HL Deb 13 October 1909 vol 3 cc1166-92


Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


My Lords, this is a Bill to insure the provision of pensions to asylum workers in England, Scotland, and Ireland. As the present law stands in England and Ireland there is permissive power given to local authorities to grant these pensions, but in Scotland there is no permissive power at all. The object of this Bill is to provide for uniformity of pensions all over the country, and to provide security of pensions to all asylum workers. I do not think in your Lordships' House, where so many of your Lordships have experience of local government and through your visiting committees know much of asylums, that it is necessary I should say much as to what a deserving class this is for which this Bill is intended. It is a dangerous profession and one very trying to the nerves, and there are a great many breakdowns among asylum workers. This Bill is intended to provide similiar conditions for these asylum workers as is already enjoyed by the prison service and the police. Your Lordships have already given your assent to the principles of this Bill when you passed the Second Reading of a Bill which was moved by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in the year 1898, and which provided that— It shall be the duty of the visiting committee of every asylum to grant superannuation allowance to their officers and servants, and the allowance shall be not less than one-sixtieth of the value of the salary and emoluments for each year of service. This Bill, the Second Reading of which I am now moving, has passed the House of Commons. It was referred there to a Select Committee, and that Committee reported unanimously in its favour, and their evidence, which is a very strong argument for this Bill, shows that the asylum service suffers from the lack of a uniform pension system. It was shown that in Scotland the workers leave very largely for the prison service, and that in England they leave for the police and the Poor Law.

This Bill divides asylum workers into two classes. For the first class, which is the more favoured class, it provides that if they are fifty years old and have worked for fifteen years in an asylum they shall be entitled to one-fiftieth of their salary and emoluments for each year of service. The second class is to be twenty years in an asylum, sixty years old, and is to receive one-sixtieth of the salary and emoluments for each year of service. The intention is that those who have the care and charge of the insane and who have the danger and responsibility of the profession, should be in the first class and should get the more favoured treatment, and that the second class should consist of those who are workers in the asylum but have not the same danger, though they are exposed to that nerve strain which is inevitable to those who have contact with lunatics. The Bill does not provide as to how those classes are to be settled. The decision is left to the local authority. It would be impossible to put it into an Act of Parliament, and the local authority who administer the asylum are obviously the best people to decide this matter. Clauses 7 and 8 of this Bill provide for contributions in the form of a sort of deferred pay from the asylum workers for their pensions. That is, two per cent. of salary and emoluments. In saying that let me call your Lordships' attention again to the clause which I read from Lord Halsbury's Bill, which provided one-sixtieth as the scale of superannuation. This Bill provides one-fiftieth, but the difference between the two Bills is that there are contributions in this case and there were none in the other, and consequently the difference between one-fiftieth and one-sixtieth is discounted in that respect.

Then, my Lords, there is a provision in the Bill with regard to existing servants. As they have paid no contributions in the past they are to be charged a higher contribution, but if they object, under Clause 13, they are permitted to contract out and to remain as they were. Then there is another provision for those who are injured in their work after ten years service. They are to have pensions. I propose, if this Bill gets to the Committee stage, as I hope it will, to move an Amendment to provide that a local authority may grant gratuities or pensions in special cases of injury, even when workers have been less than ten years in the service, but it is to be a permissive and not a compulsory Amendment as regards a local authority. Clause 4 contains the principles of aggregation in reckoning service; that is to say, when a man has worked under one local authority and he moves to the asylum of another local authority he will not lose pension service by doing so. The object of that is to better the profession, to provide for more interchange, and to extend the horizon of asylum workers. There is, I think, another lack in the Bill. I did not draft it, and it is not my fault. There is no machinery in the Bill to provide that one local authority may recover from another local authority money in respect of pensions. That is a want which I hope to remedy in Committee if His Majesty's Government do not suggest a clause.

The whole Bill is to provide uniformity of treatment. At the present time a great many local authorities say that they will judge the cases of these people on their merits. A local authority may be in an economical mood or it may be in a generous mood, and the pension which a man gets depends very largely on the frame of mind of the local authority at the moment. Consequently there is injustice. Then there is another point which is remedied by the Bill. There are cases of one asylum serving a number of counties. I believe in the case of the county of Denbighshire that is one of a group of five counties which have one asylum. When an officer in that asylum wants a pension his pension has to run the gauntlet of five local authorities, and, consequently, if two of these authorities are at loggerheads with one another about something quite different, this man's pension may be prejudiced. That is an evil which is got rid of by this Bill.

Now I would come to some of the objections, and I do not think there are many, which can be raised to this Bill. I do not think your Lordships will say that this is an interfering Bill. There have been many interfering Bills which have put officials in Whitehall over the elected representatives of the people in the county councils, but this is not one of them. This Bill only enforces what is the common practice of local authorities in England and Ireland with regard to pensions. It is very difficult to discover what is the attitude, or what is likely to be the attitude, of local authorities towards a Bill of this kind. I believe if you circularise local authorities with regard to a Bill which is pending before Parliament it comes into the hands either of the clerk of or one man in the local authority. He states his views with regard to it, and the whole local authority votes without having seen the Bill or knowing what it contains, and therefore I do discount opinions which are given by local authorities with regard to Bills pending in Parliament. But I understand that the County Councils Association have circularised their counties throughout England with regard to the Bill, and the only objections, so far as I know, are given in the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons. I do not know of any others.

