HC Deb 05 August 1898 vol 64 cc402-30

MR. SPEAKER acquainted the House of a Message from the Lords, in which they informed this House that they had agreed to the Vaccination Bill with Amendments to which they required the concurrence of this House.


I move that the Amendments of the Lords be considered forthwith.

Motion agreed to.

Lords' Amendments to be considered forthwith.

Lords' Amendments, as far as the Amendment in page 2, agreed to.

Amendment, in page 2, line 7, to leave out clause 2, the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question put'— That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. Chaplin.)


I need not tell the House that this is a material Amendment, and that it makes a material alteration in the Bill. I move to disagree with the Lords' Amendment.

MR. GRANT LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk)

I think I am pretty well known to the House as one whose privilege it has hitherto been to follow the lead of the present Government, but I am afraid that on the present occasion I shall have to deprive myself of that pleasure. There is one consolation I have in this, that although I am disagreeing with the Government of August, I am agreeing with the Government of March, and, indeed, with the Government, up to the 18th July last. This clause which the Government have struck out of the Bill is not a child of the Government at all except by adoption, and a very late adoption indeed. Marked and disfigured, so that its own father tried to disown it the other day, this is still the child of the honourable Member for Ilkeston. I consider that that is a curious parentage for a clause adopted by a Unionist Administration. Ministers speak of this clause now with all the exaggerated enthusiasm of converts. It is not by inadvertence that they left it out of their Bill when they introduced it into this House after the careful deliberation of last winter and last spring. It is certain that the conscientious objector was in the minds of the Cabinet of those days; in fact, we know that he was present, because he was provided for. This Bill, as it now stands, with the improvements of the other House, pro- vides for the conscientious or any other objector; it provides him with a licence to risk the lives of his own children and to put his neighbours of the greatest inconvenience and loss for the maximum charge of 40s. and costs. Surely that is a very reasonable charge. With regard to the conscientious objector, I have a humiliating confession to make—humiliating for any man in any civilised country. I have to confess that I believe the game of law and order is up so far as the conscientious objector is concerned, but I am conscious that we should not make it so cheap as; to become a social pest. In this clause, as the Bill left this House, there were provided two alternative prices for the licence to which I have alluded—a price in cash, and a price in oaths. The clause which the Lords disagree with was to fix a price in oaths for the licence. The Lords have decided that the people who do not vaccinate their children are more likely to be willing to take oaths than they are to pay cash for their privilege. The other House desire to make the position of those who do not vaccinate their children as difficult as possible, without making it impossible altogether, and in that matter I find myself on the side of the other House, and against the proposal now before this House. I cannot understand why the Government should make this preference for oaths over fines almost a matter of conscience, and, certainly, a matter of political allegiance. What is the history of this question? Up to the 18th July the Government themselves were in favour of the test of fines. On that day we were invited by the usual very pressing invitation, which we all know, to vote for fines as against oaths in this matter. We came prepared to do so. I am not speaking of the very few who came to talk; I am speaking of the majority of us who came to vote. But on the 19th July, the very next day, a change had come over the spirit of the scene, and we were invited to vote in favour of oaths as against fines. Well, we did so. I do not wish to conceal our shame, but I offer this excuse for the conduct of those who acted as I did. We had only the time to 12 o'clock midnight on July 18th to 12 o'clock noon on July 19th to entirely change our opinion, and to realise where we were on this difficult question. I confess for myself that I had not the political agility to realise the change that had taken glace, and to take up the attitude that I would have taken up had I fully understood where we were. It was on that very day when we came to vote in that way that we were told by the Leader of the House that the people of this island were not easily moved. I hope that is true, but we are now told that the Government have developed in a fortnight such a love for this child of their adoption that they would sooner throw away the Bill, with all its totally independent provisions, rather than lose this clause, and revert to the position they held before this unfortunate change of front. Sir, I hope that that is not true. The late Government adopted a precisely analogous attitude to that in the matter of the Employers' Liability Bill. The other House in that case touched a clause which they considered was not in any sense of the essence of the Bill, but the Government threw away the Bill on that ground, and every platform outside rang with denunciation of the Government in consequence. I hope that this Government will consent to accept even from the House of Lords their own original Bill, and that they will not quarrel with that House because it has appealed from Philip a little upset by the excitement of a temporary though trying political position, to Philip in that calmer and soberer spirit—the usual spirit in which we delight to support him.

MR. MONK (Gloucester)

I think the House is to be congratulated on the action taken by the House of Lords. For my part I discover no excuse for a powerful Government like that of Lord Salisbury being influenced, as it seems to have been, by the paid agitation of the Anti-Vaccination League. The only argument brought forward that I have heard elsewhere in favour of the action of the Government is that they are deferring to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. If so, why did they not introduce the recommendations of the Royal Commission into their Bill at first? The Royal Commission sat for several long years, and it did its best, I have no doubt, to work very hard in favour of vaccination. But, instead of that, its labours were made use of by the anti-vaccinationists. Now, it is a positive insult to the common sense of Englishmen, for Irishmen and Scotchmen are all in favour of vaccination, to propose and insist on a clause which practically repeals the Vaccination Acts. The Government cannot even claim the opinion of that distinguished man, Lord Lister, for he acknowledged that it was with pain and reluctance that he voted for retaining this clause, because he said he did not wish to lose the Bill; but, after the argument that we have just heard from my honourable Friend the Member for Thirsk, it is unnecessary to say that this Bill would be an excellent Bill in the shape in which it has now come down to this House. I have no hesitation as to what vote I should give on this occasion. Before I sit down I should like to remind the honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that he fell into a very great error on Saturday last when he said that the honourable Member for the University of Edinburgh had sprung a mine upon him when he introduced the clause which is now clause 3 in the Bill.


