§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
This Bill has now been returned to us from the Grand Committee, and although it has undergone some changes upstairs—changes which are not always, to my mind, good changes—the Bill practically remains the same which was sent from this House. So far as the main objections are concerned, they were argued out upon the Second Reading. I very much regret that the Bill does not carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and I think I may go further and say that I am entitled to make that a ground of complaint, because the right honourable Gentleman claims—at least, I think he did upon the Second Reading—that this Bill was actually brought in upon the recommendation of the Royal Commission. Now, anyone who has carefully studied those recommendations of the Royal Commission must, I think, agree upon this—whether he approves of the recommendations, or whether he disapproves of them—that they were well considered, and they were criticised with a certain completeness, a roundness which left nothing to be desired, and that they must be regarded as a whole, and that it is impossible to take some and reject others. If there is any hope of carrying out those suggestions, which the Commission anticipated might be carried out in their entirety, the right honourable Gentleman says the Bill relies upon this: that the majority of the recommendations of the Commission are incorporated in this Bill. But I think it is necessary that these recommendations should be taken as a whole; and there are two recommendations to which the Royal Commission attached paramount importance; two recommendations which the Commissioners constantly represent as a necessary complement of their proposals; two recommendations without which they say in effect that their other recommendations would fail to produce any of the beneficial results which they anticipate from them; 309 two recommendations, failing which the House will, I venture to say, undo with one hand the good which they may effect with the other. Those two recommendations made by the Commission were the abolition of repeated penalties, and the protection of conscientious objectors from penalties altogether. Now, let me point out that it is clear, from page 33 of their Report, that they mean, by the abolition of repeated penalties, that the payment of a single penalty should excuse the parent who has a conscientious objection from further penalties in respect to that one child. But if the meaning which the right honourable Gentleman attaches to the words "abolition of repeated penalties"—he claims for his Bill that he has abolished repeated penalties—is conceded, it means that a man must be liable to three proceedings and two penalties in respect to each child; so that if a parent had a family of a very moderate size he might be dragged again and again before a criminal court. I will go a little further: several cases were given in evidence before the Commission in which parents had lost one child from the effects of vaccination, and were prosecuted and fined for neglecting to submit another child to the same operation which they found had proved so injurious upon a former occasion. Now, I do not think that I am using language which can in any way be considered exaggerated when I say that in most cases to which I refer there existed only a sense of shame and amazement at the treatment to which those people have been subjected. Now, what I want to ask the House is this: where is there a line or a word in the Bill before the House which would prevent such acts in the future as have been committed in the past. The feelings which such cases excite are feelings of abnormal sympathy with the defendant, the law-breaker combined with repugnance of the law.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. CHAPLIN,) Lincolnshire, Sleaford
May I interrupt the honourable Member for a moment?
