HC Deb 30 May 1938 vol 336 cc1731-47

Order for Second Reading read.

7.33 P.m.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)

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

The necessity for this Bill arises out of a decision of the Court of Appeal. The Court in fact, in giving the decision, recognised that legislation would probably be the consequence. The case turns upon a very narrow point, namely, the interpretation of Section 11 of the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913. The Act says that an order shall expire at the end of one year from its date, unless continued under certain procedure, and the Board of Control took the view that they had a certain right to regulate their procedure. Before the Board of Control can continue an order they have to investigate the documents concerned, and the Board of Control, acting on legal advice, have proceeded for many years on the view in general that, provided that the consideration of the special reports and certificates had been concluded by the Board, and that they had satisfied themselves in due time that the continuation of the order was required the final sealing and issuing of the order might be done administratively with such reasonable delay as was unavoidable. That view was upheld by a Divisional Court of the High Court, including the Lord Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Humphreys, and Mr. Justice du Parcq, but that decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal.

Now Parliament must consider the position. The Government, having considered it, have come to the conclusion, set out in the Bill, that the reasonable latitude of one month should be allowed. The Bill also validates orders which have been invalidated by the previous assumption. I hope the House will agree that it is an advantage to the persons concerned, because it allows time for due consideration of the report and for making up the Board's mind, which otherwise would have to be compressed within a very narrow margin of time with the risk that it might be overstepped. That is briefly the case for the Bill. The Attorney-General will deal with any legal point which might arise, in view of the division of legal opinion on this matter, but I think the non-technical case is fairly clear, and it is as I have stated it.

7.36 p.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Every Minister of this Government seems much more at home in dealing with mental deficiency than with any other problem; it was quite becoming, therefore, of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health to introduce this Bill. He has given us very little information about the Bill, and I propose to extract from the Attorney-General some more details. What surprises me about the Bill—and I am sure that every Member of the House will be as surprised as I 'am—is that legal advisers should have quarreled as to the interpretation of the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913. I should have thought the legal advisers of the Board of Control would indeed be persons who could give the very best interpretation on this issue, and I want to know whether the learned Attorney-General was himself one of those advisers to the Board that led them into this trouble. Let me now come to some detailed points about this very small Measure, and perhaps it will comfort the right hon. Gentleman if I say right away that we do not intend to oppose the Bill. This gives an opportunity, within a limited space, of saying a word or two upon the work of the Board of Control itself; and I think the House will agree with me when I say that they have indeed a very difficult and onerous task to perform. Incidentally the number of mental defectives seem to grow just in proportion to the period of office of the present Government; and if they go on very much longer, there will soon be more people inside institutions than outside.

I understand quite clearly, although I know very little about law, that the intention in Sub-section (1) is to provide an additional one month to the present 12 months in which visitation and certification can take place; but I have wondered since I read the Bill how it came about that the Board of Control and its staff could not do all this work within the 12 months as the law provides. What virtue is there in adding four more weeks? There is no balancing of accounts here; you need not prepare a balance-sheet and submit it to a delegate meeting or to shareholders, and it seems to me that all that the Board of Control need do is to request the staff to commence on this work four weeks before the statutory period ends, and then the job ought to be done within that period. But the whole administration of public affairs in this country seems to have gone to rack and ruin since the present Government came into power.

If the Attorney-General will turn to Sub-section (2) of Clause 1, I think he will find that that carries us very much further than giving an extension of one month to the 12 months provided by Section 11 of the Act of 1913, and some of us are apprehensive that it will do more even than indemnify the Board of Control against the errors that they have cornmitted, probably in good faith. We would like to know whether Sub-section (2) does not in fact increase the power of the Board of Control to detain persons in institutions which they do not possess at the present moment. If that is so, while we do not intend to oppose the Bill, I think we shall be entitled, unless we get a proper understanding on this point, to table some Amendment to this Measure.

