HC Deb 10 July 1964 vol 698 cc759-75

Order for Second Reading read.

11.5 a.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Miss Mervyn Pike)

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

In September, 1962, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who was then Home Secretary, asked the Criminal Law Revision Committee to advise him whether the law needed amendment on a number of points relating to the issue of insanity in criminal proceedings. The Committee's conclusions were set out in its Third Report, which was published as a Command Paper (Cmnd. 2149) last September. In accordance with the usual practice, a draft Bill implementing the Committee's recommendations was prepared on its instructions by Parliamentary counsel and appended to its Report.

The Bill now before the House is in the form of the Committee's draft Bill, subject to a few modifications and the addition of provisions making corresponding alteration in the law relating to courts martial. The Committee is, I think, to be congratulated on producing its admirable Report on these complicated problems within a matter of some months.

Clause 1 of the Bill provides that henceforward the special verdict commonly referred to as "guilty but insane", which is given when a person charged on indictment with a criminal offence is found by the jury to have done the act charged, but owing to insanity to have been not criminally responsible for it, shall be that the accused is not guilty by reason of insanity.

The old common law rule was that if a person, at the time of committing what would be an offence if done by a sane person, was insane so as not to be criminally responsible for it, he was entitled to be acquitted.

The Criminal Lunatics Act of 1800 required the jury in such circumstances to state whether the ground of acquittal was the insanity of the accused, and empowered the court to order him to be kept in custody until Her Majesty's pleasure should be known. The form of the verdict was, however, altered to its present form of "guilty but insane" by the Trial of Lunatics Act, 1883.

Both the 1923 Atkin Committee on Insanity and Crime and the 1953 Royal Commission on Capital Punishment considered that the special verdict should again be one of acquittal in language as well as in substance; and this view was endorsed by the Criminal Law Revision Committee.

Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill provide for an appeal against the special verdict. No right of appeal against it exists at present, because under Section 3 of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1907, it is only a person "convicted" on indictment who may appeal and the special verdict is technically an acquittal.

The absence of a right of appeal has not, I think, been a matter of much significance in the past, because, as the Atkin Committee pointed out, the plea of insanity would normally have been put forward by the defence, and because the issue of insanity was not likely to be raised if there was any real question whether the accused committed the act.

In October, 1961, however, in giving judgment in the case of R. v. Duke the Lord Chief Justice said that the absence of a right of appeal against the special verdict might work injustice, although he did not suggest that it had done so. He pointed out that the creation by the Homicide Act of the defence of diminished responsibility had afforded another reason for giving such a right.

Although there has been conflict of practice, the courts have held in some cases that where a defence of diminished responsibility has been put forward in the case of a charge of murder the accused is insane, so that the special prosecution may call evidence that the verdict may be given contrary to the wishes of the accused; and, indeed, one of the effects of the Bill is to resolve the uncertainty by making express provision to allow the prosecution when a defence of diminished responsibility is put forward to call rebutting evidence of insanity. That is dealt with in Clause 7. It seems right, therefore, that the special verdict should be subject to appeal.

The detailed provisions as to the grounds on which the appeal may be brought, and the power of the court to allow or dismiss the appeal, are similar to the provisions as regards appeals against conviction in Sections 3 and 4 of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1907.

Where it substitutes a verdict of guilty for the special verdict the Court of Criminal Appeal will have the same power to sentence the appellant as the court of trial would have had, except that if the appeal results in the appellant's being convicted of a capital offence, the sentence will always be one of life imprisonment.

Clause 4 of the Bill deals with the most difficult aspect of the Committee's Report, namely, the question when the issue of a person's fitness to be tried should be determined, when that issue is raised when he appears before a superior court on indictment for a criminal offence.

Practice on this point has not been uniform, although the issue is ordinarily tried before the accused is called upon to plead; and it has been held that once it is raised it is the duty of the court, having regard to Section 2 of the Criminal Lunatics Act, 1800, which governs the present procedure, to have it resolved before beginning or continuing the trial.

The practice which is usually followed is open to the objection that it provides no opportunity for testing the prosecution's case before the issue of insanity is put to the jury, and that consequently a person who would have been entitled to an acquittal on the facts, had he been able to stand his trial, may suffer injustice.

The Committee was divided on the question whether the issue of fitness to plead should continue to be determined on arraignment or immediately it arises, or whether postponement of the issue should be allowed, as has occasionally been done.

