HC Deb 05 April 1889 vol 334 cc1721-60
MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I hope that hon. Members—and they are not a few in number—who have received representations from their constituents of the amount of suffering inflicted on conscientious people by the present operation of the Vaccination Laws, will not think that I am occupying the time of the House unnecessarily by asking them to consider the terms of the Resolution that I intend to propose. Last year I brought in a Bill intended to abolish the compulsory clauses of the Vaccination Acts. I should, perhaps, have done so this year had I been fortunate in the ballot on the first day of the Session. Not being thus fortunate, I had to consider what would be the next best way of dealing with the question. I will not pretend that the proposition I have to make to-day is my ideal, but it is probably the best thing I could possibly do under the circumstances. Something like 17 years have elapsed since the last inquiry was entered upon by a Select Committee of this House. If the Committee had settled the question on any reasonable basis; if it had allayed the public uneasiness which undoubtedly is excited more and more by the danger alleged to be connected with vaccination; if it had suggested any plan for abolishing the hardships suffered by the poor as contrasted with the rich; if it had really facilitated the operation of the law and reduced the amount of friction, I acknowledge that I should have had no case to lay before the House at the present moment. But I do not hesitate to say that the reverse of all that is the actual fact. An important recommendation, perhaps the most important recommendation of that Committee, though adopted by the House, was thrown out in another place. In the meanwhile opinion has been growing that the other conclusions arrived at by the Committee were against the weight of evidence, and not only the weight of evidence furnished to the Committee, but still more against the weight of evidence furnished by after events. For, immediately after the Committee reported, a violent and terrible epidemic of small-pox swept over the land, and set at defiance the antidote which is supposed to furnish an adequate preventive. Very recently there have been outbreaks of small-pox at Sheffield and other places, the effects of which have certainly rivalled in severity the very worst plagues of previous centuries. The resistance to law has increased to such an extent that in many towns it is impossible to conceal the fact that the law has become a dead letter, and in other towns the resistance is such that compulsion is degenerating into persecution, and that often of a cruel character. Enormous fines have been accumulated on the heads of poor people ill able to bear them, and, more than once or twice, Englishmen have had to witness the spectacle of honest and conscientious citizens being conducted through the streets in handcuffs, and sent to the plank-bed and other degradations, for no other reason than that of obedience to their conscience in regard to the duties they believe they owe to their children. Inquiry is earnestly challenged. It is alleged that a better method of combating this fell disease has been tried in the borough that I have the honour of representing, and that this better method has succeeded where the more ordinary method has failed. To crown all, the proverbial differences between doctors have been recently very much aggravated in regard to the subject of small-pox and vaccination, and the greatest Encyclopædia of this or any other age has admitted to its pages an article by a well-known medical writer, which goes very far indeed to shake public confidence in the preventive furnished by vaccination. Such, Sir, is the case I desire to lay before the House. The recommendation that the law should be satisfied with the imposition of one full penalty and costs on parents in regard to each child that they refused to vaccinate was unanimously adopted by the Committee, and it was embodied in the Bill which was afterwards brought forward and carried through this House. But, Sir, the Bill had to go to another place, and in that place the clause imposing only one penalty on parents for each child was struck out. I may here refer to the words uttered by the late Mr. W. E. Forster, when the Bill came back to this House in a mutilated form. It was, I think, on the 19th August, 1871, when all the Members were anxious to get away from their legislative labours to much needed recreation. According to Hansard, Mr. Forster, in complaining that the other House had struck out Clause 10—an important clause, that mitigated the penalties—used these words:— That clause was passed in that House by a majority of 57 to 12, and expunged in the other House by a majority of 8 to 7, the total number of Peers voting being just about equal to the number of Members on the Select Committee, which, after a long and careful consideration, came to a unanimous conclusion in favour of the clause. He should have had no hesitation whatever in asking the House to disagree with the Amendment if the period of the Session would allow of such disagreement without the loss of the Bill. Now, Sir, I venture to say that this is an instance much too common in the procedure of the so-called Upper House. If the veto were only exercised upon hasty and ill-considered legislation in times of unreasoning agitation, we should have no complaint to make. If the veto stayed our hands when frantic and unreasoning panic extorted from us sanction for tremendous penalties upon destructive idiots suffering from temporary madness, if it stayed our hands when we were driven to sanction the revival of mediæval torture, when burglary and robbery are unusually rife, I should not complain of the exercise of this legislative embargo. But, Sir, it is not so; it is now exercised most frequently when the legislation of this House is most humane, and it is always exercised when that legislation is most responsive to the just sympathies of the people. What has been the consequence? If, Sir, we were dealing with crime—that is to say, with an immoral act so contrary to the public interest that it must needs be put down by law; an act of impurity and disobedience to the moral law; why, then, resolute Government and a constant imposition of fines and imprisonment might possibly succeed. But, Sir, we are dealing with a faculty in man which was never very amenable to fines and imprisonment or even death, and that is, the human conscience. Let me just cite one case in illustration. Most hon. Members have surely heard of poor Charles Hayward of Ashford in Kent, who so conscientiously objects to the practice of vaccination that he feels his duty to his children will not allow him to have them operated upon. But the magistrates and guardians of the district in which he lives will not allow the poor man the luxury of a conscience at all; they think they ought to put down his conscience by fines; and according to the latest statistics from the 19th May, 1885, when the persecution began, down to the 26th of February in this year, he has been 37 separate times fined, the amount of the fines being £63 2s. 6d., including costs. Well, Sir, it is probably more than a year's income of this poor man, and this is taken from him—at least it is supposed to be taken from him—but, perhaps, charity has interfered to prevent such an excessive punishment—in the space of little more than four years—because he chooses to follow the dictates of his own conscience. This is only one illustration, and I believe that a great many others could be cited; but it affords a reason for reconsidering the mode in which the Vaccination Laws are carried out. But, Sir, I contend that some of the general recommendations of the Committee of 1871 were against the weight of evidence. The Committee desired to give greater facilities for carrying out the law and to have more vaccination stations. A simplification was wanted of the work of the public vaccinators, and it was suggested that the registers should be sent to them so that they could more easily account for the children unvaccinated, I believe the objections raised to the practice of vaccination scarcely came within the province of that Committee; at any rate, the evidence they took was, on that part of the case, exceedingly short, and it was not presented at all in full. Nevertheless, proved instances of mischief resulting from vaccination were supplied. I need not dwell upon the evidence which came before the Committee, for a far mightier witness than any that could be brought bodily into the Committee Boom was proclaiming everywhere at that time the impotence of the law. Remember that one of the facts proved by a number of the witnesses before the Committee was the almost perfect carrying out of the Vaccination Law over a large part of the country. In the district of St. Luke's, for instance, a vaccination officer testified that there was scarcely a single child unaccounted for. One of the Representatives of Ireland likewise gave evidence before the Committee, and dwelt with emphasis on the fact that vaccination was so universal in Ireland as to have practically abolished small-pox altogether. Dr. Alexander Wood, coming from Scotland, bore similar testimony, and said— I think that there is no small-pox in that country, because the Scotch Vaccination Law of 1863 has entirely stamped it out. Sir, at that very time, when these confident boasts were being made before the Committee, the plague was stalking from house to house and from city to city. In the year 1871, the deaths from smallpox in the United Kingdom amounted to 25,233, notwithstanding the boasts made as to the extent to which vaccination had been carried out. In the following year, so little had the plague diminished, that the number of deaths amounted to 24,790. And now let me refer to Scotland and Ireland. I have quoted the confident expressions of distinguished witnesses from these countries as to the practical suppression of smallpox by the practice of vaccination, but in the year 1871 there were 665 deaths from the disease in Ireland, and in 1872 the number had risen to 3,248. Again, in Scotland the deaths in 1871 amounted to 1,442 according to one table, and according to another official table to 1,760. In 1872, the deaths in Scotland were 2,448 according to the one table, and 3,073 according to the other. The grand total for the United Kingdom during the two years was 50,023, although vaccination had been in operation since the beginning of the century, and of course with constantly increasing rigour. Well, Sir, we have recently had another experience, and that is in Sheffield. A portentous Report, on that subject, came into my hands only yesterday morning, and I have scarcely been able to digest its pages. Still, I think I must make a remark or two upon it. It is indisputable that Sheffield was one of the best-vaccinated towns in the country. There were only about 5 per cent of the children