HC Deb 16 December 1927 vol 211 cc2700-22

"(1) The Minister of Health may grant exemption from the operation of this Act in respect of any nursing home, as respects which he is satisfied that it is being or will be carried on in accordance with the practice and principles of the body known as the Church of Christ Scientist.

(2) It shall be a condition of any exemption granted to a nursing home under this Section that the nursing home shall adopt and use the name of Christian Science nursing home.

(3) An exemption granted under this Section in respect of a nursing home may at any time be withdrawn by the Minister if it appears to him that that home is no longer being carried on in accordance with the said practice and principles."—[Captain Cazolet.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The first Clause of this Bill makes it compulsory for any nursing home in the future, if the Bill is passed, to have in charge of it a qualified medical doctor or a qualified nurse. Hon. Members are no doubt aware that the method of healing disease as practised by those who profess the faith of Christian Science is entirely different from that practised by the medical profession. It is obvious, therefore, that if there is to be a qualified medical man or a qualified nurse at the head of these homes there must be a period when either he or she will disapprove of the methods adopted in the homes to which the proposed New Clause refers. I should state here that these homes do not take maternity cases, cases requiring surgical operations, or cases of infectious diseases. There are, at present, 30 or 40 of these homes spread about the countries of England and Wales. If they cannot obtain exemption under this Bill the result will be that those who profess the faith of Christian Science or who desire to be healed by its means, will be subjected, in my opinion, to an intolerable degree of persecution merely for their religious convictions. That I declare to be quite contrary both to the traditions of this House, and the objects of the promoters of the Bill.

The only other alternative is that these homes should be closed. No attempt is being made under this proposed New Clause to evade any of the rules and regulations in regard to ventilation, sanitation or such matters. These homes are prepared to submit to any degree of inspection and registration which may be thought desirable and necessary by the Ministry of Health. These homes would, of course, have to satisfy the requirements of the Ministry in these respects, and in other matters, before they could gain exemption. Now the object of the Bill is presumably to close undesirable establishments and not to interfere with well-conducted homes where hundreds of our fellow citizens today are seeking and finding comfort and health. In face of these facts, we place our position before the Ministry of Health. We have accepted this proposed New Clause which, I understand, conforms in every way with the requirements of the Ministry of Health. I feel sure that no one in this House, and in particular none of those who represent the medical profession in this House, desires to interfere with the free right of any individual in this country to think upon religious matters as he or she desires nor does anyone desire to interfere with the right of the individual to seek relief from his ill-health and his troubles as he or she may think best. If this Clause be rejected, however, it will, in my opinion, constitute an intolerable interference with the right of the individual in these respects, and, therefore, I trust that this Clause, which is agreeable to the Ministry of Health and which is satisfactory to those most intimately concerned, will be accepted by the House.

Viscountess ASTOR

I beg to second the Motion.


I feel bound to say a word on this Clause, as a member of the Select Committee which took evidence. We took evidence specially of the representative of Christian Science, and I think this Clause does raise some difficulty. The main object that the Select Committee had before it, and which is indeed embodied in the Bill, was to ensure that in all institutions which held themselves out as nursing homes, there should be qualified nursing service for the public who went to those homes and who paid the fees required of them. We were not willing to make any exemptions whatever, except those which are contained in Clause 6 of the Bill, and those are cases where people are in institutions of the nature of nursing homes for which they do not pay; but in all cases where there is payment made, we held very clearly indeed, after all the evidence that came before us, that there should be no exemption. We had, amongst other cases, the cases of medical men who keep nursing homes in various parts of the country and where they receive patients for fees, and a very great deal of evidence was given before us, and a good deal of pressure was brought to bear upon the Committee, to induce us to make a recommendation that in all cases where nursing homes were run by a medical man for gain there should be exemption from the provisions of the Bill. We were told that the General Medical Council would ensure that such homes were properly run and that we need have no fear whatever in cases of that kind that the homes would not be properly provided with qualified nurses. The evidence, however, that came before us showed us that some of the very worst cases of neglect occurred in these nursing homes which were run by doctors, and we found it quite impossible, under those circumstances, to make any recommendation for the exemption of such homes.

