St. Lawrence's Hospital, Caterham (Alan Smith)

Oral Answers to Questions — Hospitals – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th November 1960.

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Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East 12:00 am, 28th November 1960

asked the Minister of Health whether he has investigated the circumstances in which Alan Smith, a boy of 12 years of age, who was kept in a ward at St. Lawrence's Hospital, Caterham, for six months, with 58 mentally-defective men, many of whom were deformed, was subjected to indecent assaults.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

A committee of inquiry set up by the South West Metropolitan Regional Board has investigated this allegation and found it to be not substantiated.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Whatever may have been the result of the investigation in this case, may we have an assurance from the Minister that in future children of 12 will not be put in mental hospitals with a number of mentally defective adults?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Not necessarily. In this case the committee of inquiry addressed itself to that point and, according to the report, was "satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt" that the decision to transfer him to the ward in question was correct.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Warrington

Has the Minister ascertained that these conditions do not obtain in any other hospital? This may be an exceptional case but, if these nineteenth century conditions are accepted in this way by the committee, other children may be put with men in these conditions. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House the position in the country?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

In the country at large I am informed—I think we are talking about the mentally subnormal—about 700 children are accommodated at present in adult wards. But the House will bear in mind that in many cases the nature of the children concerned and of other patients in the ward is such that it may be the best accommodation for them.

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

Is the Minister aware that this case received a lot of publicity which caused, quite rightly, a good deal of public anxiety? I understood him to say that the committee of inquiry found the allegations not substantiated. I take it that the right hon. Gentleman meant the allegations of indecent assault. May I ask whether he proposes to give publicity to that, by way of publishing the report, or in some other way, so that the public may be quite sure that this is not a whitewashing campaign?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

The findings of the public inquiry were announced by the committee itself and were widely published in the Press. Perhaps my reply will draw further attention to the facts.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Warrington

Will not the Minister ensure that the 700 children he mentioned as occupying mental wards are now removed?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

As the right hon. Lady knows, we are looking forward to great improvements in mental hospital accommodation in the coming years, and that will no doubt reduce this number. But I do not think that the figures in themselves are necessarily evidence that the children concerned are inadequately cared for.