§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
The scope and purpose of this Bill is the same as that of the Bill to which the House gave a Second Reading last year. Hon. Members will remember that on that occasion, after a Debate covering the whole ground, only nineteen Gentlemen voted against the Second Reading.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am not discussing the question of Closure. The number of Gentlemen who voted against the Second Reading was only nineteen. I am encouraged by that experience to believe that the general principle of this measure has been accepted by the House, and will be accepted again. But although the scope and purpose of the Bill is the same, in many material respects the machinery has been altered. In introducing the subject now I would only remind the House that this question was dealt with by a Royal Commission, which took evidence over no less than four years, and in its Report came unanimously to certain recommendations, upon which this Bill is founded. It was observed that there is a class of persons in this country who, by reason of mental defect, are not able to take proper care of themselves. Under the existing law they are not provided for under the Lunacy Acts or under the Idiots Act, except in a certain measure. The Idiots Act applies to a certain number of them, but it does not deal appropriately with the class of persons whom it is intended to provide for under this Bill. Therefore it is proposed to repeal the Idiots Act, and to re-enact and incorporate it in this measure. Not only have we a unanimous Report of a Royal Commission in favour of some legislative measure, but I am not exaggerating when I say that local authorities have been overwhelming in their petitions in favour of this Bill. I go further and say that persons now engaged in every kind of social work, who are brought in contact with the feeble-minded, have without exception recognised the need for some legislation of this kind. At this moment there are, I regret that I must say, scores of thousands of people who, owing to mental 220 defect, are unable to take proper care of themselves, and who might, as I believe, if this Bill were passed, live happy and, within the limits of their powers, even useful lives. At present they are left, uncared for and unprotected, to live miserable existences, and, quite apart from their own habits, become a source of degradation, misery, and poverty to others.
Last year considerable criticism was directed against the proposed machinery. In the Bill then put forward it was proposed to set up a new Commission, quite separate from the existing Lunacy Commission, to have the special control of all feeble-minded persons. I remember that the hon. and learned Member for one of the Divisions of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott) took very strong objection to the Bill on that ground, and in that view he was supported by the hon. Member for the Stowmarket Division (Mr. Goldsmith), the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Pollock), and the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Charles Roberts). Their arguments, which I admit impressed me very strongly at the time, were further pressed in Committee upstairs, and in consequence the whole scheme of the Bill, so far as that part is concerned, was altered. The whole charge for mentally defective persons, whether lunatics, idiots, imbeciles, or feebleminded, was proposed to be placed under a single Board of Control. That is the proposal contained in the present Bill. The Board of Control will consist primarily of the existing eight paid Lunacy Commissioners. It is proposed that there should be altogether twelve paid and three unpaid Commissioners. Of the twelve paid Commissioners one at least must be a woman, and of the three unpaid Commissioners also one at least must be a woman. The Board of Control will deal with all forms of mental deficiency. After the discussion which we had upstairs, I think I am justified in recommending to the House this second proposal as being far superior to that contained in last year's Bill. It would only be right for me to say here how much I am indebted to hon. Gentlemen opposite for the interest they have taken in this measure and for the great knowledge they showed in debating it upstairs. My hon. Friends on this side will agree with me that, interested and keen as they are in the subject, the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, the hon. and learned Member for East Birmingham 221 the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington and others, were not less interested in securing for this unfortunate class of persons such care and protection as this Bill would give them.
The next important change in the Bill is one which in justice I am bound to attribute in large measure to the strong criticism made to the proposal of last year by my hon. Friends the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) and the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood). Those Members took a very strong line in support of the principle of individual liberty, and it is only justice to them to say that, although they opposed me very strongly in the course of the Bill, their arguments were singularly effective in pointing out the particulars in which the Bill might be considered to transgress the due line of the care and preservation of individual rights. We have in the Bill as now presented to the House, so far as is possible consistent with the existence of the principle of compulsion at all, done everything to meet the objections put forward by my hon. Friends. Let me point out the very important changes which have been made. Last year the persons to be dealt with included persons who might be classed as coming under the definition of the Bill by a subsequent Order of the Secretary of State. That portion of the Bill is omitted now. The Bill, so far as the definition goes, is limited to what is contained in the actual words of the Bill. No power was given either to the existing holder of the Home Office or any future holder of the office to extend the operations of the Bill except by introducing a new Act of Parliament. We have also omitted any reference to what might be regarded as the Eugenic idea, which my hon. Friend behind me believes underlies the whole promotion of this Bill. I can assure him that, as the measure now stands, it exists for the protection of individual sufferers.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Well, let me put this case to my hon. Friend: I suppose he will agree that the Lunacy Acts were designed by Parliament for the protection of the sufferers, the lunatic patients? Yet they are locked up for their own protection. Persons suffering from mental defect who come under this Bill are only locked up in those cases where it is shown by past experience that they ought to be locked up. Let me explain very briefly the classes of 222 persons whom we now propose to include in this Bill. We, first of all, define the mentally deficient. These are persons suffering from mental deficiency. They are idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, and moral imbeciles. We make a clear distinction between the different categories of feeble-minded persons who come under this Bill. Idiots and imbeciles, who may already be certified under the Lunacy and Idiots Acts, continue to be certifiable under the Lunacy Acts, or under this Bill, without importing any new condition; but when we come to the classes of feebleminded persons who are not now certified, either idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, or moral imbeciles, such persons cannot be dealt with compulsorily under this Bill unless certain conditions co-exist together with such feeble-mindedness. They must either be proved to be neglected, abandoned, or cruelly treated. That is to say, they must obviously require the protection of the State; or they must have been found guilty of a criminal offence, they must be proved to be habitual drunkards, they must be children notified by the local education authority as being too low mentally or morally to benefit by the special schools provided, or they must be children who, on leaving the special schools, have been notified by the local authorities as requiring further protection. The only other class is that of women who give birth to illegitimate children whilst in receipt of Poor Law relief.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The difference between the two is obviously only a question of time. I hope my hon. Friend will be satisfied that we are only endeavouring to deal with those cases of feeble-minded persons where we have tangible proof that they are of a kind which calls for some degree of care from the State. My last few words are upon a point of the Bill about which I think there has been a good deal of misunderstanding. I refer to the financial side. It is proposed that the local authority shall have certain duties imposed upon them, and that certain powers shall be placed in their hands. So far as a duty is imposed upon a local authority under this Bill, it is limited to the extent to which the cost of carrying out the duty is borne by the State as to one half of the amount. The local authority will have no duty imposed on it except that in which the State bears one half the cost.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
Would that amount to half the total cost of maintenance, including interest on capital, sinking fund, and cost of administration?
§ Mr. McKENNA
That will include half the total cost of maintenance, including interest and sinking fund, upon the cost of the institution and including so much of the administration as is directly and solely related to this Bill. It will not include half for the maintenance of that which might be termed the general administrative charges of the local authority, and which the local authority will have to bear in any circumstances. Beyond that the local authority is given power to spend money without assistance from the State, but this is a purely optional power. The amount of the State Grant is primarily limited to £150,000 a year under the Bill, but that sum does not by any means exhaust the whole charge which will fall upon the State. Outside this charge of £150,000 per year, the State will bear half the cost of the patients who are sent to institutions or placed under guardianship by order of the Court when charged with a criminal offence—that is to say, as the State will be relieved of the cost of maintaining the mentally deficient prisoners in prison the State, in exchange for that, pays half the cost of the maintenance of the mentally deficient person during the whole of the time he is treated as mentally deficient. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because the State would be bearing the whole cost only during the time the prisoner would be in prison, but the patient will be under treatment in the institution or under guardianship very likely for a much longer period, and so the State bears half the cost for the whole period that the patient remains under observation.
§ Mr. GERSHOM STEWART
Is it the place where the patient lives or the place where he was born that bears the other half of the cost?
