House Of Lords
Tuesday, 19th January, 1982.
The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR Oil the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Derby.
Fao: Rome Conference
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what were the conclusions of the Rome conference of the Food and Agriculture Organisation on means to end world hunger and to encourage rural development.
My Lords, the 21st Conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in November met primarily to determine FAO's policy and to approve its budget for 1982 and 1983. The conference also supported FAO's plan of action to strengthen world food security, reaffirmed the importance of the new international development strategy, and recommended that the target for pledges to the world food programme for the two years 1983 and 1984 should be $1,200 million. It expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved in directing FAO's policies and programmes towards the objectives set up by the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development. I will place a copy of the official report in the Library as soon as it is available.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very full reply. In view of the cost of this programme, may I ask the Minister what are the prospects of our own Government, and other nations in the United Nations, making a contribution towards it?
My Lords, we shall have to consider that in due time, but, speaking specifically about the core budget of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, which was the principal matter under consideration at the conference, the United Kingdom will be contributing 5·45 per cent.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that so long as the world population goes on growing faster than the world food supply we shall be living with this problem for the rest of time? Might it not be well to point out, especially to the Russian Government, that if they could only increase their food production it would help the overall position throughout the world?
My Lords, my noble friend is certainly right about that. Matters might also be helped if the Soviet Union would contribute to and participate in the affairs of the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
My Lords, can the Minister say whether Her Majesty's Government support the conclusions concerning rural development that were reached at Rome? If, as I hope, the answer to that question is, yes, how can that support of policies for rural development be reconciled with the decision to put as much as one-sixth of the annual aid programme into one massive industrial project in India which seems to give no promise of help for the rural poor?
My Lords, each bilateral programme has to be considered on its merits. There were a very great many industrial implications, including benefits to the Indian community itself, with regard to the project to which the noble Lord refers. It is, however, the case that we should prefer to contain the growth of our contributions to multilateral agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organisation so that the important contributions that we make to bilateral programmes can be maintained.
My Lords, would my noble friend agree that this is not just a question of Governments finding money? There is the question of expertise in agricultural circles, for which over the years we have shown a great aptitude. Are Her Majesty's Government satisfied that we export this kind of expertise to help under-developed countries with this very important matter?
My Lords, I certainly share the views of my noble friend in that direction. The provision of agricultural expertise, as my noble friend described it, is a very important part of our bilateral aid programme.
My Lords, following the point made by the noble Lord in his supplementary, is the Minister aware that the recent Japanese newsletter indicates that that very thing is being done? The Japanese are now co-operating with the Chinese in an area near Peking with a population of 3 million. The Japanese are sending agricultural experts there to teach methods of agriculture which will be worth while for the peasant.
My Lords, I have not seen the Japanese publication to which the noble Lord refers, but, from the sound of it, I agree with it.
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will stress the importance of this matter—as, indeed, he has. The Food and Agriculture Organisation is probably one of the most successful of all the international organisations. I think of Lord Boyd-Orr and many others who played their part in international conferences and helped to build up what is a very important organisation. So there must be no let-down of any programmes that they were prepared to go for.
My Lords, I certainly agree that the original concepts which led to the foundation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the very distinguished initial leadership of the late Lord Boyd-Orr are much to be admired. But we have considerable reservations about the growth in recent years in the administrative activities of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. That is what gave rise to the misgivings which we had over the recent budget.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister two questions? First, in view of the fact that the ex-chairman of the Royal Bank has stated that 80 million people in the world are on the verge of starvation, will the Government take more initiative in seeking to aid the starving population of the world, whose situation is intolerable in view of our comfort? Secondly, I wish to ask whether, in view of the need for rural development in these territories, he will find a means of direct aid to them rather than the present method which is so often involved in corruption by Governments?
My Lords, I have to agree that some of our aid to some of the multilateral agencies working in this field is sometimes less effective than we would wish. Thus it is that we seek to direct our bilateral aid programme to the poorest countries in particular, because clearly they are those in the greatest need.
My Lords, will the noble Lord be good enough to say what is the policy of the European Economic Community on this issue, give the significant surpluses of various products which arise from time to time and are sold to the Soviet Union?—certainly some of the surplus is sold to the Soviet Union. Can he say whether the United Kingdom and her partners in the Community have been pressing in Rome for the disposal of these surpluses at nominal prices to countries where starvation is considerable?
My Lords, I can say for example that, of the contributions to the world food programme to which I referred in my earlier Answer, the United Kingdom will be contributing bilaterally 117,000 tonnes of cereal while the European Community itself will be providing a further 927,000 tonnes.
Airports: Severnside Site
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government on what evidence the Advisory Committee on Airports Policy stated, in its report of 21st November 1979 (paragraph 5.16), that, for the purposes of a gateway international airport at Severnside, "a new motorway crossing the Severn, together with a 10-mile link to the M4 motorway would be required from the outset".
My Lords, as the Advisory Committee on Airports Policy made clear in its report, its assessment of the surface access requirement of the Severnside site was based on similar criteria to those adopted by the Study Group on South East Airports in its consideration of sites nearer to London. I understand that the committee's conclusions were based on advice by those of its members with expertise in this area, which included the Department of Transport.
My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for that Answer, I suppose, but I did ask him on what evidence they based their statement. He did not mention any evidence in his Answer. May I ask him therefore whether he is aware that on 19th October last year, in reply to a Question from Mr. Abse in another place, the Minister for Trade stated that no member of the committee had in fact visited the site, so that nobody had taken any evidence on the ground? Is he further aware that a glance at a map will show that the distance from the motorway to the edge of the airport site as proposed is just about 1¼ miles? If one extends the distance, which is referred to in the committee's report as 10 miles, to the nearest intersection on a motorway—a very labour-saving device and a very under-used intersection, No. 23—it is found to be about 1½ miles. What reliance can we therefore place on anything else in this report?
My Lords, my noble friend—as I fear he has done in connection with this matter on earlier occasions—has over-simplified the problems to which he refers. The problems of access to the Severnside airport are quite considerable, including the one referred to in his Question and my Answer. As for the source of the evidence to which he has referred, as I believe I have made clear already, the evidence was to be found in the views of the members of the study group.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I was a member of the advisory committee and must therefore declare an interest? Is he aware that, when assessing the merits of the Severnside site, one of the major factors was obviously access to London, to which a very large number of international air travellers would be wishing to go? Therefore, this was one of the factors that we had to look at and it was given very careful consideration. Perhaps my noble friend can answer one other question. Is he aware that the site has certain problems of altitude? Can my noble friend tell me whether the site would stand up to the flooding difficulties of the present time?
My Lords, my noble friend has raised an interesting point. I believe that if the airport were in existence now it would have suffered very considerably from the recent flooding in that part of the world.
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he is aware that the Thames-Severn estuary is in fact tidal and that the site of the airport which we are discussing, lying as it does wholly below high water mark, is in fact flooded twice a day?
My Lords, I think the airlines had better be warned to fit floats.
Economic Recovery: Facilitation
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps are being taken to assist economic recovery.
My Lords, economic recovery depends upon the determination of all sectors of our community to ensure that our industry is competitive at home and abroad. To this end, the Government's policy is directed to creating the right fiscal and monetary climate, and to encouraging initiative and enterprise by reducing controls and providing incentives through the tax system—particularly to help new and small businesses.
My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, I must say that I am deeply concerned with the content because, of course, the facts do not bear out anything that he has said. May I ask him this? Since it has been reported in the Daily Telegraph today that there are 35 Members of his party in another place, which must mean the possibility of a majority who are against Her Majesty's Government, and that both sides of industry are deeply concerned at the way we are drifting, would it be possible perhaps, inasmuch as NEDC does not seem able to do much, to establish a grand industrial council to guide the Government to get us out of the terrible morass we are in?
My Lords, the noble Lord's anxieties about events in another place lie outside the field of this Question. So far as the facts are concerned, the position is that output has been increasing, that productivity has increased quite remarkably, that orders in important sectors of industry are picking up, that leading indicators do show the prospect of further improvement, and we do look forward to a slow but sustained recovery in the British economy.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that if the Government had given a bit more attention to the retail price index and a bit less attention to monetary control they might have been more successful in controlling inflation?
No, my Lords. Perhaps I might draw the noble Lord's attention to the fact that since 1975 unit labour costs in this country have doubled; in Canada they have increased by one-half only, in the United States by one-third, in Western Germany by one-sixth and in Japan not at all. It is this loss of competitiveness which lies at the root of our difficulties at the present moment.
My Lords, that is the very reason why the Government would have succeeded more if they had used the retail price index. Does the noble Lord not appreciate that the retail price index is reflected in wage agreements in the future, and therefore perpetuates inflation?
No, my Lords, I do not agree with the thesis put forward by the noble Lord. I think it is entirely wrong for people to believe, either in wage negotiations or in other matters, that they are entitled to automatic compensation for rises in prices. The obvious example is, of course, the rise in oil prices, where there can be no question of people in this country protecting themselves from such increases. The increasing sense of realism which is occurring in this country at the present moment under which many wage settlements, indeed the great majority of wage settlements, are being negotiated at figures below or well below the increase in the retail price index shows that both sides of industry have a greater sense of realism than the noble Lord opposite.
Is my noble friend aware that of all the OECD countries Britain, equally with West Germany, exports more of its manufactured production than any other, well ahead of the United States and Japan? Is not this a reflection of the success of the Government's policies?
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for the point that he makes, which is of course entirely valid. The quite magnificent performance of British industry in the export field is something for which we all ought to be grateful.
My Lords, would the noble Lord relate his original Answer, and what he said in reply to the noble Lord who spoke about the success of Government policy, to the position in the four northern counties in England, where unemployment is by far the highest in the country, in some areas well over 25 per cent., where businesses are closing down every week, long-established businesses, big ones, small ones, where there is no prospect of anything new coming in at all? Would the noble Lord relate what he has said to that situation and tell us what the Government are going to do about it, or do we have to wait for a Toxteth in Newcastle or in Sunderland before the Government do anything there?
My Lords, we are suffering very grievously from the errors of the past, to which the noble Lord contributed in very full measure. The Government have the courage, and indeed it is the first Government which have had the courage, to tackle these problems, and it is only if they are tackled at the roots, which is what we are trying to do, that we have any real hope for the future.
My Lords, would the noble Lord tell us how they are tackling the problems in Northumberland, in Durham and in Cumberland?
Yes, my Lords. The problems of all these areas are a reflection of the problems of the United Kingdom as a whole. These are the problems we are tackling, and we are tackling them with a degree of success which is becoming increasingly evident.
My Lords, does the degree of success include a steady increase in unemployment?
My Lords, the rate at which unemployment is increasing has fallen sharply. At present the rate of increase is only one-third of what it was a year ago. It is, however, the position that just as a rise in unemployment follows after a fall in output so a fall in unemployment will come only after a rise in output.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that he spoke about what the Government inherited, and that when the day comes when the industrial situation and the unemployment situation and the level of inflation is back to what it was the day that this Government took over there will be great jubilation in this nation because we will then be improving? Would the noble Lord not accept that many people find it distressing that there is no evidence of great concern being shown by the Government about the difficulties we are in? Perhaps the grand council which I have suggested, possibly apolitical, might be some way at least of making a contribution other than what the current economists have done to get us into this dreadful situation? Is it not at least in the interests of the nation to try it?
My Lords, I would not follow the noble Lord in his attack upon economists, many of the more distinguished of whom sit on the Benches opposite and gave advice for a long period of Labour Government. So far as the rest of his question is concerned, the Government are acutely concerned about the level of unemployment. Measures have been announced to deal with it. There are a large number of new measures announced in this field. The expenditure both this year and next year on these special employment measures shows a very substantial increase. So far as his suggestion of a tripartite forum is concerned, such a forum already exists in NEDC, and it has been the policy of Her Majesty's Government to discuss issues of wide-ranging importance in that body.
Child Abuse: Jason Caesar
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they propose to take following the trial at Norwich Crown Court involving the death of Jason Caesar, aged 19 months; and in particular whether an inquiry will be instituted into the possible lack of communication between the various social agencies responsible for handling the case.
My Lords, this tragic case and every other like it is a matter of very great concern to the Government. If I say that the welfare of children is the responsibility of local authorities, that in no way diminishes that concern. Clearly every such incident has to he thoroughly investigated in order to see what can be learned from it and whether either professional practice or administrative procedures can be improved as a result. However, such investigation is usually best done locally by the authorities themselves. The Cambridgeshire County Council and Area Health Authority are already conducting such an investigation and its findings will be sent to me.It is important that the lessons learned by one authority are known to the rest. The department is therefore studying the published reports of inquiries into previous serious incidents in search of any common factors which may help to reinforce the guidance which we already give on these matters. I hope to publish any significant findings later this year. A review has also been instigated of the working of the child abuse registers, on which we issued advice in 1980. I will also make any significant findings of this review available as appropriate.
My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord for that reply which was phrased in an extremely helpful way, I should like to ask him two specific questions. First, is the noble Lord aware that in November 1976 a circular was issued by his own department and by the Home Office specifically suggesting that the police should be invited to case conferences? Is the noble Lord aware that in this particular case the police do not appear to have been invited to the case conference, and is that one of the matters which will be subject to investigation? Secondly, in terms of the local authority inquiries which are taking place, when the noble Lord receives the result of those will he consider placing them in the Library of the House?
My Lords, on the noble Lord's first point, up to the time of this case, police involvement was always considered when an initial case conference was called, but it was not always thought necessary. Following this case the police are invariably informed of every initial case conference with the local authority we are considering. On the second matter, the proper response depends on what emerges from the inquiry which I have at present had made as to whether it is appropriate to place it in the House of Lords Library. If it appears that a narrower circulation is more appropriate, I shall certainly undertake to let the noble Lord know himself.
My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend two questions. First, what are the Government doing to encourage the work of voluntary bodies as regards child abuse? Secondly, will the forthcoming restructuring of the National Health Service make local collaboration in child abuse cases more difficult?
My Lords, as regards voluntary bodies, the Government support and greatly appreciate the value of the work, and the preventive work, being done by voluntary agencies. In the last few days my right honourable friend the Secretary of State authorised the grant of £450,000 over three years to help the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children out of its financial difficulties. We also help the newly-formed Organisation for Parents under Stress and a number of organisations and projects that provide support for parents. Later this year I plan a series of meetings and visits to voluntary organisations concerned with child abuse as well as to other responsible authorities and I hope that that will help to strengthen links with the department as well as helping us to learn more about their very valuable work.
My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister whether, in his inquiries later on, he will look at the circular referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. I should like to suggest to the Minister that that circular does put both the police and the directors of social services, health and education, in extremely awkward positions. If that circular could be looked at and clarified I think that it would be helpful both to the police and to the other social agencies, including the voluntary organisations.
My Lords, I shall certainly look at the circular.
My Lords, I should like to put a further question to the noble Lord arising from the question put by the noble Baroness. Is the noble Lord aware that the Association of Chief Police Officers was consulted before the circular was issued in 1976, and that therefore it was done with the full knowledge of the service? Secondly, will the noble Lord particularly direct his attention to why the terms of this circular were not implemented by the authorities in Cambridgeshire?
My Lords, I was aware of the consultation that took place before the issue of the circular. Indeed, it was the subject of a discussion in this House in which I took part. The second matter which the noble Lord raises is, of course, of great interest to me.
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord the Minister whether, if his department has any responsibility for this particular inquiry, he will investigate or have investigated the stress and strain under which many of these agencies are working at present because of the increase in this particular type of difficulty in the community? We all know that they are working under great stress and I think that this ought to be examined before we come to some kind of conclusion as to who is at fault and who is not at fault.