I beg the honourable Member's pardon. The clause moved by the honourable Member for the University of Edinburgh contained a conscience clause, for which the honourable Member voted in the Grand Committee.


The right honourable Gentleman stated in debate on Saturday that the honourable Member for the Edinburgh University had moved his Amendment without giving previous notice and without saying a word to him. Let me remind the right honourable Gentleman that he had an interview with the honourable Member for the Edinburgh University, and with two other Members of this House, of whom I was one, and that this clause was put into his hands and read out, and he said that he should oppose it in the Grand Committee. Notice was given several days before, and I am astonished when my right honourable Friend says that he had no notice of it, because he was present when the following words were introduced into the old clause 2 as it was brought down from the Grant Committee, "Except as hereinafter provided." Those words were inserted on the Motion of the honourable Member for Edinburgh University in order to pave the way for this clause. I grant that I voted, as my right honourable Friend says, for the conscience clause of the honourable Member for Edinburgh University, and I did so on this ground, that no second penalty should be enforced until the child came of school-age, the age of four, and then that a second penalty might be provided if the parent or guardian of the child did not make the necessary declaration. So much for the remarks of my right honourable Friend. Well, Sir, I have spoken as I have to-night in consequence of the epidemic in my own constituency. Let me say that the blood of those innocent children, which was shed owing to the neglect of the guardians of the poor in that city, cries out against them and against the Department over which my right honourable Friend presides, which ought to have seen that the Vaccination Acts were duly and properly carried out. It is with great pleasure that I shall vote in favour of the Bill as it has been sent down to us from the other House.

MR. BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)

I do not want to occupy the time of the House, but I feel that I cannot give a silent vote upon this question. Like the honourable Member for Thirsk, it is my usual habit to support the present Government, but I confess that I cannot support them to-night, and I very much regret that they have not taken the opportunity given them in another place to withdraw from a most unfortunate position and to repair an error which, if it goes further, I think, will become irreparable. I must say that I cannot understand the position of the Government upon this matter. At the very moment when they are removing the principal objections to vaccination and removing those provisions which have made it difficult to enforce compulsory vaccination in the past, they also come forward with a proposal to do away with compulsory vaccination altogether, thereby inflicting a great blow on the community. Unlike the honourable Member for Thirsk, I object, not only to this conscientious-objector clause, but also to the original clause in the Bill, and I cannot imagine anything more ridiculous than that clause which professed to make vaccination compulsory, but said that, after paying one fine, a man should go free and be permitted to spread the disease as widely as he liked. The Bill has been altered so wonderfully that I really cannot remember what the original form was, but that was the form at one time, and to the form, in which it was sent to the House of Lords I have the very strongest objection. I believe it is said that a strong argument in favour of this clause is that it will do away with the anti-vaucinator and the anti-vaccination cry. Sir, I do not believe that for one moment. I do not think the Government realise that the anti-vaccinationists are a proselytising party, and that they will go forward with the weapon that has been put into their hands to render vaccination impossible altogether. I do not think the Government realise the vast amount of harm that has been done already by this Bill. We have heard that one-third of the children are not vaccinated at the present time. I believe that is true, but if you consider how it is that vaccination is not enforced generally you will find it varies by distinct areas—generally speaking, by unions. You will find that in some unions vaccination is enforced generally, and in other unions it is hardly enforced at all. What has been the effect of this Bill? It has been that in those unions where vaccination has been up to the present strictly enforced, owing to the zeal of a certain number of members of the boards of guardians vaccination cannot now be enforced because the idea has got about that the Government is opposed to vaccination. That will be earned still further with the most evil results to the country. I do not, want, to detain the House, but I should like to mention that I have received a letter from a friend of mine who has been for 27 years a guardian of a union where vaccination has been strictly enforced, and I should like to read this passage. My friend says— You can hardly realise the bad effect that the Vaccination Bill is having already. In this union, we have had up to date no difficulty, and all the children practically have been vaccinated. This year, for die first time, there has been an attempt to evade the law, and it has been publicly stated in the neighbourhood that the Government no longer wishes to enforce vaccination. That has been the result of the policy of the Government, and if this clause is reinserted, if the conscientious objector is to be exempted from compliance with the law, my belief is that in a few years' time, instead of one-third of the children not being vaccinated it will be practically the greater part of the children that are unvaccinated. Therefore I join with my honourable Friend in hoping that the Government will seize this opportunity and will either refuse to re-insert this clause or will withdraw the Bill altogether and introduce a better Bill next year.


