§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Sir J. Simon
I beg to move, in page 2, line 19, to leave out "three" and insert "four".
When the Bill was before the House on Second Reading I pointed out that there was a theoretical possibility that, if you speak of three people out of six exercising the powers mentioned, an equal division might occur, with results that no one would intend. The best course, we think, would be to substitute "four" for "three" and by that slight change any theoretical difficulty of that sort would be dealt with.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
Of course, we support this Amendment, but the Home Secretary has not given an explanation why the 1808 Clause was drafted in its present form. I remember that on one occasion Mr. Gladstone made a mistake in a Bill on a question of figures, and a high Treasury official was taken to account. That mistake might have led to a very great predicament. I think the Home Secretary should in some way or other have apologised to the House for the error which he now asks us to put right.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I ask the Home Secretary to be good enough to consider whether this Amendment is really the best way of dealing with the difficult situation which has arisen. If he will look at the matter I think he will see that a more effective alteration could be made by omitting from the list of six persons mentioned one of those persons, that is the person next in succession to the Throne. I cannot help feeling that you place the next in succession in a very invidious position, in having to be one of those who decide whether the Sovereign is sane or not. There might be a good deal of feeling about it in the country. It might be a border-line case, and if the person who is to come to the Throne as a result of the decision is obliged himself to take part in such a decision, there is placed on him a most unfair burden. I am sure that these six persons would exercise the best of their judgment in honesty, but that might not be the opinion of large sections of population of the country. Whoever occupies the Throne in this country is really occupying a sort of semi-Civil Service position, the highest point in the Service. By the admirable British system of compromise he is a sort of hereditary president of this realm, and it is desirable to keep such a person high above all controversy, but certain circumstances might arise under this Clause to bring him into public controversy. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to address his mind to that point.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has drawn attention to the invidious position of the successor to the Throne in being one of those who might have to decide whether the occupant of the Throne is sane or not. I am of the opinion that the wife of the occupant of the Throne would be in a more invidious position, because the wife would not like to have to give 1809 judgment on her husband. The point I want to take up is one that I wanted to raise when we were discussing the Second Reading of the Bill. The Home Secretary, with his very ingenious and skilled mind, gets into a difficulty in one part, and out of it in another part. As a matter of fact, this is a Bill directed at the present Monarch. That is clear from the whole character of the Bill. Before the Coronation takes place, we are already discussing how we can substitute him. You are to have the wife or husband of the Sovereign, the successor, and then these four distinguished gentlemen, making six persons. The Home Secretary says that if we took six persons, we might have three saying that the King is sane and the other three saying that he is not sane, and that would be a very undesirable situation. He said, "We will make it four." If this is a permanent Bill, and the Princess at 18 years of age occupies the Throne unmarried, you will have five persons—the successor and the four distinguished gentlemen. The Home Secretary says that there must be four to decide whether the occupant of the Throne is insane. I suggest to the Home Secretary that if this is to be a permanent Bill, he must find some other number than four.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give some attention to the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). The appropriate thing to do is, not to have any member of the Royal family associated with this matter at all. It is only just over 100 years ago since George IV was on the Throne, and does anyone imagine that there would have been any difficulty in getting, during the first year of his reign, his wife to sign any certificate upon the flimsiest pretext at all that would have deprived him of the Throne, which he had declined to allow her to share. It is notorious that when one of his courtiers went to him and said, in announcing the death of Napoleon, in the year 1821, "Sir, Your chief enemy is dead," he replied, "By God, is she?" In these matters one must not allow the more happy circumstances of the present time 10 delude him into thinking that we are dealing with other than very human people who are subject to all the temptations and difficulties which surround other 1810 people in similar circumstances. I should have thought that in a high office of this sort, it was very undesirable that persons in close family relationship with the person who is the subject of the medical inquiry should be associated with the action that may have to be taken as the result of the physician's certificate: I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will not try to solve this problem in the way suggested in the Amendment, but will adopt the course of leaving out the two persons associated with the Royal family mentioned in the Clause.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Sir J. Simon
Perhaps I may be allowed to reply to the point which has been made, and I can assure hon. Gentlemen who have taken part in the discussion that I will consider very carefully, without any sort of bias, the criticism which they have suggested. I should think that we are agreed that, if the Clause stands in other respects as it is now printed, it is right not to have the possible equal division, and to that extent the alteration from "three" to "four" would appear to be necessary and justified. But it has been possible within the limits of Order to discuss—and I intend to say a few words about it—whether or not one of the persons upon whom the responsibility of certification rests is to be the person who is next in the line of succession to the Throne, and it is true to say that in one event that would be the person who would become Regent.