As we are dealing with mental deficiency, I think it is proper to ask this question: Are we right in the assumption, looking at the increased figures of mental defectives in this country, that the increase is natural, or does the increase come about by a closer diagnosis and ascertainment of cases? The figures really are appalling; I never thought they were as bad. I find that the number of mental defectives under care at the end of 1936 was 82,726 and that there was an increase of 3,985 under care in 1936 over 1935. Not all these cases, of course, will be affected by this Bill, but I suppose that a goodly number of them will be. I have been rather alarmed too at the total figures, not only of those who are detained in institutions, but I find that the total number of imbeciles, idiots, and mental defectives, apart altogether from lunatics, in this country is over 120,000, giving us 2.88 per thousand of the total population. That is rather a heavy toll, and I wonder whether the right hon. Gen- tleman will be able to tell us something about this matter, if not to-day, when we come to the Vote for his own Department.

For the moment, as I say, we do not intend to oppose this Measure. We think it is necessary, except that we criticise two points in it. First, how comes it about that it is necessary to have four weeks in addition to the 12 months, when, in our view, with better administration the whole of the work could be done before the year ends? We cannot see how that difficulty has arisen at all. The second point is as to whether the particular individual, the imbecile in this case, is in any way adversely affected by Sub-section (2) of Clause 1. That is all that I need say at present.

7.43 P.m.

Mr. Moreing

I do not know how far it would be in order to make some observations as to the reason for the increase in the numbers of mental defectives.

Mr. Speaker

Only in passing. It would hardly be in order to discuss it in detail.

Mr. Moreing

The point that I wanted to put was this: The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) asked whether the increase in numbers was due to some extent to improved classification and diagnosis. There is this difficulty in connection with mental deficiency, which I came across when I was chairman of a mental hospital under the London County Council, that there is a tendency now with juvenile delinquents to take the view that the individual's erring from the strict path of rectitude is due to mental deficiency, and he is treated under the Mental Deficiency Act instead of being handed over to the jurisdiction of magistrates. That is having an increasing effect on the number of people being certified for treatment under the Act. I would like to suggest that the matter should be looked into very carefully, and perhaps the Government will consider it in connection with the proposed Penal Reform Bill, to see how far these matters should be taken into general consideration in dealing with abnormal behaviour.

7.45 P.m.

Mr. Logan

I am not able to understand the reason for this extension of the period, because one imagines that the Board of Control would be able to know of a person's mental condition stage by stage during the period of detention. The people concerned are not imbeciles or lunatics. They are as a rule people who have been committed under the order of a court and detained, supposedly for the benefit of their health. I have seen some of these cases lately, and in the majority of them the Board of Control is doing a wonderful work, but I am doubtful, taking it all round, whether the board really do exercise that supervision which is essential for the welfare of the individual placed within their care. The right of the individual to liberty is something about which we must be very careful, and I am convinced that any further extension of the period would be an abuse rather than an advantage from the point of view of proper surveillance. Very often these cases arise because they are a little defective; magistrates do not like to send them to gaol and they are committed instead to an institution.

I have often brought cases to the notice of the authorities, and no matter what the report about the individual may be, I am always told that he cannot be released until the end of the 12 months. Detention for that period seems to be the invariable custom and we are told that he is detained because of his home environment. I do not attach any importance to that reason because you would have to make accommodation for go per cent. of the people in my division if they had to be taken out of their environment. I do not think the Board of Control should have any extension of the period and I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) when he says that we have no objection to this Bill. I had a case a few months ago of a young man with a good record and character. He was found guilty of getting over a wall. He went over to get a football and picked up a ledger from a heap of refuse. He was brought before the bench and was considered to be weak in mind. He was sent away to a mental home. The magistrate in that case was almost a mental case himself, but he unfortunately had the power to send this young man away. He was detained for 12 months although many attempts were made during that period to get him out.

At the expiration of 12 months he was allowed out under the Board of Control on condition that he reported periodically to them. The process of reporting consisted of someone visiting his home and seeing whether he was there and whether everything was all right. This young man got married after he had been away from the mental home 12 years and now has a child. He had spent four years in the Territorials. He became tired of notifying and did not want his wife to know he had been in a mental hospital, so he refused to report and went away from his address. When he was found he was locked up and taken back to the mental home in which he had been detained 13 years previously. Who certifies on such a case as that, and what method of inspection has the Board of Control to ascertain whether the person is mental? If anyone wants control it is the Board of Control itself in its inefficiency and in its loose method of dealing with the life and liberty of the subject. I remember on the Regency Bill hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway raised the question of who would have to decide whether the King was right or wrong.

