§ *THE LORD BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD rose to call attention to the failure of the West Riding County Council to carry out its undertaking to build chapels (to be used by all denominations) in connection with two lunatic asylums in their district, which in one case at least was admitted by the chairman of the West Riding Asylums Committee to be "a breach of faith"; and to ask His Majesty's Government whether any steps are proposed to be taken to compel the council to fulfil its obligation; and to move for Papers.
The right rev. Prelate said: My Lords, the Question which I have put on the Notice Paper for this afternoon need not, I think, detain your Lordships at any great length of time, but it raises some issues of very wide and grave importance, first of all with regard to the fidelity of public bodies in keeping their pledged obligations, and, secondly, the traditions of treatment regarding the mentally afflicted in pauper asylums, and incidentally, also, it raises the question of decent provision for the public presentation of religion in the way of public worship. I will put the facts as shortly as I can before your Lordships and then give my reasons for bringing this matter before the House. There are two large pauper asylums in the West Riding County Council district of Yorkshire which have no chapels attached to them, no special provision in the way of any building for the conduct of public worship. In an answer given in the House of Commons last week the Home Secretary said—
Out of the ninety-four lunatic asylums in England and Wales all except seven have chapels. The Commissioners in Lunacy have always considered a chapel to be an essential part of every properly-equipped asylum. Of the seven asylums not provided with chapels two are at present incomplete and two are old and small asylums. The remaining three are the Menston, Storthes Hall, and Scalebor Park Asylums, all in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The erection of these asylums was sanctioned on the understanding that chapels would be provided.
I think there is a slight mistake in that answer, as Scalebor Park Asylum is not a pauper asylum.
§ The first of the two asylums to which I am asking your Lordships' attention is the Menston Asylum, a large asylum built in 1888 and containing about 1,700 or more pauper patients, with a large staff of 826 attendants—close upon 2,000 souls altogether. When the plans for Menston Asylum were submitted to the Home Secretary a chapel was shown, and it was on the understanding that such a chapel would be built that the plans were sanctioned. This is now, as your Lordships will observe, many years since, but there is no chapel there to-day. The Lunacy Commissioners have frequently in their reports expostulated with the Visiting Committee of the West Riding County Council, but all their efforts have been met with a denial; and I understand, though I have no absolute proof, that a definite refusal has been given by the West Riding County Council to carry out any part of that obligation. The chairman of the West Riding County Council was one of the witnesses examined before the Commission on the Feeble-Minded, and in his examination he admitted that in the case of Menston Asylum this was a breach of faith. Therefore the case presents features which I feel sure your Lordships will not consider to be those which ought to be passed over in silence in regard to any public body.
§ The second case—that of the Storthes Hall Asylum—is a still stronger case. This is a new asylum, also a large pauper asylum, built in 1904, and it is going to be a larger asylum even than Menston, as it is ultimately contemplated, I believe, to have something like 2,250 patients there. At present they have 1,634, with 210 attendants-a total of 1,844 persons in these large buildings. In the case of Storthes Hall, when the plans were presented in 1900 the Lunacy Commission insisted upon a chapel being shown, as is the invariable custom. The County Council demurred to this, but were told distinctly that as there had been a breach of faith in regard to the Menston Asylum the Lunacy Commission could not undertake to recommend the plans to the Home Office unless they received a definite undertaking that such a chapel would be built. That definite undertaking was given by an explicit resolution of the West Riding County Council on January 11, 1900. The plans were therefore sanctioned, not on the implied but on the express condition that a chapel would certainly be built; and not only was that resolution passed, but in 1904 plans were sanctioned for a chapel. These were ultimately modified and reduced in cost by about£3,000, and a contract was actually sanctioned by the 827 Home Office for the building. Yet from that day to this nothing has been done to provide this chapel for the Storthes Hall Asylum. The ground was actually staked out before the greater part of the main buildings, and it was always understood that it was the intention of the Council to keep its word.