I can see the reason why the Clause is drawn in this form. It appeared desirable that among those who would consider what was the proper conclusion to reach in declaring on the question of incapacity should be some persons whose knowledge of the matter was derived from intimate association. This, I imagine, would be the main factor. It is a matter of public importance, but it is also, of course, in a certain sense a matter which is specially within the competence of those who are near and dear to the person concerned. I imagine that the reason it was thought right to put it in this form was that, while, on the one hand, you have very distinguished officers of State in positions which we all recognise to be quite aloof as well as impartial, it is desirable to have among those men one, or may be 1811 two, who will have the closest association of a different sort. That was the intention.
I will very gladly consider afresh the points that have been made. I am not prepared to agree to alter the scheme of the Clause at present, but I will consider the matter most carefully. I agree that it is a perfectly appropriate point to raise. I think that the explanation which I have given is probably the right one, and I ask hon. Gentlemen who spoke to be good enough to await its consideration, because I think these points have a good deal of weight in deciding what is the best way to make out this list of persons who have to serve. The right hon. Gentleman opposite very graciously demanded from me an apology, and inasmuch as it is the privilege of a Minister of the Crown to take on his shoulders everybody else's faults, I most readily apologise but I cannot disclose the hand which first wrote down this provision.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's spirit, but I think that the Debate has raised quite a substantial point, far more substantial than appeared to be the case when it was first mentioned. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into the matter. We are discussing things which seem so contingent that they are almost academic, but this is a permanent Bill. I do not remember a great deal about the history of this country, but I believe it is almost a tradition that the Heir Apparent has frequently, historically, not been on very happy terms with the Sovereign. For that reason, the proposal which has been made is an unwise one for the Government to adopt. We shall revert to it on the Report stage, and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will give it consideration meanwhile.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Logan
I want to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to line 27, in page 2, where, I suggest, an alteration should be made between now and the Third Reading. It may be that I am not able to understand what is really meant by the words 1812On the evidence of physicians or otherwise.I lay stress on the word "otherwise." In determining the mentality of the Monarch, I take it that the duty would rest upon the evidence of physicians. The words "or otherwise" appear to have no meaning, unless someone is intended apart from the physicians. What is the meaning of those words? They appear to be redundant, and to allow a latitude which is not intended in the Bill. I should like to hear an explanation, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can delete the words "or otherwise" between now and the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In opposing this Clause, I want to draw attention to the fact that it is not the case that this is a permanent Bill. It is not meant as a permanent Bill. It is meant specifically in connection with this Reign, and the fact that the Home Secretary could so lightly skate over this Amendment that he has put forward is an indication of that fact. If you are going to have four out of five as a majority to decide this question, that is an indication of the fact; if it is meant to be four out of six, it only applies in connection with this Reign. This Bill could not possibly be accepted by any properly independent Member of this House as a permanent Measure with this particular Clause in it, amended as it now is. I make my protest against the attempt that is being made to deceive this House and the country into the belief that this is a permanent Bill, because this Clause, as it has been amended, has made it perfectly clear that it is a Bill directed towards the occupant of the Throne at the present time. It is the present occupant of the Throne who is suspect and for whom all this preparation has got to be made, and it is not in any way intended to apply to any future Reign.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
I do not think even an hon. Member who represents so small an amount of opinion in the country as does the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) should be permitted to get away with the monstrous assertion which he has just made. In the name of the whole country, except the Communist party, I say that his statement is without the slightest vestige of foundation, and could 1813 only have come from someone who approaches the subject with a distorted brain.
