to great charges for the aged, infirm, the weak, the blind, and the unfortunate in every possible direction, because these have been, or may be, effective citizens; but there is no need for a nation or an army on the march, as we are, to run grave risk and seriously increase its responsibilities by consenting to being escorted by a helpless army of camp followers who can never be efficient people. Any army which has to march through a difficult country must do something to disembarrass itself of such a weight as that, and we, with industrial competition very severe and with the grave possibility of national danger always in front of us, are, I think, within our rights in taking steps to try and improve the present condition of things.

There is also a very grave fear arising in the mind of the people of the deterioration of the race. We have got all these things to consider, and I maintain we are right to say to ourselves: "Have we a moral right to curtail the freedom of some of our weaker brethren?" I think we have, and I think I have produced some reasons; other hon. Members will, I am sure, produce more. We have a right to consider them from that point of view, and, if we can once convince ourselves we have the moral right to exercise some extra supervision in this matter, then, of course, the question turns on whether the safeguards provided are sufficient. It was my privilege recently to go down and see at Monyhull, near Birmingham, the great institution there in which Birmingham is endeavouring to solve for itself the problem we are considering today. I found a colony of 111 men and 143 women living, I can safely say, in contentment and happiness. They have beautiful surroundings; they are cared for by honest people, who treat them with the greatest sympathy and consideration; and, although they are only there voluntarily, and can leave, I believe by law, as and when they like, they prefer to remain there. The women especially seem to find in that place the realisation of what they probably can never find outside, and that is the word "home," and they seem instinctively to know that being in there they are guarded from the many dangers which they must face if they are thrown out into the world. This Bill, being a private Member's Bill, cannot allocate funds of any sort or kind. But if we get the powers of detention we are asking for under it, it may encourage other localities to make experiments in the same way as Birmingham. It might do something, if colonies were too expensive, to allow of the boarding-out principle by which this question is to some extent met in Scotland where the population is scanty. It might possibly be an inducement to people to take up work of this sort and to give a home to men and women for whom they would be responsible to the Lunacy Commissioners.

I hope the Home Secretary will favourably consider the proposals which we put before him. I ask the support of the Government, because I am sure that what is proposed will help their education funds, which must be much harassed by the constantly increasing expense involved for those children who require special care and attention. I ask the support of the Treasury also, because if you are going to have these people increasing in number, you are going to add to the very great difficulties in front of us in connection with the administration of the Insurance Act, for you will have these people going about uninsured and un-insurable, and giving your officials a great deal of trouble. We know that this country is annually losing hundreds and thousands of its young and vigorous population. There is no country in the world which has such a drain on its vitality as this country has owing to our Indian empire and our tropical possessions. These account for many and many a vigorous young life being cut short, and for many people coming home in damaged health. If we permit this constant increase of degeneration, we shall have to support the degenerates, and there is great fear of the old British stock becoming seriously tainted, because statistics show that if one of these unfortunate people marries into good stock, the evil seems to overcome the good, and the good stock is deteriorated. I think we have a moral right to do something to try and stop this ever increasing flood of people who fill our gaols and workhouses. The most priceless jewels in the crown of any nation are bright and sturdy children, and health is the mainspring for which alone such a condition can arise. When we turn to those we speak of, the melancholy fact forces itself upon us that for them the light can never really shine, and no training can ever transform them into healthy and vigorous men and women. I appeal to the Members of this House of Commons in 1912, a Session in which party contention runs high and party cleavage cuts deep to give a Second Reading to this Bill, and by so doing to show that even in the midst of keen party turmoil those composing this Parliament had the will, and found the time, to care for the people of their own generation, and by so doing protected generations yet unborn from a large and preventable addition to those heavy burdens which they in their turn will be inevitably called upon to bear.


I beg to second the Motion and in doing so may I be allowed on behalf of those who have been engaged in work connected with the care of the feeble-minded for many years to thank the Mover for having taken the opportunity afforded him by the ballot to bring forward this Bill, thereby enabling the subject to be discussed in this House of Commons for the first time. It is a subject which, although it is new to this House, is not new to the Members or persons outside. For some twenty or thirty years a movement has been growing, and growing rapidly, which aims at improving the position of these feeble-minded persons, and public opinion, so far as one can judge from the resolutions of Poor Law guardians and conferences and of various social bodies engaged in this work, is unanimously in favour of some legislation to deal with this subject. We have also the fact that such legislation has been recommended by two most important Royal Commissions. The first was appointed in 1904, and I had the honour of serving on it. It sat for three or four years, and made a very minute investigation into the condition not only in this country and Ireland, but also on the Continent and in America of the feeble-minded, and it elaborated very complete proposals for reform. Then the subject has also been considered by the Royal Commission on the Poor Law, which found itself entirely in agreement with the Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-minded, for in the course of their Report they say:— If as we hope the recommendations of this Commission are carried into effect, a system of control of the feeble-minded will be initiated which will free the Poor Law administrator from one of his greatest difficulties. So we have in agreement two Royal Commissions. The Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-minded made proposals very elaborate, minute and comprehensive. They proposed a total re-organisation of the Lunacy Commissioners and the establishment of a new Central Board with power to local authorities to deal with this class of people a Government Grant to be made for the purpose. Had that been acted on it would have been necessary to bring forward a much larger Bill than any private Member would be justified in proposing on a Friday afternoon. The promotors of this Bill propose to restrict themselves to a very small portion of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. But their Bill is not inconsistent with the reports I have referred to or with the new Bill which we hear is to be presented by the Government. The one portion of the Report which this Bill proposes to carry out, is to initiate a system of homes for the feeble-minded and to establish a system by which these feeble-minded persons, for whom compulsary detention is necessary, can be detained with sufficient and proper safeguards. It is natural that Members of this House, and persons outside should view with considerable suspicion anything which tends to interfere with the liberty of the subject. I know very well many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House would need to be convinced before agreeing to interfere further with the liberty of the subject, and we, of course, sympathise with them very much. I cannot help thinking that those who take that view must do so without having an intimate knowledge of the circumstances of this case, which if they had, would very materially alter their opinions.

On questions like this, affecting the liberty of the subject, there are three questions we have to ask ourselves: first, how far their present liberty is detrimental to the State; secondly, whether it is not detrimental to the individual; and thirdly, under what conditions the individual will live when deprived of his liberty. My hon. Friend, in his very able speech, set out very clearly the main points which we think should govern this question. I may add to them by giving the House a few facts which cannot fail to have effect upon the minds of hon. Members. First of all, we have to recognise this as a fact, that, in round figures, there are about 300,000 persons suffering from some kind of mental deficiency or taint. Of these, about 150,000 —I am using round figures because they are estimates—are already cared for as lunatics, idiots, or imbeciles, but the remainder of them, numbering something under 150,000, are those whom we class as feeble-minded. They are persons who have not got a normal intellect, but who cannot be certified under the present conditions of the law. Who are these persons? They differ very materially from lunatics. Lunatics, as a rule, are persons who suffer from a disease. They have been perfectly sane, but they become insane. At times they are sane, and at times they are insane. But the feeble-minded person is a person who has been deficient in intellect from his birth, generally due to an incomplete development of the brain, and in the great majority of cases, from my own knowledge and from the evidence given before the Royal Commission, there is no difficulty whatever in deciding that a person is actually deficient in brain—no more difficulty than in saying that a child has a club foot or a withered arm. He begins life deficient, and the brain will never come up to the normal, and there can be no doubt that in the majority of cases the person is not capable of looking after himself. Of course, there are border line cases. We cannot help that, but we must protect ourselves against the border line case by the system we adopt. We must not for that reason deprive of protection that number of people about whom there can be no manner of doubt.

These 150,000 persons are persons who, if they were the children of you or me, would be under some sort of control. Even force might be used in some cases. They would be looked after. All that we want is that the State should look after those persons who have no one to look after them. What is the number of these persons? The Royal Commission estimated that there were 66,000 of these persons in the country who are, in their own words, urgently in need of protection. about whom there can be very little doubt of their weakness of mind, and about whom there is no doubt that they are running grave risk to themselves by being left at large. When I say left at large, the majority of these persons are not left at large. Many of them are already detained, and that is a matter for consideration when you are considering whether you will give further powers of detention. Many of them are in prison already. The Royal Commission investigated this question and they found out that the number of mentally defective persons in prisons, on a particular day, was estimated at over 2,500. In Pentonville about 100 prisoners a year were so far mentally affected as to be quite unfit for prison discipline. Besides these there were not less than 20 per cent, of the prisoners who showed mental inefficiency. Of the juvenile offenders as many as 40 per cent, were described as feeble-minded. An example was given of a lad of fourteen who had already served three terms of imprisonment at Pentonville. His father had been there twice, and his mother had been sentenced as a drunkard. One of his brothers had done two years at Maidstone, another one year at Wormwood Scrubbs, and the third was in a reformatory. In the case of women, out of 803 women in Holloway Gaol, 39 were feeble-minded. In convict prisons the same evil was shown to prevail. There were 111 weak-minded convicts in Park-hurst Prison on 31st March, 1904. Of these 111 prisoners only 35 had had no previous conviction, whilst 33 had been previously convicted over ten times, and six over twenty times. We had a list of these prisoners set before us, from which I will extract two cases. One of these, whose initials were "J. H.," was in Parkhurst Prison for the crime of wounding. His age was thirty-two, and between the age of eighteen and thirty-two he had had thirty-four convictions. Another one, "W. S.," was there for wilful murder. He began his career of crime at the age of fifteen, and before he was twenty-nine he had seventeen convictions. Our prisons are full of these people. They do not stay there; there passes in and out a continuous stream of feeble-minded persons, who are always somewhere or other in a prison, but who ought never to be there at all if proper arrangements were made for treating them elsewhere. With cases such as these it seems almost impossible to urge that the State is not justified, not only from its own point of view, but from the point of view of the individuals themselves, in providing means whereby they can be detained safely, and in a very much more comfortable position to themselves than they are at the present moment. Let me give the House one or two other striking instances. I am quoting from a report made by the medical officer of Leicester upon certain cases in that town which he investigated, certain cases where feeble-mindedness prevailed in families. He found there were two families of two brothers, both of them sons of a man who was supposed to be a sober, hardworking man, but whose wife was described as being light-handed, which meant that she was not above petty thefts. The report says:— This couple had four children, two sons and two daughters. The eldest daughter has been in the borough asylum for many years; the other daughter is unmarried. The two sons are the fathers of two families, G. and H. The father of the first family was formerly an inmate of the asylum, and is still of a very excitable temperament. By his first wife he had two sons and a daughter. The latter died when six weeks old. The following is the police report with regard to the first son, who is now twenty-five: At eleven years of age, he was birched for stealing. At twelve he was sent to the industrial school for stealing. At eighteen, he had one month's imprisonment for stealing a watch at Andover; the same year he had one month's imprisonment for fraudulent enlistment at Winchester the same year one month for stealing watches at Colchester; the same year two months for stealing in Leicester. At nineteen, one month for attempted robbery at Mansfield; the same year one month for stealing a watch in Leicester; and the same year seven days for begging. At twenty, one month for stealing a cash box at Norwich: the same year fourteen days for begging at Stamford; the same year one month for stealing in Leicester; the same year three months for attempted robbery. At twenty-one, four months for fraudulent enlistment at Colchester. At twenty-two, three months for loitering with intent at Leicester; the same year three months for the same reason. At twenty-three, twelve months for house-breaking and larceny. At twenty-four, fined 10s. for obscene language, and the same year eighteen months for stealing. The second son, aged twenty, was placed in the special class for feeble-minded children at eight years of age. At eleven years of age he was birched for stealing a watch; the same year he was birched again for stealing. The following year he was again convicted for stealing. The same year he was found on premises for an unlawful purpose, and was then sent to a reformatory for four years. The second wife had six children—five boys and one girl. The latter died at two years old. The first son, aged eighteen, was sent to an industrial school for not being under proper control. The second son, at eleven years of age, was birched for stealing, and the same year was sent to a reformatory for stealing; later he appeared before the magistrates on five occasions for stealing, and since then he has had twelve months for stealing. The third son resides with his maternal grandmother at Wigston. Against this son there are no convictions. The fourth and fifth sons, aged eight and six respectively, are attending the special class for feeble-minded children, and are sent to school in a grossly neglected condition. That is one family. This is the other:— The father is a brother of the father in the previous case. His sister is in the lunatic asylum. He has been sent to prison on several occasions for drunkenness and cruelty to children. His first wife had two sons; the first was sent to an industrial school for stealing at eleven years of age. He has since been convicted of being drunk and disorderly. The second son, at eight years of age, was sent to the industrial school for not being under proper control. Since then he has appeared before the magistrates on eleven occasions, mostly for stealing. The second wife is an imbecile. She has been sent to prison on three occasions for cruelty to children and has been fined for using obscene language. She has eight children living. The first daughter, aged twenty-three, when at school was placed in the class for feeble-minded children. She is now in the asylum. The second, aged twenty-one, was feeble-minded, and is now in the asylum. The third daughter, aged seventeen, was not recognised as feeble-minded when at school. Soon after leaving school she left home and lived with a married man. Her brother of twelve told me that she had chucked up living with him now; that she sometimes comes home for meals, but never sleeps at home.' The fourth child, a boy aged fourteen, has been sent to the industrial school. The fifth child is feeble-minded, and attends the special class for deficient children. The sixth, a girl of nine, is at the Bristol Homes for Feeble-minded children. The seventh, a girl aged seven, is at the normal school, but is backward. The baby is only twelve months old. I have quoted these two cases in order to show that our system at present breeds criminals. If we had some kind of home for the initial offenders those criminals would not have come into existence at all. They are criminals and inmates of these asylums simply because they are deficient in intellect and no family control is brought to bear upon them. So far as regards the gaol.

With regard to workhouses, a very considerable number of the feeble-minded are to be found in workhouses. The Royal Commission reported that as a rule 12.7 per cent, of the population of Poor Law Institutions are mentally defective, and in four rural unions the percentage is 18.75. Then it quotes certain reports from the inspector of the Local Government Board, one of which I will read:— In one workhouse I found five young women, all of whom were feeble-minded. Number one was going to be confined, and had had two children; before; number two had had two children; number three had had two children; number four had had one child, and number five had been confined in the summer and had three children previously. AH these were illegitimate. The cost of these cages is a very great burden on the ratepayers, especially as the children will probably turn out to be feeble-minded also. The fact is this class becomes practically the prostitutes of the rural districts. Another instance came under my personal experience when I was on the Royal Commission. I saw in the workhouse a young woman with two small children. She was evidently mentally defective. I asked what her history was, and the matron told me she was born in the workhouse, that her mother was in and out constantly, and bearing illegitimate children, leaving the workhouse when she wanted to and coming back to have a child and have it brought up at the public expense. This girl was born and bred and educated in the workhouse. She had been on the guardians' hands all her life and yet when she came of age she claimed her right to go out and started on precisely the same career that her mother had followed before, and she had already come in twice and borne there two illegitimate children. These are not solitary cases. They are cases which are multiplied all over the country, and they make a very strong case for having some kind of detention which will protect both the State from the injury inflicted upon it and also these poor girls themselves from the unhappiness which undoubtedly comes to them from lack of this control.