I must say that I have heard with some considerable astonishment the speeches which have been addressed to the House in the course of this Debate. My honourable Friend behind me refers to the original Bill, and he says that the original Bill was a Bill containing but one penalty upon those who neglect to comply with the law of vaccination. Such is the amount of study and care which has been paid to the original Bill both by my honourable Friend behind me and by the honourable Member below the Gangway——

MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

May I say——


No, no!


I have not spoken to-night at all.


But my right honourable Friend gave the other afternoon an instance of the total want of acquaintance with the original Bill. I take the liberty of informing both my honourable Friends that they are absolutely wrong in regard to the original Bill. What the original Bill contained was two penalties for non-compliance with the law, one penalty under section 29 of the Act of 1867, and a second penalty under section 31 of the same Act. Both of these honourable Gentlemen who have interposed so far in this Debate have given us an illustration of their total want of information, and the total want of study or attention to the subject upon which they are now attacking Her Majesty's Government. Then they spoke of the great harm which has been done to the cause of vaccination already. I agree with them. I think a good deal of harm has been done to that cause. But how has it arisen? The first harm done to that cause arose in the Grand Committee. How was it brought about? We had the honourable Member for Gloucester to-night making a statement which I confess, after his own attitude in the Grand Committee, filled me with amazement. According to him the Bill which came down from the Lords is an admirable Bill which the honourable Member is going to support to-night. But the Bill, as, it appeared before the Grand Committee, was in his view a better Bill, because it contained two penalties instead of one. How was it that when it left the Committee it contained one penalty instead of two? It was due, as I have already explained to the House, to the introduction of the conscience clause to which the House of Lords objected; and who were its supporters? The honourable Member for Gloucester was the first Member to support it. That is an illustration of the value of the opinions of some of the honourable Gentlemen who have spoken up to now in condemnation of Her Majesty's Government. Sir, I almost apologise to the House for referring to these attacks which are made upon the Government by gentlemen who themselves have been the very first to advocate the action which they are now condemning. Now, if the House would allow me, I would like, in a very few words before these proceedings terminate, to appeal to what I would call the common sense of Parliament. I believe that all of us in this House, everyone who has studied or given the least attention to this question, is sincerely anxious to promote the cause of vaccination. To-night we have to choose between two separate methods of accomplishing that aim. One is by the Bill in the form in which it left the House of Commons; the other, and that is the only alternative tonight, is to return to the existing Acts of Parliament which deal with the matter. [Cries of "Why?"] Honourable Members know perfectly well that unless Parliament has changed its opinions suddenly for the third time there is no possibility of defeating the Amendment which has been inserted by the House of Lords. I understand from some of my honourable Friends on this side of the House that they intend to vote for the latter alternative with its old-fashioned lymph and its antiquated——

MR. GEDGE (Walsall)



Why does my honourable Friend say no?


I will tell you as soon as you have done.


There is no doubt about it. President of local Government Board.




That is an expression which the honourable Member has no right to use, and I must ask him to withdraw it.


I willingly withdraw the expression, Sir, and I apologise to the House for using it.