Now we are met with the suggestion that there should be exemption in the case of a particular religious body. We are not dealing here with a religious question at all, but with a medical question, a nursing question, a question in which the House desires, through this Bill, to protect the public, and, therefore, we should be very chary of making an exemption in the case of this particular religious body, which wishes to conduct treatment in homes of its own of a special character, entirely and absolutely distinct from what is generally known as nursing treatment. We have defined in the Bill what a qualified nurse is, and we have said throughout the Bill that qualified nurses are to be employed in these homes. The only little relaxation we have made of these rules is in connection with nursing homes actually in existence at the present moment, and which will be carried on under the Regulations under the Bill when those Regulations are made by the local authorities, and we have given a certain time for these existing nursing homes to get a better staff than they have at present. I do not think they ought to be thrown out immediately because they have not got the necessary staff which ought to be provided under the Bill, and so we have made a little exception in their case, but in all other cases we feel that no exception should be made. The evidence that a nursing home should have qualified nurses on the staff, even if it does not have for the moment a qualified nurse at its head or a qualified man at its head, was conclusive.

Therefore, I think it is extremely difficult for me, as a member of the Select Committee, to agree with this Clause, which, as even the Under-Secretary said in Committee upstairs on a similar Amendment, would drive a horse and coach right through the main provision of this Bill, which is to provide qualified nursing, or rather to assure that qualified nursing is provided, in all nursing institutions which are registered by the local authority under the Bill. Therefore, I am afraid I must vote against this Clause, although I do not do so with any idea in the least of wanting to injure this particular body of religious persons. Let them carry on their religious work in their own way as much as they like, but I do not think they ought to come to the Ministry of Health and say that the Ministry is to take the responsibility, for that is what it comes to, for the nursing service which is given in these institutions, when we know that that nursing service would not be the nursing service of qualified nurses as provided under the Bill.


I agree with the observations of the last speaker with regard to the qualifications of medical nurses in nursing homes, but this Clause raises a religious difficulty, and I have no desire, any more than has any other hon. Member, to interfere with the religious views of other people, but I cannot help thinking that the form in which this new Clause is being moved raises the religious issue in a very half-hearted way by the people who believe in it. If people really believe that exemption should be granted, why do they say that only permissive power to exempt shall be granted to the Ministry of Health? The Clause says: "The Minister of Health may grant exemption," but if he is satisfied that these homes are Christian Science homes he can even then refuse the exemption. It is merely a permissive power, and it seems to me to indicate a position in which even the supporters of it have no clear belief in their own case. There is another objection that I see to the Clause, and that is this, that it is taking the Minister of Health away from his proper duties and, instead of being primarily a Minister of Health, it is turn-him into a theological expert, because the first part of the Clause says: The Minister of Health may grant exemption from the operation of this Act in respect of any nursing home, as respects which he is satisfied that it is being or will be carried on in accordance with the practice and principles of the body known as the Church of Christ, Scientist. He is to examine the practice and principles of the Christian Science Church, and to see that all the principles of that Church are being carried out; he is to find out that they are not heterodox in any way, but that the proper orthodox practice and principles of the Christian Science Church are being observed. This is a new duty to cast upon a Government Department. Why should the Minister of Health be the high priest of the Christian Science Church and see that their homes are properly conducted? This is a new form of Popery. As I understand it, the Minister of Health is to be converted into a new kind of Pope, and I object to that doctrine. I do not pretend to be familiar with the doctrine of the Christian Scientists, but if I am more or less accurate in saying that they believe in faith healing as against other methods, I do not see what is the necessity for a home at all.


There is nothing in common between what is the accepted idea of faith-healing and the doctrine of Christian Science.


How are you going to ascertain, and keep the Minister of Health informed as to any modification that might take place in the doctrine? The Clause says "in accordance with the practice and principles."

Viscountess ASTOR

They do not change.


There is another very great objection in the second part of this Clause which says: It shall be a condition of any exemption granted to a nursing home under this Section that the nursing home shall adopt and use the name of Christian Science nursing home. Many homes might adopt that name. You are opening a new loophole. How are people who have adopted the name to prove, or how are the supporters of this Bill to prove, to the Minister of Health that these people are qualified Christian Scientists? It opens up a mass of difficulties, and upon these grounds I hope this new Clause will be defeated.