I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the objectors. In the first place, there is the Asylums Board of Lancashire. I am very much surprised to see that board quoted as an objector. I can only say that I have spoken with the chairman of that board, that he is in favour of the Bill and has authorised me to say so, and that he was not aware that his board objected. Then there is the West Riding of Yorkshire. Well, the West Riding of Yorkshire had a representative before the Committee. I do not know whether he came to curse the Bill, but he ended by blessing it, and by telling the Committee that though they objected to some of the details of the Bill they did not object to its principles. Then there is the County Council of East Sussex, of which I have the honour to be a member. I know the story of the resolution passed by the East Sussex County Council, and although I will not inflict it upon your Lordships I do not think their opposition is serious. Then there is the Visiting Committee of Leicestershire, which is merely a visiting committee, and there is the County Council of Nottinghamshire. Really I think the opposition comes down to the County Council of Nottinghamshire. There is a resolution, which is also quoted, by the Municipal Corporations Association. Now the Municipal Corporations Association are not the municipal corporations, and I must say I discount a resolution of theirs as well. They say they would prefer to have a wide scheme for pensioning all the servants of all local authorities. I ask your Lordships, Is that a question of practical politics at the present moment? I do not think it is, and, in any case, the claim of this Bill for preferential treatment for asylum workers is that they are in a dangerous profession. That has been the practice of Parliament throughout. Since 1845 they have been selected as people who are in a dangerous profession. In the same way, in 1890, under the Police Act, the police were given preferential treatment because they were in a dangerous profession, and I believe that in the London County Council you find that the members of the fire brigade are given special treatment because they are in a dangerous profession. That is the ground on which I urge this Bill.

The other objection to this Bill, I suppose, is the question of expense. No doubt the Police Act raised the rates. I would make any objector to this Bill a present of that; but I would point out that there are a number of local authorities at the present time, notably Lancashire and the London County Council—who, by the way, are in favour of this Bill—who are more generous to their asylum workers at the present time than the provisions of this Bill. Consequently, one may say that they would be gainers in that respect, and that that would be an economy. But I must go into an argument which has been urged on the other side with great force in a Memorandum which was issued by Mr. Jarman of the National Debt Office. In that Memorandum it is pointed out that the object of this Bill is to give stability to the asylum service. If you succeed in giving stability to the asylum service you will increase necessarily the number of pensions, and consequently, it was said, the asylum service would be as expensive as the police service had proved. There are several answers to that, and I feel it my duty, even at the risk of wearying your Lordships, to give them to you. The asylum service is different from the police service for this reason. There always must be a great number of early withdrawals from the asylum service. A great number of attendants are young girls who invariably leave on marriage; and many asylum attendants will always leave, early because of the unattractive nature of the service; people will never stay in it in the same way as they do in the police. A point on which I would like to lay stress is that in the police a man is pensioned according to the salary he is receiving when he goes out of the service. Under this Bill an asylum worker has to be paid on the average he has been receiving for the last ten years, and for that reason, my Lords, I would point out that there is very good ground for saying that this Bill will not have any appreciable effect on the rates either one way or the other.

I must say a word with regard to the scale, because Scotland is in an entirely different position. This Bill provides for the same conditions of pension in district and parochial asylums in Scotland. It does not affect Royal asylums, which are a different class of institution in Scotland, and are very like our hospitals, although they take pauper lunatics. At the present time there is not even a permissive law to allow local authorities to give these pensions in Scotland, and with that object a Bill was introduced this session in another place. In the vicissitudes of its course it met this other Bill from England and Ireland, and it got amalgamated with it, and there now comes before your Lordships one Bill for England, Ireland, and Scotland. Dr. Johnson, who gave evidence on behalf of the District Asylums of Scotland, speaking of the anxiety of local authorities to grant these pensions, said that sometimes an asylum authority, when an officer wished to retire, made him a consultative officer, although they never consulted him, but merely to give him a pension; and in another case they made him a gate-keeper merely to get round the law. Then Mr. Spence, the Secretary of the General Lunacy Board, gave very important evidence that every year in Scotland one-third of all the employés in asylums go out, seventy-five per cent. of their own accord.

This shows what a very transitory service this is in Scotland. It is very much more transitory than the prison service, and the reason given is that there is no security with regard to pensions. If there is this transitory service in Scotland it must follow it is very bad for the patients. I am not going to say that this Bill can become law without affecting rates in Scotland, but I do say that I cannot understand why an asylum worker in Scotland should be in a wholly different category from one in England or Ireland. They are entitled to the same consideration, and I think they should be included in this Bill. I understand that there have been no objections from lunacy boards in Scotland to this Bill, and although the time has been short I have been given a list of seven lunacy boards in Scotland who are anxious for it.

