(Very rough) Midnight Notes #2

One hour is grossly insufficient time to explain why I am sharing this information , so I won’t try now.

I need to prepare my night lunch, and get my mind clear for the next several hours of work and listening to some chapters from audiobooks:’Mao’s Great Famine’ by Frank Dikotter, and ‘That Hideous Strength’ by C. S. Lewis …

Before that my thoughts are mainly concerned with the last speech regarding an amendment to a question about “voluntary” sterilisation:

House of Commons

Voluntary Sterilisation

Volume 322: debated on Tuesday 13 April 1937

4.13 p.m.

Wing-Commander James

beg to move, to leave out from the word “That” to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

‘ “in the opinion of this House, the Government should give further consideration to the potentialities of voluntary sterilisation for hereditary defectives in accordance with the unanimous recommendations of the Departmental Committee that reported to the Minister of Health on 8th January, 1934.” ‘

To read the transcript of the debate, follow this link : https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1937-04-13/debates/5aeee756-d801-478e-9c83-74c2729ca6a4/VoluntarySterilisation

I will fast forward to 6.29 p.m.   The contribution by John “Jack”  Joseph Jones, ( 8 December 1873 – 21 November 1941), Labour Party MP stands out to me.

I intend to find out as much as I can about Jack Jones. I am struggling to find an affordable copy of his autobiography “My Lively Life”… There are a couple of other speeches by Mr Jones which are leading me to dead ends, or  what might be better described as avenues of history about the mysterious activities various ‘boards’ that the easy to access books by historians seem to have no interest in whatsoever. More on that maybe at a later date…..

6.29 p.m.

Mr. J. J. Jones:

‘Probably if a suggestion of this character were carried into effect I should be one of those who would be sterilised, because within recent months I have been mentally and physically afflicted. Therefore, on the terms of this proposition I should not be able to propagate my species—not that that would matter much to the general interests of the Empire. But I want to ask who are the people who are to be experimented upon voluntarily? I have been a member of a mental hospital committee for 33 years, and we have had experience of the kind of people who enter into those institutions and are supposed to be mentally unfit and physically incapable in many cases. I could take hon. Members to my institution and show them men of great ability, men who can do all sorts of things of an artistic character, yet they are mentally unfit, according to the doctors.

I do not know much about these psychological problems. You require to be a psychologist to understand them. I have heard our doctors explain how certain people have come into a certain condition. All sorts of troubles come into their lives. A man may have a row with his wife which may drive him off his head, and a woman may have a quarrel with her husband and become mentally defective, and, according to the proposition that has been made, as far as I understand—and I do not understand a very great deal—that man and that woman, in certain circumstances, could be voluntarily sterilised. Are you going to ask that man and that woman voluntarily to agree to become incapable of enjoying the ordinary conditions of life? I do not know what is meant by voluntary sterilisation. I think it means that you begin on a so-called voluntary scale, and you end up with compulsion. That is the way you will end—with compulsory sterilisation. Fancy Members of the Tory party wanting to sterilise us‡ If the Labour party come into power, as at sometime they will, we might want to sterilise them, because they will be mentally deficient.

This proposition may be coming from gentlemen who represent the Services. Do they imagine that the ordinary workers have no rights? How are you to decide who is to volunteer to be sterilised? Who is to settle it? What kind of board is to be established to settle whether a man or woman is to be sterilised and made incapable? Frankly, I would not trust any board to decide that matter. In view of my experience of 33 years as a member of a mental hospitals committee, I would not even trust the doctors, much as I respect them. They make mistakes, and if they did not make mistakes their lives would not be worth living. As to the attitude of the Government towards the Amendment, the Minister of Health is a very kind gentleman. He is like Caesar’s wife, “All things to all men.” He tries to oblige everybody, and he ends up by obliging nobody, generally speaking. Some of us are opposed to this proposition. We have got on very well without voluntary or other sterilisation. They have tried it in Germany, and what is the result? They have sterilised the whole population. They can say nothing but “Heil Hitler.” A hundred Members of this House are to accept an invitation to go to Germany and “Heil Hitler.” They are going round Germany. What for? To become part and parcel of the machine. [An HON. MEMBER: “What about the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury)?”] I do not care what the right hon. Member might say; it does not interest me. If he can convert Hitler I shall be glad, but I am afraid that it is he who will be converted.

There is no such thing as voluntary sterilisation. If you are to have sterilisation it must be compulsory, because the only people who will suffer as a result of voluntary sterilisation are those who cannot help themselves. They will be put away by other people. I know that voluntary inmates of a mental hospital with which I am connected are not always there by their own volition, but because their relations have put them there. They have not the sense to be able to say whether they should or should not go. What is it proposed to do with voluntary sterilisation? Are persons who are mentally and physically unfit to be asked to go into an institution to be treated or not? If they are, you will not get the answer that you want. It means that compulsion will be enforced upon people who are not capable of resisting, and, speaking for myself, and for other hon. Members, we are opposed to the system of so-called voluntary sterilisation.’

Wing-Commander James:

‘Owing to the nature of the reply of the Minister of Health, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.’


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