1.0 P.M.

A further question is, what are the conditions under which we should propose to deprive those poor persons of their liberty? It is essential that if we are going to justify such proposals as these we should have an organisation which will do real good to these people and will not inflict additional hardship upon them. There is a popular idea abroad that we want only to shut people up as we do in asylums and leave them alone and forget them. I do not think that will be the case. In the first place things have changed very much in regard to asylums. It is not in the public interest to keep lunatics even in asylums when it is not necessary to do so and particularly if we have public institutions and homes and public administration there will be every inducement rather to get rid of people who do not require to be detained than to detain them. We have an object lesson not only in this country but in America by which we can judge of the conditions under which these persons would be detained. In America I have seen several institutions and my firm conviction is that the great majority of the patients are so comfortable and happy that they do not want to go away, but that does not in the least reduce the necessity for some kind of detention, because very often it is the experience of those who manage these institutions that although the child itself does not want to go away the parents, when they recognise that the child is capable of earning a little money, will claim it, and very often bring it into the very same dangers from which otherwise it would have been protected. We have similar homos in England. I have here a quotation from a report by an inspector who was sent over from the Legislative Council of Ontario. She inspected a home at Sandlebridge, and this is what she said:— It was not that the buildings and grounds were expensive, or showy, or impressive. Everything was plain, simple, inexpensive (except the ground itself). But it was the real thing. Here I saw the seriously, even terribly, defective children mentally, the waste product of humanity, such as I have seen among ourselves in a helpless and hopeless condition, lost, fallen, outcast, criminal, unhappy, evil. But I saw them here clean, comfortable, happy, and at home. It is noteworthy that no one wishes to leave Sandlebridge, that they feel it belongs to them, and do not wish to run away from their home any more than we do from ours. I quote that because it is the report of an outsider, but it is the experience of all who know the work of the homes of the National Association for the Feeble-minded and other institutions in this country. There is no difficulty in ensuring that the persons themselves shall be happy and contented and at the same time useful and productive.

Then the last question is what about the possibility of abuse. That surely is a question of detail and of organisation, and it must be possible for us, in Committee, to devise some means which will protect the public against any possibility of abuse. The provisions of the Bill itself have been drafted with full estimation of the importance of safeguarding the public from any abuse. It will be only when the magistrate is satisfied not only that the person is feeble-minded, but that he is really a source of danger to himself and the public that he will be put into these homes by forcible detention, and, in my opinion, these cases will not be very numerous. The homes themselves will very often take these people without any kind of forcible detention being necessary. The Bill produced by the Government is an evidence that this matter is really ripe for solution. I hope the Government will view this Bill with sympathy, and that they will allow it to go on. My hon. Friend has called the Bill a tender to a man-o'-war. I would suggest that it is more like a tug or a pilot boat. If this Bill can go forward, being as it is quite consistent with the proposals of the Government Bill, so far as I can see from a hurried glance at the latter, and quite consistent also with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, there is no reason why we should not hold up this Bill in Committee and wait to see how much further the Government Bill will go. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is anxious to put legislation on this matter on the Statute Book; but we know the difficulties which must meet any Government Bill in a Session like this, We have a chance now in a Private Member's Bill of advancing the question some little distance, and there would be no difficulty later on in the Government measure taking the place of this particular Bill. There is nothing in this Bill inconsistent with the Government proposals. It will help along the Government measure, and I do earnestly ask my right hon. Friend to advise the House to let this Bill go upstairs to a Committee in the ordinary way if it now passes the Second Reading.


There is nobody in the House so likely to give a warm welcome to this discussion as I am. The speech of the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill was marked, if I may say so, with great knowledge of this subject, and with genuine sympathy for the class of person who has to be dealt with under the Bill. My hon. Friend who seconded showed equal knowledge and equal sympathy, and he gave the House a number of instances which demonstrate in the clearest fashion that we have in the feeble-minded persons in our midst a real evil with which Parliament ought to deal. My hon. Friend said that these were not isolated cases which he quoted, but typical cases, and there can be no question to anybody who has studied the Report of the Royal Commission which sat for four year and gave the closest investigation to the subject that my hon. Friend's statement is strictly accurate, and that the cases which he quoted could have been multiplied in every part of the country. Where the evil is so great, and where the remedy is so obvious, there can be no doubt that there is a duty upon Parliament to act. Our asylums at the present moment are crowded not merely with lunatics and with imbeciles who are properly the subjects for lunatic asylums, but many patients are included also—a considerable number of feeble-minded persons—who ought to be sent to homes if there were homes to receive them. The same thing may be said about prisoners. Some thousands of persons are sent to prison and kept there year after year, not continuously, but under successive short sentences, who are not really criminals in the ordinary sense, but who are really only feeble-minded persons. They also, if there were homes to receive them, ought to be sent for the special kind of treatment which is suitable for the feeble-minded.

We must not leave this very important factor out of account that where homes have been established, and feeble-minded persons of both sexes had been kept under proper restraint, and set to do work appropriate to their particular character and development, they have lived happy lives. There can be no question about it that to a large class of the feeble-minded the greatest misery to them is the responsibility of liberty, and whereas to most people, 99 out of every 100, the notion of restraint and the removal of the power to do what you like causes the acutest sense of wrong and injustice, in the case of many of these feeble-minded they are happy only when the sense of personal responsibility is taken from them. Keep them under conditions suitable to their minds, give them simple and easy work to do, give them all the elements of the enjoyment of life, and they are happy if the responsibility of providing for themselves is not placed upon them. Having said so much, the House I hope will accept, my personal assurance that I am deeply concerned in the progress of measures for dealing with feeble-minded persons. If therefore I am unable to give a very hearty welcome to this particular Bill, it is not because I think the subject ought not to be dealt with, but because I conceive that this particular proposal would hardly effect the object which we have in view. Let me say at once that I recognise to the full that that is not the fault of the promoters of the Bill. If they had had a free hand, such as the Government have got, they would not have introduced this Bill at all. I am sure the hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. Gershom Stewart) recognises as strongly as I do that the fundamental defect of his Bill is that he had no means of providing the necessary homes. Want of money and want of power to get money cramped him in preparing his Bill. If he had got the powers of the Government he would have introduced a Bill of a different kind. I recognise that this argument would not be sufficient in itself to justify me in recommending the House to postpone the consideration of this Bill. If I merely pointed out that the Bill was defective because it did not give sufficient powers to establish the necessary homes— that is the real crux of the problem—the retort might naturally be made to me, "You have the power, you the representative of the Government have the power, to find the means of curing our Bill and to give us the necessary money." That would be the obvious reply. I am in the fortunate position of being able to counter that reply, and I retort that I have placed my proposals on the Table of the House. I have found the money.

Sir J. D. REES

The taxpayer has.


Of course, it is the taxpayer. I am not suggesting that the money is found out of my own pocket. Did the hon. Member think that?

Sir J. D. REES

I did not think it.


And if the hon. Member did not think it, what right had he to say it? If it was a mere case of rudeness, he might have been silent. On behalf of the Government I have found the money. I have produced a Bill which does contain provision for a material contribution by the Exchequer for the very purpose of providing these homes, and of providing for the maintenance of children within the homes. That Bill also in many respects carries out the recommendations of the Royal Commission which the Bill we are discussing today cannot do. I would explain briefly why I think it undesirable that we should proceed with this measure at the present time. The Royal Commission in paragraph 19 lays down some fundamental principles which ought to be adopted in dealing with the problem of the mentally defective. The first is that where the special protection of the State is required it should be extended to all defectives where need of care and control is urgent. The second is that it is necessary to search for and ascertain the mentally defective in order that the necessary protection may be provided. The third is that there must be a powerful local authority, charged with these duties of investigation and protection, to carry them out under the supervision and control of the Central Authority.

Those are three fundamental provisions which in the opinion of the Royal Commission ought to be satisfied in any measure in dealing with the mentally defective. As this Bill cannot find money and cannot therefore pretend to exercise control over the local authorities, none of those provisions can be enforced. The consequence is that powers of a rather more extensive kind under this Bill have to be taken, powers which I think will meet with a certain amount of opposition from my hon. Friend on the back bench. My Bill does not violate the principles of personal liberty so dear to his heart to anything like the same degree as this Bill does. The real reason is because this Bill does not control the local authority it has to give far stronger powers to magistrates. It would not be in order for me on the Second Reading of this Bill to discuss the precise proposals of my Bill, but the Government Bill is before the House. It deals with the subject on a far more comprehensive scale. It is not merely the hope but the firm intention of the Government to proceed with our measure in the course of the present Session. Shall we be assisted by accepting the present proposal? It may be said that there might be some advantage in sending the two Bills to the same Committee, and perhaps combining them and taking advantage of the proposals in the present Bill in order to incorporate them in the Government Bill, but, inasmuch as all the objects of the present Bill are included in the Government Bill, and owing to the financial power are carried out far more effectively it would be undesirable to proceed with the two Bills at the same time.

I have no hostility to this Bill, and if the promoters of the Bill wish to push it to a Division personally I should not vote against it. Still, I would recommend that it should not be proceeded with for the reasons which I have given. It is not the best way of dealing with the subject, and it will arouse a degree of hostility with which in a measure properly conceived we shall not have to deal. Therefore, I ask the House to be content with the assurance that it is our firm intention to proceed with the Bill already introduced by the Government. That Bill contains a promise of art Exchequer contribution of £150,000 a year. It is not a large sum, I admit, but at any rate it is a beginning, and a beginning upon right lines, and it throws responsibility upon powerful local authorities to find out the mentally defective and provide for their care. It deals with the subject upon the principles laid down in the report of the Royal Commission, and therefore it would prove a more satisfactory solution of the problem than that proposed by the Bill before the House.


I desire to associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman in congratulating my hon. Friend behind me on the ability and care which he directed to the preparation and discussion of this Bill. I would like also to thank the hon. Member who seconded the measure for similar ability and care, and I do not like to omit from congratulations the National Association, which has done splendid work in this matter, and also the Commissioners, who have, as has been said, directed a searchlight upon this most important and most painful subject. The difficulty is to make a speech on this matter. John Bright once said, "I cannot make a speech on hospitals. Everybody is in favour of hospitals." I believe that everyone here is really in favour of the principle of this Bill. The figures are in themselves conclusive. Out of 150,000 feeble-minded persons 66,000 on the very minimum scale are either absolutely unprovided for or most unsatisfactorily provided for.


Is that any reason why you should send them to prison.


That seems, if I may say so, with respect to the hon. Member a specially foolish observation. But the fact is that you are sending people to prison now—


Not for life.


Not because they are vicious or because they are malignant, but because they are feeble-minded, and it is our responsibility and the responsibility of this House which leaves the law in this condition which is the cause of so monstrous a state of things as that. After all we have had figures already from my hon. Friend, that from 10 per cent, to 20 per cent, of the gaol population of this country consists of these feeble-minded people, that we have 60 per cent, in inebriate homes also of this class, that 50 per cent, of the women in rescue homes belong to this class also, and 20 per cent, of those in the workhouse. I ought to mention that in the last four years 1,100 cases have been dealt with by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty among Children, which had been found to be referable to the parentage of feeble-minded persons and the consequent neglect and cruelty to the children. Then again we have from the Royal Commission the fact that these feeble-minded people are more prolific than normal people, the figures being in the one case 20.3 as against 4.6 in the other. Several instances have been given by the Seconder of the Bill to which I will only add one, in which very conclusive evidence was given, My hon. Friend the Mover of the Motion before the House has spoken of the tremendous increase of the taint as generations go on. Here is one most remarkable instance which is referable to the hereditary taint, and not to any circumstances of poverty or condition of life. The family to which it relates are more than well-to-do; they are the family of the middle-class, well provided for, well-housed, and well-fed. The investigation went back as far as 1788. The wife was known not to be insane, but of a passionate nature. This pair had one insane child and two others. This one insane child married into another family, and there was one member of a passionate character in the second generation. The third generation produced no less than fifteen cases of hereditary weak-mindedness and passionate insanity. There you have a very conclusive instance of the increase of the taint, even in conditions which were not unfavourable. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion and myself in the early part of our lives have seen a good deal of the administration of the criminal law both at the Bar and from time to time as judge. These cases have come before me, and I have found them, as I believe has everybody who has had to administer the criminal law, a subject of the greatest difficulty and the greatest pain; because you become aware of the increase of the cases, and that a man or a woman may be a source of danger to society, while living obviously a most miserable and wretched life. You feel that you have no real right to sentence the man to punishment, yet the laws of the country provide no other means whatever of dealing with him. If he is not insane, within the sense of criminal jurisprudence, you have no course but either to send the man to prison, or else let him out again into the world to be a source of mischief to himself and a source of mischief to others. Let me read you a piece of evidence given by an experienced medical witness before the Royal Commission:— The appearance and reappearance of these people in prison is not indeed a sign of inborn depravity, but a logical consequence of the fact of being feeble-minded. They are incapable of competing on equal terms with normal persons. They get squeezed out of every occupation. They are the last to be taken on a job, and the first to be removed from it, and unless they are under constant care and supervision on the first temptation thrown in their way they succumb to it. It is more or less the same in the workhouse, and after all workhouses, are not places in which you ought to put feeble-minded people. Year after year the same thing occurrs, especially in the case of women. These women have no control over themselves. In the summer months when they go out they are a source of temptation, and they are the prey of dissolute-minded men. They transmit loathsome diseases throughout the country, and year after year they reappear in the winter at the workhouses, and give birth to children begotten by parents, from time to time, who are unsound. Then there is the asylum. A certain number of these people find their way there, but the treatment is too scientific and too elaborate, and does not provide for remedial treatment. Therefore, as it at present stands, we have no real communication and co-ordination between the schools, the prisons, the asylums, and the workhouses; whereas, if you began from the beginning, in the way which is indicated by this Bill, at the schools, and if you kept from the first a thorough watch on, and kept thoroughly in touch with these people, you would have an infinitely better chance of making them, at any rate, not so injurious to themselves or so injurious to the community. My hon. Friend and others have felt uneasy about the moral right of the State to deal with this question. Our action or inaction in this matter is not only stupid and wasteful, but it is really wrongful. So far from having no moral right to deal with this subject, I consider that we are morally wrong in not dealing with it.

It is extraordinarily stupid really, when you come to think of it, not to try and deal with these people and bring them into the best environment we can at the beginning of their lives. A very high authority tells us that many of them are not morally defective at all; that they are very largely coloured by and reflect their original environment, so that it is almost as easy to teach them good habits as bad habits. Yet we commit the extraordinary absurdity of treating these people, who might be so easily coloured and influenced one way or the other, in a way which allows them to remain in an environment of evil which they will almost certainly reflect. Whereas if the policy of this Bill were pursued, you might bring them from the beginning into an atmosphere of wholesomeness and virtue, which they would, with equal docility, reflect. We really permit these poor and miserable creatures to become irreparably affected by the contagion and example of vice. I say that it is absolutely wrong that this state of things should continue. An immensely strong argument might be derived from the injury which is done to the community and the vast cost which is inflicted upon it by the increased degeneracy of the race. These matters have been admirably stated both by the Mover and Seconder of the Bill. They are now scientifically established beyond all possible doubt by those who have given close and conscientious care and examination to this subject. If anybody feels uneasy upon the question as to whether the State has a moral right to interfere with these people, let me once more put, with all the force I can, what the State is doing how. It is punishing feeble-mindedness, and whereas it is admitted by every citizen of this country that the care of the feeble-minded is the duty of the State, yet the State performs that duty by sending those persons to prison or to the workhouse. Surely if ever there was a moral wrong it is that. You are inflicting a wrong not merely on those people whom you put in that miserable condition, but you are inflicting a wrong upon the administrators of the law in this country to whom you leave no choice but to become partners in the wrong which you permit to continue. With the principle of this Bill it is obvious, from the sympathetic remarks made by the Home Secretary as well as from the remarks of others, that almost everybody here is in sympathy. I have not had time to study the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman has laid on the Table, but this is not a party matter, and I do ask other experienced Members of the House who have sat here a good many years whether it would not be most desirable to give the Bill before the House a Second Reading. Let me remind the House that the Bill of the Government was deposited at a very significant moment last night. I have no doubt that that was unintentional.