§ Mr. Maxton
Will the Noble Earl take the Committee into his confidence and tell it what his justifications are for contradicting the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)?
§ Earl Winterton
I was referring to the hon. Member's assertion that this is a temporary Bill, or Clause, brought in only to deal with the position of the present King. I say that that statement is without any foundation.
§ Earl Winterton
I will say why. The hon. Member went on to insinuate that there was something in the personal position of the present King which made it necessary to bring in this Bill. That is a monstrous statement, and quite untrue.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
I do not see that there is anything wrong in that. The Noble Earl is a master of vituperation. He singles out the hon. Member for West Fife because he is a single man in the House, and he seems to think that therefore he is entitled, presumably, to be heavily attacked.
§ Mr. Maxton
I am quite willing to give way to the hon. Member for West Fife if necessary. I merely rose to make this point: The Noble Earl is one of the senior Members of this House and a very skilled Parliamentarian. He has probably a greater knowledge of House of Commons procedure than have most people in the House, and I suggest to him that either the hon. Member for West Fife or myself is quite entitled to come forward here, and, having regard to the fact that it has never been thought necessary to introduce a Measure of this description before, and having regard to the fact that the provisions in the Bill are inserted on the assumption of the continuation of the existing conditions, we are quite entitled to draw the conclusion that the 1814 Bill is produced because of the circumstances of this particular Reign and this particular Monarch. If a strong case can be made out to prove the contrary, then we shall be very glad to hear it, but I do not think it is sufficient to answer the argument of the hon. Member for West Fife merely by vituperation.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
May I say a word or two with regard to presumption of the noble Lord? I do not know whether it is in order, but if it is, I would like to describe it as ignorant presumption, because the noble Lord was not in the Committee while the discussion on this Clause was taking place. He comes in and presumably allots to himself some special role in this matter. He is continually serving out bouquets or insults to this one or that one, just as it pleases his high majesty. The only necessity for a Regency Bill is for a Regency Bill directed towards the Heir Apparent, if he is a minor, and there never has been in the history of this country a Regency Bill which has not been related to the Heir Apparent. But here on this occasion we get a Bill such as was never known before, a Regency Bill related, not to the Heir Apparent, but to the reigning Monarch. Is that true or is it not true? Let the Home Secretary answer, because I am certain that the noble Lord has not got the intelligence to answer.
Any Regency Bill hitherto introduced has been directed towards the Heir Apparent, but this Bill is specifically directed towards the Monarch. In this Clause which we are discussing there are six persons mentioned, and the Clause, as printed, states that three of them can decide a particular question. The Home Secretary then tells us that there might be three who would decide that the Monarch was insane and three that he was not insane, and so we should be in a bad position. In order to overcome that difficulty, he says, "We will make it four as against two." I drew attention to the fact that it is not a permanent Bill. If it is not a Bill merely affecting this Reign, then in the next Reign we may get a Queen who is unmarried, and so there will be no husband coming into the group, and you will only have the successor, the likely Regent, and four other persons, so that it becomes four out of five, instead of a majority of three 1815 as against two being effective. If there are three who decide on the evidence that the King or Queen is unqualified to carry on, then two can hold up the thing. Never in any circumstances would this House agree to such a proposition. In view of the fact that nobody has taken any exception to this absurd and foolish Amendment, I am entitled, and the country is entitled, to accept the only conclusion that can be drawn from it, and that is that this Bill has been framed specifically for the purpose of this Reign, and that it does not concern the future or future eventualities at all.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
May we have an explanation? There is something in what the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has said. You are making a change in the present position, and there muust be some cause for that, either in the last Reign or looking ahead to a future Reign. I think that while a change is being made, we are entitled to have some information from the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for the Bill as to why the change is being brought about. I am not putting any implication on what has happened.
