HL Deb 23 August 1831 vol 6 cc448-50

Lord Kenyon moved, that the House resolve itself into a Committee on the Lunatics' Bill. This Bill had been under the consideration of a Committee up-stairs, where several Amendments upon the old Act had been suggested. As the gentlemen composing the late Commission, to which the management of the lunatics had been confided, and which had performed its duties in a most efficient manner, could not longer continue in that Commission, and at the same time properly discharge the other duties of their situation, particularly the very able Chairman, both of a public and private nature, the Committee proposed to introduce into the Commission certain individuals, whose avocations would not call them from the discharge of the duties of that office. It was found expedient, also, to make some change in the constitution of the Commission. Originally, the Commission was placed under the control of the Secretary of State for the Home Department; and although the duty had been as well done by the Secretary as it could be done by a person in that situation, it had been thought, for obvious reasons, that the control should be vested in the Lord Chancellor. There was another alteration which it was very material for the public to know, and that was, that the relations of the persons confined were not, by the present Bill, to be bound to visit them, as it was thought better that should be left to their own judgment and benevolent feelings, whether to visit them or not. There might be cases in which, for the sake of the patient himself, his relations should not visit him. Another alteration, of some public importance, was, that it was not now to be imperative that the names of those who visited the patients should be mentioned or taken down. It had been also thought advisable, that some medical men of high character should be members of the Committee. The noble Lord added, that in order to secure a proper attention on the part of those whose attention was most material, some remuneration should be allowed them.

The House then resolved itself into a Committee on the Bill.

The Marquis of Lansdown was ready to admit, that the suggestions of the noble Baron had great force, yet the admission of medical men upon Commissions of Lunacy was liable to many objections.

The Duke of Cumberland

said, that if any provision of the nature hinted at by the noble Marquis was made, it would exclude Surgeons of the Army, who had experience in all sorts of disorders, and who were well acquainted with the proper treatment of mental maladies.

The Lord Chancellor

thought, that the Bill effected a desirable improvement in bringing matters of lunacy more immediately than they were by the old law, under the superintendence of the Great Seal. He thought it most proper, that a near connection should subsist between the Lord Chancellor for the time and the Commissioners of Lunacy. He approved of many of the appointments in the Bill, as he conceived, that professional men were persons to whom matters of so confidential a nature as the administration of lunacy, might be more properly intrusted than to any other individuals. When he recollected how anxiously every family concealed the misfortune of a lunatic being in the family, and how important it was to the lunatic, in case of his recovery, that no indiscreet publicity had been given to his case, he felt how useful it would be to have the Committees composed of professional men, whose discretion and secresy might be fully depended on. He also approved of the suggestion of the illustrious Duke with regard to the eligibility of Military Surgeons, as he considered that many of them were persons of great knowledge and experience, and well suited in every respect to discharge important duties. He was content with this Bill, since Parliament had thought proper to legislate at all on the subject, though he was perhaps, of opinion that the safest way was to leave all those unhappy cases to the natural guardianship of the parties interested. As, however, both Houses of the Legislature agreed that some control should be exerted, he approved of the present Bill, which brought that superintendence immediately under the House and the Great Seal.

The Bill went through the Committee, and the House resumed.

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