It was intentional in the sense that I was very anxious that hon. Members should see it before this day's discussion, and I therefore hurried it.


I am quite sure of that. The inference I draw is that this Bill acted to spur on the flagging zeal of the Government which in itself is a very desirable thing. This Bill has at any rate expedited, unconsciously expedited, the zeal of the Government. Do not let the House for a moment throw away this excellent Bill which at all necessary times can be applied to the flanks of, I will not say an unwilling steed, but a steed that often wants rousing. I look at the programme of the Government, and I watch the flagging zeal, not without sympathy, of some of their supporters, and while I give credit to the Home Secretary for every intention to prosecute his Bill I prognosticate that that Bill has a very poor chance of passing this Session. I would invite the House, and everyone of those who have taken so real and zealous an interest in the progress of this excellent work, not to discourage the efforts of those who outside this House have done so much, by refusing to welcome cordially the Second Reading of this Bill. I believe that by the adaptation of this Bill by the Government we would have a far better chance of getting legislation this Session. I saw from a glance at the Government Bill that they propose for their authority a brand new authority, ad hoc Commissioners, three of them to be paid, and other expensive auxiliaries. They propose to place those Commissioners under the general control of the Home Office. I do not wish to enter on any controversial point, but I am certain that the Lunacy Commissioners would not require additional pay, and that their authority could be gradually extended as necessity arose, and that they are a far more appropriate body than new Commissioners, and than the Home Office, to guide this legislation. I submit to the House that that is at any rate a very grave ground of difference as between those, and I am certain a great number of people in this House who do not wish to add to the number of permanent officials more than the present Government has already done. They would welcome this Bill and the modest provision as a beginning that the Lunacy Commissioners should be the authority in this matter, and I think they would find that less controversial and more generally acceptable. In any case do not let the House lose the opportunity of getting to work at once on this subject and on a principle on which everyone is in agreement.


The right hon. Gentleman was very short with me in the interruption which I made, but I think he made no effort to justify what is indeed the kernel of this Bill and the kernel of the alternative Bill of the Government. The right, hon. Gentleman in the whole of his speech did not touch for one moment on the Bill actually before the House. He dealt entirely with the question of the provision of homes where the feeble-minded would be looked after. I hope he will believe me that even the most bigoted upholder of the rights of the subject is as strongly as he is in favour of the provision by the State of homes where the feeble-minded could be looked after. The question whether homes should be provided is not the one that divides us. The whole question is whether you have any right to sentence people, who have committed no crime, to imprisonment for life in those homes, and to say that they should be detained forever in a rescue home, or in a home which may be an admirable institution, and which, as long as it is on voluntary lines, meets with unanimous support are those people, from the age say of sixteen to perhaps eighty, to be incarcerated in those compulsory homes. Everyone of the arguments for looking after those feeble-minded persons mentioned by the Proposer and Seconder and the two other hon. Members who have spoken, meet with my entire support, and it is only when they come to compulsory segregation that they do not get that support. Not one of them has yet offered a single argument in favour of that policy. They have fought entirely shy of it with the solitary exception of the right hon. Gentleman opposite who said in his airy way that rather than leave things as they are we would be justified in putting those people away for life. I know perfectly well that this Bill has behind it the very best efforts of the best-intentioned people in this country not so much inside this House as outside of it. They have seen this terrible evil and know how awful it is, and already in rescue homes they are doing what they can to save those poor and feeble-minded persons. They are in constant contact with that evil and they wish to save society from it, but perhaps because they are brought so close into contact with the evil they do not look at the matter from a wider point of view. After all, it is a much wider question than mere expediency. The arguments in favour of this measure of compulsory segregation of the unfit are all directed towards the expediency of the change. Either it is going to save the community money, to be cheaper in the long run, to make the machine of civilisation run more cheaply, or, in the interests of the future of the race, it is necessary to segregate the unfit. Both these arguments are drawn purely and simply from expediency.




Experience of breeding cattle, not experience of breeding men. The same question comes up in politics in regard to almost everything that is brought before us. The question whether vivisection should be allowed is, in its elements, exactly the same as whether this compulsory imprisonment should be permitted. There you have, on the one side, the interests of society—that it is in the interest of the human race that doctors should have every possible opportunity of discovering new means of curing the ills of mankind. On the other hand, you have the question whether it is right, in the interests of society, in the interests of the future amelioration of the race, to inflict pain upon animals. You have the same question in regard to the vaccination laws are you right, in the interests of society, in compelling people to be vaccinated, or is the individual's right to refuse to be vaccinated, to have liberty of judgment as to whether he should be vaccinated or not, to prevail? In every one of these cases you have the same difficulty before you. Either you must rely on what you believe to be the benefit of society and the good of the human race, or you must base yourself on something which I do not know how to describe, but which I think is something like the individual conscience. You have to see whether a thing is just or not. In the old days it was just the same. On the one side there have been a large class of people who say, salus populi suprema est lex. The safety of the public, the welfare of the State, must be the supreme law. Up against those people at all times you have had other people who say, fiat justitia ruat cœlum. These are two radically different doctrines; I believe that the second is far nobler, far higher, and far better than the first, and it is the one which we in England, rather more peculiarly than the rest of the Continental nations, have followed. We believe that justice is the important thing, and that the welfare of the State must come second, not first. The hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) naturally takes the opposite view. You have the case put in a very extreme way in India at the present time. On the one hand you have the interests of the whole society in India in the locking up of Indian agitators without trial and without their being told what their crime is. Probably it is in the interests of the State that those people should be incarcerated for life. On the other hand, you have the question whether it is just to do a thing like that, even if it is in the interests of society. I still maintain that it is not just to do a thing like that however good the results of such action are likely to be.

That is the question we have before us today. The results, the saving in money to the community, the improvement in the physical stamina and development of the race in the years to come, all these are invaluable things to aim at. But it is rather the doctrine of expediency. Up against that you have the elemental human right of justice and fair play. One of the reasons why somebody should always fight against the expediency doctrine, which, of course, is popular, is that you can never tell from age to age whether your ideas as to what is expedient will not change. A hundred years ago every doctrine of expediency was brought forward to ensure the enclosure of the common lands. Everybody thought that by enclosure you would increase productivity, and every advantage pointed in the same direction. One could cite innumerable instances showing how people's ideas as to what is expedient have changed from age to age, whilst at the bottom of all of us we have some idea as to what is right and just, by which we can test every measure that is brought forward. I am sorry to go back so much to the classics, but I will give one other example. There are the words of Aristotle, that in the long run that which is unjust can never be expedient. I think that is a very good rule to go on. Our idea as to what is expedient change over and over again. Our ideas as to what is just remain absolutely the same. I had a letter from a Liberal clergyman in Devonshire saying that he and his parishioners all thought that Mr. Tom Mann ought to go to prison. I have no doubt that the majority of people think that Tom Mann ought to go to prison. A majority of people probably think that Mr. Lloyd George ought to go to prison. But everybody knows that it is not just to send to prison all those whom the majority think ought to be there. That is a question of expediency and justice again. A man is tried for a certain definite offence. He is not sent to prison because other people think he ought to be there. Here you are going to send a lot of people to prison—the pariahs and outcasts of the human race, who have nobody to speak for them—not because they have committed a crime, but because the majority of the community think they ought to be there.

This incarceration of people who have committed no crime is bad enough, but it is particularly dangerous when you allow people to be incarcerated on the dictum of the specialist. I would far sooner see people sent to prison by an autocrat for a crime in opinion about which the ordinary lay person could exercise his judgment than I would see them sent to prison at the dictum of the specialist. Here you have the inevitable two doctors to decide whether a man is to be free or not. I believe it is infinitely dangerous that we should give these powers to the doctors. Hon. Members will remember that famous book, "Hard Cash," by Charles Reade, with its terrible picture of the power in the hands of the doctors of sending people to lunatic asylums on their own ipse dixit. Here you are extending that power in a most tremendous way. You are bringing in a law which affects, not people who are lunatics or idiots, but the class which is called feeble-minded. Will it be believed that in this Bill there is not a single word of definition as to what "feeble-minded" means. You are bringing in a Bill affecting 150,000 people, who will be of all grades of intelligence, from the idiot at one end to the man who is slightly abnormal at the other. You propose to give to two doctors the power of saying whether a man who is slightly abnormal shall be sent to prison for life. Is it reasonable to come before the House of Commons with a proposal such as that, and to imagine that when you put it into law you are going, even from the point of view of expediency, to do any good to society? Something like 300 persons in every constituency are to be put into prison if this Bill becomes law. These people are the pariahs, who have nobody much to look after them or to see that they have justice. These are the people who are to be thrown to the doctors, the medical specialists, for them to decide what is to be done with them. I remember seeing a case in the United States, I think in New York, last year of a girl who was supposed to have a special facility for communicating typhoid fever to people who came near her. These specialists decided that she should be compulsorily segregated. She was sent to prison. It so happened that there were rich people who took an interest in her, and they brought her before the higher courts. The girl was put in the dock. She had nothing to say for herself —naturally. The specialists said it was quite possible that this girl had some horrible special facility for communicating typhoid to everybody she came in contact with. The judge shrank from her. The jury thought they were going to catch the disease. The case was rapidly adjourned until the next morning, when it was brought up again. The judge decided that that Court had no jurisdiction in the case, and the girl was sent back to prison. For all I know she may be there yet.

It is this government by specialists that you cannot argue with. Here you are alienating these powers, powers which were possessed by the Holy Inquisition, and you are going to entrust them to a body of specialists, whose absolute remedies for disease change every year, and who invent year after year new fungoid growths, or something of the kind which may be stamped out by science if only you give them a free hand. By this Bill a large part of the population of this country is handed over to the specialists without any right of taking action at law against those concerned if they put you in prison without any semblance of justice. I think this Bill is going a little too far. It remands me in a way of the smelling out on the East African coast by the witch doctor. He finds out by some intuitive faculty—similar to that possessed by the specialists—which among the natives it is whose continued existence is undesirable in the interests of society. He smells the person out, and that person is put to death. Under this Bill you are smelling them out and putting them into prison for life. It is the same thing. I do not know whether hon. Members here have read that book of Chesterton's "The Ball and the Cross." It will be remembered how by merely proceeding along these lines everyone who is abnormal in any degree is finally put into a feeble-minded home, and in course of time everybody is found to be in the end slightly abnormal except the specialist himself. He is the only man left absolutely normal in society. If you are merely going to take a degree of variation from the normal as a sufficient cause for putting men or women—because this Bill is principally applied to women—[HON. MEMBEBS: "No"]—well, every argument brought forward has dealt with those unfortunate women who go into our workhouses to have children and so on, and the main argument has been against women and against poor women only. I say it is wrong.

I should like any hon. Member who is going to vote for this Bill, and going to press it to law later on, to put himself for one moment in the place of an unfortunate parent whose daughter is taken away from him against his wish, and against the wish of the daughter, and sent to prison for life. Let any hon. Member who has got a daughter imagine for the moment whether he would allow the police to take that daughter away under these circumstances, and does he not think that the working classes may possibly have similar feelings as himself in this matter? This Bill does not involve incarceration at the wish of the parents. Any responsible person, any relieving officer can, without the wish of the parent and against the wish of the child, get the unfortunate child put away for life. I do think it shows an absolute want of understanding of the ordinary normal feelings of the ordinary poor people of this country to imagine that they will tolerate such a Bill as this, or such a monstrous injustice as that people are to be sent to prison for life for merely being abnormal.

2.0 P.M.

The case is peculiarly hard because the relieving officer is brought into this Bill. It is the relieving officer who is going to be the principal medium in sending people to prison. It is the relieving officer who is going to save the rates—which is one of the chief merits of the Bill. It is the relieving officer who gets two medical witnesses to decide that a person is to be sent to these homes. The relieving officer is already a terror in the poorer classes of society; he is the most important person in the poor streets. In places the relieving officer is more important than the policeman. He is the man to whom you are giving this terrible, this tremendous authority, over all these poor people throughout the length and breadth of the country. I am opposed to the principle of compulsion involved in this Bill. I think it is perfectly possible to have a Bill which shall do all that is done at Sandlebridge, and all that is done at the home near Birmingham. Such a Bill will enable everyone who has a really conscientious desire to help these people to satisfy their conscience and to get what these feeble-minded people need; what will be good for them; to provide money; to provide home; and the parents, the guardians, and the local authorities will be only too glad to send these children there. The children as they grow up and reach the age of discretion will come to regard these places as their homes and will be willing to stay on. You can do all that without having this compulsion and this interference with the freedom and liberty of the subject.

That is not enough. Surely we must recognise that at the bottom of all these problems of the feeble-minded is the problem of poverty and overcrowding. People are crammed together in such a way that they cannot possibly grow up to be normal people. They are crammed together so that decency is impossible. When they grow up under present conditions a man is absolutely unable to marry because he cannot afford to keep a family, and therefore he has to go about with women. A woman is so anxious to carry in order to become economically independent that she has to take any man who comes along. These are the real causes of the feeble-mindedness of the country. If you want to stop it there is the education of the children before you in which enormous things can be done. There are homes, where unfortunately, at present only rich people can afford to send their feeble-minded children, where the children can be trained up by constant attention into being almost as normal as most of us here today. There are places where the missing parts of the brain can be almost substituted by careful attention. This Bill does not touch the question of children at all; it has nothing whatever to do with anybody under the age of sixteen. A Bill dealing with the feeble-minded which does not touch the question of the children is a delusion and a fraud. I should also like to touch upon the real theory that is at the back of this Bill. Although the last hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Pancras is one of the promoters, and I know that most of the Members whose names are on the back are really anxious respecting this horrible feeble-minded sore in our society, the spirit at the back of the Bill is not the spirit of charity, not the spirit of the love of mankind. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] It is a spirit of the horrible Eugenic Society which is setting out to breed up the working classes as though they were cattle. The one object in life of the society seems to be to make mankind as perfect as poultry. But we are not ants, bees, and wasps; we are human beings, and all this form of school Eugenics seems to me to be the most gross materialism that has ever been imported into human society.