I would say a word with regard to Ireland. I was handed a telegram this morning which stated that all the county councils in Ireland except two have approved of this Bill. It was given in evidence before the Committee in another place that seventy per cent. of the officials of the asylums in Ireland were favourable to it, and of the remaining thirty per cent. I believe half have not answered and the other half belong to one particular asylum which give such exceptionally good pension treatment that they do not think they will be so well off under this Bill. There was also very good evidence given that there was an unequal treatment in different asylums in the granting of pensions. I am not altogether surprised at it, although I do not know much about Ireland. The authorities that give these pensions in Ireland are the same authorities that have achieved some prominence in their management of the Old Age Pensions Act. I venture to think there should be some discipline introduced in these local authorities with regard to their distribution of pensions for asylum workers. I should like to tell your Lordships two stories from Ireland with regard to it, and which, I think, are better than any argument. There was an attendant in an asylum in Ireland who got a crack on the head. In consequence of that he became an epileptic. Being obliged to retire he applied for a pension but was only given a gratuity of £25. The poor man eventually lost his reason and became a patient in the asylum in which he had formerly been an attendant. In the same asylum there was another man of about the same age and service, and he took to drink. The visiting committee wanted to get rid of him so they gave him a pension for the rest of his life. This is the other story. There was a doctor of an asylum who thought it his duty to condemn the meat brought to the asylum as being putrid. A member of the visiting committee was the contractor who supplied the meat. The contractor told the doctor that he would take care that he suffered for what he had done, and if this Bill does not pass I have no doubt he will. There are in your Lordships' House many noble Lords from Ireland who can speak with more confidence than I can with regard to this matter, but I think, first, that there is a great want of uniformity in the distribution of pensions in Ireland, and I believe that noble Lords from Ireland will agree that there is no objection on the part of the Irish local authorities. The whole Bill is to provide for a uniform and comprehensive scheme to give security to these workers, so that under whatever local authority they serve they shall be in the same position as regards pension. That will raise the profession and will be in the interests of the insane. These officials are not known to the public. Everybody knows the local policeman and his desserts, but nobody knows the desserts of workers in asylums, and I think they have a peculiar claim on your Lordships' consideration. They are most highly-tried officials, and I would ask your Lordships, after this Bill has got thus far, not to refuse it a Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Monk Bretton.)


My Lords, I think it would be convenient at this early stage of the discussion to put before your Lordships a few considerations which I think ought to carry some weight before this Bill is read a second time. I regret I am not able to speak on behalf of the County Councils Association. Since the Bill passed its Second Reading in the other House the County Councils Association issued a circular to all the county councils of England asking for their opinion about this Bill, and up to this time there has been only a very limited number of replies. I noticed what was evidently a communicated statement in The Times a few days ago, in which it was said that nineteen county councils had passed resolutions in favour of the Bill. All I can say is that if that referred to county councils in England and Wales it is absolutely incorrect. The statistics which we have got are that seven county councils and six asylum committees have declared in favour of the Bill and three county councils and two asylum committees have sent in replies in the other sense.

I am bound to say that when my noble friend tried to explain away all the resolutions that have been come to by county councils against the Bill he was skating, I thought, on rather thin ice. Of course, I will leave it to him to explain why his own county council came to a resolution against the Bill when their real opinion was in its favour; but I cannot accept the statement he made with regard to the West Riding County Council, because not only did they oppose this Bill through one of their officers, but since the Bill has passed through the other House they have sent a memorial to the Home Office laying down their objections to the Bill in quite clear terms. Therefore no possible suggestion can be made that the West Riding of Yorkshire are in favour of the Bill as it stands. In their memorial the West Riding County Council and the West Riding Asylums Committee, which latter body represents the county boroughs of Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield and Rotherham as well as the county council, expressed their desire to secure certain Amendments which appear to be essential to the Bill if the Bill is to go through, and suggested that the Bill should be made adoptive, but that if it is to be made obligatory on all authorities its provisions deserve better consideration if they are to be acceptable to the Asylums Committee. As I understand, the promoters of the Bill would construe it as opposition to the principle of the Bill if it were made adoptive instead of compulsorily. I believe they stand to what they call the principle of the Bill, that every authority should be obliged to adopt it whether they like it or not. What I wish to submit to your Lordships is that the Bill having passed through the other House, as I think I can show, without any discussion, at all events the principle Of the Bill should be discussed in this House, and that consideration should be given to the question whether it is absolutely necessary that the Bill should be made compulsory. I am quite willing to recognise all the arguments of my noble friend with regard to the principle of this Bill. I quite recognise that the officers in favour of whom this Bill is brought forward are officers who require protection and who, if anybody, should have a satisfactory system of pension; but it seems to me if that is to be done some consideration should be given to those who have to find the money, to decide whether the terms of the Bill are reasonable or not, and, at all events, that some discussion more than has been given in the other House should be devoted to the question whether it is absolutely necessary that this Bill should be made compulsory.

Now, my Lords, let me call attention to what has really taken place with regard to this Bill, because I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding. Your Lordships would suppose that if a Bill had been in the other House for six or seven months its principle would have had full discussion, and that after full discussion in that House it had been referred to a Select Committee to consider its details. Nothing of the sort. I have searched through Hansard for every stage of the Bill, and so far as Hansard shows not a single word has been said either in favour or against this Bill on any stage. It passed its Second Reading without any discussion and was referred to a Select Committee without any discussion. It came back with important Amendments inserted in the Bill, and so far as the Hansard reports show there was no discussion on the Report of the Select Committee. It passed the Third Reading in the same way, and therefore I feel it my duty, having some responsibility to the county councils of this country, at all events to do my best to see that the views of the minority should not be overlooked in this House.

It may be said, of course, that all the discussion took place in the Select Committee, and that the provisions of the Bill were thoroughly sifted before that Committee. I have no wish to take exception to, or to attempt to criticise, the manner in which the members of the Committee in the other House carried out the duties entrusted to them by that House, but I would venture to say that I think the question as to whether it is desirable in a matter of this sort that the local authority should be compelled to adopt a scheme whether they like it or not hardly received any consideration in the Committee more than it did in the House. I notice that, although there were ten independent witnesses called—in addition to the promoter of the Bill, or at all events, the gentleman who explained the Bill (Dr. Shuttleworth) and Mr. Byrne, the witness for the Home Office—six of those ten witnesses were doctors. Five of the ten came from Scotland, two from Ireland, and there were only three from England who expressed any views with regard to this Bill. One represented the West Riding, and another represented West Ham. Those two gentlemen took very opposite views, and got into a little contest with each other as to whether the West Riding scheme was a liberal one or not. I am only alluding to that because I do think it shows that at all events the points which I wish to bring before the House have not been discussed in the other House in any way.