My Lords, the purpose of the inquiry is to avoid, as far as is humanly possible, a recurrence of the tragic events which we are now discussing. But your Lordships would not expect that whatever the Government do will stop occurrences happening again; we can only strive to reduce them. To remove a child from its mother or its father or both is a matter of traumatic importance to the child and it is a step which can only be taken when it is pretty clear that it is the last step and only remaining step that can be taken. Your Lordships will sympathise with the people who often have to decide whether they have taken the right decision or the wrong decision and will know that your Lordships will only be discussing it if they get it wrong.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware how pleased people are that the Government are helping the NSPCC and how worried they were about their financial position? Would it not be possible, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has said, to expand the work in the community to bring in aids to help the officers of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for expressing a feeling—a feeling which I am very glad to hear expressed—of approval for what we have done for the National Society. I did, in fact, spend quite some time with them and also visiting their work in the field before the grant was made. I am glad to see that they are considering very carefully the extent to which their work can he made entirely complementary to the local authorities' and to remove any overlap that there may be.
My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 this afternoon, my noble friend Lord Belstead will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the Yorkshire Ripper investigations. I think that it might also be helpful to your Lordships if I repeat what I said yesterday—that it has been agreed through the usual channels that the Committee stage of the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill and the House itself should be adjourned at approximately 8 o'clock this evening and that therefore dinner will not be available.
Deer (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill Hl
My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the Deer (Scotland) Act 1959 and certain related enactments. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—( Lord Glenarthur.)
On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.
Mental Health (Amendment) Bill Hl
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( Lord Elton.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]
Clause 1 [ Replacement of "subnormality" by "mental handicap"]:
moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 7, at beginning insert—
("() For subsection (1) of section 4 of the principal Act there shall be substituted—
"In this Act mental disorder means mental illness, mental handicap, severe mental handicap and psychopathic disorder; and "mentally disordered" shall be construed accordingly.".").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 1 standing in my name and the names of my noble friends. Before I proceed to enlarge on the point regarding the amendment I should like to say how gratified and almost amazed we were to learn from the noble Lord the Minister that as regards the Committee stage of this Bill the Government have an open mind. That, of course, gives us great encouragement and hope on the lines expressed by the noble Lord. I trust that our hopes will receive greater realisation.
The other matter is that the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, backed as they are by a very efficient staff of civil servants, will appreciate the problems that some of us have had in coping with getting amendments to this Bill fixed and discussed. What with the weather, the strike and many other problems it has been a very difficult task. I am not pleading for sympathetic reward from the Minister, but at least I hope that he will understand.
So far as this amendment is concerned, the Committee will remember that I raised the general issue during the Second Reading of the Bill. Its intention is to limit the unacceptably wide scope of the principal Act by excluding the phrase:
"any other disorder or disability of mind".
As mental illness remains undefined by this Bill, the scope of its compulsory powers must be made quite clear.
"any other disorder or disability of mind",
could encompass almost any abnormality, perception of ethnic difference, religious belief, individual eccentricity—and quite a number of noble Lords might even fall into that category—or variation in levels of intelligence and understanding.
It is wholly unacceptable that by implication people could be rendered eligible for compulsory detention on such ill-defined grounds. Indeed, it might be argued that long-term hospital admission must clearly fall into one of the four major categories covered by the principal Act. However, this still leaves open the possibility of detention for up to 28 days. Compulsory powers should not be applied except where the individual is suffering from one of the major and identifiable forms of mental disorder, and the scope of this Bill should be defined accordingly.
I shall not beat about the bush. I regard this
amendment as vitally important. This vague phrase:
"any other disorder or disability",
should be removed in order that the situation shall be fully clarified and that a number of people who might come under it by accident should have removed the likelihood of at least 28 days' detention. This is a vitally important amendment. I beg to move.
I wish to support this amendment from perhaps a different point of view. There was in Chicago a great lover of children who wrote a book on normal and subnormal children and who said that there are no subnormal children: every child is a normal child except in the very thing in which he or she is abnormal or subnormal. Others who work for mentally handicapped children know that despite their handicap those children can be able in so many other ways. If we limit the term to "handicap", I think that it would be more wholesome than to leave it as it is here.
I should like to say why I believe that psychiatrists are unhappy about the noble Lord's amendment. It is because this phrase has been a valuable one which has allowed certain unusual conditions, and some not so unusual, such as disordered brain damage, to be compulsorily admitted to hospital if necessary. A young man who has brain damage as a result of a motor accident and shows behaviour disorders would otherwise have to be described as psychopathic. This is inaccurate and undesirable, and it would indeed be regrettable if it became necessary.I would submit that Section 4 has not been abused in the past. Very few people have been compulsorily admitted to hospital using this phrase. It could be argued that it would open the flood gates to any kind of patient being admitted, but, in fact, practice does not bear this out. It has not happened since 1959. I believe that it is an unjustifiable fear.
I should like to suggest that one word should be added to this amendment in the first line, so that it reads:
and then it should continue."In this Act mental disorder may mean",
In replying to this first of many amendments, may I say that I understand and sympathise with the difficulties that noble Lords and noble Baronesses have had in tabling amendments in good time, and those who have managed to do so are very much the object of the gratitude of myself and the department.The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, in moving the amendment, welcomed the open mind of the Government, which he said he heard declared with something of astonishment. I hope that the astonishment left him and that he became accustomed to it when he saw the amendment which immediately follows his own on the Marshalled List, which I think is an earnest of our good intentions. But having an open mind does not mean that we necessarily agree with everything that is put before us by way of amendment. In this case, I must say that the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, has voiced a good deal of the anxiety which I myself feel on this matter. I think that the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, are more appropriate to the amendment which follows this on the Marshalled List, and I am sure the Committee will remember them. But, in this case, it really is necessary to retain the term:
the function of which is to ensure that in certain cases a mentally disordered patient may be admitted whose mental condition has not been fully diagnosed. This situation may arise where a mentally disordered patient needs to be admitted for assessment before he can be diagnosed, or where he needs to be admitted in an emergency. The 1959 Act therefore provides that the criteria for admission for assessment or observation under Section 25 and for admission in an emergency for 72 hours under Section 29 encompass patients who are suffering from a mental disorder or disability of mind whose specific nature has not been diagnosed, and who therefore cannot be said to be suffering from one of the four named conditions. The Act also provides that such patients who are already in hospital voluntarily may be detained under Section 30, as this power is also likely to be used at times of emergency when there is no time for full diagnosis. There may also be cases where it is appropriate to detain under an assessment or emergency power a patient who may not be suffering from one of the four named conditions, but who is nevertheless mentally disturbed and needs care for a short time. Examples of this situation are cases of abnormal mental state associated with drug abuse or alcohol abuse, where there is a danger to health and safety of the patient or others and where there is concern as to the presence of an underlying mental illness which has not yet been diagnosed. The effect of removing the term:"any other disorder or disability of mind",
would therefore be to make it difficult, or indeed impossible, to detain some patients in cases of genuine need. The removal of the term might also force those responsible for diagnosis to make hasty judgments about a patient's condition, if it was thought that the patient did need to be detained. I am satisfied that under the existing provisions a person who is mentally disordered but not suffering from any of the named conditions can only be detained when it is reasonable to do so. Moreover, such a patient may not be detained under any of the long-term powers in the Act. I can easily allay the noble Lord's concern, if it is in this area, because the patient can only be detained, as I have said, under short-term powers where, for the reasons already referred to, it is not possible or appropriate to diagnose the patient before admission as suffering from one of the named conditions. I hope that your Lordships will not accept this amendment."any other disorder or disability of mind",
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, has performed a helpful service in moving his amendment. It is agreed among all who think about this matter that Section 4 of the 1959 Act is not satisfactory as it stands, and that it needs amendment. On behalf of the mentally handicapped, having had to apply my mind to this problem, I must say that it did not seem that an amendment of the kind which he proposes to subsection (1) of Section 4 of the 1959 Act would really do the trick, if I may put it that way.It is subsections (2) and (3) which have caused the difficulty in the administration of the Act, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Hunter, whom we respect, has said. Your Lordships will have noticed that my noble friend Lord Elton has proposed substantial amendments to the Bill which would have the effect of improving subsections (2) and (3) of Section 4 of the 1959 Act. Speaking for myself, I feel that that is a more satisfactory way of dealing with what is undoubtedly a problem. May I say how pleased I was personally to hear the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, speak on this matter, because when he was the Speaker in another place he was unable to speak about the mentally handicapped, but he did so much to help them even to the extent of giving a Christmas party for about 100 mentally handicapped children in the Speaker's House every Christmas. That was enormously appreciated, and I have had no other good opportunity of saying so until now. Bearing in mind what has been said by noble Lords who have spoken, I would respectfully suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that it would be best not to press this amendment but to concentrate our attention upon the amendments which follow in the name of my noble friend Lord Elton.
My name is associated with this amendment, and like my noble friend I feel strongly about its value. But I think many of us on this side would be very much influenced by what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has had to say, and what he has to say so far as the whole of this Bill is concerned. I would have been happier if the noble Lord the Minister could have come to the Committee—and this is not a criticism—and given some indication of the number of persons admitted who do not immediately on admission come under any of the four categories.Listening to what has been said, it would seem that an enormous number of men and women are admitted where they are not instantly recognised as coming under any one of the four main categories. If this is so then there is a strong case perhaps for my noble friend and I to look at this amendment again. But there is the danger that if we do not use this opportunity to define as carefully as possible what we mean by "mental disorder" and "mental handicap" we may not get another for many years. It is quite wrong for a society to have on the statute book an Act of any kind which is so wide that people can be put in a position of having to undergo certain things when in point of fact it is not clearly defined that there is a right to have them and to take them in. I do not know whether the noble Lord the Minister can help us so far as that is concerned. We are not going to be difficult about this. We are always impressed by the vast knowledge that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has on these matters, but if the noble Lord the Minister could help us a bit more on this I think that perhaps many of us would be amenable to suggestion.
I have spent a certain amount of time both in England and France with mentally handicapped people of various ages. I therefore think that the wording of this particular amendment is just a little unfortunate. I say that because it says:
in immediate conjunction. We all know that most mentally handicapped people, even the severely mentally handicapped, are not also psychopathic. You may get a very few cases where they are both, but this is a tiny minority. The fact that the amendment is worded in this way is likely to increase the misapprehensions which are unfortunately still all too current among the general public. That is why I ask the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, not to press the amendment in this present form."severe mental handicap and psychopathic disorder"
I hope it may be of help to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and his noble friends if I say that I am advised that fewer than 100 detained patients at any time fall outside the four defined categories. This may put the problem into a perspective which it may not have had when we began discussing it. That aside, I still maintain that the provision in the Act is necessary and that the terminology in the Bill is correct if we are to deal with people whose condition cannot be diagnosed at the time when their admission is sought. I therefore resist this amendment.
I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I am not too happy about the Minister's reply. There is a point of substance here. It may be that some form of rewording might meet the case. Even if only 100 patients are involved, the risk is there. I shall take account of what has been said today, and study Hansard and take a bit of advice. The Minister might even give me some. I am prepared to withdraw the amendment now, and I shall possibly come back at Report stage with something more acceptable to the House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 9, leave out ("handicap or severe mental handicap") and insert ("impairment or severe mental impairment").
The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 2 and 4 together comprise a new definition of certain people affected by the Bill. If I may, I shall speak to them together. There are five consequential amendments in Clause 1 which I shall move at the same time, and many others throughout the Bill. When I come to the numerous consequential amendments I hope again that, to save time, the Committee will give me leave to move them en bloc.
When your Lordships discussed this Bill at Second Reading there was very nearly universal concern at the way mentally handicapped people were included in its operation. It was felt that the incorporation of the term "mental handicap" led to a misunderstanding of that condition by the authorities and even, it was said by some noble Lords, by the courts. It was felt that a very clear distinction should be made between mentally handicapped people and people who were mentally ill. Some of your Lordships felt that mentally handicapped people should be subject to completely different legislation and that they should not, in any case, be subject to the operation either of this Bill or of the 1959 Act which it seeks to amend. Perhaps the most trenchant advocate of those views was my noble friend Lord Renton.
In the course of that debate I gave voice to my own anxieties about what would flow from adopting the position of my noble friend and his supporters. I could not escape then, and I cannot escape now, from the conclusion that there is a very small proportion of mentally handicapped people who do need to be detained and for whom, if they were excluded from this Bill, there would be no place outside a prison. I believed, as I still do, that a prison was not the right place for people who need hospital treatment and it would be very wrong indeed to consign them to it. To provide parliamentary time for totally separate and partly parallel legislation, on the other hand, was impracticable. The course proposed would, therefore, inevitably have that effect.
However, I did undertake, when I presented this Bill for your Lordship's discussion at Second Reading, that the Government would listen very carefully to your Lordships and would not seek simply to drive this Bill through Parliament in the form which had already been decided upon—much to the astonishment of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany. In view of the concern which had been expressed on all sides of the House, therefore, I took the Bill away to consider whether we could not do something to meet it.
I ought, perhaps, to add that the pressure to which I was subjected during the Second Reading debate did not die away in the Recess. In particular my noble friend Lord Renton was at great pains, in his capacity of chairman of Royal Mencap, to see that a change was brought about, and I should like to acknowledge his very constructive contribution to the search for a way forward.
The amendments which I now bring forward are designed to remove the terms "mental handicap" and "severe mental handicap" wherever they appear in the Bill, which will now have the effect of removing also the terms "subnormality" and "severe subnormality" in the 1959 Act. In place of both, we shall have the terms "mental impairment" and "severe mental impairment". This does not, however, remove from the operation either of the Act or the Bill those people for whom a period of detention in hospital is essential. To secure that result, we had to find new terms to describe their condition. These terms are, as I have said, "mental impairment" and "severe mental impairment". The term impairment is already in very appropriate usage, as it is used by the World Health Organisation to describe any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function. It occurs in the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps published by the World Health Organisation in Geneva in 1980.
Having provided the substitute term, we had next to ensure that it was not going to be used to describe any people other than the small group to whom we wished it to apply. We therefore attached to it the requirement that, where the Act is to have effect upon a mentally
impaired or severely mentally impaired person, that impairment must be,
"associated with abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct".
We have tried in this phrase not only to establish the requirement that the behaviour of the person to whom the Bill applies shall be aggressive or irresponsible, but that it shall be aggressive or irresponsible to a marked degree. We did so by using the adjectives "abnormally" and "seriously". We did so after a long dictionary search and a good deal of discussion, in which my noble friend—to whose assiduity on behalf of the mentally handicapped I should again like to pay tribute—took his fair share. I do not think we can get any closer to expressing our intention, which is to limit the effect of the Bill and the Act on mentally handicapped people to those very few people for whom detention in hospital is essential so that treatment can be provided and for whom detention in prison should he avoided. That is the interpretation we intend to he put on these words. The revised definitions, and the interpretation I have just outlined, extend also of course to powers to receive people into guardianship.
We have also proposed to replace the word "patient" in the definitions of "mental impairment" and "severe mental impairment" with the words "person concerned". As my noble friend rightly pointed out to us, in normal usage a person is not called a "patient" until he has been placed under medical care. The alternative term he suggested for use in the definitions is therefore a sensible improvement. We intend to make the same change in the definition of "psychopathic disorder" to bring it into line. This amendment is a genuine attempt to meet the wishes that your Lordships expressed on Second Reading. I believe it will bring real benefit to those whom it affects and I hope it will be welcomed by the Committee. I beg to move.