I think those people who are so anxious to improve the breed of the working classes had better remember that there is such a thing as a soul and that the mere desire to turn people into better money-making machines is merely some horrible nightmare of H. G. Wells. Hon. Members should remember how Mr. Wells in "The Time Machine," figures a society thousands of years hence in which all disease is removed and a standard of a perfect type has been arrived at, but unfortunately the perfect type has no brain and the working classes become workers in the darkness below mere beast of prey. In his book "The Men in the Moon," are to be bred some men with special hands, some with special eyesight, some with special brains, some with special bodily strength. In connection with that kind of thing, I am delighted to have a seat in this House in order to be able to put a spoke in its wheel, because I believe in such circumstances the whole of mankind would become mere brute beasts and would lose their intellectual development and spirituality.

Let me now come to the Bill itself. I think I have dealt fairly and faithfully with its principle. The details are even more reprehensible than the principle of compulsion. In the first place this Bill does not refer to Scotland or Ireland. It seems to be inevitable that all our Friday afternoon Bills have one feature in common—the name of the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir George Younger) on the back of them. His name is on the back of this Bill, and it does not apply to Scotland. The hon. Member for Ayr Burghs understands what freedom is. If you turn to Clause 4 you will see this Bill does not seek to set up State institutions where people would be looked after, but it seeks merely to institute non-official homes; it merely sanctions certain places where the feeble-minded person can be taken in and looked after. Charity mongering has proved dangerous in all time, and this seems to point to a far wider vista for the extension of that charity mongering which bas been so often shown up in "Truth." These non-official homes are to be inspected once a year by the Lunacy Commissioners. Is it likely to conduce to the elimination of scandal and hardship and cruelty to these homes for people so very liable and susceptible to ill-treatment are to be kept. There is no check in Clause 5 upon the number of attendants that will have to be supplied; or the sleeping accommodation in the homes, and in none of these homes is there any hint that educacational work is to be carried on. They are to be mere dormitories or receptacles for the rubbish of mankind.

Clause 8 is the kernel of the Bill, and with that the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not deal. Under this Clause a magistrate may, when asked by anybody or person coming within a certain category, and when the application has the signature of two medical practitioners, send feeble-minded persons who are over sixteen years of age to those homes until they are twenty-one years of age, or, if over twenty-one years of age, he may send them to these homes until the Lunacy Commissioners decide they can come out. One would think that the only applicant was the parent or guardian. Not a bit of it. It can be done on the application of the parent, guardian, or any relative. In these lunacy cases there is very often money at the back of the desire to put a person into a lunatic asylum, and very often it is a relative that is interested in the seclusion of such a person. But it is also provided that such a person may be sent to these homes on the application of any relieving officer of any parish in which the alleged feeble-minded person shall become chargeable. That is where you get the relieving officer in; he comes in as a sort of general providence to those unfortunate people. Further, any responsible person over the age of twenty-one can make application and get those persons sent to confinement. I suppose that includes district visitors; but it is even far wider than that. Without consulting the feeble-minded person or the guardian of such person, or the family, if you can only get two medical practitioners to see the feeble-minded person that person can be committed, even upon hearsay evidence, to one of these homes. The applicant comes before the magistrate; the feeble-minded person is brought up without any protection from parent, guardian, or solicitor to speak for him or her, and upon that casual and cursory examination these unfortunate people are sent to compulsory detention. I think the kernel of this Bill is as bad as its principle. Under Clause 8 also the Press are to be excluded from the examination. The one opportunity for public criticism of what may go on is excluded. Coming to the last paragraph of Clause 8 you will find the most dangerous thing of all. The relieving officer of any parish shall apply to the justices of the peace for an order to be granted in respect of any person found wandering if he is satisfied that any such person is a fit and proper person for detention under this Act. Any person who is found wandering may, on the demand of the relieving officer, without the medical practitioner coming in at all, be sent away. If you turn to Clause 18 you will find there that the Bill only applies to the poor. There are special facilities for exempting the rich from the whole purview of this legislation. Nothing in this Act shall deprive any parent of any feeble-minded person of the care, control, and protection of such feeble-minded person, upon proof being given that such feeble-minded person will receive adequate care, protection and control. What class is there except the rich which can bring proof that they are able to provide adequately for the protection and control of the feeble-minded. This Bill is eminently a Bill which we as men have no right to pass. It is a Bill which affects principally women, because under it its practical effect will be to put feeble-minded women into gaol much more than men. The chief argument is that women have so many illegitimate children. In the Government measure special arrangements are made forbidding marriages in order to cut down this evil. This is a Bill which specially affects women, and which we, as men, have the greatest difficulty in dealing with, because our views of sex morality are not the same as in the case of women. We ought to be careful before we interfere with the liberties of a great number of women in the country without knowing whether we are correctly representing the views of women as well as of men. Clause 21 specially provides that there shall be no remedy at law for the alleged feeble-minded person, however long incarcerated, against the doctors or irresponsible persons who send them to these places of detention for life. Even the alleged lunatic has some claim against the people who put him there, but the feeble-minded person is deprived even of that opportunity. It rests with the feeble-minded person to prove that there was an absence of good faith, and how on earth are you able to prove that? The first schedule really is going to be the charter of the liberty or want of liberty of these unfortunate people.

The first schedule is the medical certificate which the doctor has to sign. He has to sign declaring that he is of opinion that So-and-so is feeble-minded. There is, however, no definition whatever of feeble-minded. The doctor has to declare that the person requires detention for his own benefit or for the benefit of the public at large. Think of an ordinary doctor deciding that rather transcendental question whether a man will be better locked up for the benefit of the public at large. Further he has to certify that he formed his opinion on the evidence of feeble-mindedness, want of proper care and control, and that the person is a source of danger to himself or others. These facts, however, need not be observed by the medical practitioner, and they can be supplied by others. There you have a most risky form of medical certificate. Could you have anything more risky than to allow a doctor to say a person is feeble-minded without telling him what is the definition of feeble-minded. You allow a man to say whether he believes in the interest of society somebody would be better off under lock and key. That is not a question for a doctor to decide. These doctrines, if applied to opinions, would probably see most hon. Members of this House under lock and key. It would probably be decided that the people who brought in this Bill should be placed under lock and key, and on the same reasoning even the hon. Member for Wirral would be doing time. But that is no justification for sending the hon. Member to do time. Once you get away from the elementary principles of right and wrong, of what the French people call "the rights of man," and the doctrines of what is, or what is not, expedient in the general interests of society, you get into a quagmire that will lead to the most monstrous injustice in time to come.


I wish to criticise this Bill from another direction. Hon. Members who have spoken have made out a good case, in my opinion, for the control and care of the feeble-minded, and I wish to associate myself with what has been said by the hon. Member who introduced this Bill. I wish to make a few remarks upon the actual aspects of the Bill. To my mind there are two points to which great objection may be taken. First of all, in regard to the definition of feeble-minded; and secondly, the homes or institutions to which these feeble-minded people are to be sent. With regard to what feeble-minded means, we have the definition given in 1898 in the Report of the Royal Commission, which says that feeble-minded persons are— those who may be capable of earning their living under favourable circumstances, but are incapable owing to mental defects (a) of competing on equal terms with their normal fellows, and (b) of managing themselves and their affairs with ordinary prudence. I take it that that is a very fair and generally accepted definition of a feeble-minded person. When you come to the Bill we find in the first Clause it is stated that the term "feeble-minded" does not include lunatics, idiots, or imbeciles. When we come to Clause 8, which deals with the method by which magistrates shall deal with applications we find that the magistrate has to satisfy himself that such feeble-minded persons are a source of injury and mischief to themselves and others. That is a definition which I think is applicable generally to the majority of lunatics in our asylums. You find that the reason why people are placed in asylums very largely is because they are dangerous to themselves and dangerous to others. If that be so, and if the only class of persons you can bring into this Bill are those who are dangerous to themselves and to others, you exclude from the purview of the Bill the bulk of the feeble-minded and specially those whom associations such as the National Association for the Care of the Feeble-Minded are anxious to deal with. We know the great interest that is aroused in this question particularly in regard to illegitimacy.

The hon. Member who introduced the Bill and the hon. Member who seconded gave some striking figures in reference to this matter. We know that one of the greatest difficulties of boards of guardians is in dealing with this class of women. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill said it was one to prevent the propagation of feeble-minded persons. If the House will allow me, I will read one short extract from the Sixty-fourth Report of the Commissioners in Lunacy. It is very definite:— Most of the cases in which we press for certification are weak-minded women and girls to whose condition marked attention has been drawn in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Care of the Feeble-minded and of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws. Under present condition of things many of this class live an in-and-out existence at workhouses, returning at more or less frequent intervals to be confined of illegitimate children. It is our confident opinion that persons of this description, who are quite incapable of looking after themselves, are certifiable under the Lunacy Acts, and it is only those about whom we have no doubt that we press the authorities to certify and detain. In one county workhouse in the year under review the visiting Commissioner found living in the house uncertified, and therefore free to go in and out as they pleased, three women of this class who between them had had eleven illegitimate children and three others awaiting confinement, one of whom had already had five illegitimate children. The Bill, as I read it, does not touch one of the cases of women of that class, because you cannot by any means stretch the definition of Clause 8 so as to bring these unfortunate persons into the class of those who are likely to do injury to themselves or to others. I claim, therefore, that from that point of view the Bill is not wide enough in its scope, and that the very class of persons whom we are anxious should receive the care and protection of the State are excluded. Clause 4 deals with the power of the Commissioners in Lunacy to licence homes. Those who are familiar with the Lunacy Act know how very stringent is the law laid down in relation to private lunatic asylums. Under the Act of 1890, Section 207, Sub-section (6), the establishing of any new private lunatic asylum is absolutely forbidden. Not only is that so, but no person controlling a private lunatic asylum is allowed to add to the accommodation therein. Notwithstanding that Act, we shall have by this Clause licensed houses set up and run for profit by private individuals, into which persons who are at present certifiable under the existing law will have to be sent. That seems to me an extraordinary proceeding. Allusion has already been made to the fact that there is no provision made for local authorities setting up institutions under this Bill. That of course, has been explained. No financial provision could be introduced in a private Bill.

The next Clause deals with the admission of uncertified persons into the homes. These homes are to be set up for the reception of persons whom it is practically impossible to distinguish from lunatics, persons who are a danger to themselves and to others. Yet they are to be allowed to introduce uncertified patients, who may come and go whenever it seems fit to the people who run the establishment to let them do so. Anyone who knows anything about the control of asylums knows that the mixing of classes of patients in that way would be an absolute mistake and altogether wrong. Under Clause 13, the licensee of a home may discharge feeble-minded patients on giving notice to the Commissioners in Lunacy, but there is no power in the Bill given to the Commissioners in Lunacy to say that patients are not to be discharged. It is optional upon the proprietors of these private institutions run for their own profit to discharge these patients whenever they see fit, and the Commissioners in Lunacy have no authority to say they are unfit to be discharged, and away they go. That, I think, is defeating the object of the Bill. By Clause 15 the burden of visiting and inspecting these homes is placed upon the Commissioners in Lunacy. Anyone who knows anything about the work of the Commissioners in Lunacy knows the extraordinary amount of work which is put upon them, and they are asked by this Bill to deal with work which is practically as large in extent as the duties they already perform. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. Lyttelton) said the setting up of a separate authority meant money, and the Lunacy Commissioners might do the work; but I doubt whether it will be possible for them to do it. The Commissioners in Lunacy report— that the Lunacy and Idiot Acts should be remodelled and embodied in a single Statute, and that all mental defectives should be placed under a central authority to be called 'the Board of Control,' to be formed by a reorganisation and partly by the enlargement of the present Lunacy Commission. We have received today with the Votes the Bill to be introduced by the Home Secretary, and I suppose this Debate will take more or less the nature of an academic discussion, and that this Bill will not go any further. I claim this is a subject which cannot be dealt with by a private Bill. The very nature of the Debate today and the evidence and particulars which have been given justify that view, and especially it cannot be dealt with in a Bill which, as I have endeavoured to show, is very defective. This question is intimately connected, not only with the Lunacy and Idiot Acts, but also with the Poor Law. The question must be considered as a whole. To my mind it is one which ought to be dealt with thoroughly and speedily, and the setting up of legislation on behalf of a certain section of the feeble-minded, already dealt with by existing legislation, and leaving untouched the far larger classes of these unfortunate people, is to my mind a procedure utterly inadequate and one certainly calculated to hinder the object which the promoters of this Bill have in view.


In spite of the long discussion by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) of the question of individual liberty I think there can be no doubt that the general sense of this House is that this question is one which cries for immediate treatment, and that the only point which this House can consider is the proper means to be adopted towards attaining that end. I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme through his essay upon liberty, beyond making one observation, i.e., that if personal and individual liberty means in the social state what he has expressed in this House, we have no right to have either lunatic asylums or prisons. Individual and personal liberty in a civilised country must of necessity be kept within proper limits in a social state, and the long speech the hon. Gentleman made—he being as I understand entirely in favour of the limitation of speeches in this House—was but slightly devoted to the subject of this Bill. When he did touch the Bill he, not having familiarised himself with its contents, in almost every respect misrepresented it. He said that it did not indicate who were the feeble-minded persons against which it was directed. If he had read the Bill he would have been aware that Clause 8 contains three limitations with regard to the persons to be dealt with under the Bill as feeble-minded. They must be persons who are feeble-minded, for whom there is a necessity for further control, and they must also be a source of mischief or injury either to themselves or to society. It may not be put in the form of a definition clause, but at any rate you have here a very clear limiting Clause with regard to the persons whom the Bill proposes to deal with, and it is coupled with various stringent provisions.

The hon. Member similarly spoke of this Bill throughout as if it were a proposal for sending people to gaol. That was, I suppose, a figure of speech. But he repeated it very often, and when he said it was sending people to gaol, he deliberately overlooked the discretion given to doctors who certify people under it, and also the discretion vested in the Lunacy Commissioners as to the length of time people may be detained. Similarly the hon. Member spoke as it the Bill were especially aimed against women, and he particularly instanced a case where women were alone affected, treating it as if it represented the whole application of the Bill. He omitted to mention that the Bill applies equally to feeble-minded men and children. It certainly was unfair for him to speak of it in the way he did. Again, he spoke of it as if it were like every Bill produced on this side of the House is assumed to be—a Bill in favour of the rich against the poor. There is no justification for such a criticism. Is he right in saying that because, a feeble-minded person is taken from his home, unless those responsible are satisfied that proper care is given, is he right in suggesting to this House that it is improper to remove, such a person to a place where proper care and attention is provided? The hon. Member spoke of the Bill as if everybody coming under it would be suffering wrongly. Again, he omitted to state that the onus of proof falls upon the doctor and not on the sufferer. From beginning to end the hon. Member in his observations betrayed ignorance of the provisions of this Bill—an ignorance which did little, credit to one who offered such strong opposition.

