§ 38. Mr. R. RICHARDSON
asked the Minister of Health what was the age of James Wilder who was sentenced by the 590 Easthampstead (Berks) Board of Guardians to bread-and-water diet for a week; whether he has informed the guardians that the sentence was illegal; how long Wilder was kept on bread-and-water diet and, if beyond the legal period, what compensation, if any, had been given to him by the guardians; whether the withholding of leave for a year means that he is not to be allowed to go out of the workhouse and its yard or garden for that period; whether he will call upon the guardians to remit the whole or part of that sentence; and whether he will ask the inspector to report as to the infirmary and whether the allegations made by Wilder were in whole or part correct?
The answers to the hon. Member's questions are as follows: James Wilder is 72 years old; the guardians have been informed that the imposition of a bread-and-water diet for more than 48 hours was not authorised by the regulations; the diet was not in fact imposed for more than 48 hours and no breach of the regulations occurred; the grant of leave of absence to an inmate is a matter for the discretion of the master of the institution, subject to any regulations made or directions given by the guardians; I see no need to question the propriety of the action taken by the guardians, but I anticipate that if Wilder is of good behaviour in future the guardians may consider shortening the period during which leave is withheld; the institution in common with all other Poor Law institutions is periodically inspected and reported on by officers of the Department; I am satisfied that the inmate's conduct was refractory within the meaning of the regulations and I see no reason for calling for a further report.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that an old man of 72 should have been treated by the guardians in such a way because of minor offences; that an old man in his dotage should have had all this to suffer because of a very minor matter of refusing to do something? Will he try his best to humanise those places and to see to it that old people are not treated in such a way?
The sub-committee which dealt with this case reported that they came to the unanimous conclusion that the allegations which were made by Wilder were unfounded and unsubstantiated, that his language was uniformly bad and that on many occasions he had used obscene language, that he had been guilty of insubordination and refractory conduct, and that the filthy state of his clothes was due to his deliberate actions and his filthy habits. Whatever excuse may be made for the man at any rate, it will be seen that the charges against him were in this case substantial.
§ Mr. SHEPHERD
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether when a man in an institution is put on bread and water diet a report is made to him about it?
No, Sir, there is no reason why it should be. The regulations allow men being put on bread and water diet for 48 hours, and in this case the guardians were apparently under the impression that they had power to put him on that diet for a longer period, in which they were mistaken.