The possibility that injustice might result is in practice small, and there are obvious difficulties about allowing a trial to start without first investigating the accused's fitness to plead.

Although some members of the Committee were not persuaded that any change in the law was warranted, the majority took the view that postponement should be allowed up to the opening of the case for the defence, including the determination of any submission that there is. no case for the accused to answer, and that is the course which the Government think should be adopted.

Under the Bill, the court will have a complete discretion to decide whether the issue should be determined on arraignment or as soon as it arises, or be postponed to a later stage up to the end of the prosecution's case. If, before the issue is determined, the jury acquits the accused it will not be necessary to determine it, and he will be discharged.

The Act of 1800 is also invoked in the case of deaf mutes, even though not insane in the usual sense, if by reason of their disability they do not satisfy the criteria of fitness to plead: that is, if they are unable to understand the course of proceedings at the trial, so as to make a proper defence, to challenge a juror to whom they might wish to object and to understand the details of the evidence.

It is largely for this reason that Clause 4 differs slighty from that in the Committee's draft Bill, so as to enable the court, in exercising their discretion to decide whether the issue of fitness should be postponed, to take into account the nature of the supposed disability. As a further safeguard, the Committee recommended that there should be a right of appeal against a finding of unfitness to plead, and this is provided in Clause 4(6).

A successful appeal against a finding of disability would result in a fresh trial, unless the Court of Criminal Appeal considered that the appellant should have been acquitted before the issue of fitness was determined.

Clause 5(1) of the Bill modifies the existing arrangements for dealing with the accused when the jury return a special verdict or a finding that he is under disability.

The present effect of a special verdict or finding of unfitness is that the accused is ordered by the court to be kept in custody until Her Majesty's pleasure shall be known, and under Section 71 of the Mental Health Act my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary then orders his detention in a specified hospital, from which he cannot be discharged without the Home Secretary's consent.

A person found unfit to plead may under Section 71(5) of the Mental Health Act be remitted to prison to stand trial if he later recovers, although the power to bring such a person to trial is rarely exercised.

Under the arrangements envisaged in Clause 5 there will no longer be any reference to Her Majesty's pleasure and it will be for the court, not the Home Secretary, to order the accused's detention in hospital, although as at present it will be for the Home Secretary to specify the hospital concerned and the patient will not be able to be discharged without the Home Secretary's consent. The power to remit for trial a person found under disability who later recovers will be preserved.

The Committee considered whether it would be better to give the judiciary the same discretion to make hospital orders with or without the restrictions on discharge which make the patient subject to the Home Secretary's control, in respect of persons found not guilty by reason of insanity, or under disability, as they have under the Mental Health Act in dealing with mentally disordered persons who are convicted.

The Committee concluded, however, that the present system, should be retained, subject to slight modifications, primarily on the ground that it works satisfactorily in practice, that the Home Office is in a better position than the courts to investigate the questions relevant to the accused's treatment, and that uniformity is highly desirable and is more likely to be achieved if cases continue to be handled by a single experienced authority rather than by a great many different courts.

The Government have not thought it right to accept a further modification which the Committee suggested might be made. It recommended that the courts should be able to release any person found not guilty by reason of insanity or under disability if, after hearing medical evidence, they were satisfied that it would be safe for the public and the accused to do so, instead of requiring his admission to hospital.

It is felt that there are objections to dividing the responsibility in this way between the Home Secretary and the courts, and inquiry which has been made of the judges by the Lord Chief Justice has revealed that they are also of that opinion. I feel sure that there will be less risk that a person might be released who would subsequently prove to be dangerous if the accused is always sent initially to hospital where he would be examined before his discharge was authorised.

It would be open to the court to indicate to the Home Secretary in suitable cases that, in its opinion, the release of the person concerned would involve no danger to the public, and to leave it to the Home Secretary to authorise, if he thought fit, the patient's discharge after a short period of observation.

Clause 5 (2) provides that the Court of Criminal Appeal, when it allows an appeal against the special verdict and substitutes an acquittal, shall order that the appellant should be temporarily detained in hospital if it considers this to be necessary on grounds equivalent to those on which a person who is at liberty may be compulsorily detained for observation under Section 25 of the Mental Health Act, that is to say, if his disorder warrants his detention in the interest of his own health or safety, or with a view to the protection of other persons.

