HC Deb 10 June 1892 vol 5 cc806-9

25. £24,064, to complete the sum for Temporary Commissions.

(12.29.) MR. PICTON

I would urge that some consideration should be given to this Vote. It is well-known that owing to recommendations, coming practically from the Government, the Vaccination Commission was led to consider the desirability of making a special interim Report. They did consider it, and arrived at a unanimous conclusion, which has been laid before the Government. This unanimous conclusion was to the effect that reiterated penalties should be abandoned, and that any recalcitrants committed to prison owing to non-payment of fines should be treated as first-class misdemeanants. A question was put to the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) not long ago, and the right hon. Gentleman said that no conclusion had been arrived at, and he must have time to consider the evidence. I must confess I do not see the use of appointing a Commission, consisting, as this one did, of a number of eminent medical and scientific men, if their study of the questions submitted to them is not looked upon as of sufficient importance to justify speedy legislation. If the Home Secretary is to form a Special Commission by himself, I do not see the use of spending all this money on the inquiry The Committee should remember that there is on the Commission a nobleman of such well-known judicial mind and power of collating evidence as Lord Herschell, and such eminent physicians as Sir James Paget, Sir William Savory, and others. These gentlemen entertain very strong views on the question of vaccination, and it is expressly stated in the interim Report that it is not to be supposed that the Commission have come to any decision averse to vaccination, or has yet come to a final decision. The Commissioners were unanimous in their interim Report, and, that being so, I think it should have received a little more consideration than it appears to have done. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say that the Report is under consideration, and that he will be able, if not to bring forward legislation, at any rate to take steps to make the working of the law more in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission.


I will say, in reply to the suggestion of the hon. Member, that it appears to me that it would be extremely inexpedient to deal with this question in a fragmentary manner. There is, doubtless, strong opposition in many parts of the country to vaccination; but, without expressing any judgment as to whether or not it is justified, I think, so long as the Vaccination Law is maintained, it would be a startling change to adopt the recommendations in the interim Report. Before embarking on legislation on so important a subject, Her Majesty's Government desire to examine thoroughly on what grounds those recommendations are based.

MR. MCLAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)

I should like to know whether it is a fact that the Local Government Board issued instructions to Boards of Guardians not to prosecute more than once in these cases?


The instruction was to the effect that the Boards, before ordering repeated prosecutions, should consider whether they did more harm than good.


Then the Local Government Board is of opinion that the Act should not be enforced and repeated prosecutions instituted. If that is the view of one Department it seems to me curious that the Home Office does not take the same view. The present attitude of the Home Office is to ignore the Report of the Commission altogether. I can hardly believe that now the Report of the Commission is issued repeated prosecutions will take place, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some assurance that Boards of Guardians will not be called upon to enforce repeated penalties.


I should like to press on the Government the necessity of advising Boards of Guardians not to take proceedings until the interim Report has been considered by the Government and the House of Commons. Some Boards have already taken that course, and, therefore, the Government ought either to insist upon these Boards taking proceedings, or to advise the other Boards not to do so.


I would remind the Home Secretary that there is nothing in the interim Report requiring the intervention of legislation. If the Government would say that there should be one penalty, as provided in the Bill of 1871, which passed this House, but was lost in another place, that would meet the recommendation of the Report. It was never intended that the penalty of five shillings should be a penalty recurring for ever. The Commission would never have made an interim Report but for the Government, and now they will not act upon it.


The Government did not ask for an interim Report. A question was put to me as to whether or not the Commission was going to make an interim Report, and I merely conveyed to the Commission the inquiry put to me in the House of Commons.


Then I was under a misapprehension.


I think I can hardly accept the suggestion to set the dangerous example of interfering with the law as it exists, and as it has been laid down by Parliament. Parliament has created a special officer under Boards of Guardians to look after vaccination cases, but the hon. Gentleman wants me to advise these Boards of Guardians to disobey the law.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what steps he has taken, or proposes to take, against those Boards of Guardians who decline to take proceedings?


I am not aware of the facts to which the hon. Member refers.

Vote agreed to.

26. £2,498, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Expenses.

27. £70,000, to complete the sum for Pleuro-pneumonia.

28. £28,000, to complete the sum for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (Public Works and Communications).

29. £2,500, to complete the sum for the Chicago Exhibition.