In supporting this series of amendments, I wish to thank my noble friend Lord Elton for the vast amount of trouble and care he has taken since Second Reading, even to the extent of interrupting his short holiday during our winter Recess. He has taken trouble to meet the strong case which I put forward on Second Reading on behalf of the mentally handicapped and which was supported by noble Lords in all parts of the House, and I wish to thank them, too, for what they said. I hope I am not speaking indiscriminately when I say I wish especially to acknowledge my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, whose experience and advocacy were very helpful indeed in supporting the case I put forward, a case which Mencap have been advocating for at least five years; namely, that the confusion between mental illness and mental handicap which arises from Section 4 and other Parts of the 1959 Act should somehow be overcome.We were, I confess, disappointed when first we saw the Bill, but, thanks to my noble friend, we now feel that honour is satisfied. Also, I am able to relieve the Committee by confessing that it saves me the trouble of tabling and moving about 20 amendments myself. Noble Lords will recollect that injustices have occurred through the mentally handicapped being confused with the mentally ill, even in the highest possible circles, and not only in the courts. Remarkable though it may seem, there was even confusion recently in the mind of the authorities of your Lordships' House, who, when on 9th December my noble friend Lord Belstead gave a Written Answer to my Question asking how many crimes of homicide and causing grevious bodily harm had been committed by mentally handicapped people, printed it in Hansard under the heading, "Mentally-ill persons: violent crimes", and I hope a correction will be made in the hound volume. Mainly as a result of such confusion of thought, many mentally handicapped people have wrongly been made the subject of compulsory hospital orders and guardianship orders under Parts IV and V of the 1959 Act. But it does not end there, because this confusion has, as I say, led the courts to use their ordinary powers to impose custodial sentences of one kind and another on mentally handicapped people in circumstances which were most inappropriate. As my noble friend Lord Elton indicated, prison, detention centres and borstal are not the sort of places where the mentally handicapped can be coped with. But, as he rightly pointed out, and as we have acknowledged all along, there is a hard core of difficult cases in which mentally handicapped people have behaved in a seriously anti-social way. They have behaved in a way more like what is expected of psychopaths, although they cannot be classified as psychopaths; they are simply mentally handicapped. In that limited number, fortunately a small number of such cases, it is necessary for them to be placed in secure care for the protection both of themselves and of the public. This series of Government amendments in our opinion achieves what is necessary for such cases. They make it clear, by a rather subtle use of a new term—new in our statute law, as I understand it—"impairment", that the mentally handicapped will not be subject to the compulsory provisions of Parts IV and V of the 1959 Act unless their state of mind is associated with "abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct". If I may presume to amplify what my noble friend said on one narrow point, I think we should acknowledge that, although the use of "impairment" is new, the use of the expression "abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct" is not new; it is borrowed from the definition of "psychopathic disorder" in the 1959 Act. I must confess that I have no objection to that, and indeed it seems accurately to describe that small number of difficult cases which we all have in mind. The fact that, so far as I know, that phrase has given rise to no difficulty of interpretation under the 1959 Act should encourage us to use it in the circumstances which my noble friend Lord Elton has described and which I, too, have attempted to describe. Therefore it seems that a proper result which should give satisfaction all round has been achieved by my noble friend, and so it is with real gratitude that I support his amendments.
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord a few questions. One of them is in order to clarify the situation, because I am rather muddled. Do we now have the mentally ill, the mentally handicapped, and the mentally impaired?— because I looked up in the dictionary the term, "to impair", and it stated, "to make worse". So are these people to be written off as a rather hopeless small group?
The intention of the amendment is in no way to attach a pejorative label; it is merely to secure that these most unfortunate people do not have to go to prison and to do that by a means which also secures that the other people to whom the noble Baroness refers as mentally handicapped are not willy-nilly exposed to being detained in hospital for treatment when in fact their condition does not warrant such treatment. I shall not go into an elaboration of the definition; I merely commend to the noble Baroness the publication that I mentioned, which extends for pages.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for his amendments, which certainly go a long way to meet the requirements of a number of us in your Lordships' Committee. While I am prepared to support the amendments, I am not too happy about the use of the phrase "impairment or severe mental impairment". I fully appreciate the effort made to resolve a problem, but the words used still appear to me to be somewhat vague. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, referered to the subtle use of words, and I think that he is quite accurate there. However, whether that be so or otherwise, what is proposed here removes an injustice from the Bill, and that is the main thing. We can be worried about whether the words are subtle or otherwise, but generally speaking we are prepared to support the amendments.
I should like to add that I am very grateful for the noble Lord's support. The short definition relating to the general term "impairment" to which I have referred is in the context of health experience, and impairment is,
It goes on, but I think that that defines it clearly enough."any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological, or anatomical structure or function".
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendments Nos. 3 to 7:
Page 1, line 14, leave out ("handicap") and insert ("impairment").
Page 1, line 17, at end insert ("and is associated with abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on the part of the person concerned.").
Page 1, line 18, leave out ("handicap") and insert ("impairment").
Page 1, line 20, leave out ("handicap") and insert ("impairment").
Page 1, line 21, at end insert ("and is associated with abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on the part of the person concerned".").
The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 3 to 7 all relate to Clause 1 and follow from what I have just said. With your Lordships leave, I shall move them en bloc. I beg to move.
On Question, amendments agreed to.
I think that it would be for the convenience of your Lordships if we now take the Statement, and with that in mind I beg to move that the House do now resume.Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
The Yorkshire Ripper Case
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:"With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the review of the Yorkshire Ripper case carried out, at my request, by Mr. Lawrence Byford, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary. "I asked him to report on any lessons which might be learned from the conduct of the investigation and which should be made known to police forces generally. Mr. Byford was assisted in his review by the external advisory team set up in November 1980. He was also able to take account of views put to him about this tragic case by relatives of the victims, who greatly appreciated the opportunity to voice their misgivings. "I have now received and considered Mr. Byford's report and I am extremely grateful to him for it. I should like to let the House know of its main conclusions and recommendations. A more detailed summary has been placed in the Library. "It is apparent from the report that there were major errors of judgment by the police and some inefficiencies in the conduct of the operation at various levels. In particular, excessive credence was given to the letters and tape from a man claiming responsibility for the series of murders and signing himself Jack the Ripper. Another serious handicap to the investigation was the ineffectiveness of the major incident room which became overloaded with unprocessed information. With hindsight, it is now clear that if these errors and inefficiencies had not occurred, Sutcliffe would have been indentified as a prime suspect sooner than he was. Mr Byford's report concludes that there is little doubt that he should have been arrested earlier, on the facts associated with his various police interviews. "I would remind the House that the Ripper case gave rise to the largest criminal investigation ever conducted in this country, imposing a great strain on all concerned. It would have been surprising if in this unprecedented situation there were no mistakes. What we now have to do is to respond constructively to the considerable experience gained in the course of it in order to ensure that future investigations of crimes such as this are carried out as effectively and quickly as possible. "I now turn, therefore, to the lessons for the future and to the recommendations made by Mr. Byford. As will be seen from the statement in the Library, these deal comprehensively with the management requirements of the investigation of a series of major crimes; the training of senior detectives and personnel working in major incident rooms; the command of investigations involving a number of crimes which cross force boundaries; the harnessing for such investigations of the best detective and forensic science skills in the country; and the use of computer technology. "I welcome Mr. Byford's recommendations on these matters. They are already being followed up with representatives of the police service. They provide valuable guidelines for the operational conduct of very large criminal investigations in police forces generally. They will require a constructive commitment at all levels of the police service."
My Lords, that is the Statement.
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for repeating the Statement of the Home Secretary. I should think that it is one of the most disturbing Statements ever made to Parliament, where the conclusion of this painstaking inquiry is that with hindsight it is now clear that, if the errors and inefficiencies that are described had not occurred,
There were nine interviews, my Lords, and a number of women's lives would have been saved but for the errors that have occurred. I should like to say that to deal with this Statement and situation as we have to do now, without having received a copy of the report, is a most unsatisfactory parliamentary process. I saw about a quarter of an hour ago the brief summary which is now in the Library, and I saw half an hour ago a copy of the Home Secretary's Statement. This is no way to deal with these grave matters. When one comes to look at the summary which is now available in the Library, and one reads of "major errors of judgment by the police", the situation is indeed serious. There is reference to "inefficiencies … at various levels", and there is a description of how the errors arose. First of all, there was the "ineffectiveness of the major incident room", cluttered up with unrelated pieces of information, and information which was overlooked. Then there was:"Sutcliffe would have been identified as a prime suspect sooner than he was. Mr. Byford's report concludes that there is little doubt that he should have been arrested earlier, on the facts associated with his various police interviews".
Then there is criticism of the attitudes and failures of the interviewing officers at the nine interviews, often inadequately briefed before the interviews,"Insufficient attention … to the significant common elements in photo-fit impressions obtained from surviving victims of hammer assaults".
Then, it is true and right that the House should know that the summary praises the fact that the vast majority of officers involved in the case,"principally as a result of the ineffectiveness of the major incident room".
However, as I have already read, if it had not been for the errors of judgment and inefficiencies Sutcliffe would have been caught much sooner. Then, as to what are proposed as "Lessons for the future"—and I am bound to say, if I may, that was not very reassured by the Home Secretary's statement that the recommendations have already been followed up—there is a great deal of necessity now to reassure the public as to the efficiency of the police in the investigation of major crime; and I hope the recommendations made in the report are being given effect to now, and vigorously. Under "Lessons for the future", there are suggestions as to what should be done in the major incident room, as to the need for the computerisation of records and as to the need for one officer in overall command to have authority where there is a case of "series" crimes arising in different areas. Then, what is most startling in the report, if I may say so, is the simple fact of lack of training. It says:"worked diligently and conscientiously throughout the Ripper investigation".
Why has that not been done? Does training stop at a low level in the police ladder? I cannot believe so. It continues:"There should be better training of senior investigating officers of the rank of assistant chief constable to equip them with the management skills required for the conduct of a large-scale inquiry".
I think the House will want to know what has been done since the report was received to have urgent steps taken into the needs of training in the senior ranks of the police force, and what the Home Office powers are in this field. Are they wide enough in the Home Office, through the constables, to go into these matters? Then there is a recommendation for the appointment of an ad hoc advisory team where there is a massive continuation of crime of this kind,"Similarly there needs to be appropriate management training for officers of chief superintendent or superintendent rank. There should be adequate training for staff of major incident rooms".
My Lords, we have those talents; they are available. I hope we shall hear that this proposal of the chief inspector of constabulary is being put into effect at once. There are other important matters in the report, which has been disclosed in full frankness. There has been no white-washing in this matter; but it has raised grave matters, and much needs to be done now by the Home Office to reassure the public."harnessing the best detective and forensic science talent in the country".
My Lords, from these Benches we, too, are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for the Statement, and broadly support the conclusions of Mr. Byford's review, though any such support must be provisional at this stage, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said, because of the short time one has had to consider the very serious matters disclosed by the review.It is fairly clear from the review that there has been no attempt to cover up; no punches have been pulled, and it seems to be a very full and clear report. It reveals that reliance on tapes and letters was a tragic mistake, as were other matters which have already been mentioned. Since it is obvious that the manual indexing processes used in the police inquiries were not capable of bringing vital clues together, would the noble Lord the Minister agree that in crimes of great seriousness, and subject to safeguards of individual liberty and privacy which would satisfy the police authorities in the country, it would be a legitimate use of computer technology to store such information on individuals as would enable the links to be made which might then help to lead to specific suspects, which clearly did not happen in this particular case? Finally, would the noble Lord the Minister not agree that the report underlines once again the need to create, maintain and extend closer and better links between the police and the public?
My Lords, may I say to both the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, that I fully understand, as I know the rest of the House does, the deep concern which they have expressed about what the noble and learned Lord referred to as "one of the most disturbing Statements made to Parliament". But the fact of the matter is that it seemed most forcefully to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary that what was needed in the present circumstances was an independent professional review of what has been an operational matter covering crimes which we know spread over a period of years running from 1975 to 1980, although of course the activities of this particular criminal may have spread over a wider period than that; and this is what Mr. Byford's report has indeed provided. If I may say so, the Library summary makes it clear, as both noble Lords were good enough to say, not only that the review was extremely thorough but that there has been no attempt to conceal shortcomings.My Lords, having just said that perhaps I may try to reply to the points which were put to me. The lessons and action for the future are, of course, very clearly set out in the second half of the Library summary; and, indeed, action is already being taken—for instance, on the point about computers, which the noble Lord, Lord Evans, specifically raised. As Mr. Byford's report shows, the police in West Yorkshire considered the possibility of using computers for the major incident room records, but suitable facilities had not been developed. Work is now in hand to develop such facilities, and a Home Office circular to chief officers about this matter has already been issued earlier on this month. Similarly, on the specific matter of training, which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, understandably raised, again the recommendations as far as training is concerned are very clearly set out in the second half of the Library summary, and these will be considered urgently in the context of the Police Training Council.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that many of the rest of us in this House also welcome the frankness of this Statement by the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary? May I ask the noble Lord two specific questions, really on the two points he has just dealt with—first, computers and, secondly, training? First, on the point relating to computers and the particular point made in the right honourable gentleman's Statement about the ineffectiveness of the major incident room, does the noble Lord realise that there are quite significant resource implications in this and in the recommendation as far as training is concerned, and that one of the problems facing the police service is the pressure on their budget imposed by many police authorities? Is this matter, too, going to be considered in the review which will take place in the Home Office?Secondly, on the question of training, particularly of officers of the rank of superintendent and above, is the noble Lord aware that although there has been a substantial improvement in the reputation of the Police College in the recent past, nevertheless the resources made available for training at that level in the police service compare extremely unfavourably with the resources made available for comparable ranks in the armed services? Is the noble Lord's right honourable friend the Home Secretary prepared to consider the present resources made available to the Police College, to make it possible for them to provide courses of this kind which, clearly, are a matter of urgent priority at the moment?
My Lords, if I may reply on the two points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, the resource implications, which, as the noble Lord rightly says, are present as far as improving the use of computers—which I think he would agree with his experience is quite essential in the prosecution of these "major series crimes" (as Mr. Byford's report called them)—will be taken into account in considering the implementation of Mr. Byford's recommendations in that respect. As far as the resource implications for training are concerned, there are resource implications also for training which follow the Scarman Report. The report of the noble and learned Lord is to be debated in this House in about a fortnight's time. I would give the undertaking that those resource implications in the light of that report and of this report, will be taken urgently and seriously into account in the ambit of the police training council.
My Lords, as has been said in many parts of the House after this very disquieting Statement, tribute ought to be paid to Mr. Byford and his colleagues for the very frank and open way in which their report has been delivered. It is a credit to the cleanliness of the administration of this country that such a report should appear. But the main reason for disquiet does not appear yet to have been expressed. If this were a report which followed upon an isolated murder and the inquiries made by the police, I would have said that we could turn to the Administration and say that an inquiry has been held into this one investigation which took place into this one crime and there appear to have been defects.My Lords, this was a series of crimes announced to the public as being identical in some respects, and therefore pointing to one killer; and where, over a period of time in the public press and elsewhere, questions arose of a very critical nature as to why it was that these inquiries by the police and these investigations seemed to have produced no result. Therefore the question arises—and it is a vital one—why it was that an inquiry into the efficiency of the police and into what was happening in the rooms we heard of and into what was being done by way of consultation with forensic experts, was not made by appropriate people during the course of these substantial periods and during the course of all these crimes; and I have not heard any recommendation made by the noble Lord the Minister. If I may ask him this question, why was it that nothing appears to have been done either by the Home Office or the Inspectorate, or by those at the top of our police force, to inquire into the way in which the investigations were carried out, so that these errors and inefficiencies could have been corrected long since?
