HL Deb 12 March 1903 vol 119 cc521-4

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I may as well say at once that in deference to the view of the noble Earl the Lord Chairman of Committees I do not propose to press the Second Heading of this Bill as a Private Bill. I do not in the least suggest that the judgment arrived at by the noble Karl is not a perfectly correct one, or that there is any grievance at all on that score; but in withdrawing this Bill I should like to say just a word or two about it. It will, I believe, reappear very much in the same form—perhaps in exactly the same form—as a Public Bill. This is a Bill to enable the County Council to establish Receiving Houses for alleged lunatics, to enable them to detain alleged lunatics there for six weeks, and to provide not only indoor treatment for the lunatics in the Receiving Houses, but also outdoor treatment for other persons whose condition may make it desirable that they should be treated in that way. Under the present law every alleged lunatic who is not under proper control must be brought into the workhouse, and that has been for a long time a great grievance. It is a grievance to the friends and relations of the persons brought in, because very often they are not paupers at all and do not wish the stigma of pauperism to rest upon them; and, in the second place, it is a very wasteful procedure, as there are thirty Boards of Guardians in London, every one of which must keep up a separate set of lunacy accommodation. Moreover', it is felt very strongly by medical men that if there was a better intermediate system for persons who are suspected of lunacy, and if they could get immediately better treatment than they now receive, there would be very much more chance of their ultimate recovery, and perhaps of their not having to be sent to an asylum at all. It is a rather curious thing that nearly half of the persons who are detained in workhouses as alleged lunatics do not go to asylums at all, but are sent back again.

This Bill was received with a perfect chorus of approval. It was received with approval by the Lunacy Commissioners, who thought a very strong and urgent case had been made out for legislation. It was received with approval by the Boards of Guardians, and a deputation waited or the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and they considered that the noble Earl had given them a very satisfactory assurance indeed with regard to his approval of the principle of the Bill. The London County Council were never anxious that they should bring forward this measure themselves. They had no desire to put themselves forward in the matter, and they would have been only too glad if His Majesty's Government could have seen their way to have introduced a Bill on the subject; but, hearing that that course would not be pursued by the Government, the County Council introduced the Bill as a Private Bill. They introduced it as a Private Bill thinking that it would have much more chance of becoming law than if introduced as a Public Bill. But they entirely bow to the decision of the Lord Chairman, which they do not for a moment dispute, and all I have now to say is that some member of the London County Council, probably in your Lordships' House, will introduce a Bill having the same objects in view as the Private Bill, which I now withdraw.


My Lords, I think my noble friend opposite has taken a very proper, and, if I may say so, judicious course with regard to this Bill, and I am very glad that he has called the attention of the House to it before withdrawing it on Second Reading. I feel very great sympathy with all he has said and with the County Council on this subject. I think it is a point that requires very serious consideration whether the law on the subject of lunacy, in particular, with respect to which this Bill deals, should not be amended as soon as possible, but when I came to investigate the Bill I found that it dealt with such very large amendments, both of the Lunacy Laws and of the Poor Law, that I did not think it was right—at any rate I felt very great doubts on the subject—that it should be allowed to proceed as a Private Bill. Having those doubts, I consulted my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, and he agreed with me—I believe he also sympathises very much with the objects aimed at—that those objects ought to be effected by public rather than by private legislation. I think there is a very great evil to be obviated, and I sincerely hope that my noble friend will be successful in promoting legislation with regard to this subject in a Public Bill.


My Lords, so far as understand them, a great many of the provisions contained in the Bill are very judicious provisions and might very properly be passed into law, but I think my noble friend himself will recognise that this is not a proper matter to be dealt with in a Private Bill. I doubt very much whether a Private Members' Bill dealing with such a subject would ever be carried into law, because it interferes with two important parts of government. As to the advisability of dealing with this matter, I entirely agree with the noble Lord. He will, perhaps, remember that I have twice introduced in this House and succeeded in passing. Lunacy Law Amendment Bills dealing with the same subject, and I regret that time has not been found, owing to the congestion of business in another place, for these Bills even to be discussed there. They passed your Lordships' House, but nothing more was heard of them. For the last two sessions I have abstained from bringing forward Bills, because I do not think it is respectful to your Lordships that Bills passed here should never come on for consideration in the other House. I entirely concur with what my noble friend has done on this occasion, and if I could promise him my help I would; but, for the reasons I have given, I do not think a Private Bill can properly deal with such a subject. I do not wish to discourage the noble Lord, but I am afraid I cannot encourage him.

Order for the Second Reading discharged.

Bill, by leave of the House, withdrawn,

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