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Column 743Austin-Walker, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Column 743Illsley, Eric
Marek, Dr John
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Wareing, Robert N
Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Tellers for the Noes: Jeremy Corbyn and Ronnie Campbell.
Column 743Question accordingly agreed to.
That Mr. Tony Benn be discharged from the Committee of Privileges.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 131 (Liaison Committee),
That this House agrees with the Report [8th December] of the Liaison Committee.--[ Mr. Wells. ]
Question agreed to.
That Mr. Dennis Turner be discharged from the Education Committee and Mr. Greg Pope be added to the Committee.--[ Mr. Dixon. ]
That Tessa Jowell be discharged from the Health Committee and Mr. John Austin-Walker be added to the Committee.--[ Mr. Dixon ]
That Mr. Stephen Byers and Mrs. Barbara Roche be discharged from the Home Affairs Committee and Mr. John Hutton and Ms Janet Anderson be added to the Committee.--[ Mr. Dixon. ]
That Mr. Jim Marshall be discharged from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and Mr. Thomas McAvoy be added to the Committee.--[ Mr. Dixon. ]
That Mr. Jimmy Wray be discharged from the Social Security Committee and Mr. Malcolm Wicks be added to the Committee.--[ Mr. Dixon. ]
Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury): I rise to present a petition on behalf of some of my constituents and those of my hon. Friends who represent other Buckinghamshire constituencies. It reads:
"To the House of Commons, The petition of the Friends of Buckinghamshire declares that the £13 million the Local Government Commission says it would cost to set up its new councils in Buckinghamshire and the ongoing costs of up to £5 million a year would be better spent on improvements to services provided by the existing county and district councils. Breaking the county up would damage important countywide services such as Education, social services and libraries. The MORI opinion poll carried out on behalf of the Commission showed that only 19 per cent of respondents favoured the four unitary council plan. Nearly twice as many said they wanted no change to existing councils, or change limited to the creation of a new council for Milton Keynes.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons rejects the Local Government Commission's recommendations for Buckinghamshire."
The petitioners are headed by my noble Friend Lord Carrington, and an identical petition signed by 25,000 people in Buckinghamshire has been presented to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.
To lie upon the Table.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Wells.]
Mr. Colin Pickthall (Lancashire, West): I am glad of the opportunity to raise this issue. I have been informed that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith) wishes to speak later, and I am happy with that, as I believe, is the Minster.
Stage hypnotism has been a long-standing concern of mine since I was alerted to its dangers by one of my constituents, Mrs. Margaret Harper. Some years ago, her daughter, Sharon Tabarn, was hypnotised at a club in Leyland in Lancashire. At the end of the trance, she was told to come out of it as if she had had a 10,000 volt electric shock. Her husband took her home in a somewhat dazed state, and five hours later she died.
The coroner's inquest found that this was an accidental death. The expert witness, a Dr. Heap, declared that there was no connection between hypnosis and any physical side-effects. That is patent nonsense. The Home Office pathologist said:
"It is hard not to think there was a link."
My view is that the coincidence is too great to be dismissed and that evidence from other incidents shows that the link is likely to be real.
Following the tragedy, Mrs. Harper began, and still sustains, a campaign to ban stage hypnotism, and she has pulled together a vast amount of information, some of which I have sent to the Minister. I began to put questions to Ministers about the issue and was passed from one Department to another, no one seeming to want to take responsibility for the problem, although, to be fair, it crosses the responsibilities of Home Affairs in the context of licensing, of the Department of Health and of the Department of National Heritage, no doubt because of the stage element.
I was alarmed by the answer to a question from the Minister for Health, who wrote:
"The Department has not investigated the medical effects of stage hypnotism and currently has no plans to do so."--[ Official Report , 7 February 1994; Vol.237, c.52.]
On 15 March this year, a Home Office Minister answered a further question by writing that he had no present plans to review the licensing guidelines for acts of hypnosis, to institute a central register or code of conduct or to install compulsory public liability insurance. Given the level of concern and the obvious potential of misused or badly used hypnotism to do severe damage, those answers are unacceptable and complacent.
I have had letters from all over the country giving disturbing accounts of the effects of stage hypnosis, some of which I have passed to the Minister. I shall give some examples. Mr. Cannon from Barnet in the summer of 1992 was hypnotised and as a result he has had violent headaches ever since. He describes it as having made his life hell. A Mr. Hill of Rotherham was hypnotised by one Henry James--I do not think that it was the Henry James-- and is subject to violent headaches, violent uncontrollable anger and persistent panic attacks. He was hospitalised several times on anti- depressants and has a permanent sleeping disorder.
Dean Chambers from Blackpool had his arm paralysed for four weeks as a result of the condition under which he was placed under hypnosis. A young man from High
Column 746Wycombe who was hypnotised by Paul McKenna, who is quite famous in this area, had to go to a psychiatric unit two days later where he was detained for six weeks and was still receiving treatment seven weeks later. While he was hypnotised he was put into regression, which is against the code of conduct, and was left unattended, which is also against the guidelines.
Mr. Nickson of Prestatyn became unable to work as a result of stage hypnotism, and was unable to hold a conversation and has attempted suicide. His case is attested by Mr. Trevelyn, the consultant psychiatrist for Clwyd. David Burill of Blackpool was hypnotised by Alan Bates and collapsed immediately after being brought round. He went crazy--his words--and had to be re-hypnotised by Bates. He suffered from violent headaches for weeks afterwards.
Ruth McLoughlin, a Glasgow university student, was hypnotised in October by Stefan Force and doctors found afterwards that her heart rate had dropped to a dangerously low level. Those are a few of the complaints that I and others have received.
Dr. Prem Meisra, who works in Glasgow, described a patient who became a compulsive eater of onions after being told to eat onions instead of apples while in a trance. It sounds funny but it is not. Another of his patients went into a trance again every time someone clapped, and a further patient began to suffer from a
This is plainly a highly dangerous business with potentially, perhaps actually, huge consequences for the national health service, as well as for the people concerned. In some instances, it may even have consequences for spectators. In the past, the Home Office has referred complainants first to the guidelines, which are worthless because they are largely ignored; secondly to the fact that responsibility for performances lies with local authorities; and thirdly to the Hypnotism Act 1952, which apparently covers the eventualities.
In August, on advice from doctors, Devon county council banned a stage hypnotism show by Mr. David Tabb. He used a loophole in the Act--the fact that, if stage hypnotism is called research, the licensing orders do not apply--and continued with his performance, which he called research, in a local pub. I shall quote Mr. Tabb's comment to Stage and Television Today on 25 August. He said: "Under the wording of the act you don't need permission for research so I just say my show is private research and there is nothing they can do. Basically the act is a load of wallop, but I haven't heard a dicky bird from the council since."
Obviously he is a man of great literary ability.
It is clear that the Act is not working as intended. Local authorities are reluctant to take cases to court because that is expensive and because they would end up prosecuting their local pubs, hall or other venues. We must separate the different groups involved.