If you read the Report of the Committee it would appear as if everybody was in favour of the main principles of this Bill, and I notice in the Report the Lunacy Commissioners are quoted as being strongly in favour of a scheme of this sort. I think that goes without saying. No doubt it is the duty of the Lunacy Commissioners to do what they can to promote the interests of the officers of whose duties they know so much; but I am bound to say that nobody would think of going to the Lunacy Commissioners if they wished the question of the interests of the ratepayers to be considered in any way; in fact, in past days I had some experience of the Lunacy Commissioners, and I found that in matters which caused expense they certainly were not reluctant to impose regulations which the county councils often thought unnecessary with regard to the building of asylums. I think that is very much changed at the present day, but I only mention it to show that you do not look to the Lunacy Commissioners to protect the ratepayers.

The Bill of my noble friend Lord Halsbury has been alluded to, and I think my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton went so far as to say that the principle having been approved in 1898 it showed approval of the principle of this Bill. But what really happened with regard to the Bills introduced by the noble and learned Earl? Every one of those Bills split on the rock of whether a compulsory system of pensions should be embodied in the Bill or not. I find that in 1898, on the Second Reading of the Bill which has been referred to, two most interesting speeches were made by very prominent members of this House on this very point. Let me say, first, however, that I quite understood that the noble and learned Earl, Lord Halsbury, in introducing those Bills, always laid it down as an axiom that it was for Parliament to consider whether it wished to adopt a compulsory system of this kind or not, and, therefore, it seems to me it is all the more reason for calling the attention of this House to the matter as it has not been considered in the other House of Parliament. Now the two noble Lords from whose speeches I wish to give some very short extracts perhaps had a larger knowledge of local government than any members of this House. They were both leaders of the other side of the House, and I would commend to the noble Earl the present Leader of the House some of the remarks which were made by those who filled the position he now occupies. The first words I should like to quote are from the speech of the late Lord Kimberley, who said— When we consider the authority which the county councils possess throughout the country and their representative character, I think it is extremely undesirable, unless a very strong necessity arises, to do otherwise than leave them a free discretion with reference to the expenditure on the maintenance of lunatics. It is very desirable that county councils should feel that they have entrusted to them the real business which comes under their control. If you go too far in laying down what they should do you will weaken the authority of the county councils very seriously, and the result will be that you will not get men of the same position to take posts in the management of the various matters which come under the administration of the county councils. He went on to say what I would commend to the consideration of the House— We could not do worse than increase the functions of the Government with regard to local affairs. I feel very indisposed to limit in any way the discretion which those bodies now enjoy. That was not only the opinion of Lord Kimberley. Lord Ripon, who also had a wide knowledge of local affairs, spoke on the same occasion. He said— It should not be made compulsory on county councils to spend money in this manner if they do not think fit. Speaking generally, I have always thought it a mistake to enforce expenditure on county councils by Act of Parliament. I venture to submit that it is only reasonable that county councils should ask that this matter should be left to their discretion, Now, my Lords, those two opinions are very forcible in language and would have much more effect than any words of mine. But I do venture to say this. If those words were spoken some time ago, at all events the principles of local government are the same now, although they are not recognised so widely as they were by those two noble Lords. I would suggest that in these matters which cause a considerable expense to county councils it is not quite fitting that they should be entirely ignored with regard to any consultation as to the effects of a Bill of this kind, especially as they have some part in administering the Acts.

I should like to make one or two remarks on the question of finance, because it is somewhat important although the noble Lord who introduced this Bill tried to minimise the effect. I cannot help thinking that the Committee did not come to any very decided conclusion as to what the effects of this Bill were likely to be. There were two members of the Committee who gave it as their opinion that as there had been a very small amount spent on pensions that would be likely to be the case in the future; but Mr. Jarman, to whom Lord Monk Bretton has already referred, entirely upset any of those calculations, although he only put it in a Memorandum and was not examined as a witness. He said that if the Superannuation Bill would have the effect of inducing officials to remain in the service as anticipated, the proportion of seven per cent. might in the course of time increase to twenty per cent. or more, as in the case of the police service, where the pension is somewhat similar to that proposed in the present Bill. I cannot help thinking that if the Committee had taken a little more trouble to go further into this matter they would have come to the conclusion not only that that was proved but that if you are going to compare the pensions to be given under this Bill with the pensions given under the Police Act there are certain circumstances which show that the charge would be very much higher than it was in the case of police pensions. The county councils of England at the present time pay enormous sums out of the rates in aid of the police funds, which are insufficient. I have got nine or ten counties, not picked out as being specially large, but some of them large counties—and the largest of these goes as high as £4,200, which is to be found out of the rates towards the police pensions. The average of the nine or ten is over £2,000 a year. The Government allow £300,000 a year for this purpose, but not a penny will be obtained from it for the superannuation of asylum officers if this Bill is passed, besides which in the early days, when the police pension system was adopted, there were a great many young officers in the force who could not call on the fund for many years, with the result that a substantial sum was accumulated, and that helped very considerably to meet the pensions.

