HC Deb 22 February 1972 vol 831 cc1090-1
18. Mr. Mayhew

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will issue a White Paper on services for the mentally sick.

Sir K. Joseph

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to him on 15th February.—[Vol. 831, c. 65–6.]

Mr. Mayhew

Is the Secretary of State aware that while few people would challenge his objectives for these services, especially his aim to close our psychiatric hospitals within 15 years, there is concern about the vagueness of his plans and his recent advice to hospitals and local authorities? Will he therefore set out a specific plan for the powers needed, the timing, and the costings so as to carry out this project within a stated time?

Sir K. Joseph

I have studied very carefully the views of the organisation of which the hon. Gentleman is chairman, and I look forward to commenting upon them at the annual general meeting of his organisation later this week. The answer is rather too lengthy to give to a supplementary question.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Before issuing a White Paper, will the right hon. Gentleman institute a full-scale inquiry into conditions at Napsbury Mental Hospital in general and in particular into the death of a Watford woman patient there who is reported to have died from severe internal injuries?

Sir K. Joseph

I understand that police inquiries are in progress about the very sad incident, and I shall have to wait until they are completed before making any decision.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many hon. Members on both sides share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) that the advisory document so far issued is so vague as to be totally inadequate? In view of the revelations of a succession of recent inquiries into the scandals in some of our mental hospitals, it is imperative that we should have a detailed and fully costed White Paper as soon as possible.

Sir K. Joseph

I take the subject intensely seriously, but I hope the House will wait until I have spoken later this week specifically to the criticisms before coming to any attempted assessment.