§ Mr. McKENNA
I should be very sorry to answer a question of that kind without reference to authority, but if the hon. Member will mention the matter afterwards, I shall be very happy to find out.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I expect that immediately under the Bill about 20,000 to 30,000 persons will be provided for in one 224 form or another. The State will also pay the whole cost of the patients in the State institutions which will be provided for dangerous and criminally dangerous persons. I think it is clear that in the first instance that the number under this Bill will be quite as much aided by the State contributions as the local authorities will be able to deal with—at any rate for some time to come. The hon. Member for the Stowmarket Division asked me how many would be dealt with. I have made inquiry as nearly as I can, and I think I am not very far wrong in saying between twenty and thirty thousand people. That is, I am quite aware, not more than one-third of the whole number of people who will ultimately have to be dealt with. But it will take considerable time before we shall be able under local administration to absorb these twenty or thirty thousand, and I am quite certain, when experience has shown all the alarms of my hon. Friends on this side are entirely groundless, that Parliament will be able to expend the necessary sum in order to assist the local authority to carry their work further.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to insert the words "upon this day three months."
I am not altogether satisfied with what the right hon. Genleman said in the latter part of his speech, nor do I quite agree with him that the Debate was at all exhausted on the last occasion or was a satisfactory Debate. When we met in Committee upstairs we found that nearly every Member's time was occupied in trying to discover what the Government intended. There was a total lack of any general comradeship of idea as to the interpretation of any view of this House. We were totally without guidance when we met in Committee, and no one attempted to open the Debate by giving us what was the general view and spirit of this House. We commenced practically in chaos, and instead of considering the Bill which was passed by this House we had to consider a new Bill. Scores and scores of individual Amendments were poured upon us until we had to have special printing done in order that we might be able to form some hazy idea of what the Bill would be if the Government's Amendments were carried. Then there were many Members of the Opposition who put forward Amendments which the Government accepted in preference to those they had drafted, 225 and the Bill was left in so fragmentary a form that I intended, when it came back to this House, to take the ruling of the Speaker upon the point that this was not a Bill that had passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons. I feel perfectly sure that I could make it clear to the House in a moment or two that my point of Order would have had considerable substance. The original Bill that we passed, and that the Home Secretary has described in the manner he has, would have set up a new authority. It would set up three new Commissioners to tackle this urgent problem. It is a new problem. There has been no light thrown upon its solution from the history of our own land. The Home Office of this country were in despair. There was something to be said for the idea of the three Commissioners, but the Home Secretary to-day has rather poured contempt upon it. I do not submit to the House that when we are approaching a new problem of this kind there is an argument in favour of three men being set apart to deal with it untrammelled and unbiassed by experience in any Government Department. The pressure for this new legislation upon the Government undoubtedly comes from the Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] There is no doubt about it. The experience we have had shows that a most lively interest is taken in it by the Unionist party, particularly by the leaders of the opposition to the Welsh Church Bill. Immediately after the Bill was withdrawn a little temporary disappointment manifested itself in impatient exclamations from the Unionist party. I have seen very little evidence during the last winter of any genuine interest in this matter by the Unionist party, but I prophesy it will revive, and revive vigorously. I am not saying that at all in discredit to the Unionist party. I do not want to suggest for a moment that they are not perfectly sincere in their views upon this question. What I am rather suggesting is that the urgency of the matter in the view of the Opposition is determined, unconsciously no doubt, by party considerations.
When we met in the Grand Committee upstairs the Government immediately capitulated to the Opposition on a vital principle. This was a new experiment, and three men were to approach it with open minds. The Government immediately capitulated and decided to bring in the existing Lunacy Commissioners. I submit 226 if it is wise to legislate upon this important question, it is not a good idea to put old wine into new bottles, and it does seem to me that if you take the Lunacy Commissioners, some of them very aged men who have served the State in a particular capacity, and a very definite capacity, and if you make them the definite and heavy majority of this new authority, you cannot expect justice to be done to the new experiment. What are the chief duties of the Lunacy Commissioners, who are taken bodily in response to the advocacy of the Conservative party and put into this Bill? The original idea, through the agency of Lord Shaftesbury, was that the Lunacy Commissioners were to protect liberty. In this case they are to be brought in to protect property; they are to spend money, which was never a part of the Lunacy Commissioners' duty. There was always a lawyer accompanying the doctor to visit each case, the idea of the State, as I understand it, being that, the medical man might possibly lean to institutional treatment in certain doubtful cases, and the lawyer was there to safeguard the State upon the question of personal liberty. You had first got to satisfy, not the medical expert, but the lawyer, trained to a correct sense of justice, that it was a suitable case to be incarcerated. That was their function; the idea was not to put people in. The whole foundation of that agitation was opposed to what the Home Secretary-stated to-day. It was to protect liberty. Scandals had only been too common. People were put away by their enemies or by relatives who were anxious to get rid of them in the country, and this course was, adopted in order to safeguard liberty. The Lunacy Commissioners were not a machine to drive people into these institutions, but to safeguard the liberties of those charged.
I venture to submit that the Lunacy Commissioners are not the right people to take in hand the administration of this new scheme. I think they are totally unsuitable, and this arrangement has only been came to as the result of a fight between the Home Office and the Lord Chancellor's Department. They are officials and they have arrived at a compromise, and the one Department has to submit to the other their nominees and so on. I submit that if we are to look upon this question as we ought to, untrammelled by any bias and uninfluenced by wild theories, it is not right to put that scheme up merely as a barter 227 with regard to posts. I am bound to say quite candidly that I consider the great question of the treatment of the feebleminded in this country, without any relation to the fate of this Bill and the composition of the authority, hangs upon a compromise between these two great Departments. There is no necessity for tackling the problem in this way. I know it will be represented that I am in favour of letting feeble-minded people have numerous children chargeable upon the rates. That is utter moonshine, and I do not merely criticise the Bill from the standpoint of individual liberty, but I say this is not the way to treat these unfortunate people. You are beginning at the wrong end. I should have thought that in a State like ours, proceeding on cautious and conservative lines, we should have built slowly and securely upon a sure foundation. We ought to recognise the present authorities. There was not a word of reference to-day to the position of the Poor Law guardians. Many boards of guardians wanting something done passed vague resolutions in support of a Mental Deficiency Bill. None of them read the details, and they were horrified when they came to particulars. What is the point of complaint? There was a meeting held yesterday under Liberal auspices, and some Members of the Government were present. That meeting was addressed by two or three Conservative women. When mental deficiency is the subject, it is only natural, of course, that those who speak upon it should come from the opposite side. What was the point made there? The hysterical suggestion was made that unless we pass this particular Bill a great number of children were going to die. That is not the way to approach this question. If there are a number of unfortunate women who go down to the workhouses and have illegitimate children because of being feebleminded, and then go out and come back again upon the Poor Law premises to be confined—if there is any reality in that case—why not face the thing in a straightforward way. Why not give the guardians power to go to some kind of public Court and to state the case and to get power to detain those persons and prevent, them from going out again. The idea of the Home Office is not to use the present authorities with their men of experience, but to create a Commission of twelve paid people with £1,500 or £2,000 a year each, and while that feature is in the Bill, while open minds are not brought to bear upon 228 the question, while science and experience is not brought to bear upon it, we shall only find ourselves back to the old position.