The attention of the County Council has been frequently drawn to the matter, as in the former case, by the Lunacy Commission, but their representations have been just as steadily ignored. In spite of these remonstrances and the fact that it is twelve years since the plans were first submitted, there is no sign of a chapel at Storthes Hall Asylum. And not only have the County Council failed to provide this chapel, but in January of this year the matter was brought forward by one of the councillors, who moved to instruct the Asylums Committee to proceed forthwith to build a chapel in accordance with their pledged word and in accordance with the condition on which the plans had been sanctioned. This motion was practically refused by the majority of the County Council and was closured and defeated. Those are the facts, my Lords, which I believe no one will venture to question. I have not exaggerated them, but have simply stated them as a plain and not a very creditable tale. I am not lawyer enough to know whether under the Lunacy Act of 1890, which I believe is the authority for the administration of asylums, it is an absolute legal obligation to build a chapel as a necessary part of a large asylum, but the practice has been universal from the beginning, with the few exceptions named by the Home Secretary.
§ Your Lordships will notice that of the seven exceptions given by the Home Secretary in his answer in the House of Commons which I have quoted, two are incomplete asylums and two are old and small asylums. All the remaining three, including the one private asylum I have mentioned, are in the district of the West Riding County Council. So this looks as if it were the decided and definite policy of the West Riding County Council not to provide proper and decent accommodation by way of a separate building for public worship in connection with their pauper asylums. And here, my Lords, I might remind you that it has never been the custom to 828 consecrate these chapels, nor are they in any sense Church of England buildings. They are open to all denominations, and as a matter of fact are so used. Therefore I am not here to-day to plead for any particular favour to my own denomination. I am here, so to speak, in the general interest of religion and of reverent worship, to ask that steps may be taken, if possible, to make proper provision for the poor unfortunate people in these pauper asylums who are labouring under mental incapacity. The practice apparently has, as I say, been almost universal. Not only have the West Riding County Council ignored this general practice, but they have so far failed to carry out their own undertaking—and this is a very serious aspect of the matter-an undertaking, remember, by which they actually obtained the consent of the Home Secretary to their plans for this second asylum. They knew the plans would not be sanctioned unless such an undertaking were given. Therefore they passed a resolution promising to do their duty, but, having got their plans, they allow twelve years to pass without taking any step whatever, and now apparently intend, so far as I can gather, to evade these responsibilities altogether. It is only right to say that I have no absolute evidence that a definite refusal has been given, as was apparently given in the case of Menston, but it is, so to speak, an open secret that they have no intention of proceeding with the chapel at Storthes Hall.
§ What has made this question immediately urgent is the fact that the West Riding County Council is at this moment promoting a Bill for a Joint Asylums Board by which the administration of these large asylums should be shared by the county boroughs and the expenses apportioned, I believe, in accordance with the number of pauper lunatics sent from each district. I am told that there is reason to think that if this Bill passes its Third Reading—and it will shortly, I believe, be reported to this House for Third Reading—they will finally wash their hands of all responsibility with regard to these chapels; and therefore it might even be a question for your Lordships' House to decide whether the Bill should be read a third time unless some satisfactory and definite assurance is given that the West Riding authority will carry out its undertaking. On this ground alone—on the ground of what I might call the purity of public bodies—I hope the House 829 will think that I am justified in calling attention to the Failure of the West Riding County Council to keep, so to speak, its Parliamentary faith. In the public interest and, I think, on the broadest ground it is not right that such action should be passed over without full and satisfactory explanation, and I am hoping that His Majesty's Government may be able to give us some explanation.