§ Mr. Tinker
For what is Clause 2 being brought forward? It is certainly a change in the present position in regard to the Monarchy, and there must be some cause for it, something behind it. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to take the Committee into his confidence in this matter, because we are trying to put the thing straight, and it is not that there is any question in my mind against the Monarchy, but only that I want to know why this is being done. I do not like anything going abroad to the effect that we are trying to hide anything here, because that would be wrong and because the public want the right hon. Gentleman to take them into his confidence and to tell them what is happening.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Short
I do not propose to follow the hon. Members in the dispute that has taken place between them, though having regard to the phraseology of the Bill, I think there is room for a legitimate difference of opinion, and we are entitled to 1816 ask for some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. Up to now we have had every courtesy from him, and I have no doubt that he will not depart from that attitude. I think the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) is not only interesting but important, because the words "or otherwise" have raised a question in my own mind, and I think the Committee is entitled to some information as to what they mean. Upon whose opinion or authority, if a physician is absent, will the appropriate persons act in this case? That seems to me to be a reasonable request, and I have no doubt that it will be properly dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman.
There is another matter to which I would like to refer, and it is in connection with Sub-section (2). I am very anxious that Parliament should have the last word in matters of this character, and I am not quite certain, from the reading of Subsection (2), that Parliament will have any authority in connection with this matter. Sub-section (2) states:A declaration under this section shall be made to the Privy Council and communicated to the Governments of His Majesty's Dominions and to the Government of India.I am not certain what is the relation of the Privy Council to this House, but while the Governments of the Dominions and of India are properly mentioned, there seems to be no statement that such declaration will be made to this House. In Clause 5 reference is made to this House, because it states there, "unless Parliament otherwise determines." That, of course, deals with another matter, but upon this vital issue of whether a decision that the reigning Monarch is incapable of carrying on, I think that should be reported to the House and that the House should have an opportunity of discussing it.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
There is quite a different point which I wish to bring to the attention of the Home Secretary, if this is the appropriate place to do so. I refer to the situation of the Dominions in regard to this Bill, and I think it is in order, because it comes under Sub-section (2) of this Clause. The Home Secretary, when introducing the Bill, said that when it became an Act it would take effect in the United Kingdom and Colonies, and presumably therefore not in the 1817 Dominions. There are very distinguished constitutionalists and lawyers in this country who have expressed a different view, and I think that their views deserve consideration, in view of the wide interests involved.
§ The Chairman
I think the hon. Member is getting beyond this Clause now. The only way in which the Dominions come in under this Clause is in regard to the question of communication.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
There is a question that I would like to ask on a purely drafting point. I thought it was usual in official documents to refer to "His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions," and I understood that those Governments—I may be wrong—preferred themselves to be so described. It is purely a matter of nomenclature, but here they are described as "the Governments of His Majesty's Dominions," and I thought the phrase "His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions" had been agreed upon at the Imperial Conference.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Sir J. Simon
To deal first with the matter just mentioned by my Noble Friend the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), the Bill has been submitted to the Dominions, and I do not think there is any point there. Of course, if there is, it is, as he said, a mere matter of phraseology. I will check it, but I think it is all right. Those who heard what I said on the Second Reading will realise that I explained the purpose of Clause 2 pretty well, but there is no reason why it should not be stated again, when we are considering the question, "That the Clause stand part." I will, therefore, state the position as briefly and as simply as I can. It will be within the recollection of hon. Members that during the reign of King George V His Majesty fell exceedingly ill on one occasion, but he happily recovered, and on another occasion he had an illness which led to his death. It was possible in those circumstances for him to take the necessary action to secure the administration of the Royal functions. He was well enough to authorise that to be done. Let us suppose that we had a case—there have been cases in the past—in which the Monarch was suddenly and completely rendered incapable, either through physical disability 1818 or mental disease, there is nothing in the existing Constitutional position which gives us the means of securing that a Regent shall be appointed. That is why Clause 2 deals with the question of incapacity. If hon. Members will turn to Clause 6 they will see that it deals with the event of an illness not amounting to total incapacity; but if the occupant of the Throne becomes totally incapable, then it is necessary to have some machinery that will determine that fact so that provision for a Regent may come into operation.