The interruption was not only out of order but it was perfectly unnecessary, as the honourable Member would have seen if he had allowed me to finish the sentence. What I was saying was that the existing law, with its old-fashioned lymph and antiquated methods, "of stational attendance," must be reverted to if this Bill were lost. [Cries of "Why?"] Because there is no provision in the existing Acts of Parliament for the new methods and without some provision it cannot be done. That is another illustration of the extraordinary want of information that prevails on the part of those honourable Members who are opposing us to-night. Now, Mr. Speaker, how is a return to the existing Acts of Parliament going to promote vaccination? I would ask honourable Members in all seriousness for a moment to consider this question. I have tried hard in the course of these discussions to make it clear to Parliament that a vast number of local authorities at the present time decline absolutely to enforce the law unless some provision is made for what they are pleased to call the conscientious objector. Well, the number of these local authorities is very formidable even at the present time. [A laugh.] This is really not a laughing matter; it is an extremely serious matter which Parliament has got seriously to consider. And even so, with the predominant opinion of Parliament, and especially the Commons House of Parliament, behind me, it would have been very difficult, though possible, I admit, to compel the observance of the law. I could have done it, I believe, and I would hare done my best to do it, too, could I have been certain that the House of Commons would have supported me. And upon the Second Reading of this Bill, when I stated my opinion as plainly and as frankly as I could to this House and the country, and when I was supported by a majority of 10 to one, I thought I had every reason and every right to believe that I had the support of the House of Commons behind me. And, more than that, all the further powers that could have been required were ready, and I was prepared to ask for them if the local authorities had declined compliance with the law, the moment we met in another Session and I had had some experience of how the law was fulfilled, or how the local authorities had declined to observe it. Then the honourable Member for Thirsk says that there was a great change between the 18th July and the 19th July. So there was, but the change was not in my mind; it was in the support which I received from the House of Commons, and after the Second Reading of the Bill, when I contrasted the reception my proposals met with then, and the reception they met with on the Report stage, when for a whole night I stood up in the House of Commons and not a man on my own side supported me; out of the 23 Members who spoke, with one exception, all supported the Amendment for a conscience clause; how could I do otherwise, with my experience of this House, than come to the conclusion that there had been, as there was—I care not what honourable Members say to-night—a very marked and decided change in the opinion of the House of Commons on the subject? Well, Sir, I came to the conclusion, and this was the only conclusion I could come to, that a Minister who tried to enforce coercion against all these local authorities in the country, whose numbers are as formidable as I have stated, with the opinion of the House of Commons against him, would be utterly undeserving of the position which he occupied. And let me also ask my honourable Friend's to further consider this. What chance, what possibility had I of obtain- ing further powers of coercion which, to my knowledge, would be absolutely necessary, the actual terms of which I had prepared if the local authorities should resist me—what chance had I of obtaining those powers from a House of Commons which would not even support me in resisting a conscience clause? ["Oh, oh!"] Honourable Members say "Oh!" but these are facts, and I am in the recollection of the whole House, though many honourable Members perhaps were not present then to support me who ought to have been in their places. How was I treated and supported in the Grand Committee? As I told the House the other night, I made earnest appeals over and over again on that Grand Committee; I sat up till between two and three o'clock one morning writing letters, making personal appeals to Members, few of whom would take the trouble to come down and support me. Under these circumstances, how was it possible for me to suppose that I had the continued support of the House of Commons for coercion? All my sympathies—I have never concealed them for a moment—have been with those honourable Members who are condemning the Government to-night. But at the same time they must remember that I have never put it higher than that it is a matter of opinion as to what was, and what was not, the most efficacious method of promoting vaccination throughout the country, whether it was to be done by a conscience clause, or whether it was to be done by more rigid methods of coercion. But the moment it became apparent that the opinion of Parliament, and of the House of Commons in particular, was adverse to measures of coercion, from that moment coercion became impossible for the Government. Some things are possible, some are not; and one of those things which are not possible is for the strongest Government, or for the strongest Minister who ever lived, to enforce a Measure of coercion upon vast numbers of local authorities throughout the country unless that Minister has the predominant opinion of the House of Commons behind him. What are the Measures that are possible at the present moment—what are the powers of the Government to enforce a compulsory Bill? I could get a mandamus against a local authority; which means that I could imprison them; but, so great are their number, that even if such a course were possible, the prisons of the country at the present time would not hold them. Those are the only powers we have to enforce coercive measures, and that is the whole question. The only alternative under the circumstances that the Government had, I contend, was the policy which we now ask you to adopt. There are very many and great authorities who have advocated this policy—men who can speak with far greater authority than I have any right to pretend to have upon this question. I certainly formed my opinions upon all the information which was before me to the best of my ability, and to those opinions I still adhere. At the same time I am quite ready and free to admit that I may have been wrong, but whether was right or wrong, in the face of the attitude of the House of Commons, it would have been absolutely impossible for me to give effect to them. Then, what is the alternative? The only alternative which is open to us is the policy which we are now asking the House of Commons to accept. Under that policy we offer to those who are opposed to vaccination great advantages which they have never possessed before, and we remove, I believe, all the real, and certainly the most prominent objections which have ever been urged against vaccination. Those advantages it is impossible to couple with the absence of a conscience clause at the present moment. I do not believe for a single instant that, even if the Government were to do such a thing, it would be supported by the House of Commons in resisting the Amendment of the House of Lords, which is before us at the present moment. Under these circumstances we have no alternative whatever but to accept this Amendment in the interests, as far as my judgment goes, of vaccination throughout the country. I dread to think of what would be the effect upon vaccination if this Bill was lost altogether. I am absolutely confident that if this Bill is lost there will be a state of things bordering upon chaos with regard to vaccination. I believe that after the views which have been expressed by so large a proportion of the House of Commons more and more local authorities throughout the country will decline to enforce a law which does not couple with it a clause freeing those who are conscientious objectors from compliance with that law. If they did, there is no possibility under the existing powers of compelling them to observe it, and I am absolutely certain, in my own mind, that at the present moment, and under all the circumstances, the best thing that we can do in the interest of vaccination is to secure as far as it lies with us the proposals which the Government submit to-night to the House of Commons.


I do not rise with any intention of answering the right honourable Gentleman, who has stated his case to the House with such energy and fervour, but I desire to justify the vote that I gave last Saturday for the re-committal of the Bill, and to justify the vote which I intend to give this evening in support of the Lords' Amendment. I give the Leader of the House, and the President of the Local Government Board credit for having convinced themselves that there is no change of principle between the clause which was struck out of the Bill and the new clause which has been inserted in it. I give them credit for being convicted by their own arguments, but I regret that that conviction has not been brought home to myself. If I felt convinced that there was no change of principle in this alteration, it would simply be a matter of detail, and it would only be a choice of two ways of doing the same thing, and I should trust to their judgment and their greater experience. But it seems to me that the clause which was struck out entailed this principle: that the good of the community is to be placed above the prejudices of the individual. In the new clause, the prejudices of the individual are to be placed above the good of the community. I believe this is a very important matter of principle; it is one of the great fundamental principles upon which society rests at the present time. Those who have studied the history of religious belief know that there was a curious sect of Anabaptists who founded their doctrines upon a precept of scripture and thought that they ought to act like children. They began by adopting the dress of children; they then took to riding hobby horses, and they took to all sorts of childish games; then they assumed to themselves the innocence of childhood, and said that they could do without clothes. Now, supposing that that sect were to grow again in this country—and in an age which I think may be called a crazy age, and an age of self-advertisement, there is no knowing what ancient folly may not come to the surface—would the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board permit Members of that sect to make an affidavit before two justices that they had a conscientious objection to wearing clothes? I am certain that the right honourable Gentleman would not entertain that idea for one moment.