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
I understood the right honourable Gentleman to give those words the meaning in the Amendment which I have put upon them.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
If it was 310 proved that a child of a parent, which had had, or suffered a serious illness—if it were proved that that illness was due to the operation of vaccination—that, of course, is a reasonable excuse for non-compliance with the law.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
I am speaking of the Bill as it stands, and I do not think the statement just now made by the right honourable Gentleman carries very much weight, because the law, as it stands, prevents the reasonable excuse being enforced. I think the observations I have made are not only right, but are not one whit met or superseded by anything that has fallen from the right honourable Gentleman. There is one view which I should like to put the House in possession of. Some friends of mine voted against the Bill, and were good enough to give the ground upon which they took that step, which appears to have been that this Bill mitigated the penalties, and that, as it was a good Bill so far from that point of view, and did some good in that direction, they were bound to support it. I must say that I do not agree with that view at all. If this Bill mitigated penalties I myself should feel bound to support, and should certainly support it to the extent to which it goes; but this, in my opinion, is not a mitigating Bill in any shape. It is a Bill to re-saddle the country with compulsory vaccination, and to put parents and guardians under the power of the criminal law. The effect of the Royal Commission, and the recommendations which it made, have completely destroyed the efficiency of the present law as to vaccination, and this present Parliament is to be asked to give renewed strength to the principle of compulsion which the Legislature originally adopted nearly half a century ago. Now, I think it cannot be denied that the question of vaccination, and especially compulsory vaccination, stands in a very different position to what it did in 1853, when it was first adopted. When Parliament, in 1853, instituted compulsory vaccination it was assured by the highest medical authorities of the time that efficient vaccination would secure immunity from small-pox. The assent of Parliament at that time to compulsory vaccination was obtained upon the strength of representations and credit of the greatest physicians, and 311 which were advanced, I believe, in perfect good faith, that they were correct; but in the progress of medical science, and, I may add, a larger and accumulating experience of the facts, it is admitted that those confident representations upon which Parliament in 1853 enacted compulsory vaccination could not be sustained. Now, the utmost assurance which the medical faculty as represented on the Royal Commission gives is a limited and conditional confidence in vaccination. My point is this, that the situation being thus completely changed, and the representations of absolute confidence having become limited to conditional confidence, the very foundation of the compulsory Vaccination Law is altered altogether and cut away, and, according to every sound system of criminal jurisprudence, vaccination is put upon the same system as any other medical prescription, and is no more entitled than such prescriptions to the adventitious aid of the policeman or the official. In the second place, I object to this Bill, as I regard it as part and parcel of the scheme under which the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board intends to supersede boards of guardians, and to empower by means of rules and regulations the vaccination officers to institute proceedings.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
It is difficult to say where to have the right honourable Gentleman. He now says not under this Bill, and that is just the point. It is not under the powers given by this Bill. It is under the powers of the Act of 1874; where the guardians did not prosecute to his satisfaction he intended to authorise the vaccination officers to initiate prosecutions, not only on the authority of their employers, the guardians, but in the face of their distinct resolutions to the contrary.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
I do not think that my honourable Friend could have been in the Committee when I made my reply to that point. I pointed out to the Committee that the power and duty of the vaccination officers were imposed upon them by Act of Parliament and 312 not by regulations, and that it was under the Act of Parliament that they would have to perform their duty.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
And at present the vaccination officers perform their duties under regulations, which regulations are distinctly contrary to law, for any officer to take action and institute a prosecution until he has obtained instructions.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
The honourable Gentleman is entirely mistaken; the case has been submitted to the law officers of two different Governments, and it has also been tried in the Court of Queen's Bench, and it was there decided that the power and duty of the vaccination officers to institute prosecutions was given under an Act of Parliament without any instructions whatever.
§ Mr. PICKERSGILL
The Act of 1874 practically superseded that; but it is hardly worth while to pursue the controversy. I only desire to say, in conclusion, that the right honourable Gentleman has missed a very great opportunity. I do think a wise legislator who was convinced and who thought that vaccination was a good thing, and who desired that the fact of vaccination might be more widely extended in England, would have frankly accepted and adopted the recommendation of the Royal Commission, and provided some reasonable means by which relief might be given to conscientious objectors; and if that had been done by taking greater care in the provision of the lymph, and by taking greater care in the manner in which the operation of vaccination was performed by bringing the vaccination officer to the door of the parent, which is, I understand, the Scotch practice, I think it would be in itself an excellent proposal; but all these proposals are inevitably spoiled by the element of compulsion. I think that if the Bill had adopted the recommendations of the Commissioners in their entirety it would have had some success and made vaccination popular, so that you would have not only primary vaccination, but you would also have had a very large proportion of the community willing to undergo the operation a second time. I am sorry that the right honourable Gentleman did not see his way to carry out the recommendations 313 of the Royal Commission in their entirety, and thus achieve a reasonable amount of success. The right honourable Gentleman has adopted a totally different course, which has no compensating advantages. Upon the other hand, I have given reasons for believing that there are many disadvantages in it—one especially, that it will have the effect of renewing compulsion; and with this warning I move that the Bill be further proceeded with this day three months.