unaccounted for in the vaccination statistics in the worst districts, and in the best districts even less than 1 per cent. No doubt we shall be told that this residue of 5 per cent was capable of doing an enormous amount of mischief: but, Sir, let us take the figures in the beginning of the century. We have been told over and over again that small-pox was diminishing and almost arrested by the practice of vaccination. Now, how many were vaccinated in the beginning of the century? Certainly not more than from 15 to 25 per cent. We have no accurate statistics to go upon; but I fancy from 15 to 25 per cent would fairly represent the number of children vaccinated. For a time that almost abolished small-pox, and can it now be said that a small residuum of unvaccinated children, amounting to only 5 per cent, is enough to neutralize the charm? I think it is an unreasonable view to take. And now I come to this portentous volume. I find in it that comparatively little attention is given to the sanitary condition of the Sown. There are scores of pages filled with plausible and striking statistics of the individual effects of vaccination; but there are only a few paragraphs as to the sanitary condition of the town. On page 218 we are told that— In the older parts of the town proper (well represented by the Sheffield township) houses are frequently damp, ill-ventilated, and dark. Also they are crowded together; courts are found within courts, and streets are narrow, winding, and often precipitous. Even in neighbourhoods where villages once in the country have now become surrounded by houses, precisely similar conditions exist. Further, a very large proportion of the houses erected prior to the last ten or fifteen years have been built back to back. Now I come to a still more terrible paragraph on page 221, concerning the disposal of refuse. I am sorry to trouble the House with these offensive details; but, Sir, we have to deal with the health of the people. We are told that— Sheffield is essentially a privy midden town; the total number of water-closets in existence up to December 31st, 1887, being only 4,137, chiefly found in houses in Ecclesall, Nether Hallam, Upper Hallam, and Pitsmoor. In the centre of the town shops, offices, and hotels alone rule, provided with them. If the entire population of the borough is, in accordance with the Registrar General's estimate, taken at about 320,000, and assuming that the 4,137 water-closets each serve for the use of the inmates of two houses, say for 40,000 people, we may conclude that at least 280,000 persons are provided with no other closet accommodation than that afforded by midden privies, and it has been estimated that the actual area occupied by the middens themselves in the borough amounts to considerably over 12 acres. Later on in the Report we are told— From the plan on which the middens are constructed the contents are kept continually wet by the percolation into them of subsoil and surface water (rain water falling in addition into the unsewered ones), and as a result offensive decomposition of their contents is continually taking place. The middens are habitually used throughout a large part of the town as receptacle for house slops and refuse of every description. As the midden pits are rarely made water-tight, the subsoil necessarily becomes charged with the soakage of excremental filth. These words are surely significant, and I contend that they afford ample explanation of the origin of small-pox in Sheffield. I have said that the statistics as to vaccination are undoubtedly plausible, and they are also striking; but this observation occurs to me, that they need closer scrutiny than they appear to have received. Let me give an illustration of what I mean. There is a table here dealing with the case of 21 vaccinated children over one month and under one year of age, and of eleven unvaccinated children, who were in houses invaded with small-pox. Now the table shows that of the 21 vaccinated children, only two were attacked, while of the 11 unvaccinated, no fewer than seven were attacked by the disease. Of the vaccinated one died, and of the unvaccinated four died. But why were not these 11 children vaccinated? The answer to the question possibly signifies a good deal. If I may judge from experience of my own, there is a great probability that they were left unvaccinated because they were not considered strong enough to undergo the operation, and of course it is these poor, ill-formed, ill-developed children of weak constitution, who would naturally be the first to succumb to the disease. Therefore I do not attach much value to the figures which have been quoted, and I think any inquiry now held should see how far the statistics can be verified. But, Sir, I have something more to say on the subject. I contend, Sir, we have a right to guard not merely the individual here and there, but the whole commonwealth, and even if the tables were correct, I contend that compulsion would never be justifiable unless you could thereby insure complete immunity from the disease for the whole country. That you cannot do, for we find these tremendous epidemics are continually recurrent. You find some very singular conclusions in the Report. We are told that if the whole town had been unvaccinated, and the deaths had been in the same proportion as they were among the unvaccinated persons attacked, instead of there being only five or six hundred, there would have been at least 7,000 children under ten years attacked and 3,000 would have died. Sir, this is wholly fallacious and unjustifiable, for in the last century, when vaccination was not practised at all, the percentage of deaths among persons attacked was only 18.8, and even now, with vaccination, the percentage is 18.5 for the present century. It is, therefore, absurd to say that so many would have died if the whole population had been unvaccinated. I contend, therefore, that the recommendations of the Committee of 1871 were against the weight of evidence. Public uneasiness has been more and more excited of late by the dangers said to be associated with the practice of vaccination. We all must know of cases in which vaccination has acted badly. John Stuart Mill, in his "Logic," admits the necessity of arguing from particulars to particulars, and although I disagree with his logic, I think he is justified to a certain extent by the actual practice of uneducated persons. If a man has had a child with a dreadfully inflamed arm, and frightful sores breaking out all over his body, immediately after vaccination, can you blame him, when another child comes into the family, if he refuses to let it run that risk? But there is even more than this to be said. Mr. Jonathan Hutchinson, the well-known writer on medical subjects, was examined before the Committee, and he acknowledged that he had observed cases in which sores had broken out, apparently owing to vaccination. In answer to another question, he said the general opinion of the profession was, perhaps, opposed to the belief that syphilis was communicated by vaccination, but he added that that was not the opinion of those who had carefully examined the question. Even in 1871 Mr. Hutchinson was of opinion that syphilis might be communicated by vaccination. But he then told the Committee that infection could always be effectively guarded against by the operator, when taking the lymph, being careful not to draw blood; but afterwards in a treatise which he published he altered that opinion, and said that even where there was no visible blood disease might be conveyed by the lymph. Since 1871 other medical opinions have been expressed to the same effect, and which ever theory may be correct, it is monstrous for the Legislature to go on forcing vaccination upon poor people and declining seriously to inquire into the matter. I do not hesitate to say that the general tenour of the evidence is, that there has been an enormous increase of these syphilitic diseases and of infantine mortality since vaccination was made compulsory. I have shown how the Committee of 1871 had its most important recommendation rejected in another place. I have shown how the Report of the Committee in other respects is against the weight of evidence, that they were not sufficiently alive to the repeated failures of vaccination to protect communities as distinct from individuals. I have shown, I think, that public uneasiness is constantly growing, and that to a large extent it is justified by facts and official statistics. I have shown how in nine towns the Vaccination Laws have become a dead letter, while in other places prosecutions have become a public scandal. I have shown that medical dissent from the theory that vaccination is necessary shows a tendency to increase. I have shown that in the town I have the honour to represent the experiment of relying upon the precautions I have advocated have been tried for 17 years with success. After this my demand cannot be considered unreasonable. I do not ask for a mere formal inquiry, sitting to adopt a foregone conclusion. I do ask, if the Government see their way clear to agree to my proposal, that whatever Commission or Committee may be granted may be impartially constituted; that opposing views shall be represented together with eminent men not previously committed to an attitude of partizanship upon one side or the other, and who will play the part of umpires—perhaps legal gentlemen would be best to sift and weigh the evidence before them. The constitution of the tribunal must rest on the responsibility of the Government. I only ask the House to make the demand. Surely an assembly that embodies to a very large extent both the executive and legislative functions of Government ought to keep its eyes open to every current of opinion, and its ears open to every cry of wrong. And no complaint or grievance, surely, can be more touching than the voice of parental affection pleading for freedom from medical persecution in the exercise of their Heaven-sent responsibility. We owe at least respect to such appeals of parental conscience, and therefore I move the Resolution that stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That," in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying Her to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Vaccination Acts; also into the condition, as regards the prevalence of small-pox or otherwise, of any towns or districts in which the guardians have for two years or more failed to prosecute for refusal to vaccinate, and likewise into the system of compulsory notification, isolation, and quarantine, as carried out in Leicester and elsewhere; to take evidence as to the present state of scientific and medical opinion on the effects of vaccination; to inquire into the nature and causes of popular objections to vaccination, where such exist; and to report whether any change in the law, and, if so, what change, is in their judgment desirable,"—(Mr. Picton,) —instead whereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

*DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

I beg to second the Motion. It may seem strange that one like myself, who has always been a strong, I might almost say an uncompromising, advocate of vaccination, should support a proposal which many Members will be disposed to think unnecessary, and indeed calculated to unsettle the public mind on this subject; but I am not inclined to take that view. I join in the proposal because I hold that inquiry and investigation of any sort, if open and scientific, must do good and add to our knowledge, and eventually promote the cause of truth. If a thing is good, then inquiry and investigation will only strengthen it; and if it is bad, the sooner we find it out the better, abolish it if necessary, or remedy the defects we may discover. I do not hold that any institution of this country is so sacred or so settled as to be beyond the reach of investigation altogether. We know that my hon. Friend, whom I do not see in his place now (Sir G. Campbell), wishes to prescribe for the British Constitution. I do not know whether he is going to renew his Motion this year or not. Although I consider myself that the question of vaccination is as settled as the British Constitution, yet I cannot forget that there are other people who do not hold that view. I do not think that knowledge and self-confidence should lead us to dogmatize on this or any other subject. I do not think we can ignore the fact that a considerable mass of public opinion and popular sentiment goes against vaccination, and more especially goes against compulsory application of it, and holds that inquiry should be held before an impartial judicial tribunal. I, for one, wish that opportunity to be given. I am bound to say that the hon. Member for Leicester and I approach the facts from different standpoints. No doubt the hon. Member hopes that in the result a heavy blow will be struck at the system of vaccination, or, at all events, at compulsory vaccination. No doubt he thinks that he will be able to prove that the benefits attributed to vaccination are really due to hygienic improvements, and that he will be able to show that many evils result from vaccination. I advocate inquiry from a very different standpoint in the interest of vaccination itself, and in full confidence that it will come out of the inquiry unscathed, and, indeed, largely strengthened. Of course, as many of us know, a great mass of information already exists on the subject. Sir J. Simon, Dr. Buchanan, the able chief of the Medical Department of the Local Government Board, and others, have provided a mass of accurate information, though it is of a somewhat scattered kind, and is to be found in Blue Books and Annual Reports in dusty recesses of this House. Inquiry will have the effect of collecting and concentrating a large mass of information, and perhaps of adding very considerably to it. I wish I could think it would settle the public mind, and I hope in some degree it may. I hope—though I am not very confident in the hope—that when the Commission comes to report we shall reach a state of finality if that is attainable at all, that if the verdict is for vaccination, if it is proved that the allegations of its opponents are not supported by facts, then I hope that the agitation that has worried us so much with its literature will cease, that we shall no longer be inundated with leaflets, pamphlets, and books, and that the numerous societies established to promote the Anti-vaccination Movement will dissolve into thin air. I hope this may be so, and that is a strong reason why I advocate inquiry, that it may do something to settle the public mind, and the only people, I think, who may look upon the Report with apprehension are Parliamentary candidates. Now they are able to shelter themselves behind a coming inquiry. When a candidate is hard pressed and driven into a corner, he says—"I am in favour of inquiry, and until that inquiry is held I must suspend my judgment." But I am afraid when this inquiry comes off these unfortunate gentlemen must come forth from their refuge and give an opinion one way or the other. In the composition of the Commission I hope the utmost care will be taken to insure an impartial inquiry, else people will be ready enough afterwards to say it was not constituted properly—that it was packed one way or the other. I am talking as if it is to be constituted, and it is "in the air" that it is to be. It should include men of widely varied opinions and different modes of thought; and if we could induce one of Her Majesty's Judges to assist, that would materially add to the advantage I hope will result. Having gone along so far in a friendly way, in double harness with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, I must now part company with him on a few points in his speech. We have heard a good deal on the medical side of the question. The hon. Member for Leicester has talked, I must say, in a tolerably scientific and correct way about several important questions that he has evidently studied. He has read Dr. Creighton's article, interesting and ingenious as it is. But Dr. Creighton himself tells us that it must not be accepted as the doctrine of the profession, so we must look upon it as but an individual opinion. Dr. Creighton holds the opinion that the two forms of pox are really the same disease. If they are the same, if the lesser pox is the same as what is called the great pox, why is it that there are so few outbreaks of post-vaccinal syphilis observed in the country? Dr. Creighton, after careful search through medical literature, can only find 17, some of which are admitted to be doubtful in character. If it be really the case that the one disease is the same as the other, why do we not have outbreaks of this form of the disease? Dr. Buchanan—and I am glad to get back to him again—tells us that out of 7,000,000 children that came under the cognizance of the Local Government Board in 10 years, there was not one case of post-vaccinal syphilis, though he was always looking out for it for purposes of investigation. I am sorry to talk to the House in this medical way, but my hon. Friend has thrown out a challenge on these points. I am unable to back him up in what he says about the spread of syphilis among children. He tells us that detection of the disease is a very difficult thing, but I do not think it is. If I were addressing a medical society instead of the House of Commons I think I should be able to give very good reason for saying what I do, and lay down the symptoms and indications beyond doubt. The remoter stages of the disease are now much better understood than they were formerly when effects in children and adults were set down to that disease, but really had nothing to do with the disease itself. The hon. Member has directed attention to the outcome of the Sheffield inquiry, and without doubt this somewhat formidable looking volume contains some of the most valuable information. It is a piece of patient, skilled, and scientific work, for which Dr. Barry deserves the highest commendation—his case hardly breaks down at any point. The hon. Member tells us that the question of sanitation has not been sufficiently considered; but Dr. Barry shows that he has taken note of this, but cannot find that the effect of the so-called circumstances of sanitation upon the death-rate of those attacked is demonstrable. I think if my hon. Friend had continued his investigation a little further he would have found that the condition of things in Sheffield had nothing to do with sanitation, and that among those who suffered from the epidemic, the attacks among vaccinated children were in the proportion of five per 1,000, and among unvaccinated children 101 per 1,000, while the death-rate in either case was .09 and 44, in other words, that as the result of the Sheffield outbreak, for every 100,000 vaccinated children the death-rate from small-pox was nine, and among the same number of unvaccinated children it was 4,400. I do not think facts could be carried further, and I can only recommend the perusal of this book as entirely bearing out every word of what I am saying. I do not wish to continue my remarks any further, for it is a little inconvenient, perhaps, at this stage, when we are only asking for a Royal Commission, to launch into an elaborate discussion, ranging over the whole field of vaccination. I am afraid I have erred a little in that direction, but I was led into it by my hon. Friend, with whom, to some extent, I am acting. This inquiry, which I am assuming will be granted should be full, elaborate, and comprehensive in character. In a matter of this kind I can place my faith in the judgment of my right hon. Friend who presides over the Local Government Board. We have found him heretofore true and firm against invidious attacks upon the beneficent institution of vaccination. I hope the inqniry will be granted, that it will calm agitation, and add to our knowledge, and I believe it will strengthen the hold on the public mind of what I consider a great and benefi- cent institution. Hence it is I have great pleasure in seconding the Motion.


It is a matter of some convenience to the Minister who has to reply on such a subject as this, to find in the Seconder of the Motion for an inquiry a man so capable of answering the propositions which have been put forward by the Mover as reasons for granting this inquiry. The House will see that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire has taken up one or two of the most prominent features of the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, and has answered them in a manner that must have been generally satisfactory. I believe that I shall be able to add somewhat to what the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire has said, and I trust that the House will not think I am doing anything unnecessary if I go through the various points raised by the hon. Member for Leicester, and endeavour to give him what I think a pretty complete answer. The Seconder of the Motion has rather deprecated that, on a Motion for Inquiry, the whole field in connection with vaccination and smallpox should be gone over; but it is quite evident that, looking at the width of the field covered by the hon. Member who moved this Resolution, it would be rather unfortunate if the Minister who had to reply did not endeavour, as well as he could, to meet the arguments raised. Whether or not the Government propose to grant this inquiry is not material to this point, except that I think if we were to leave the statements of the hon. Member for Leicester unanswered, it would, perhaps, have the somewhat unfortunate effect of leading the public to suppose that it was because of the strength of the arguments used by the Mover, and our inability to answer him, that inquiry was conceded. Therefore I think, whatever may be the conclusion I have to announce in reference to this inquiry, it is my duty to go over the field traversed with the view of showing that, in our opinion, the allegations of the hon. Member are not well founded. I have nothing to complain of in what the hon. Gentleman said. I know that the hon. Member for Leicester has always taken a great and an intelligent interest in this question; and if the arguments against vaccination were always as temperately put forward as he has put them forward to night I should have no reason to complain. But we know it is not so, and that the minds of the people in the country, and especially of the working classes, is excited by a mass of literature and an immense number of statements which contain false propositions, which pervert facts in the most barefaced manner, and draw a picture of the effects of vaccination to the minds of the mass of the people, which, in my opinion, fully account for the fact that the Vaccination Laws are perhaps regarded in many quarters with a very considerable amount of dissatisfaction. One of the most important allegations made by the hon. Member had reference to injuries and the communication of disease in the process of vaccination. He was able to quote, in support of the view he put forward, a written statement by a high authority, Mr. Jonathan Hutchinson. I will not, for a moment, deny the accuracy of the citation, but I may point out that Mr. Hutchinson himself authorized me to make a reply in this House on that particular point, the communication of syphilis by vaccination, and it is to the effect, that though he had been looking out, and the whole medical faculty knew that he had been looking out, for ten recent years for further manifestation in support of the statement he had made, he had never come across one single case of the communication of the disease referred to by vaccination.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give the date of that answer?


