HC Deb 09 February 1922 vol 150 cc326-7W

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the difficulties which have arisen in securing some of the evidence necessary to enable his Departmental Committee to make a complete investigation into the charges made about the treatment of asylum patients, he will reconsider the desirabilty of recommending the appointment of a Royal Commission with full powers both of investigation into the present system and of recommendation as to the future treatment of all types of mental disorder, and thus allay the growing feeling of disquiet on this matter?

Captain LOSEBY

asked the Minister of Health, in connection with a Departmental Committee which was recently set up to inquire into and report upon the charges made against asylum administration by Dr. Lomax, in a book entitled "The Experiences of an Asylum Doctor," whether he is aware that Dr. Lomax has expressed his unwillingness to give evidence before this Departmental Committee upon the alleged grounds that it is so constituted as to render difficult an impartial verdict, and notably because one member of the Committee has openly and publicly prejudged the issue and because all of the members are representative of the system criticised; that the National Asylum Workers' Union has refused to allow its members to give evidence upon the same or similar grounds; that the terms of reference are such as to shut out a mass of evidence corroborating or refuting the charges made in the book; that the Committee has no power to administer an oath, pay the expenses of witnesses properly called, or protect witnesses when called; that charges similar to the charges made by Dr. Lomax are being repeated almost daily by responsible persons in the public Press; that some 6,000 ex-service men are being detained under the system thus openly attacked[...] and that Dr. Lomax and other persons have expressed their anxiety to give evidence before any impartial and disinterested tribunal; and whether, in view of the widespread public anxiety that the actual facts should be elucidated, he will advise the setting up of a Royal Commission, with wide powers of investigation and report, upon which the House of Commons is adequately represented?


The question of the appointment of a Royal Commission on the point raised by my hon. Friends is under my consideration. I would, however, point out that it would necessarily involve a long delay before any practicable steps could be taken and postpone reforms which by general agreement might, I hope, be introduced at an early date. In view of the necessity for an expeditious investigation into the allegations made by Dr. Lomax I have appointed a Departmental Committee. As regards the personnel of the Committee, I am informed that neither of the medical members is or has been associated with any asylum maintained out of public funds, nor is it correct to say that the Chairman is in any sense a representative of the system criticised. I fear it is impossible for me to obtain the services of any expert who has not already shown interest in Dr. Lomax's criticisms. I regret that. Dr. Lomax is not prepared to substantiate before the Committee the charges which he has publicly made, and that the National Asylum Workers' Union have refused to defend their members against Dr. Lomax's charges; but cannot admit that either he or they are entitled to dictate the composition of any tribunal of inquiry on the issues raised, for the appointment of which I am solely responsible.