HL Deb 30 September 1831 vol 7 cc877-9
The Lord Chancellor

then called their Lordships' attention to the Bill for regulating Lunatic Asylums, which had been returned to the Commons much amended, and sent back from the Commons to the House of Lords with nearly all their Lordships' amendments rejected. It came up, originally, one of the most abominable pieces of legislation that ever was seen. He said that without any disrespect to the other House, for he was sure they could not have seen and known of the Bill. It provided, that any person—and that person might be the wife or sister of one of their Lordships—momentarily deranged from any accident (and such a thing was frequently the consequence of child-birth), who should be sent into a temporary asylum or lodging-house for convenience and secresy, should be immediately reported by the lodging- house keeper to the Commissioners, and the name of the party was to be made known to the Secretary of State for the Home Department and to the Lord Chancellor. That was a monstrous species of legislation. But the Bill provided for keeping the name of such party secret, by communicating it only to the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State; but these were political officers, and of all men, the last whom he would like to intrust with such a secret. But then the indictment for not reporting this lodging-house, how was that to be kept secret? The wiseacres seemed to suppose that an indictment could be preferred anonymously. But who ever heard of an anonymous indictment. It must be said that Lady or Mrs.—was kept for forty-eight hours in the lodging house, &c.; and what was to follow? Why the lady herself must be called into the witness-box, and an investigation must be gone into as to the state of her mind when she was placed under the superintendence of the lodging-house keeper. So, here was an Act which, in order to preserve the secret of persons suffering under such a calamity, would compel them, though they might be ladies, and though, they might be married, to go into a Court of Justice to prove that they had been in a lodging-house. He should be sorry that there; should be no bill passed at all, but their Lordships could not pass a Bill of that description. A conference had taken place with the Commons, who had not assigned any reasons for rejecting their Lordships' Amendments, which much improved the Bill. He did not know whether these Commissioners ought not to be dispensed with; and he thought it would be better to trust to the relatives, wives, husbands, or children of persons unhappily afflicted, than to these Commissioners. These gentlemen, too, who were so anxious to preserve secresy, refused to take an oath themselves, though that was done by Privy Councillors. He was sure that their Lordships could not agree to the Bill in its present shape. They could never suffer such an abominable piece of legislation to be crammed down their throats. He hardly knew what to do, but he believed he must give notice of his [...]tention to have it taken into consideration at a future day. In consequence of a suggestion of Lord Ellenborough's, the noble and learned Lord concluded by moving, that the Bill, with the Amendments of the Commons, and with the Amendments of their Lordships, should be printed, and the latter in italics, so that their Lordships might see the difference.

The Bill, with these Amendments, was accordingly ordered to be printed.