My Lords, the noble Lord's question must affect the work of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. For practical reasons, an annual inspection of a police force can last only a few days and covers the full range of the force's activities. Mr. Byford's review, about which this Statement is concerned, was directed specifically to the Yorkshire Ripper investigation and involved 5 months' intensive work with the support of an expert team. Many of the weaknesses in the investigation became apparent only as a result of this special review.So far as the position of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and of the Home Office generally is concerned, I would say to the House that during this tragic series of events in November 1979, Commander Nevill of the Metropolitan Police and a detective chief superintendent, as a matter of fact at the invitation of the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, examined the investigation and in January 1980 made recommendations to the chief constable and then, in November 1980, following an initiative by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, an advisory team of four senior officers from outside police forces and a senior Home Office forensic scientist reviewed the case and, in December 1980, reported their findings to the chef constable. It was just after that, that finally the criminal was apprehended.
My Lords, the two cases quoted are not the only ones or of the only type that are disturbing the public at the moment. May I therefore ask the noble Lord if he will consider other aspects which may need looking into as well?
My Lords, I am not clear from the noble Viscount's question what are the other aspects. Perhaps it will be possible for the noble Viscount to have a word with me afterwards.
My Lords, I had in mind last night's television programme on rape. Many of us are very worried about that programme and the method of questioning and so on which went on in it. I did not wish to raise a different issue. That is why I put the question in the form that I did. I am sorry.
My Lords, that is a different issue. Perhaps I might consult the noble Viscount about it afterwards.
Mental Health (Amendment) Bill Hl
House again in Committee.
Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 2 [ Other amendments of definition of mental disorder]:
moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 2, line 8, leave out ("patient") and insert ("person concerned").
The noble Lord said: This follows Amendment No. 4. It deals with the term "person concerned" instead of "patient". I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 9:
After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
("Patients to be informed of rights.
. All patients admitted to hospital, whether under the provisions of the Principal Act or this Act or otherwise, shall be informed of their rights under the Principal Act and this Act verbally and in writing within a period of 24 hours from the time of their admission; and such information shall be given in a form appropriate to individual patients.").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move the new clause standing in my name and in that of my noble friends. The White Paper on the Mental Health Act which was published by the last Labout Government in 1978 accepted the proposal that all patients, whether admitted to hospital formally or informally, should be fully informed of their rights. This amendment relates specifically to the provision of this information as a legal requirement within the 24 hours following admission. Just as important is a continuing duty on the hospital to keep the patient informed, particularly of any change or proposed change in his status.
May I ask whether the noble Lord is intending to discuss Amendment No. 13 with Amendment No. 9 in view of the similarity of the issue? If so, it would be as well to know at the outset.
That was not my intention. If my amendment is accepted I do not know what will happen to Lord Winstanley's amendment. I am quite sympathetic to his amendment but I am not part of the alliance so there is a problem here. In fact I definitely refuse to be a part. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, can be of assistance.
The Committee may have noticed that I have been exhibiting an uncharacteristic taciturnity hitherto in these proceedings. I must apologise for arriving with a dreadful cold. I say that merely so that the Committee will understand that doctors are just as delighted as anybody else to discuss their own ailments, and also that my contribution to these proceedings will be somewhat brief this afternoon.On this point my noble friends and I have given some consideration to Amendment No. 9. We find it effective in certain ways and we might comment on those when we come to discussion on the amendment. Frankly, we prefer our own amendment which is similar. If it is for the convenience of the Committee that we discuss the amendments simultaneously, naturally we are only too happy to arrive at whatever solution is most satisfactory.
I do not want to be difficult but I think that my amendment is better than the noble Lord's amendment and goes much further. I am not trying to be difficult because this is not a Bill to get difficult about; it is a question of co-operation. If the noble Lord wishes to discuss the amendment it is all right with me; but I am dealing specifically with my amendment and I will not refer to Lord Winstanley's amendment. If he wishes to bring in his amendment, it is a free country and he is welcome. The Committee I am sure will be pleased to hear him, but not for too long of course. He is not always a very lengthy speaker.I will resume as I started because this whole matter has been reduced to a state almost of confusion. The White Paper on the Mental Health Act published by the last Labour Government in 1978 accepted the proposal that all patients, whether admitted to hospital formally or informally, shall be fully informed of their rights. This amendment relates specifically to the provision of this information as a legal requirement within the first 24 hours following admission. However, just as important is a continuing duty on the hospital to keep the patient informed, particularly of any change or proposed change in his status. No duty to provide a patient with this information at present exists, although over the years since 1959 circulars have issued guidance in vague terms. There is no point whatever in an individual enjoying particular rights unless he knows how and through whom they can be exercised. This proposal has been supported by the United Nations and World Health Organisation studies. The necessary information for the patient would include information on (a) the right to refuse treatment; (b) the right to a second opinion; (c) susceptibility to be detained under Section 30; (d) the right to leave hospital; and (e) the right to receive correspondence, together with rights in relation to mental health review tribunal applications and the role of the Mental Health Act commission. In many cases a patient's disturbed mental state on admission may mean that he or she is not fully receptive to such explanation; one would understand that. Therefore, there should be every opportunity during admission for regular restatement of their rights and full opportunity for the patient to ask questions and to resolve uncertainties. It does not need my words to describe this amendment as very important because the whole tenor of this Bill—and I know that the noble Lord the Minister will accept this—lies within human rights. Human rights are to some extent enshrined in this Bill. Therefore, this amendment has this in mind. In my view it should be accepted. It is fundamental to the question of human rights that the affected individuals should be made fully aware of such rights as are embodied in this Bill or will be embodied after amendment. I have already said this at the beginning and it is perfectly true. It is of no use whatever to talk about human rights in vague terms unless the individual affected by such rights understands them exactly or has someone to ensure that those rights are afforded to him. There is nothing so far in the Bill to that effect. I appeal to the Government and the Minister to go along the road towards accepting the amendment. If the Minister says that certain words may be adjusted, then that is all right with me. What we want—and what I am sure the Committee wants—is some assurance from the Government that this very vital principle should be accepted and put into operation. I beg to move.
After the previous brief exchange, I ought to make it utterly clear to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, that we are entirely in sympathy with the aims of his amendment. Anything I said before should not be taken to indicate otherwise. When I said that we had certain doubts about this amendment, they arise from drafting points. The amendment says:
That means all patients—including maternity patients—within the wording of the Act must have their rights explained to them. Secondly, the requirement here is that patients should be informed of their rights. It seems to me that what is absolutely essential is that there should be a requirement to make it utterly certain that patients are not only informed of but understand their rights. That is rather more important than the mere technical matter of making sure that they are informed, whether by writing or verbally, as the noble Lord's amendment says. This amendment has certain defects so far as its wording is concerned. I shall be interested to hear comments on that point. As written it appears to me to apply to all patients admitted to hospital for any purposes and in any circumstances. If I am wrong, then no doubt the noble Lord will correct me."All patients admitted to hospital, whether under the provisions of the Principal Act or this Act or otherwise".
In rising to support Lord Wallace of Coslany's amendment, I should like to ask him a question. It is also on the wording. When a patient is informed verbally, that is fine; he may or may not understand it. If he is going to be shown a written board which is then taken away from him he may not understand it. I hope that it is made clear that the rights of a person would be left in written form with each individual. That is the only question which I wish to raise.
I thank the noble Baroness for intervening on that point. What I have in mind is that the individual shall possess the information in clear and definable written terms as well as being given it verbally. He can hand this to his next-of-kin, if necessary, to deal with it.
There seems to be an omission from each of the Amendments, Nos. 9 and 13: namely, what is to happen when the patient is incapable of understanding? This may be because of his permanent mental state; it may be mental handicap, although we do not reckon that mentally handicapped people should become patients within the definition of the Act because they are not treatable. However, supposing the person concerned is not capable of understanding, however hard an attempt is made under Amendment No. 13 to ensure that the patient understands his rights. It is very difficult to ensure that the patient understands. Of course, it may be that the answer to this problem which I have mentioned is to bring in a relative, not necessarily the nearest relative— we have to debate that yet, and it may not be the right expression anyway. But I would be uneasy about each of these amendments because I think they are incomplete.
I think the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has raised an important point; but simply because a hospital may have to admit a number of people who are not compos mentis and therefore cannot have the situation explained to them, that does not relieve society from providing the provision. Therefore I think the provision has to be provided for those who can understand or have ways and means of being communicated with so that they can understand what the situation is. We may have to look round for other additional means to cater for those who are in difficulties and who would not be able to understand the situation, but it does not relieve society of the responsibility of seeing that the provision is there.If I may turn to the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, if he will allow me to say so, I think the difficulty is that it does not apply to every hospital. We are talking about all patients admitted to hospital whether under the provision of the principal Act or otherwise. The principal Act here is the Mental Health Act 1959, so it really must apply to mental health patients going in under that particular heading. Therefore I do not think it can be interpreted as applying to every hospital, regardless of the discipline of the hospital. It may be that neither amendment really meets the total situation, but I think that the time factor must go in, and it seems to me a weakness of this particular amendment that it has no time limit. I believe it is important that this should be done immediately. Whether or not either or both need tidying up is a matter that can be looked at between now and Report stage, but I leave it to my noble friend to decide what he is going to do.
I think there is a weakness in my noble friend's amendment, and it is the words "or otherwise". I think that is the point which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, because all the provisions here apply only to persons detained under one or other Mental Health Act, and not to maternity patients. Pregnancy is not yet considered to be a mental disorder.
May I briefly say that it is obvious to all of us with any knowledge of what goes on in psychiatric hospitals or those who deal with those afflicted with these illnesses that in many cases they are not able to understand what are supposed to be their rights as envisaged in this Bill. But I think we will find that in this Bill there will be a guardian, a social worker, the next of kin or a relative involved, and I would suggest that people who will be in one of those four categories should in their loco parentis role be apprised of what rights are available.
Being a member of a board of visitors, I find that in the penal institutions the inmates do have all their rights fully explained to them, it so happens by a member of staff. They are told of their right to appeal and of their right to see members of the board, visitors and so on. It really amazes me that in mental institutions the—I must not call them inmates—patients do not have the same advantages. Therefore I strongly support the spirit of both the amendments.
Perhaps we are talking about both amendments by now: I am not 100 per cent. sure but let us assume that we are, for the moment. As my noble friend Lord Winstanley said, I am completely behind the spirit of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. I think it is highly necessary that a clause of this kind is put into the Bill but I am behind my noble friend in saying that I want the word "understand" put in. I think it is important, despite the argument that has been going on about the number of patients in psychiatric hospitals who cannot understand. There will be no force in the amendment unless the word "understand" is there, whether it refers to the patient, a relative or a social worker. Just to "inform" is not enough.May I turn for a moment to our amendment which uses the word "understand", which is the word I prefer. The reason we put it down relating to admission to hospital for assessment is that it particularly relates to that situation. I think that a great number of patients—probably the majority—who are admitted for assessment only would, because it is a short-term admission, not be aware of the rights they have to appeal to a mental health review tribunal. So I feel it is necessary to put it in to make certain that that patient too has the right to appeal to a mental health review tribunal.
I think the important thing about this amendment is that it is made firmly according to law: in other words, it must be made to stick legally. In a number of these hospitals one has patients from overseas countries where there are no relatives and perhaps no next of kin living in this country. Therefore we are up against the difficulty that it may involve perhaps the legal friends of the hospital or somebody of that kind.I am a little worried about this 24-hour limit. I would be the very first to advocate that all inmates or patients in mental hospitals—and like many of your Lordships I have served on the committee of a mental hospital—should have as many rights as can possibly be given to them. But we must be realistic, particularly regarding those patients who are quite unable, through circumstances over which they have no control, to advocate their rights. I am very unhappy about this 24-hour limit of time, particularly in cases such as occur in Epsom, the area where I live, where we have seven large mental hospitals, with patients, and indeed staff, from all over the world, and it may be that a near relative or even a friend cannot be traced. I would hope that my noble friend would look at the length of time in the clause. But, having said that, I and I think most of the Committee would support strongly the principle behind the amendment.
I think this has been a valuable debate. I do not want to say "I told you so" but it was quite useful that we should have dealt with both amendments together in the end. I should like to say that I, too, favour the principles embodied in both amendments, though I fear I find deficiencies in each. Certainly the Government accept the importance of ensuring that all patients detained under the Act are informed of their rights. One of the principal aims of the Bill, after all, is to increase the rights of detained patients, and it is important that they should know what they are. But procedures already exist to make sure that patients are informed of their rights, as the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, has assured your Lordships. A leaflet is issued to all patients detained under long-term powers when they are admitted, which explains the rights simply and clearly—of course, in cases where the patient is capable of understanding a leaflet. We intend that the leaflet will in future also be issued to patients detained under section 25, telling them of their rights, newly introduced by this Bill—if your Lordships agree to introduce it—to apply to a mental health review tribunal. Guidance about admission procedures is being prepared for health and local authorities, from which detailed local codes of practice can be constructed, and this will refer to the importance of informing patients of their rights. Therefore, I am content that what should be done is being done. But I am also aware of the feeling of the Committee, in the case of both amendments, that we should do something further.Looking at the first amendment which has, been tabled under the names of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, and his noble friends, it seems to me that the amendment contains a number of deficiencies. First, the 24-hour limit for informing patients appears to me, as it does to my noble friend Lord Auckland, to be inappropriate. A patient may be unsettled or disturbed during the first hours or days after admission. He may be better able to understand the information if he receives it somewhat later. It might, therefore, be more appropriate to require that the patient be informed within a reasonable time of admission. I accept that there are difficulties, and I see the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, sagaciously shaking his head. A reasonable time is an elastic term and it may be necessary to find another term. We are becoming expert in finding terms in this department. Secondly, the requirement to give the information,
implies that a different format should be used for different patients. However, to make the process manageable, hospital authorities will need, as now, to use a standard format of written information for all patients. It does not mean that there need be no interpretation of that—"in a form appropriate to individual patients",
May I make a point on that, because when we were drafting this amendment we had it in mind, in using the words,
to cover linguistic difficulties. It is no use giving someone a leaflet in English, if he speaks only Urdu There may also be other handicaps, such as deafness or blindness, which need special treatment. I thank the noble Lord for letting me explain that."in a form appropriate to individual patients",
Exactly. The noble Baroness and I, and my noble friend, are all addressing ourselves to the same problem; that is, getting the information, which we want the patient to have, to the patient in a form which he can comprehend—which, as my noble friend Lord Renton has said, may well verge upon the impossible.May I draw your Lordships' attention briefly to some technical deficiencies in the proposed new clause? It refers to "All patients admitted to hospital" under the Act as amended "or otherwise". This encompasses voluntary, as well as detained, patients and is therefore outside the scope of the Act. Any rewording would need to make it clear that the provision applies only to patients detained under the principal Act, as amended. As regards the second amendment, which stands in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, and his noble friends, there would be practical drawbacks, also, to an amendment on the lines which he suggested. It would be difficult to define exactly what action the medical practitioner concerned is expected to take. It would be difficult for the practitioner concerned to know at what point he has fulfilled his duty, particularly in cases where the degree of understanding by the patient is difficult to assess. For these reasons, the kind of suggestion raised in the amendment is generally considered best left to guidance, rather than dealt with in legislation. However, as I have said, I accept that it is important to ensure that patients detained under Section 25 understand their right to apply to a tribunal, and this is where the noble Lord's amendment strikes. A patient detained under Section 25, who wishes to apply, must do so within the first 14 days of detention. It is essential, therefore, that he is fully informed at the outset, particularly as there is no alternative mechanism for a patient's case to be heard by a tribunal, if the patient does not himself apply. For patients detained under long-term powers, in contrast, there will be an automatic tribunal hearing after six months' detention, and it may be for this reason that the noble Lord introduced his amendment to strike at this point in the Bill and not at another. Therefore, I accept that the amendment serves a valuable purpose and that the advantages outweigh the practical—but I am now running into the point at which I wish to speak to both amendments simultaneously—
Why not do so?
