Board of Control, England.

Class Ii. – in the House of Commons on 1st March 1926.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £23,860, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Control (Lunacy and Mental Deficiency), England, and Grants in respect of the Maintenance of certain Ex-Service Mental Patients.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

This is a revised Supplementary Estimate. The Committee will remember I introduced a similar Estimate the other day, one item in which had relation to the legal proceedings in the case of Harnett v. Bond, and the point was raised at the time that there was a difficulty in discussing it, having regard to the fact that another case was pending. In these circumstances, I am now presenting the Estimate again with that item omitted. All the other matters in the Estimate are the same, and the Committee will probably remember the explanation which I gave previously.

Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

When this Vote was before the Committee before I asked the hon. Gentleman in charge whether under the heading "BB, Special Inquiries," there was any reference to certain investigations which are being carried on by his Department with reference to mental cases and particularly cases of encephalitis lethargica. It will be in the hon. Gentleman's knowledge that recently I called the attention of his Department and the Home Office to the case of a youth who was charged at the Lambeth Police Court with stealing a shilling. It was found on investigation of his antecedent history that he had been affected by this disease which had left him mentally and morally impaired. I received an intimation that the Department had entered into some arrangement with the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the London County Council to provide treatment to meet such cases, and I understand that a committee of inquiry has been sitting under the aegis of the Ministry to inquire into these cases with a view to suggesting means of ensuring that such persons shall not be in the position of being brought before the Courts as criminals or put into asylums as lunatics. I ask the hon. Member if he can give the Committee any information as to whether his Department is proceeding in respect of this question and whether there is anything relating to it in the Vote.

Mr. RICHARDSON:

I approach this matter with some diffidence because I feel I am treading on rather delicate ground, when I say that the Minister knows very little about the question involved in this Vote. I suggest that the Minister knows nothing about the work of the Board of Control except the fact that so much money has to be spent upon it, and I suggest the money that is paid for the salaries of these people is money wasted.

The CHAIRMAN:

To what item is the hon. Member directing his remarks?

Mr. RICHARDSON:

I am referring to the payment of staff under this Vote for the Board of Control.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

The items are for special inquiries, contributions towards expenses of local authorities, and maintenance of patients and staff. There is no item in respect of the salaries of the staff of the Board of Control. That will appear on the main Estimate, and I have no doubt the hon. Member will be able to raise this point when it is presented.

Mr. RICHARDSON:

I assure the hon. Gentleman I will take that opportunity of raising the question. I want to know, in regard to the amount under heading BB, what inquiries are taking place. We have been promised inquiries as to people who have been incarcerated in asylums and who ought not to be there, such as children, adolescents, shell-shocked ex-soldiers, neurasthenics and others. I submit that in many of these cases the result of putting them into asylums is to make them worse rather than better. In raising this matter, I wish to help the Ministry. I want to make the mental hospital a real hospital and not so much of a prison as it is at present. I want, therefore, to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if these inquiries are being set up, under which head they are being set up, and whether some provision can be made for these people.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Leicester West

I want to say one word with regard to the revised form in which these Estimates appear. The Committee will remember that, acting on your suggestion, the Minister withdrew the Vote dealing with the Harnett v. Bond case. As the Estimate is presented to us, as the Minister has already told us, it has simply had that particular item knocked off before it comes to our cognisance to-night, but what I want to know is, what is the actual fact with regard to the money? I think those who saw the original Estimate can be under no misapprehension that the money has actually been paid, and what, therefore, I take it is happening is that we are deferring until next year the passage of the amount which the Department has actually, in some shape or form, disbursed.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

On a point of Order. May I ask is the hon. Member in Order in discussing money which is not in the Estimate?

The CHAIRMAN:

I do not think he is, but I will hear him.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Leicester West

The point I am endeavouring to make is this. Here is a sum of money which the Department has actually spent.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Leicester West

It is not in this Vote, but I am sure it must be in order to draw attention to the fact that the Department has spent this money and is not coming to ask—

The CHAIRMAN:

No, I think not. There is no evidence of any such sum in the Estimate. If there be such, presumably the Public Accounts Committee in their vigilance, on the suggestion of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, will find it out and call on the Government to account for it.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Leicester West

I will put my remark in the form of a question. I should like to know from the Minister whether this money has been spent? If it has not been spent, what are the facts which enable it to be excluded from this revised Estimate?