Why not?


I will tell the honourable Gentleman why he would not; it would not be because he knew that these unfortunate, silly people would catch cold, and perhaps get pneumonia, and perhaps entail their own death, but the objection would be that going without clothes would be contrary to public morality. This is the principle; it is the good of the community against the prejudices of individuals. I know that this Bill contains many good clauses, which we should all be glad to see passed, but so important do I conceive to be this great principle of putting the good of society against the prejudices of the individual, that I feel it is my duty to vote for the rejection of this clause, even if it entails the rejection of the Bill, or the postponement of it till next Session. I trust that the House will feel, from what I have said, that my reason for voting for the Lords' Amendment, and, on this occasion, against Her Majesty's Government, is, at any rate, a conscientious one.


A few moments ago I used an unparliamentary expression, for which I, of course, promptly and willingly apologised. May I be allowed to explain what I meant when I cried "Shame"? What I really meant was "unfair." The right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board imputed to those who expressed their intention of voting against the Government on this clause the wish to wreck the Bill, or, at any rate, the knowledge that the action they proposed to take would mean the loss of the Bill. When I cried "Shame," I meant that that was unfair, because nothing could be further from the truth. In another place, this bogey of the loss of the Bill was also held out, but even in that House, where the Government commands about seven-eighths of the votes, what were the figures? It is said that the majority was a very small one, but it must be remembered that of the minority of 38 who voted with the Government more than half are connected with the Government by the closest ties—in fact, more than half are actually paid Members of the Government, so that really the majority was about two to one. It was stated in that House that if the clause were thrown out the Bill would be lost, and that bogey did not have the effect intended. I deny that the rejection of the clause means the loss of the Bill. There is a third course, and that is what we desire, and what the right honourable Gentleman knows very well that we desire, and that is, to pass the Bill as it stands now. I submit that if we are so fortunate as to obtain a majority to-night agreeing with the Lords' Amendment, it will not be in the power of the Government to withdraw the Bill. I do not see how they can very well invoke the Royal prerogative to veto a Bill that has been passed by both Houses. It is only in the event of our being in a minority to-night, and the Lords standing by their Amendment, as I hope they will, that the Bill can be lost. Sir, we do not wish to lose the Bill; we wish it passed; and why? Because it contains a number of provisions that we conceive to be of the greatest value. We were told to-night, and I think most correctly, that the Bill is substantially the same now as it was when it was first brought in by the Government. The President of the Local Government Board denied that, because he said the Bill now contained only one penalty instead of two; but surely that is a mere matter of detail. I am not surprised that the right honourable Gentleman amused himself, and amused the House, with all these personal attacks. He argued in personam because he could not argue in rem. He failed to deal with any of the arguments urged against this clause. But, irrespective of the merits of this particular matter, what moves me most in regard to the action of the Government is that they, a Conservative Government, are introducing the most radical and revolutionary proposal ever heard of. You may search the whole Statute Book, and you will not find a single Act of Parliament which says, "The law is so and so, but those who do not like it may leave it; anyone may disobey it who pleases." That is what this Act says. That is making the law a simple scarecrow intended to frighten foolish birds, and failing to do so.


I cannot agree with the honourable and gallant Member for Taunton that we are here to discuss the abstract principles on which society rests. I think we are here to discuss the practical question of how the salutary operation of vaccination can best be spread in this country, and I think that, in the second place, if I may say so, we are here to consider how this House should comfort itself when an Amendment has been carried in another place, in a thin House, by a majority of two—an Amendment which is diametrically opposed to a Vote emphasised in this House by a majority of 10 to one.




Well, it was by a very large majority. I think the minority numbered 29.


On a Saturday afternoon.