§ *MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I support the Motion of my honourable Friend, and in doing so I should like in the first instance to recognise in the most cordial way the conciliatory manner which has been adopted by the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board with regard to the Amendments moved by my honourable Friend and myself in Committee. The Bill undoubtedly has been improved during its course through Committee. I wish to recognise most fully the useful changes that have been made in the Bill in Committee, which distinctly mitigate and moderate the rash procedure and the rash policy of the Bill which some honourable Members ventured to challenge on the Second Reading stage. Now, my honourable Friend, I think, put the whole case in a nutshell when he said the principle of this Bill, even with the modifications made, as it now stands before the House—a principle which I hope will still be altered upon the consideration given to it by this House in passing this Measure—was compulsion. The real situation is that by the Order of October, 1874 under the Act of 1874, vaccination officers were empowered, when so directed by the Local Government Board, as I understand, to institute proceedings whether the board of guardians authorised them to do so or not. Whether the question of the legality of Article 17 of that Order has been tested in the courts, and it has been found to be a valid objection to the Order or not, I am not in a position to state, but it is perfectly clear to my mind that the policy of compulsion which is now being pursued by the Government in this Bill is a policy very different to that which has been pursued by the Local Government Board during the last 10 years. Everybody knows what the practical working 314 of the Vaccination Acts has been during the last 10 years. The Local Government Board, recognising that there was a strong feeling in many districts against compulsory vaccination, have virtually admitted local option, and the local authorities of the districts where that feeling was known to exist have ever since the well-known prosecution of the Keighley Board 15 or 16 years ago, when those guardians refused to carry out the compulsory clauses of the Acts, been allowed to carry out the Acts in their own way. I venture to address the House upon this question at some length, because the boards of guardians and the people in my neighbourhood have for some years decided not to put the compulsory clauses into force, and have unanimously decided against the policy put forward by this Bill. The policy announced in this Bill of carrying out compulsory vaccination is a policy which must logically be applied to the whole of the country, and directly upsets the tacit understanding between the Local Government Board and those districts where the local authorities have decided that this policy should not be carried out, but that they should be allowed to go their own way. The case, I should say, has come to this standpoint: there is a large proportion of medical practitioners who certainly believe in vaccination, while there are numbers of others who differ from them as to its effects, and no one can now get up and assert that scientific opinion and the convictions of experienced medical men are unanimously in favour, or show complete belief in the efficacy of vaccination. There certainly is such a divergence of opinion upon this point that no one would any longer be justified in promoting vaccination by any compulsory method. A large number of the people in this country certainly do believe that vaccination gives security and protection to their children from a very loathsome disease—the majority; but what I say is, that you ought to give them some justification for that belief, although I must confess, and I have given some consideration to this matter, I do not believe there is any protection whatever; but if they believe that vaccination can protect themselves and their families I do not see why they should be alarmed 315 when they find their neighbours not vaccinated. It has always seemed to me unjust that those who believe in vaccination should be so extremely anxious to force it upon those who do not believe in it, but who, on the other hand, believe it may inflict serious injury on their children. I have heard the argument suggested that one has just as much right to enforce vaccination as to compel a householder to keep his drains in order, but while one may be made ill by a neighbour's bad drains, in the case of vaccination, if it is a safeguard, there need be no alarm. No one can doubt after reading the Report of the Royal Commissioners that there are