As regards what was said by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), I can dispose in a sentence of what he stated by declaring that there is no truth whatever in his suspicion, no doubt sincerely entertained. There is no ground for his suggestion that there is something highly suspicious about this Bill, and that it is not what it pretends to be. It appeared to the Government, and it appeared to the House two days ago, that it is desirable to make permanent provision for emergency, and that is what we are doing. It is the height of absurdity for anybody, however suspiciously-minded they may be, to think that Clause 2 is directed to the case which is perhaps immediately in our minds, for the simple reason that the case which is in our minds is the possibility of a child succeeding to the Throne before reaching a certain age. That has nothing whatever to do with Clause 2, because that Clause deals with the incapacity of the Sovereign.
The hon. Member for the Scotland division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) called attention to the words "the evidence of physicians or otherwise." The reason for using that phrase is this that, while I suppose the main evidence in any such case would be that of skilled professional medical men who had been attending the case, it is true, and it would be true in any tribunal that wanted to gather information, that the information would not necessarily be confined to physicians. It might be nurses or other persons who had something in the way of information to contribute to the evidence to be considered.
§ Mr. Logan
I hardly think so. I submit that the words "or otherwise" are redundant. It is the condition of the Monarch that has to be considered. Surely, in the case of the Monarch, the 1819 evidence of nurses, if they are to be included within the definition, "or otherwise," would not be enough. Surely, there are sufficient alienists or specialists in medicine who would be able to determine what was the matter. It is not a case away in some remote area, away from civilisation where you are dealing with some savage chief, and that, therefore, you want to bring in the term "or otherwise." What is the real definition of "or otherwise"? I take it that the evidence of the physicians would be the determining factor, and not the evidence obtained from" or otherwise." If the alternative is to be those included in the term "or otherwise," who are the persons concerned? Surely it must relate to persons. Is it to be tittle-tattle or practical evidence by accredited responsible persons on the question of mentality? "Or otherwise" is a redundant phrase, and particularly when the question to be determined affects the sanity of the Monarch we ought not to rely upon such a phrase. I know that there may be subtlety of language in the law, but the first essential in the English language is to be true in definition. I am at a loss to understand the meaning of the words "or otherwise" in regard to the Monarch.
§ Sir J. Simon
It will be some comfort to the hon. Member to know that the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Chief Justice of England, the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls will be among those who will have to form this conclusion.
§ Sir J. Simon
I listened with patience to the hon. Member and I hope that he will listen to me. I think that the hon. Member on reflection will appreciate that 1820 there is a good deal of security in the names I have just given to the House.
There is a further point with regard to the Amendment which I proposed to the first line of this Clause, and it is only right that I should tell the Committee the conclusion at which I am disposed to arrive in the light of what has been said. I shall be prepared, if it is the wish of the Committee, to exclude from the list of persons who have to make the declaration that the Sovereign is totally incapable the person who would become Regent and for the time being act in his place. I gather that that is the wish of the Committee, and I am prepared to see that that is done. One can conceive that a slightly invidious situation might arise otherwise. None of us would suggest that such a person, whoever he might be, would not act to the best of his conscience and ability in arriving at a conclusion, but the situation would be invidious, and I am prepared to see that an Amendment is made on the lines suggested. That being so, on the Report stage I shall be prepared, instead of altering three to four, to restore the three and alter six to five. I think that we ought to keep in the wife or husband of the Sovereign, but to exclude the person who is next in line of succession. I do not complain of hon. Members raising these points and I will see that the necessary Amendment is made, in accordance with the wishes of the Committee.
§ 4.56 p.m.