No. I do not respond to remarks from noble Lords who have not risen to their feet. We are in favour of doing what your Lordships want, which is to place a recognition in the Bill of the duty to enlighten patients as far as may be, and as speedily as may be, of their rights under the Bill. I hope that noble Lords, moving both amendments, will bear with me when I ask them not to press their amendments today if I undertake to introduce at Report stage an amendment which meets the wishes of the Committee on this point, so far as I can manage to do so.
Before the Minister sits down and other noble Lords get up, may I just put the record straight? I said that in penal institutions inmates had everything explained very fully to them, and that is why in mental hospitals the patients also ought to have the same facilities.
I am sorry. I misread the noble Baroness on that point. But it does not affect my determination to do what all your Lordships seem to want me to do, in so far as it proves possible and practical.
May I make a suggestion? There is a great deal of sympathy in the Committee towards both Amendment No. 9 and Amendment No. 13, which have some merits and some demerits. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has kindly offered to come forward with something to satisfy the general feeling in the Committee, and may I suggest that both amendments might be taken and rolled together in a more fruitful whole? I was rather attracted by the suggestion made by the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod. In a case where the understanding was very much in doubt, but where the understanding could be achieved, could there he a fall-back position? I think that the noble Baroness mentioned the next-of-kin, the social worker and various other people who might be brought in. My suggestion is that when the noble Lord takes this away, he might also consider allowing for a fallback position in a case where understanding was virtually impossible to achieve.
Of course, I will do my best to meet the wishes of as many noble Lords as possible. Whether what the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, proposes will prove to be practicable I could not at first blush say, but I will certainly look at it.
I am very grateful, indeed, for the debate that we have had and for the welcome approach by the Minister. It almost made me feel that it was Christmas all over again. I would explain that this 24-hour limit is rather important and we must bear this in mind, because, under the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, as the Minister has suggested, a reasonable time might mean this year, next year, some time, never. It is so indefinite. So far as the next-of-kin are concerned, I certainly have it in mind that that would be a common-sense action on the part of all authorities receiving advice from the Minister. I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, who has now disappeared from sight, that I agree that even maternity cases have rights, but I never, for the life of me, thought that maternity cases would come under this amendment. But, even so, maternity cases have rights.The Minister very clearly accepts the principle and that is very important, indeed. What I want to know is this. He has very kindly offered to come back with an amendment. That is fine, because we shall all be very pleased to see the Government bring in an amendment. Nobody is searching at all for party likes or dislikes in this Bill. All I want to get from the Minister is that if he comes back with an amendment, making notification to the patient or the next-of-kin, as the case may be, a statutory duty, we shall not have some memorandum going around. We want this to be enshrined in the Bill in some way or another. I accept that both our amendments have frailties. That is because we are perhaps not so well advised as the noble Lord, who is blessed with such competent people. If, however, that undertaking is given, nobody will want to press the amendment at this stage.
I think the noble Lord wishes me to repeat what I have already said: that if he withdraws his amendment it is my intention to come to the House at Report with an amendment which will accomplish as much as it is possible and practical for us to accomplish of what he wants. I cannot be more precise than that. Now we have to sit down and start drafting, as the noble Lord sat down and started drafting. We have to iron out the difficulties and consult those people who will have to operate it. Therefore, I do not undertake, and the noble Lord will not undertake, either, that I shall satisfy him until he has seen what I propose. I have undertaken to do my best. If he does not like it, he can persuade your Lordships to throw it out.
Before the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, draws this discussion to a conclusion, I ought to say that, not having moved Amendment No. 13, my noble friends and I would not be in a position to withdraw it. Therefore it seems to me that this is the only opportunity we may have to say to the Minister how grateful we are to him for the assurance which he has given. This is a very important point, and I am very glad to hear that it has been taken on board by the noble Lord and that it will be met. We must make absolutely certain that the rights are fully understood. Without understanding what those rights are, they are not of very much use to anybody. If that principle is fully accepted in your Lordships' Committee, then I and my noble friends will be very happy.
I must protect myself from any misunderstanding. I cannot guarantee, nor can anybody else, that any person will be made to understand anything. I can only guarantee that best efforts shall be made at the best time to achieve this.
I fully understand what the Minister says. I have often felt the same when I have been addressing the Government Front Bench! I accept that if the noble Lord is to move an amendment it will be embodied in the statute. I was going to ask whether there would be a statutory duty, but if the noble Lord moves an amendment it will obviously be in the statute. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 3 [ Admission for assessment]:
moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 2, line 23, after ("assessment") insert ("and/or short-term treatment").
The noble Baroness said: With the indulgence of the Committee and before speaking to this amendment, may I say how sorry I am that my 12 amendments were tabled so late in the day? I realise what a great deal of difficulty and trouble this has caused the Minister. I realise also what a great deal of work it has meant for his private office and for those responsible for drafting and advising him on the Bill. Like the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, all I can say is that there are no excuses but that there are the extenuating circumstances of the weather and the railway. May I also thank the Public Bill Office for taking down a number of amendments on the telephone and therefore undertaking a great deal of extra work?
In moving Amendment No. 10, I am very conscious that Amendment No. 11 is to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington. He probably knows much more about this subject than I. I think the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, will agree that the reality of the situation is that patients who are in hospital for 28 days receive treatment, although it is not—I was going to say legal or acknowledged. My experience, having worked as a social worker in a mental hospital, is that if it is possible for patients during those 28 days to receive treatment it is also possible to find out how they can happily be discharged afterwards. I should like to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, thinks. He inserts the words, ("and if necessary treatment"). My amendment says, "insert ('and/or short-term treatment')". I very much hope that patients going in for treatment on a 28-day order will be able to receive treatment legally during those 28 days. I beg to move.
It has been suggested that the word "and" ought to come out of this amendment. Is it the wish of the noble Baroness that the amendment should read "or"?
No, I do not think so. Can it not remain "and/or"?
I am not making any suggestion. It has been suggested to me by the Clerks that that is what was intended.
What I had intended was that there would be some patients who would do well with short-term treatment and that there would be some who would not. Therefore, it would be "and/or".
I accept that. Amendment proposed, Page 2, line 23, after ("assessment") insert ("and/or short-term treatment"). The Question is that this amendment be agreed to.
Before this amendment is agreed to, may I suggest that a very much better form of drafting would be to say "if necessary", which has exactly the same meaning as "and/or" and is less inelegant.
May I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, what she means by short-term treatment? Does not short-term treatment sometimes have long-term effects?
While my noble friend is considering her answer to that question, may I inquire about the drafting? The point which has been put from the Chair is that "and/or" is not normally met with in legislation. Although we all understand what is meant—and it is very helpful that my noble friend Lady Faithfull has explained that her amendment states exactly what she intends—it is not probably the form in which, if this amendment is adopted, the Bill ought finally to be drafted. So that may be in favour of another form of words.
I am in agreement with the noble Baroness on two counts. There should be an amendment in line 23 and also in line 28.
Is the noble Lord speaking to Amendment No. 10 or to his own amendment? I have put the question. I do not know what situation we have reached. I take it that the noble Baroness will answer?
I should like to be guided by the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington. As a doctor, he will be able to guide me. At this moment, therefore, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, would very kindly speak to Amendment No. 10?
First, I must put the terms of the amendment to the Committee. I am asking the noble Baroness whether she wants to say "and/or" or whether the more usual form of "or" is what she really intends?
At this moment I will say "or".
Amendment proposed: Page 2, line 23, after ("assessment") insert ("or short-term treatment").
The noble Baroness and I are in agreement. I would suggest that Amendment No. 10 should read "and necessary treatment". If we said this, then we should make it clear that treatment could be given and that it should be limited to the treatment necessary to improve the patient's mental state within the limited period.
I am happy—I am not sure of the protocol here—to withdraw this amendment so that the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, may propose his Amendment No. 11.
Is it your Lordships' pleasure that this amendment—
Before that, is it not the case that what the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, has suggested is that the noble Baroness has gone further than he, in that she has recognised the need for an amendment in line 23 as well as in line 28 and therefore has it in both places? What the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, if I understand him correctly, has invited her to do is to substitute the word "necessary" for "short-term" in both amendments. If that is done, the noble Lord is supporting the noble Baroness, and I should like to do the same.
It appears to me that we are not going to get this absolutely right before Report. Perhaps we ought to debate the principles now involved and consider at the end of our discussion whether we can devise a form of words which will meet what we want to do.
In view of what has been said, I will at this stage withdraw the amendment, read Hansard and come back at Report stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 3 [ Admission for assessment.]
moved Amendment No. 10A:
Page 2, line 24, leave out ("and").
The noble Lord said: As will be seen, Amendment No. 10A is merely a paving amendment for Amendment No. 13, which we have already discussed, and also for Amendment No. 13A. Perhaps it would be appropriate if, when speaking to Amendment No. 10A, I speak at the same time to Amendment No. 13A, because it will be readily understood that I shall not be moving Amendment No. 13 when the time comes. Amendment No. 10A is merely a paving amendment for the later Amendment No. 13A, and with the leave of the Committee I will now speak to that amendment.
Amendment No. 13A is a simple amendment which is self-explanatory. It comes entirely within the spirit of the Bill. The Bill aims to increase the safeguards for patients who are admitted for observation or assessment in this way, and this particular amendment refers to the possible predicament of patients who are repeatedly admitted for assessment or observation. For those who are in touch with the actual practice within hospitals and who deal with these cases of people who come in for short-term periods of observation or assessment it is really rather an unhappy situation from time to time to see the same patient coming in repeatedly, at regular intervals.
Neither I nor any of my noble friends are for a moment saying that that is never necessary. Indeed, I am sure that there are circumstances under which it will prove to be necessary for a person to come in for a limited period under restriction and be observed and assessed. It may be possible, and it may even be essential, that the same patient, having returned home, may later have to be reassessed. Nevertheless I feel, as do many of my noble friends, that there are certain inherent dangers in the possible use of a device to make repeated short term admission for assessment virtually the equivalent of a long term detention and admission. This amendment merely seeks to make absolutely sure that where that situation is occurring, where a patient being readmitted under these short term provisions, then those circumstances shall at least be drawn to the attention of the Mental Health Act Commission so that consideration could be given to it in order that any necessary steps might be taken if in fact it is thought that steps are necessary.
I believe it will be clear to noble Lords and to the noble Lord the Minister that my noble friends and I might have preferred (and I say this in the light of later amendments which we are not discussing) instead of the words, "Mental Health Act Commission" the words, "Mental health review tribunal", or perhaps even "Health Advisory Service", which actually does have powers to do something. What we are doing at this stage is merely ventilating a point which we consider to be of some importance, and I propose therefore to regard Amendment No. 13A as a probing amendment on which we can perhaps have the Government's comments as to what their attitude is to the occasional use of these short term provisions to create a situation which virtually amounts to a long term admission because of repeated admission in the short term way for assessment. I am really speaking to Amendment No. 10A, which is paving, and I have now spoken to Amendment No. 13A. Noble Lords will have realised from the earlier discussion that I will not be moving Amendment No. 13 when we come to it. I beg to move Amendment No. 10A.
Your Lordships will no doubt know that Clauses 41 and 42 give the new Mental Health Act Commission the duty of keeping under review the exercise of the powers of detention under the Act and the Bill. The amendment for which this is a paving amendment would require responsible medical officers to report to the commission just one particular possible occurrence, the admission for assessment of a patient who has been detained in the previous six months. This may be something the commission will wish to review in order to investigate the problems which the noble Lord has just eloquently described. I do not agree, though, that the responsible medical officer should have the onus of reporting such cases. The commission might wish to ask doctors to co-operate in reporting arrangements, as in this amendment, but they might wish them to co-operate in some other manner. They might find ways if linking their inquiries to patients' records. It is really a matter for which we are creating a specialist body. It is rather like teaching one's grandson to suck eggs when he is going to be a director of the egg sucking factory. I believe we should leave it to the commission to decide how to go about their function of reviewing the use of powers of detention.More generally, I am not at all sure that I agree that admission for assessment of a patient who has been detained previously is prima facie evidence of misuse of the powers of the Act or of other infringement of the patient's rights—it may be that it was not the noble Lord's intention to suggest this but I would like it on the record—because there are many circumstances where this would be entirely appropriate in medical terms. Moreover, the amendment would lead to a great deal of work by psychiatrists and commission members, which would not be an effective way to investigate some of the misuses of powers. In conclusion, I believe that we should leave it to the commission to do the job.
I am not very satisfied with that reply. I do not think it is a matter of vital importance because in most cases the hospital where the patient is received will know that he has been in before and will doubtless report the matter in a routine way to the commission. But if another hospital is involved, I believe that the commission will have no means of knowing this. It is probably desirable that this fact, if it is found by the practitioner—and there is no burden on him to find out; it is only if he knows—should be reported. I do not see how psychiatrists and the commission are going to be given a lot of work; I do not believe that they are going to be given any work as a result of this amendment. I do not think this is a terribly important matter; we do not want to divide on it, but in general I do not believe that a fairly sensible question has received an entirely sensible answer.
I always strive to satisfy the noble Lord, ever since we sat on opposite sides of the House the other way around. Maybe I succeeded better then than I do now. This was not a "brush-off". This was not a frivolous reply. It seems to me that the Mental Health Act Commission is a statutory body which specialises in the welfare and handling of the patients whom we are now discussing, under the legislation we are now discussing. It is for that body to evolve an expertise in doing this. For us to identify one possible sort of miscarriage of justice and to place it in statute, and to leave the commission with the business of making all the arrangements for other abuses which may become clear later, seems to me to be an oddly piecemeal way of going about the job. To prefer this particular form of unfairness and to promote it as being so important that it has to be in the Act, whereas the practice and the experience of the body may well discover that it rarely of ever happens and that there are other things which we have never guessed at which are far more important, is not the way to treat this matter. It is not for legislation to deal with a particular foreseen probability or possibility and at the same time leave the whole of the rest of the waters uncharted.I believe we are appointing an effective and distinguished body to operate in a narrow and specialist area, and that it is far better that they should evolve the ground rules and that they should take the consultants with them. Since the commission will be involved in visiting hospitals and talking to the consultants, I have no doubt that if cases such as this occur consultants will report them in the natural course of events. If they do not, the commission will demand that they do. I do not think it is necessary for us to lay that burden on them at this stage. I hope that I am not straining at a gnat, but I believe your Lordships will be if you put this into the Bill.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for his reply and I will study it more carefully at a later stage when I have an opportunity to read it. I will also, I think it right to say, seek further advice from professional colleagues and others as to the extent of a possible undesirable practice actually happening. I think the noble Lord himself said that in many circumstances it is entirely desirable, and even necessary and essential, that a certain patient be readmitted for a short term for observation. In case it was not clear, let me make it clear that I do accept that that may be entirely necessary and therefore must be provided for. But I also still have a feeling that there is the possibility of the occasional repeated use of short-term compulsory admission to such an extent that it finally becomes long-term admission. I think that is a possible abuse which perhaps ought to be looked at.I certainly take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that the Mental Health Act Commission would in its normal duties have a responsibility for overlooking the working of the Act in general and that matters of this kind would undoubtedly come to its notice. But I would like to seek further advice on this matter. I will certainly read most carefully what the noble Lord has said. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for his support because I think that he, too, understands that there is a possibility of abuse which ought to be looked at, though whether it should be spelled out in the Bill I accept is a separate matter. With that I would ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendments Nos. 11 to 13A not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 2, line 28, at end insert—
("() In section 27(1) of the principal Act, for the words "either by the nearest relative of the patient or" there shall be substituted the word "only".".).