I have not a note of the date; but I remember Mr. Hutchinson did authorize me to make that statement in my answer.


Is it since the date of the evidence he gave before the Committee in 1871?


Certainly. I had not the honour of a seat in this House in 1871. Mr. Hutchinson authorized me to say that though he had been looking out during that time for a communication of syphilis, he had not been able to find one.


Mr. Hutchinson gave very striking evidence before the Committee of a case which he had investigated, in which a great number of persons were infected with syphilis from vaccination.


That does not in any way affect my statement. Mr. Hutchinson before the Committee made a statement as to what he had seen; but I say that since that time he has not found a single case of the kind.


I only wanted to have the point made quite clear.


As the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire has said, the officers of the Local Government Board have not found one single case of the communication of syphilis that could properly be borne out. Further than that, Dr. Cory, one of the officers of the Local Government Board, some years ago made special investigation into this subject, and, with great heroism, endeavoured to inoculate himself with syphilis in vaccination; and although he inoculated himself three times, he was quite unable to produce the disease in himself, and only succeeded after a fourth inoculation. I think the House will see clearly that, if the communication of syphilis is so enormously difficult as Dr. Cory found it to be, communication is not likely to take place under the precautions laid down by the Local Government Board, nor even in the unlikely event of lymph being actually taken from a diseased person. I may say, further, that Dr. Creighton, who has been referred to, distinctly stated, in a letter to the Lancet, that he had never contended or ever affirmed that infantile forms of the disease could be traced to vaccination; but in so far as he had contended on the subject at all, he had contended exactly the opposite. I think, therefore, the burden of evidence is distinctly against the allegation of the hon. Member for Leicester. Then, with regard to erysipelas, we have made the most careful inquiries since November last into the cases of death reported to us in connection with vaccination; and it has been found that in some instances, whether by carelessness or otherwise, erysipelas had supervened upon vaccination as it might upon any other wound. The hon. Member for Leicester then went on to refer to the penalties for refusal to vaccinate, and I must say he drew a picture calculated excite sympathy—of persons marched through the streets handcuffed to prison for breaking the Vaccination Laws. I am one of those who would use every legitimate means to compel obedience to the law; but it is a question whether people who disobey through conscientious motives should be subjected to the treatment the hon. Gentleman has referred to. With reference to cumulative penalties, the hon. Member referred to the Report of the Committee of 1871. Curiously enough, the clause against cumulative penalties is the only one of the Committee's recommendations which the hon. Gentleman thinks justified by the evidence; and this one particular recommendation is in accordance with his own views. He is ready to accept it, but all the recommendations that go against his own views he says are against the evidence. I do not think, in this respect, his remarks were of the strictest impartiality. The hon. Gentleman says that a Bill was brought in in 1871 to carry out the particular recommendations of the Committee, and it was carried through the House and enacted into law. Well, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the Bill though the Bill was passed, it was in an extremely small House. Bills have been brought in again and again with very much the same objects and upon every occasion have been defeated. I think there have been something like 60. In 1872 a Bill was brought in and withdrawn; in 1877 the same thing happened. A Resolution moved in 1877 with the same object was defeated by 106 to 36. The Bill of 1878 was defeated by 271 against 82; the Bill brought in in 1880 was withdrawn, as was that of 1882; and in 1883 a Resolution, moved by Mr. Taylor, then Member for Leicester, was defeated by 218 to 16. The hon. Member for Leicester used as an illustration of the hardships imposed by the Vaccination Laws the case of "poor Charles Hayward." I am not going to argue or inquire whether or not these repeated prosecutions are advisable, but what I do say is that the case of "poor Charles Hayward" must not be taken as an illustration of the manner in which Guardians carry out the law. Hayward is a man set up by an Anti-Vaccination Society to fight their battle against vaccination; and although "poor Charles Hayward" has been fined 37 times, he has for a long time never paid a copper. The Guardians have con- sidered that this is a struggle between vaccination and anti-vaccination, and they are determined to prosecute the representative of the latter cause with the utmost rigour of the law. So far, however, as "poor Charles Hayward" is concerned, I do not think he is one whit the poorer from the fines which have been levied upon him. I now pass on to the question of Sheffield. I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeen refer to the most admirable Report of Dr. Barry. A more able and exhaustive Report has never been laid before the House since the question has been in debate. Dr. Barry takes account of 6,088 cases and 590 deaths. He organized a house-to-house visitation, and by personal inquiry he has come to a knowledge of the circumstances of every case that was fatal; every case alleged to have taken place in vaccinated children under ten, and every case alleged to have taken place after previous small-pox or re-vaccination. Dr. Barry alludes to some facts demonstrated by the inquiry—namely, that the attack-rate of the vaccinated children under ten was five per thousand, and that of the unvaccinated 101. The death-rate of the vaccinated children under ten was .09 and of the unvaccinated 44. For 100,000 vaccinated children the mortality was nine, and for the same number of unvaccinated children the mortality was 4,400. Therefore the vaccinated had a 480 fold protection against death by small-pox. Of the children living in the houses actually invaded by small-pox, the attack-rate was 78 per thousand in the vaccinated, and 869 per thousand in the unvaccinated. The death-rate of the vaccinated was one and of the unvaccinated 381 per thousand. Therefore the protection enjoyed by the vaccinated over the unvaccinated was 11-fold against attack and 381-fold against death. There was a similar experience with reference to persons over 10; for every 100,000 of those twice vaccinated, there were eight deaths; of those once vaccinated, 100 deaths; and of the unvaccinated, 5,100 deaths. Then, as to the persons employed in the various hospitals; of 161 persons, 18 had had small-pox, and none of these fell ill; 62 were vaccinated only in infancy, six of them were attacked, and one died. The remaining 81 had been re-vacci- nated, and not one contracted small-pox. Then, as to the troops; there were 830 of all ranks, of whom 12 were attacked and one died. The medical officer in charge of the troops informed Dr. Barry that re-vaccination had been attempted with the 12 men attacked, but that in every case it had been unsuccessfully performed. Then as to the police; 10 of them took small-pox, when a re-vaccination was ordered, and no further cases occurred. Again, of 290 men employed at the Post Office, all were re-vaccinated, and during the whole course of the epidemic not one took the disease. The net result in Sheffield was that if the vaccinated children had been attacked at the same rate as the unvaccinated, there would have been 7,000 attacks in place of 353, and 3,000 deaths in place of six; or up to the conclusion of the epidemic there would have been 4,400 deaths in place of nine. But to deal with the number of deaths and attacks alone is not enough. With this loathsome disease those who are not adequately protected by vaccination suffer much more than those who are so protected, and, even if they recover, in a large number of cases the sufferers are left blind or disfigured for the remainder of their lives. Now the hon. Gentleman takes a great deal of exception to figures. He took a certain small area in which he said there were a certain number of children vaccinated and unvaccinated, and the inference he drew was that in all probability the children were too delicate to be vaccinated. I have taken a much wider area than the particular illustration the hon. Gentleman gave. I have taken the whole area of Sheffield, and I venture to say that these figures from Sheffield are of the most conclusive character; indeed, vaccination as a protection against smallpox was never more completely vindicated than it is by these statistics. The hon. Member says that vaccination is not an absolute protection; but he understands perfectly well that for a considerable time past that position has not been maintained on the other side. But I go the length of saying that even in those who have been inadequately vaccinated the severity of the attack is infinitely less than in those who have had no vaccination; and although we cannot contend that vaccination is an absolute protection, the people who have been properly vaccinated, and at the right time re-vaccinated, are, to all intents and purposes, exempted from the disease. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the average percentage of deaths before vaccination was made compulsory was not larger than it is now.


