§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I beg to ask the First Commissioner of Works whether his attention has been called to the number of Members of the House of Commons absent through influenza, and to the probable presence of influenza microbes in and about the House and other premises; and whether he will take steps to have the same, so far as frequented by Members of the House, thoroughly cleaned and fumigated during the Whit holdidays?
§ MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield Central)
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers the question, I wish 565 to ask whether his attention has been called to the allegation of the Sheffield papers of this day, that 267 persons have died of influenza within the borough in the past three weeks, and that the figures of the death-rate are without precedent; and, having regard to the fact that the Metropolis and other parts of the country are in like condition, whether the Government will, instead of pro longing the holidays of the House of Commons, consider steps to ascertain the cause of the epidemic, and the best means of averting the recurrence of its disastrous effects on the people, to whom illness means loss of employment and wages.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. PLUNKETT,) Dublin University
I am well aware of the ravages which the prevailing epidemic has made amongst the Members of this House, and I have given directions that our Committee Rooms shall forthwith be fumigated with sulphur, which I am advised is the best method of checking the spread of the disease. I shall adopt the same process in such other parts of the House as it may seem possible at once, and I shall avail myself of the Whitsuntide Recess for the purpose of completing the operation.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the number of Members of the House of Commons absent through influenza, and to the necessity of having the House and other premises thoroughly cleaned and fumigated during the Whit holidays; and whether, to enable this to be done, and to afford the sufferers a reasonable time to recruit, Her Majesty's Government will extend the Whit holidays till Monday the 25th instant?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
With regard to the question put to me, I have seen the report to which the hon. Member for Sheffield refers; and the House will, I am sure, feel sympathy with the sufferings of the population from this disease. But I am glad to see in the very paper to which the hon. Gentleman has called attention that there is universal testimony to the fact that the number of cases is declining, and that in most of the works and places of business the pressure is passing away. I see that one medical man who had been overworked has now only two cases on his 566 hands, so I trust that the hon. Member will find that the disease is declining among his constituents. With reference to the general question, of course the attention of the Government has been called to the seriousness of the epidemic which has visited so many Members of the House; and I am sorry to say that the Members of the Government have had their share, and even in a larger proportion than any other part of the House. But with regard to the question which has been especially directed to the length of the holidays, the Government is at present unable to make any communication to the House; we must watch and see what further progress is made with the Land Purchase Bill which is now occupying the House; but, as soon as possible, my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury will take the House into his confidence, and will consider what can be done. At present we must see what progress is made with the Land Purchase Bill.