I do not propose to divide the House on the Bill, but I am bound to say that if there is a Division of any kind, while that feature is in the Bill, I must vote with many Members of this House who forces such a Division. I do not propose to go through the various points of the Bill. I want to take the general objection. We have heard nothing from the Home Secretary about the law of heredity, and very little about the magnitude of the problem. I have made close inquiry, and I do not believe that there is an increase in this problem; I think it is a lessening problem, and it would be sad to think, after we have been spending so much money on social reform, and particularly on education and other great administrations, if there was an increase in it. How is it that idiots are made? I remember the first idiot I ever saw. A woman in my village was called from her bed through the window and asked to open the door to admit the bodies of her husband and two sons who were killed in a mine. The consequence was that that woman was an idiot for the rest of her life. What takes place now in such circumstances? It is the clergyman or some minister of religion, or perhaps the schoolmaster, who is called upon to break such news to those people, and you do not see the idiots and the imbeciles you formerly did. Somebody said they are hidden from us. I do not believe that is so. I speak feelingly on this question, because it has been my duty more than once to approach the widow and break the news to her in order to save her reason. It is not a nice duty, but I appeal to the House to realise that many of those cases of idiocy were the result and were brought about in such a way, not through lack of kindness or of mildness, but through lack of education. Working men and women now are educated, and they will not break news like that, as it was done commonly before. They were not to blame; it was because they were denied education and enlightenment that they did these things, and it would be most disheartening to all sorts of reformers to believe the awful and the false statements made with regard to the increase in feeble-mindedness.
What about the Christian position? This is frankly a pagan Bill, anti-Christian from its first line to its last The whole of the discussion upstairs was a challenge to the position of the New Testament. The ex- 229 perience is not what Members assume. It does not fallow that feeble-minded people have feeble-minded offspring; that deaf people have deaf offspring. We do not know the real truth or remedy. Only this morning I had a circular from Wakefield Deaf and Dumb Institute, where they claim that it is people who hear who have deaf children, and that deaf people have children who can hear. They appeal for support for that institution which is under the ægis of the Church authorities in Wales. I do not believe these various theories; we want wore information, and therefore I suggest that to take an old body like the Lunacy Commissioners to dominate this new authority is not the way to do justice to this new experiment. If the Home Secretary would make research into history, he would find some of the most famous men in the history of the world had mentally defective mothers. I will name three, Bacon, Turner, and Lincoln, three great authorities. No one will deny that Bacon is in the foremost group, and no one will challenge the position of Turner or Lincoln. When you come to examine the lives of these men who have moulded our opinions, and have given us a definite lead, you find that there is a great deal yet to be learned in connection with this question of feeble-mindedness. Mozart, Nelson, and Spinoza suffered from the disease of phthisis, which they inherited. It is all very well to ignore history and put these extreme opinions into practice. How dare we do it? What authority have you from God or Nature to interfere in this way without more study of the question? To treat the subject in this way is to me a matter of the gravest concern. I am sorry on the last occasion that insufficient time was not allowed on the Second Reading. If I were to attempt now to go into the question deeply I know I should occupy an unfair portion of the time of the House. I will, however, refer to the Home Secretary's explanation, and to the Clause upon which I challenge him. In Clause 2, Subsection (1), paragraph (a) (vi.), it is provided that a person
"placed under guardianship—
(vi.) who is in receipt of poor relief at the time of giving birth to an illegitimate child or when pregnant of such child."
We have been told that it is only a case of time, but I think that is a monstrous answer to give. How can anyone say when a woman is pregnant of a child that that child is illegitimate? A marriage up 230 to the time of giving birth would make that child legitimate. If you are going to treat the question in this way you are disregarding in many respects the liberty of the subject. If the question is approached in that spirit, then I have very little faith in this Bill becoming law this Session. I thank the Home Secretary for the concessions he has made from the point of view represented by some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway and myself. I admit that the Home Secretary has made a most genuine effort to meet that which he conceived to be sound and valid argument. I willingly acknowledge that this has not been done formally but in reality, and that influences me in not pressing my opposition on this occasion very far. After all, the Committee upstairs gave considerable time to the subject last year. Concessions have been made to Members of the Opposition on some points, and to the minority opposing the Bill on this side on some other points. Unless some other turn is given to the Debate, I do not think that one would be justified in trying to kill the Bill at this stage. I would, however, like to hear from some Member of the Government some announcement that when this Bill is before the Grand Committee—upon Which I sincerely hope I shall not be asked to serve—that there will be thorough latitude of discussion given, and I hope the Government do not think, because they have made these concessions, that the Bill is now perfect. If some assurance is given that an open mind will be kept, in view of the discussion which may take place, I shall not press to a Division the Amendment which I have moved.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
Speaking on behalf of the Opposition, I can safely say that there are a very large number of us who could wish the compliment attributed to us by the hon. Member for Pontefract were correct, namely, that we were the real promoters of this excellent Bill. We cannot claim to be the promoters of it, and we recognise that the Home Secretary is entitled to that honour. As the Home Secretary most graciously, courteously, and generously said in his speech, we have done what we could to help him to deal with this difficult subject and make the proposals of the Government better than they were when they were first introduced in order that the Bill might become a good Act. It is an exceptionally pleasant task for one on this side, who is 231 in the bitterest disagreement on many subjects with hon. Members opposite, and particularly with the Home Secretary, to have the opportunity of saying that the right hon. Gentleman has met us throughout the discussion on this difficult subject in a spirit of absolute open-mindedness, and with a single-hearted desire to try to make the Bill better. With that little interchange of compliments, I pass to the speech of the hon. Member who has moved the rejection of this Bill. I believe the hon. Member for Pontefract is perfectly sincere in his opposition, but at the same time I wish to point out that he represents the smallest possible minority of thought in this country. I believe the necessity for legislation on this subject is almost universally recognised throughout the country. The hon. Member has objected because he thinks that there should be one central authority instead of two, and also on the ground that the Lunacy Commission is like old bottles into which the new wine of the new Commission is to be introduced. The justification for the course adopted is that the Lunacy Commission has been trained in traditions of liberty in reference to the patients brought under its charge, and has had experience extending over many years in dealing with patients who are most akin to the patients to be dealt with under the new proposals. It is because of that experience and because we know they will protect the liberty of the subject that we want to utilise to advantage all their existing knowledge.
Although there was great regret expressed on the side of the Opposition at the close of last year at the withdrawal of last year's Bill, and although we expressed that regret absolutely honestly, I wish to say that I believe the country will be better off by that Bill having been dropped. That Bill, from the difficulty of the subject, and from the departmental difficulties necessarily involved, was introduced in an experimental form. We discussed it very thoroughly from certain aspects in Grand Committee, and that brought to light many new considerations, and I believe the work we did then was done once and for all in its main outlines, and will not have to be done over again. But in the meantime there has been opportunity for reflection on the criticisms passed, and above all an opportunity for reconsideration of the Bill with its alterations in Grand Committee, with the result that the Bill now before the 232 House is a much more coherent measure than it would have been if those alterations had been grafted upon the original proposals. All those who have followed the subject carefully take that view very strongly, and when I say that, I think it is an admission which shows that our attitude to this subject has been in no sense a party attitude. Indeed, I believe party considerations have been absent from the discussion of this measure in an almost unprecedented degree.