What I said was that the proportion of mortality was 18.8 per cent in the last century, and it is 18.5 now.


I did not understand that; but, to revert to small-pox, the hon. Gentleman has not divided out the deaths at various ages. If he takes the cases of children, which is the really material age, he will find that his figures are quite fallacious. In 1847–52 the deaths from small-pox of children of five years old were 227 per 1,000,000, and of persons of all ages 326 per 1,000,000; and in 1876–81 the numbers were respectively 21 and 84 per 1,000,000. The average number of deaths from smallpox per 1,000,000 inhabitants at different periods is as follows:—In 1838–42, 576 per 1,000,000; in 1847–53, when vaccination was optional, 305 per 1,000,000; in 1854–71, when vaccination, though compulsory, was not rigidly enforced, 223 per 1,000,000; in 1872, the epidemic year, 821 per 1,000,000; and in 1873–88, when vaccination was compulsory and rigidly enforced, 67 per 1,000,000, or, including 1872, 111 per 1,000,000. As to Leicester, I willingly acknowledge that the arrangements for isolation of persons attacked by small-pox and for the sanitation of the town are everything that could be desired. But the hon. Member omitted to mention one precaution which is taken at Leicester. Not only is an individual who is attacked by the disease removed, but all persons who have been in contact with that individual are also taken away and isolated. Moreover, they are re-vaccinated.


The right hon. Gentleman has made that statement before; but I beg to say that he has been misinformed. I am aware that in some cases persons have been re-vaccinated where they have consented; but if there is no consent there is no compulsion.


No; but I had a communication from the Medical Officer of Health of Leicester a few days ago, and he tells me that though there is no absolute compulsion to be re-vaccinated if the people raise an objection, as a matter of fact, the Medical Officer presses strongly on them the desirability of re-vaccination. Is it not the fact that every nurse in the hospital at Leicester has not only been vaccinated, but re-vaccinated? Therefore, for the hon. Gentleman to contend that there is no saving virtue in vaccination, when such efforts are made by means of vaccination in Leicester, is to put forward a proposition which he is hardly, I think, able to maintain. We all know that there are a considerable number of unvaccinated persons in Leicester, but yet the number is not large compared with the whole population. In Leicester they are not more than 10 or 15 per cent of the whole population.




I am told not, and I am bound to say that while the condition of Leicester is at present dangerous, I think that in a few years it will have become alarmingly dangerous. And looking at the large number of unvaccinated persons living in that town, while they are able now to seize upon and strangle the disease when it breaks out, it will be infinitely more difficult to do so when the number of unvaccinated persons has increased—as hey will if Leicester continues to pursue the policy it is now pursuing. Whatever may be the result, in Leicester, of the extraordinary precautions taken there, I venture to say that if it were to be assumed, from the successful stand they lave been able to make there against the disease, that vaccination may be safely dispensed with throughout the whole of the country, the result before long would be little short of disaster. I ask the hon. Gentleman if he will contend that good sanitation is really a safe alternative for vaccination in every part of the country? Although sanitation is undoubtedly cared for in Leicester, and though the precautions against small-pox are extremely good, I want to know how it is that one of the diseases depending on good sanitation for its eradication is so closely allied with Leicester? I want to know how it is that Leicester has a higher death-rate from diarrhœa than any other town but one in the United Kingdom? I know this causes serious anxiety to the people of Leicester, and I have no doubt that they would be very glad to remedy whatever defects may exist; but all I say is that I do not think too much should be made of the sanitary condition of Leicester. I think I have gone through most of the special points dealt with by the hon. Gentleman. I could, if time permitted, quote many more statistics to show the enormous benefits this country has derived from vaccination. I could show that those countries which have applied Vaccination Laws most stringently are the countries that are the most free from small-pox, I do not wish, however, to detain the House for an unduly long time. The demand of the hon. Gentleman is for an inquiry. Well, no doubt there are some points of objection which might be urged to the granting of an inquiry. To grant an inquiry would no doubt seem to imply, to some extent, that there is a doubt as to the efficacy of vaccination. As far as the authorities at the Local Government Board are concerned no such doubt exists. Every inquiry has demonstrated that vaccination is one of the greatest blessings ever vouchsafed to mankind. Still, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that, in consequence of the strenuous efforts of the anti-vaccinators to distort and misrepresent facts and the undoubted impression they are making on the public mind, it may, perhaps, be desirable to grant an inquiry. Certain questions connected with the operation of vaccination may be usefully inquired into by a body of Gentlemen who cannot be suspected of being tainted with the prejudices of the Local Government Board. Other questions connected with the supply of lymph may be usefully inquired into. The hon. Gentleman has alluded to certain medical theories in connection with lymph which I will say nothing of, and undoubtedly this is a very large question. There is the question of the manner in which the lymph is obtained, the question of its purity, and as to whether it would not be desirable to extend the system of vaccination from the calf. All these subjects are important and might be legitimately inquired into. Then there is another important question as to the manner in which public vaccination should be carried out. I admit as strongly as anyone that if Parliament imposes an obligation on parents to have their children vaccinated, they ought to take every possible precaution to see not only that the lymph used is ripe and pure, but also that the operation is properly and respectfully performed. Every care should be taken in public vaccination as is taken in private vaccination, and in private vaccination as is taken in public vaccination, therefore the matter is one on which there might well be inquiry. Then there is the question of the method to be adopted in enforcing compliance with the law. It is well known that the Local Government Board has never ardently supported incessant prosecutions where there is a supposed conscientious objection to vaccination on the part of parents. I do not believe that in the end these prosecutions do any good. They create sympathy and tend to the disadvantage rather than the advantage of vaccination. Then, again, it is a matter that might be properly inquired into, how far the hon. Gentleman's statement can be borne out that sanitary precautions may be made to take the place of vaccination. There are other points which may ultimately be made the subject of inquiry. The Government have, therefore, determined to appoint a Royal Commission. The Government, however, cannot accept the terms of the Resolution, but they hope that the terms of reference to the Royal Commission will be sufficiently comprehensive to satisfy the hon. Gentleman. The Commission will be composed of Gentlemen whose opinions will carry the greatest possible weight in all quarters. The Government have come to this decision, not because they have the slightest doubt of the efficacy of vaccination, but because the state of public opinion requires that a thorough investigation should be made into the whole question. I trust that the conclusion at which the Government have arrived will be satisfactory, not only to the hon. Member for Leicester, but also to those who, not agreeing with that hon. Member, still think that there is ground for inquiry.