The noble Baroness said: We now come on to a slightly different aspect. Amendment No. 14 refers back to Section 27 of the Mental Health Act 1959. Section 27(1) says:
"Subject to the provisions of this section application for the admission of a patient for observation or for treatment may be made either by the nearest relative of the patient or by a mental welfare officer".
This amendment seeks to delete "either by the nearest relative of the patient" and leaves only "mental welfare officer", which, under the new Bill, will be an approved social worker.
Many psychiatrists in this country admit patients on the recommendation or on the application of the nearest relative, and very often, and perhaps for good reason up to date, have not consulted with the social worker. As I understand this new Bill—and the social worker world welcome it very much indeed—there is a movement towards greater partnership between social workers in the community and the doctors in the hospitals. This partnership obviously must be developed and can only be developed if it is well known what the facilities are in the community, and by that I mean perhaps hostels, perhaps group homes, perhaps special care, case-work care given by social workers, perhaps another relative who would be willing to take on the patient. If the case is not in the first place referred to the social worker the relative does not know what the alternatives are. If the case is referred in the first instance to the social worker, the social worker is able to make it clear to the relatives what are the alternatives.
Very often relatives may be absolutely desperate, at their wits end as to what to do with the patient, and therefore, very understandably, in their own interest they apply for admission to a mental hospital. They themselves would be pleased if they knew that there was an alternative in the community, perhaps in the form of a hostel or another family that would take the patient in. Therefore, in moving this amendment I am making the plea that Section 27 of the 1959 Act be amended, so that the application is to the social worker and not to the nearest relative. This would mean that the nearest relative would talk to the social worker and would learn what the alternatives were. It is for this reason that I beg leave to move this amendment.
May I just say that I am rather surprised at the noble Baroness putting this forward and taking away the family responsibility. I feel that there should be some flexibility. I should like to see a close relative involved—maybe not the closest relative because they may not be compatible, because relationships break down; but I do think one should not hand over responsibility to the state. Some people are very proud and do not want to go to the social services.
What is the difference from the point of view of the state and the health service? They are both state services. Therefore you are not taking away the responsibility from the nearest relative. You are only giving a wider choice to the nearest relative, as to whether he or she wishes hospital or, say, a hostel or something in the community. My experience is that there are many relatives who do not want to ask for the patient to be admitted to a mental hospital, but because they do not know what the alternatives are they have no choice. By referring this matter in the first instance to the approved social worker they have a much more dignified position because they have a choice of hospital or community care.
May I ask the noble Baroness a question? Surely the possibility of offering varying ways to help the patient is really a matter for the family doctor. It has been my experience that a conscientious family doctor takes the greatest care to put the alternatives before the patients and families concerned.
May I say that I share the uneasiness expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, about this amendment. The social services have limited resources, and in my experience many social workers—and I would expect this to apply to approved social workers in the future—are overburdened and are sometimes unable to get on to cases with the speed they would wish, or to devote the necessary amount of time to them. I think it would be a great mistake to remove from the nearest relative, or indeed the close relatives, such responsibility as is at present contemplated under the Bill.
I, too, initially had certain reservations about this amendment, but I am bound to say that some of those reservations and anxieties were somewhat allayed by the explanatory words of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, that the real intention is that there should be a wider range of choice to make absolutely certain that the responsible relative—not necesssarily the next of kin, but the relative who is perhaps on the receiving end of the potential patient, if I may put it that way—is made fully aware of the various possibilities. That, I am quite sure, is admirable and is something which should be supported.However, it seems to me that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, is moving an amendment which would work very well in an ideal world—in a world in which all social services departments were fully staffed and in which all patients were under perhaps the kind of regular review and supervision that we would all hope for but as regards which in certain areas of the country, particularly at the moment in times of local authority cuts and shortages, the actual functioning of the social services departments is not, frankly, in all cases ideal. Therefore, while I have some reservations I believe that the role of the relative, whichever particular relative it is, is crucial and clearly the relative's views have to be heard and listened to; and that is understood and accepted, I know, by the noble Baroness. I have those initial anxieties and I accept the point which has been made that it is very important indeed that the relative concerned should have the opportunity of the kind of advice which the social worker can give, and that therefore this should be a collective decision. That of course is something for which we should work. I am well aware that this is the kind of amendment which the social workers themselves would like to see included in the Bill. Indeed, so would I like to see it included in the Bill if I could be quite certain that it would work in precisely the way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has spelled out. If I were sure of that, then I would be sure of supporting the amendment. Perhaps the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, may enlighten us a little further. However, I think it right that I should make my minor reservations known at this stage.
I should like to pursue the matter further. I think that from what we have heard from the Benches opposite and from the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, we are looking at the position of the social workers now and gearing the Bill to the social worker's situation as it is at present. I believe that we shall never improve the social work service, which this Bill intends to do at a later stage, unless we get the law right and the social workers must implement the law as it is laid down. If we pass a law because there are not good social work services, then that to my mind is a wrong law and we would be doing a disservice to the patients.Later on in the Bill—and it is not for us now to discuss it—there is a recommendation concerning the social workers and the social work service from two points of view: first, the management of the social work service—the mental health service within the social work service; and, secondly, the training of the social workers. I do not want to embark on that now, but if it is done properly and well then it will be possible, we hope, for us to work towards giving a good social work service. And in giving a good social work service we give to the relatives of patients and to the patients themselves a wider choice and a more dignified way of living rather than only that of admission to hospitals.
I should like to join those who are expressing uneasiness about this amendment. It seems to me that what the noble Baroness has at the back of her mind is to safeguard the patient against abuse from an evil member of the family. We have all read books about this and some of us have actually met it. Clearly there must be a safeguard. It seems to me that Section 28 of the 1959 Act deals with this matter and says that there have to be two doctors, one of whom has to be approved by the local authority, and the other has, if possible, to have had previous acquaintance of the patient. That seems to me to be the kind of safeguard which is more effective than anything a mental health officer could give. So I doubt whether the noble Baroness is really making a valid point and I think that we should be rather inclined to oppose this amendment if it came to a vote.
We have had a very interesting debate on this matter with very divided views and I shall now give the views of the Government. I appreciate the weight of my noble friend's argument that mental welfare officers have a very valuable input to make in decisions about the future of a mentally disordered person, including decisions about compulsory admission to hospital or guardianship. In most circumstances I am sure that it is right that this officer should be involved in discussions with the family before the final decision is taken to make an application under the Mental Health Act. In most cases it is the mental welfare officer who makes the application. But the provision that the patient's nearest relative may be the person to make the application should, I believe, be retained for a number of reasons.It may be the case, for example, in a crisis intervention service, that the family is already closely involved with the treatment and care of the patient and the patient's nearest relative may be the most appropriate person to make the application. It is sometimes important for the next of kin to know that he or she is in control—that may help to involve the family fully in plans for the patient's treatment, which is often a key to successful rehabilitation. Most applications are made by mental welfare officers but the present arrangements allow for flexibility, and I think that some noble Lords agree that we should maintain flexibility. A separate consideration is that it may not, regrettably, always be possible to involve mental welfare officers. That is more likely to happen in an emergency, and we shall be discussing a separate amendment on the emergency admission procedures. But some local authorities do not find themselves able to provide an out of hours service over weekends, or may have temporary operational difficulties, for example, because of staff illness. In such cases it may be appropriate, and best for the patient, that the nearest relative should be able to make an application. As the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, mentioned just now, there may be a fear that the nearest relative has the power to "put the patient away". We must remember all the other safeguards—for detention for more than 72 hours there must be two medical recommendations from doctors who have to be satisfied that the patient needs to be in hospital and needs to be detained. After an application is made the patient can apply to a mental health review tribunal. We will be setting up the Mental Health Act Commission to keep under review the way powers of detention are used. I do not think therefore, that there is any danger of misuse of the provision that the nearest relative may make an application. As the Act stands the nearest relative does not have to make the application but he or she may do so. I hope I have satisfied my noble friend and the Committee that this should continue to be the case.
Before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to ask him whether he thinks that "a close relative" would be more satisfactory than "the nearest relative"? It just might not be practicable to get hold of the nearest relative; he or she may be in America, Kuwait or anywhere. A close relative might be the one that had a better relationship with the mentally ill patient or person.
Perhaps I may reply to the narrow point which the noble Baroness has raised. Quite apart from the difficulty of getting hold of somebody who may be a long way off, I would draw the attention of the noble Baroness to the provisions of Clause 14 which seek to do exactly what she is seeking to do, which is to substitute for the closest relative the person who has acted as if they were the closest relative in the table of what I call kindred and affinity which appears in the principal Act.
Thank you, my Lords.
I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Cullen for his reply. I should like to pick up just one point because I think he said that there would sometimes not be an approved social worker available. If this Bill goes through and if the managerial background is set up (which is envisaged, I think, in the notes which we read) and if the social workers are to be trained—many of them at the moment are not—there would be a full weekend, around-the-clock service. Perhaps I might add that, as with the doctors, many social workers—and I certainly have done so—get up in the middle of the night, night after night to deal with these cases. We reckon to do that. It is obvious that this idea has sent a kind of rippling shock through the Committee. I still believe that it was the right amendment to move, and I still believe that it should be carried into effect. However, I should like to think on this matter, read Hansard tomorrow and, if necessary, bring it forward again at the Report stage. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 15:
Page 2, line 40, at end insert—
("() After subsection (1) there shall be inserted—
"(1A) No compulsory admission shall be made without interview by an approved doctor and an approved social worker except in respect of a patient whose current condition is such as to give reasonable grounds for believing that there is an immediate risk of harm to himself or to others or of damage to property, or that he is likely to abscond before he can be examined by an approved doctor.".").
The noble Baroness said: In some ways we are on the same subject again because this amendment deals with emergencies. Virtually the recommendation is that in an emergency the first application should be made to an approved social worker. I have dealt with many emergencies before they have reached the hospital and in a number of cases I have been able to offer an alternative, so that the patient has, in fact, never gone to the hospital.
In this case I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to what is known as the crisis intervention service, a service which I hope will grow throughout this country. It is run, from St. Margaret's House, Bethnal Green, by the social services department of Tower Hamlets and the mental hospitals in that area. It provides a 24-hour service on the part of social workers as well as on the part of doctors. Very often the first referral goes straight to the social worker, who investigates and, if necessary, spends time with the family; sometimes the social worker is even able to save the doctor being called and prevent a case going to the doctor directly. If the social worker is not going to refer the case on, he must of course give reasons, I think in writing.
However, this amendment poses the same principle as the last amendment, which is that relatives should be helped at a moment of crisis by someone who can give them the alternatives. I have read and dealt with many cases where the relatives have become distraught and where, with help, they are able not to make an application, even in a case of an emergency. I beg to move.
This amendment seems to me to repeat conditions which are already in the 1959 Act. First, Section 29 provides for an emergency application for admission for assessment. The applicant and the doctor who makes the supporting medical recommendation must be satisfied that:
The amendment would limit the conditions which apply already only by delaying admission which was needed urgently in the interests of the patient's health. My noble friend spoke earlier about the importance of recognising that Section 25 is a treatment power, and I made clear our agreement with that principle. It therefore seems strange to provide that a patient could be admitted quickly it he was likely to damage property but not if he urgently needed treatment to prevent a deterioration of his mental condition. Secondly, Section 29 can be used only if the applicant and the doctor are satisfied that admission for assessment is of "urgent necessity" and that it would cause "undesirable delay" to comply with Section 25; for example, by waiting for a second medical recommendation from a doctor who is approved under Section 28 as having special experience in the diagnosis or treatment of mental disorder. I am at one with my noble friend that if admission can reasonably be delayed until two medical recommendations have been obtained, one from a doctor who knows the patient and one from a "Section 28 doctor", then that should be done. That is exactly what the Act provides. But there are cases where "undesirable delay" would be caused by waiting for an interview with a Section 28 doctor, and I believe that emergency admission should then be possible if the conditions in Sections 25 and 29 are satisfied. I hope my noble friend is persuaded that her amendment would not add to the existing safeguards."the patient ought to be detained in the interests of his own health or safety or with a view to the protection of other persons".
I thank my noble friend Lord Cullen for that reply. I should like to think about this and reconsider the situation and, if necessary, come back to it at the Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment No. 16 not moved.]
On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?
This is the only part of the Bill which amends Section 25 of the principal Act. It occurred to me to raise the question as to whether Section 25 is really necessary at all. The amendments which we were considering a few minutes ago seem to indicate quite clearly that it is very difficult indeed to separate completely assessment from treatment. If that is so, then the whole point of admission for assessment only seems to lose its validity. The other point that strikes me is that in the equivalent Scottish Act there is nothing to match Section 25. There is no admission for assessment procedure at all. If we do not need it in Scotland, why do they need it in England and Wales?
I was most interested to hear what the noble Lord said about the Scottish legislation. There are a number of differences between our Act and the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1960. In this case there is an important similarity. If a patient is admitted for treatment under Section 24 of the Scottish Act, under criteria which are broadly the same as those in our own Section 26, he may be detained for up to one year. But the Scottish Act provides that the responsible medical officer must examine the patient before the end of 28 days' detention and must inform the Mental Welfare Commission if he does not discharge the patient. Therefore, the principle of a review after 28 days is common to both Acts.I should also say that a short initial period is important for a number of reasons, and that is recognised on both sides of the Border. It reassures the patient that he will not be held in hospital indefinitely. It ensures that thorough consideration is given at an early stage to deciding whether long-term detention is appropriate at all. In most cases it is not necessary and the patient is detained for no more than four weeks. Conversely, detention for assessment enables the two doctors and the mental welfare officer to get the information they need in order to decide what long-term plans to make for the patient's treatment and welfare. Without Section 25 it would be more difficult for those concerned to decide whether the patient really needed to be detained for detention. I hope that that answers the point that the noble Lord raised, and I must thank him for giving me notice of it because I confess that there are small gaps in my knowledge of Scottish law.
I am much obliged to my noble friend.
While we are discussing whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill, I wonder whether I could draw attention to the guidelines on page 30 which were submitted to some of us, in which it is stated:
On this question of community care, very little money has been given to community care as compared with hospital care. The Green Paper, Care in the Community, has been published. I think I am right in saying—and perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, will correct me if I am wrong—that in the Kings College Hospital area £44 million is spent on hospital care and £3½ million on community care. In the Guy's Hospital area even with a smaller population I think it is the same proportion. If it is intended that we should develop community care for patients who are mentally—the new word—impaired, or who are ill—and many can be cared for in the community—are we going to have the resources? I would also draw attention to the crisis intervention service which has kept so many patients out of mental hospitals, which is in need of financial help from both the health and social services. Under Clause stand part, I would draw attention to the need for much more resources for community care as compared with hospital care."A person may be mentally ill or may need the definition of mental handicapped or severe mental handicapped or psychopathic disorder and yet not be in need if medical treatment in a hospital, for instance, can be treated in the community".
I hardly think that your Lordships will want to use this occasion for a debate on Government policy on Care in the Community. I can only reaffirm that it is the Government's policy to get as many people as possible out of institutions and into either smaller institutions or into the community direct, and to take note of the priorities which the noble Baroness thinks there should be. I am tempted to launch into a defence of our policy, indeed into a promotion of what we are doing and propose to do, but in view of the number of amendments down I think I should resist this opportunity and merely say that I hear what the noble Baroness says.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 [ Admission for treatment]:
moved Amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 19:
Page 3, line 30, leave out first ("handicap") and insert ("impairment").
Page 3, line 30, leave out second ("handicap") and insert ("impairment").
Page 3, line 34, leave out ("handicap") and insert ("impairment").