very grave and serious risks attendant on the operation of vaccination, and that might be emphasised by numerous cases. The case for the reintroduction of the compulsory procedure, as suggested by this Bill, rests entirely on a series of hypotheses as to the use of calf lymph, but serious danger has been produced by vaccinations with calf lymph. The right honourable Gentleman and those who wish to support this policy fall back on the condition of glycerinated calf lymph, and say that the addition of glycerine to that lymph is said to remove all danger of disease being caused by the inoculation of the virus. What I have to say in this matter is this: that glycerinated lymph is only in an extremely experimental stage, and it may be—and I do not say it has not—that it has some good qualities which other forms of lymph have not. I do not say that it may not prove to be so, but what I urge with regard to the reinstitution of the compulsory procedure is this: that the introduction of this glycerinated calf lymph is simply an experiment, and we have not as yet anything which proves to us that it is not an empirical expedient. You are attempting by this Bill to reinstitute compulsory vaccination in the country—in districts where it is opposed by the people. If you do that I say you must offer to such of us as oppose you much greater and more scientific evidence of the efficacy of this glycerinated lymph than the right honourable Gentleman is able to produce. We deny that there is any sufficient scientific basis for this policy. And we challenge still more the policy of fighting the local authorities. We challenge the right to reinstitute these com- 316 pulsory powers in those districts where they have been rejected. The right honourable Gentleman will point out that he will not now be making rules and regulations to effect that under the provisions of this Act; but I wish to draw the attention of the House to what took, place in Committee upon this particular point. I challenged the right honourable Gentleman on the change in clause 3. His reply was that although he would not make rules under the amended section 3, he intended to use his powers under the Act of 1874 and the Order of that year to carry out this purpose. I ask any honourable Gentleman who has read the Report of the Commission whether he does not agree with my contention, that there is not a sufficient scientific basis for forcing a compulsory policy again upon these districts. I ask any candid follower of the course of local government in this country whether the Government is attempting to carry out a wise and practical policy. This is a Bill intended to reinstate compulsory vaccination in this country. A good many Members on this side of the House do not agree with the views I have expressed with regard to the nature of vaccination and its absolute or relative want of efficiency for the purpose for which it is attempted to enforce it. But at any rate, a good many honourable Members on the other side of the House do agree that we have arrived at a stage in which compulsion shall not be employed in carrying out this policy. I do not know how far the Front Bench agrees or disagrees with that contention, but at any rate, it is not wholly foreign to the Conservative Party. I have had sent to me from Reading a placard of the Conservative Party, which says—Vote for Keyser and no Compulsory Vaccination.I will ask my right honourable Friend whether he thinks it a wise and prudent course to force this through a reluctant House. Many honourable Members agree with me with regard to compulsion—with regard to the forcing through a reluctant House a policy of coercing the boards of guardians in districts where they have expressed a strong feeling and conscientious convic- 317 tions against it. I ask, then, whether that is a wise and prudent policy to adopt. I do hope before this discussion comes to an end that some wise and weighty words may be spoken by Members whose words carry more conviction than I can hope any of mine will carry. We have arrived at a certain stage in a Bill affecting the interests and sentiments and feelings of great multitudes of people. We cannot afford to wholly neglect sentiment and the feelings and convictions of a great number of parents as to the future interests of their children. We have arrived at a stage in which it will be wise and prudent for honourable Members to consider the feelings of a large section of the community, and to weigh well whether, before this Debate is concluded, we can arrive at some reasonable compromise on this question as regards those districts where there is a conscientious objection to the policy of vaccination.
