HC Deb 03 December 1953 vol 521 cc1301-2
31. Mr. A. J. Irvine

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in cases where a child is examined under the procedure referred to in Section 9 of the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913, it is the practice of his Department to permit, if the child's parents desire it and at their own expense, an examination of the child by an independent medical expert of the parent's choice and to give consideration to the report following such examination.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Section 9 of the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913, empowers me to order the transfer to a suitable institution, or the placing under guardianship, of a child detained in an approved school or, in certain circumstances, in a remand home, if I am satisfied from the certificates of two qualified medical practitioners that the child is a defective. Such certificates are considered most carefully, in the light of the medical advice available to the Home Office, before any action is taken on them.

I am prepared to give favourable consideration to requests by parents for an examination by a doctor of their own choice where there is reason to think that the further opinion would be of value. In the few cases where such requests have been made hitherto it has not been considered that a further examination would serve any useful purpose.

Mr. Irvine

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that his answer gives satisfaction only up to a point? Is he prepared to agree that it is undesirable, in principle, that a parent of a child in this situation should not be given the opportunity of having an independent examination carried out, and for the right hon. and learned Gentleman not to have regard to the report resulting there from?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

As I have said, I am personally prepared to consider each case, and I would remind the hon. Gentleman that this is one of the subjects that, I think, will be considered by the Royal Commission. I find that on this subject there is a good deal of difference of opinion among people with the same end in view, to do the best for the child. I will certainly consider what the hon. Gentleman has said. I am sure the Royal Commission will, too.

Mr. MacColl

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman exercise these powers in the case of moral defectives as well as mental defectives, that is, children who are not in the normal sense of the term backward educationally but who are said to be morally unstable? If so, will he be particularly careful to distinguish between moral defectives within the meaning of the Act and just very naughty children?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

On the last point, yes. On the first, there is, as the hon. Gentleman knows, a definition in the Act of 1913, and whether that definition is satisfactory is another of the points that, I am sure, the Royal Commission will consider.