HC Deb 26 February 1885 vol 294 cc1395-6

asked the President of the Local Government Board, Whether he has had his attention drawn to the fact that, in the town of Leicester, there are now upwards of four thousand parents threatened with prosecution, on account of their conscientious refusal to allow their infant children to be vaccinated; whether a similar difficulty in enforcing the Law is experienced in Keighley, Dewsbury, Derby, Eastbourne, and other places; whether these places have remained practically free from smallpox, while London, Birmingham, and several other districts, reported as well vaccinated, have repeatedly suffered from epidemic visitations of the disease; whether resistance to compulsory vaccination shows, on the whole, a marked increase since the last inquiry into the subject by a Committee of this House; and, whether, under these circumstances, the Government will institute a fresh inquiry by commission, or by a Committee of this House, into the working of the Vaccination Acts?


We are aware that in Leicester, Keighley, Dews- bury, and the other towns specified there are a large number of persons who are in default under the Vaccination Acts on account of the non-vaccination of their children. In these towns, and in some three or four others, where there has been no recent experience of small-pox epidemics, there is, no doubt, on the part of some of the inhabitants, a strong anti-vaccination feeling. But although these places have for some years past been practically free from small-pox, the same may be said of many other towns. London, it is true, has suffered from severe epidemics, and small-pox has been prevalent in Birmingham; but in London especially epidemics are dependent on a number of conditions besides the universality of infantile vaccination. More to the purpose than a proposal to compare small-pox incidence in particular towns is a comparison between the incidence of small-pox upon the vaccinated and upon the unvaccinated when smallpox becomes epidemic in a town. We have no evidence of any general increase in resistance to the Vaccination Acts. The last Returns show no falling-off as regards the proportion of children vaccinated, less than 5 per cent of the children born being reported as unaccounted for. The whole subject was fully considered by a Select Committee of this House in 1871; and we do not think that there would be any advantage, at the present time, in a further inquiry being instituted by a Commission or Committee of the House.