asked the Minister of Health what is the number of mental defective children at present detained at the Rampton Mental Hospital; what was the age of the youngest admission; how many children have been detained at Rampton since 1st January, 1950; and what was the age of the youngest child on admission during that period.
On 14th November, there were thirteen boys and three girls, of whom one boy was five years old on admission. Since 1st January, 1950. eleven boys and three girls have been admitted, of whom the youngest was the boy of five years.
Is it not a shocking thing that children under five years of age are going into the atmosphere of Rampton Mental Hospital, which in every aspect is a prison and in which there are murderers? Is the Minister saying that there is no hope for these children? If there is any hope, would it not be better to have them in an atmosphere free from such a taint? Is he aware that some children talk about living next door to "lifers"? Is that helpful?
The admission in 1953 of the boy in question was quite exceptional because no vacancy existed for him at that time in a mental deficiency hospital and he had become unmanageable in the convent where he then was. I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that, since April of this year, the number of children in the hospital has decreased from 22 to 16.
As this hospital is in my constituency and an impression may get abroad about the cause of this Question, may I ask whether the conditions at this hospital are such that no detrimental effect is suffered by children there? But would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that they should be segregated from the adult mental defectives?
As the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, there is a special villa for the children at Rampton, which is separate from the main building. The boys, other than a few boys of 15 of particularly difficult disposition, are in the villa. There is a small school in association with the villa. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) should not refer to this State institution as having a "prison-like character" in the extravagant terms that he uses.