My Lords, this is not the occasion on which to go more into details with regard to a matter of that sort, but I do think at all events it shows that the question of the expense to those who have to administer the Bill and pay for it ought to have had more consideration before it came to this House. With regard to the scales in the Bill, let me only say that a very strong case has been made out for those officers who are in direct contact with lunatics, especially dangerous lunatics, and who are exposed to all the disagreeable circumstances as well as the danger of their profession. I think a very strong case can be made out for a pension for those officers, and, if it is proved to be necessary, a compulsory pension. But when you come to include, as von include in this Bill, every labourer, every clerk, every man who works in the garden, every woman who works in the asylum, you are setting a precedent for compelling county councils to give pensions to all their officers in every branch of the work. Why should a clerk who attends the meetings of the asylums committee have more right to a pension than the clerk who attends the highways committee or any other committee? If you adopt this scale in the Bill, I venture to think you will be making not only a most dangerous precedent with regard to the county councils, but a precedent for giving many other people who are in a somewhat similar position a very much larger pension than they are receiving at the present time.

I am quite aware that if we move Amendments—and I hope Amendments may be moved to this Bill—we are in a very dangerous position. I am told that if we touch the scale of the pensions it may raise the question of privilege. I am not one of those who are very much inclined to set up for ourselves the bogey of privilege in this House, and I am quite sure that the House of Commons can take care of themselves with regard to that matter. But if we put in Amendments which are privileged, as has been the case in many other Bills, they might not be considered on their merits. Though it is possible for the other House to waive its privilege in cases where they think it desirable, I do not see what assurance we would have that our Amendments would not be struck out without consideration, and when the Bill came up ill its final stage we should have lost the opportunity of amending it. I can only say that if noble and learned Lords who have had better experience in this matter than I have can make any suggestion which will help us to put Amendments into this Bill I shall be only too happy, but I am bound to say that if the Bill is to be passed without amendment I shall retain full discretion to take action on the Third Reading.

There is one other point to which I wish to refer, and it is a very important one. There was a clause put into this Bill in the Select Committee without any allusion being made to it in the Report, and no allusion has been made to it by my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton, and, so far as I know, not many members of this House are aware of it at all. It is Clause 14, which lays down the manner in which the payment of allowances and gratuities should be made. Hitherto the county council has paid over all pensions which are imposed by the asylum committee, and those pensions have to come up for confirmation by the county council. If the clause stands as it is that charge will be taken off the county council and put upon the guardians. It will be part of the fund out of which the salaries or wages of officers and servants in the asylum are payable and to which the necessary sum for pensions will be added. That makes very little difference, of course, so far as the ratepayers are concerned, because whether the rates are raised by the county council or by the board of guardians it comes to the same thing in the end; but this clause is accompanied by a provision which repeals a section of an Act of Parliament under which it is said that any pension must come for confirmation to the county council. If you are going to do away with this power of confirmation you will be putting nothing in its place. You are making the asylums committee even more absolute than they are at the present moment, and there is no authority who will be able to have any say as to whether the particular pensions are desirable or not. Anybody who knows the administration of lunatic asylums knows that the law with regard to the visiting committee is very anomalous at the present moment. In most of the matters under their administration the county council have no control over them whatever. They have to fix the salaries of the officers, and the only power the county council have, if dissatisfied, is to decline to re-elect these members to the visiting committee. That is a power which is very difficult to carry out because it is not so easy always to get responsible men to take that position, especially as the work is not a very pleasant one and it takes many gentlemen a great distance from their homes. I am bound to say that if there is any alteration to be made in the law in this respect it would be far more desirable to give greater control to the county council than to do away with this one matter of control over pensions. That is all I have to say with regard to this Bill.

I can assure your Lordships that I feel very considerable responsibility in laying before the House the objections which I have to some of the provisions of the Bill. I am perfectly aware that if I wished to move the rejection of this Bill it would be said that I was opposed to the principle of giving pensions to these deserving people. I have no such feeling, but I do wish to insure that the views coming from the side of the ratepayers and from the side of those who may have to administer this part of the Bill should be fully considered. If we can get Amendments which may make this Bill more in accordance with what I think is desirable it should be, I should be only too glad. Let me say at once that my own view is that the best solution of this matter would have been to put off this Bill for this session and to have had a full discussion between all those interested in the matter, when I think a much better Bill than this would have been arrived at. I am not making this merely as an excuse. I have considered the matter and have talked with others about it. Considerable objections have been raised to the details of the Bill, and I believe that if the County Councils Association, after having got complete information from all the county councils, had had the opportunity of discussing with the promoters the details of this Bill, and especially those with regard to the finances and the scale of pensions, we might have arrived at a solution acceptable to all, and which would have caused little difference of opinion. Of course, in this matter I am entirely in the hand of the House. So far as I am concerned I have ventured to lay these considerations before you. I hope, at all events, whether the Bill is proceeded with this session to the end or whether it is not, that in Committee we may get some improvement made in the Bill, but I shall retain full liberty with regard to any action I may choose to take on Third Reading.