With all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I would call his attention to the statement that I made in regard to the words, "or otherwise" It is not accurate to say that the Speaker is the determining factor. The Bill does not say so. What it says is that these persons shall declare in writing that they are satisfied "on the evidence." If they are to be satisfied on the evidence, what is the necessity of adding the words "or otherwise"? They have to be satisfied on the evidence of somebody, and the somebody in this case is the physician.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
As the Home Secretary has met other criticisms so fully, is there any conceivable reason for keeping in the words "or otherwise"? I listened to his explanation, but surely in any other institution of life when a man's sanity was at issue evidence other than the 1821 evidence of qualified medical men would not be regarded as worthy of consideration. The right hon. Gentleman has greater knowledge of the courts than I ever expect or desire to have, and I know that lawyers like to have phrases of that sort, in order to meet some contingency that may arise unexpectedly, but what we desire is that which would be accepted in the ordinary affairs of life. The ordinary employer demands a medical certificate, and in this matter, if it is of any importance that we should know about the health and sanity of the Monarch, surely it should be definitely laid down that the only kind of evidence that will be accepted will be competent medical evidence. Fancy Mr. Speaker being asked to consider whether the report of Nurse So-and-So on the state of the Monarch was a good report. Fancy summoning the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls to discuss whether the information sent by Nurse So-and-So—that was the Home Secretary's only defence of the phrase, "or otherwise"—was evidence that the Monarch was insane. It is childish. The Home Secretary, since he has agreed to make substantial alterations might cut out these two words. I do not suggest that he is responsible for them. The man who drafts this sort of thing has a kink in his mind and has to get off a phrase of this sort, but we want to have precise language.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Sir William Davison
I hope the Home Secretary will keep the words as they appear in the Clause. No reason has been given for excluding them. The only objection to them from hon. Members opposite is that the Speaker, the Lord Chief Justice, the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls should only be allowed to take the evidence of physicians. Why should they be confined to physicians? Why not take the evidence of the Prime Minister, or the Home Secretary, or any other person in the habit of associating with the Monarch, as to his conduct in particular circumstances? There is no reason why we should confine these distinguished men to one particular class in the community. Why should they be prevented from asking the Prime Minister for his opinion as to whether the Monarch had done certain things on certain occasions? I can see no reason why only one section of the 1822 community should be allowed to give evidence on this point and why these distinguished public gentlemen should not be entitled, if they so desire, to ask for evidence from any other persons.
§ Sir W. Davison
It is for these gentlemen to take any evidence they require. If it was necessary to show that the Monarch was suffering in any particular way it might be that persons who were associating with the Monarch would be able to furnish the evidence which the physicians would desire.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
The question we are discussing is entirely a medical point. The distinguished people mentioned in the Clause have to be satisfied that the Sovereign is by reason of infirmity of mind or body wholly incapable of performing his functions. That, after all, is a decision on a medical point, and to my mind no one but medical people can properly express an opinion. Many hon. Members have been associated with great mental institutions and they know the great difficulty of a layman, no matter how distinguished, in dealing with mental cases. I remember going round a mental hospital with a doctor and asking a man the reason for his being there, He said; "Democracy."