The effect will be to place the appellant in the same position as that of a person detained under Section 25, namely, that he may not be detained for longer than 28 days unless, meanwhile, steps can be taken to continue his detention under other provisions of Part IV of the Mental Health Act, which applies to persons other than those detained by order of a criminal court.

The appellant is likely to be already detained in hospital in pursuance of the special verdict when his appeal is heard, and the order for his temporary detention in suitable cases will give a breathing space in which to make the best possible arrangements for his disposal.

Clause 7 is designed to remove a doubt which exists on the question whether the prosecution can call evidence of insanity when a defence of diminished responsibility is put forward under the Homicide Act. The doubt arises from a long established rule that the prosecution may not call evidence of insanity, even with the accused's consent; and in giving judgment in the case of R. v. Duke the Lord Chief Justice pointed out that a conflict of practice had grown up on this question.

The Committee recommended that the prosecution should be empowered to allow the prosecution to call evidence of insanity when the defence is one of diminished responsibility and that, although the matter is apparently not in dispute, there should also be express provision for the converse situation by allowing evidence to be called showing that the accused was suffering from diminished responsibility when a defence of insanity is put forward.

Clause 8 of the Bill and Schedule 2 bring the law concerning courts-martial so far as appropriate into line with the main provisions of the Bill. Except as respects courts-martial, the Bill does not apply to Scotland or to Northern Ireland.

I feel confident that the Bill will be generally welcomed as effecting a useful and liberalising improvement of the law and as such I commend it to the House.

11.18 a.m.

Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)

This Bill exemplifies again the very great assistance that we in this House receive from small expert Committees who devote their willing services to investigating topics of intricacy and difficulty. I think that everybody would wish to pay tribute to the members of the Criminal Law Revision Committee for what is an extremely valuable report upon an abstruse matter perhaps but nevertheless one which is of very great significance to those unfortunate people who are involved.

I think that the whole House will wish to pay tribute to the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department for the inspired manner in which she threaded her way through the intricacies of this very legalistic Bill. Her exposition was lucidity itself, and we are grateful to her. At first sight, the Bill seems to deal with a remote topic which affects only a few persons who are mentally disturbed and who have had the misfortune to come before our criminal courts. It may be that is true, if one just looks at this Bill as such. Nevertheless; it has very human aspects. It is always our endeavour and duty to try in liberalising and humanising our system of law to remove from it aspects which in themselves do not tend towards a rather more humane point of view.

The illogicality legally of finding a person guilty but insane dates back only, as was said by the hon. Lady, to the Act of 1883. In that sense that Act was inferior to the Act of 1800 which did not contain the inconsistency which exists in declaring a person guilty when in the next words it is said that he was insane and therefore unable to form the intent which could possibly make him guilty. For 83 years the law of this country did not bear that blemish. In 1883 the blemish was introduced. It is said—I speak with great reverence of her—that it reflected the view expressed by Queen Victoria that insanity was consistent with guilt and that the right verdict to pronounce in a case in which the act charged was found to have been proved was "guilty but insane". I think it is generally recognised now, and nobody would cavil at this, that that is an utterly illogical point of view which is inconsistent with the more humane principles on which we try to formulate our present law.

A person who is insane and charged with committing a breach of the law, if he is insane, cannot in logic be guilty of the offence with which he is charged. I feel that we have made a useful step forward in recognising that in Clause 1. No doubt only a few person are affected. Happily only a few persons are so disturbed in their mental operations that they transgress against the criminal law and are unable, because of mental confusion, to keep themselves out of its meshes. For these few persons what we are doing is something important. It may well be said by the cynic that a person who is mentally disturbed and detained in hospital does not mind very much whether the legal terminology which involved his transfer to hospital contained a phrase to the effect that he was guilty or whether it did not, but more accurately expressed his condition as being not guilty by reason of insanity. This may well be the case, but modern humanising processes in the law require that we should not try to rule our fellow citizens by crude broad generalities expressed in the terms of our rules of law, but that we should try so to fit and adapt our legal system, as it evolves, that it takes account of the infinite variety of individual human cases which go to make up the whole stuff of which our law is composed and the whole business with which our courts occupy themselves. Clause 1 takes a step in that direction and I am glad that the Government have introduced this provision.

