HC Deb 08 March 1878 vol 238 cc973-5

asked the President of the Local Government Board, Whether he is aware that Charles Washington Nye, of Chatham, having lost two children, as he believes through vaccination, for refusing to vaccinate his other children since, has been prosecuted eight times (between October 1869 and December 1877), and endured various terms of imprisonment amounting to a total of six months and three weeks in Canterbury and Maidstone Gaols; whe- ther it is true that the clerk to the guardians has urged that he be again prosecuted; and, whether, in view of this and other like cases, the Government will support the Bill of the hon. Member for South Durham or propose some other remedy?


It is true that Mr. Nye, who is said to be a secretary of the Anti-Vaccination Society, has, unfortunately, lost two children; but not from vaccination, as the medical certificates—one of which was the result of a coroner's inquest—show the cause of death to have been cholera. I do not know how many times he has been imprisoned; but in the Medway Union, to which place my inquiries have been restricted, I find he has been imprisoned three times since August, 1871, for refusing to have two of his children vaccinated, one of the prosecutions having been a second one in respect of the same child. The clerk to the Guardians denies that he advised this prosecution. What he did was to state, in reply to a question, that it would be legal to prosecute twice for the same child, and he quoted, in support of that view, the judgment of the Queen's Bench, delivered in December last, in the case "Tedd- v. Jones." No alteration of the law is, in my opinion, required, if the local authorities will only exercise a reasonable discretion as to the cases in which they cause proceedings to be taken. The objectionable character of the publications circulated by the Anti-Vaccination Society renders it extremely difficult to support legislation of a mitigating character as regards repeated prosecutions.


asked the President of the Local Government Board, Whether it is the fact that between the years 1847 and 1851 the deaths from small-pox in England and Wales were 27,438; between 1852 and 1856, 18,081; between 1857 and 1861, 18,313; between 1862 and 1866, 24,716; between 1867 and 1871, 31,876; and between 1872 and 1876, 26,988; and, if so, to what he attributes the increase in this source of mortality; and, whether he contemplates taking any fresh steps to arrest it? Also, whether the inquiries which the right hon. Gentleman said last year were being prosecuted by the medical officers of the Board last year had been attended by any result?


The figures are correctly stated by my noble Friend; but, as arranged in the quinquennial periods, might lead to erroneous inferences without a few words of explanation. The increase in small-pox mortality which they exhibit during the 10 years, 1867–1876, was entirely due to the epidemic which occurred in 1871 and 1872; for, in the remaining eight years of the decennial period, the mortality was much below the average. That epidemic was of a very malignant character, and prevailed throughout the whole of Europe, and, indeed, throughout the world; but in no country, so far as we know, except Denmark, was the mortality from it so low as in England. A full account of it is given in the Report of the Medical Inspector for 1874. Since that time the mortality has been below that of all previous experience, having in the five years, 1873–7, been little over 2,400 a-year. In the last quarter of 1877 it was only 405, including316 deaths in London, and thus leaving 89 only in the rest of the country. It must be remembered that the present Vaccination Act did not come into force till 1872. We have every reason to be satisfied with its success, generally; but, of course, there are places—amongothers, parts of the metropolis—where it has been less completely worked. The only measure at present called for seems to be greater activity among the local authorities of these places. But I know that my noble Friend is interested in the question of vaccination from the calf. The inquiries in Belgium and elsewhere, to which he alludes, were interrupted by the illness of the medical officer; but it will be satisfactory to him to learn that I have caused a portion of the Grant for scientific investigations this year to be employed in experiments on the subject, which are now in progress.