§ Mr. Ede
I asked him the question on the suggestion of the doctor. I agree that such questions should not be asked. The reply I got was, "I thought the world was mad and the world thought that I was mad, and the world being in a majority put me in here." I say that it is quite wrong to suggest that any layman, no matter how distinguished, can say that mental incapacity is likely permanently to disable the person who is the subject of the investigation. I suggest that as the Clause is framed now there need be no evidence from a. physician at all. It is not the evidence 1823 of physicians and other persons, it is the evidence of physicians "or otherwise." We are dealing with the future, with people whom we do not know, and there may be a case where people would be prepared to act without taking the evidence of physicians or would ignore the evidence submitted by physicians. In these circumstances I think there should be some provision in the Bill that physicians must at least give some evidence, that such evidence should be considered, and that it shall not he possible for the matter to be dealt with without bringing in physicians at all.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Assheton
I only want to remind the Committee that the suspicions of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) are based on entirely bad history. He told us that in no previous Regency Bill had there been a provision for a regency during the incapacity of the Sovereign and that it had referred only to the possibility of the heir being a minor. That, of course, is not the case. The Regency Bill in the reign of George III referred to the incapacity of the Sovereign, and if the hon. Member will direct his attention to Section 7 of the Lords Justices Act of 1837, which is repealed by this Bill, he will be reminded that on the occasion of Queen Victoria's accession to the Throne a similar Act was passed making provision in her case.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
If I am wrong in my presentation of the question the Home Secretary must take the responsibility, as he said this Bill followed the normal procedure of a Regency Bill relating to the Heir to the throne and that in the case referred to the Monarch was already incapacitated before the question of regency was taken up. But never before in the history of this country, before a coronation, has there been such a proposition as this. I want to get to the words "or otherwise." The hon. Member opposite has suggested that not only physicians but that the Prime Minister, as a result of his discussions with the Monarch, might suggest that the Monarch was mentally deficient or not what he should be, and that it would be considered. But what if the Monarch said that the Prime Minister was mentally deficient? Would that have 1824 to be considered? What sort of argument is being put forward here? The Home Secretary may say that the Monarch is mentally deficient, but the Monarch might say that the Home Secretary was mentally deficient.
It is quite clear that in questions affecting the bodily and mental health of any human being, I do not care who it is, you might get physicians who would be seriously wrong and whose judgment might seriously endanger life. I have known people who have been persuaded by an examination that they had cancer suffering the most terrible agony and years of ill health. On questions affecting bodily and mental health there should be nothing loose. The greatestpossible care should be exercised to see that only the most specialised evidence shall be submitted or considered by any body of men. The distinguished men who are mentioned have got no special qualifications for deciding this particular question of bodily and mental capacity, and it would be entirely wrong to leave them in the position of being unable to receive evidence of the most careful and exact nature.
I support the protest against this part of the Clause. Like the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) I am not interested in Monarchs but in the masses of the people and I hope that no human being will be subject to the possibility of any decision being reached on his physical or mental condition which would leave any room for a mistake being made. Terrible things would result as a consequence of that.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
I am inclined to the opinion that the world is mad. The speech of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) gave me a cold chill down the back, because I suddenly realised that it was not inconceivable that the world might come to the conclusion that I was mad. If that did happen I should be sorry indeed to have my case judged solely on what the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) calls, "specialised evidence." I should much prefer to have it judged partly on the opinion of ordinary common-sense people who knew me well. I should like to think that if my case was being judged I should be able to call in evidence my friends, the people with whom I had been 1825 doing business. I should like to be able to suggest that such and such a person's opinion should be obtained—
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Yes. Although there may be occasions when the accused person should not give evidence I should like to have the power of giving evidence myself. Therefore, it seems to me that it would be a mistake to confine this evidence to specialised persons. But where are these persons going to get their evidence? A doctor by looking at a man cannot discover if he is insane. He has to get his evidence from someone, "or otherwise." I have seen many reports of criminal cases in which eminent men with great knowledge of mental diseases have gone into the witness-box and on their oath sworn diametrically opposite opinions. In these circumstances I hope we shall leave in the words "or otherwise," and give any individual who may be in the unfortunate position we are now contemplating the advantage of being able to bring as evidence in his support the opinion of ordinary men with whom he works and lives in daily contact.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The real point of this matter is being missed. Medical men will take evidence not only from the patient, but from the friends of the patient, and then submit their evidence. But you could get quite easily a case where a friend of the patient could forward certain manifestations as an indication of madness and the specialist saying that, taking all the circumstances into consideration, the patient was quite normal. The four distinguished men who are to consider the evidence are not in a position to weigh up accurately the evidence which may be given by friends, and might easily give too much weight on one side or the other. Medical men will take the evidence of their own examinations and of the friends of the patient, and submit to the four distinguished gentlemen who have to decide.