HC Deb 17 April 1896 vol 39 cc1230-2

"(1.) Regulations of the Local Government Board made in pursuance of section one hundred and thirty or section one hundred and thirty-four of the Public Health Act 1875, or in pursuance of either of those sections, as extended to London by the Public Health (London) Act 1891, may provide for such regulations being enforced and executed by the officers of Customs and the officers and men employed in the Coastguard as well as by other authorities and officers, and without prejudice to the generality of the powers conferred by those sections may provide for—

  1. (a.) the signals to be hoisted by vessels having any case of epidemic, endemic, or infectious disease on board; and
  2. (b.) the questions to be answered by masters, pilots, and other persons on board any vessel as to cases of such disease on board during the voyage or on the arrival of the vessel; and
  3. (c.) the detention of vessels and of persons on board vessels; and
  4. (d.) the duties to be performed in cases of such disease by masters, pilots, and other persons on board vessels."

MR. W. S. ROBSON (South Shields), moved to add at the end of the Clause the following Sub-Section:— (e) the cleansing and disinfecting of any ship or part thereof, and of any articles therein likely to retain infection, by the owner or master or other person in charge thereof, or by the port sanitary authority, at the cost of such owner, master, or other person. He observed that the Amendment was designed to remedy a grievance under the Public Health Act of 1875. By that Act public authorities were empowered to cleanse and disinfect houses in their own jurisdiction, certified to have been infected by dangerous disease, and the same provision was extended to ships. All owners and local authorities, therefore, had power to cleanse houses and ships which had been infected with disease of a dangerous or infectious character. These powers were not found easy to work. The medical officer had first to certify to the disease, the local board had to meet, a few days' notice had then to be given to the owner of the house or ship, in order that he might cleanse the property himself, or if he failed to do so, then the local board was empowered to do it at his cost. This procedure had been found to be so cumbrous and tedious as to be practically valueless, and in 1890 another Act was passed which remedied this mischief so far as house property was concerned. It enabled urban and rural sanitary authorities to act by means of their clerk, so as to avoid the delay involved in calling a meeting and giving reasonable notice to the owner of the property. But unfortunately, in the drafting of the Act, its provisions were limited to urban, rural, and sanitary authorities, and by what must have been some inadvertence on the part of the draftsman, the same powers were not given to port sanitary authorities, who were obliged to act in the case of infectious disease, and they had been acting even though they did not possess the safeguards of the provisions of the Act of 1890. The unfortunate consequence had been that they had entered all the ships which required cleansing, had cleansed them, and then called upon the owner to pay the cost. In most cases the owner had paid, but in some cases, particularly where the owners were foreigners, it had been pointed out that the cost has been incurred without the preliminary condition having been fulfilled—of a meeting of the local board and so on, and the result had been that the port sanitary authorities had not in. these cases been able to recover the cost of this necessary operation from the owners of the ships. He had been in communication with the Secretary to the Local Government Board. He acknowledged the evil, and he believed he was prepared to deal with it in some other way than by this Amendment. He should, therefore, ask leave to withdraw the Amendment on receiving from the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that he was prepared to meet the object of his Amendment by legislation.


said, the hon. Member had accurately stated the position. A grievance undoubtedly existed, and he was glad to be able to say, after consultation with the President of the Local Government Board, that he hoped to be in a position to introduce a one clause non-contentious Bill to meet the object of the hon. Member.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; clause agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3,—