The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 19 follow on Amendment No. 3, and I gave notice to your Lordships that I would be moving the consequentials en bloc, and I now beg leave to move Amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 19 together.
On Question, amendments agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 20:
Page 3, line 34, at end insert ("in a patient under the age of 18").
The noble Lord said: I am not at all sure that this amendment is what I wanted to say or that it is in the right place, but it will serve as a probing amendment. Possibly what I intended was a proviso at the bottom of this subsection. In the White Paper Cmnd. 8405, in paragraphs 12 and 13, particularly 13, the Government state that the origin of the age limit in these matters of psychopathic patients lay in the medical opinion that mentally handicapped or psychopathic adults were unlikely to benefit from hospital treatment. They go on to say that recent medical advances have negatived that argument.
Those with whom I have consulted—and your Lordships will have realised that I am not a doctor myself, so I am going on secondhand information—are not convinced that such medical advances have been made. The difficulty with psychopaths is of course the uncertainty of diagnosis; the very large number—dozens, I believe, if not scores—of categories or sub-categories of psychopathic illness; and the very high proportion of untreatable, or virtually untreatable, patients. Some psychiatrists would say that there are very few, if any, who can be treated, although I gather that there are others who say that that is too extreme a view.
The difficulty of deciding how a psychopath should be treated springs from the points made in an article admittedly many years ago, but which I believe is still valid, by a leading consultant psychiatrist in which he said that the psychiatrist sees in the psychopath
"a conjunction of patterns of behaviour each of which is almost entirely beyond clinical comprehension".
If that is the sort of people they are having to deal with, the borderline between who is treatable and who is not treatable, who should be detained and who should not be detained is bound to be extremely difficult to define.
Moreover, as we define psychopath in subsection (4) of the principal Act in very wide terms—which again I am given to understand are considerably wider than the terms which would normally be clinically used—we must be more than ordinarily careful that no subjective judgments as to who is, and who is not, a psychopath could be allowed to creep in so that anyone is detained simply because on subjective grounds his behaviour appears to be anti-social when in fact he is just a bit eccentric, or holds unpopular or unorthodox views.
It is an extremely difficult matter, and I am certainly not going to press it, but it seems to me that the only justification for holding someone, unless of course he has committed a criminal offence, would be that he is still legally a child. That is why I suggest that the age of 18 be inserted here. I beg to move.
I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, in this amendment. I agree that it is possible that he may not have got the age right. Maybe 21 is better than 18. It has to be admitted—in fact it was pointed out in the review of the Mental Health Act 1959, paragraph 2.38—that an age limit is arbitrary and leads to anomalies. Then in this document it was accordingly proposed that the requirement to certify a likelihood of benefit from treatment should apply on admission only to those suffering from mental handicap and psychopathic disorder, and that the age threshold should be dropped.However, as the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, pointed out, the question of treatability is of great importance here. It is quite possible that it would be impossible to treat an adult psychopath beyond a certain age. My eyes fell recently on an article in the British Medical Journal by a professor of forensic psychiatry. He directed some remarks precisely to this clause in the Bill and raised very severe doubts about it. He said:
That may be a rather excessive way to put it, but it certainly points up the danger on which the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, has put his finger. We have no amendment down at this stage, and so I have risen simply to ask the noble Lord, Lord Elton, if he can tell us whether the Government have considered, or actually perceived, this danger in their proposal to remove the age limit. The author of this article, Professor John Gunn, goes, on to say:"The Bill proposes that psychopaths and subnormals will be eligible for compulsory detention, whatever their age, provided they are 'treatable'—a proposal, that would warm the cockles of the heart of a dictator having trouble with dissidents".
The question is whether this safeguard, so carefully inserted by Parliament, should be dropped. I am simply putting these ideas forward at this stage to enable the Minister to give us an idea of the Government's thinking on this, I submit, rather important matter."Presumably the assumption is that Britain is a democracy and that, as in practice no psychiatrist here would wish to put an unwilling psychopath or subnormal on an order, and that as 'treatability' would have to be claimed anyway, this safeguard so carefully inserted by Parliament in the current legislation may be dropped".
I am not a psychiatrist but I have been informed by psychiatric opinion that, although the likelihood of effective treatment of psychopaths cannot be expressed as very hopeful—in fact, perhaps it is diminishing—it is nevertheless thought that the age bar is no longer relevant and it was a mistake that it was ever put in. The informed view that I have received is that attempts should be made to treat psychopaths of all ages, albeit despite the not very hopeful feelings in regard to the prognosis.
This is one of those amendments about which I must give very careful thought to what is intended and what is achieved, so I hope your Lordships will bear with me. The amendment strikes at Clause 4 of the Bill and that clause relates to Section 26 of the Act. Section 26 deals with admissions for treatment and in subsection (2) it sets criteria for admissions for treatment. Subsection (2) of the clause which the noble Lord now seeks to amend sets out new criteria, the second of which is the treatability criterion. The noble Lord, by inserting the words at the end of line 34:
restricts the operation of that criterion to people under the age of 18; anybody over the 18-year-old criterion, therefore, is not covered by the criterion set out. We put the "treatability" test in Clause 4 because we wanted to make sure that mentally impaired and psychopathic patients are not detained in hospital unless they are likely to benefit from treatment, because hospitals are not places of detention per se. They are places for treatment for which detention may be a necessary prerequisite. Extra safeguards are needed for patients with one of these forms of mental disorder because they are in some senses nearer, as some noble Lords have said, the borderline of "normality" than severely mentally impaired or mentally ill patients. I do not think it right to withdraw the "treatability" test from adults, as the amendment proposes. "Treatability" replaces the age limit in Section 26 of the 1959 Act. At present, a subnormal or psychopathic patient aged 21 or over may not be admitted for treatment under Section 26 at all. As some noble Lords will recall, the age limit of 21 years was based on the recommendation of the Percy Commission—that was the Royal Commission on the Law relating to Mental Illness and Mental Deficiency—which sat from 1954 to 1957 and led to the 1959 Act. The Percy Commission noted the general agreement, at the time, that treatment or training for subnormal and psychopathic patients was most likely to be successful if it could be given in adolescence and early adult life and drew parallels with the compulsory provision of education for children. Experience since then suggests—the noble Lord, Lord Richardson, referred to this—that such patients may be able to benefit from treatment at any age, and that is why we decided to replace the somewhat arbitrary age limit with an explicit "treatability test". I still think that is the right approach. I am satisfied that Clause 4(2)(b) provides the right balance between ensuring that patients can be admitted for treatment they need, and safeguards to ensure that they are not admitted inappropriately. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment."in a patient under the age of 18",
I was much interested in what the Minister said. I do not think I can guarantee not to return to the charge at a later date, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In calling the next amendment, No. 21, I have to call your Lordships attention to the fact that if that amendment is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 22.
moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 3, line 37, leave out from ("necessary") to ("and") in line 39 and insert ("that he should receive such treatment to prevent or to arrest a deterioration in his mental state or to improve his mental state or to protect him from harm or to protect others from harm,").
The noble Baroness said: In a way, this follows the last amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle. It does not in any way alter the meaning of the Bill; it is simply more specific and understandable. While the Bill states,
"that it is necessary for the health or safety of the patient or for protection of other persons that he should receive such treatment",
we are amending that to read:
"that he should receive such treatment to prevent or to arrest a deterioration in his mental state or to improve his mental state or to protect him from harm or to protect others from harm".
In a way, it is exactly what the Minister said when replying to the last amendment, though the wording is more specific. I beg to move.
The first part of the amendment is very good indeed, but what worries me is the phrase,
and what might be done to him against his wish which would protect others from him."to protect him from harm or to protect others from harm",
Is there confusion between treatability and curability? It seems to be perfectly clear that one can treat psychopathic cases with very little prospect of success, but one can treat them and give them better conditions. We know from prison work that many of our clients who are considered to be psychopathic give less trouble in certain conditions than in others. One does not cure them and make them fit to go out, and therefore it seems to me that the whole discussion is rather confused in that everybody is treatable but not everybody is curable. I just throw that in to add interest to the discussion.
The noble Lord speaks as if he were making a Christmas pudding. Whatever charms there are about the amendment, I could not agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, about the beginning of it being the most attractive part because if the Committee looks at the way in which it matches in, the Bill would then read, "that it is that he should", which is perhaps a rather biblical approach, but of course I do not wish to delay the Committee on that sort of point.I appreciate why my noble friend has chosen to look closely at this clause in that it concerns the grounds for admission for treatment under Section 26 of the Act. It is clearly important that we get the whole balance of the clause right, so that the people who need to be detained in hospital for treatment can be detained only where there is a genuine need. I do not consider, however, that the amendment is necessary. Indeed, I think it is rather restrictive in its effect. The purpose of the amendment appears to be to spell out one of the alternative grounds for admission in Clause 4(2)(c). Instead of one ground for admission being that the treatment was necessary for the "health" of the patient, it would be that the treatment was necessary to prevent or to arrest a deterioration in his mental state or to improve his mental state, all of which are included in the words "for the health of the patient". However, it would not cover cases where care and treatment are needed but where the prospect of the condition improving or being arrested may be limited, and here I take the noble Lord's charm out of the pudding and demonstrate it before your Lordships. The effect of Clause 4(2)(b) is that a patient who is mentally handicapped—or, as we now say, mentally impaired—or suffering from psychopathic disorder may be admitted only if treatment is likely to alleviate or prevent a deterioration in the patient's condition. The amendment would extend the same requirement to cover the severely mentally handicapped—or severely mentally impaired, as we now call them—and the mentally ill. I appreciate that my noble friend's concern is to see that no one is detained unless he is likely to gain positive benefits. Indeed, that is one of the thrusts of the whole Bill and what we are here for. We are improving the safeguards to make sure that only those who need treatment in hospital, and who would not otherwise get it, are detained. However, for the severely mentally impaired and the mentally ill there are cases where there is little prospect of the patient's condition improving. It may not even be clear whether it can be prevented from deteriorating. The main, and very important, purpose of admission here is to ensure that the patient receives care and support in a therapeutic environment. I do not need to remind the Committee that the only alternative to hospital in such cases would probably be a life in the outside world with which the patient would be patently unable to cope, and I think that Clause 4 as it stands accurately reflects the intention of admission in such cases. I think that I might well have said enough; at least I shall sit down in order to see whether I have.
I am rather intrigued about this. Personally, I would rather support Amendment No. 22 than the present amendment. I am very concerned about the words inserted in the amendment of the noble Baroness:
That can have sinister implications, or perhaps it is meant to cover the kind of situation in which my wife found herself some years ago when a patient leapt out from a bathroom and nearly strangled her when she was a visitor. Alternatively, does it refer to some medical treatment which would remove the possibility of the person committing harm to others? This is very serious and rather sinister, and I am concerned about it. Perhaps the noble Baroness can explain what she means."or to protect others from harm".
There are a very few cases where the mental state of a patient at a given time—it need not be continuous—is such that he harms other people. We have all known of the patient who takes a bread knife to another member of the family. There must be a balance here so as to consider both the patient and what he might do to someone else at any given time. I have listened to the Minister with interest. I shall consider what he has said and I shall also consider what the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, says in regard to the next amendment. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No, 22:
Page 3, line 38, after ("persons") insert ("from serious harm").
The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble allies and myself I beg to move Amendment No. 22, and with the permission of the Committee I should at the same time like to speak to Amendment No. 35 as well. The case for the amendments may be stated very briefly. In our view the phrase "the protection of other persons" that appears in Clause 4(2) (c) is simply inadequate without some further qualification. The question arises: Protection from what? It could be interpreted as protection from mere nuisance, giving rise to applications in a mere fit of irritability. The phrase "from serious harm" which we propose to add is drawn from another part of the Bill. In Part III, in Clause 26, on page 16, in regard to restriction orders, it is proposed after the words "the protection of the public" to insert the words "from serious harm". That is actually proposed in the Bill. I support
that, and to myself and my colleague it seems only reasonable that for those who are to be treated under an application there should at least be parity of safeguards with those available to offenders under Part III. So it is the simple object of the amendment to correct the imbalance.
As I stated earlier, these remarks apply also to Amendment No. 35, relating to page 8, line 35, where we should also like to see the words "from serious harm" inserted for the same reasons in the clause dealing with duration of detention. This is a simple amendment involving the insertion of three words, but I believe that it is an important one. It is possible that what we propose is not already in the Bill simply because of an oversight on the part of the Government. I beg to move.
I have listened with great interest to the debate which now seems to have moved into a realm which perhaps we have not discussed enough; namely, that involving people who can be affected by those individuals who are mentally handicapped. If we insert the phrase "serious harm", there will be some difficulty in defining it. I can think of at least two victims who had the misfortune to live next door to people who, in the words of one noble Lord who has now left the Chamber, might be described merely as indulging in anti-social behaviour. I shall not tell the Committee of the kind of anti-social behaviour in which the individual indulged, but he was never at any point detained because he was described by a social worker merely as a nice, eccentric, old gentleman.If we make it impossible for anyone to be held, or to be dealt with in any way, unless it is shown that he has actually caused serious harm, many people will be placed in quite uncomfortable circumstances which they do not deserve. That would be simply because the Bill had tidied up the situation so firmly. We shall have much argument about what is anti-social, what is eccentricity, and what is serious harm. It seems to me that the Bill quite clearly defines the point in the phrase "health or safety", and I do not think it is necessary to change it.
In introducing the amendment the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, said that it was a simple one, and the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has informed the Committee that she feels from much experience at the Home Office that he might be mistaken. I must agree with her; I think that the noble Lord is mistaken in this regard. The amendment would mean that someone could be admitted for treatment only if he satisfied the other conditions in Section 26(2)—I think that that was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock—and needed to be in hospital for his own health, his own safety, or to protect other people from serious harm. This is a more stringent condition than what is now in the Act or the Bill, and I believe that it is too stringent both for the patient, for whom treatment is considered essential, and for the public generally.It is important that patients should not be kept in hospital against their will without good cause, but the public also need to be protected from the behaviour of mentally disordered people. I believe that we have the balance about right in the Bill, which refers to the protection of other persons but does not specify the degree of danger from which they are to be protected—and this is an important point. For the patient's benefit it is important to be able to provide treatment at an early stage in an illness without waiting until there is a risk of "serious harm" and possibly penal consequences. If I may draw on some examples, I would say that the amendment would make it impossible to admit for treatment a patient who had, for example, a history of persistent minor assaults or sexual advances which were very distressing to the subject of his or her attentions but did not amount to a risk of "serious harm", unless it could be shown that the patient needed to be in hospital for his own health or safety. These are important criteria, and we should consider them most carefully. We are talking about the kind of behaviour which none of us would want our families to be exposed to, We are also talking about people who need medical treatment. All the other conditions in Clause 4 must be satisfied, including the "treatability" test for persons with mental impairment or psychopathic disorder. So there is no question of people being shut up just because they are social nuisances. Detention is for treatment which may remit those symptoms of mental disorder from which the public need protection. There is a further serious objection, and I believe that it should be drawn to the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock. It is that the amendment would make the conditions for admission for treatment for a non-offender patient the same as those for a restriction order on an offender whom a court considers dangerous. A restriction order is made if it appears to the court to be "necessary for the protection of the public from serious harm". I am anticipating Clause 26, which adds the words "from serious harm" to Section 65 to make sure that restriction orders are used only when they are really needed. If we add the same words, "from serious harm", to Section 26, it would have very strange consequences for the distinction between unrestricted and restricted patients. Those consequences are seen most clearly in relation to renewal of detention, and so I shall reserve my comments on them for the debate on a similar amendment to Clause 12—and this, of course, was the one to which the noble Lord referred. For the moment I shall merely point out the anomaly of making the test for admission for treatment for someone who may never have been convicted of an offence and may need to be in hospital only for a short time exactly the same as for a restriction order made by a Crown court taking account of the nature of the offence, the offender's antecedents and the risk of his committing further offences if set at large.