§ But it may be urged, in reply, that the provision made for public worship and for the religious care of the inmates is adequate and satisfactory in these two asylums. I believe that is the attitude taken up by the Committee of the West Riding County Council. But unfortunately, as I shall show directly, the overwhelming experience of all experts in the treatment of the insane is exactly contrary. Services are, as a matter of fact, held in these asylums every Sunday, some of them Church of England services, some of them services conducted by Nonconformist bodies, but these services are held, in the case of the Storthes Hall Asylum, in a recreation room. A movable desk is put out into this large recreation room and placed just in front of the stage, upon which concerts and plays and variety entertainments have been frequently held immediately beforehand during the week. The same room is used for dancing, which, as your Lordships are aware, is a very pleasant and necessary part of the cure of the insane by way of brightening their lives and giving them some change. The whole surroundings, therefore, of this room are quite alien to the calm and dignified and solemn associations which ought to cling to public worship. I might urge these points upon your Lordships on the highest ground of all—namely, the reverence and respect due to the corporate presentation of religion in public worship.
§ These gentlemen who guide the policy of the Asylums Committee presumably have their own place of worship. They do not use theatres and music-halls and chance rooms to meet in for their regular worship on a Sunday, nor would they consider such buildings as these to be a "convenient place" even within the terms of the Act. For I believe the Act says that Divine Service must be held either in a chapel or in some other convenient place, and it is rather difficult to understand how 830 they, who value a reverent and decent public worship in churches or chapels of their own, after assembling these large numbers of patients in a place where they have no opportunity of attending either a consecrated or unconsecrated place of worship, should deprive them, I will not say of all the means of religion—for individual religion is, after all, not so fully dependent upon its surroundings—but should deprive them of those solemn exercises and hallowed associations by which religion is very powerfully supported in all of us; and if that is so in the case of persons in full control of their mental faculties, how much more is such a boon as this due to those who for a time at least are suffering from a weak mental condition. As Bishop who is responsible for the parish in which the great Storthes Hall Asylum is situated, I am bound to confess that I consider the arrangements for public worship in the recreation room of that asylum lamentably deficient.
§ I pass on for a moment to another aspect of the case which I think will meet with your Lordships' appreciation. Quite apart from the interests of religion, it is, I think, universally admitted that reverent public worship is of quite marked importance and value in the curative treatment of the insane, to say nothing of their consolation and comfort. There is no doubt that the effect of the ministrations of religion, decently conducted in a dignified way, has a great deal to do with, and is an important factor in contributing to, the cure of these unfortunate people. The opinion of the Lunacy Commission is well known on this point. I could quote if there were time, but I shall not weary your Lordships with them, extracts from the visiting reports of the Lunacy Commission in which again and again they express the opinion that the absence of a separate place of worship deprives a large pauper lunatic asylum of what is almost essential to its complete equipment, and every medical superintendent to whom I have spoken or written assures me that there can be only one opinion on the subject.
With your Lordships' permission I would like to quote the opinion of two gentlemen whose names will at once carry conviction. The first is Sir James Crichton Browne, who, I suppose, is one of our foremost authorities upon the whole subject. He
writes to me from Crindau, Dumfries, under date April 19 last, as follows—
MY DEAR LORD BISHOP,—I have just received your letter of the 16th instant, and have no hesitation in saying, in reply, that a suitable and separate place of worship is front the medical point of view an invaluable adjunct to an asylum for the insane. A building exclusively set apart for religious purposes keeps alive in the patients, in a way that no room or ball occasionally reserved for them but commonly appropriated to secular uses can do, a sense of sanctity and solemnity that is wholesome and contributory to the restoration of mental equilibrium. While Medical Director of the West Riding Asylum I regarded the beautiful chapel there, built from plans kindly gifted by the late Sir Gilbert Scott, as part of my pharmacopœia, and found that attendance at the services held in it was soothing, consolatory, and a premium on self-control alike in Church people and Dissenters. An asylum chapel should, in my opinion, be placed in the grounds at a little distance front the main building, so that the homely associations of church-going may be maintained, and should be not only decent but beautiful so that pleasing and harmonious impressions may be borne in upon the mind. Among the means employed in that moral treatment of the insane which has now in large measure superseded mere drugging I know of none more potent and salutary than those that appeal soberly and chastely to man's spiritual nature. Many recovered lunatics have told me that the dawn of returning reason came to them when kneeling in the asylum chapel. The directors of the great asylum here, the Crichton Royal Institution—an institution for the insane of the upper and middle as well as for the poorer class—acting under medical advice, built a number of years ago an asylum chapel of an exquisite architectural design which cost £30,000. They have never regretted the expenditure.