I propose to turn to the Bill itself. We are all agreed as to the importance of taking action in this direction. It has been done in the United States of America for over half a century, but it is only in recent years that public opinion has been active in regard to it in this country. Still, a great deal has been done and a great deal is possible to be done, and again I suggest it is unfair to speak of this Bill as one of mere expediency, seeing that it is founded upon the experience not only of this country but of the United States. Instances have been given of how impossible it is to get at the root of this evil either by a continuance of the present system or by the interference of the State. We have heard in many cases of children who have been sent to special schools, and who are supposed to be more or less fitted for the fight with the world when they come out; 3,282 children have been through these special schools, and of these 798, or less than 25 per cent., are today engaged in remunerative employment, and they are making on an average from only 6s. to 8s. a week. Children of this class are not able to compete with the world on equal terms, and the point of this Bill is that, by enabling supervision to be put over them, they will be enabled to do their work more efficiently, to retain it more continuously, and to earn a better wage. That would be one of the results of this measure. It has been suggested that individual liberty is threatened in an unfair way, but concessions are made in this Bill which are not to be found in the Government Bill presented yesterday, and I can tell the Home Secretary, as well as the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, that that Bill by no means meets the difficulty. If every feeble-minded person, under the Government proposal, is to be certified by an Order of the Secretary of State as being feeble-minded, it may be dangerous for hon. Members of this House, when a Conservative Government comes into power, to hold extreme and extravagant views on certain questions. As a matter of fact, individual liberty is largely safeguarded. You have not merely to have feeble-minded conditions. You have, in addition to that, to have the necessity for further control, and, in addition to that, an element of danger to self or the State. Unless these three things concur, no person can be dealt with under the provisions of this Bill.

As to the method by which the end ought to be attained, is it to be by the method of continuing the work that is in progress, by collecting it and supervising it, or is it to be by founding a new Government Department, with new Commissioners and new officials, under the Home Office. You have to bear in mind that the questions involved here are delicate. You have on the one hand, people who are certified as being insane, and who are idiots or imbeciles. On the other hand, you have people who are definitely sane, even to the point of stupidity—because I suppose the person most safe from being certified as insane is the person so stupid that he could not be insane. You have a class in between, and they form the abnormal class, and it will be a very difficult and delicate operation to say in any individual case upon which side of the dividing line that particular case may lie. It is therefore of the utmost importance in dealing with the question of feeble-minded persons that you should avail yourself of all the expert knowledge that is at the public service. Why the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme should object to specialists I, for my part, cannot understand.


I object to being condemned by a specialist.


It would be perhaps more acceptable to the hon. Member to be condemned by somebody who did not know. You cannot do more for people than to get the best possible advice for them. It is not dealing with the question fairly to say that you are condemned by the specialists, for the only thing an honest Government and an honest administration can do is to put at the public service, for the examination of any particular case, the most skilled and most specialised brains of the day.


Under this Bill it is only two medical practitioners.


Two medical practitioners may, under this Bill, make a Report upon which action may be taken. That is equally true of the Lunacy Act which equally deprives a sufferer of personal liberty. When you refer to specialists dealing with the individual liberty of lunatics I would have the hon. Member remember that one judge can do a great deal more than two doctors may do under this Bill, or under the Lunacy Act. When the hon. Member intervened, I was pointing out that when you are dealing with delicate and difficult questions it is important that you should have the most qualified and specialised minds brought to bear upon them. Therefore, I say that this Bill is better than the Government's proposal, because this Bill gives you the benefit of all the medical and special medical experience, and of the experience of the Lunacy Commissioners instead of creating a new Department at the Home Office, where you will not have the benefit of all that special skill. There is this further consideration, that under this Bill you have available an existing Department without incurring the cost of founding a new Department, and without the excuse of engaging a new army of Government officials. If the question was in anything more than an experimental stage, if anybody could speak with certainty as to what should be the proper outcome of what are now merely tentative attempts to arrive at a conclusion, there would be a great deal to be said for the founding of a Central Government Department. At present everybody knows that the question is in an experimental stage, and there is no excuse for founding a large and costly department until we have ascertained what is the proper way of going to work, and what is the treatment to be pursued. It may be that it will be found to be by aggregating, or by segregating, or by treating the persons individually in different surroundings, that we shall be able to do the best for them. There can be no sense in starting a new department at a large cost, and at a great increase in the cost of administration, when you have the opportunity to proceed slowly and upon sound lines to acquire the necessary knowledge of what should be done.

I venture to submit to the good sense of the House that you are, by proceeding upon the lines of this Bill, doing what is most valuable. You are maintaining the voluntary efforts which is now so largely and so generously given on this subject. If you make it a Government question you will be getting rid of your voluntary effort, and of a great deal of good work that is now being done. That good work is quite sufficient, if it is centralised and regularised, to enable us to ascertain upon what lines we should progress in the future. The smaller Bill and not the more ambitious Bill will in the end prove far more useful. This Bill is not an end; it is only intended to enable us to proceed upon lines which will enable us to get evidence as to what is the best course of treatment in individual cases and in classes of cases. It is not so ambitious as to involve any outlay of money; it is only ambitious in its attempt to be useful. When we are spending the amount of public money that we are constantly voting in this House in increasing sums, here you have an opportunity, without putting upon the public any further burden, by regularising and supervising voluntary effort, of ascertaining before you do it that which you may do later when the experimental stage is passed, and when your knowledge is more than it is at present. For these reasons I submit that the method of this Bill is better than the method of the Government's proposal, and that the usefulness of this Bill lies in the fact of its hurrying slowly. You do no good by hurrying fast a question which is still in its experimental stage. You have the advantage of utilising existing media, and preserving voluntary effort, and I venture to say you should give this Bill a Second Reading. The only further observation I would desire to add is, that we do not know and cannot know whether the Government, with the best will in the world, can find time to proceed with the larger measure. It is better to have the smaller measure in case we may want it, and it is better to preserve it for this reason, that when the House comes to consider the larger measure and has to decide whether it will have a new Government Department conducted under the Home Office, it may be that the House will say we had better have kept that smaller and less pretentious Bill, which did not cost anything to the taxpayers, and which had this advantage, that it gave to the country the experience of the Lunacy Commisioners, instead of setting up new Commissioners at the Home Office.


I join with the last speaker in hoping the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill. I quite recognise that it is by no means a perfect or a complete Bill, neither, so far as I have been able to judge, is the Bill which the Government have produced four years after the Royal Commission reported. Neither this Bill nor the Government Bill is complete because neither deals, amongst other things, with the question of mentally defective children. The Act under which mentally defective children are dealt with at present is only a permissive Act which have been adopted in only some parts of the country, with the result that at present only something like 25 per cent, of the children who are believed to be mentally defective are being educated in these special schools. Furthermore no provision, is made either in this Bill or the Government Bill for dealing with the class of imbecile children. That class of children in London is the business of no authority whatever. The Education Committee is unable to deal with them, and unless they are paupers there is no other authority, I believe, which has any interest in them. There are constant cases of clashing by different medical authorities. One doctor says the child is not capable of being educated in a special school, and therefore excludes it. Another doctor representing the Poor Law authority says the child is not an imbecile and therefore cannot be sent to a Poor Law institution for imbecile children. Therefore, neither this Bill nor the Government Bill covers the whole ground which those who are interested in the subject would like to see covered, but, at any rate, there is under this Bill a substantial step forward and we gain something which we have been striving for for a very long time. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but I would rather get the Bill up to a Committee than trust to the somewhat dubious chance in this crowded Session of getting the Government Bill through.

3.0 P.M.

I will tell the House what is the condition of things in London at present. London, I believe, has dealt with the question of mentally defective children more fully, and certainly for a longer time, than has been the case with any other Local Education authority throughout the country. We have a very large number of schools for mentally defective children scattered all over London, in which there are something like 8,000 children. These children are well taught in special small schools, and it is found that a considerable number of them at the end of their time in school are able to take their place in the world and to earn wages in a certain number of cases sufficient even to maintain themselves. But this is absolutely certain, that of all these children who pass through London special schools certainly 30 per cent, and probably more will never be fit to take their place in the battle of life and will inevitably, unless they are looked after afterwards, drift into the ranks of the unemployables and will fill our gaols, our workhouses, and our inebriate asylums. We have, of course, experience on the London County Council of the work of inebriate asylums and lunatic asylums, and we can bring evidence to show that quite a large proportion, certainly running up to 60 per cent, or 70 per cent., of the inmates of our reformatories and a large percentage of the inmates of our lunatic asylums are drawn from the class of mentally defectives, the class which, if the schools had existed, would have been in a mentally defective schools and which certainly ought to have been taken in hand and put under custodial treatment practically for the rest of their lives. I welcome the Bill, because it gives us a chance of carrying on the work which we are doing in our special schools. At present, a great deal of the work is wasted, because, when the child reaches the age of sixteen we have no further control over it. It goes into the world and it has to meet its fate there. I believe one of the great reasons why more local authorities have not adopted the Act for the education of mentally defective children is the feeling they have of absolutely hopelessness because they have to part with the children at the age of sixteen and they can do nothing further for them after that time. I believe far more local authorities would adopt the Act and would separate their mentally defective children if they knew there was some real provision being made for them when they reach the age of sixteen. For that reason, because for the first time we see some chance of some provision of that kind, I hope most sincerely that the House will pass the measure, knocking it about in Committee as much as it thinks fit, but, at any rate, pass it and give it a chance, and keep it there if necessary till the Government Bill comes up. If the Government Bill should not come up, the measure should be proceeded with and passed into law at the earliest possible moment.


My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Norman Craig) told us that this Bill would not add any cost to the already heavy burden of the taxpayer, bus if its provisions are carried out it must add very heavily to the already heavy burdens of the ratepayer. It does not matter to me whether money is taken out of my pocket by the tax-gatherer or by the rate-collector so long as it goes out of my pocket. With regard to the merits of the scheme, there can be no doubt that some measure of this sort is required; but the Royal Commission, which sat in 1904, and reported in 1908, and produced this enormous bulky volume, must have dealt with a subject which requires some greater consideration than that which is given on a Friday afternoon to a private Members' Bill. I do not doubt that my hon. Friend who brought in the measure was actuated by the very best intentions, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and because the Bill is brought in with the good intentions it by no means follows that it deserves the consideration of this House. I think this problem should be dealt with by the Government of the day in a proper manner. It should not be brought forward in the middle of a Session, which is being devoted to other great measures, and it should be given practically, if not altogether, almost a Session to itself. Why is it that we have suddenly received a Bill this morning from the Government? I think my hon. Friend can claim to have stirred the Government up to the point at which they were obliged to take some action. This Commission commenced sitting eight years ago, and if my information is not incorrect, as long ago as 1908, the then Home Secretary said he would introduce a Bill that Session. Time has gone on, but nothing has happened in regard to this question. Our time has been taken up with measures which a great many hon. Members on the Government side do not approve of, and which nobody on this side approves of, and really serious problems of this sort which require great and careful consideration from the Government and the House as a whole, are pushed on one side and left to be dealt with by capable and considerate Gentlemen like my hon. Friend, but Gentlemen who have not the opportunity of drawing Bills so well as the Government of the day has.

I must say I am not very much enamoured of this Bill I think the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) was really criticised by my hon. and learned Friend below the Gangway, but I do think that the subject deserves some consideration, because while we have an admitted evil to deal with, we must be careful in dealing with it not to create another evil. When the hon. Member opposite alluded to a book written by Mayne Reid which he called "Hard Cash," but which was "Never too late to Mend," written by Charles Reade, those of us who read that book when we were younger, will remember the great sensation it made at the time, and the undefined terror which spread over the whole country when people thought that they might be incarcerated in asylums if two doctors and a magistrate certified that they were insane. Therefore, in attempting to deal with the evil, the existence of which I do not attempt to deny, we must be careful that we do not interfere with the liberty of the subject, which I must say is very near to my heart. The hon. Member for New-castle-under-Lyme stated that the Bill does not apply to Scotland and Ireland, and he pointed out that the name of my hon. Friend the Member for the Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) was on the Bill. He did not deal further with that question, but I should like to ask my hon. Friend why, in his great desire to benefit mankind and to preserve the world from all the great evils so graphically described he left Scotland out. As to Ireland, he might say, perhaps, he is a believer in the future of the Home Rule Bill. I am not, and I do not believe it will eventually become law, but that can be the only reason why he has left out Ireland. At the beginning of the Debate an hon. and learned Friend of mine, a prominent Ulster Member, applauded the eloquent speech made by my hon. Friend who introduced the Bill. I was going to ask him why Ireland was omitted, but my hon. Friend the Irish Member, having listened to the speech of my hon. Friend who introduced the Bill, quitted this scene, and there are now only two Irish Members below the Gangway. I would ask them why Ireland is omitted from the Bill if it is the excellent measure my hon. Friend says it is. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are no feeble-minded in Ireland."] My hon. Friend says there are no feeble-minded people in Ireland. I do not agree with him, far from it. I should say that there are not many, perhaps, in England, but in other places, and especially Wales, there are a great many. Scotland is also excluded, but why I do not know. I find from the Report of the Royal Commission that Scotland is specially dealt with, and that various statistics are given with regard to the number of feeble-minded people there. I want to point out that there is no definition whatever in the Bill of what is a feeble-minded person, and in spite of what my hon. Friend said, I persist in that statement. Clause 8, to which he alluded, does not in any way define what is a feeble-minded person. It says:— Any stipendiary magistrate or justice of the peace may.… I am a justice of the peace myself, and I have no wish to decry that excellent body, but, I am informed by hon Members opposite—and I always attach great importance to their statement—that there are a large number of justices of the peace who are always appointed for political reasons. Is a person who is appointed for political reasons a proper person to whom we should entrust the liberty of the subject? I say, no, certainly not. I do not quarrel with the proposal of the stipendiary magistrate, but I say that justices of the peace, who have perhaps for political reasons increased enormously in the last five or six years, are not the people to whom we should entrust this very great power. It may be said, "You are already doing it in the case of lunatics." I venture to say that two wrongs do not make a right. If we have a bad precedent, that is no reason why we should continue It. The case of lunatics is very different, because one can easily ascertain whether a person is a lunatic or not, but it is beyond the bounds of possibility to determine who is feeble-minded and who is not. Having dealt with that, I come to the further provision of the Clause, which says:— …provided that the medical practitioners shall have furnished certificates in writing as set out in the First Schedule of this Act.… Surely there ought to be some particular selection of medical gentlemen to fulfil this very onerous duty. I find that the Recommendation 36 in the Report of the Royal Commission says:— That in order that there may be a certifying medical practitioner at hand in different parts of the county or county borough, the committee divide the area of the county or county borough into such districts as they may deem suitable, and that the council of the county or county borough, on the recommendation of the committee and subject to the approval of the Board of Control, appoint in each of these districts one or more qualified men to act on behalf of the committee as certifying medical practitioners, and that such certifying medical practitioner be paid by the council by fee for each case examined by him.… That shows that the necessity of having a, certain number of certifying medical practitioners was in the mind of the Members of the Royal Commission, and I think everyone in the House will say that it is absolutely necessary. It would be very easy for a doctor with the best intentions in the world to make a mistake as to whether a man or woman was or was not feeble-minded, because in these cases we must not blind our eyes to the fact that doctors are no more perfect than other human beings. They may possibly do things which they ought not. Everyone knows that it is not a difficult thing to get a, medical certificate from a doctor, and a doctor may give a certificate that a person is feeble-minded when he is nothing of the sort. If he is an ordinary practitioner and he has given it in error, nothing will happen him, and it would be very difficult to prove that he did it in bad faith, but if he is a certificated practitioner, as recommended in this Report, and he did that sort of thing once or twice it is plain that he would be removed from that position. Therefore there would be a great check on that doctor to prevent him from giving that certificate which he ought not to give. Again, there is a very serious omission in the provisions of the Bill. The Bill goes on to say, For the purpose of this Section application may be made by the following persons who shall give their information upon oath (1) a parent, guardian or any relative who has attained the age of twenty-one years. Why any relative? The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme has said that this Bill was directed mainly to the cases of rich persons. I do not know that I quite agree with that, but no doubt it would affect rich persons, and it would put the power into the hands of evil-disposed people of whom there are a great number, I am sorry to say, in the world, who are desirous of getting rid of some person whose property they wish to get, with the connivance of a couple of doctors and a justice of the peace, appointed for political reasons, to put this unfortunate person away in one of these private asylums, but as if that was not enough it goes on to say, (2) Any responsible person above the age of twenty-one years. Why should it give a power to someone who is not connected by blood relationship with the unfortunate person who is a little feeble-minded? Anyone might take action. Even the policeman at the door might file information against the hon. Member below the gangway on the ground that he was feeble-minded, I am sure that my hon. Friend must see the objection to this Sub-section. There is no definition of what is meant by feeble-minded. I said this outside to my hon. Friend, and he said it was a person who can earn his living under favourable circumstances but cannot compete with his fellows. That definition is not in the Bill, but if it was that it would apply to 900 people out of a thousand. I have been some years in business, and I have met a great number of people, probably myself would be included, who cannot compete under favourable circumstances with their fellows. There are many examples in this House. How many of us have been unable to reach the bench opposite to which we have all aspired. And why? Because we cannot compete under favourable circumstances with our competitors. But that is no reason why we should be taken before two doctors and a justice of the peace and put away for a great number of years in an asylum. Clause 8 alludes to the Schedule which gives the medical certificate:— I further certify that I have formed this opinion on the following grounds: (a) Evidence of feeble-mindedness; (b) evidence of the absence of proper care and control; and (c) evidence of being a source of injury and mischief to himself or others. That is a most dangerous definition. Take paragraph (c). I will apply a concrete case. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has lately passed an Insurance Act. A great number of people on this side of the House, including most of the doctors, think that that is an injury to the country, and a great number of hon. Members opposite think that he has done harm to himself, inasmuch as he has lost a large number of votes in the country. Therefore it would be perfectly easy for any politician on this side, with the aid of the doctors, who, I am sure, would not be loth to point out the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as having inflicted injury on the country and done mischief to himself, and they would bring him before a justice of the peace— say myself—and I would give him two years. An hon. Member says that that is an argument for the Bill, but I do not desire to do any injury to my opponents; and it is because I desire to save hon. Gentlemen opposite from what I am afraid will be very detrimental to them that, while I admit my hon. Friend is actuated by a good motive and has done a useful service in bringing the subject before the House, yet the Bill, though it might get a Second Reading, had better go no further. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme did not move the rejection of the measure, and I do not intend to vote against it. One very good reason is that if it gets a Second Reading it will not get any further, and therefore it really does not very much matter whether we have a Second Reading or not, but I do think that this House, now that the subject is brought before us, should make up its mind as to what it is going to do, and having made up its mind that some legislation is necessary I would ask hon. Members opposite to put a little pressure on their own Government to bring forward some measure. One year does not matter. We have waited a great many years for it. Let us in the next Session do a few useful things for once. Let us show the country that we are capable of legislating in matters which will be really useful to the country and do some good. Let us drop for the moment all these questions of dismemberment of the Empire and spoliation of the Church, which are merely brought forward to get a few votes, and let us seriously devote ourselves to the welfare of our country and of our fellow-countrymen.


