I want to raise very briefly a point I touched upon in a question this afternoon. It refers to the treatment allowances and pensions to which ex-service men who have been certified insane or are certifiable, are entitled. I ask the Minister of Pensions to give me a clear and unequivocal answer upon a question in regard to which I have pressed him on several occasions. I think the Minister of Pensions and the Parliamentary Secretary have not realised a point in the Lunacy Laws as they exist to-day. Under the Lunacy Laws, I enderstand, the next-of-kin of a patient is entitled, in certain circumstances, one of which is that the man is not dangerous, to take charge and control of that patient. There is no doubt that there are many cases of the next-of-kin of ex-service men who, rightly or wrongly, bitterly resent having to send their sons, their next-of-kin, to lunatic asylums, and they ask to have the privilege of taking care of these gallant men. As far as I am aware, there is not any case in which the next-of-kin has successfully been to the Ministry or their representative and said: "There are two alternatives. The first is that this man must be detained in a lunatic asylum; the second is that I can take control of him. Provided I can satisfy you that I am prepared to provide control and adequate medical treatment, may I have the full pension, plus treatment allowance, that I should be entitled to if that same man were in a lunatic asylum?" I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions to tell me in unequivocal terms that he will not say it must be a lunatic asylum or a patient will not get the treatment allowance. I press for that answer, and I urge anyone who has a spark of gratitude left in his breast for the ex-service men to stand with me.
I am very glad to give my hon. and gallant Friend a reply to his question. Service patients in asylums, for whom this Ministry is responsible, are, whether officers or men, of the status of private patients. Payment, however, is made by the Ministry and not by their relations. This confers on their relations the right to remove them from the asylum, unless the medical superintendent gives the certificate which is given in cases where removal would be attended by danger either to the patients themselves or to others. It is given only for this reason. If the relations themselves wish to put a patient into an alternative institution treatment allowances are paid and the cost of the treatment is paid, limited, of course, by certain rates. My hon. Friend will understand that we cannot undertake to pay the very high rates that are paid in certain institutions. The alternative arrangement, that is, the place to which these unfortunate men would go, must be approved of by both the Ministry of Pensions and the Board of Control.
The hon. Gentleman has not answered my question? Is he aware that these alternative institutions are in many cases tantamount to asylums? Will he give what I ask for, where a man says, "I myself, as I am entitled to ender the Lunacy Laws, will take charge and control of that man; I will provide him with adequate medical treatment, but I cannot afford to do so unless I have the full pension plus medical allowance which I could claim if he were in a lunatic asylum"? In such a case, will the hon. Gentleman let me know definitely, provided he is satisfied the patient is going to get medical treatment, satisfactory control and treatment, that he will award to him those conditions for which he asks?
My answer is that the treatment allowances are paid and the cost of the treatment is paid, subject, of course, to certain rates and restrictions, and subject only to this condition, that the alternative arrangement must be approved of both by the Ministry and the Board of Control.
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman say that in no case will a man be refused this privilege because of the refusal of his next-of-kin to allow him to be detained in a lunatic asylum?