Major-General Sir RICHARD LUCE

Also as a member of the Select Committee, I wish to oppose this Clause, and I do so for several reasons. The first has already been referred to by a Member on this side who was Chairman of the Committee, and it is that when we were taking evidence before the Committee, we had applications from two sets of nursing homes for exemption under this Bill. One was from the medical profession, that is to say, from those members of the medical profession who had nursing homes of their own, and the other was from the representatives of the Christian Science Church. When all the evidence had been taken, it became perfectly evident that it was not wise to grant exemption to those homes which were under the charge of a medical man, and that has not been given in the Bill. It would therefore, be very unfair that an exemption should be given to any other body who are claiming on very much the same grounds. That seems to me to be a very genuine reason for not granting this concession. The Mover of the Clause has stated that there are something like 30 or 40 of these nursing homes in the country at the present time. That is not at all in accordance with the evidence we received from the representative of the Church in question before the Select Committee. At that time, he said there were only three Christian Science nursing homes in the country, that there were other kinds of places to which patients could go to receive their treatment, but which could not in any way be called nursing homes. He gave them the name of a kind of boarding-house. There has either been an enormous growth in nursing homes between last year and now—they have been multiplied by 10—or else the boardinghouses are now being included among nursing homes.

If that be so, and if the great majority of those homes are such as need not come under the name of "nursing home" at all, but are really boarding houses in which patients can see their own professor—I do not know exactly what he calls himself—who treats these cases, there is not any very great hardship in closing down the few ones which are definitely nursing homes. If they are really to become what is definitely a nursing home, there should undoubtedly be control over them, to see that they keep up to the standard which is going to be exacted from nursing homes of any other kind. Another reason is that under this Clause there seems to be no proper guarantee that the homes which are going to be exempted by it will be properly inspected. The Minister does not take the responsibility of inspecting them. All he does is to say that he will exempt them if it is definitely shown that they are homes belonging to a particular church.

That does not cover the ground. It does not guarantee that they will be inspected. It does not give the users of those homes any sort of guarantee that the homes are being run on proper lines, and, that being so, any guarantee that would be left would be that which would be provided by the managers of the homes themselves.

The evidence we obtained before the Committee was that, at the present time, or at that time, at any rate, there was absolutely no body which controlled these homes in any way. In fact, the representative of the central body who gave evidence knew extraordinarily little about the homes at all. He said it might he possible to set, up a central body which would control the homes under directions from Boston, but at the time there was no such body in existence. That is a very nebulous state of affairs. If they are going to be exempted, they are going to be exempted by a certificate from the Minister that they are Christian Science homes. There is to be no form of inspection or any kind of control other than a nebulous one not yet set in being by their own body. There seems to be one further extreme danger in allowing this Clause to go through. There are many other methods of treatment in vogue in this country besides that of the orthodox Christian Science. There are, as we have been informed, many unorthodox methods of treatment. What is to prevent, in the case of any one of these other methods, the setting up of homes, and if this exemption be given, how can the present Minister, or any Minister in the future, justly claim to refuse exemption in those cases also? We are setting up a very dangerous precedent which will be very difficult to resist in the future, and I hope that the House will not agree to this Clause.

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Chamberlain)

I think it would be convenient if I were to intervene at this moment to say what is the attitude of the Ministry of Health towards the Clause which the House is discussing. It is all the more necessary, because I do not think that the House has yet had before it some of the considerations that ought to be taken into account in deciding a matter of this kind. My hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Amendment spoke of Christian Science as a religion, a form of faith. I do not know that it is necessary for me to say that I am not a Christian Scientist. I do not profess even to know what are the tenets of Christian Science, but so far as it is the practice of Christian Science to substitute for medical and surgical skill some other methods I entirely disapprove of it.


It is faith.


Having said so much, I want to ask the House to consider what would be the effect of rejecting the Clause which has been moved, and consequently bringing institutions carried on by Christian Scientists under the provisions of the Bill. One is bound to consider that we are not now concerned with the doctrines of Christian Science. What we are concerned with in this Bill is to see that no member of the public is deceived, and that no member of the public shall enter one of these institutions under the impression that he is entering it as a nursing home in the sense in which that term is generally used. Christian Science is not carried on as medical treatment; it is not a species of quackery which pretends to be something it is not. You may agree or you may not agree with it, but there is no pretence that such treatment as is given by Christian Scientists is offered as a variety of medical treatment. It is in fact an alternative to medical treatment.