I am at this, moment chairman of the special schools, sub-committee of the London County Council. I have been on that sub-committee for over ten years, and I had an opportunity of asking Lord Gladstone, who was then Home Secretary, whether he would bring in a measure which I believe has now been placed on the Table, and he promised that he would do it at once. Some little time has elapsed since then, and this Bill has the credit of having brought on to the Table—I presume it is on the Table—from its pigeon hole, the measure which was promised, and we all look forward to see what it proposes. As far as this particular Bill is concerned, I am not quite sure how much it would do, but it is a step in the right direction, and one does not like to spoil a step in the right direction however short it may be. This measure has no compulsion in its provisions. When one sees the size of the problem, and how it concerns society, one realises, or at any rate, I for my part feel, that the voluntary efforts of the charitable can scarcely be expected to deal with the problem. It is estimated by the officials of the Special Schools Department of the London County Council that about one-third of the children who leave those schools will not be able to fend for themselves properly without further assistance in after life. Out of 2,700 children who left last year there are 810 in this position, and if we assume that 800 children are the yearly output, in London alone, of mentally deficient children who require further assistance, it will be seen that it does not seem possible to raise sufficient every year by voluntary contributions to deal with the whole problem or even a part of the problem. When one realises that besides those who are under the purview of the Education Committee of the London County Council, there are at this moment imbecile and non-eligible children outside the schools, even a greater problem than the problem of the mentally deficient who can partly support themselves presents itself.

Yet there is no machinery at present, and this Bill does not propose any such machinery, by which those children can be brought under proper control. It seems to me that we sadly want some small amendment, so that the doctors who deal with those cases shall have some previous experience, and shall be certified to that effect by the London County Council, or by some other authority. As far as this Bill is concerned, it does not deal with the cases that we really want help for. At this moment the paupers are all right; we have a certain amount of control over them. This Bill might help in some small degree to prevent the undesirable pauper man as well as undesirable pauper woman from leaving the workhouse when he or she, in the opinion of the proper authority, is unable to support himself or herself. It might be of some assistance in regard to those who can afford to look after the children, who are unable to support themselves by want of mental capacity because experience shows us that the doctors have the greatest difficulty in those cases where the children are not so poor that they are paupers, and whose parents are well enough off to be able to afford protection for their offspring. But these are cases which this Bill apparently does not practically touch. It may appear a small matter, by encouraging public subscriptions to maintain institutions to which such children might be sent, and as one hon Member suggested, it would be very useful to have experience of this sort; but I maintain that we have got sufficient experience already to deal with these problems in a proper and thorough manner. I think enough has been said to show that the greatest danger is, of course, with the girls who are mentally deficient. But it is not only the girls. Why should consideration be entirely given to the girls? There are just as many boys, if not more, who want proper care and control. Why should they ever be pauper inmates of our workhouses, with all the suffering which follows, while the boards of guardians are making up their mind by which authority they ought to be dealt with?

This Bill does not seem to me to deal at all with the problem of the children who may be considered imbecile; it deals with persons over sixteen. Unfortunately, in regard to the special school establishments we know that there is a large number of children, some hundreds in many cases every year, whom we have to exclude from those schools, besides the imbeciles who are not in schools at all. A great many of the children are cases of arrested development. Some children go on progressing in development more slowly than others, and when they eventually reach the limit of their development they have no use for further education. What is to happen to them? Surely they ought to be allowed to enter easily into the institutions this Bill proposes to set up. The age limit of sixteen seems arbitrary; there should be some means of passing the children along under proper care. Reference has been made to the magnitude of this problem, and it certainly is great from the financial point of view. At this moment the London County Council are spending on special schools alone £65,000 a year. If you take 30 per cent, of that it works out at very nearly £20,000 a year—£19,500—which I believe is being wasted because the children cannot be kept under proper control after they leave the school. When they have arrived at school age, and have advanced to a very considerable extent in knowledge, they are debarred from getting proper remunerative employment. They are incapable of getting proper and permanent employment; we do all we can to get them employment, but, alas! a large proportion, about one - third, actually cannot benefit by the employment that is found. Surely those children ought to be passed along, otherwise we are wasting the money we are now spending. From an economic point of view we have to solve the problem, and we hope for the Government's sanction, if not compulsion, for the completion of that problem. The whole matter does not rest even with the feeble-minded. We have two other classes very closely allied to the mentally defective. We have the epileptics, which we have at present excluded from our schools, but we know that there are in London alone 209 of those. Those, too, and more especially the epileptics, want careful treatment because it has been suggested, and I believe it is a fact, that a great many of those cases can be cured by proper treatment, but they must be treated in a proper manner. We are dealing with that problem as far as school work is concerned, and we are trying to find a site whereon to have a school to deal with those 200 children. The protection we can afford them is up to the age of sixteen. Surely, though in many cases they want protection right throughout their lives, or until they have become normal, and can join the normal population, if they do become normal.

I hope the Home Secretary in his Bill proposes to deal with that question. Besides those we have in the purview of the special school sub-committee all the morally defective children who come before the police courts. Surely they are to have protection not only for themselves but for the community at large. Many of them have quite excellent intellects in other matters, and that is a class we want to see if possible segregated from the community as mercifully and as kindly as we can. From all the evidence that has been brought before those who are working in connection with this matter it seems obvious that those defects—namely of the mentally deficient, the morally deficient, and the epileptic, are entirely inherited. It recurs over and over again where it has once appeared. Under those circumstances it seems to me to be the duty to the future generation to do something to prevent those children from freely reproducing their species in future, whether they are boys or girls. The problem is one which must be dealt with, and that soon, for otherwise it is growing from day to day. I do not know whether this Bill should be read a second time. I think on the whole it has done its best endeavour in inducing the Government to bring forward a Bill which is not going to catch votes in the country or in the House, but which is one which is absolutely necessary for the life of the community.


I do not think we would have heard the remarks which the hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) made if he had, what I said some years ago every Member of Parliament ought to have, namely, five years' experience as a member of a Poor Law board of guardians. And we would not either have heard some of the other speeches, nor the extraordinary statements made by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. We have heard talk about the liberty of the subject and talk about persons over twenty-one being allowed to give information against those whom they think are mentally deficient. You would have had plenty of information on the subject if you had five years' experience at the boards of guardians or, say, when a mentally deficient person came to your door thus: "Are you Mr. Crooks?" "Yes." "My father is rob- bing me of millions." "How is that?" "I do not know. That is what I have come to ask you." In the Lobby of this House the other day a mentally deficient person arrived with a revolver and asked for Mr. Crooks. He could not find him, and he shoots up to the roof. I think it is quite as well it was so. If you had had some of the rules laid down in this Bill that man would not have been allowed to cut his poor wife's throat before he had been detained. What about the liberty of the subject? Yesterday afternoon another poor creature came along to claim acquaintance with me in the precincts of this House. She came to solemnly tell me that they had arranged to blow up the Houses of Parliament. She said, "I have been down to Scotland Yard to tell them about it, but they will not give me anything." Would you say that a poor creature like that ought to be taken charge of. We hear of liberty of the subject. Liberty of what? Is it liberty to corrupt and pollute the town and countryside by every vicious man and woman who goes there. We talk of liberty of the subject, and you would think that people were running about trying to get you into a lunatic asylum for the fun of having you there. We have got past that. It would be very difficult for the hon. Member for the City of London to find any two justices of the peace and doctors to certify those insane who were not insane. They would not do so, and you could not find them; I have been through a good deal of this, and I am quite willing to trust myself even in the hands of the hon. Member opposite.

As to the mentally deficient children, you have heard from the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken what efforts are being made to save them. The silly little children in the street is gradually disappearing, and you are taking charge of them whether the father or mother looks after them or not. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Walter Long), when he was President of the Local Government Board, was confronted with this very difficult problem. The House will remember that the Poor Law Schools Commission set up an authority, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, to deal with three or four classes of children and amongst them the mentally deficient. They founded a few homes, and sent children to them, and from there they went to the county council or Board of Education special schools. They have done wonders with those mentally deficient children—the child who was not bad enough to be certified and who could be pushed about and chased in the streets by bad boys and girls. There is talk about the liberty of the subject. I sometimes feel inclined to prosecute the fathers and mothers of those children for not allowing them to be cared for, and instead of that allowing them to be pushed and chased about the streets. When you have taken those mentally deficient children up to the age of sixteen, what an awful thing it is to turn those children out when they reach that age. You have made them useful to an extent. I do not know how much the House really knows, but I know some of those children who after they are there three years were enabled to go and spend a sixpence and keep a record and bring back the right change. To do that we had to get an order of the Local Government Board to say that they might be allowed to have sixpence for buying a bundle of wood, a pennyworth of sugar, a pennyworth of tea, a bundle of rhubarb, and bring back the right change. Youngsters have developed to that extent, and they have actually some idea of physical drill. But the law said that when the child was sixteen he had to go back to his wretched home or to the workhouse. So a number of ladies in London came down to see us about it. They said, "You agree what a wicked thing it is, after having had these children for so long, to send them back again." What happened? We decided to ask the Local Government Board to allow us to continue the control of these children after they were sixteen. We were at once met with the old kind of argument that you get from the City of London: "Do you want to keep them until they get old age pensions, and then send them out?" All sorts of fun was made because we wished to continue the control. The Local Government Board in its wisdom, more or less, said, "This is interfering with the liberty of the subject; we cannot give you permission." We went in deputation to the Local Government Board, and the right hon. Member for the Strand (Mr. W. Long) said, "Supposing after these children are sixteen the parents come along and demand the children, what will you do then." We said, "We shall let them go, but no sensible mother or father will demand them." Nor have they, by the way. The Lunacy Commissioners could under this Bill release anyone on condition that they would be properly looked after. To talk about permanent imprisonment is all rubbish. The result of our interview was that we got an order to continue the control of the children until they were twenty-one, and that as far as I know is still in existence. So that you have extended the age from six teen to twenty-one.

I have taken part, in discussions in this House on the unemployable; I have taken Members in authority on both sides and shown them 300 or 400 men not one of whom would be privately employed by any person for anything at all, not even for their keep. These were formerly mentally defective children who had been allowed to drift about the world, and to become absolutely useless. There is only one fitting description; they are almost like human vermin. They crawl about, doing absolutely nothing, except polluting and corrupting everything they touch. We talk about the liberty of the subject. What nonsense! What waste of words! We ask that you should take these people and have proper control over them, because they have no control over themselves. They are verminous, dirty, with no idea of washing or cleansing themselves. Yet they are human beings, and you could, under proper control, so far improve them that they could be put to some employment, not enough to keep them—I never expect that—but sufficient to maintain themselves partly, and to give them a human existence which they have not got now. Above everything else, you would stop the supply of these children—a very important thing. If this were smallpox you would be tumbling over one another to pass a law to vaccinate them or to isolate them. The cry would be, "Do anything, but do not let them run up against us." We have heard something about the poor mentally deficient people. You have a right to take control over them. You who have the strength and opportunity have the obligation to do it for them. Live up to this obligation. Do not be terrorised by talk about the liberty of the subject; it is altogether outside the question. There are a multitude of poor, helpless creatures whom we ask you to help. I agree that if the Government would do this it would be better than the present Bill. If they would. But will they? We get the old stereotyped answer, "If time permit."

In the meantime you go on breeding these people. A mother came to my door and cried for an hour, asking me to sign a paper to the effect that she was a fit and proper person to have her daughter home. She threatened suicide if I did not sign it. I made up my mind that that would not be at all a bad job, so I would not sign the paper. But she got the child home. What was the result? She fell a victim to the biggest villain in the street and went away to the workhouse again. Would it not have been a thousand times better to have kept the child and defied the mother? The liberty of the subject in that case was the liberty of a selfish woman to the detriment and ruin of her child. Let us have the courage of our convictions and give a Second Reading to this Bill. Let us say to the Government, "Your Bill is a bit too big; you cannot get it through." They say, "You want money." Yes, but the Government have £6,000,000. Let them bring in a Supplementary Estimate giving us something to go on with while we are waiting for them. You are dealing with human beings and human life. It is not so much the question of money that worries me; it is the danger to the community. It is for poor, suffering humanity that I put in this plea. As to the almost saintly people who have taken upon themselves the responsibility for the mentally deficient, the morally deficient, and the epileptic, no words that could fall from my lips would ever do justice to the self-sacrificing efforts they have made. We ask you to give a Second Reading to this Bill. We have had a very good Debate. The dangers have been pointed out to you. Now that you know the dangers you cannot plead "Not guilty" if you do not help us.