Mr. Speaker

That would not be in order as an analogy.

Mr. Logan

I am pointing out that the extension of time does not appear to me to be requisite. The Government, I understand, want to protect themselves against being sued in the court for compensation for illegal detention. The Bill will enable a person to be detained for a month over the period for which he can be detained under the present law in order, it is said, that the fullest investigation can be made. If a person has been under observation for 12 months because he is a little weak in character—and there are very few in our great cities to-day who are strong in character—and has to be detained another month, the system of observation must be very loose. I should be mentally unfit to be a Member of this House if I were a party to accepting a Bill which gives power to incarcerate a person wrongly for a further period over the 12 months.

What guarantee have we that the Board of Control will tighten up their system of observation and surveillance if the period is extended to 13 months? Orders are made now, I believe, year by year. At the end of the 12 months another month is now to be added so that the papers can be put in order. I would like to know why it is not possible, with the day to day observation of the medical men, to certify as to the state of the detained person by the end of the 12 months. It may be that there are cases at the present moment that are not valid under the law in which compensation should be paid because there have been irregularities in the system. Will the extension of a month enable that difficulty to be got over? I believe that under proper supervision no one does greater work than the doctors, and those who are in our institutions deserve thanks for what they do. The individual who is taken into a mental institution should stage by stage have his condition certified and at the end of the 12 months it should be possible to know exactly what his condition is. Twelve months is long enough to detain anybody without certification.

7.56 p.m.

Sir Francis Fremantle

I want to endorse the plea made by the Opposition that we should have a little clearer explanation of the necessity for this extra month. I would say to the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan), who, we know, takes such a great interest in this matter, that as regards patients being sent to an institution always for a year, there is a definite provision that the Board of Control may direct the order to expire on the quarter day next after the admission. If the board are carefully watching, as I believe they do, over these cases, they have the power, although they may not always find it advisable to use it, to limit detention to three months. Again, with regard to discharge, every provision is made by which patients should be detained only after the 12 months when there is a medical certificate by two practitioners, including one who at the request of the defective or his parent or guardian, or any relative or friend, has made a medical examination, and considers that it is in the interests of the patient that the order shall be made. Therefore, it is not a case of wrongful detention under the present law as long as the Board of Control are doing their job. The board do their work as well as any institution does.

Mr. Logan

In the case I mentioned two medical men have certified that the man was not insane, yet the board refused to let him out in spite of repeated applications. Sir F. Fremantle: Even the Board of Control are human and make errors, and if this is an isolated case I trust that it is being properly inquired into. None of us would suggest that the Board of Control may not occasionally make a mistake. Of one thing I am clear, and that is that this Bill is an administrative requirement. We are dealing with a large number of institutions and this arrangement has naturally got into a groove. That groove is governed by the 12-months period, as so many things in life are, and these matters come naturally up for review at the end of 12 months. I take it that what has happened has been that occasionally the review of a case—I do not mean the supervision or superintendence, but the review of the case as a whole—has slipped past the 12 months by a day or two, and I can well understand that with the racketing nature of the duties in these mental deficiency homes.

Mr. Kelly

Does the hon. Member suggest that a patient entering a mental defective colony is not allowed to be released under a term of 12 months?

Sir F. Fremantle

No, I have already explained what the position is; but, as I was saying, I think it is quite natural that the administration may from time to time overslip the mark at the end of the 12 months, and in such cases it is advisable to allow the further month. I do not think the hon. Member for the Scotland Division is fair in suggesting that it is an extra month's imprisonment. It is not an extra month for the patient. This will not interfere in any way with the patient's release.

Mr. Stephen

Supposing this extension of a month is granted and then the racket is such that they overrun the month. Will the Government then come forward with another Bill to give them another four weeks?

Sir F. Fremantle

I think all this shows that we need an explanation from the Attorney-General. I am giving only the very superficial view that I have of this Bill. I should be loth to agree to this extra period unless a very clear case were made out for it, but I was pointing out how, from the administrative point of view, and while wishing to do the very best for a patient, it may be necessary to allow this extra month. Still we do want to have it clearly understood that it will not affect the patients concerned.