My Lords, I only wish to say a few words on the general principle of the Bill, and I am particularly anxious to do so after the interesting and weighty criticisms which have fallen from the noble Lord whose views are always entitled to well-deserved consideration in your Lordships' House, especially when what he says is in connection with county council matters, of which this is one. But, my Lords, I should like for a moment to go away from his detailed criticisms and remind your Lordships of the largeness of this question having regard to its ultimate importance. When one looks into it it really turns out to have much bigger results than lie upon the surface. In the first place it is of the highest possible importance to the, I am sorry to say, increasing number of unfortunate patients of whom we are thinking, that those who are attending upon them should be the best possible people that can be got for that particular kind of work. We are at this moment losing the assurance that we are getting the best available material for the purpose, and we are therefore desirous of taking every step that will result in such material being obtained for the carrying out of a work which is one of quite extraordinary difficulty, responsibility, and anxiety. I do not 'know how many of your Lordships have read the Report of the Select Committee which inquired into this matter and the evidence which is appended to it, but those of your Lordships who have done so—and I think I have gone through every word of it—will realise, I am certain, not merely the need of something of this kind, but the extraordinary unanimity with which the principles embodied in this Bill have been accepted. That the principle is indisputably a right one can hardly be doubted by anybody who reads the Report and the evidence appended to it. I confess to a little surprise when listening to some of the criticisms of my noble friend who has just sat down. He says that the Bill passed through the House of Commons on Second Reading, went to a Select Committee, came back from the Select Committee, and on Third Reading was not opposed. That argument hardly goes to show that there was a great deal of opposition to it. If closure had been applied it might have been a different thing.


I am unwilling to interrupt, but my argument was that as there was no discussion with regard to the principle on Second Reading it ought at all events to be discussed in your Lordships' House.


If there were any objections to the principle on Second Reading there was every opportunity in the House of Commons for objections to be raised. The Home Office consented to the Bill being read a second time on condition that it went to a Select Committee, and when it was sent to the Select Committee the county councils were communicated with in order that they might bring forward any objections they had in the matter, and we have the result in the Blue-book. All the objections the county councils put forward are presumably in this Blue-book; at all events they had the opportunity of making objection if they desired to do so. I ask your Lordships, will any one read this evidence and say that the principle on which this Bill centres has been objected to by anybody? Not only the members of the Committee but all the witnesses were practically unanimous in asserting the principle embodied in the Bill. The noble Lord told us that there had been a mistake in the statistics quoted as to the formulated opinions of county councils sent in in the form of resolutions, but, after all, his argument reduced itself down to seven in favour as against three not in favour. All the county councils, however, had an opportunity of objecting if they so desired, and whether the statistics quoted were correct or not, the fact at all events remains that up to the present time there has not been, except in the smallest possible proportion, any objection taken to the principle of the Bill either by county councils as a whole or by the asylums committees of the county councils. However, my Lords, those are questions of detail as to the kind of opportunity that has been given for opposition to be brought forward. Until the noble Lord's speech to-night there has hardly been any criticism of the main principle of the Bill, although there have been criticisms as to the details, which are, I should have thought, capable of amendment in this House. For instance, whether it is true that a labourer employed by an asylum becomes under the Bill an established officer entitled to a pension I should have considerable doubt, but, if any mistake has been made, I imagine the thing is capable of amendment.

But the main point of the noble Lord's opposition, as I understood it, was that the thing was more or less being hurried. That does seem to me of all phrases or epithets which could be used with regard to this subject the most inappropriate. Since 1891 this question has been familiar to all those who have had to do with asylum matters. We have the advantage at this moment of having present in the House two noble and learned Lords who have had under their control the Lunacy Commissioners and who can tell us the opinion which has been expressed by them for a very long time; and this House, on the motion of the noble and learned Lord who sits opposite, passed a Bill which virtually gave effect to the main principle which this Bill endeavours to reassert. Now, on the very eve of our attaining this long-desired object, are we to be told that we are to hang the matter up again and send it back for further consideration when every opportunity has been given for raising objections and those objections have not appeared? There has been, and we are all very thankful for it, a great improvement in recent years in the management of asylums in this country. That improvement has been due in part to the painstaking efforts of the leaders of medical and mental science who have dealt with this particular problem, but not less to the officers and the subordinate officers of the asylum who have to perform one of the most trying and unpleasant tasks that it is possible to imagine—a task requiring that those who undertake it should be relieved from all the anxiety which we can relieve them of when their health has broken down and they have worn themselves out in the service. Through those officers we are dealing with a class of the community which beyond all question is the most helpless and the most unable to speak or act for itself—namely, the patients in these great asylums; and we want, if we possibly can, to ensure that the very best material that is obtainable shall be at our service for this purpose.

The noble Lord referred to the evidence that came from the witness who appeared on behalf of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Mr. Crowther. May I read a few sentences from that evidence? He says that in the West Riding there has been a rule for many years that any officer entering their service has to sign a paper that he or she waives any right to a pension on retirement. Then the witness tells us what has been the result of that rule. He says— We believe that if there was a prospect of pension we should get a better class of applicant. Since 1891, when we abolished the system of giving pensions, we have not had the same quality of applicant. Our reason for saying so is that we have not really the same number now who take up the nursing and ambulance work for which we give certificates. We think that pensions would remedy that. That shows, my Lords, that the people who now take up service in these institutions where there are no pensions given have not got their hearts in their work in the same way, and are not prepared to give their time to the technical work and instruction necessary to make them thoroughly capable, and the lack of which makes all the difference in the world to the unfortunate patients in the institutions. There is in regard to these public servants a difference, which is sometimes forgotten, between their position with respect to pensions and some of the other public servants we are more accustomed to deal with, and who are perhaps, engaged in what might be called kindred work. We have been reminded that the police, those who serve under the Poor Law, and those who serve in prisons are all entitled to pensions in the way that is here proposed; but we have not been reminded of one fact, which is this, that, unlike all those other officers, there is open to attendants in asylums a branch of service kindred to that in which they have been engaged—that is to say, as attendants in private asylums or attendants upon private patients who are afflicted in their minds; and nothing is more dangerous than that we should lose from our public institutions experts in these matters who are prepared, because the positions are more lucrative, to transfer themselves to private institutions or to private control of patients, because we are not prepared to offer them those pensions which under similar service elsewhere they would be entitled to look forward to. I do feel that it would be a disaster of the first magnitude were we at this stage, after all that has been said in favour of this principle, to go back upon it on the ground that there are objections. I do not wish to criticise the degree of their gravity, but those objections at all events are not fundamental to the principle of this measure, and I trust your Lordships intend to read the Bill a second time to-night and let it pass into law during the present session.