I will also read to your Lordships a letter from Sir Thomas Clouston, the well-known Edinburgh physician for the mentally afflicted. He writes, under date April 18 last—
I have the strongest views as to the advantages of a place of worship for the patients in mental hospitals from a medical point of view. Those patients are there not of their own free will; therefore there is a strong moral obligation resting on the committees of such hospitals to do everything that will be likely to cure them and make their lives happy. Such hospitals would be distinctly wanting in one means of cure and successful treatment were places of worship not available in them. A separate church is far better for the purpose than a room inside a hospital. 'Going to church' is to many patients a soothing thing to their mental state. Sacred music is well known to be helpful for the cure of some forms of mental disease, and the full effect of this is best obtained in church. The association of patients in church helps to revive dormant social instincts which is a common and painful symptom of their mental malady. I can speak on this subject as the result of forty-eight years' experience in the treatment of the insane in two mental hospitals in England and Scotland, in both
of which I got my committee to erect churches in the grounds, where before the religious services had been conducted in special rooms within the building. The results were marked and good.
I will not trouble your Lordships with them, but I have two or three more letters of a similar kind. The almost universal opinion of those who have to deal with the insane is that a separate chapel is almost a necessary part of the equipment of every asylum.
§ I am not actuated in this matter by any hostility to the West Riding County Council, still less to the Asylums Committee of that body, and I gladly pay my tribute to the zeal, the energy, the business capacity, and the very real and genuine interest which they bring to bear on every other part of their work. But this fact only brings into stronger relief the position in which they choose to place the public ministration of religion. It is a pity that they should give the impression to so many people that they deliberately ignore the need for suitable provision for public worship. It is still more deplorable that they should set aside the deliberate judgment of those who have had most to do with the treatment of the insane. Most of all it is disastrous that they should even appear to wish, if they do wish, to evade a moral obligation which their chairman acknowledged to be an actual breach of faith. On these grounds, therefore, I venture to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can give us any information with regard to this matter. I hope they may be able to tell us that it is the intention of the County Council to remedy this defect, and, I think I really must say, to vindicate their honour. But, if not, I think the House has a right to ask whether His Majesty's Government intend to take any- steps in the matter with regard to putting pressure upon the West Riding County Council, and whether they will lay on the Table any correspondence between the County Council and the Home Office or the Lunacy Commissioners which would throw light upon this question. I have detained your Lordships at greater length than I intended, but I am quite sure you will feel with me that this is not a mere local question, and that if it becomes the practice, either from material considerations of economy or from any other motive which I cannot myself understand or analyse, to deprive these poor unfortunate paupers of what is acknowledged to be an almost necessary part of their treatment 833 and of something which ought to be to them among the happiest associations of their unfortunate detention, it would be a disaster, and, more than a disaster, it would be a disgrace to the humanity of English people in connection with perhaps the most helpless class with whom we have to deal.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the failure of the West Riding County Council to carry out its undertaking to build chapels (to be used by all denominations) in connection with two lunatic asylums in their district.—(The Lord Bishop of Wakefield.)