§ *SIR H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton)
The apologies I make for intervening so early in the day are twofold. One is that I am the only Member sitting on this bench who filled the office of President of the Local Government Board in the last Liberal Administration, and I may claim to have some familiarity both with the working and the difficulties of the law relating to vaccination. I also intervene for another purpose far more important; and that is to see whether some modus vivendi cannot be established between the two sides on this question in order to secure a satisfactory, wise, and workable settlement. I will not attempt to conceal from the House my own position. I differ entirely from the views which have been expressed with so much ability by my honourable Friend who has preceded mo. I do not admit that what he says has been scientifically proved. I entertain a clear and contrary opinion. I am a strong and unflinching advocate of vaccination. I believe that the evidence, both scientific and statistical, and also the evidence of experience ranging over a long number of years, and over countries of very varied and different circumstances point to but one conclusion in this matter. Not that there is anything infallible about vaccination; not that it is in itself perfect; not that it is certain and secure of the 318 results at which medical science arms; but that upon the whole it is a great preventive against the horrible disease which has in times gone by inflicted so much loss and suffering on the whole community. I have a great respect for those who entertain a contrary opinion. They are as much entitled to hold their opinions as I am entitled to hold mine. I believe that there is truth in a great many of the allegations that they have put forth in reference to the imperfect mode in which vaccination has been performed, and the evil results which in a certain number of cases have followed from vaccination—from the arm-to-arm vaccination, as it is called—from unsatisfactory lymph. I recognise all that, and I also recognise, as my honourable Friend behind me has recognised, the great step in advance that this Bill makes. It is because I recognise this, apart from the disputable questions I am coming to directly, it is because I recognise that the Bill is a good Bill, and an improvement; that it is a Bill that will tend to secure a more satisfactory administration of vaccination; that it will prevent many of the dangers that have hitherto attended the operation; and that it will, in some respects, not as completely ass I would like it to do, deal with the irritation which has been caused—it is because of these things that I am anxious that this Bill should pass. I am not standing here in any way to wreck this Bill. What I am desirous of doing, as I understand my honourable Friend behind me was anxious of doing, was, if possible, to improve it. Other Members will, no doubt, deal with the lymph incident of this Bill. But the real stress of the controversy is, after all, compulsion. Now, Sir, rightly or wrongly, there are two strong views on this question whether as legislators we are bound in passing laws to have regard to the actual working of these laws, both in the past so far as they have been previously carried out, and in the future as to the probability which will at tend them. I do not desire to diminish or to increase that; but I desire an increase of vaccination by the intelligent appreciation and conviction of larger numbers of the people. This Bill, my honourable Friend behind me says, affects compulsion. 319 So it does. But I should like to ask the previous question. I should like to ask if the right honourable Gentleman opposite can tell us whether there is any compulsory law at this moment with reference to vaccination. Is there compulsion and to what extent is there compulsion; subject to what extent is there compulsion, and subject to what options is there compulsion? There is a penalty, I admit, for neglecting vaccination—a penalty again which is subject to great limitations, and which, if this Bill passes either in the shape in which the Government introduced it, or in the shape in which it left the Grand Committee, will introduce still further limitations. Thus there is not compulsory vaccination. It is totally different from that legislation which says a man shall not steal and in which you don't let him off for stealing after he has stolen once, or twice, or three times. I will trouble the House for a minute or two while I look at the history of this question, in order to see with what difficulty and under what circumstances we have arrived where we are standing to-night. An honourable Member has referred to the Act of 1853, which was the first attempt to introduce compulsory vaccination into this country. That Act practically broke down by the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, which decided that repeated penalties could not be enforced. Well, then, the whole question came before Parliament in 1867, when the vaccination laws were consolidated, and when, what is now called compulsion was enacted, and it is with the administration of that Act that we are dealing to-night, and which this Bill proposes to alter. I should like lo call attention to two sections of that Act, in order that the House may rightly understand that there is no law in existence with reference to compulsory vaccination which justifies the word as it is applied to other