And this was at the end of the summer; so that I think, as between the two Houses, we may set off the one an against the other. Now, we have to consider how we shall comport ourselves to the right honourable Gentleman in change of this Bill. There is not a man in his House who will say that the right honourable Gentleman's conduct of the Bill has not been an example of all that is straightforward. He has given us his own views, but rather than wreck the Bill he has done what any capable Minister would have done in His place; he has taken the sense of the House, and has saved what will be a most valuable Bill. What are we discussing to-night, after all? We are not discussing whether vaccination is a good thing, and whether anti-vaccination is a foolish fad, or whether vaccination should be compulsory. Out of 600 boards of guardians 120 decline to enforce the Acts. Out of 900,000 children born every year in the country 300,000 are not vaccinated. There is no compulsory vaccination in practice. For the first time I gather that a number of the Tory party have become theoretical dogmatists, but I tell them that there is no compulsory vaccination in practice in this country. Compulsory conscription is the law in France and Germany. Would you call it compulsory conscription if upon a man paying a fine of 5s. once or twice he could snap his fingers and say, "You can do your soldiering for yourself"? There is nothing like compulsory vaccination in this country. This is a practical question—the question how we can get the children vaccinated; how we can induce adults to submit to re-vaccination. And this question will be put back to a far distant date if we throw over the right honourable Gentleman in charge of this Bill by submitting to an Amendment carried at the tail end of the Session by an insignificant majority in the other House. I should like, if I could, to put this in a way which would carry the assent of the honourable Members who have spoken tonight. Several honourable Members on this side have spoken, and three of them prefaced their speeches by saying that they did not think it wise to give a silent voice. I think, under those circumstances, the obligation of loquacity is rather on the other side, and that I am bound to justify the vote I am going to give in favour of the Government. I would ask those honourable Gentlemen to consider what is the point before us this evening; and, to do that fairly, I will take, for a moment, the case as put forward by the very astute Gentleman who opened this Debate. He did not say that he was speaking for vaccination as against the anti-vaccinationists; he did not say that he was speaking for compulsion as against the voluntary system. He said that he had been asked to vote one day for oaths instead of fines and on another day for fines as against oaths. He narrowed down the issue to that, and that is the real issue. There is no question of principle in this matter at all. I believe the decision we arrived at after a long Debate in this House was a wise one, in order to disarm opposition in this matter. You cannot go against such a consensus of opinion as is involved in the action of 120 popularly-elected boards of guardians refusing to enforce the law; and you are inspired by a very cheap form of courage if you think that by insisting on putting certain words in an Act of Parliament you are vindicating principles, and standing forth as the last of the Romans. You are doing nothing of the kind. The question before you to-night is, will you have an oath, or will you have a fine? I think that a system requiring a declaration from those who have conscientious objections to this practice is less likely to augment and increase the agitation against vaccination than having a man up for doing that which he will never believe is a crime. I think when the issue is properly appreciated, and when we have had such straightforward dealing as we have had from the right honourable Gentleman in charge of this Bill, the obligation on us is a very great one, if we are to vindicate the position and dignity of this House, and if we behave with a spark of generosity towards the right honourable Gentleman, who, having his own views, has given way to the sense of this House—I should consider that we should be doing an unworthy and ungenerous thing if we did not support the right honourable Gentleman.


My honourable Friend who has just sat down says—what I for one cordially agree in—that the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board heartily deserves our sympathy. The right honourable Gentleman has conducted this Bill, as he does all business that falls to his share, as a Gentleman and a man of honour. He has told us frankly his opinions are not changed, but that he has been compelled by the action of the House of Commons, or a certain section of the House of Commons, to give way upon a point on which he felt strongly—in what direction?—in the direction of the line adopted by the House of Lords. My honourable Friend says that we should be wanting in generosity if we did not support the President of the Local Government Board. I would like to know in what way the right honourable Gentleman is to be supported. Is he to be supported in carrying into effect what he has told us over and over again is his own solemn, conscientious conviction, or is he to be supported in carrying out what is exactly contrary to that conviction 1 He said only on Saturday last that the proposal which was carried against him in the Grand Committee was a "ridiculous" Amendment. He used that strong term more than once, and he said that the effect of the Amendment which the House eventually did adopt, and which the House of Lords has very wisely cut out, would be, in his judgment, followed by outbreaks of small-pox all over the country. Now, that is not an opinion of a Member of the Government hastily formed; it is the opinion of the responsible Minister charged with the administration of an Act relating to the public health. When he warns the House of Commons that the adoption of an Amendment of that kind will produce such a result, it seems very strange that my honourable Friend the Member for Dover should come down here, and insist, as an act of generosity towards the President of the Local Government Board, on retaining in the Bill a provision which the right honourable Gentleman practically stamped as ridiculous. It is true the term "ridiculous" was not applied to this particular Amendment, but it was applied to an Amendment which was as closely related to this as tweedledum to tweedledee. Therefore, in voting against the Lords' Amendment, we are practically supporting the scheme originally introduced by the President of the Local Government Board, and I think that is a way of expressing sympathy and support with him which he himself would be the first to welcome. It is not a fair way of putting it to say that the House of Commons has now either to accept the Amendment re-inserting the clause cut out by the House of Lords, or to drop the Bill. I say it is nothing of the kind. This Bill contains provisions unanimously accepted by both Houses of Parliament, and those provisions we desire to see passed into law. Do the Government mean to say that they would, from mere pique, throw aside the provisions which they themselves deemed essential? Strong expressions have been used with regard to various actions of this House, but I can imagine nothing more childish, I can imagine no grosser breach of public duty than if the Government were to tell us that they would make themselves responsible for handing the country back to the old state of things. My honourable Friend who has just sat down talks about the insignificant majority by which the Amendment was carried in the House of Lords. Well, there were 80 Peers present, and there were only something like 150 (scarcely double the number) of Members of this House who took part in the Division of Saturday. Considering that the House of Lords had had no chance of discussing this matter until the month of August, I think we have had from them a very emphatic expression of opinion. It is not for me to express any opinion as to what the House of Lords will do. I, for one, hope that they will stand their ground, and throw upon the Government the responsibility of rejecting what is practically their own original scheme.

