Orders of the Day — Hypnotism Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th June 1952.

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As amended (in the Standing Committee,)considered.

11.54 a.m.

Photo of Mr Somerville Hastings Mr Somerville Hastings , Barking

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

This Bill was very carefully considered in Committee and I propose to say but little in commending it to the House. The Bill, as amended, prohibits absolutely demonstrations of stage hypnotism on those who are under 21. Demonstration is permissible on those over 21 in certain circumstances, and these vary in different circumstances. Where places in which the demonstrations are intended to take place are licensed for music and dancing the demonstrations are permissible, provided that the authority concerned is agreeable.

The Bill gives power to the licensing authority to make any provisions which they desire or to prohibit hypnotism altogether. For example, a licensing authority can say that no demonstration of stage hypnotism should take place on those who are under 30, or they can lay down any other restrictions. In places not licensed for music and dancing special authorisation has to be obtained from the controlling authorities, who vary from place to place. There is, therefore, complete power of local control in every area to ban hypnotism completely or limit it if it is so desired.

In commending the Bill to the House I should like to read one of the many letters which I have received from people who have suffered from these stage demonstrations. This is a pathetic letter from a girl of whom I have no knowledge, but her letter seems to me to be quite genuine. She writes as follows: In 1949 I was happily at work in the Ever Ready Battery Company, and when I say happily I mean that it would have been difficult to find a happier factory to work in, nice work, mates, foremen, bosses, canteen and last, but not least, good money. One fateful night I decided to visit a Palace with a couple of friends. There was a hypnotist appearing, not a well-known one. I have not heard of him since.I went on the stage, just 'for a lark.' I don't remember much about it, after that, I was brought home in the manager's car. My doctor tried to locate the hypnotist, unsuccessfully. I was taken to hospital. I remember waking up in a hospital bed. This was October, 1949. I was given electrical convulsion treatment about three times a week. I don't remember much about it.Then in January, 1950, I was taken to the main building of Brentwood Mental Hospital. No treatment could have been a bigger 'shock' to me than what I saw there. I was a voluntary patient, so I was only there four days. I discharged myself. However, in the following May I tried to commit suicide. I was very mentally ill. I again 'woke up' in hospital. The writer says that she is still ill and unable to work, although the trouble started in 1949.

I have received many letters, some of which have been in this strain. There- fore, I feel that the House will be well advised to give a Third Reading to this Bill which proposes to control stage hypnotism, without abolishing it altogether except in the case of those who are most susceptible to its influence. In conclusion, may I thank the Under-Secretary of State and his officers at the Home Office, the officers of the London County Council, the officers of this House and many others who have given me much help in the preparation of this Bill.

12 noon.

Photo of Mr Percy Wells Mr Percy Wells , Faversham

I beg to second the Motion.

I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend on having produced a Measure which is generally thought long overdue.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.