Turning to Clause 2, one finds that it fills a gap which at present exists. I take the view that the Atkin Committee was wrong in concluding that there should be no appeal. I think there should be an appeal. It is only by the accident of drafting that hitherto there has not been an appeal from the special verdict of guilty but insane. It is simply because Section 3 of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1907, provided that an appeal lies only at the instance of a person who has been "convicted on indictment," and the verdict of guilty but insane does not come within that description. I think that there ought to be an appeal. It is a very serious thing for a person to have it said of him by a court that he was not guilty, but not guilty because he was insane. A finding of that sort almost inevitably blasts the future for years, if not for always, of a person of whom that is said in our courts.

Cases may arise—I do not say that they will arise very often, probably it will be only rarely—where a person wishes to dispute a finding of that sort on appeal. I think that he ought to be allowed to do so and to challenge a finding which has resulted in his being so stigmatised. Clause 2 gives him that opportunity. If he wishes to exercise a right of appeal against a special finding of that sort, he must do so in the knowledge that the result may be that if his appeal be successful a verdict of "guilty" may be substituted and that if it is, as a result of that appeal, punishment may follow which will take the place of the confinement in a hospital designated by the Secretary of State. From the point of view of the appellant the result may not be so very different in the long run. Nevertheless there is, or may be, a significant difference from his point of view between being stigmatised as being a lunatic and having committed an offence because of and while he was a lunatic, and being simply described as a person who has offended against the criminal law.

Both situations are highly unfortunate for the person concerned, but one may be worse than the other and it ought to be open to the citizen to seek to substitute what in his eyes, I should have thought, would very often be the lesser of the two evils, namely, a finding that he was guilty rather than that he was not guilty but only because he was insane when the offence charged against him was committed. I therefore entirely support the view which the Government have adopted on the advice of the Committee, that here there should be the right of appeal.

I was particularly glad to observe the proviso which states that in the event of the relevant offence being capital murder, if an appeal is allowed against the special finding, the resulting sentence, in the event of a verdict of guilty being substituted, will not be the death sentence but a sentence of imprisonment for life. I should think that it would be contrary to our ideas of fairness to subject a person accused to what is in effect a double ordeal ending in a death sentence. I think this is a humanistic approach which we should all welcome.

I come, in effect, to the second part of the Bill which deals with insanity, but with a situation in which the person accused is plainly unfit to understand what is going on. In that case the issue arises of unfitness to plead. The Committee was in difficulty, as the hon. Lady has pointed out, in deciding at what stage in the proceedings it was right, upon a review of our criminal processes, for the issue to be decided whether a person charged was unfit to plead. There were various alternative suggestions. It might be done when the accused person is arraigned. Alternatively the issue of unfitness to plead should be one which could be postponed to a later stage, or postponed right to the end of the whole trial, even after the verdict of the jury had been recorded. There were various suggestions and the Committee was unable to arrive at a unanimous conclusion.

Speaking for myself, I entirely agree with the conclusion at which it has arrived. The question poses a dilemma. If the accused person has to be found fit or unfit to plead at the outset of the trial, which is the present practice, he is, or he may be, deprived of the advantage of being able to demonstrate, through his counsel, that the evidence adduced to support the prosecution case fails to make out a prima facie case against him. If that is demonstrated by cross-examination by his counsel on his behalf, he is, of course, entitled to an acquittal. If the issue of his being fit or unfit to plead has to be decided at the outset with the result that the trial does not proceed if he is found unfit to plead, he loses that advantage. I do not think that a right and fair situation and the proposal made by the Committee which the Government has accepted remedies it.

The other horn of the dilemma is this. There is something incongruous, even almost absurd, in the idea of a person being tried who does not understand what is going on. If it is said, as the Government say—I think rightly—that the issue whether an accused person was fit or unfit to plead can be postponed to be decided at the time when the defence is opened, it could be said that the somewhat farcical procedure would have to be gone through of the prosecution case being deployed and witnesses examined by counsel on behalf of a person who may be found quite unfit to understand what is going on, or to give any instructions, or to have any idea that he is on trial and has an interest in securing that the proceedings against him are dismissed.

I would prefer that the court should go through the procedure of examining the prosecution's case in the knowledge that the person in the dock may be found, after the case has been deployed, to be unfit to plead. If he is, then that issue may be decided before the defence is opened and the proceedings can stop there. In a difficult situation, that is the lesser of the evils. I am, therefore, glad that the Government have accepted the recommendation of the Committee, which has my support.