branches of legislation. The 29th section of the Act says that—Every party or person having the custody of a child who shall neglect to take such child or to cause it to be taken to be vaccinated, or after vaccination, to be inspected, according to the provisions of this Act, and shall not render a reasonable excuse for his neglect (here is the first limitation) shall be guilty of an offence, and be liable to be proceeded against 320 summarily, and upon conviction to pay a penalty not exceeding 20s.Now conceive an Act of Parliament under which a man is to be punished for stealing if he does not render a reasonable excuse. The Act does not say to whom he shall render that excuse. One magistrate may think one excuse reasonable, and another magistrate may think it unreasonable. At all events, Sir, the purport of my argument is this, that in the very first clause of this Bill dealing with compulsion there is already a limitation—"render a reasonable excuse." Well, that simply deals with the first penalty. Now, then, we come to section 31, which the right honourable Gentleman modifies in this Bill. This deals with cumulative penalties, and the House will find that the section bristles with conditions. First you have in the 31st clause a provision that when information is given to the justices that a child under 14 has not been vaccinated, the justices may summon the parent to appear before him, and if the magistrate shall find, after such examination as he shall deem necessary, that the child has not been vaccinated, nor has already had small-pox, he may, if he think fit, make an order under his hand and seal directing the child to be vaccinated within a certain time; and if at the expiration of such time the child shall not. have been so vaccinated or shall not be shown to be unfit to be vaccinated, or to be insusceptible of vaccination, the person upon whom the order is made shall be proceeded against summarily, and unless he can show some reasonable ground for his omission to carry the order into effect, shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding 20s. Therefore, under the Act of 1867 absolute compulsion does not exist at all. The next step in the history of this case was in 1871, when the House appointed a Committee to consider the operation of this section. The country was not satisfied with the Act; it was not working well. There was confusion with all these various alternatives and with these various options; and a Committee was appointed, and, I think, Sir, the House will agree with me, that in this case it was a rather strong Committee. Mr. William Edward Forster was the chairman, and there were also 321 Mr. Stephen Cave, who was afterwards First Lord of the Admiralty in a Conservative Administration.
§ *SIR H. H. FOWLER
Well, Paymaster-General. Then there was Mr. William Henry Smith, and there is no question as to the position which he subsequently occupied in this House, and as to the great respect which is due to the ability which he brought to bear upon all questions. Then there are other names, including those of Mr. Muntz, Mr. Candlish, Lord R. Montagu, Mr. Jacob Bright, Mr. Smith-Child, Lord Playfair, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Carter, and Mr. Hibbert. I think the House will agree with me that that was a strong Committee, a Committee of influential and judicial men who were not faddists, who were not reactionists, but men who could be trusted to take a practical, commonsense view of the question. I should like to draw the attention of the House to the conclusion at which that Committee arrived. The House will recollect that it was only four years after the Act of 1867 that the Committee found that it was the duty of the State to endeavour to secure the careful vaccination of the whole of the people. They found that there were three classes of children who were left unvaccinated—first, children utterly neglected by their parents; secondly, the children of parents who from carelessness, forgetfulness, or indifference, omitted to have their children vaccinated—and I may say, in passing, that I think that represents a very considerable number of non-vaccinated children—and, thirdly, the children of parents who assert and believe that the vaccination of their children would do those children harm. Well, the Committee felt with regard to the first two classes that the law must be enforced, holding the opinion that to secure the vaccination of the whole nation it was clearly their duty to enforce vaccination upon those who were absolutely indifferent. But when they came to the third question—and this Committee of 1871 were dealing with the question 322 which we are dealing with in 1898—the Committee said—It is necessary to weigh the claims of the parent to control the medical treatment of his child as against the duty of the State to protect the health of the community and to save the child from a dreadful disease.Now, I think that is a fair statement of the issue between the two sides. The Committee said that the law of 1867 made the parent liable to repeated conviction, and they expressed upon that very great doubt whether the object of the law was attained by continuing a long contest with the convictions of the parents.Public opinion," they added, "may be excited against the law, and, after all, though the parent may be fined or imprisoned, the child may remain unvaccinated.The Committee said they were not prepared to empower a policeman to take a babe from its mother