Mr. Maxton

Will the hon. Gentleman tell me how it will not affect the patients concerned? Whom else will it affect except the patients?

Sir F. Fremantle

This extension is asked for simply in order that the report may be sent in, but I take it that it does not deal immediately with the patient. It is a difficulty of administration. We are asked to give that extra time in order to give an opportunity for the board to decide. I quite agree with the point which has been made, but I do not think it is right that I should try to make the position clear before the Attorney-General has spoken.

8.4 p.m

Mr. Ede

It was explained to the House by the Minister of Health that this Bill is necessary because the Board of Control have assumed that if they reached their decision before the end of the period for which the existing certificate held good it did not matter whether they announced their decision before or after the expiration of that period. It appeared that in some case where the actual decision was not announced until after the 12 months and the defective had a sufficient sum of money to be able to go to the courts, the Lord Chief Justice and two other judges held that the Board of Control was right but the Court of Appeal decided that the Board was wrong. It was laid down that the decision should be announced before the end of the first period, or of the running period, and a new certificate issued for a further period of detention. I understand that is the position on which the Bill is founded—that the Board of Control had either been wrongly advised by their legal advisers or, perhaps, having been rightly advised, had declined to take the advice.

I welcome the fact that it is being made clear that even the Board of Control is subject to the law of the land. As an administrator who has had to appear before the Board of Control, or its officers—not for certification, I hasten to add, but in regard to administrative matters—I think it is as well that it should be occasionally brought home to this most autocratic Department that it has no powers other than those which have been given to them by this House. If this case does nothing else, I hope it will bring that position home. I share with my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) a disinclination to extend the period by a month, because it is a serious thing to impinge further upon the liberty of the subject unless a very good case is made out. I have no great respect for medical certificates. I recollect the Bill of 1913 coming before the House and the action then taken by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who was a nominal supporter of the Government then in office. I have been in this House since when he has been supposed to be a supporter of the Government in office, and I recollect a Minister of the Crown saying to me, when he had announced his intention of carrying on a little private opposition: "He is a host in himself." He pointed out on the Second Reading of the Bill of 1913 that under the definition of "mental defective" given in that Bill there was no Member of the House—the House as it was then constituted—who had not at some time or other been a mental defective within that definition. Anybody who had generously given half a crown to a bad cause could have been held to be a mental defective.

Sir F. Fremantle

Not with a medical certificate.

Mr. Ede

I do not trust doctors at all. I trust the hon. Member except when he is acting as a doctor, and then I lose faith in him. The point I want to make is that this definition of a mental defective is wide, and that local authorities and others have of late years tried to persuade people to go into mental institutions on the plea that it will be for only a limited period and that a short stay will probably prove completely effective. That being the position it is very undesirable that anything should be done which may make the period of detention any longer. Much has been said about administration, but I cannot help thinking that all that is necessary is that the assembly of the papers should start a month or a fortnight earlier than now. If that were done the second certificate could be ready by the end of the period for which the first certificate exists. If it is alleged—though it has not been alleged—that there is an accumulation of arrears, adding a month will prove to be only a temporary cure, because then the arrears will begin to accumulate again, and the extra month will not be effective. But that was not stated by the Minister, and I gather that it is not the case.

In view of the importance of preserving the liberty of the subject, and making quite sure that these certificates do not run beyond the period for which they are granted, surely it would be better for steps to be taken inside the Board of Control to collect the papers earlier, so that the decision may be announced within the period for which the certificate runs, rather than have an extension of the period. I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) did not withhold his blessing of the Bill until we had received some assurance on this point. Without wishing to impede the work of the Board of Control I can only say that it ought to make out a very much stronger case for the Bill than it has yet done.

8.12 p.m.

Mr. Dingle Foot

It is easy to understand the reasons for Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 of this Bill, and we can understand the great difficulties in which the Board of Control must have been placed by the recent decision of the Court of Appeal, but like the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I find a little difficulty in understanding the need for Sub-section (1). The Board of Control have acted in perfect good faith on the advice received, but it has been discovered that their action has not been in accordance with the law, and it is therefore proposed to alter the law I should have thought it would have been a much simpler matter to alter the administration of the Board of Control. I did not think the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill really gave us any reason why there should be any greater virtue in the thirteenth month than there is now in the twelfth month, and that is the point we have to consider on Second Reading. Why are we troubled with Sub-section (1) at all? Why should not the Board of Control conform to what has now been discovered to be the law, and alter their practice, so that the continuation orders shall be made within the statutory time laid down in the Act of 1913?