I move on to Clause 5 which, again, really deals with terminology. Its purpose is somewhat analogous to that envisaged in Clause 1. Clause 5 substitutes for the language that the convicted person is to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure more realistic language to the effect that he is to go to a hospital specified by the Secretary of State; and that his discharge is to be subject to permanent suspension, as it were, until he is cured. That is substituting language which describes the real situation for language which is such that it may give a wrong impression of what is going on. I prefer the new language, and the Clause has my support.

The Joint Under-Secretary pointed out the provisions in Clause 5 in regard to temporary confinement to hospital. I need not go into the individual intricacies involved in this, except to say that I would have no criticism of what the Clause does in this respect and that the Government were right to have taken this course.

The only other Clause about which I need comment is Clause 7, which is simply designed to remove an uncertainty. The convention that the prosecution should not call evidence of insanity in some circumstances leads to an illogical result which is difficult to justify. Clause 7 makes that convention inapplicable and allows the prosecution to call evidence to rebut the alternative pleas that may be raised of insanity or diminished responsibility. That is sensible and anything which removes doubt and enables learned judges to know better where they stand in directing the jury is desirable; and Clause 7 makes an advance in that direction.

It is generally conventional to say that one will wish to change a Measure and chop it around in Committee. I doubt whether hon. Members will wish to make much change in this Bill. Obviously we will want to look at it carefully, but from my reading of it I have not detected anything at which I would particularly wish to cavil. It has been drafted after the closest consideration of the matter by persons with great knowledge of the subject for whom I have the highest respect. I think that they have come to the right conclusions and I very much hope that the Bill will receive its Second Reading.

11.34 a.m.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North West)

I wish also to thank the Joint Under-Secretary for the clear and concise way in which she presented the Measure and to join with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) in congratulating those who have been concerned in preparing the Bill. It is an important Measure, not so much, perhaps, because of its technical content, but because it deals with a problem relating to people who are or may be incapable of understanding what is happening to them because of mental difficulty or aberration.

The view of the public and Parliament on the subject of insanity or unbalance of mind has changed considerably since the passage of the 1883 Act, itself a retrogressive Measure, introduced mainly because so exalted a personality as the then Queen was able to change the law by putting pressure on her Prime Minister as she had been attacked by a person of disordered mind. She was able to place such pressure on the Prime Minister that such a radical change in the law was made as to describe a person as being insane and guilty because of his insanity—a change which would be regarded today as literally impossible. In 1883 Parliament introduced that Act simply to cope with a situation which had arisen because the Queen had been attacked.

Today we do not regard an insane person in the same way as was customary years ago. We look upon him as an unfortunate member of our society who must be dealt with in a more delicate and considerate way than an individual in possession of all his faculties. We have come to regard the insane person as a brother, and if a family has amongst its members an individual who suffers from this terrible complaint that family generally regards itself as having a special duty to perform towards him because he is not gifted with the same faculties as the other members of the family. He must, therefore, receive very careful help.

We must remember that it is not merely the individual himself who is affected by the verdict "guilty but insane." It means that all those connected with him have the reflection on them that a member of their family has committed a crime, one more or less serious according to the circumstances. It makes a substantial difference if a person is found to be not guilty than if a verdict of guilty is declared.

I happen to belong to a branch of the profession in which we sometimes deal with this problem in both civil and criminal matters. It is extremely difficult to know in such circumstances exactly what to do in advising individuals whether or not to take a certain course of action, particularly in criminal matters—for example, advising relatives that an attempt should be made to convince a court that the person should be declared to be insane. It is a serious thing indeed if one must advise that although he may be declared to be insane, he will still be considered as guilty of having committed the offence, which may be a capital one.

It has been said in another place, I think rightly, that there is a reflection on us all, irrespective of party, in the fact that the present state of the law should have continued for something like a hundred years without anything being done about it in Parliament. I know that comments are sometimes made here about lawyers in general, usually in a light rather than in a serious vein, but the fact remains that some members of a committee of the type that has made the recommendations being implemented in this Measure are lawyers. They know what they are talking about, and what happens in the courts.

It is a pity that we do not take more and quicker notice of what lawyers propose. It was said by a very eminent counsel a few days ago in another place that the average time it takes for this House to assimilate what such a committee puts forward is 35 years. In the present issues, it could be contended that nothing could be done in the lifetime of the late Queen Victoria, but there have been many sovereigns since then, yet it has taken over sixty years for this piece of legislation to be brought forward since her death.