My Lords, surely there will be no question that your Lordships' House will read this Bill a second time. Here is a Bill sent up by the House of Commons without discussion because there was no opposition to it, and are we to insist upon an elaborate and protracted discussion of it by those who are apparently unanimous in holding one view with regard to it? I should be very sorry to suggest any such thing. Months ago the county councils apparently were invited to express an opinion by their own association with regard to the Bill, and three county councils alone objected to this burden being imposed upon them.


If the noble and learned Lord will excuse me, what I said was that the only answers received had been from seven county councils in favour and three against. I based no argument upon it with regard to the numerical strength of each party; it was only a piece of information which I felt bound to lay before the House.


I was not putting my proposition adversely to the noble Lord, because I do not think that he really has expressed himself with hostility towards the Bill. I was not intending to use it as an argumentum ad hominem, but out of all the county councils the fact remains that only three of them objected to the passing of the measure. I have intervened to address your Lordships because, as you are aware, connected with the office I hold I have a great deal of responsibility in regard to this most unhappy class of His Majesty's subjects. The noble and learned Lord who preceded me on the Woolsack will, I am sure, tell your Lordships the same thing, that in respect of the work of the Lunacy Commissioners similar representations have been received over and over again. Lord Waldegrave, who is the Chairman of the Lunacy Commissioners, has shown me a letter of the 29th September last written by them in which they state that they had written a Memorandum to this effect, that the Commissioners were in entire agreement with the objects of the Bill and that there should be an obligation upon asylum authorities to grant superannuation allowances on a fixed scale. The reason that these attendants are deserving of consideration is that the service upon which they are engaged is not only a dangerous one but is extraordinarily arduous and difficult; they have to incur the risk of personal injury and to submit to things which, if done by an occupant of a prison, would be punishable, and if by a patient in a hospital the necessary force to restrain could be used; but the attendants upon these unhappy people have to submit to these, things. One of the Commissioners himself, I know, has been injured, and it is not an uncommon thing for serious injury to be inflicted upon these attendants by their patients. Is it not right that these Unfortunate people should get their attendants from the best material that can be found, and that the attendants who run these risks should have some provision made for them in the way of pensions in the future, thus preventing them when they are still capable from leaving the public institutions for more lucrative employment in private institutions, or from being retained out of compassion after they have ceased to be able to discharge their duties? As regards the principle of the Bill, I do not understand that the noble Lord himself objected to the Second Reading, so that we need not leap before we come to the stile; and when we reach the next stage the criticisms of the noble Lord, which are valuable as regards detail will be deserving of serious consideration. As the noble Lord did not object to the Second Reading, I trust your Lordships will accord it, because I feel that the general principles of the Bill are sound and necessary.


My Lords, having been chairman of the visiting committee of one of these asylums and knowing perfectly well the dangers to which the officers as well as other people are exposed, I would ask your Lordships to read this Bill a second time without further comment.


My Lords, I feel I ought not to be silent in this discussion because my silence might be misconstrued. I heartily support the Second Reading of this Bill and I think it would be a great misfortune if the opportunity, which is not very easily obtained, of passing such a Bill as this is neglected because of the sort of vague general idea that my noble friend behind me has suggested that a better Bill will be brought forward at some time or another. I have heard that aspiration expressed before on many occasions, but I am afraid I do not remember it ever being fulfilled. I have not read the Report of the Select Committee to which the most rev. Primate referred, and I do a little protest in this House against the course pursued by my noble friend behind me. I do not know that it is part of our duty to acquaint ourselves with the discussions in the other House—in fact, it seems to have been forgotten that a discussion of what hon. members have said there is not quite in order in your Lordships' House. But whether that is in order or not it is extremely inconvenient to discuss, and with some degree of criticism, those who gave evidence before a Select Committee of the House of Commons. This is the opportunity to discuss the matter if it is to be discussed, and we are not to be precluded from the exercise of our functions by what has been said on the subject on either side in the House of Commons. The question here is that this Bill is now proposed for Second Reading, and if there is any objection to the principle of it this is the opportunity for making it. I confess I was a little surprised to hear so old and respected a Member of this House mentioning more than once that the thing ought to be brought forward again, and that this and that objection made by county councils ought to be considered. Be it so, but this is the opportunity of doing it, and I have not heard any objection raised. What may be said or considered when it is a question of whether this or that section shall stand part of the Bill is another thing, and will have to be considered when the Bill is put forward in Committee.