Having got that clear, let us consider what is going to be the effect of bringing these institutions under the provisions of the Bill. Without some form of exemption, there is little doubt that they would come within the provisions of the Bill, and, if so, they would be required, as a condition of their continued existence, to appoint a qualified nurse to be resident in the home as the superintendent of the home. But they cannot do it; it would be contrary, as I understand it, to their beliefs to do it. It would be a case of camouflage, and I put it to hon. Members who feel that it is a danger to leave the homes out of the Bill, that if, as a result of bringing them in, this piece of camouflage were introduced so that it could be said that they are nursing homes, you would be doing the very thing which some of my hon. Friends want to prevent. You would be deceiving, or likely to deceive, the public. On that account, I suggest to hon. Members who are alarmed about these things, that they are unwise to attempt to bring them within the provisions of the Bill. Suppose they refused to appoint a qualified nurse. The home would be closed. Can we contemplate the possibility of doing that? That, however, would be the effect, because they could not exist without registration, and they could not be registered without having a qualified nurse.


Only if they are nursing homes.


In Clause 1, on page 2 of the Bill, you find that the authority may refuse to register the applicant if they are satisfied— (d) in the ease of a nursing home (other than a maternity home) which was in existence at the commencement of this Act, that the nursing of the patients in the home is not under the superintendence of a qualified nurse who is resident in the home; That is the Clause to which I am referring. It says the authority "may" refuse to register, not "shall," but in practice the "may" might mean "shall."


This Bill refers to homes which are nursing homes. If the Christian Scientist refers to them as homes of rest or homes of treatment, they will not come under the Bill at all, and will not deceive the public.


That is not a matter in which a layman can decide. It is a legal question. It all depends on whether institutions of the kind we are discussing would come within the definition of nursing homes in the Bill, and I am advised that they would, and certainly I do not think my hon. Friend can give us an assurance that they would not. Therefore we have to contemplate the possibility that they would come within the definition. If there is any dispute, no doubt in practice the matter would be taken to the Courts, and it could be finally decided whether they come within the definition. We must therefore contemplate the possibility; and I ask the House to consider this. How can we say that the principles and the practices of Christian Science shall be lawful in this country so long as they are not carried on in an institution? What is the logic in that? This would leave it perfectly free and open for any persons who desired to obtain Christian Science treatment to obtain it in their own homes, and it seems to me that there would be great force in the argument of my hon. and gallant Friend that this would be regarded as a piece of persecution for religious opinions for which opportunity had been given by this Bill in one direction, but which had not the courage to come out and fight the main question as to whether Christian Science should or should not be permitted to be carried on in this country. These are considerations which have led me to think that the inclusion of these institutions under the provisions of this Bill offers difficulties so serious that I cannot contemplate it with complacency.

I have, therefore, had to consider what was the other alternative, and, in doing that I have had in mind all along this main consideration, which is the only one which concerns me, namely, to see that the public, if it enters one of these institutions, shall do so with its eyes open, knowing precisely what it is that it is going there for, and shall not be liable to be misled or deceived by the fact that such a home has been inspected by some Government or local authority. Provided it were possible to isolate these particular institutions, separating them from such homes as might be set up by unqualified persons posing as medical practitioners; provided one could get some test by which they could be separated, and could ensure that they could not call themselves by a title which would give rise to misunderstanding; and if one could also provide a safeguard so that on any change taking place in the situation an exemption could be withdrawn, then the objects which I have in view would be secured. I think with one exception the Clause which has been moved by my hon. and gallant Friend carries out my ideas. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Sir C. Cobb), who was chairman of the Select Committee, spoke all the time in his speech of nursing homes, and protested against the exemption of any kind of nursing home, and I think I agree with him there, but the whole point is that these are not nursing homes. This seems to me to be the weak point of the Clause as it stands upon the Paper, that they are still to be called nursing homes, and I am going to ask my hon. and gallant Friend if he would consider amending his Clause in that respect.


What part of the Clause?


In Sub-section (2) it says: It shall be a condition of any exemption granted to a nursing home under this Section that the nursing home shall adopt and use the name of Christian Science nursing home. I ask the House not to approve that name, which would bring such homes under the general description of nursing homes. I suggest that he should use some other title which would separate those institutions entirely from nursing homes and afford no excuse to anyone to say that he had gone there under some misapprehension. I think they might possibly be called "Christian Science Houses," a term which does not, I think, involve any suggestion of medical practice. I suggest to my hon. and gallant Friend that if he could adopt that title in place of the one which is in the Amendment, it might go some way at any rate to meet the objection.