There are only one or two matters to which I think it desirable or necessary to draw the attention of the House upon the Second Reading. The first is the question as to whether the liberty of the subject is endangered or not by this Bill. The second is how children ought to be dealt with under the proposals of this measure; and the third is the question of the provision of proper medical research. There are also two other minor points I wish to deal with. I will deal first of all with the question of the liberty of the subject. It is said on behalf of a certain small section of this House, representing proportionately a very much smaller section outside, that the proposals of this Bill seriously interfere with the liberty of the subject. The best answer to that is to consider some of the concrete cases of feeble-minded persons who are dealt with in actual experience. And for the purpose of meeting this argument, which seems to me a fallacy likely to cause much misunderstanding, and possibly damage to the Bill in its passage through this House, I have had collected by skilled persons engaged daily in the care of the feeble-minded, a certain number of critical instances, and I should like to quote some of them. They have been collected by authorities whose weight will be recognised at once. They are Miss Mary Dendy, Mrs. Hume-Pinsent of Birmingham, and Miss Grayson of Liverpool, all of them persons in daily contact with the subject. These I put forward as typical cases to establish two propositions; (1) the necessity of power being obtained to detain children from their parents, and. (2) the necessity of power being given to parents to deal with their children when they are unable to do so without this power. Take the first aspect of the question, the need of power to detain children from their parents. Here is the first case:—Birmingham Cases. "Grandmother insane: mother feeble-minded, with, two feeble-minded, illegitimate daughters. (1) 233 Daughter educated in a special school, and on leaving great efforts were made by After-care Committee to place her in the guardians' colony at Monyhull for the feeble-minded. Feeble-minded mother absolutely refused to give her consent. This girl went into the workhouse for a confinement, and further efforts were made to induce her to go to the colony, but she refused and took her discharge. She had a second confine-anent about a year afterwards. She is now absolutely degraded and is reported to be earning her living by prostitution, and is accused of improper conduct with the grandfather. (2) The second daughter is a low-grade, feeble-minded girl who was found utterly neglected and committed by the magistrates to an industrial school. She is now licensed-out under the Children's Act to the Monyhull Colony, where she has greatly improved in manners, habits and physique, and where she is perfectly happy. Is learning to be useful. She is very nearly sixteen years old and her feebleminded mother has announced her intention of withdrawing her as soon as she possibly can. She will, therefore, return to live in the same house as the grandfather and feeble-minded mother and sister, and at is a foregone conclusion that she will lead the same life. If the Bill passes this year it will be possible to save this girl.G. C.—Feeble-minded prostitute. Two feebleminded daughters. (1) First daughter: Father a criminal, having had various long terms of imprisonment; since in workhouse, and now in Winson Green Asylum. The daughter was educated in a special school and every effort was made to induce her mother to allow her to go to the Monyhull Colony, but the mother always refused to do so. When the girl left school she sold matches in the street and made a good deal of money, as she was a pitiable object and people constantly gave her money. This made it more difficult to induce her parents to consider sending her to a home. She became associated with a street hawker, with whom she lived for some time. She is now constantly in and out of the workhouse and various charitable homes, in none of which has she ever stayed long. (2) The second daughter: Father, defective, epileptic; was found absolutely neglected and was committed to an industrial school. She, too, has been licensed-out to the Monyhull Colony, and has made great improvement in manners and habits. Her mother is also constantly in and out of the workhouse, and is waiting until the girl is sixteen to try to get her back again.G.D.—This feeble-minded girl was discharged from a special school at sixteen years of age. She went to live with her married sister and brother-in-law. She had a child by her brother-in-law and was confined in the workhouse. She took her discharge a fortnight: afterwards and went to live with a feeble-minded brother and a feeble-minded sister, She is so feeble-minded that she could not remember the month in which her baby was born only six months after the event. She is a girl who, if she had been sent to a colony for the feeble-minded on leaving school, would have been useful, respectable, and happy. Is now utterly degraded and miserable. Every effort has been made to induce this girl to go to the colony, but nothing will persuade her or her feeble-minded sister to entertain the idea.Liverpool Case, F.P.—A feeble-minded, good-looking girl, doing well in a home; taken away by her sister, a bad woman, who induced the girl to lead an Immoral life.Here is a case which illustrates the need of parents having power to place their children under care:—G. B.—This girl was two and a half years in a special school. She has just been confined in the Birmingham workhouse of an illegitimate child. The mother carne to the office and implored me to try to get her into the Monyhull Colony, but the girl absolutely refuses to go. The mother cannot control her in the least.234 I have the letter written by the mother to the schoolmistress asking for help. I will read it—a pathetic human document:—Would you kindly try your best to get Johnny into Home?…. I went out on an errand and saw a crowd of people. There were a dozen lads or more beating Johnny in the entry.…. He stood by the lamp-post and said he would not come for me. It was between nine and ten when he came from school; it is sometimes twelve o'clock when he comes home. Miss, do not you think he would be better if he was in Home? He would be cared for. I am quite willing to pay 1s. 6d. a week, and, as you know, it would be a great burden off my mind. His father is only a poor navvy and his wages is not much. P.S.—I would come myself, only I have got no boots. Please kindly do your best.The comment on that case by the school doctor was this:—Regular street arab. Violent propensities; very little reasoning power. Very poor home; mother drinks. Boy often plays truant. Cripple in family. Typical farm colony case. Presence in school detrimental to other children.Is not that a typical case where, if the mother had such power as this Bill gives, it would be a great advantage?
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
They are all feeble-minded cases. I myself saw and wrote to Miss Dendy, Mrs. Hume-Pinsent, and Miss Grayson, and asked them to give me typical feeble-minded cases to illustrate the importance for the sake of the individual feeble-minded persons of these provisions which hon. Members are now attacking as taking away the liberty of the subject. I will take a few more, which I got Miss Dendy to print and circulate. Take this one:—R.I.A.—An abnormally developed and overgrown girl. At thirteen had already suffered every evil that can fall to the lot of a woman. Had several times been taken home by respectable men whom she had accosted. It was difficult to train her into habits of common decency, but at eighteen she was a happy girl living a simple, wholesome life, and her health, which had been very delicate, had improved. Her father, a drunken, disreputable man, then came and persuaded her to leave her shelter.Take two more cases:—O. O.—An epileptic woman. Had an illegitimate child. Boarded it with a respectable woman and paid for its keep. One day fetched it saying she was going to place it elsewhere. Drowned it in the river on her way home. Is now in prison, being punished for a crime which she was probably quite unable to avoid committing.C. A.—A strong boy, small; high grade feebleminded; subject to very violent attacks of temper in which be does not know what he is doing. His father murdered his mother. So far as the law goes, C.A. is 'at liberty' to leave his home at eighteen.I could quote these instances galore. Miss Dendy sums them up in these sentences:—These cases might be multiplied by the thousand. They are not exceptional. There are large numbers who, without further legislative powers, cannot be 235 placed in any safe refuge. Even for those who are so placed, there is great danger that their criminal or feeble-minded patents may persuade them to leave.That is the view taken by all those who have had to do with the subject. I had the honour of introducing to the Home Secretary a deputation, representing working men and women from Manchester and the surrounding districts on this subject. It is for those working men and women that those advocates on that side of the House are posing as protagonists in order to preserve to them the liberty they are supposed to desire. Listen to what these working men and women say. The first was a deputation of the Manchester and Salford District Trades and Labour Council, composed of 33,000 working men who signed a petition unanimously in favour of the Bill, and their representative, Mr. Kean, a shrewd working man himself, said:—There have been a good many remarks made as to the infringement or interference with parental responsibility, but to our mind, as workers, we rather look upon it as a liberation of the responsibility than an interference. Working people who have a child of this description may to some extent he able to look after the child. Still there is the constant harassing thought and dread as to what will become of the child after they have passed away, and we believe the way this Bill proposes to deal with this class of children is really the humane way. The time is long overdue and the question ought to be dealt with. We trust the voice of our workmen at all events will be some means of strengthening and helping you to make this measure an Act of Parliament, so that it will be put in working operation as soon as possible for the benefit of the children and parents and the community at large.Take the view of the representative of the working women. Mrs. Nevitt said:—Speaking on behalf of the working women, who are mostly married women, I say with their full consent and understanding of what they are doing in this matter, as women who have studied the questions of the day and are much interested in social reform work, that we have come to the conclusion that these matters, have been dealt with from the wrong end. We wait until our workhouses and homes and prisons are filled, and we really think this Mental Deficiency Bill will deal with it at the right end, and prevent many of these people finding their way into the places I have mentioned.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