*SIR L. PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester has attacked the Committee of 1871, agreeing with only one of the conclusions at which that Committee arrived, and disagreeing with all the others. He says that the Committee did not report in accordance with the evidence before them. Now I have sat on many Committees, and have been a Member of many Royal Commissions, probably more than any other Member of this House, but I never recollect so thorough and impartial an inquiry as that Committee conducted. But 18 years have elapsed since that inquiry, and that is a long time with respect to a question on which there is any dispute. New facts arise and new evidence is brought forward. Undoubtedly there has been a strong propaganda against vaccination among the working population of many of our large towns. I therefore agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire (Dr. Farquharson) that, in the interests of vaccination itself, it is desirable to appoint a Royal Commission, and there should be a full and impartial inquiry. As to the alternative to vaccination which is practised at Leicester, the strength and weakness of that proposal has been well analyzed by the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me. Leicester relies on isolation and quarantine. Quarantine succeeds only when there is a small area of infectivity. But in this country we have given up quarantine altogether, as it has been found impossible to carry it out and keep out cholera and other diseases. And it will be so at Leicester. Leicester has tried the experiment for 17 years, and the hon. Member boasts that for 17 years they have kept smallpox at bay. There is a Continental town the experience of which is more instructive than that of Leicester. In Leipsic during 18 years methods similar to those of Leicester—possibly less thorough in their character—were employed, and from 1851 to 1870 there were only 29 deaths from small-pox. In 1871 there was the great epidemic of small-pox which went all over the world, and desolated not only Europe, but America and even the South Sea Islands. That epidemic struck Leipsic. What happened? At Leipsic 9,600 per million of the general population died of the disease, and no fewer than 30,000 per million of the infantile population under the age of 15. Here there is a warning, but I do not think Leicester will take the least notice of it. It shows, however, that a time came when every precaution and all the powers of isolation were overcome. My hon. Friend began by objecting to compulsion only, but he has now advanced a step and decries vaccination. He has very much mixed the two things up together. My hon. Friend says that vaccination has failed because it has not prevented epidemics of smallpox. But nobody ever supposed it would. It is, however, a serviceable embankment, as it were, which is effectual save in the rare case of a deluge, when all embankments are overflowed, and no one can help the water spreading all over the country. It is not fair to pick out a year of epidemic; we ought to consider what vaccination has done over a long series of years. The mortality from small-pox in the last century was 3,000 per million for the whole country and 4,000 for London. From the beginning of the century up to 1841 vaccination was spread by charitable agencies. This gratuitous optional vaccination reduced the mortality from small-pox from 3,000 per million to 600 per million. Parliament then interfered, and gave money to promote optional vaccination. Optional vaccination began in 1841, and went on until 1853, and the mortality fell to 305 per million. Between 1853 and 1871 the operation was made obligatory, but no efficient method of enforcing it was created. In that period the mortality further fell to 223 per million. Since that time, under the stricter system which is now enforced, the proportion is only 156 per million. My right hon. Friend has been quite fair in comparing six years of optional with six years of compulsory vaccination, ending in 1881, and showing that in the former period the mortality was 356 and in the latter 84 per million. Now, why has not the hon. Member for Leicester given us the figures of infantile mortality? The law does not apply to adults at all. To see its full effect you must eliminate adults, and it will be found that in the optional period the infantile mortality was 227 per million, but in 1881 the proportion fell to 21. Parents have many rights, but they have not the right of committing omissional infanticide upon their children. At present all that I am contending for is that compulsory vaccination has not failed. In the case of children it has gloriously succeeded; and if it were not for popular prejudices it would not be necessary to have any inquiry at all. My hon. Friend says it is true that the mortality of children is less from small-pox, but that adults die in larger numbers than before. That is quite true, but does not my hon. Friend perceive that this fact completely upsets his idea that sanitation protects the people and not vaccination? Of sanitation adults and infants participate alike, and, therefore, it is not the cause of the decrease of infant mortality. The differentiation of infantile and adult mortality is only due to compulsory vaccination. And now I come to the terrible accusation of my hon. Friend that public vaccinators are distributing syphilis over the land, in proof of which he said that the deaths of babies from that disease in 1847 were 472 per 1,000,000 births, and by 1886 they had risen to 1,822 per 1,000,000 births. In 1847 the registered causes of death were extremely defective. There has been a large improvement since, and I think the fact mentioned by my hon. Friend is capable of an easy explanation. Up to 1847, the registration of the causes of death was extremely defective. Out of 1,000,000 births, 10,969 deaths had no specified cause whatever assigned. In 1886 there were no more than 1,432 unspecified. My hon. Friend, in a very able article in the Contemporary, says substantially, though I have not his words with me, "You talk about fewer deaths among the vaccinated than among the unvaccinated, but there is always a residuum; you do not know whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated and that residuum alters the ratio very much." "Well, here we have two known things and a tertium quid unknown, which is so large that the ratio is not to be relied on, because it does vitiate the comparison between the two things known. The 10,969 deaths from unspecified causes per 1,000,000 births is the tertium ignotum, and it is a large reserve from which to take out the unascertained causes of death. In 1886 there were only 1,432 unspecified deaths, and, therefore, the deaths of 9,537 babies passed from unspecified to specified causes. Thirty years ago, doctors began to distinguish infantile syphilis and were able to recognize it. They had not done so before, and it will be found that in consequence death from syphilis jumped up in a most wonderful way. It was found out what children were dying from, and the cause of death was given. This explains why the deaths from syphilis increase so much in the earlier years of the period of comparison and remain stationary in the later years. There was in reality no increase in the disease, though there was a much better nomenclature and classification. Children are not vaccinated, as a rule, until they are three months old. It is three months, in England and six months in Scotland; and we can compare but we know the percentage of deaths of children from syphilis at different ages. The great proportion takes place before the year vaccinated. Under three months it is 42 per cent; from three to six months 22 per cent; and from six to twelve months only 11 per cent. In Scotland 65 per cent of the deaths from this disease occur before the vaccination period. The statistics, if closely examined, do not support the horrible theory that vaccination is the cause of promulgation of syphilis. It is very sad to reflect that it is possible to innoculate a child with this horrible disease, but the Local Government Board and its medical officers have been Looking out for the last ten years, and during that time 7,000,000 children have been vaccinated, and they have never been able to satisfy themselves of one particular case. In 1883 Germany vaccinated 2,800,000 children, the doctors were called upon to report whether any disease had been produced, and there had not been one case. In England and in Germany large numbers of soldiers are annually re-vaccinated, and no case of syphilis has ever occurred in consequence. Let me now say a word in regard to other countries, and give a few statistics which my hon. Friend did not give. They are exceedingly instructive. Germany enacted a compulsory law of vaccination for civilians in 1874, under which children were to be vaccinated under six months and to be re-vaccinated at 12. Previously vaccination was enforced in the Army, but the civil population were not vaccinated compulsorily. What was the result? In Berlin in 1870 the deaths per 1,000,000 from small-pox were 223, in 1886 they were only one per 1,000,000. In the whole of Germany last year there were only four deaths per 1,000,000 from small-pox, and three-fourths of these occurred on the border line, near countries which had no compulsory laws. In Belgium the number of deaths was 194 per 1,000,000; in Switzerland, where vaccination is com- pulsory only in some cantons, it was 218; in Austria, where vaccination is badly done, it was 325; and in England, 77. I think I have said enough to show that vaccination with us has had a splendid influence over this cruel and mutilating disease. It is as horrible a disease as it was in the last century, when it is allowed to get ahead among the unvaccinated, and it is as fatal as ever it was. Nor is the disease itself one whit mitigated in its virulence. But while I contend that there is no justification for inquiry arising from any failure of vaccination, I agree that it is better to have an inquiry in order that the truth may come out. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will constitute the Commission with perfect fairness. I believe the result will be to prove that vaccination has been full of great blessings to the population of the country, and that if we are to give up compulsion we must find a better method than the Leicester method of isolation.

SIR G. HUNTER (Hackney)

After what has been so well said on this subject I do not intend to detain the House more than a minute or two. I may, however, say that I have had an extensive experience of this disease in India, and am speaking with some authority when I say that I regard an unvaccinated person as a great source of danger to the health of the people. From time to time there used to come down the Persian Gulf vessels laden with persons suffering from small-pox, and I cannot find words adequately to describe the horrible state in which those persons were landed at Bombay. Gentlemen who maintain the views held by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) are continually quoting certain medical men in support of those opinions and views; but just as we see, on taking up almost any daily paper, that Judges differ on points of law, so we need not be surprised to find a class of medical men who uphold the views enunciated by the hon. Gentleman, These are so few, however, that they can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand, and may be described as mere "faddists," who entertain peculiar views, and who manage to keep up, in conjunction with other gentlemen like themselves, the opposition which is offered to compulsory vaccination. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester believes that vaccination has no connection with small-pox, and if he be really unprotected against that disease, I will challenge him to take up his residence in a small-pox hospital in London, and see what result will follow. I am glad Her Majesty's Government have consented to the inquiry asked for, because I believe that that inquiry will tend to show how very successful vaccination is, and relieve it at once from all the animadversions and puerile allegations that are so frequently brought against it.