Would that apply to the first part of the Clause as well where it says

"In respect of any nursing homes,"

so as to make it read, "In respect of any homes"?


I do not think it would be necessary to qualify every reference in the Act itself to the institutions as "nursing homes." I dare say it might be possible in another place to make some further alteration; but I am concerned with what the public will think. The public will not read this Act; they will read the title which is put up on the door of the institution, and that is where I think it is important to have the alteration, and the course I have suggested would really bring about that end. This would indicate quite clearly the reasons why we are making a special exemption in this case, because, as I say, these are not really nursing homes.


May I suggest that we should leave out the word "nursing" making the phrase "Christian Science Homes"? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I think that would emphasise the protection of the public, just to leave out the word "nursing."


I do not think that would quite meet the objections of other hon. Members. The fact is that in their minds even the word "home" suggests something in the nature of nursing home. As it really does not matter to the Christian Scientists what they call their institutions, for all the people who enter them quite understand what they are going there for, I think it would be better to substitute the words which I suggest.


I think if ever there was an illustration of the magnificent atmosphere which seemed to permeate the House yesterday it is to be found in the speech of the Minister of Health. I do not think I have ever heard a case more fairly stated on both sides. To sum up, I would say that the Minister of Health approached the question somewhat in this way. He said that yesterday the House of Commons was very much divided on certain phrases and formulas and interpretations; but yesterday the House was absolutely united in saying that whatever be the religious belief of any individual, it is not for us to dictate to him. It is for us to say "This is a matter as between the individual and his conscience," and to pay a tribute to his sincere belief. That appears to be the spirit in which the Minister has approached this question. It is no good to disguise the fact that there were apprehensions. Large numbers of people when they saw this Amendment put this interpretation upon it—this may be all-right for a particular body, but however well-intentioned that particular body may be, look how easy it will be for someone else to create abuses by all manner of quack institutions opened here and there. I know that a number of my friends had that very natural apprehension.

The first thing the Minister has made clear is that no body, under any name, whether Christian Scientists or otherwise, can come to the House with any hope that we should concede the right of any institution to be able to say, "No matter what we do, no matter what we practise, we are independent of any inspection." The House of Commons would not listen to any such claim. Therefore, the Mover of the Clause and those responsible for it, make it perfectly clear that no such claim was ever intended or ever made. Then the Minister of Health, approaching the question quite fairly again, puts forward this difficulty. He says the one thing we ought to avoid is saying to some particular body, "We refuse to allow you to do it through the front door but there are a 101 ways in which you can get through by the back door"; in other words, to say that if they comply with the provision as to a qualified nurse, all will be well. We know perfectly well that those responsible for this new Clause would feel straight away that they were being asked to do something that was a travesty of the whole thing. Frankly, I feel sure that they would say, "Rather than have this back-door method, we would close down altogether." For these reasons, I feel that those responsible for the new Clause would be well advised to take the advice of the Minister. I would like to ask whether it is worth while now insisting upon the importance of the determining words. I am sure that we should all prefer the best words to be used for this purpose, but if we draft them too hastily they may turn out to be wrong.

There is no difficulty in the case, because, whatever form is decided upon, the altered form of words can be inserted in another place. I think that course would be better than asking the House to agree hastily to any form of words at this moment. I make that suggestion. I thank the Minister of Health for so clearly and accurately explaining the position. I am sure that it would be much better for all concerned in our controversies if we refrained from making debating points, and endeavoured to get at once at the real facts. In this case, the Minister of Health has enabled us to get at the facts, and for that I thank him. I suggest to the Mover of this Amendment that he should alter the words in the way which has been suggested, in order that they may be inserted in another place.


We put down the new Clause in its present form because we were told that was the best way. Of course, we are willing to take any name to effect our purpose which the Minister may suggest, and which is agreeable to the wishes of the House.


I thank the Committee for the splendid work which they have done in regard to this question. Since this new Clause was moved, I think all our minds are a little clearer, after the statement which has been made by the Minister of Health. I was most anxious that all nursing homes should be registered, and I think that a great difficulty will be removed by the Mover and Seconder of this new Clause agreeing to the suggestion which has been made by the Minister of Health. I think there would be a great danger if Christian Science homes were exempted, because that would only mean a loophole for any other bodies doing the same thing. We know what might go on all over the country in this respect, and I think it will be a benefit to everybody if the Christian Science homes come under the Bill. I am anxious, not only from the point of view of the medical and the nursing profession, but also from the point of view of the public, that all these homes should be registered and should come under the control of the Minister of Health.