Mrs. Nevitt, of the Manchester District Co-operative Guild. The second point she made was this:—Our women also feel very keenly at the present time that there is no restraint on this class of people perpetuating their race. We find that the working-class people at the present time are restricting their families - that I am absolutely certain of—because they feel they cannot bring their children up in the manner they would like to do. Yet at the same time they have to keep, or help to do so, this class of person, and there is no restraint whatever put on their bringing families into the world. We feel that very strongly: that we are populating the country with the wrong class, and the people who are worthy citizens have to restrict their own families.236 That is the working-class view; no scientific eugenics.With regard to the liberty of the subject, I may say that our women do not look at it as in any way restricting it. They say "We see the feeble-minded people about the streets, and they seem to be the butt for everyone, and they are neglected, many of them. Even with the best intentions in the world, the parents cannot always look after them as they would like to do because they are working women. They have other work to do, and other children sometimes to look after, and all their family affairs. The child cannot be taken out, and is sometimes kept altogether in the house, which I suppose is one way of taking care of it. But to our minds the provisions laid down in this Bill would be more humane altogether, and these children would really have more liberty than they have at present, because they will be taken care of in the homes and schools and the same class will be kept together and looked after. They really will have more liberty in a sense, because they cannot be taken care of in the home.I will only give one sentence more. Mr. McGlasson of the Trades Council said:—Our experience, as leaders, has been that the quarter from which the opposition would come is not the quarter where the child is happy. The economic condition of their homes is such that the parents hold fast to these children because they see the possibility of putting them to work even at the sacrifice of the child. They look forward to the time when the children will reach the age of twelve, thirteen, or fourteen, and when they can put them out to make money out of them.I think that sufficiently illustrates my proposition that it is for the sake of these unfortunate individuals themselves that restrictions on liberty, if they are restrictions on liberty, are absolutely essential. I have here the report of Mr. Travis-Clegg, the Chairman of the Lancashire Inebriates Acts Board upon the work of the Langho Reformatory. During the last ten years a large number of women have been consigned, under the magistrate's order, to that reformatory, and of those women substantially more than 50 per cent. are feeble-minded, and drunkards because they are feeble-minded, and absolutely incapable of cure. Under the existing law, those women have to be discharged after three years' confinement, and of those, 50, per cent. are bound necessarily to relapse at once into that state of inebriety which sent them there. I will read one single sentence:—As I have pointed out before, these women, as their life history shows, have not become mentally defective through drink, but are inebriates because they are mentally defective and cannot resist indulging either that or any other passion to the full which happens to, take possession of them for the time being.I want to quote one fact which is am answer, and I believe a conclusive answer to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Pontefract, that the evil is a decreasing evil. There are those who are wont to attribute this evil not to congenital variation, which is the technical phrase for saying that it is inherited, but to environment 237 and bad conditions. So far as medical knowledge goes it is most unlikely that any appreciable number of cases is due to environment. I believe most doctors hold that opinion. If it be that environment is the chief cause, one would expect to find the evil to a large extent restricted to old civilisations like ours in England, where you have slums. But it exists in new and undeveloped countries—in the Colonies and in open lands, and the evil there is a growing evil. If hon. Members will read the Reports on the subject from Australia and. Canada, they will find it recognised as a growing evil. I will not trouble the House with details. Hon. Members can ascertain the facts for themselves from Reports recently issued, for instance, in New Zealand, Victoria, and Ontario. These Reports all show that it is becoming a serious problem how to deal with the mentally deficient. No doubt their presence in the Colonies is largely a heritage from the wastrels and criminals whom a beneficent Mother country sent out in times gone by. Recently they have adopted stringent immigration regulations to prevent that, but it is too late. They have the stock which breeds and makes the feeble-minded. This Bill in its present form does not represent any experiment in eugenics. It contains no single proposition which is, in any sense, an experiment in the new discoveries of eugenic scientists. It is a Bill based on practical experience, on the experience of people who have had to deal with mentally deficient persons in voluntary institutions. It is based on the conclusions at which they have arrived as a result of their experience.
I pass to another point. The Government in this Bill have accepted the suggestions that were made in Committee that the proper method of approaching this subject is to begin with the children. There is before the House not only the Mental Deficiency Bill, but also the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Bill. These Bills are part of one coherent scheme. They cannot be discussed separately. One is the complement of the other. Shortly the scheme is this: That the education authorities of the country, having already special schools in a great number of districts, having already had some experience of feeble-minded children, and being by law bound to deal with the education of all children, should be used as the means by which the children are to be sifted, so that 238 those who are capable of education should be educated, while those who are not, and who ought to be treated as patients, should be sent on to be dealt with by the authorities under this Mental Deficiency Bill. The proposal in essence is right. But there is at present in the scheme as it stands a necessity for some further statement of the principles which ought to be applied as the criteria for deciding which children should be sent on and which should be retained. The proposal as it stands in the Mental Deficiency Bill is this: By Section 2 Subsection (2) all children in regard to whom notice is given by the local education authority are to be sent on to be dealt with by the mental deficiency authority, if they have been ascertained to be incapable, by reason of mental defects, of receiving benefit or further benefit in special schools or classes, or who cannot be instructed in a special school or class without detriment to the other children, or who within three months before attaining the age of sixteen, they are discharged from a special school or class, and in whose care the local education authority are of opinion it would be for their benefit to be sent to an institution or placed under guardianship.
I do not want to discuss Committee questions here. But there is a question of principle involved. I submit the true principle ought to be this. As the education authority is, by our system, placed there for the purpose of training our children to grow into useful citizens, it follows that, so long as the children are capable of being converted into useful citizens, it is the duty of the education authority to retain them and educate them. But as soon as it becomes evident, which it does after a comparatively short period of observation, that a child will never be capable in after life of standing on its own legs unaided, i.e., of becoming an independent citizen, then you ought to approach the question of what to do with that child from a different point of view. You have to bear in mind that that child will need support as it grows up; it will always remain mentally a child and always be in need of care and guardianship. Therefore, for its own sake, it ought to be sent on to the mental deficiency authority to be dealt with under the provisions of this Bill. This would certainly be in its own interests. There are two subsidary points on that. One is this: that a mentally deficient child will be able to learn 239 very much more how to be happy in life and moderately useful, if taught by the manual method of training now systematically employed in all institutions for the feeble-minded. I am aware that that method is also applied in the special schools of the Education authorities. But what I suggest is this, that in an institution under this Bill that will be the normal method of teaching and training mentally deficient children, and it would be a waste of public money to keep these children in expensive special schools when you cannot ex hypothesi educate them into independent citizens.
Therefore I maintain the true principle should be that as soon as you have satisfied yourselves through the doctor—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Then I will use a colourless expression, and say that as soon as it has been properly ascertained that the individual child will never be an independent citizen, you should send that child on at once, and then he will have the advantage of being developed to the maximum of his limited powers from the earliest years. This will save a considerable amount of expenditure to the local education authority, for I gather that the cost per individual in institutions under this Act will be very much less than the cost per child in special schools. That, I suggest, would be the proper criterion to be applied. I believe the President of the Board of Education and the Home Secretary both share that view; and, if that be the case, then in Committee we shall have to consider how that principle can be satisfactorily expressed in the Bill, so as to prevent the possibility of divergent departmental views in the future between the Home Office and the Board of Control on the one hand and the Board of Education on the other. Those children will be kept in the schools so long as it is possible that they may develop into independent citizens, while those who cannot be so developed will be sent on, on the ground that they will throughout their lives require to be under care and guardianship. This point seems to me important. If that principle is applied, these children will be sent on just as soon as it has been ascertained that they can never become independent citizens without waiting for any particular age. I find corroboration of that view in this fact that, according to the information that has been supplied to 240 me, 90 per cent. are now discharged from the special schools on or before reaching the age of fourteen; and the effect of inserting the age of sixteen in this Bill would be to leave a period in which they would go hopelessly to the bad through not being looked after.