*MR. T. ROBINSON (Gloucester)

I have always entertained a strong feeling in favour of an inquiry into this subject, and I am, therefore, glad that the Government have assented to the suggestion and are willing to appoint a Royal Commission. I made it my business for several years to invite the attention of the President of the Local Government Board to this matter, with a view to the institution of some such inquiry; but up to the present time we have been unable to obtain this concession. I know that the constituency I have the honour to represent entertain a very strong feeling against compulsion and repeated prosecutions for non-vaccination, and the result of a house-to-house canvass on the subject in the City of Gloucester has been that, of the householders who have returned answers in writing to the questions put to them on the matter, no fewer than 75 per cent are against compulsory vaccination. Since that time the Board of Guardians have abstained from putting the compulsory clauses of the Act into force; so that, as far as we are in Gloucester concerned, this part of the law is a dead letter. There are a great many other constituencies where there is the same feeling; but I am aware that in other places, like Ashford in Kent, a different view prevails, and the law is there carried out in a very vindictive and revengeful spirit. What we feel is that, where people conscientiously object to the enforcement of the law, the prosecutions which are constantly taking place ought not to be permitted, and that the only way in which you can get the country to assent to what it may hereafter be deemed necessary to declare as law on this subject is to have it thoroughly inquired into. There can be no doubt that the working classes feel the existing state of things much more acutely than any other class; for it should be borne in mind that they have no voice in the vaccination of their children and have to accept any medical officer the parochial authority may impose upon them; they must go to the place he chooses to appoint as that where vaccination is to be performed, and attend there at the time he may name; while in addition to all this there is an idea abroad among these people—I express no opinion as to whether it is well founded or not—that there is not that amount of care displayed in the examination of the children brought up for vaccination which ought to be exercised. They do not think that their state of health is sufficiently inquired into, and they are of opinion that operations are frequently performed more on the principle of so much per dozen than from due consideration as to the health of the people. Those who are well-to-do can, of course, have their children vaccinated by their own medical attendants, who fully understand the condition as to health and constitution prevailing among the members of the different families they visit, and these persons can have vaccination operations performed at their own houses and at their own time, so that they do not feel the pinch of the law. Moreover, the wealthier classes do not regard a fine for non-compliance with the law as any punishment at all, whereas a fine of even 15s. or £1 is a serious punishment to a working man, and means oftentimes a good deal of destitution in the case of the poor wife and family, who are thereby deprived of a considerable portion of the workman's earnings. Although a very large number of people object to this compulsory law, they are, for the most part, open to conviction; and if you can convince them of the necessity of compulsory enactments there is no doubt they will be more willing to obey them. They know that medical men throughout the country take different views of this question. They see that the operation of vaccination, when performed on a sickly or unhealthy child, often results either in death or in some permanent disease, and they believe there has been a considerable addition to the different skin diseases in this country since the vaccination system has been carried out. Besides this, the people dispute the statistics that are put forward in regard to deaths from vaccination, and also of the un-vaccinated persons from small-pox. On the whole it seems tome that the Government are right in granting an inquiry, I feel sure that on both sides of the House there is only one desire—namely, that what is found to be right and proper should be done. The result of an inquiry by a Royal Commission will no doubt succeed in settling many differences which now exist upon this matter, and also prepare the public mind for any new legislation that may be found to be necessary.

*MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)

Perhaps I may be allowed, as an ex-President of the Local Government Board, very briefly to state the views I entertain with regard to this question that do not entirely coincide with those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leeds or of the President of the Local Government Board. I begin with this proposition—that the principle of compulsion is one that always requires, when introduced into a legislative enactment, the strongest justification. I have always refused to vote for the repeal of compulsory vaccination, but at the same time I have always declared my opinion in favour of further inquiry. One of the grounds for inquiry is the objection which is felt by a large number of people to the application of the principle of compulsion in a case of this kind. I think this is the strongest evidence not only of the desirability but of the necessity for this inquiry, inasmuch, as the public ought to be satisfied that there are sufficient grounds to justify such a law as this. The strongest thing that could be said in favour of compulsion is that if you give a fair scope to the action of compulsory vaccination it will absolutely stamp out the disease of small-pox; but that ground has now been abandoned. The Member for South Leeds says that you cannot stamp out epidemics of small-pox. If that be so, then you must put the justification of compulsory vaccination on a lower ground than that of stamping out disease. But I go further, without passing any opinion upon expert medical knowledge of that kind, and I say it is evident that no compulsory Vaccination Act which you are likely to pass can by possibility stamp out the disease of small-pox; but I venture to think he would be very bold who should say that the sanitary measures will never have effect. If I know anything about diseases, they have their rise and fall. And to my mind it is perfectly conceivable, even probable, that the time will come when this disease of small-pox, like many still more fearful diseases before it, will have died out under the sanitary influences and the improved methods of life. The President of the Local Government Board has given us materials upon which we may come to a conclusion upon this matter. He and my right hon. Friend (Sir L. Playfair) have spoken about the necessity of re-vaccination. It is admitted that vaccination does not protect the infant when the infant becomes a man, and in order to leave no imperfection in your armour you must re-vaccinate. Will anybody to-night propose to make re-vaccination compulsory? My right hon. Friend would leave the adults to take care of themselves. He wants to protect the infants. If that be the case, then my right hon. Friend abandons the plea that it is in the interest of the community at large. He says himself— I do not do it in the interests of the community at large; I do it in the interests of the infants only, and I leave the adults to get small-pox if they are foolish enough to do so, and to communicate small-pox to the rest of the community. My right hon. Friend abandons that which in my mind is, if correct, the best justification of the compulsory law. I do not say this is the full argument, or all the pros and cons; I do not say that this is conclusive as to the advisability of a compulsory law; but I say it is a very strong argument in favour of an inquiry; it is a very great justification of the desire which exists for an inquiry; and it is a reason why that inquiry should be full and free and satisfactory to the public who are most concerned. Now, I wish to refer to two difficulties which came to my knowledge when I was in office some years ago—first at the Poor Law Board, and later in the position which the right hon. Gentleman occupies at the Local Government Board. There is a strong objection in the minds of a great many persons that there is a certain danger to life and health attendant upon vaccination. I do not want the House to be led astray by the argument which has gone entirely upon whether syphilis can be communicated by vaccination. I put that discussion entirely on one side, as far as I am concerned; but I do say that, according to my recollection, when I was at the Local Government Board, undoubtedly the system of compulsory vaccination as at present administered was accompanied with danger to life and health, and to my knowledge health and life have suffered in consequence of that administration. I was exceedingly glad to hear from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that he was in favour of an inquiry into the administration of the law. I think he is perfectly justified in that course. If he believes in vaccination—and I do not suppose he doubts the advisability and efficacy of the law—but admits that other people deny it, then he is right in thinking it justifiable that there should be an inquiry. I think he is perfectly right, and he has not come to a sound and common-sense conclusion for the first time. Upon the question of administration I wish to say a word. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the Commission as likely to inquire into such questions as the provision by the Government of lymph, as to the treatment of persons and children, and the advantage of sanitary regulations. Therefore, he has clearly laid before us a very considerable programme for inquiry by the Royal Commission which he proposes to appoint. Ever since I was first at the Local Government Board I have frequently felt and often expressed considerable doubts as to the present method of administration of the Vaccination Law. The policy of the present administration is to accumulate as nearly as possible the whole of the vaccination work into the hands of a few public vaccinators, who do nothing else but attend to the vaccination of children of the people. They are superintended by medical inspectors of the Local Government Board, and they are rewarded with very considerable sums of money paid out of the public purse. Now I entertain very considerable doubt whether that system is a sound system, and I am glad to think that will be inquired into. Why, I doubt seriously the soundness of that system is that it appears to me to be against human nature. If you get a man from morning until night, every day of the year, to vaccinate the children of the poor, how can you expect that he will be full of care and respect for every child brought before him? I am sure the mind of the right hon. Gentleman will not be impervious to that consideration, and I venture to hope that the Commission will take it into view. The natural process, to my mind, is this: that the vaccination of the child should be by the medical attendant of the family. I am very strongly of opinion that to devolve this duty on a few men doing nothing else from morning to night, and from one end of the year to the other, is a proceeding which begets that carelessness of which I had evidence when I was in the office of my right hon. Friend. Undoubtedly, there have been cases of carelessness. There is the question, of course, whether the child ought not to be examined by the operator; whether constantly vaccinating does not induce carelessness; whether the instruments with which the operation is performed are always kept clean; whether the operation is always performed with delicacy and respect; and whether, if it is not, injury is the consequence to the health or life of the child operated upon. The right hon. Gentleman's programme seemed to me a very satisfactory one, and, therefore, I do not see why he objected to the Resolution.


It seems to me that the Resolution enters into too many minute details, and I think it would be undesirable to fetter an inquiry which ought to be free.


I accept that as meaning that nothing in the Resolution will be excluded, but that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to give the reference in general terms, so that the inquiry may not be confined by the terms of the reference.


