HC Deb 11 March 1859 vol 153 cc35-8

said, he wished to put a Question to the Vice President of the Committee of Privy Council of Education, with reference to the exercise of the powers vested in the Privy Council for the protection of Public Health. He had recently called attention to the enormous rate of mortality from smallpox in certain districts, a mortality which he thought must have resulted from the want of an efficient system of vaccination—at any rate, up to the present moment no good appeared to have resulted from the exercise of the powers which had been vested in the Privy Council, for he found by the returns that during the last sixteen weeks there had been more deaths from smallpox than there had been during the preceding eighteen months, and that too in the metropolis alone. It appeared from the return of the Registrar General that in twenty-seven counties of England and in the whole of Wales this epidemic prevailed; and he wished to know if the powers given to the Government by the Act of last year had been carried out. It had been stated in another place that something had been done to secure an efficient supply of lymph, and that certain recommendations had been issued to the Poor Law Unions; but he believed that the important power given of framing regulations which should ascertain the qualification of the public vaccinators in the different unions, and secure the services of the best, had not been carried into effect. The returns showed that out of 1,000 properly vaccinated only three died from attacks of smallpox, but 150 out of 1,000 died of those who were improperly vaccinated. It was most important, therefore, that the best vaccinators should be obtained, and he wished to know what steps the Government had taken to secure that result.


admitted that the epidemic to which the right hon. Gentleman had called the attention of the House prevailed to a considerable extent at the present moment; but he could at the same time assure him that the Privy Council had exercised to the utmost all the powers which had been conferred upon them under the Act of last Session. They had done everything, for instance, which that Act enabled them to do in the way of inquiry, of procuring reports and returns, of giving advice, and of setting in motion local authorities in many parts of the country. They were issuing such regulations to the boards of guardians for the purpose of raising the qualification of public vaccinators as they thought could be enforced. Some delay had been occasioned in the issue of those regulations, owing, in the first place, to the necessity of entering into a correspondence on the subject with the Poor Law Board; and, secondly, to the circumstance that a hope was entertained that security for due qualification of vaccinators could be most effectually attained through the machinery of the Medical Council, which had called into existence under the operation of the Medical Practitioners Act. The conclusion had ultimately, however, been arrived at, that though much good could be properly worked out through that channel, yet regulations should also be issued to the boards of guardians providing that in the case of all contracts entered into between them and a public vaccinator his name should appear in the public register under the Medical Act as having passed an examination both on the subjects of medicine and surgery, and if that provision were not complied with the contract would be void. The Privy Council had also drawn up directions by way of recommendations for the more effectual performance of vaccination, which would be issued to every Poor Law Union throughout the kingdom, and had taken steps to have quarterly returns sent them from the various boards of guardians, showing the number of successful vaccinations which had taken place in each union, from the comparison of which returns with the number of births they would be able to detect whether their instructions had or had not been properly carried into effect in any particular union. In those cases in which they should thus discover the existence of neglect they would immediately send down inspectors, and take the necessary measures to enforce the authority which they possessed, and, if necessary, to set the law in force for the imposition of penalties. The Compulsory Vaccination Act had been to a great extent ineffectual from the want of officers to see its provision carried out, but this defect was fully supplied by the last clause in the Act of last year. They had, moreover, provided for the establishment of provincial depots of lymph in several parts of the country. The number of those depots in England would, he believed, be about ten, which would be put in communication with the National Vaccination Board, and by means of them an ample supply of lymph would be secured in all quarters of the kingdom. He might observe, in conclusion, that the Privy Council had instituted inquiries in the cases of Windsor, Conway, and other places in which they had learnt that sickness had become prevalent, and that the drainage was in an unhealthy state, and had in all such cases induced the local authorities to put in force the powers which had been conferred upon them, with a view of providing a remedy for those evils. All that they did would, in obedience to the law, be reported to Parliament; and when the first Report on the subject was laid upon the table the House would be in a position to form a judgment how far they had performed their duly.

Motion agreed to.

House at rising to adjourn till Monday next.

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