The CHAIRMAN:

I am afraid the Minister would not be entitled to answer that question.

Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon

There is only one question I want to ask. When this matter was raised with the Ministry of Pensions the other day we were told that the Ministry had got certain mental hospitals for ex-service men. This vote is apparently a grant in respect of provision for certain ex-service mental patients. What I want to ask is, which is the Ministry respon- sible for looking after ex-service men? Is it the Ministry of Pensions or the Ministry of Health?

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

In answer to the last question, my only duty this evening is to deal with the three items on the Paper on page 2. I cannot see any item on which that matter could arise. I should say that obviously a question of that kind must be directed to the Minister of Pensions.

Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon

May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. The heading is: Supplementary Estimate of the amount required in the year ending 31st March, 1926, to pay the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Control (Lunacy and Mental Deficiency), England, and Grants in respect of the Maintenance of certain Ex-Service Mental Patients.

The CHAIRMAN:

I am afraid the hon. and gallant Member has fallen into a very ordinary fault in dealing with Supplementary Estimates. He is quoting merely a recital of the title of the main Estimate, but discussion can only take place on the special items dealt with in the Supplementary Estimate.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

In reply to the hon. Gentleman, who spoke about special inquiries and what that meant, they are not a general inquiry into the lunacy laws of the country. There is a Royal Commission sitting on that matter, and we hope to have their Report at an early date. This Committee is a Committee appointed jointly by the Board of Control and the Board of Education, and it is to inquire into the incidence of mental deficiency throughout the country—it is a technical Committee—as there is a considerable lack of knowledge as to the number of cases, and what arrangements should be made for dealing with them.

Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

Has the hon. Gentleman any idea when they are likely to report?

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

On that, I have been making inquiries, and we hope that the investigation might end by March, 1927. It is being conducted by one of the principal officers of the Board of Control, but it may possibly continue for a further year, as we have come to the conclusion that it is important to get accurate information as to the real extent of the problem. I am very glad to reply also to the point put by the hon. Member opposite with regard to the newly recognised disease to which he alluded. It was first discovered, I believe, in this country in 1918, and I may say that I think it will be agreed by all experts that it is only in the last two or three years that the disastrous mental effects of this disease have come to light. It is true that it is a notifiable infectious disease, and local health authorities have power to treat cases in their isolation hospitals, but there is no duty on the authorities to provide for persons suffering from the mental after effects, and outside London, I regret to say, there is no hospital provision.

11.0 P.M.

A certain number of cases are certifiable and are sent to mental hospitals or mental deficiency institutions. In some of the larger areas, in London and Lancashire, they are concentrated in a mental hospital and one mental deficiency institution in each area. It was decided last year—and this really answers the hon. Member's question—to establish a hospital unit of 100 beds, in London for cases under 15 years of age, under the Metropolitan Asylums Board. We are admitting children of either sex. It is an experiment, and we hope to be able to gain much more knowledge of the unfortunate after-effects of this disease than we have at the present time. We feel that our present powers in connection with dealing with this disease are insufficient. The definition of mental deficiency is very limited. It really prevents our making the necessary arrangements so far as detention is concerned, and we have not the powers which we consider we ought to have at the present time.

Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

Is anything being done in the case of adolescents, where, I think the hon. Gentlemen will agree, the real paint of trouble comes in?

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

Although they will be admitted under 15, we are not strictly adhering to that particular age, and in some cases they may be discharged at a much older age. So far as the Board of Control are concerned, they have come to the conclusion that in a very large number of these cases, the people who are proceeded against should not certainly be treated as criminals, and we want to make permanent provision for them. My right hon. Friend has under consideration now the question of what further steps shall be taken. The hon. Member raised a very important question which is demanding, and, I think, is receiving, the attention of a very large number of people who are interested, not only in mental deficiency, but in the welfare of a number of young people who are, unfortunately, suffering, and are occasionally brought before the Courts of this country. We have made provision, and we hope, if further powers are given to us, we shall be able to do something still more in a matter which certainly requires attention at the present time.