We can now understand why it takes so many of us so long to get certain Measures carried through this House. The hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State smiles, but I am sure that she will recollect cases where it has taken years before something could be thus pushed through the House. In some cases, a private Member desires to do something to carry into effect what eminent lawyers have recommended. We know that there are many Bills on the Order Paper that will never reach fruition, although they seek to implement proposals which committees of lawyers and judges and others have forcibly recommended for a long time. I might say with all humility that one or two have been put on the tapis by myself—one of them as a result of very strong comments of judges about the desirability of legislation. Even such a simple thing as a Bill to take the flick knife from use—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that one can keep within the rules of order on a Second Reading by discussion of other branches of the law.

Sir B. Janner

With respect, Mr. Speaker, I was trying to point out how long it had taken to bring this Measure forward and explaining that that was in line with what happens in other directions. But I shall not pursue that topic further.

I welcome the provision for appeal against a conviction of sentence and I hope that I shall not be out of order if I refer to how opinion has changed in this direction. Until fairly recently, when a person had pleaded guilty in one court he was not allowed to appeal to a higher court against conviction, having changed his mind about the correctness of his plea or having found that his plea was not the proper one. That position was changed some years ago.

The same considerations apply here. I see no reason why a person properly and appropriately advised, as I have no doubt that in such a case he would be, even though he might not fully comprehend the position should be prevented from the right of appealling because that in itself indicates that there is a possibility of a reverse of the decision of the lower court. Fresh evidence may come forward, and if there is such a possibility the individual concerned should certainly have the right of appeal against a previous decision—all the more so if the question of his sanity is at issue.

If I may say so with respect, I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport and the Government, and feel that the way out indicated by the Government is the right one—subject, of course, to further detailed consideration of the Bill. I think that this Measure will be received with satisfaction and commendation on both sides of the House and by all those Members of the general public who understand the conditions at present prevailing.

11.47 a.m.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Peter Rawlinson)

I am very glad that all who have so far spoken welcome this Measure, as I am sure the whole House does. I was particularly happy to hear the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) say that he doubted whether it would need much change in Committee, although the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) may well have some important matters to put before the Committee. Obviously, however, the general principles in the Bill will be warmly welcomed by everyone.

I should like to join with the right hon. and learned Gentleman and with my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State in expressing thanks to the members of the Criminal Law Revision Committee. This Committee was first appointed in 1959 by my right hon. Friend who is now Foreign Secretary, and consists of many distinguished lawyers—probably the most expert in these fields that could be gathered together in one Committee. I am sure that the learned judges and some of the other members will understand if I pay a particular tribute to those on the Committee who do not hold official positions but who give of their own time and expertise, and give Parliament such help.

In reply to the gentle chiding by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West on the subject of delay, I might point out that this same Committee has produced five reports. The first, on Indecency with Children, was made in 1959, and was put into law in 1960—

Sir B. Janner

I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will realise that, in speaking of delay, I was not referring to the Committee at all.

The Solicitor-General

I appreciate that.

The early Committees did not deal with all that is dealt with in the Bill but the House should take pleasure and pride in the fact that the first four of these five Reports have been or are being enacted into law with the support of the whole House. The 1959 Report dealing with indecency with children was enacted in 1960. The 1960 Report dealing with suicide was enacted in 1961. The Report on the procedure of right of reply published in 1963 was enacted this year, and now this Bill will enact this year the Report published in 1963 dealing with the present subject. This is a very satisfactory conclusion and a justification of the importance of the Committee which was established in 1959.

It must also give a certain satisfaction and must point a certain lesson to the House that here we are in 1964 agreeing apparently unanimously that what Parliament did in 1883 in changing what a previous Parliament had done in 1800 was wrong. This gives us a caveat as it shows that the ancient Parliament in 1800 was right and the subsequent Parliament was wrong, and in 1964 we are putting matters back to 1800, to the general satisfaction of all sides of the House.

I repeat that I am glad that the House has welcomed the provisions of the Bill. The hon. Member for Leicester, Northwest is right to say that this is an important Bill and to agree with his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport that it will bring a rightful change in the general attitude of the law to people suffering from diseases of the mind. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. McLaren.]

Committee upon Monday, next.