MR. ARNOLD (Halifax)

I wish to call the attention of honourable Members who are now opposing the Government on the ground that they themselves are strong supporters of vaccination to one important fact which, I think, they have overlooked. We are honoured by the presence in this House of several medical men—for instance, the honourable Member for Ilkeston, and the honourable Member for the University of Edinburgh. They have both told us most emphatically that it is in the interests of vaccination that they wish this Bill to be passed without any coercion whatever; they desire that the conscientious objector should be excused from having his children vaccinated. That is the opinion of honourable Members who thoroughly understand the question. It was also the opinion of a large and important Royal Commission, which sat for many years. They were not unanimous upon many points, but they were unanimous on this one point—that coercion must be done away with. We have heard a great deal about compulsory vaccination. Compulsory vaccination never has existed in England, and it never will. There have been attempts at compulsory vaccination, but it has always been impossible to enforce the law. We have tried, for many years, a system of coercion, and it has met with no success, because to-day the number of unvaccinated children is larger than it ever was before. I think the Government deserve praise from the whole House in now offering to the country a policy of persuasion instead of coercion. As a loyal supporter of the Government, I am delighted to be able to vote with them on this occasion. Honourable Members talk of voting for fines as against oaths. Let us consider for a moment what a fine means. To a parent who is well off it is simply an annoyance; to a poor man it is persecution. You had far better leave it to the conscience of parents as to whether they will submit their children to vaccination or not. I have much pleasure in supporting the rejection of the Lords' Amendment.


There is an incident in ancient mythology which has been illustrated by a great artist in the past. It is the story of Acteon devoured by his own hounds. I have always had a great sympathy with that admirable sportsman in the melancholy fate which overcame him. But I do not intend to enter into the dispute which seems to have become serious between the Government and a certain section of their own supporters. Up to this time we have not dealt with the great question of vaccination as a party question at all. We have had to consider, and I believe the House of Commons has considered, what is the best course to take in order to more largely increase vaccination in this country? At this, which I may call the eleventh hour in the life of this Bill, we have still to consider that question. There are two things that may happen to this Bill. It may fail altogether; and then we revert to the old system, which everybody regards as a bad system—a bad form of attempted compulsion which is no compulsion, as has been very well pointed out in the very sensible speech, if I may be allowed to say so, of the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down. But there is another possibility that has been referred to by my right honourable Friend the Member for Thanet, and that is that this Bill should not be dropped, but should go on, the Amendment suggested by the House of Lords being adopted. Now, I would ask honourable Members, as practical men desiring to promote vaccination, to consider what will happen with vaccination hereafter if that course should be adopted. It cannot be as if nothing had happened; it cannot be as if the Bill had been accepted by the House of Commons and by the House of Lords in its original extent. What has taken place here cannot be undone. The country will know exactly what has been the course taken by both Houses of Parliament with reference to the case of the conscientious objector. Supposing you strike the conscientious objector out of this Bill; those who maintain his view will have the right to appeal to the opinion of the Royal Commission. It is said that you are giving way to the opinions of faddists. Well, Sir, the members of the Royal Commission cannot be called faddists; you cannot apply that expression to Lord Herschell or to St. James Paget and the other eminent physicians who were the first, so far as I know, to recommend this concession to the conscientious objector. I cannot set aside the fact that, in spite of the efforts of the right honourable Gentleman who had the conduct of the Bill in the Grand Committee, this principle recommended by the Royal Commission was carried by a large majority of nearly two to one.


No; there was a majority of two only.


I mean for the Amendment of the honourable Member for the Edinburgh University.


The figures were 22 to 20.


If that is so, the majority was exactly the same as in the House of Lords. Now, those who take the view of the conscientious objector will be able to appeal to the Royal Commission, who know a great deal more about the subject, I venture to say, than any of us can do, who have not had an opportunity of exhaustively studying it. We cannot set that opinion aside, and it will not be set aside in the country by those who maintain the view of the conscientious objector. They will be able to appeal to the decision of the Grand Committee; they will be able to appeal to the majority of the House of Commons—an appeal which will be all the stronger because the decision was accepted by those who were originally hostile to it, and they will be able to appeal to as able a speech as ever was made, I think, by the Prime Minister in the House of Lords in favour of the Bill as it went up from the House of Commons, and against the Bill as it was altered in the House of Lords. Then you will send this Bill forth to the country—a Bill which you desire to succeed—with its new form of lymph and domiciliary visits, and you will send it forth with this blot upon, it, that there has been struck out the provision excusing people who object to vaccination on conscientious grounds, a provision supported by all these great authorities. I say that your Bill will never work—it is impossible. The whole of this array of authority will be in the hands of those who are against vaccination. When you endeavour to make your boards of guardians carry out the Act you will fail. In what, position will it place the magistrates of this country who are to enforce vaccination. In my opinion you will have destroyed all chance of enforcing vaccination, upon those who oppose it on conscientious grounds, because you will actually have armed the conscientious objector with new weapons. Therefore I venture to urge honourable Members to take the course which has commended itself up to this point to the House of Commons. I am no advocate

and no supporter of the interference of the House of Lords with the legislation of this House, but if you are to examine the votes in the House of Lords I confess I think that the authority even of the House of Lords itself, in spite of the majority of two, is strongly in favour of the Bill as it went up from the House of Commons. That being the real situation, and putting all these recriminations aside as to the course the Government have taken in this matter, I believe they have arrived at a sound conclusion, and that the allowance to be made in favour of the conscientious objector will aid rather than obstruct the cause of vaccination. I shall therefore cordially support the Government to-night in the course they are adopting, and vote against the Amendment of the Lords.