8.13 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

Before I come to the main point which is exercising hon. Members I should like to say a word with regard to certain criticisms which have been directed against the Board of Control. From this point of view let us also accept whatever blame is due to us as legislators —on behalf not of ourselves but of our predecessors, because our predecessors in the legislation which they passed obviously were not completely clear. They imposed upon the Board of Control instructions which the board thought were to be interpreted in one way, whereas the Court of Appeal said—quite rightly—that that was not the correct interpretation of the Statute, and that what had been done was not in accordance with the law. In considering the apportioning of blame I think that as a Legislature we might take a. little of it to ourselves, in view of the fact that our predecessors were not clear in the instructions they gave to the board. An hon. Member asks me whether I was one of the legal advisers. I believe it would be contrary to all precedent for me to answer that question, but perhaps it might be relevant to say that I fancy that this advice was given many years ago.

The main point is the question of Clause 1 and the extension of one month. Hon. Gentlemen in all quarters of the House will be aware that under the scheme of the Mental Deficiency Act there has to be a review by the Board of Control at the end of the first year, another at the end of the second year, and reviews thereafter at intervals of five years, among other safeguards. I leave aside to deal with separately the question of discharge. One of the factors which Parliament had in mind when it originally laid down the review at the end of the year was that it is important that the case should not be considered too soon. Unfortunately in a great many of these cases there is no possibility of recovery but the cases about which we are exercised are those in which there is a possibility of recovery. If you start your reports at the end of nine months or io months you have a month less for the possibility of recovery or improvement than if you did so after 10 months or 11 months. When the matter came to be considered it was thought on the whole better in the interests of the patients to extend the time which at present exists between the original adjudication and the order than to shorten the time for the medical officers' reports required for the annual review. If you put the date back, the medical officer will have to submit the report roughly a month sooner. That was the motive for providing for the extension of a month.

Under the present scheme the board will have a certain latitude for the exceptional cases and for final making of orders. The reports of the medical officers come in, so that in normal cases the whole thing can be disposed of before the end of the quarter day. There is no intention of postponing that procedure. The medical reports will come in after the Bill is passed on exactly the same dates as at present. The general instruction as to when they should come in will hold good and in the vast majority of cases they can be considered before the quarter day. Those cases in which release can be advised, will be seen to and considered immediately. There is no reason why a patient who should be released on his reports will not be released as soon after this Bill is passed as he would be now. You may get a case where, on the original report, you would want to refer back for some further report or because of administrative difficulties the orders could not be got out before the quarter day. In such cases it is important to have the extra month that has been provided. If you get a case in which the Board of Control think that further inquiries should be made, the Bill gives time to consider all possible questions that might arise. It is therefore better to leave the present procedure as it is so that the time between the date of the report and the quarter day should be as short as possible. It is better to give the extra month, which the board have no intention of using for delay, in order to enable the board to deal with exceptional cases and give them time for the necessary administrative procedure.

Mr. Logan

Cannot all the precautions that you have taken with regard to extension be brought into operation within the 12 months, under an efficient system?

The Attorney-General

Yes, but only by putting back the date at which you tell your medical officers and others to send in their reports. My right hon. Friend thinks that it is fairer not to push that date back but to leave the full 11 months for the reports particularly where there is a possibility of recovery. The reports will come in on exactly the same date as they do now. There is no reason to apprehend that there will be any delay, but it will enable the machinery to work.

Dr. Haden Guest

If this procedure is required for the exceptional cases only, as the Attorney-General has just said, should that not be stated in the Bill?

The Attorney-General

I do not think it will operate only in the exceptional cases and I am not saying so. My right hon. Friend made that clear. The interpretation put on the Statute allowed a latitude after the quarter day for the administrative business of getting out the orders. There is no intention of delaying the consideration of the reports on the patients. Hon. Gentlemen have not perhaps considered the importance to the patient of having a report at the latest possible date, particularly in the case of persons likely to recover.

