HC Deb 29 October 1956 vol 558 cc1064-6
46. Dr. D. Johnson

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that, amongst correspondence received by the hon. Member for Carlisle in recent weeks from patients and ex-patients of mental hospitals, there are letters from 29 apparently sane people now at liberty, and whose names and addresses have been supplied to him, alleging that they have been unjustifiably detained in mental hospitals under various sections of the Lunacy Act; and whether he will appoint a general inquiry to consider these allegations.

Mr. Turton

My hon. Friend has written to me about his correspondence. Any question of illegal detention is a matter for the courts. As my hon. Friend knows, a Royal Commission is at present examining the law relating to mental health. I do not consider that an additional general inquiry would serve a useful purpose.

Dr. Johnson

Is the Minister not aware that, despite what he says, there is a fear among these people that their point of view has been overlooked by the Royal Commission? Will he give an assurance that, in any further consideration that may take place as a result of the Royal Commission's Report, this point of view will be fully considered? Next, pending these wider considerations which, we hope, will take place, can my right hon. Friend take such steps as he may to curb the hasty and sometimes ill-considered removals to hospital that are taking place, which not only deprive patients of their liberty, but also fail in many cases to benefit their mental health?

Mr. Turton

With regard to the first part of that supplementary question, I think it would be wise for us to await the Report of the Royal Commission to see whether it covers these cases or not. On the second part, if any hon. Member has a constituent with a complaint, I hope he will always bring the complaint to me or to the Parliamentary Secretary. On the third point, it would be wrong for me to interfere with the giving of certificates by justices. That is a matter of law with which the Minister of Health quite properly cannot interfere.

Mr. F. Harris

Is the Minister aware that there is very strong feeling on this issue, especially on the fact that it needs only one doctor's certificate to send a person to a lunatic asylum? This is a very serious matter. I have cases of this kind in my constituency at the present time.

Mr. Turton

That will be one of the matters to be looked at by the Royal Commission.