HC Deb 24 March 1958 vol 585 cc24-5
40. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the progress made in obtaining the views of the authorities and associations on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Mental Illness and Mental Deficiency; and what improvements he proposes to make where this can be done by administrative action.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Derek Walker-Smith)

All the views expected have been received. On the second part of the Question, I have nothing to add at present to the reply given on 3rd February to the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen).

Mr. Dodds

Is the Minister aware that I wish to pay my tribute to him for some of the improvements which have taken place already under his stewardship? Is it not possible by administration to ensure that no person will be certified as insane unless there are two doctors reporting, against the present popular practice of only one doctor?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I think the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question refers to the question of the mentally ill which, as he knows, requires legislation. In reply to the first part of his question, his tribute is nonetheless acceptable for being a little unexpected.

Mr. Dodds

Is it not possible under the present law for a person to be certified on the report of one doctor or two? Therefore, is it not possible by administrative action rather than by legislation to use the formula of two doctors?

Mr. Walker-Smith

In the case of mental illness, I think that would require a change in the Acts. Although the Question does not ask about that, that is my understanding of the position.

Mr. Bevan

Although it might require an amendment of the Acts to enforce it compulsorily, would there not be a very considerable field over which this could be done by voluntary action? Could it not be said to be desirable to have two certificates?

Mr. Walker-Smith

All these things can be explored within the bounds of administrative possibility, but the right hon. Member will appreciate that the recommendations by the Royal Commission in this connection are such as to call for legislative action.

Mr. F. Harris

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that this is a matter I raised several months ago and that there is very strong feeling that something definite should be done about it?

Mr. Walker-Smith

My hon. Friend will appreciate that my circular of 15th January met with wide acceptance among those concerned with mental deficiency. I am grateful to those, including the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds), who have testified to that, but in the case of mental illness the question of legislation arises.