HL Deb 19 March 1935 vol 96 cc159-62

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Although the purpose of this Bill is quite a simple and straightforward one, probably some of your Lordships would be anxious for me to explain the circumstances which render its presentation to your Lordships' House necessary at this time. In Scotland criminal lunatics are at present detained in a part of Perth prison known as the Criminal Lunatic Department. That Department consists of three separate premises and the buildings are surrounded by eleven acres of ground, of which ten are used for the purpose of employing the inmates on agricultural or garden work, and the remaining acre is divided up into exercise yards. There are at present eighty-two male and four female criminal lunatics of widely varying mental characteristics in this Department. The antiquated and congested nature of the buildings and the small area of the surrounding ground prevent the proper segregation of different classes of inmates and make it impossible to provide sufficient healthy occupation for all the inmates, or to follow generally the modes of treatment which are now in use in modern mental hospitals. Since 1922 the difficulties have been accentuated by the appropriation of part of the Criminal Lunatic Department as a State institution for defectives of dangerous or violent propensities. This has always been recognised as only a temporary expedient pending the provision of more adequate premises. With this restricted accommodation available, a large measure of association of the inmates of the Criminal Lunatic Department and of the State institution is almost inevitable.

This association is not considered to be in the interests either of the insane or of the mental defectives, and to remedy this state of affairs it is proposed to erect a new criminal lunatic asylum and a new State institution for defectives on land at Lampits Farm, near Carstairs in Lanarkshire. Some 217 acres of the farm, which is at present vested in His Majesty's Commissioners of Works, are available for this purpose, and this acreage will provide ample ground for the erection of two entirely separate institutions, for the employment of the inmates on agricultural and other suitable work, and for any future extension of the premises which may prove to be necessary. There is statutory authority in Section 28 of the Mental Deficiency and Lunacy (Scotland) Act, 1913, for the establishment and maintenance of a State institution, but legislation is required to authorise the establishment and maintenance of the proposed new criminal lunatic asylum and the detention of persons in it instead of in the existing Criminal Lunatic Department of Perth prison. This Bill contains the necessary provisions for that purpose.

Clause 1 gives power to establish the new asylum, and provides that it shall be under the management of the Prisons Department for Scotland. The Department are at present responsible, subject to the control of the Secretary of State, for the maintenance and management of the Criminal Lunatic Department of Perth prison, and the clause secures for the new asylum continuity of the administrative arrangements which have proved suitable in the past. Clause 2 provides for the appointment of staff required in connection with the new asylum. Clause 3 deals with the question of an Advisory Committee. At present the existing Criminal Lunatic Department of Perth prison is subject to visitation by the visiting committee of Perth prison. This committee consists of twenty-five persons of whom some are appointed by County Councils, some by the magistrates of various burghs and some by the Secretary of State. This committee has functions in relation to the whole of Perth prison, of which the Lunatic Department is only a portion. It is now considered that a much smaller committee will suffice for the new asylum, and it is proposed that the members should all be appointed by the Secretary of State, who is in the best position to make an impartial selection of persons most suitably qualified for work of this specialised nature.

Clause 4 provides powers with regard to the removal of persons to the new asylum and their detention and treatment therein. Clause 5 provides that as the new asylum will not be a, prison or part of a prison, the provisions of the Prisons Acts with regard to the removal of prisoners or their apprehension in the event of escape, will not apply, and it is necessary, therefore, to make specific provision for the execution of orders for the removal of persons to the new asylum and the apprehension of persons escaping therefrom. Clause 6 deals with visitation by the Sheriff. The Criminal Lunatic Department of Perth prison is subject to visitation by any Sheriff or justice of the peace having jurisdiction in the place in which the prison is situate, and in this case Clause 6 confers a statutory right of visitation and inspection upon the Sheriff within whose jurisdiction the asylum is built—that is to say, the Sheriff of Lanarkshire. Clause 7 empowers the making of rules for the new asylum by the Secretary of State. Clause 8 is financial and Clause 9 is the short title.

This Bill will enable a much needed improvement to be effected in the conditions under which a considerable number of mentally afflicted persons in Scotland, whose detention is essential in the public interests, are housed and employed, and will provide better facilities for treatment designed to help them, wherever possible, towards mental recovery and a return to ordinary life. These humane objects need no elaborate words of commendation to your Lord-ships who, I know, will be in sympathy with them. I hope, therefore, the Bill can now be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill he now read 2a.—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.)

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