I want to say a word on a class of feebleminded not technically children, but to which similar considerations apply. This perhaps is more a matter for the Home Secretary. There are a good many mentally defective, persons over the age of twenty-one who are not idiots or imbeciles, but who are, for all practical purposes, mere children over whom, under the law as it stands parents have no power of compulsion. These parents cannot send their sons and daughters to these institutions if they do not want to go. It may be desirable that the Bill should confer such a power on parents. I do not want to discuss that here, but I mention the matter as one important to be considered in Committee upstairs. They are mostly cases of what are described as "moral imbeciles."
There is one more point in connection with the scheme of these two Bills in regard to children. The provisions and safeguards with regard to certification, discharge, and so on, are more effective, in regard to children who come "in contact with the law," to use the Home Secretary's phrase, under Section 2, than in regard to those sent on by the Board of Education. With regard to these the ipse dixit of the school doctors is apparently conclusive. The Mental Deficiency Bill gives the President of the Board of Education power to make Regulations which are not required to be laid on the Table of this House, and which give him in fact autocratic authority to deal with the question as he likes, and to drive a coach-and-four through the Mental Deficiency Bill. I do not, of course, think that that is intended, nor will it be carried out in principle.
In regard to matters other than children there is one point on which I would like to lay stress. Under the existing law guardians of the poor are entitled to receive a 4s. Grant for every pauper sent to a voluntary institution under the Idiots Act. As the Bill is drawn I believe that 4s. Grant will be lost. I submit to the House that it ought to be preserved.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
I accept that statement as satisfactory. The only other question is one which has not yet been discussed at all. Doctors say they believe that in a great majority of cases feeblemindedness is a permanent condition which cannot be cured. On the other hand, a committee of doctors specially appointed by those used to dealing with mental cases, acting through the Medical Psychological Association, have expressed a strong opinion that research work ought to be prosecuted with the greatest zeal. It may very likely be, they think that, at any rate in early life, many of those conditions which result in feeble-mindedness will, in the future, be discovered to be remediable. If so, the gravity of this evil is such that we ought to do everything in our power to open out a hope to the public that feeblemindedness may not only be dealt with as under this Bill, but may be cured. There is at present research in connection with most of the asylums. The Home Secretary knows what is going on. But there is no co-ordinated research work in relation to this matter. I have had a report prepared for me by medical experts, showing the kind of work possible, its urgency, and the great expense of the necessary, equipment. I will not trouble the House with details now, but I do suggest that some provision ought to be made not necessarily for a definite Grant of public money this year, but that there ought to be provision in this Bill for allowing some money to be given year by year for National Research in connection with feeble-mindedness. That is a matter of the greatest importance, and I ask the Home Secretary, when he deals with the Financial Resolution, which will be necessary for this Bill, to bear in mind that all-important question of research work.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
All of us on this side of the House who dislike this Bill, who dislike the principle underlying it, who believe that it is inspired by the grossest materialism, and who prefer to trust Providence rather than the Home Secretary, ought to be deeply grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. We could not have had a more perfect example of the sort of thing to which we most strongly object. I do not believe the hon and learned Member can really appreciate the sort of blank dismay with which an attitude such as his strikes those of us on this side of the House who disagree with him. He gets up and advocates for the lower orders, for 242 the working classes, for the children of the poor, a measure which he would never tolerate for one moment for his own children. Is it conceivable that the hon. Member—I do not know whether he s married and has children—if this measure were to be applied to his own children, if he were to have his own feebleminded daughter taken away from him at seven years of age, in spite of his protests, and in spite of his wife's tears, would consent to that daughter being taken away to an institution a hundred miles away from his home, and locked up there?
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
I did not quite catch the hon. Member's question, but I understood it to be whether I understood that this measure applied to children of all classes of the community. I regard it as applying to both rich and poor. The evil is quite as bad, and in some points worse among the rich than among the poor.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
The question I asked the hon. Member was whether, if he had a feeble-minded child of seven years of age, he would be advocating this Bill, and contemplating with equanimity that child being taken away, against his wish and against his wife's wishes, and locked up for life from seven years of age onwards?
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
The Home Secretary may be acquainted with his own Bill, but he can hardly have read the Bill which is to be brought in next by his colleague, the President of the Board of Education. Those two Bills have to be taken together, as the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott) has stated, and, taken together, a child from the age of seven is taken from its parents, becomes the property of the State, and is segregated, and deprived of all chance of ever going home again.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I will deal with the Bill. I do not like being contradicted, so I will deal with the matter at once. If you look at Clause 2, Sub-section (1), paragraph (v.), you will see that the defectives dealt with are those in whose case such notice has been given by the local education authority; and in Clause 2, Subsection (2), (b), yon find that in the case of the children who are at one of these 243 special schools, as they are called, and who are reaching the age of sixteen, the local education authority is to inform the local authority, under this Act, that those children are about to leave and are not fit to look after themselves, and thereupon these children are automatically drafted into these homes. What is called a "petition" is presented by the officer of the local authority, and the child, on reaching the age of sixteen, passes on automatically from the special school to the special home. These new special schools which are proposed under the Bill brought forward by the Minister for Education are to be residential special schools; they will be exactly like the homes proposed to be set up under this Bill, except that they will not be locked, barred, and bolted. Therefore I am justified in asking the hon. Member whether he would support this Bill for his own children as well as for the children of the lower orders. He says that the Bill is intended to apply to rich and poor alike, but he knows it is not so, for there are provisions whereby those who are well-to-do can send their children to homes, not to places locked and bolted, and to put them under the charge of a guardian, so that they may be saved from the segregation provided for the children of the poor. I do not think the hon. and learned Member would be quite so keen on this Bill, and advocate it with such enthusiasm, if he felt that his own children were likely to come under its scourge.
What I liked about his speech was the way in which he viewed the education of children as being entirely a matter for the children and not for the parents. He viewed the child as a potential producer of wealth, as a citizen who is not only to be trained to look after himself, but to be able to earn something as he grew up. I do not know whether he thinks that the only end of existence is to produce wealth for other people. It seems to me that whether or not the child is to be sent to a feeble-minded home and segregated is a question far more of the wishes of the child and the parents than whether the officials and the doctors of the State believe that when the child grows up it will be either a wealth producer or a drag. The one interest of hon. Members who support this Bill is the production of wealth by the community. They have no interest whatever in the real well-being of the child, in its happiness or in the happiness or wishes of the parents. The Home Secretary, in in- 244 troducing this Bill, started by saying, quite-correctly, that this Bill was simply the outcome of the Report of the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission sat for four years and produced a Report upon which this Bill is founded. I do not believe it is the business of Liberal Governments, of Liberal Ministers, of men inspired by really Liberal ideas, to take, without examination, solidly the Report of a Royal Commission and embody it in legislation. Nobody can read the Report of the Royal Commission without seeing that from first to last they never conceived the idea that the welfare of the individual was one of the first things they should protect. Whether the people on the Royal Commission thought that or not, it is the duty of a Liberal Home Secretary and a Liberal Government to look at the question from that point of view. We are not here to enact in Acts of Parliament the Reports of all Royal Commissions. There are two absolutely diametrically opposite points of view of the government of the country. You can either accept the autocracy of the expert and do whatever the experts tell you, or you must ask what the people of the country really want, what you have a mandate for, and what is possibly not in the interests of efficiency or in the interests of wealth production, but what is in the real interest of the individual citizens of the country.