I was told by the chairman of the Christian Science Church that the members of that Church were perfectly willing that their homes should be registered, and, if that course is taken, there will be no loophole for anybody setting up a nursing home for any other purpose. If they were exempted, homes of this kind could be run for any other purpose while declaring that they were practising Christian Science. Therefore, if we can come to some arrangement on this point, it will be much better for all the parties concerned. I have no desire to question the sincerity of the Christian Science movement or their religion, but I do want to see this Bill passed into law, and placed upon the Statute Book to protect the nursing profession, as well as the public. I feel sure that those interested in this Bill will do their best to come to an agreement, and I hope that the Mover and Seconder of this new Clause will not insist upon any course which will jeopardise the passing of this Bill.

2.0 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

I should accept this new Clause at once if I had simply to consider the point of view of helping the work of Christian Science nursing homes so far as they were relieving people, and so far as this question is concerned with liberty of conscience and freedom for experiments, as we are bound to look upon the Christian Science movement. But I hope the House will recognise how grave is the position of medical men in being called upon to make such an exemption. The attitude which we have taken all along in this House is that these matters are not questions of kindness, humanity, charity, or liberty to the persons concerned. What we are concerned with is the protection of the public. Again and again, when questions come up affecting our profession, we try to bring things round to the point of view as to what is the public interest, and not the interests of the particular exemption to be served.

The arguments which we have heard on this new Clause have been almost entirely from the point of view of these particular homes. I have nothing to say against them, and I know nothing about them. The Minister of Health knows nothing about them, and we have not been informed in this respect. At first, we were told that there were three of these Christian Science Homes, but since then we have been told that there are 37. Now we are being asked to give a blank cheque, not only to these homes, but to any others who come along with the same credentials. What are those credentials? They are to be certified as coming under the Christian Science faith. I understand that there is no body in this country representing that faith which can certify these homes. Therefore, it seems to me that the House is being asked to give a blank cheque.

I am now looking at this matter from the point of view of the public. The public will say, "Here is a house which is not to be called a nursing home." If the Christian Science movement, with all its resources has been able to increase; its number of nursing homes from three to 37 in 12 months, what is to prevent them going ahead at the same rate? These places will be well equipped, because they will belong to an affluent community, and we shall soon know whether they are really nursing homes or not. Of course, if they are rest homes they will attract people to them. They will attract people who have diseases, and it will become practically impossible to know whether they are nursing homes or not.

The general public do not know the difference between Christian Science and any other science—I am speaking, of course, of the more ignorant portion of the public. I am afraid, therefore, that this would be opening the door to the wide deception of the public against which the Minister thought he was providing. If we open the door to this extent, how could we prevent opening the door to, let us say, the much older and more widespread cult of homeopathy? If the homeopathists come to this House and say that they have an equal right to exemption for their houses, surely it could not be denied them, and yet the proposed new Clause does not provide for such exemption. It would be the same with regard to the osteopaths, of whom Sir Herbert Barker, whose reminiscences have just been published, and who has so much influence, is at the head. I think that the exemption proposed is most dangerous. It is said that an exemption under this Clause may be withdrawn by the Minister "if it appears to him," and so on. We have not been told in what way it may appear to him, and I cannot help wondering how he is to have that knowledge which obviously the public have a right to demand and which would make it appear to him that these homes are or are not being properly carried on. Possibly we may have some reply before we are asked to go to a Division on the Clause. We should like to know whether the Minister and his officers will have the right of inspection. If so, should not that be put into the Clause? The Mover of the Clause said, very rightly, that he was prepared to admit any amount of inspection, but, if that be so, it should be put into the Bill, and we should have an assurance from the Minister that he intends to do whatever may be necessary to keep himself acquainted with what is going on. We have not had that assurance, and, unless we have it, I personally feel—I do not know whether my hon. Friend is with me who is in such close touch, as I am not, with the British Medical Association—I personally feel that I cannot vote for this Clause unless we have some definite understanding of how it is going to be carried out, and how the position stands in relation to the very much larger field of the safety of the public.


