HL Deb 11 May 1911 vol 8 cc353-6

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Earl of CAMPERDOWN in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Transfer of powers as to vesting orders from Judge in Lunacy to High Court.

2. The powers of the Judge in Lunacy under sections one hundred and thirty-five to one hundred and forty-three of the Lunacy Act, 1890, as amended by any subsequent enactment, to make such vesting and other orders as are in those sections mentioned shall, except so far as they relate to lunatic mortgagees, be transferred to, and, subject to rules of the Supreme Court, be exerciseable by, the High Court, and, except as aforesaid, those sections as so amended shall have effect accordingly as if for references to the Judge in Lunacy there were substituted references to the High Court.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, after the words "lunatic mortgagees," to insert "not being also trustees." The noble and learned Lord said: This is a very small Amendment, which will not in the least affect the principle of the Bill. It is in the clause which provides for the transfer of powers as to vesting orders from a Judge in Lunacy to the High Court. Where property belongs to lunatic mortgagees in their own right, it is not intended if they are trustees that the property which really beneficially belongs to others should be transferred from the tribunal which now deals with it. Accordingly I move this Amendment, which is merely to carry out that purpose.

Amendment moved— Clause 2, page 1, line 20, after ("mortgagees") insert ("not being also trustees").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

First Schedule:

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:

5. Any vacancy occurring among the unpaid Commissioners may be filled up by the appointment of such person of either sex as the Lord Chancellor may appoint.

*LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH moved to omit the word "unpaid." The noble Lord said: I have to apologise to your Lordships for rising to move an Amendment which has not been printed and circulated, but my excuse is that the time since the Second Reading has been so short that it was scarcely possible to get a properly considered Amendment printed. However, it is in itself a very simple Amendment, and I think I can rely on making it so plain that there will be no misunderstanding as to its meaning. This schedule deals with the reconstruction of the Lunacy Commissioners. The number of Commissioners is increased, and there are certain new regulations in respect of the conduct of their business. There are to be certain paid Commissioners and certain unpaid Commissioners, the former being professional persons, either medical or legal. The unpaid Commissioners, of course, have no such qualifications. The point has been raised as to whether it were possible to appoint a woman to be an unpaid Commissioner. The Lord Chancellor thought it extremely desirable that women should be associated with the work of the Lunacy Commissioners, considering the immense number of women lunatics and the tact, judgment, and knowledge which women would bring to the work of the Lunacy Commissioners. He therefore proposed to remove the legal ambiguity felt by the Law Officers of the Crown, so that it would be possible for him to appoint a woman to the position of an unpaid Commissioner. Those who are interested in this matter and have been working for this change for a long time are very grateful to the Lord Chancellor for proposing this change.

But the question arises whether the same discretion should not be allowed to the Lord Chancellor in respect of the appointment of paid Commissioners. The paid Commissioners, as I say, have to possess certain qualifications. They must be medical persons or barristers-at-law of a certain standing. Women are not eligible for the law, but there are medical women who now take high rank in their profession, and all the arguments which are so forcible in favour of permitting women to act as unpaid Commissioners in co-operation with male unpaid Commissioners to look after the case of women lunatics, would operate also, I submit, in respect of the appointment of paid women medical Commissioners. I therefore suggest that the discretion which the Lord Chancellor proposes in the fifth section of the First Schedule should apply also in the case of vacancies among the paid Commissioners. If the word "unpaid" is omitted, that is all that is necessary to be done. The Lord Chancellor would then be empowered in case of a vacancy to appoint a woman as a paid Commissioner. I am sure the noble and learned Lord will be sympathetic with the object of this proposal, and we shall be glad to hear from him that he will be able to agree to it. If he desires further time, no doubt the Amendment could be brought on again at a subsequent stage, but I propose it now for the purpose of eliciting an expression of opinion upon it.

Amendment moved— First Schedule, Clause 5, line 25, to omit the Word ("unpaid.").—(Lord Courtney of Penwith.)


My Lords, I do not think it would be easy to overstate the importance of having women associated with the care of the insane in this country, because we all know that in those sad and depressing cases where women are insane there is a great difference in the handling, treatment, and control of them by women. Therefore I unreservedly assent to the principle which my noble friend has advanced. As I said on the Second Reading, I did nominate and obtain the assent of one lady to act as an unpaid Commissioner, and I was most disturbed when the Law Officers advised, on a ground which is rather an open question, that it could not be done, and therefore I could not proceed further then. Now I have proposed that in the case of unpaid Commissioners a woman may be appointed, and if I have the good fortune to get this Bill through I shall certainly use the power of appointing women.

But my noble friend Lord Courtney of Penwith proposes to go further. The only reason why I am afraid I cannot entertain his proposal at the present time is this. This Bill is purely of a temporary character, recommended by the Royal Commission as of a temporary character, until a larger scheme, more ambitious and more useful, is embraced in a longer Bill for the organisation of the whole matter and dealing with the qualifications of those who have to serve in this connection. I am afraid this is not an apt time for entering into the big question of what ought to be the qualifications of the paid Lunacy Commissioners who travel round the country and visit the asylums. It is too big a thing to touch now, and it would lead to a good deal of disturbance in connection with what is merely a temporary difficulty. But I have a very strong feeling, as I said before, that in this particular kind of work and in other kinds of work women ought to be associated, and I hope it will be so as soon as possible. It will certainly not be through any want of desire on my part if it is not brought about.


I am grateful, and I am sure all who are interested in this matter will be grateful, to the Lord Chancellor for his expression of sympathy. I appreciate the difficulty of pressing the Amendment now; and relying upon what my noble and learned friend has said with respect to the future and the possibility of reconsidering the matter when the larger scheme is brought forward, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining clauses agreed to; Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 81.)

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