The House divided: Ayes 129, Noes 34.—(Division List No. 286.)

Arnold, Alfred Curzon, Viscount (Bucks) Milton, Viscount
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Dalziel, James Henry Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)
Bagot, Capt. J. F. Dillon, John Morton, E. J. C. (Devonport)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manc'r) Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Moss, Samuel
Barnes, Frederic Gorell Fellowes, Hon. A. Edward Moulton, John Fletcher
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Field, Admiral (Eastbourne) Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)
Bayley, T. (Derbyshire) Finch, George H. Murray, C. J. (Coventry)
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol) Finlay, Sir R. Bannatyne Newdigate, Francis Alexander
Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe Firbank, Joseph Thomas Nicholson, William Graham
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Fisher, William Hayes Nicol, Donald Ninian
Bethell, Commander Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) Nussey, Thomas Willans
Bill, Charles Fry, Lewis Paulton, James Mellor
Birrell, Augustine Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E. Pearson, Sir Weetman D.
Blundell, Colonel Henry Goulding, Edward Alfred Phillpotts, Captain Arthur
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Bond, Edward Greville, Captain Provand, Andrew Dryburgh
Brassey, Albert Hamilton Rt. Hon. Lord G. Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Brigg, John Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W. Purvis, Robert
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Rickett, J. Compton
Bullard, Sir Harry Hazell, Walter Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.
Burns, John Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn Robertson, H. (Hackney)
Butcher, John George Johnston, William (Belfast) Round, James
Caldwell, James Joicey, Sir James Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Causton, Richard Knight Kenyon, James Sharpe, William Edward T.
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs) Labouchere, Henry Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)
Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbysh.) Lambert, George Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Chaloner, Captain R. G. W. Lawrence, Sir E. D. (Corn.) Spicer, Albert
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.) Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Stanley, Lord (Lancs)
Channing, Francis Allston Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R. Steadman, William Charles
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Loder, G. W. Erskine Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Chelsea, Viscount Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham) Stuart, James (Shoreditch)
Clare, Octavius Leigh Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l) Sturt, Hon. Humphry N.
Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness-sh.) Lough, Thomas Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E. Loyd, Archie, Kirkman Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Macaleese, Daniel Talbot, Rt Hn. J. G. (Oxf'dUny.)
Colomb, Sir J. C. Ready Macartney, W. G. Ellison Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Compton, Lord Alwyne McArthur, W. (Cornwall) Warner, Thomas C. T.
Cornwallis, F. S. W. M'Ghee, Richard Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)
Curzon, Rt Hn. G. N. (Lanc, SW) Maddison, Fred. Wedderburn, Sir William
Williams, J. Powell (Birm.) Woodall, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Wilson, F. W. (Norfolk) Woodhouse, Sir J T (Hudd'rsf'ld) Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Wilson, H. J. (York, W.R.) Woods, Samuel
Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbro') Wylie, Alexander
Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks) Wyndham, George
Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath) Young, Commander (Berks, E.)
Bartley, George C. T. Greene, W. R. (Cambs) Pierpoint, Robert
Bathurst, Hon. A. Benjamin Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury) Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith Helder, Augustus Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)
Bucknill, Thomas Townsend Howard, Joseph Strauss, Arthur
Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.) Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle Thornton, Percy M.
Coghill, Douglas Harry Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool) Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)
Cooke, C. W. R. (Hereford) Lawson, John Grant (Yorks) Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.
Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh Lorne, Marquess of Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph Lowther, Rt. Hon. J. (Kent)
Doogan, P. C. Maclure, Sir John William TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Duncombe and Mr. Verney.
Gedge, Sydney Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.
Gibbs, Hon. V. (St. Albans) Monk, Charles James
Gilliat, John Saunders O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)

Resolution agreed to.

Clause so restored to the Bill amended, by inserting, in line 4, after "justices," the words "or a stipendiary or Metropolitan police magistrate"; in line 7, after "justices," the words "or magistrate"; and by adding at the end of the clause, as a new sub-section, the words— (2) This section shall come into operation on the passing of this Act, but in its application to a child born before the passing of this Act there shall be substituted for the period of four months from the birth of the child the period of four months from the passing of this Act.


I desire to say that I have verified the statement I made as to the majority by which the Amendment was carried in the Grand Committee. I stated that it was carried by a majority of two to one, and the honourable Gentleman the Member for Walsall, contradicted me. I find that the Vote was really 20 as against 11, so that I was substantially right in saying that the majority was two to one. I wish to have that recorded.

Subsequent Amendment agreed to.

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to one of their Amendments to the Bill.

Committee nominated of Mr. Chaplin. Mr. T. W. Russell, Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Solicitor General, Sir William Walrond, Mr. Walter Long, and Lord Stanley.

To withdraw immediately.

Three to be the quorum.—(Mr. Chaplin.)