I complain that the home Secretary, in accepting the Report of the Royal Commission and embodying it in this Bill, never regarded it from the democratic point of view at all. He knows that he has no mandate from the country for this Bill. The whole of the Liberal Press—the "Manchester Guardian," the "Daily News," the "Citizen," and the "Daily Herald"—opposed this Bill last year, and denounced it as an illiberal, anti-democratic measure. It has absolutely no support from the country. The right hon. Gentleman has never mentioned it in his speeches in the country, and none of the Cabinet Ministers have attempted to defend it in the country. None of them had it in their election addresses when the last election was on. I do not suppose that any of them, except the Home Secretary, has ever read the Bill. It is now brought forward, based on the Report of the Royal Commission, and drafted by the Home Office. We should not swallow everything the Home Office puts before the House of Commons. I am against government by experts, and still more against government by artificial agitation. Last year we had 245 a sudden, raging, tearing agitation got up over what was called the "White Slave Traffic" Bill. This House passed the Bill, and then discovered that there was no trade at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] Not a single white slave trader has been arrested since. They may have passed over to France. That was a Bill to arrest all those people who were waiting at railway stations to lure poor girls away. The Bill was passed, and nobody has been arrested. A similar agitation has been got up now. Miss Pinsent, who speaks on Liberal platforms for the National Liberal Women's Association, has wonderful ability, such ability as only ladies seem to possess nowadays. She organised all over the country a series of petitions and a campaign in favour of this measure. It is very likely to grow in force, and we shall hear the women of the country clamouring for this Bill, as they did for the White Slave Bill. But it is our business to look at the measure from the point of view of actual law; to read the Bill, and see how it will actually affect our constituents. If this Bill is passed into law, it will put into prison 100,000 people who are at present at liberty. That means that in each of our constituencies there are fifty people now at liberty who will be put into prison. Before we enact a law doing that, we ought to carefully consider whether we are justified in making the change.
I admit at once that there can be a very strong case indeed made out for some measure on these lines. The heartrending examples react out by the hon. Member for Liverpool can be multiplied in every corner of the country. There are hundreds of cases of women who drift in and out of the workhouses. They go in to have a child, come out, and go back again. There are hundreds of cases of people who sink to the lowest depth of degradation because they are not properly looked after at the present time. While we admit all that—and everyone knows it is true—it by no means leads us to accept this solution of the Government as the proper solution of the difficulty. Hon. Members interested in the question know that at Sandlebridge, near Birmingham, there is an admirable institution. Such institutions are homes in the best sense; they are looked after by people who are interested in looking after this particular class of persons. There are separate houses for each class of defective and for each sex. The people who run these houses subsist partly on grants from the county council, and partly from voluntary contributions, and they have the 246 utmost difficulty in making both ends meet. They are overwhelmed by applications from parents to make room for their children, So that their children can go to these homes. I think I was told there were 4,000 applications for a vacancy at Sandlebridge. These are the homes which are run on admirable lines.
Surely if yon want to do anything really to help the feeble-minded, and not something which is to turn out more defective children, the best thing we can do is to, encourage homes such as these. There ought to be far more of such homes. But let us be quite certain that we keep them as homes, and do not turn them into, prisons. Everyone who has studied the question knows that the backbone of this. Bill is the abolition of these homes and the substitution for them of asylums, where there are bolts and bars, where people are locked up at night, where people may not go in order to visit their friends, where they will be hunted like runaway slaves if they escape, and brought back by any constable or any servant of the asylum. The will power of these mentally defective people is so poor that there are hardly any escapes from these existing real homes. They do not run away, because they are-persuaded not to. You are going to alter these homes into places where they are locked up. The first result of that will be that people outside will no longer have confidence in the way these homes are being managed. Directly you put obstacles in the way of free egress you immediately start all sorts of ideas as to what goes on in these homes. No one who has read Charles Reade's "Hard Cash," no one who, reads the newspapers and sees the accounts which occasionally come up of ill-treatment of convicts, will for a moment assert that if you establish all over this country asylums where people on the borderline between sanity and insanity are locked up you will not take all manner of tales, and probably more than tales, of what goes on inside these new asylums. I believe good work can be done by amending our existing lunacy laws in the direction of more careful inspection and more humane treatment in these asylums. I should be the last person to do anything to add to the number of people in asylums in this country—100,000 poor people who cannot do anything for themselves and who are on the borderline between sanity and insanity.
We have at present admirable homes. Why not use the money which this Bill finds for increasing those homes and for 247 establishing them all over the country? As the Home Secretary said last year, but unfortunately did not repeat to-day, if these were voluntary homes, if there were no locks and bolts and bars, 99 per cent. of the people in them would remain there just as though they were involuntary. Why, for the sake of the odd 1 per cent., introduce a prison instead of leaving to develope, still more fully than it is developing at present, the voluntary: system where the feeble-minded person is genuinely looked after. If you put on bolts and bars, you not only arouse suspicion, but you will get far more brusque treatment, possibly brutal treatment, of the inmates. If the home is voluntary, there is every inducement to the people who run it to see that the inmates are treated humanely, and not made to dislike the place. But if you make them closed homes, whence the people cannot escape, one of your greatest safeguards for kind treatment of the inmates vanishes, and you do not know what may take its place. We know there are these hard cases. We know there are feeble-minded men and women who ought to be looked after by the State. Let the 'Government go gently. Let them extend the existing system. Let them increase the number of these homes, but do not let them jump from the present system to one with which we have no acquaintance except so far as the Lunacy Commissioners and our present asylum for the insane give us light upon what may happen. If you give money to these homes; if you put local authorities in charge of homes such as Sandlebridge all over the country, if there are vacancies for all the parents who want to send their children to these homes, you will have done something for the feeble-minded people of the country, and at the same time you will not have committed any crime against them. You will not be scrapping them for life; you will not be locking them up against their wish, but you will be safeguarding them against ill-treatment. That is what I think the Government ought to do. Let them establish voluntary homes. If they like, let them make it impossible for the parents to take the children away from the homes until they are twenty-one years of age, but after twenty-one years of age, let them be free to go or come as they like, and we know that 99 per cent, will be so much at home in the homes that they will stop on naturally. 248 But we have come to an age in which the State is supposed to do everything by compulsion, an age in which the policeman is a god, and in which he has to rule the people. The Government now say we will put these children away at seven years of age, and keep them in these institutions for the rest of their life. We will segregate them; we will look after them very kindly, but we will segregate them in order that the breed of the race may be improved and in order that the wealth producing power of the working classes may be increased.
I want to go through this Bill and see exactly what it does propose, because, after all, it is a long Bill, and 99 out of every 100 who talk about it have never read it. In the first Clause you have the definition of the various people who are to come within the ambit of the Bill. There are four different classes. There used to be more, but fortunately, we have reduced them to four. There are, first, idiots and imbeciles, about whom we need say nothing, because they are already dealt with; then we come to feeble-minded persons, in whose case there exists from birth defectiveness not amounting to imbecility, yet so pronounced that they require care for their own protection, or for the protection of others. That is appallingly vague, and in many cases it is not a matter that a doctor can decide. It is not a question that he can diagnose. It is merely a matter of opinion that they require care for their protection or for the protection of others. Merely under the words, "for the protection of others," you might bring in all the ideas of the Eugenist School. We might want to protect others in the future from coming in contact with feeble-minded persons, and therefore we might segregate them. We might say that people like the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) are a danger to society, and for the protection of others they should be segregated and kept out of the way. Dr. Bernard Hollander, who has written an extremely interesting article upon this Bill, writes as follows on this important point of the definition of feeble-minded persons:—This definition is unsatisfactory. It can be made applicable to a great many persons who are leading normal and useful Is it not true of many men, and still more so of a great many women, that they are mentally defective—of course not amounting to imbecility, yet sufficiently pronounced that some care, supervision and control should be given for their protection and for the protection of others? We are all feeble-minded in some respects, or when taken out of our accustomed environment. For the law to interfere with the border-line feeble-minded it should be proved 249 in any given case that the person was always in need of supervision and not merely at a particular time; and in the case of children it is not sufficient to say that they are incapable of receiving proper benefit from instruction in ordinary schools, which may apply to a great many children who do well in after life, but it should be stated that they have failed to acquire even rudimentary knowledge.Of course Cowper the poet would have been locked up under this Bill. He was sufficiently feeble-minded. In fact, the children who would come under the definition of "incapable of receiving proper benefit from the instruction in ordinary schools" might be extended to include nearly one-half the population. It is a matter which anyone who is put in authority would be able to use as a tremendous weapon to bully or blackmail people or in other ways to bend them to their will. People who are incapable of receiving proper benefit and instruction are unfortunately too numerous in this country, though there are plenty of them in this House, as far as I can see. The definition of feeble-minded is so vague as to be utterly valueless.
