HL Deb 16 June 1868 vol 192 cc1621-8

House again in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 9 (Poor Law Inspectors to make Report as to idiotic and harmless Lunatics in Workhouses).


said, he objected to this and the five following clauses, which provide that Poor Law Inspectors shall report to the Clerks of the Peace the number of idiotic, imbecile, and harmless insane paupers in union workhouses on each 29th of September; that on receiving the Reports the Justices at the next Quarter Sessions may appoint, a Committee; to consider the expediency of providing an asylum for the county alone, or, in conjunction with some adjoining county or counties; that the Justices at Quarter Sessions may provide such asylums; that Guardians, on receiving notice of their completion, may send idiotic and imbecile paupers to such asylums, and that the Poor Law Board, or a Poor Law Inspector may, after due inquiry, require the removal of a pauper to such an asylum. He thought that clauses of this description, which must greatly increase local taxation, ought to have originated in the other House of Parliament. He objected also that it was very undesirable to increase the discretionary power of Courts of Quarter Sessions. If it is necessary to establish such asylums, the law should be imperative; but, in his opinion, the number of idiots would not require many asylums, and that it would be better to establish as many as may be required in a few convenient localities, and to manage them under the control, and at the expense of the Government, out of the Consolidated Fund. He also thought it was a subject that should be considered apart from the Poor Laws, and from the attention it might require, should be proposed to Parliament in a separate Bill. For these reasons he should divide the House against the clause in this Bill.

Moved, "To leave out Clause 9."—(The Lord Portman.)


said, he could not concur with his noble Friend in thinking that the subject with which these clauses dealt was not one which should have been included in the Bill. The clauses as they stood were not in the Bill as it was originally submitted to the Select Committee. He had himself proposed clauses in the Committee which were permissive; and he did so in full confidence that their Lordships would not shrink from making the provision required for the large numbers of the unfortunate classes in question, especially when it was remembered that there were many young persons whose condition might be improved by judicious treatment. The Select Committee took a different view of the clauses, and, on the suggestion of the noble Earl below the Gangway (the Earl of Carnarvon, they introduced the clauses now in the Bill. He opposed the introduction of the clauses because he then believed, and he still believed, that the substitution of a degree of compulsion for permission would to a certain extent defeat the object in view; and he had more confidence in the object being attained if the matter were left to the Guardians. There- fore he would support the noble Lord opposite (Lord Portman), if he divided the Committee. The clauses now under consideration went no further than the law did at present; for the present law empowered the Justices in Quarter Sessions to enlarge existing asylums, or to combine with the Justices of other counties in erecting asylums where those who were deemed fit persons might be placed in safe custody. His first objection to the clauses in the Bill was that they would excite alarm in the country in reference to the additional burdens to be thrown upon the rates; and his second objection was that the clauses were unnecessary, because the present law gave power to do that which was proposed.


asked what course the noble Earl would pursue if the clauses were struck out of the Bill, on the Motion of the noble Lord?


said, that respect for the Select Committee would have prevented him bringing his own clauses forward in Committee; but if the present clauses were struck out he should be prepared to move his own on the third reading.


said, that one and the same principle was recognized by the original clauses and by those introduced by the Select Committee. It was admitted that provision must be made for the insane, and the only point was as to the manner in which the principle should be carried out. The original plan threw the formation and superintendence of the districts entirely into the hands of the Guardians. The real difference between the two proposals was that, whereas his noble Friend aimed at placing asylums of this kind under the management of the Guardians, his plan was to put them under the control of the county Justices. If the Boards of Guardians had the management the result would be that there would sometimes be two different sets of lunatic asylums for this particular class of patients—one under the control of the Justices and the other under the Board of Guardians. Under such a system it was not improbable that conflicts would occur and much inconvenience be produced. But if the control were vested in the Justices there would be but one of these subordinate and inferior establishments in each county, and, as it would probably be placed in most instances in the immediate neighbourhood of the county asylum, great advantages would be gained, because the staff of the former might be rendered available for the inferior institution. Better medical advice would be obtainable, while the management would be much more economical than if the Guardians had the control. In conclusion, he expressed a hope that their Lordships would not without full consideration strike out the clauses which had these beneficial objects in view. As a matter of fact there was scarcely any accommodation throughout the country for the treatment of paupers whose imbecility or idiotcy did not bring them within the technical definition of lunacy or whose cure was hopeless; while there was abundant reason for their separation from the thoroughly sane inmates of workhouses. Their Lordships would do well, therefore, to pause before they struck out clauses which, he firmly believed, constituted the best part of the Bill as it at present stood.