§ LORD FABER
My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the remarks which have fallen from the right rev. Prelate. I do not desire to traverse his statements in any way; I believe they are correct. In regard to the Menston Asylum, a very large asylum that was built in 1888, no doubt a pledge was given that a chapel should be built; and again with regard to the Storthes Hall Asylum, which was built in 1904, there was also a pledge that a chapel should be built. The gentleman who was chairman of the West Riding County Council for many years and who gave up the chairmanship last year is a man of well-known position and very well liked and respected in the West Riding of Yorkshire. This gentleman is now chairman of the committee which deals with these asylums, and that is a point to be remembered. I do not presume for a moment to say whether or not chapels are a valuable addition to an asylum. Probably they are. Still, there is something to be said as regards that on the other side; and I do say without fear of contradiction that especially in the West Riding of Yorkshire asylums are very necessary indeed, whether chapels are necessary or not. More than that, an Asylum Board such as is proposed in the Bill shortly to be brought before your Lordships' House and to which the right rev. Prelate referred is also very necessary, as it will lead to great economies in the conduct of those asylums. The West Riding of Yorkshire has to deal with a great amount of lunacy, and it is, therefore, an important matter to see that the finance in regard to these asylums is sufficiently looked after. But there remains above everything the promises given on both occasions that chapels should be built. I 834 do not desire to argue against the fulfilment of those promises, and I think I may say that if the Lord Bishop will be good enough to have a little conversation with the chairman of the Asylums Board it is possible, nay I think it is probable, he will arrive at a solution of this vexed question. I hope that will be so, because I feel that there is a very big question behind this, and that nothing should be allowed to interfere with the proper development of asylums such as these great institutions in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS)
My Lords, I confess that the attitude of the West Riding lunacy authorities, which has been so clearly and so forcibly described by the right rev. Prelate, is inexplicable, more especially as o it stands practically alone and there is no reason for supposing that it represents the general public opinion in the West Riding. I may say, my Lords, that the Lunacy Commissioners and the Secretary of State are as much impressed as the right rev. Prelate with the desirability of asylums being provided with proper chapels. That has always been their attitude and they have always held it. For some time the Lunacy Commissioners and the Secretary of State have been aware of the attitude taken up by the West Riding County Council on this question, and they have from time to time, as the right rev. Prelate said, urged upon the Visiting Committees and the General Asylums Committee the desirability of providing these chapels.
In 1910 the Home Office, at the instigation of the Lunacy Commissioners, wrote to the Storthes Hall Visiting Committee and drew their attention to the fact that they had neither provided the chapel, the plan for which was included in the plans approved by the Secretary of State, nor appointed a paid chaplain, which they are obliged to do by the Lunacy Act of 1890. A chaplain has since been appointed but so far no steps have been taken towards providing a chapel. In November, 1910, the Secretary of State wrote a letter to the West Riding General Asylums Committee urging again that these chapels should be provided at Menston, Scalebor Park, and. Storthes Hall. The only definite reply received was a letter of March 27, 1911, to the effect that adequate arrangements had been made for holding services for all denominations at the three asylums, 835 and that the committees of the three asylums did not see their way to erect chapels. On receiving that reply, which practically amounts to a refusal to comply with the request, the Secretary of State consulted the Law Officers of the Crown as to what his powers were. The Law Officers advised that it is a requirement of the Lunacy Act of 1890 that the local authority shall provide asylum accommodation of the kind approved by the Secretary of State, and therefore if the Secretary of State requires a chapel to be erected as part of the asylum accommodation the local authority must build a chapel. That being the view of the Law Officers of the Crown as to the powers of the Secretary of State, my right hon. friend has now taken the step of issuing a requisition to the General Asylums Committee of the County Council calling upon them to fulfil this obligation. It may interest your Lordships to hear the terms of the requisition. It is as follows—To the County Council of the West Riding of Yorkshire: Whereas you, the Council of the administrative county of the West Riding of Yorkshire, are a local authority within the meaning of the Lunacy Act, 1890. And whereas the Commissioners in Lunacy have, pursuant to Section 247 of the said Act, reported to me as Secretary of State that you the said Council have failed to satisfy the requirements of the said Act as regards asylum accommodation in that you have not provided suitable chapels for the celebration of Divine service at Menston, Storthes Hall, and Scalebor Park asylums being asylums maintained by you under the said Act. Now I, the said Secretary of State, do hereby, pursuant to the section, require you the said Council as such local authority to provide such chapels, in the case of the said Storthes Hall Asylum in accordance with the plans and contracts approved by the Secretary of State in the month of May, 1905, pursuant to the said Act, and in the case of the said Menston and Scalebor Park Asylums in accordance with plans and contracts to be submitted by you to the said Commissioners and to a Secretary of State and to be approved by the said Secretary of State pursuant to the said Act. And I do further hereby require you pursuant to the said section in the case of the said last two mentioned asylums to submit plans and contracts accordingly.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
It was sent out on April 23. It is to be hoped that this requisition will have the desired effect. I can hardly conceive that the County Council can persist in its refusal after such a definite document, and in view of that I think it would be undesirable for the House to confuse two issues by refusing a 836 Third Reading to the Bill referred to by the right rev. Prelate for setting up a new Asylums Board. I think it is pretty certain that this requisition will obtain the desired end.