I will take care that every branch of the subject and every matter which I stated to-night shall come within the terms of the reference to the Commission.


I think that is a very satisfactory assurance, and, under the circumstances, I am quite sure that my hon. Friend will accept that explanation as satisfactory.


Might I have the permission of the House to withdraw the Resolution I have moved, and may I be indulged with just a word of explanation? The reply of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board appeared to me to be as satisfactory as I could expect from him in his position in matters of this kind. Of course, we must have some confidence in official Gentlemen of great responsibility, and I venture to say that I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that he would, under the general terms of the reference to the Commission, include everything that is mentioned in the terms of this Resolution. He objects to being tied to these terms, and I do not wish to tie the Commission to those terms. I am quite satisfied with what the right hon. Gentleman said, if I understood him correctly, and with that explanation I desire, with the permission of the House, to withdraw my Motion.

*SIR J. W. PEASE (Barnard Castle)

I desire to occupy the House a very few moments. Hon. Members around me know how for many years I laboured in this cause, not as an anti-vaccinator, but for the purpose of getting an inquiry which has been refused by Presidents of the Local Government Board year after year. Now that the right hon. Gentleman has granted it, I feel grateful to him for thus recognizing what I believe to be a widespread and popular demand. The great question I have always considered was the compulsory clauses and the manner of carrying out the law. With regard to the compulsory clauses, my right hon. Friend, I understand, is fully ready to include them in the inquiry by the Commission, and also the question of the manner in which the Vaccination Law is carried out. There is a great deal of feeling against vaccination on account of the imposition of accumulative penalties, and no man can doubt that these repeated prosecutions have a very prejudicial effect. I have always thought that the conscientious views of parents should be respected, and I am glad that the whole subject will be inquired into.

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

There is one reason for granting a Commission which has not been adverted to, and which constitutes a most important justification of the course adopted by the right hon. Gentleman. I congratulate him on having had the courage of his opinions, and on having looked into the matter for himself, for I feel certain he is likely to have met with very little encouragement from the officials of his Department. I am firmly convinced of the efficacy of vaccination, but it has been administered in London in a most perfunctory manner. I wish, however, to point out particularly what enormous strides have been taken by science since vaccination was introduced. Floods of light have been thrown on the subject, and the scientific aspects of the question have been altered and turned upside down. It was at one time believed that vaccination would give complete immunity from small-pox for a lifetime, but we now know that that immunity gradually decreases and diminishes as time elapses. I believe, if the inquiry is gone into in an unprejudiced spirit, and if the evidence is taken, not only of English practitioners, but also of scientific men from France and Germany, the result of the investigation will be not only very beneficial to this country in dealing with a disease like small-pox, but it will have great agricultural value, inasmuch as it may throw light on the best methods of protecting our flocks and herds.

MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)

Year after year, as the occasion arose, have I endeavoured to oppose the system which at present obtains both with regard to compulsory vaccination, and with regard to the pecuniary penalties inflicted on those who conscientiously refuse to comply with the law. At last I had given up my attempt as hopeless. I desire on this occasion to record my feeling of gratitude to the hon. Member for Leicester for the service he has done in this regard, not only to his constituents, but to the general community of Great Britain and Ireland, and to the cause of humanity. I feel satisfied that, when an authoritative and exhaustive inquiry is made into the whole question of vaccination, its alleged value, and its alleged injurious effects, there will be a great modification of the existing public opinion on the subject; and though the Government are not willing that the Motion of my hon Friend should be withdrawn, I think he may well be satisfied with having obtained the assent of the Government to the appointment of the Commission which has been promised. Whatever the fate of his Motion, the fact remains that the courageous and persistent efforts of the hon. Member for Leicester have at last been crowned with success, and he has thereby earned the gratitude of enormous numbers of people in this country.

*MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

I should not have risen to take part in this debate but for an observation made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in regard to the exaggerated statements repeatedly made by the opponents of vaccination. Now, Sir, I had a letter addressed to me a few days ago by a constituent on this very subject. And, in passing, I may observe that there is a very strong feeling on this question in Metropolitan districts. I am not able to say whether the statements made in regard to vaccination are founded on fact or exist only in imagination; but, Sir, I am rejoiced that the Government have agreed to accede to the request of the hon. Member for Leicester, because an inquiry by a Commission will enable us to ascertain what foundation there is for these statements. Now, Sir, my letter refers to a case of real hardship, and as I have been unable to raise it by a question in this House, as I wished to do, perhaps I may be allowed first to explain the contents of the letter. The writer, an intelligent working man, says— On the 11th inst. I was arrested for non-compliance with the Vaccination Act, and taken to Pentonville Prison to serve seven days. My own dress was taken from me; I had to submit to the prison diet, and when I went before the prison doctor he, as I think ungenerously, attacked me in regard to my views on vaccination. I told him I should be prepared to defend them if I had an opportunity. I asked for books and writing materials, but these were denied me. Oakum only was supplied to me. Seeing that the subsistence of my family depended upon our mutual labour, I desire to know if the Government consider it right to treat one as a criminal, to deny him books and writing material, to dress him in felon's clothes, to treat him altogether as a criminal offender, and to allow the medical officer to attack him as to his views. Now, Sir, that statement has been published throughout the East End of London and widely circulated amongst the poorer classes, and it is calculated to strengthen their belief in the infamous character of the vaccination laws. I am very glad that the Government have consented to the appointment of this Commission. It is quite as much as we could have expected from them. At present so conflicting are the statements which are made that one is unable to come to a decision on the merits of the case, but the Royal Commission will enable us to see on which side the balance of trustworthy evidence is to be found, and I hope in due time we shall get to the root of this agitation. I should be sorry to stand between the House and a Division, but as so many people entertain conscientious objections to vaccination, it is necessary to have an investigation, and I am therefore rejoiced that the Government have acceded to the rational and reasonable proposal of my hon. Friend, and have undertaken to give us an opportunity of seeing if a real grievance exists in this matter.

*MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

As representing a constituency deeply interested in this question, and especially in that part of it which relates to the compulsory clauses of the Vaccination Acts, I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman if we are to distinctly understand that the inquiry of the Commission will extend to the question of the continuance or abandonment of compulsion. Another question is as to the treatment of persons sent to prison for non-compliance with the Act. I was gratified by the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the hardships and ignominy inflicted on people who in many cases are conscientious offenders, and who have shown no disrespect for the law except that arising from a conscientious refusal to have their children vaccinated. He expressed sympathy with them in being clothed and treated as criminals, and I should like to take this opportunity of asking him whether he will give us his cordial support in pressing upon the Ministry the importance of mitigating the sufferings of these poor people, who are treated as ordinary criminals, and whose treatment in that manner must tend to render the law less popular with the people.

MR. T. FRY (Darlington)

Although it seems almost needless to continue the debate, I wish to assure the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Local Government Board, of the pleasure which the decision of the Government will give to a large number of persons in my own town. Only last week a gentleman was fined in our town for an offence in respect of which several fines had been previously inflicted, and, however much we ourselves may be satisfied on the subject of vaccination, there is certainly room for an exhaustive inquiry, and I, for one, am exceedingly rejoiced the Government have come to the conclusion to grant one. I myself have seen children in a terrible state, admittedly through vaccination. There is nothing more difficult to understand in connection with this question than the great difference in the statistics, and it is certainly a strong point that those children who die unvaccinated, are probably weak waifs and strays, probably altogether lost sight of and neglected, or admittedly unfit for vaccination, and consequently among the first to catch and succumb to disease.


The hon. Member for East Northampton asks me if I will assist him in pressing upon the Government a relaxation of the existing prison rules with regard to persons sent to gaol for disobeying the law with respect to vaccination. Now, the House will probably remember that it has been stated by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland that it was proposed to consider the question of the relaxation of the prison rules not only in Ireland but also in England. In the statement to which I refer, allusion was made to persons who were sent to prison for offences against the Vaccination Laws. I do not know what steps have been taken. At any rate, it was distinctly laid down that if the rules were altered in respect of Ireland they would be altered in reference to England. As to the other point referred to by the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, although I did not propose to lay it down specifically that the question of compulsion should be referred to the Commission, I imagine that the terms of the reference would not be such as to prevent the Commissioners from reporting any opinion they might have upon that particular subject.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question again proposed.