felt it to be his duty to vote against the clauses as they now stood and in favour of the change proposed by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Portman). He thought that as a matter of justice, both to the Courts of Quarter Sessions and to the ratepayers, the power of increasing the local burdens should be vested in Boards of Guardians, who represent the ratepayers and not in the Justices of the Peace, who do not. At the same time he confessed that he should vote against the original clause, if it was proposed to reinstate it; because he did not think that the burden of establishing these asylums, if they were necessary, should be thrown upon that particular class of the public who paid rates. It should be borne by the nation at large, and should be defrayed out of the Consolidated Fund.


thought that the unhappy persons referred to should be to some extent classified, and that lunatics should be sent to a lunatic asylum, idiots in a proper asylum, and the harmless imbecile paupers should be kept in the Union houses, where they were much more happy among those with whom they had long lived, and where they found a kind of employment in performing some of the requisite duties of the house. In reply to the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon)—who seemed to think that the change of system would not add to the Union charges, he must say that—although expense was a secondary consideration—the cost of building new houses, and attaching the necessary staff would at least double the expense now required.


said, he thought the striking out of the clauses would produce consequences more serious than the noble Lord intended. No doubt, the intention of the noble Lord was to secure a peculiar protection and care for the congenital idiots; but the rejection of the clauses would affect lunatics of other descriptions, and would go far to prevent the depletion of the county asylums, where there were now a great many patients who ought to be removed in order to make way for more recent cases. Where cases remained without treatment more than twelve months their affliction would most probably become chronic, and their recovery was almost an impossibility. Indeed, trustworthy authorities on this subject stated that 80 per cent of recent cases could be easily cured; but that not move than 10 per cent at the utmost of those patients were curable who had been left without medical care more than a year. These chronic lunatics required a certain treatment and diet, which they could not get in our workhouses. He thought that if the clauses were carried into effect, with some slight modifications, very beneficial results would ensue.


said, some change in the present system was desirable; but he thought their Lordships hardly competent to deal with the subject, as it was one affecting the taxation, of the country.


said, there could be no doubt that great efforts had been made of late to improve the state of our workhouses and the condition of their inmates. His own knowledge enabled him to confirm the statement of his noble Friend (the Earl of Stradbroke) that insane persons were much more happy among their own class than they would be if shut up in what they would regard as a kind of prison.


said, the proposition of the noble Earl who brought forward the Bill (the Earl of Devon) was that the rates for these asylums should be raised on the authority of the Guardians. The proposition of his noble Friend near him (Lord Portman) was that the expenses of these asylums should be under the control of the magistracy. His noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) had just pointed out how desirable it was that lunatics and idiots should be under the same management. But if they waited for this purpose till they could arrange their differences as to the disposal of local rates, they would not be able to move in the matter at all till they had established Financial Boards. He agreed in the desirability of idiots being removed from the workhouses and from under the control of the Guardians. However, as so much difference of opinion appeared to prevail with respect to the clauses under discussion; and as those clauses could hardly be sent down to the other House in time to admit of their being properly considered there, he thought the best course would be to allow them to be struck out of the Bill.


thought that the difficulty which his noble Friend (the Marquess of Bath) had pointed out as to the management of the funds lay at the root of the whole question. In the one case it was contemplated that the funds should be expended by the elected representatives of the ratepayers; in the other, it was proposed that they should be administered by the Justices of the county. Now, independent of any argument on the subject, there could be no doubt that the first plan was the more popular. There was one other point to which he wished to revert. It had been argued as if he (the Earl of Devon) was desirous of keeping idiots and the chronically insane in the workhouse; but the reverse was the fact, for the proposition which he brought forward had for its special object, to facilitate the removal of these classes from the workhouse, by enabling several Boards of Guardians to unite for the purpose of forming a special establishment for their reception.