All connected with the administration of the Poor Law and all social reformers have for a very long time realised the necessity of securing better treatment for the feeble-minded. I am President of the Poor Law Association for England and Wales, with which are affiliated 540 boards of guardians. This question has occupied more anxious consideration than any other affecting the administration of the Poor Law. I am extremely glad that the matter has been raised today. We know that many of these afflicted ones are in workhouses, with no curative treatment being applied to them. They cause considerable irritation and annoyance to other inmates of those institutions, but they are not fit cases for a lunatic asylum. They have just so much sensibility and reason that association with lunatics would be positively cruel to them. Therefore it is of the first importance that some steps should be taken to provide institutions where these poor creatures could be dealt with considerately and carefully. While we are greatly indebted to hon. Members who have brought in this Bill, I do not think the measure goes sufficiently far to deal with the question. It deals rigidly with the matter of segregation. That may be a necessary element in the treatment of these cases, but I think there ought to be side by side with it some curative treatment as well. It is most important that we should take these feeble-minded children in their earliest stages, and try to develop their mental capabilities in order, if possible by treatment, to make them useful members of society. I think the Bill in question is insufficient because it is based upon the voluntary principle. I know the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London disagrees with that, but I venture to say that we could not provide a sufficient remedy on the voluntary principle. We have had some experience of this matter in the county of Devonshire. We took steps to persuade the guardians of one union to give up an institution for this purpose, placing the few inmates in the adjacent workhouse. A resolution was carried agreeing to that arrangement, but when the neighbouring town heard of the decision of the board of guardians an agitation was at once raised against the conversion of the institution for the object I have named, and the board had to rescind their resolution.

The movement in the four Western counties then took place on the voluntary principle; and I am glad to know it is still progressing. Except, however, as being of considerable value in bringing before the public the necessity of a movement of this kind, I am afraid any voluntary action will be insufficient. We know the good of voluntary effort. We have seen its fruits in the provision of sanatoria for consumptives. We started to provide sanatoria, quite insufficient to deal with the gravity of the disease, but still sufficient to pave the way for the introduction under the Insurance Act of a national scheme. From that point of view I agree that the Bill of my hon. Friend is doing great service for this cause. In fact, without questioning the motives of the Government, I think the introduction of this Bill may at least hasten the Government in bringing in their Bill to deal with this question. Whether that be so or not—I have not had the opportunity of reading the Bill of the Government—I do feel that whether it be by a private Bill or by a Bill introduced by the Government this is one of the most important questions we can possibly have under our consideration. I do hope that provision will be made, not only for segregation, but especially for curative treatment side by side with segregation. Therefore I cannot vote against the Bill, because I think it has rendered good service. At the same time it is altogether, I submit, insufficient to deal effectively with the question. The case of the feeble-minded is a national responsibility, and ought to be dealt with by the State, and the cost of the necessary institutions and treatment should be chiefly defrayed out of the National Exchequer. While, as an administrator of Poor Law for thirty years, thanking my hon. Friend for bringing in this Bill and acknowledging the great service that he has rendered thereby, I venture to suggest that there is a growing necessity for dealing with this important question, and I hope that a Government Bill will be far-reaching in its consequences.

4.0 P.M.


I very much regret that this Bill should not have received the support which I believe we are entitled to expect from the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, because if he will look into the subject he will realise that among the objects of this Bill is a desire to reduce public expenditure. That, to a very considerable extent, I am sure, ought to appeal to the hon. Baronet. The hon. Baronet may, perhaps, have been here when the hon. Member who introduced this Bill pointed out to the House that a very large proportion of the inmates of our workhouses, prisons, the tramps on the road, more than half of the inebriates, and, above all, the girls who are in rescue homes are feeble-minded. Looked at only from the point of view of public economy, I am satisfied that this Bill would bring about a very considerable saving. Then, too, I am certain it is the worst possible economy, as a Welsh Member pointed out, that we should spend double the amount that we are spending on normal children to educate these unfortunate folk up to the age of sixteen, and then turn them adrift. I could give the hon. Baronet an instance which, I am sure, will appeal even to him, where one defective mother produced ten children, of whom only one is alive and normal. The consequence is that no less than six different public and semi-public officials have been in constant attendance upon that household: the sanitary inspector, health visitor, school attendance officer, school nurse, relieving officer, and the officer for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The whole result of that expenditure of time and money is that the whole family is dirty, badly-clad, neglected, and verminous. Surely that is a sufficient condemnation of the neglect that is going on at the present time. Therefore I think we may claim that the hon. Baronet may very well support this Bill.


I am all in favour of economy, but I never heard a Bill recommended to this House that has not been advocated on the ground that it would effect economy.

Mr. W. REA

Very well, perhaps as the hon. Baronet is not prepared to support the Bill on those lines, I may be able to convince him that the other line with which he has, somewhat to the astonishment of the House, associated himself with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, is also equally fallacious. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme in being able to find references in a Eugenics Bill of Mr. Tom Mann and land values. The hon. Member raised objections which really would apply to any Bill which it is possible to bring forward in any civilised community at all. He objects to compulsion of any sort on the ground that it is unjust to the individual, and he says that he is always prepared to fight against it. If that were true we ought to put nobody into prison at all, and the whole community would fall into anarchy. Perhaps I may appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme and ask him whether there is any advantage to liberty in allowing these unfortunate young women to be brought up in special schools and then to be thrown on the world with the absolute certainty that they will come to grief, and turn up year after year in the workhouse to produce their like, and to perpetuate the evil? Is there any advancement in the race by the maintenance of a liberty of that sort? Is it not kindness to this enormous number of young women that they should be put under control and prevented from perpetuating this horrible fester on the human race. It should not be understood that we suggest that these people are criminally-minded. Most of them are only slightly different from the normal in the beginning, but they are always the last to be employed and the first to be thrown out of work. They are squeezed out by the pressure of modern civilisation, and yet, although only slightly different from the normal, there is no practical difficulty, in spite of what hon. Members opposed to this Bill may say, in diagnosing their case. And one of the reasons why there is no definition in the Bill is that it has been found from experience that definitions only create difficulty, while there is never any trouble in diagnosing and certifying the real case. It is of the utmost importance to the future of this race that we should deal with this question promptly, because statistics prove that those feeble-minded cases are not only heredity, but are heredity with increasing intensity, and that those people propagate and multiply more rapidly than normal members of the community. We have arrived at the position where civilisation increases the increase of those folk who otherwise would not exist, and it is the duty of civilisation that has produced the evil to see an end is put to it, and that before very long.

Therefore I welcome with open arms the Bill the Home Secretary has produced. I wish we had an opportunity of studying it a little more closely before today's discussion. We shall be able to accept it as a substitute, and a vastly superior substitute, for this Bill; but, nevertheless, I urge the House to allow this Bill to go to a Committee upstairs. We all know that accidents may happen to Government Bills, especially when the hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) takes such an interest in them, and, as we have been using nautical expressions today, I should be glad if this Bill were attached as a lifeboat to the battleship of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to save a few lives if by any chance this year the Government Bill should not get through. I ask the Government to accept this Bill as a small instalment in order to deal with a serious problem, and to send it to a Committee upstairs, so that if by any misfortune the Bill of my right hon. Friend does not get through this Session this Bill would help to do a great deal for the unfortunate people for whom we have done so little in the past.


Having heard this Debate and read part of the evidence given before the Royal Commission I have come to the conclusion, and I think a great number of Members have arrived at the same conclusion, that this is a matter upon which legislation is very much overdue. The Report of the Royal Commission was issued in 1908. It shows that 149,628 people are mentally defective in this country apart from those who are certified lunatics. We have got therefore a vast class living upon the borderland between sanity and insanity, who, I submit are a positive danger to the community at large. I am not in the least impressed by the arguments of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Wedgwood) or by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) to the effect that this Bill involves interference with the liberty of the subject. When the good of the community demands it, it is right there should be interference with the liberty of the subject; that is the only reason upon which such interference can be grounded and when that exists it is no answer at all to say that to obviate the danger you are obliged to interfere with the liberty of the subject. This class of people, I think, almost by common consent, must be admitted to be a danger to the State at large. They wander about uncared for on the borderland between sanity and insanity, and often crossing the border. How often do you hear of a horrible crime and find that it has been committed by a person who has been for years tottering on the borderland of insanity. Mental diseases are elusive to a degree, and one of their main features is that suddenly a criminal instinct is developed in the mind of a partially sane man, and a crime is committed which it is no use punishing in a criminal form. I am not impressed by the suggested danger that some perfectly sane people might be incarcerated under this Act in some tragic conspiracy between doctors and others interested. Such things exist largely in the realm of fiction, but they do not exist in real life. The difficulty is to get the doctor to certify at all. It is not that the doctor is ready to conspire with some magistrate. The real difficulty is to get the doctors to act, because they are liable to have actions brought against them. I want shortly to point out what has not yet been referred to, and that is that there is no part of this Bill which ought to meet with the approval of this House more readily than that part which gives to those who have to administer the criminal law the power to send people coining before them to institutions of this kind. Those who have had experience of the administration of the criminal law, know that one of the greatest difficulties we have to meet, is how to deal with people who are mentally defective and weak-minded, and yet are not actually insane.

It happens over and over again that you have a wretched man brought before the court accused of some more or less trifling offence, often an attempt to commit suicide, and you try to find out what is the cause, and what his life has been in the past. You send for the prison doctor, which very often is the doctor from the infirmary, and you are told that the man is mentally weak, that he is wanting in prudence, and without being insane he is one of those people on the borderland whom it is difficult to hold responsible for their actions, and yet it would not be just to hold them irresponsible. If the man is insane you can deal with him; if the Court finds that he is incapable of pleading or understanding the proceedings, or if you find that he is incapable of understanding the charge you have power to deal with him, but with regard to this middle class you have no power to deal with them at all, and time after time you are met with the dreary necessity of sentencing some poor wretched creature to a term of imprisonment in the certainty that when he comes out of prison he will commit again the offence for which he has been sentenced. There is no alternative. There is no place in which you can put the man. There is nowhere at all he can be sent; and, after a number of years' experience of the administration of the law, I regard this Bill in that respect at any rate as a most useful measure. I am sure this power will be welcomed by all those who have the interest of the administration of the criminal law in this country at heart. A great deal has been said to the effect that this is a private Bill; and the Government have been delivered, certainly not prematurely, but possibly somewhat unexpectedly, of a Bill, which is the infant we are to take charge of instead of this private Bill. My experience in this House is not very long, but such as it is it has taught me to take advantage of what you have got instead of hoping for things you may get in the future. Here is a Bill, and, if it passes its Second Reading, there is a reasonable hope the Government will take it up and adapt it and alter it in such a way as to fall in with their own Bill. At any rate, we shall have got a step forward and be no longer liable to the charge that we have altogether ignored the Report of the Royal Commission which sat for four years. I venture to hope this Bill will be given a Second Reading. I think there are one or two alterations which should be made in Committee. It requires strengthening, and, particularly, I should like to see it extended in the direction the Government Bill takes of dealing with the question of intermarriage between the mentally affected, or the semi-mentally affected. I hope, in the course of time, it may be extended so as to deal with the danger at its source. Prevention is better than cure. I also hope power will be given to attempt curative treatment. When that is done, I think this will be a thoroughly good Bill; and, in the hope that alterations of that kind will be made, I shall certainly vote for the Second Reading.


The difficulty with which we are faced is almost a permanent one in the case of this House. We are dealing with a belated problem, where action ought to have been taken years ago, and no blame rests on the Government for that. It rests on the congested state of Parliament and upon our inability to keep pace with the needs of the day, or even to overtake arrears. It is quite true this question was investigated by the Royal Commission which reported in 1908. The Government promised in 1908 something would be done. Again in 1910 they declared it was their earnest desire to contribute what they could towards the solution of this important and urgent problem. I do not think anyone who knows the state of public business can really blame anything more than the system under which we try to do too much in this House, and in which we combine the Imperial concerns of a great Empire with the multifarious concerns of a nation. Now we are face to face with a difficulty, and everybody sees something ought to be done. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) acknowledged something ought to be done, though he was not quite certain this was the right Bill. I am bound to say under those circumstances it would seem to me to be stultifying ourselves if we refused the Second Reading of the Bill, or if we refused to send it to a Committee. I should hope one great advantage of this discussion has been that it has to a very large extent cleared the ground and removed the necessity for saying a good many things when the Government Bill comes on for Second Reading. There is no party division on this point. Such opposition as has come to the Bill has come from this side of the House. I hope that that ideal state of affairs may prevail when the Government Bill comes forward. Criticism of detail is, of course, inevitable, but there is really no difference of opinion on the main question. There is the objection on the ground of liberty. I will not take up time by restating the case on that point, but if it were necessary to deal more with the cry of the liberty of the subject I think I would assure the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme that at the present time there is ample power to trample on the liberty of the subject just as much as would be provided if this Bill were passed. The hon. Member's right course would be to abolish the Lunacy Acts, because if it is to be imagined that every judicial authority is to act without common sense, and that any doctor will give a medical certificate on any evidence that may be presented, then the position of the feeble-minded is just as bad in that respect as the position of those supposed to be insane. In reality all the dangers conjured up by the hon. Member as arising under this Bill exist at the present moment. There is no more danger under this Bill than there is under existing Acts, and everybody knows that the existing law works perfectly well in this respect.

But there was a significant point made by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, and it was his really unfair description of this Bill as a measure for sending people to prison. That is not the idea of this Bill. It is not that we are trying to oppress the unfortunate victims of mental infirmity in the interests of society. This But is really an attempt to give them that care and protection which they do not enjoy at present: it is not only for the sake of society, but for their own sake, that this care and protection are provided. The hon. Member suggested that people were being sentenced to lifelong imprisonment with all the associations of crime, penal treatment, and punishment. But that certainly is not the idea upon which this legislation proceeds. We have been guilty of neglecting these unfortunate people in the past. We have far too often branded them with the stigma of pauperism or criminality when we should have given them sympathetic treatment in view of the unfortunate mental defect from which they suffered.

Then I come to the matter of finance. This question constitutes a sufficiently expensive burden to this country at the present time. We deal with the whole problem in a haphazard, brainless way, and it is costing us anything from two to four millions sterling a year. Our chaotic system of treating these unfortunate victims of mental infirmity results in their drifting into the workhouses in a condition in which they are too insane to be treated in those institutions, and not sufficiently insane to be sent to asylums, and then they are sent to prison for short terms, thereby imposing further heavy burdens on the country. It is, in fact, impossible to ascertain the actual cost. A really curative remedial treatment would, I believe, lighten the burden on the country rather than increase it. So I would say to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, "Let us get back to the facts, and get rid of the theories of Aristotle and Mr. Chesterton, and let us see how this Bill really does work." It would be best for us to give this Bill a Second Reading. I do not think the Home Secretary was averse to that. At the same time I entirely agree that we ought to proceed on far broader lines. Some of the suggestions made today, for instance, the carrying on of the control of children from the age of sixteen to later years, are provided for in the Government Bill. There are many points in the Government Bill which will be of real value. I heartily hope that this Bill may prove not merely a stop-gap or a piecemeal treatment of the whole subject, but that it may act as the pacemaker to the Government, and enable them to press forward, even in a very crowded Session, the measure upon a subject on which everyone feels that legislation ought to take place.

There is one other ground on which the Bill should receive a Second Reading, that is the question of the authority. I think this Bill is right, and I am yet to be convinced that the method which is proposed in the Government Bill, of creating a new central authority, ultimately to be amalgamated, apparently, with the Lunacy Commission, is the right one. We have seen in the Debate today that there is a great tendency to regard these homes of detention as prisons or gaols, in which you have got, for the benefit of society and partly through the fault of the individuals themselves, to lock-up and detain sufferers from mental infirmity. For that very reason I would far sooner see the whole subject treated, not by the Home Office, which has the prisons under its control, but by the Lunacy Commission, which is supposed to regard the problem from the point of view of mental treatment. If you set up a new authority, you will inevitably have dualism. You are bound, however carefully you define the words, to have borderland cases of persons who could be treated equally well and guarded by the lunacy authorities either as mental deficients or else as lunatics. You will have two Commissions. You will inevitably have expense. You will have perhaps, and I think probably, two local authorities and two systems of finance dealing with the problem. For that reason I am yet to be convinced, and I do not quite see the line of argument that is going to convince me, that the Government is right in setting up a new Department under the Home Office to deal with just the kind of case which is now being dealt with by the skilled experts of the Lunacy Commission, under which there is bound to be overlapping and extra expense. That is one point which will arise on the Government Bill, but if this Bill receives a Second Reading and is sent to Committee, it will show that the House wishes to consider that point. I hope and trust that the Home Secretary has not a closed mind on that subject but is willing to reconsider it when arguments are brought forward to induce him to change his mind and to proceed along the lines of this Bill. I think I am right in saying that the Report of the Royal Commission suggested a reorganised and remodelled Lunacy Commission to deal with the problem and certainly two separate bodies, with an ultimate prospect of amalgamation.

We have heard about the necessity of dealing with the problem of marriage. It has been said that you will get a constant succession of children born of feeble-minded parents ever going deeper and deeper into the slough of feeble-mindedness, and therefore it is supposed you are justified in interfering on that point alone by segragation or by the method which is adopted in the Government Bill of penalising marriage and pronouncing it to be a misdemeanour in certain cases. I know there are distressing life histories in which you get a strain of lunacy and mental infirmity, and I believe one State of the American Union, Indiana, has gone as far as to legalise physical means of sterilisation. The Government propose apparently in certain cases to go to the extent of pronouncing marriage of a feeble-minded person, though not apparently with a lunatic—once more the dualism of the treatment comes in—a misdemeanour. Is it quite certain yet that you have a sufficient body of medical opinion to justify such action? I would ask people before they make up their minds on the latest novelty of the eugenics theory to be a little cautions and not hurry in a matter where there is not a sufficient consensus of medical opinion. Let me give one case which was given me by a medical authority of high eminence in which there was a life history of insanity. It was brought before this doctor as an illustration of the necessity of doing something to prevent or to penalise marriage. He took a great deal of trouble over the life history of all the descendants of this particular marriage, and found no fewer than thirteen cases where there was either lunacy or mental defect of some sort. But besides this there were no fewer than eighty cases of men or women perfectly sound in mind, some of whom served in the Army and the public service with credit and distinction, and in a case of that kind am I asked to state that that original marriage should have been stigmatised and penalised as a misdemeanour; that is to say, that the fact that there were thirteen descendants mentally deficient justifies you in saying that eighty persons should not be brought into existence1? I think the subject has not been properly investigated. There was no recommendation in the Report of the Royal Commission which certainly did not go so far as to recommend it, and I, at all events, have yet to see the body of evidence which could be brought forward which would justify us in making a somewhat rash experiment.


As one whose name is on the back of the Bill, I should like to say a few words on this subject. I think we have had a useful discussion, whether the Bill becomes law or not. The speech of the introducer of the Bill was one of the most comprehensive, able, and businesslike speeches I have ever heard on a Friday afternoon, and I think we ought to be very grateful to him for what he has done in bringing forward the subjects. It is one of great importance—I think the most important we have discussed during the present Parliament. I am not one of those who want to show the slightest kind of hostility to the Government Bill. I believe this is not a party question in any sense. We all realise the necessity for some kind of action, and many of us agree with the hon. Member opposite that it would be wiser to pass the Second Reading of the Bill. At the same time, all those for whom I speak would like to see the Government Bill carried. It is a very long Bill. It contains sixty-eight Clauses. But if the Government were to decide that it is to become law, it seems to me that from the point of view of party warfare it would be a very simple matter. I speak for myself when I say that I think perhaps two days might be given to the Second Reading of the measure, and that then it would go to the Committee upstairs, where the work would be done in regard to it. It would then probably pass easily through the House of Commons. We would then find that something great had been done for the future of our people. In regard to the financial position, I know perfectly well that from the point of view of those who promote this Bill it is quite plain that we could not bring in a provision in the Bill which would find the money required to carry the measure into effect. Therefore we were only able to go so far as the Bill goes.

I am very pleased that the Government have seen their way to bring in a Bill, and I sincerely hope that philanthropists and others who take an interest in this important question—a question considered important by every doctor and every well-meaning person in the land—will give their help. The Home Secretary said he thought that if this Bill went up to a Committee there might be a certain amount of hostility to the Government Bill by the promoters of this Bill. I can assure him that that is not so. Those who are promoting this Bill are very anxious to see it passed into law if the Government Bill does not become law, but everyone of them would like to see the Government Bill become law this Session. I am one of those who have for many years been very much interested in the Poor Law question. We realise that we are spending £15,000,000 a year under the Poor Law in this country, and we believe that the money might be spent better. So far as Parliament is concerned—I do not speak entirely with reference to the Liberal party, but also for my own party—it is a serious disappointment to men like myself that more cannot be done to deal with the question of vagrancy. Not long ago a Commission was appointed, with Mr. Lloyd Wharton, now chairman of the North-Eastern Railway Company as chairman. The Commission presented a very able and concise report, and I know that though the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was anxious to see something done in regard to the matter, he could not see his way to bring in a Bill. There was then a general feeling that something should be done in regard to the matter. Since then we have had the report of the Poor Law Commission, which confirms everything contained in the Report of the Vagrancy Commission as to the great difficulty and danger in relation to the question. As to the Bill now before the House I want the Government to act, and not to treat it as a party question. I ask them to send it to a Committee, so that it may become the law of the land if they do not proceed with their own Bill. If that should be done, I believe all those who are promoting the measure will feel that they have done something to accomplish a much needed reform.


I congratulate the hon. Member who introduced this Bill on having recognised the importance and urgency of the subject and on having brought to light a Bill that might still have slumbered in the archives of the Home Office. I congratulate him also on the able speech which he made showing a wide knowledge of the subject and bringing to bear upon it a balanced judgment. The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) and the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyrne (Mr. Wedgwood) are the only two Members who have opposed this Bill. The hon. Baronet said that there was no definition of feeble-minded in the Bill. There is no definition of insanity to be found anywhere, yet we have asylums and we incarcerate the insane. As has been said, I may not be able to define an elephant, but I know one when I see it. There are three things to be done with the feeble-minded: To identify him, to train his hand and not his mind, and to insure that he leaves the world no copy. The hon. Member for New-castle-under-Lyme said that this Bill puts into the hands of doctors a power of imprisonment for life. Surely that is a wild irresponsible statement. The power is not with the doctors. They are simply witnesses. The power rests with the magistrates. They collect evidence not only from expert witnesses who are instructed to examine and advise, but also from the friends and people who know about the habits of the feeble-minded. We have to distinguish the feeble-minded not only from idiots and imbeciles on the one hand, but also from normal or backward on the other. Having ascertained the fact that a person has an arrested mental growth we have to consider who this feeble-minded person is. As time goes on we are beginning to look upon the criminal as a defective, and not in the old sense of some one who has to be punished, but some one who should be protected from himself. We have to identify the individual as a person of arrested development, and therefore unable to manage his affairs or himself, or to exercise sufficient control to keep his natural normal impulses in subjection. That is all it amounts to. A feeble-minded person in the commonly accepted meaning of the term is a person with an arrested brain development. We know that in the development of the individual brain the faculty of intelligence comes before self-control. A defective is a person who shows a mental arrest, but the arrest is in the intellectual sphere, and if the lower storey is defective then the upper storey is almost entirely absent, and the characteristic of these feeble-minded, almost without exception is the lack of self-control. They are not inherently evil, nor is the defective necessarily a criminal, but his normal impulses are not under discipline, and the defect is a lack of control. All we propose in this Bill is to supply an artificial control. We see that an individual has not self-control to guide his normal natural impulses, and therefore we bring that person under State observation and State control, in order to supply what is deficient in him. Then we have to train the hand, not the mind. We have heard this afternoon about special schools. There should be no lessons given to any feeble-minded child. To tell a feeble-minded child that two and two make four is folly; to insist that he should learn and remember it is persecution. I have visited some of those special schools, and have seen a class at Darenth, and one of the most painful things I have witnessed is the attempt made to teach feeble-minded children. They are made to sit hour after hour in front of a blackboard or over lessons. Lately some one boasted that an idiot, after several years instruction, had been taught to count the buttons on his coat. Such attempts to teach the feeble-minded are folly and persecution. The training must be through the hand and eye to the mind. That is one of the reforms which I am sure must come in the near future, and it is very urgent. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme said the Bill is an attack especially upon women. He assumes that the whole object of the Bill is to arrest feeble-minded people, bring them before a Court, and get them convicted of being outcasts in order to incarcerate them for life. Nothing of the kind. The whole object is humanitarian; it is to prevent suffering. A woman was recently brought before the Court who had borne thirteen illegitimate children nearly all defectives to different fathers. Do you mean to tell me that to have obtained control of that woman when she was at the age of sixteen or earlier would not have prevented untold suffering to her, quite apart from considerations affecting the community at large. To obtain control early of such a woman is humanitarian, and it is the bounden duty of the State to mitigate the sufferings of such women by getting them early under proper control. They are not in prison when under control.

Anyone who knows the Colony at Sandlebridge, near Manchester, is aware that the inmates are happier there than they would be in any other conceivable circumstances. They go about the farm in the open air, they become attached to the domestic animals, and they are quite as happy as are normal persons. It is not persecution nor incarceration for life: it is simply to save these unfortunate persons from themselves. We have going on the emigration of our best people from this country. The oversea Dominions will not take anyone who is defective, either physically, mentally, or morally. The best of our people emigrate to the Colonies. I am not objecting, but the result of it is that we are left with a residuum of rejects. The total number of defective persons is increasing. In the seven years between 1895 and 1901 the net loss by emigration from this country was 301,000 persons. In the seven years, 1903–9 the number was 1,016,959—a very great increase in the number of our best people who have left this country for the Colonies. The birth-rate has declined. We are told in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Control of the Feeble-minded that the average number of births in the normal family is four, while in the defective families the average is 8.4—more than double. So that we have a relative increase in the productivity of these defectives. Therefore the birth-rate is falling among our best people, but the productivity of the defectives is actually increasing amongst our worst people. Through humanitarian activities we are keeping alive many defectives who half a century ago would have died. Consequently everything is tending to the increase of our defectives and to the decrease of our best stock. Our marriage rate is going down. It went down from 100 in 1876 to 85.7 in 1909, and that is of the best people, not the richest, but the best normally and physically. It is absolutely undisturbed amongst our worst people, so that we have this phenomenon to face that the defectives are increasing and the normal are decreasing, because of the declining fertility amongst our best citizens. These facts impress on my mind the importance and the urgency of this question. I think it has been too long delayed, and I welcome not only this Bill, but the more comprehensive measure, and probably the measure that has most hope and promise, introduced by the Home Secretary. I hope this Bill will get a Second Reading and will go to a Committee.

Sir J. D. REES

The hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks), in his speech, said that money did not worry him. I submit that money should worry Members of Parliament when it is not their money, but the ratepayers' and taxpayers' money. This brings me to the cause for which I venture to trouble the House with any observations, and that is the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary. When he was speaking, he was comparing the Bill before the House with his own far more expensive and elaborate measure. As I was listening to him, I heard him say: "I am able to provide the money," and "I have provided the money." I merely interjected the word "Taxpayers." I submit that there was no discourtesy in that whatsoever, and the right hon. Gentleman must have known I meant no discourtesy, when he accused me, in his crude phraseology of rudeness. I submit a Minister is the servant of the public, and that it can be no discourtesy to him to remind him that he is dealing with the money of the taxpayer. In my opinion, all Governments need to be reminded of that fact, and no Government ever needed it more than that of which the right hon. Gentleman is a Member. I submit that the right hon. Gentleman made use of the opportunity, being in possession of the House, of being discourteous to myself, whereas I neither intended, nor, in fact, was I in the slightest way discourteous to him. I say that his measure was probably elicited by my hon. Friend's measure, and I believe it appeared this morning, at an opportune moment, in order that the Government might appear not to be neglecting a subject so dear to the humanitarian heart. I think if I had been discourteous to the right hon. Gentleman, you, Sir, would have called me to order. The right hon. Gentleman contrasted his measure with that of my hon. Friend, which requires very little money, and in his lavish manner, like that of his right hon. colleague said, "I have provided this and that." In that his is a far more expensive measure and is not before the House, I submit that the measure of my hon. Friend is a far better one, and I hope my hon. Friend's measure will receive a Second Reading. I do not intend to talk the Bill out. I merely got up to deal with this question of the taxpayer. The right hon. Gentleman laughs, but the manner in which he deals with public funds is no laughing matter. But I think I was wrong even to ejaculate the one word "taxpayer." It would naturally be unpleasant to the right hon. Gentleman, because I might have remembered how sensitive must be the ears of those who only yesterday sat alongside the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was no doubt thoughtless of me to make any such remark. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) said that this Bill was unjust because it infringed on the liberty of the subject. That, he said, would no doubt be pleasant to a class of person like myself, which is supposed to be tainted with autocracy and other evil forms of government in the East. I see nothing in this Bill which can justly be described as infringing upon the liberty of the subject. The hon. Member quoted Aristotle and other ancient authors to prove that he was right. I do not profess to follow him into the realm of abstract justice or in the long-drawn quarrel between law and justice. It is enough for me that in this particular instance a case has been made out for dealing with these feeble-minded persons, and, in spite of the remark of the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), I think the description of feeble-minded person of the Bill is sufficient in that respect. The procedure provided is as lenient as may be to the taxpayer, which I continue to think is one of the greatest possible benefits in any Bill brought before this House. As to the Bill not dealing with Scotland and Ireland, those countries seem to be exempted from all empirical legislation. Whether it is because they think experiments should be made upon the vile body of England or for any other reason, I do not know. But if it is good in itself, there is no reason in rejecting the Bill simply because it does not also embrace Scotland and Ireland. For my part, I shall vote for the Second Reading.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.