Then we come to the people whom we really want to get at on the other side. Those are the moral imbeciles—that is to say, persons who from an early age display some permanent mental defect coupled with strong vicious or criminal propensities, on which punishment has little or no deterrent effect. There are a great many people upon whom punishment has very little deterrent effect. I rather thought we were growing out of the habit of regarding punishment as being the best deterrent. Let me read what Dr. Hollander says about moral imbeciles:—What is meant by mental defects? Moral imbeciles are those who display some mental defect. If a moral defect is meant, it should be stated so, but if intellectual defect is meant, it is in the majority of cases not true. Moral imbeciles show, as a rule, intellectually, but little, if any, abnormality. They do not lack brain or intelligence. Of these they have more than their share, but they put them to a bad use.When the other Bill was going through Committee upstairs an hon. Member actually proposed that all prostitutes should be included with persons who are liable to be segregated, and obviously there must be a large class of people who believe that prostitutes are feeble-minded persons, and should all be segregated for life. It is not fair to the citizens of this country to leave them absolutely at the mercy of people who can read into this Bill exactly what they like owing to the vagueness of these definitions. Such, then, are the classes of persons—idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, and moral imbeciles. Having got these four 250 different classes, what does the Bill propose to do? It does not say all these people are to be segregated. They have got to come in contact with the law, or-come under some of the Sub-clauses of Clause 2. Those who are idiots and imbeciles, the worst class, and also the feeble-minded and moral imbeciles who, are below twenty-one, can be put away by their parents after an inspection by a doctor. That seems to me to be a very satisfactory part of the Bill. At present a parent can put away a feeble-minded child if he is lucky enough to get a vacancy in a home. Then the next thing is that any of them who are found neglected or cruelly treated may be taken away. That seems to be perfectly just. They are the children of all parents who are not taken proper care of. Then we come to those "found guilty of any offence." The Home Secretary in stating what this Bill did inserted-there the word "criminal," which, at any rate, makes the Clause better. As the Bill stands at present "any offence" would include such offences as being sued for debt, non-payment of rates, or anything of that sort.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Is such an offence not included under paragraph (ii.), Clause 2, Sub-section (1)? It provides that a mentally defective person may be sent to or placed in an institution for defectives or placed under guardianship
"who is found guilty of any offence, or who is ordered or liable to be ordered to be sent to a certified industrial school."
Even there I would like to point out to the House that it makes a great deal of difference to a person sentenced to seven days' imprisonment whether the actual imprisonment is to be for seven days or for life. Paragraph (b), Clause 2, seem to me in need of amendment in the direction of excluding people who receive short sentences from the ambit of the measure. We have to remember that people in prison, undergoing short sentences can be transferred under the Bill by the ipse digit of the Home Secretary into these asylums for life. It is a very serious thing to pass an Act that gives such power over citizens of this country who have been guilty of some minor offence. There are powers dealing with habitual drunkards, and women "in receipt of poor relief at the-time of giving birth to an illegitimate. 251 child." However much some Members of this House may look down on these women who go to the workhouse, we must remember that it is not fair to punish them in the way this Bill would do. It is rather hard that a woman who has been betrayed by some man, and who must go to the workhouse simply because necessity compels her to go there, should incur the risk of being sent to one of these asylums. There is a certain prejudice against women who have illegitimate children, and you might find boards of guardians acting with extraordinary stringency. I would ask the Home Secretary, when this Bill goes upstairs, to make a modification of this provision. He should make it apply after the birth of a second child, and not a first child, so as not to condemn these women to the awful doom contemplated by this provision.
You cannot do much even under eugenic regulations to deal with this question in the case of feeble-minded persons. The Government have followed up the suggestions of eugenic cranks in regard to this Bill and the Bill of the Education Department dealing with elementary education. They propose to deal with the children in this way: In the first place, schools are to be provided all over the country, both in urban and rural districts. There are many of these special schools already all over the country, and admirable schools they are. But there are country districts where it is impossible to put up a school for a couple of children. You will have these schools as residential schools. They will not be day schools to which the children will go in the day time, and return to their homes every night. During the term and very often during holidays as well, the children will be entirely separated from their parents, just as boys who are at public schools. At the present time children are not forced to go to school if they are mentally defective. Even in the urban districts children who go to the "silly schools" are not forced to go to the ordinary schools at the present time. So far as they are concerned education is voluntary, but directly the Board of Education Bill has been passed education for those children will become compulsory both in town and country, and people who have defective children will be bound to send them to these schools. The great argument in favour of compulsory education, so far as education in the ordinary schools is concerned, is that if the parents were not compelled to send their children 252 to school they would make them work to bring in a little money. That argument does not hold good so far as defective children are concerned. The Bill proposes that children from seven to sixteen years of age should be weeded out from the ordinary elementary schools and sent to these homes for the mentally defective. To that part of the scheme I have no objection. It seems to me that it would be of advantage to the other children in the ordinary schools that defective children should be weeded out and sent to these institutions. What I have the greatest objection to is what, is to happen to these children when they get to sixteen years of age. When they get to that age they do not return to their parents and to normal life. After the presentation of a petition—a purely formal proceeding—they are segregated for the rest of their life.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. J. A. Pease)
The hon. Member is under an entire misapprehension in regard to what will happen to these children. We believe that a very large number of them will never have to be placed under any such custodial conditions as the hon. Member suggests.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Many experts agree that at the age of sixteen mentally defective boys or girls are not in a state to look after themselves. A very small proportion will be able to do so, and I do not think that the Education Department can say that they will be in a fit state to look after themselves at that age. If the age were raised to eighteen, I think he would be right, and that he would be able to let out a great many more boys and girls. At the age of sixteen it is very unlikely that the children would be able to be set free. They will be sent to an involuntary home—in fact, to an asylum. It will be observed that in hardly any of these cases are rich people touched. It is the lower orders who are being dealt with. Section 3 is immaterial. Under Section 4 we see the method by which the State gets hold of the mentally defective in certain circumstances. There are three ways for different classes. When a child has reached the age of sixteen a petition is to be presented to a magistrate by the officer of the local authority. The application is made in private, the petition is accompanied by two medical certificates, or, if they cannot examine the boy or girl, they must state why they have not done so. The doctors have to certify on a question 253 which is not a medical question at all. Feeble-mindedness is not something that can be diagnosed like chicken-pox or phthisis.
The matter is one in which almost any-one is as good a judge as a doctor. The British Phrenological Society has put forward a very good point about this. They say that in every case there should be a statutory declaration in regard to the mental condition of the defective person made before laymen to be appointed for the purpose by a judicial authority, and they consider that one holding a public office or a justice of the peace would be preferable. You must remember that it will be fatally easy to get these certificates. The local authority makes the petition when the child is sixteen years of age, and inevitably the doctors will have thousands of these petitions to sign. They will be in all probability the servants of the local authorities, and the petition will be a mere matter of form in the case of children attending the special schools. I think there is the utmost need for an out-side medium in these cases—a justice of the peace, or somebody who is not a mere medical officer, or servant of the local authority. Having presented the petition, the next stage is that the person who is feeble-minded is summoned and brought before the magistrate. He is tried in private on the evidence of these two medical certificates. It is true that the magistrate can, if he wishes, have the inquiry held in public, but if he does not wish it, the inquiry will be held in private. He is to be empowered to allow the mentally defective person to have friends present. I am afraid those persons will not be in a mental state to demand the privilege of having their friends present. In this connection I wish to read to the House an extract from the letter of a man who was confined in an asylum.
It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, Further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.