said, there were cases of hopeless idiotcy, where but little actual benefit could be looked for from removal. But there were many others in which by removing idiots from the ridicule and annoyance to which they were too often exposed, and bringing them under proper tuition and treatment, they could be rendered capable of the enjoyment of life.


said, nothing could be more undesirable or unpopular, than any attempt to increase the burdens of the ratepayers at the mere discretion of the county magistracy. But any man must be blind who did not see that before long the representatives of the ratepayers must be admitted to a share in the control of the expenditure of the county rates. But if they were now to have unions for the purpose of dealing with those chronic cases of idiotcy that were now in workhouses—and no one was more sensible than he was of the desirableness of removing them—then they would create an anomalous and embarrassing system in dealing with two analogous classes, lunatics and idiots, and all because they could not rely upon the speedy establishment of Financial Boards. Their parochial system was now practically at an end. Parishes were superseded except for the purposes of voting church rates, and no one supposed that would last long, The Union was now the unit of administration, and it was very undesirable that there should be no intermediate stage between the Union and the Central Board in London—a Board that had not been able to inspire the public with confidence.


hoped that no discretionary power would be given either to Justices or Boards of Guardians. In a great many large workhouses there was abundant space for keeping idiots and incurable cases; but all curable cases, all young persons affected in this manner, and all recent cases, especially, ought to be dealt with separately.


, differing from some previous speakers, believed that this was just the sort of question upon which the House was competent to pronounce an opinion with advantage. He therefore hoped their Lordships would not hesitate to adopt whatever clauses they thought best adapted to secure the end in view.


said, the usual course in dealing with such a clause as the present in this House was that after the third reading the clause was struck out, but was afterwards printed separately and sent down to the Commons along with the Bill. If the clause was then accepted by the Commons it came up to their Lordships as a new clause inserted by the Commons, and was passed accordingly.


thought the subject was such as could be more satisfactorily dealt with by an altogether separate measure.

On Question, That the said Clause stand Part of the Bill, their Lordships divided:—Contents 26; Not-contents 61: Majority 35.

Salisbury, M. [Teller.] Fortescue, E.
Westmeath, M. Granville, E.
Kimberley, E.
Airlie, E. Morley, E.
Amherst, E. Nelson, E.
Carnarvon, E. [Teller.] Romney, E.
Ellenborough, E. Shaftesbury, E.
Eversley, V. Belper, L.
Lifford, V. Churchill, L.
Ebury, L.
Bangor, Bp. Fitzwalter, L.
Carlisle, Bp. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Gloucester and Bristol, Bp. Lyttelton, L.
Oxford, Bp. Northbrook, L.
Cairns, L. (L. Chancelllor.) Bolton, L.
Calthorpe, L.
Cleveland, D. Camoys, L.
Devonshire, D. Castlemaine, L.
Manchester, D. Churston, L.
Marlborough, D. Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)
Richmond, D.
Somerset, D. Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Clonbrock, L.
Bath, M. Colchester, L.
Exeter, M. Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.]
Bandon, E.
Bradford, E. Congleton, L.
Cadogan, E. Delamere, L.
Camperdown, E. Dunboyne, L.
Chichester, E. Elphinstone, L.
Devon, E. Foley, L.
Lucan, E. Kingston, L. (E. Kingston.)
Malmesbury, E.
Morton, E. Mostyn, L.
Powis, E. Penrhyn, L.
Selkirk, E. Portman, L. [Teller.]
Stanhope, E. Redesdale, L.
Stradbroke, E. Saltersford, L.(E. Courtown.)
Strange, E. (D. Athol.)
Tankerville, E. Saltoun, L.
De Vesci, V. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Hardinge, V.
Hawarden, V. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Powerscourt, V.
Sidmouth, V. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Strathspey, L. (E. Sea-field.)
Strathallan, V.
Sydney, V. Templemore, L.
Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Abinger, L. Vernon, L.

Further Amendments made; the Report thereof to be received on Thursday next; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 155.)