Now, my Lords, let me say a word about the principle of the Bill. I had to consider the principle on another occasion in connection with the Bill to which the most rev. Primate referred, and I must say if there ever was a class of person who in the interests of the public ought to have pensions I think these attendants in lunatic asylums form such a class. It is their duty very often to submit to violence and cruelty, and as long as human nature remains what it is it requires an extraordinary degree of temper and coolness to receive the injuries that they sometimes do and not to be able, as is the natural impulse of every man who receives a blow, to retaliate. Attendants in lunatic asylums, however, are obliged to submit to them in silence, and to behave with kindness and tenderness to those at whose hands they suffer. I do not believe that there is any other class of the community who undergo so much provocation as these attendants do, and who undergo it as a rule so admirably and with such good temper and good feeling. The principle of the Bill is to provide them compulsorily with pensions, and I should be very sorry indeed if the matter were to be left to the determination of those who, as my noble friend behind me says, have to provide the money, because sometimes there is a tendency to get the best men you can for as little as possible, and I think it is not desirable to leave it to them to say whether or not these persons are of a class entitled to a pension. For those reasons I hope your Lordships will read the Bill a second time.


My Lords, as this Bill extends to Ireland and as I have taken great interest in this subject and paid many visits to lunatic asylums and seen the unfortunate people confined there and those who administer to them, I would like to say a word with regard to it. No one respects the noble Lord, Lord Belper, more than I do, but I do not think that one word of his criticism touched the principle of the Bill. He discussed some details which will receive attention in Committee. But the principle of the measure is, Are those concerned with the administration and care of kinetics entitled to be regarded as this Bill seeks to regard them? I know of no class of public servants who have to administer a more difficult or more arduous task or under more trying conditions than this particular class. Their work entails upon them not only a mental but an enormous physical strain, and it is no wonder that many a man and many a woman break down under it; and I conceive that they are a class who are entitled to special consideration at the hands of those who attend to the legislation of the country. The way in which it is sought to be carried out may be open to question, but that the class of public servant with which the Bill deals is entitled to every conceivable consideration I do not think is open to question. I do not understand the points that were made about the passing of the Bill through the House of Commons. It passed through the House of Commons unopposed because it met with general approval, and I have no doubt that your Lordships will support the Second Reading. I have not heard a single syllable to prevent any one from giving a Second Reading to the Bill, and the suggestion that we should post pone the debate to another session is, if I may say so, in my opinion a very idle one. We have lots of time now to discuss it; if there are any objections we can meet them and answer them; but as we have the Bill before us now I hope we will give it a Second Reading, and at a later stage pass it through Committee.


I My Lords, I should like to say one or two words with regard to what I believe to be the attitude of those county councils who have expressed their appreciation of the Bill. I think they are at one with your Lordships in considering that those who spend a very large portion of their [...]ives in contact with lunatics are entitled to be rewarded with a pension when the period of their service has expired, and the county councils are in favour of the granting of pensions being made compulsory. I think that is the attitude of most of the county councils, and that their approval of the certainly goes that far. But that approval should not, I think, be carried too far, because I am not certain that it goes beyond Clause 12 of the Bill, which says that an established officer or servant means such officer or servant as the local authority may determine to be engaged in the work or administration of the asylum. I do not think that the approval of the county council goes so far as to say that every person who is employed permanently in the work of conducting an asylum is necessarily a person who ought to receive a pension, and if there is any doubt about that in regard to Clause 12 it certainly ought to be set right. There is another point which I do not think ought to be taken on behalf of the county councils as being included in their assent to the principle of the Bill, and that is the question of the scale. There is, I fancy, in the minds of many no reason why there should be a difference between the period of age when the servant may demand to retire with the pension and the period when the asylum authority may retire them compulsorily on that pension. The amount of the scale, too, is a point which I do not think was included in the expression of approval which the asylum authorities have given and which the county councils have generally endorsed, and their approval should not be taken to go further than that they do think that those who are engaged in active service in the lunatic asylums and are brought into constant contact with lunatics should have an assured and certain pension on a fixed and, if possible, uniform scale. To that extent, my Lords, I think that the majority of the county councils may be said to approve the principle of the Bill.


My Lords, as this Bill refers to Ireland, and as I have some slight experience of the management of lunatic asylums and other local bodies I should like to say a few words. I think that the uniform rate of pension provided for in this Bill is a most valuable one, and is in itself quite a sufficient reason for supporting the Bill on Second Reading. Any points of detail can be settled in Committee. The reason I advocate a uniform rate of pension is this. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill mentioned two cases where pensions had been allotted in a remarkably unjust and unequal manner. Of course those were exceptional cases, and would not be likely to occur in the ordinary course of things; but it does seem to me that, as the noble Lord also said, the way in which pensions may be granted depends very much on whether the managing body of the asylum happens to be in a generous or a niggardly frame of mind at the moment. I would also point out that the management of one asylum may be habitually in a more generous frame of mind than another, and there is further the point that unfortunately differences of opinion on matters wholly unconnected with the management of asylums, such as religion and politics, do prevail in Ireland a good deal, and there is a danger that these differences of opinion might be introduced into the discussion of the respective merits of retiring officers. I think it is most expedient, therefore, that there should be a uniform rate. I have heard the argument used—not at a meeting of an asylum committee it is fair to say, but at a board of guardians—that unless a man is absolutely destitute there is no occasion to give him a pension. It has been said, "If this man was a very poor man we might give him a pension, but he is fairly well off and there is no occasion to burden the ratepayer by granting him a pension," utterly forgetting the valuable services the man had rendered and the hard work he had done very often for an inadequate remuneration, and as there would be in this case the addition of the absolute dangers and difficulties with which officers of asylums have to contend I hope the Bill will be accepted for Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.