I would say a word or two in answer to the hon. Member for the Scotland division (Mr. Logan), whose interest in this matter is well-known and appreciated. He raised the case of the power of discharge at an intermediate date. The board have full power to discharge at any intermediate date. Clause 25 (2) of the Bill says: Any Commissioner shall have power to discharge at any time any person detained in a certified institution or a certified house or under guardianship under this Act. There is the further safeguard in addition to the annual and quinquennial reviews, that every case is reviewed by the visiting justices at the age of 21. The Board of Control have very difficult duties to perform. In the number of cases where there is a possibility of recovery and the medical officer or visitor visiting under the local authority so advises, there is no reason to believe that that position will not be considered and acted on as promptly after this Bill as before. There are figures showing that cases are very carefully reviewed; in some cases the person is released from the institution on licence. In cases where persons on licence are found to be creating difficulties they have had to be taken back.

Other persons are found to be able to take their place in the life of the community and are discharged. I hope I may have satisfied hon. Members in all parts of the House as to the reasons which led my right hon. Friend to take this course, and as to the obvious importance of seeing that these reports come in for consideration as late as possible before the date when the matter has to be considered.

Sir Robert Tasker

Would it not be better, in the interests of the patient and of the general public, that the Board of Control should be advised by a medical officer, instead of by someone who knows nothing about mental cases?

The Attorney-General

They are.

Sir R. Tasker

The Board of Control at the present moment are not advised by a medical officer.

The Attorney-General

The point we are discussing is the review by the board which has to be made at the end of the first year, at the end of the second year, and quinquennially, in the light of the special reports and certificates which come from the medical officers. The matter is under review all the time by the medical officers, and it is with their reports that the board has to deal.

Sir R. Tasker

May I send my hon. and learned Friend a case?

The Attorney-General

Yes, I shall be glad to consider it; but at every step the Board of Control acts on medical advice.

8.29 p.m.

Mr. Ritson

I can answer the question of the hon. Member for Holborn (Sir R. Tasker). The Board of Control are all doctors, and that is the trouble.

Sir R. Tasker

I was talking about the men who report to the Board of Control, not about the Board of Control itself.

Sir F. Fremantle

I must ask the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson) to withdraw what he has just said, because the Act requires that four members of the board shall be legal commissioners.

Mr. Ritson

The weight of intelligence of the doctors is so great that I did not notice the other poor fellows. I withdraw that statement.

I wish that the provision as to the period of 12 months could be deleted. We have no end of trouble owing to that period of 12 months, because the parents of a mentally defective child of very low grade come to the conclusion that in any case the child is only to be in the institution for 12 months. During that period it may appear that there is no possibility of the child getting better again, but nevertheless the parents are under the impression that he will be cured at the end of 12 months. With reference to the sad case which has been mentioned by my hon. Friend, I cannot understand any magistrate being content to send anyone away without consultation with at least two medical men. When I am on the bench, I always object to anyone being sent away subject to the review of the prison doctor, because I feel that the best man to deal with mental cases is a mental specialist.

However clearly the Attorney-General may deal with the legal side of this matter, it has a practical side. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) knows, I am on the great board which covers South Shields, North Shields, Sunderland, West Hartlepool, Darlington and Middlesbrough, and on that board we have had great trouble because of the necessity for waiting until the period of 12 months has elapsed. I do not know of any medical superintendent who would wish to keep a mental defective for six months longer than is necessary. The object of all medical superintendents is to show is high a recovery rate as possible, and, indeed, they sometimes go to dangerous lengths in order to get a recovery rate which is not actual, by sending people out before the proper time. I am particularly anxious in regard to the children who come before the bench in sex cases. The parents naturally say that their child is not as bad as is stated, but sometimes, on the basis of the medical evidence and of practical knowledge and experience, magistrates are compelled to find that the child is insane. This work is very harassing to the magistrates, but I think it is worth while. I wish, however, that, instead of 12-month provision, some other Clause could be drafted which would make it possible, under the orders of the Board of Control, for the patient to be discharged if the doctors decide that he is really mentally fit.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Major Harvie Watt.]