HC Deb 13 February 1917 vol 90 cc530-3

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £3,800, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1917, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Control (Lunacy and Mental Deficiency), England."


There are one or two items on this Vote as to which I desire to ask information. If my hon. Friend will look at paragraph (l), at the bottom of the page, he will find a reference to new buildings and alterations. It is stated that building has been accelerated in order to provide accommodation for soldier patients. I presume the Home Secretary is in charge of this Vote, and I wish to ask him, in view of the fact that there has been a great deal of concern with regard to where soldiers subject to a particular form of disease are to be placed— and I take it that these are hostels for soldiers who have lost their reason through causes due to the War—I should like to ask the number of these men and the treatment which it is proposed to apply to them? Also if they are cases which can in any way be cured or whether the buildings are meant for men deemed to be beyond cure?


The item referred to by my hon. Friend is a sum of £1,300, an excess estimate for the provision of new buildings at Bath-side, an institution for men mentally defective. The War Office have been pressing for buildings in which to accommodate soldiers who are suffering in this way, and the work was consequently accelerated so that the buildings might be available at the earliest possible moment. There are a number of men who require special treatment in these institutions by doctors who are familiar with the complaint. Therefore, the Board of Control have endeavoured to accelerate the provision of buildings as much as possible.


Are these men still soldiers or have they now become civilians?


Of course they are soldiers, and remain so in most cases. But there are some who must be discharged from the Army.


If in many cases the inmates of these institutions are soldiers under the War Office, there ought to be some contribution from that Department to this Vote. Here we have, again, the same vicious principle; we are asked to vote under the heading of the Board of Control money which is being used for soldiers under the War Office. That cannot be right.


But this money is for buildings which will remain the property of the Board of Control.


Still, they are used by soldiers, and the money, therefore, should be found by the War Office. It may be it is only a case of bookkeeping, but I do submit that one Department of the State ought not to use buildings belonging to another Department without making some payment, and something of that kind ought to appear in this Vote.

8.0 P.M.


There is another point which demands explanation. The larger part of the additional sum required (£6,000) arises under head (C)—Contributions towards the Expenses of Local Authorities. In the footnote we are told that these contributions arise under Section 47 of the Act, and are given towards, expenses incurred by local authorities in carrying out obligatory duties imposed upon them by Parliament. I notice that these duties are very wide. I do not propose to go into the whole of these general powers, but in view of the very substantial increase in the total of the Estimate as originally framed, an increase representing one-fifth of the amount, I think we are entitled to some explanation as to the causes which have brought it about. Doubtless the matter has been largely in the hands of local authorities, and the right hon. Gentleman himself has not complete control, but I think under Section 47 of the Act he has certain powers of supervision and veto:

"There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament such sums as the Secretary of State may, with the approval of the Treasury, recommend towards the expenses,"

and so on. So you have here conditions to be laid down by the Secretary of State, and you have Treasury approval. I assume both of these conditions have been fulfilled in this instance, and, as they have been fulfilled, it would be possible for my right hon. Friend to give a short explanation of how this very large increase has occurred.


I will give the explanation at once: It is simply this: When the Estimate was framed, some time ago, we had to act, of course, on the figures given to us by the local authorities. Now, in many cases, they had not completed their schemes, because they were considering them. They had not arrived at a figure, or they had arrived at a figure which turned out to be wrong. That is the whole explanation of this sum of £6,000. I will just add this in answer to the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. Ashley). He surely does not want us to charge the War Office sixty pounds or a hundred pounds for the use of this institution; and if he did want that, it would not be at all fair to do it, because, if the hon. Member will look at his Paper, so far from making a loss by lending this institution, we have made a very large profit. The amount realised by the sale of stock, etc., in that property is no less than £3,500. That is Appropriation-in-Aid, but that goes to reduce the total excess of £7,300. So that the only sum we have to ask the House to sanction is the balance.

Question pat, and agreed to.