I should feel happier about this if it went through the courts. I would be quite happy if one could say that the courts are to decide when the protection of the public is required. I do not think it is necessary to specify that. But there is no test of that kind in the Bill, is there? There is simply a series of words. What about somebody who regularly sexually exposes himself? We all know cases of this kind; at least, if you live my life you do. This is not doing any harm to anybody, except in the nature of nuisance, On the other hand, that is the sort of chap, I should have thought, who would normally be dealt with under this provision. I think that, as it is, the position is not entirely satisfactory, although I do not myself think that we ought to divide on it. This is up to my noble friends, of course, but I should like to hear what other noble Lords think.
Following the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, I am bound to say that it seems to me that we have now finally arrived at the situation when the happy, convivial spirit in which, hitherto, we in your Lordships' Committee have all been so anxious to agree with everybody is at an end. I am bound to say personally that I regarded the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, to this amendment really as distressing in the extreme. It seemed to me that he showed a total inability to understand the feeling behind this particular amendment. He used some very strange words. In his reply the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, said this—and I quote him, I think, accurately. He said that "the public are entitled to be protected from the behaviour of mentally-disordered people". The public are entitled to no such thing. There is all manner of behaviour that I personally find offensive, whether it is by mentally-disordered people or otherwise; but I am not entitled to be protected from it.Here we are talking about people being compulsorily admitted to hospital for treatment under Section 26, which is a very serious deprivation of personal liberty, and one of the tests of whether a person should be treated in that way is, under Clause 4(2)(c),
and then we suggest that the words "from serious harm" should be added. There are all sorts of aberrational behaviour which we find distressing or irritating. Let us take the mentally-disordered person who has a habit of peeping through windows, which is perhaps upsetting and disturbing and may very well prompt certain people to say, "This person must be locked up", or, "He must go in for treatment". That is not a road down which I can go very readily; and when the noble Lord said that we should not perhaps divide on this amendment I am bound to say that I would not necessarily take that view, because I think the attitude to this particular amendment is pretty crucial to one's attitude to the Bill as a whole."that it is necessary for the health or safety of the patient or for the protection of other persons …",
I must apologise for having been out of the Chamber briefly. I can only say to noble Lords who are medically qualified that it is not only mental disorder which we sometimes have to cope with, and I had to leave the Chamber. I am confident I know the line which my noble friend took, and we are looking at questions of degree. The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, is talking about "serious harm". It seems to me that there are many things from which, I entirely agree, the public cannot be protected. The public cannot be protected from the society of anybody simply because it does not like the society of anybody. The public has to put up with the company of your Lordships and myself without any such protection, and many of us are eccentric. But there are degrees of behaviour which fall short of inflicting
"serious harm" which are entirely anti-social and which really cannot be permitted to continue.
On that particular point, surely the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, replied to that matter by saying "these particular matters", and I wholly agree with him; there are items of nuisance which should be dealt with. But does the noble Lord not agree that the proper place for those to be dealt with is in the courts, and not in the hospitals?
Of course, the courts have a power to order the detention of a patient in a hospital. What the noble Lord appears to be seeking to do is to limit that power to cases where "serious harm" results—not where serious harm may perhaps be expected but where it is necessary to protect the public from serious harm which, as I read this amendment, is imminent and predictable. I take a more cautious view than he does. I think I am more protective of the public good. I do not think this militates against the interests of the patient, because it is in the interests of the patient to be detained and treated before that catastrophic event. Because in his life it will be catastrophic; and it may be that it will be catastrophic in the life of some young adolescent who finds himself addressed in a manner which cannot be said to produce serious harm but is very disturbing and leaves a mark for many years.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has just referred to the interests of the patient. I do not know whether he was here during that part of his noble friend's remarks when he was referring to the comparison between this subsection and Section 65, but I should like to point out to your Lordships' Committee that there is a very real and important distinction in that Clause 4(2)(c) contains alternatives: that it has to be
or it has to be"necessary for the health or safety of the patient"
as we should like to insert, "from serious harm"; whereas in the case of a court restriction order made under Section 65, of course, it has to be established that there is a possibility of serious harm arising before the court can make the order. A court cannot make a restriction order under Section 65 if it is solely apprehended that the patient will benefit from treatment in a secure environment. So the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is already covered. If it is found to be in the interests of the patient that his health or safety could be improved by a Section 26 order, then that can take place irrespective of whether we add the words "from serious harm" to this particular subsection. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will have a further discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and that they can get their act together a little better than they have during this discussion."for the protection of other persons",
I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is going to be successful in driving a wedge between my noble friend and myself because I think my noble friend got it exactly right on the last amend- ment when he referred to getting the balance within this clause correct. We believe that the clause does not need this amendment, and we feel that it would be undesirable for it to be admitted. I therefore hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, will withdraw his amendment.
I am sorry I was not in my place, but, yes, consultation among members of the Alliance was taking place. I am grateful, of course, to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, for his very full reply to this amendment, but I should like to put him right. I was not trying to suggest that those admitted for treatment should be considered on a par with offenders: what I was trying to show was that in this particular case they have less protection from abuse of their rights than offenders have. That was the point. In effect, the offenders have a slightly greater safeguard.When the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, suggested, I am sure quite genuinely, that there was no question of people being shut up because they are a nuisance, this is exactly what, by means of this Bill, we are trying to make absolutely sure can never happen. Obviously, we cannot conceive among ourselves that procedures of this sort such as have happened in other countries can take place in this country; but when we have a Bill like this in Committee we must do everything we can to plug all the holes in that direction. This was another motive behind the amendment of my noble friends, myself and our allies. However, as we have had an interesting debate, we should like to read Hansard and reserve the right to come back at Report stage. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 23:
After Clause 4 insert the following new clause:
(" Restriction of admission for treatment
.—(1) No patient may be detained under section 26 of the principal Act unless he has previously been detained under section 25 of the principal Act.").
The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to remove any situation whereby a patient is detained for treatment for six months or longer under Section 26 of the 1959 Act when, in fact, a physical examination with subsequent treatment, general nursing care and rest for up to 28 days under Section 25 of the 1959 Act might suffice. Section 25 gives power for a person to be detained for observation,
"for a period not exceeding 28 days beginning with the day on which he is admitted, but shall not be detained thereafter unless, before the expiration of that period, he has become liable to be detained by virtue of a subsequent application, order or direction under any of the following provisions"
of the principal Act. Section 26 gives power for the person to be compulsorily admitted to hospital for treatment for a period of one year. Is it not reasonable, except in the emergency of a life or death situation, that always there should be a period of observation so that the patient can be fully assessed and home contacts and contacts with the social services can be made? I hope the Committee will find this acceptable. There is nothing to stop a patient from being detained
for a longer period than 28 days should this be necessary. I beg to move.
I appreciate the concern of the noble Baroness that no patient should be detained for six months or more under Section 26 without a thorough initial assessment by the responsible psychiatrist to see whether detention is really appropriate. I do not agree, though, that this amendment is necessary to achieve that aim. The purpose of Section 25 is to provide for short-term assessment and treatment of patients when it is not clear whether or not long-term detention is needed. There are other cases, though, where there is no doubt about a patient's need for long-term treatment in hospital. A patient may have been detained in hospital on a previous occasion, then discharged because his responsible medical officer thought he had made enough progress under treatment to manage successfully outside hospital. If events show that the patient cannot manage outside, and the mental welfare officer and doctors who are familiar with his case are satisfied that an application under Section 26 should be made, it is quite unnecessary for an application to be made first under Section 25.Another case might be a patient with a long history of mental disorder who was in hospital as an informal patient. The doctors and mental welfare officer (or nearest relative) might reach the conclusion while the patient was receiving treatment voluntarily that detention under Section 26 was necessary, and so there would be no need for assessment under Section 25. I hope that that answers the point raised by the noble Baroness and that she will be able to withdraw the amendment.
The amendment reads:
I do not think that in many cases they would have been in hospital before and it would be a first time, as it were. But as this is totally and completely new to the Committee at this stage, I think I should like to take it back, discuss it further and bring it back at another stage—"No patient may be detained under section 26 of the principal Act unless he has previously been detained under section 25 of the principal Act".
If the noble Baroness is likely to seek the Committee's consent to withdraw the amendment, I wonder, since we may return to it, whether it will be possible for the Minister at a later stage—because I doubt whether the knowledge will come to him now or quickly enough—to be able to find out something about the actual practice at the moment. I should be interested to know what proportion of persons at the moment detained under Section 26 are persons who have been detained previously under Section 25. Those are figures which the Committee might find helpful. I use this opportunity of dropping that thought in the mind of the noble Lords opposite.
We will try to give that information to the noble Lord.
I should be grateful if the noble Lord would give that information not only to the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, but also to me. With that, I beg to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 5 [ Medical recommendations.]:
moved Amendment No. 24:
Page 4, line 25, at end insert—
("Provided that this subsection shall not be relied upon unless there would otherwise be unreasonabletdelay in arranging for two medical practitioners to examine the patient with a view to considering whether to make medical recommendations.").
The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 24 which stands in the names of my noble friends and myself. I am a little concerned at the change in attitude on medical recommendations contained in Clause 5(3). I can see the reason for them. There are, obviously, very few occasions, but they do exist, when it would perhaps be a lengthy procedure to obtain a second medical opinion from outside the hospital in question. It could be because of the geographical situation, it could be because of such weather as we have had over the last fortnight. It is right that the possibility should exist for medical recommendations to be made even if it is not possible to get an outside medical opinion as the second opinion.
I believe that it is essential that it should be stated that that is for emergencies only, when there are no other ways of dealing with it. This is why we want to add, at the end of subsection (3A), paragraph (b) or, perhaps, as (3A) (c):
"Provided that this subsection shall not be relied upon unless there would otherwise be unreasonable delay …".
I think it would be detrimental to the whole of the assessment and medical recommendations if it became commonplace practice for two doctors in the same hospital—even though one is not working under the directions of the other—to be reuglarly using this section to make their medical recommendations. We hope that the Government will accept that it should be used only in exceptional circumstances and that in normal circumstances the medical opinion should come from two different sources.
I understand the concern which lies behind the amendment, that the two medical recommendations necessary for detention should always be completely independent of each other. It would be a serious matter if this were not so, because it is a person's liberty which is at stake when the making of a recommendation for admission under the Act is considered.Clause 5(3) of the Bill already restricts the circumstances in which both recommendations may come from doctors at the hospital concerned. The only circumstances in which this may be done are listed as follows: first, where one of the doctors wants the majority of his sessions elsewhere; and, secondly, if one of the doctors is a consultant, where the other doctor is not working under his direction. These limited circumstances were introduced precisely because delays have arisen in some areas in obtaining the recommendations required. This is because of the limited numbers of doctors approved under Section 28 of the Act to carry out this function. The restrictions to which I have just referred will ensure that the medical recommendations do not both come from doctors who are on the staff of the hospital to which the patient is to be admitted in circumstances where it is likely that they may not be independent of each other. We also intend to issue guidance to health authorities which are hospital managers to monitor procedures for making the medical recommendations. This would include checks to ensure that the restrictions set out in Clause 5(3) were complied with. I consider therefore that there will be adequate safeguards to make sure that the power in certain circumstances to receive both medical recommendations from doctors at the hospital in question is not misused. However, the noble Baroness has made her case extremely well. This is an important matter and I accept the view that the view that the extra safeguard on the lines she suggested should be included. I will therefore undertake to introduce at Report stage an amendment which provides that both medical recommendations should not be made by doctors at the hospital concerned unless there would otherwise be undue delay. I hope therefore that the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw her amendment.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord for that very helpful reply. Of course I am delighted to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 25:
Page 4, line 31, at end insert—
("(6) After subsection (5) there shall be inserted—
"(6) Any medical recommendations which appear to be correctly made may be acted upon by the nearest relative or the Mental Welfare Officer without further proof of the signature or qualification of the person by whom the recommendation is made or of any matter of fact or opinion stated therein or of compliance with this Act by that person."").
The noble Lord said: Before speaking about this amendment perhaps I could invite your Lordships to correct a printing error which appears on the Marshalled List, where we read:
"the nearest relative of the Mental Welfare Officer".
It should read:
"the nearest relative or the Mental Welfare Officer".
The relationship, if this amendment as printed is accepted, makes the mind boggle.
There are safeguards for persons acting in good faith in complying with the principal Act, and indeed with the principal Act amended as it will be by this Bill. This is provided for by Section 141 of the 1959 Act. I welcome the fact that this is confirmed by Clause 49(3)( e) of this Bill. However, recent experience has shown that some persons acting in good faith are not always wholly protected from public implications of failing to do their duty to the utmost.
On the other hand, because their actions are governed by different legislation, other groups of persons do seem to be so protected. The difference seems to arise because, although both groups are public servants, one group of people are in the employ of elected local councils whereas the other group are responsive to appointed bodies. For some reason those who are in the employ of elected local councils have turned out in practice not to be as well protected from public accusation as those who are responsive to appointed bodies. This I am sure the Committee will agree is an unfair situation which clearly Section 141 of the 1959 Act sought to avoid.
The object of this amendment is to underpin the purpose of Section 141 under conditions where a nearest relative or a mental welfare officer might reasonably assume that the recommendations made by a medical officer are not only made in good faith professionally but can also be relied upon to conform in all important points of details of the law and of the principal Act in particular. I beg to move.
May I ask my noble friend—bearing in mind he has referred apparently with approval to Section 141 of the principal Act—whether he has seen on the Marshalled List Amendment No. 96? That would repeal Section 141 of the principal Act and replace it by a provision of a much more familiar and more suitable kind to the effect that:
Many of us feel that would be an adequate safeguard. If that amendment were accepted by the Committee—and I say that advisedly because I do not know whether the Government will accept it or not but it seems to me to be a very sensible amendment—then the foundation of the amendment which my noble friend has moved would seem to be somewhat different. I do not think that we should consider Amendment No. 25 without at least applying our minds to Amendment No. 96."No criminal proceedings shall be brought against any person in any court in respect of any act done or purporting to be done in pursuance of the principal Act or this Act without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions."
Perhaps I may respond immediately to that. I am afraid that I had not noticed Amendment No. 96. But Amendment No. 96 only allows Section 141 protection to apply in the case of criminal proceedings. The circumstances about which I am talking relate to civil proceedings. So Amendment No. 96 certainly would not do for me in any way and it would be even more important to proceed with Amendment No. 25 because of any threat of anybody accepting Amendment No. 96.
I sympathise with my noble friend in his view that the Mental Health Act 1959 often places a very heavy burden on mental welfare officers. We must remember, however, that under this Act people are being deprived of their liberty so that every possible step must be taken to ensure that the procedures set down by Parliament are carefully and properly followed. Ensuring that this is so undoubtedly places sometimes difficult responsibilities on the professional staff concerned, whether they be the social workers who are acting as mental welfare officers or the doctors concerned. While every profession must assume responsibility for the way in which they practice, in this case there is also an additional responsibility for ensuring that procedures set down in law to safeguard the interests of individuals whose liberty is in question are properly observed.I am sure the Committee will share my reluctance to commit myself to any undertaking that might lead to the patients' interests being overlooked by an over-rigid allocation of responsibility. I would therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw this amendment on my assurance that I will give more thought to how best to meet his proper concern and report back to the Committee.
That is a most reassuring remark by my noble friend. I would be happy to withdraw my amendment on that basis. I look forward to hearing what my noble friend has to tell me in this connection.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 [ Patients already in hospital]: