HC Deb 06 May 1913 vol 52 cc1885-7

I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the Asylums Officers' Superannuation Act, 1909."

I ask the leave of the House to introduce this Bill, which is a very modest measure, and is backed and supported by Members of all parties in politics. Its object is to amend the Act of 1909 in respect of a few points that have arisen after experience of that enactment. I need not make apology for submitting to the House this Bill, the object of which is to secure better terms of superannuation for officers and workers in asylums. The promoters of the Bill believe that the small additional outlay required will be overbalanced by the increased efficiency which will arise from the better terms given to those servants. The Act of 1909 was carried through by an eminently respected former Member of the House, Sir William Collins, who was then president of the Asylums Workers' Association, a position which I have the honour now to hold. The Bill is supported by that body, by Sir William Collins himself, by Dr. Sutherland, and others. The wear and tear on asylum workers is very great, and that aspect of the question was brought prominently into, notice in the Report of the Select Committee of the House on the Bill of 1909. In their Report they said:— Those who are familiar with the daily routine of asylum administration will not deny that for physical and mental strain, for anxious, tedious and often repulsive duty, and even for risk of actual injury, the care of the insane is unparalleled by any other branch of the Civil Service. The first Clause of the Bill deals with women workers. It has been brought to the minds of superintendents of asylums and members of our association, and such persons as the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has paid great attention to this subject, that women employed in asylums are very hard-worked, and break down earlier in life than men workers do. That is one reason why this Bill provides that they shall be entitled to a pension without being reqùired to get to the age of fifty-five, as at present provided, the fifty-five years' rule to be repealed. At present, on an average, these women enter the service at the age of twenty-two, so that it takes thirty-three years to qualify for a pension. That, I believe, the whole medical profession considers too long for those in such close contact with the insane, and that they ought, if broken down, to be retired. Men of the same class ought to be able, for the same reasons, to retire at fifty, but the period of service to be raised from twenty years to twenty-five years. Clause 2 merely empowers visiting committees to give a gratuity or pension, if they choose, to a person permanently incapacitated for asylum duties through illness, clearly caused by duties such as nursing a small-pox patient or one of asylum coloritis. Clause 3 also empowers, under precautions, the granting of a gratuity to widows and children of officer dying in service. This was suggested by Home Office originally. Clause 4 calculates pension on the last five instead of ten years. Clause 6, suggested by Home Office, aggregates service in all asylums, with a minimum of one year instead of two. Clause 6 also conduces to efficiency, as they become more mobile. Clause 7 is of special interest to Scotland. Parochial asylums are at present outside Act of 1909, and there is much interchange between them and district asylums. In Paisley and Woodilee Asylum there are many who began in parochials. That service will under this Clause count for pension; and the hardship on many of serving forty years at this wearing work will be avoided. We would have liked to have brought in the attendants and nurses in lunatic wards of poor-houses in Scotland, as they deserve all consideration, but that would have been beyond the scope of the Bill as introduced in a previous Session, and we have to take notice that the present Session is very crowded. Clause 8 allows those who contracted-out under the Act of 1909 to come in if they chose under these more favourable conditions. The ninth Clause improves the classification of those to receive pensions, and brings in such persons as cooks and laundresses, who spend their time in close association with insane people in their daily work, and who, to a large extent, are responsible for the conduct of the insane while they are so working with them. I beg leave to move.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir John Jardine, Sir Charles Nicholson, Mr. Duncan Millar, Mr. Barnes, Captain Gilmour, Mr. William Redmond, Mr. Gordon Harvey, Mr. Crooks, Sir John Bethell, and Captain Campbell. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Thursday, 29th May, and to be printed. [Bill 158.]