§ LORD FABER
My Lords, I should like to correct a statement I made just now. I stated that the ex-chairman of the West Riding County Council was now chairman of the Asylums Committee. I was wrong. He is chairman of quite as important a committee in this matter—the Law and Parliamentary Committee.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I do not like to allow this conversation to close without offering our congratulations to the right rev. Prelate upon the complete success which has attended his effort to bring this matter before your Lordships' House. There has been virtually no defence for the conduct of the West Riding County Council in this matter. Their conduct was admitted just now by the noble Lord who spoke for the Home Office to be inexplicable, and he did not deny that they had evaded what evidently in his opinion and in the opinion of the Department was a legal obligation which rested with them. The right rev. Prelate established his case so thoroughly that I am certainly not going to follow him over the history of the matter, but it is perfectly clear that the general practice has been to provide chapels at these great asylums, and that the only failure to do so has taken place in regard to these two asylums in which the local authority was plainly and deliberately recalcitrant. The pledges given that the chapel accommodation should be provided were distinct. They were embodied in resolutions which are on record, and it seems to me that the refusal of the County Council amounted to a very cynical disregard of their obligations. May I be permitted to say how entirely I agree with what was said by the right rev. Prelate as to the impropriety of using recreation rooms for this purpose. I am no lawyer, but I will take upon myself confidently to say that when an Act of Parliament says that a chapel "or some other convenient place" is to be provided for Divine worship, that does not mean merely a place in which there is a certain amount of standing or sitting room. It means a place appropriate for Divine worship—a place, if I may use the right rev. Prelate's own expression, proper and decent for use 837 as a place of worship; and nobody, I venture to say, will be found to contend that a room which is ordinarily used for the purpose of dances or variety entertainments can by any stretch of language be described as a convenient place in which to celebrate public worship. There is another matter upon which I do not think the right rev. Prelate touched, but obviously in a large institution of this kind you would have to take into account, not only the unfortunate inmates, but also the very large staff who have to attend upon them, and these people also seem to me entitled to proper recognition. We heard with great satisfaction that the Secretary of State has determined, rather late in the day, to put pressure upon the County Council. I think the date of the ultimatum was very recent.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
It was issued the day before yesterday, after the Notice had been placed on the Paper.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
And therefore we may be pardoned if we connect the action of the Secretary of State with the Notice which the right rev. Prelate very properly placed on the Paper. From what fell from Lord Faber I think it is clear that the West Riding County Council have by this time found out that they must comply with the provisions of the Act. But I should like to ask the noble Lord who speaks for His Majesty's Government whether the Secretary of State is prepared, in the event of any failure on the part of the County Council in this respect, to follow up his ultimatum by other measures, and what shape those other measures are likely to take.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
My Lords, in reply to the noble Marquess I would say that the requisition sent by the Secretary of State is not a sham requisition but is intended to have effect. It is quite impossible to say what steps it may be necessary to take in the event of the County Council refusing to comply with it. But I can assure the noble Marquess that there is every intention to take adequate steps to effect the purpose indicated in the requisition.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.