I came here with a view to opposing this Clause, but the concession which has been made by my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Clause seems to me to remove absolutely all the suspicions and distrust which its opponents entertain. Once a Christian Science nursing home adopts the term "Christian Science house," it cannot be said to contravene the main principle of the Bill, which is that a nursing home should connote something definite, and something which ensures to the public that the nursing given by the home shall be, in the ordinary sense of the word, qualified nursing. That objection having been met, my only object in rising is to make two suggestions to my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Clause. I think he will agree with me that, having regard to the substitution of the word "house" for the words "nursing home" in Sub-section (2), it is no longer necessary or desirable that a Christian Science nursing home should be classified as a nursing home in Subsection (1), and I suggest that the proper word to use in the second line of Subsection (1) and the first line of Sub-section (3) would be the colourless word "institution," instead of "nursing home." We do not want it to be implicit in the language of this Clause that the Christian Science house is a nursing home at all, and, if my hon. and gallant Friend would be willing so to amend the Clause as to substitute the word "institution" for "nursing home," he would get exactly what he wants, and the Clause would cease to have the repugnance which now exists between the language of Sub-sections (1) and (3) and that of Sub-section (2). I would also suggest that in Sub-section (3) the words "that house" should be substituted for the words "that home." These are quite obvious improvements on the Clause as drafted, and I think we ought to take the making of these Amendments into our own hands, rather than leaving it to another place to make them.


I came to the House to-day with the definite intention of voting against this Clause, and I am afraid I have not yet departed from that intention. I must confess that I am very suspicious of people with these peculiar ideas, and I have the notion that, if any registration or control is necessary in nursing homes or anywhere else, it is necessary in places carried on by these peculiar people. Unless, therefore, these places can be taken altogether outside nursing homes as we know them, I think we ought not to agree to this Clause. The Minister says that if the wording of the Clause is changed it will be all right, but I am not sure that even then it will be all right. Sub-section (1) says that the Minister may grant exemption to a home if he is satisfied that it is being or will be carried on in accordance with the practice and principles of the body known as the Church of Christ Scientist. The Minister has not to determine whether the thing is right or good for the community, but whether the place is carried on in accordance with these principles. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) seemed particularly anxious to get this Clause through. I am afraid that religious scruples are not his strong point. Why should he be so anxious to get it through? It is not an uncommon thing to read in the papers of cases in which people have died for want of medical skill and in places carried on by these peculiar people. I do not want to say anything against people with religious scruples. That is not my point at all.

Viscountess ASTOR

There is also religious toleration.


I believe in giving people the fullest liberty to carry out what their conscience dictates, but, if it is a question of nursing homes which are carried on for the benefit of the public, that is a very different thing, and I think that, if these places are to be carried on as nursing homes, they ought to be definitely under the registration proposed in this Bill. I am still very suspicious. If the Minister can invent a form of words which takes these places altogether outside, I have no more to say, but it will not satisfy me, at any rate, unless they are very definitely taken outside. If that cannot be done, I shall vote against the Clause, as I voted against the Measure that was before the House last night. We seem to be in for religious scruples this week, and they provoke a fighting spirit such as is not in evidence in the case of many other matters which are considered by this House. If it is not possible to take these places definitely outside, I shall oppose the Clause.


I am grateful to the Minister for the suggestion he has made, because I think that the alteration of the words "nursing home" to "house" gets over a very great deal of difficulty. Although I speak as a medical man, I cannot associate myself fully with the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle). We have to recognise in this country that people have a right to their own opinions, and that, if they are adults, they have a right to do what they like with their lives. If a certain section of people in this country believe that the principles of Christian Science are such that they can get a better effect from them than from the ordinary medical and surgical skill that is available, they have a perfect right to hold and act upon that view; and, if it is necessary that homes or houses should be provided for that particular kind of treatment, they have a right to go into them. I do not think that we, either as medical men or as Members of Parliament, have a right to interfere, provided that we are assured that the public are safeguarded and are not being deceived.

If a place is described as a "Christian Science house," the majority of people in this country will know that it is a house to which people go for Christian Science treatment, and they know that Christian Scientists have absolutely no belief or faith in anything medical or surgical. Therefore, I say that it would be impossible for a person of adult age to go into one of these homes in ignorance. Whether, when they get into the home, they will be well or ill treated, is not the concern of the community. They have gone there of their own free will. So that I think hon. Members can with safety accept this new Clause subject to the redrafting suggested by my hon. and learned Friend. I do not think the public would have any right to complain, this House would have no right to complain, and it is a way out of a difficulty, although not satisfactory from the medical point of view, because we are totally and absolutely opposed to it. We do not know where in the world you have got your ideas from. Still we recognise that you are entitled to hold them. We honour you for sticking up for your beliefs, and I think we have no right to interfere with your principles and practices provided the public are not deceived. Therefore, I think the House can with safety accept my right hon. Friend's suggestion and have the Clause amended accordingly. I should like also to make a suggestion, for the Minister to be satisfied that it has been carried on in accordance with the principles of the body known as the Church of Christ Scientist, that he should require that the head of that religion in this country should actually certify that it was one of their houses carried on according to their principles and put the onus on him.


As regards the last point, that will be the case, and the head of the Church will give that certificate.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

Is that the head of the Church in England?


No, in Boston.

Viscount SANDON

Will that be put into the Bill?


I do not think there will be any necessity for that. There is a good deal of common agreement about the matter. What I suggest is that at any rate to-day we insert in the second paragraph the word "house' and I will undertake between now and the Bill going to another place to consider the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend behind with a view to substituting the word "institution"—I do not think anyone will object to that—and also in paragraph 3 to the same effect. That will meet very much the views of hon. Members opposite but naturally we should like, before inserting a word of that character, to have an opportunity of considering it and consulting the legal advisers of the Crown. With these three alterations the Committee can be satisfied that everyone's view is met.


As a member of the Select Committee on the registration of Nursing Homes, I am very anxious indeed that this Bill should go through, but I am also anxious that we should know exactly what we are doing with this Amendment. With the general principle of religious toleration I am in entire agreement, and I think there is always room in the medical world for experiment. The difficulty has always been, if I may say so with due respect to the British Medical Association, that that body has attempted to set a stern face against it, but it has had to face a great deal of public indignation and is learning better nowadays. We know the terrific fight Sir Herbert Barker had. I should on principle support any experiment in the whole science of healing or any experiment that tended to widen the possibility of bringing comfort and health to any human being, but with all that, we have to realise that there is no more profitable way of making money in this country than having some way of curing people that is different from anything that has been discussed at all. I am sure it is in the interests of Christian Scientists themselves that there should be no loophole which will allow bogus or quack organisations which are merely run for profit at the expense of people who are, either for themselves or for their loved ones, seeking health and healing and will almost do anything and go anywhere to get it. I was amazed to hear the extraordinary doctrine propounded that individuals are able to do as they like with their own lives. If the hon. Member, bored with the proceedings of the House, went out and tried to commit suicide the law would very sharply remind him that he could not do as he liked with his own life. The same thing applies when you are dealing with mothers and their children. A woman may be the most devoted mother and yet be very dangerous when she is seeking healing for her child. She may be led away by specious advertisements or wrong advice and might find herself entirely in the wrong hands. An hon. Member opposite asked whether the certificate would be given by someone in this country or someone in Boston, and the Under-Secretary said, "I suppose so."


The head of the Church in this country is perfectly well known and he will be recognised so far as the Department is concerned.


If we are going to have the Clause re-drafted in another place we ought to know definitely who is going to certify these homes, and we ought to have the fullest safeguards that they will make themselves responsible.


The Minister of Health has to be satisfied that it is being, or will be, carried on in accordance with the practice and principles of the body known as the Church of Christ Scientists.


We all know what religious bodies are. We can take an example from yesterday, when we had the Primate of the Church and his most, notable ally and supporter very violently quarrelling as to what exactly are the principles and practices of so well established a body as the Church of England. When you are going to have questions of nursing and healing and medical practices you may have the possibility of divisions in the church and of two sets of people claiming to be the sole repository of the practices and principles of the Church of Christ Scientist. The Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth has said these practices and principles never change. I am a little dubious about practices and principles that never change, but while I do not want to oppose it, and have the utmost sympathy with religious toleration, I do not want the public to be deceived and I want them to have the very clearest guarantee—after all we are the only people the public looks to in this matter—that they are going to get what they came for. I should like some indication from the Minister that we can have some guarantee that there will be some definite body who will certify these homes and will be held responsible to the Minister if anything goes wrong.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

Amendment made to proposed new Clause: In line 7, leave out the words "nursing home," and insert instead thereof the word "house".—[Captain Cazalet.]

Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.