and have it forcibly vaccinated. That is compulsory vaccination. My honourable Friend has compared the vaccination laws to the law with regard to drains. If a man does not put his drains in order the State does it, and charges him with the cost. The drains are not allowed to remain in an insanitary condition. But we were not prepared in 1871 to make that form of compulsion. You admitted options, limitations, and conditions which were totally outside all our criminal administration. The Committee recommended that where two penalties or the full penalty of 20s. had been paid there should be no further proceedings against the parent. I have told the House the names of the honourable Members who comprised that Committee, and they recommended it unanimously. There were four Members who went a little further with reference to a statutory, or something like a statutory, declaration; but I need not trouble the House with that. Well, Sir, what followed? Mr. Forster brought in a Bill to carry out the recommendation of the Committee. The recommendation of the Committee, which practically abolished compulsory vaccination, was adopted, and this compulsion, as it was called, simply became a question of degree and expediency, and ceased to be one of principle. Let me tell the House who voted 323 in favour of the clause. Well, Sir, there were two Members of the present Cabinet. There was Lord Hartington and the present First Lord of the Admiralty. They had no extreme or impracticable views. They voted in favour of that abolition, and they were accompanied into the Lobby by men like Lord Cardwell, the present Duke of Devonshire, Mr. Robert Lowe, Lord Peel, and Mr. Russell Gurney. Sir, there was one other name in the Division List—namely, that of Mr. Gladstone. Well, Sir, that clause was carried in this House; but it had to go to another place, where a good many clauses have had to go, and not come back in the state in which they went. The House of Lords, by the tremendous majority of one—I think the figures were eight to seven; fifteen took part in the Division—voted against the clause, and although that minority of seven included men like Lord Hatherley, Lord Morley, Lord Halifax, and Lord Northbrook, the Opposition, led by Lord Redesdale, was too strong for them, and the clause was struck out. Now, I want the House to see what position that legislation has left us in. If it had not been for that one Vote of that one Peer, who gave that majority, a great deal of the trouble, and the anxiety, and the vexation which has attended the administration of this law during the last 25 years would not have been created. Well, then, Sir, the next stage in the history of this matter was the step to which my honourable Friend has alluded—the decision of the Local Government Board; and the Local Government Board introduced another limitation. In 1875 the Local Government Board wrote a letter to the guardians of the Evesham Union, which was afterwards sent to many of the boards of guardians, and made public, pointing out that by Article 16 of the Board's General Order it was provided that in any case in which a magistrate's order had been obtained and summary proceedings taken, under section 31, no further proceeding's should be taken by a vaccination officer without the express instruction of the guardians. The letter further stated that the intention of this provision was that the guardians should carefully consider with regard to each individual case the effect that continuous proceedings would 324 be likely to have in promoting the vaccination of the individual child and in ensuring the observance of the law. Mr. Speaker, I think the House will agree with me that that is not a very satisfactory state in which to leave matters. The next stage we come to is the appointment of the Commission of 1889. That was a very strong Commission, and among the objects which this Commission was required to examine into was not only the whole question of vaccination, but whether any alteration should be made in the arrangements and proceedings for securing the performance of vaccination, and particularly into the provisions of the Vaccination Acts with respect to prosecutions for non-compliance with the law. That Commission included some very distinguished lawyers, and some very distinguished medical men, and some very practical Members of the House. Sir, the very first decision that they arrived at, in the year 1892, was this—We think the publication of this letter"—namely, the letter of the Local Government Board—"has had a considerable effect in diminishing the number of cases in which repeated penalties had been indicted, but it has by no means put an end to them. We think"—now this is the unanimous report—We think that they should cease to be inflicted altogether.I must give the House some of the names of the Committee. They include Lord Herschell, Sir James Paget, Sir Charles Dalrymple, Sir William Guyer Hunter, Sir Edwin Henry Galsworthy, Mr. John Syer Bristowe, Mr. William Job Collins, Mr. John Stratford Dugdale, Mr. Michael Foster, Mr. Jonathan Hutchinson, Mr. Samuel Whitbread, Mr. James Allanson Picton, Mr. Frederick Medows Wyvil, and Mr. J. A. Bright. Then the Commission made its final Report—I was at the head of the Local Government Board during the interval which elapsed—and it was quite impossible to proceed with legislation until the final Report was presented. Well, Sir, the final Report was presented, if I remember right, in 1896. I must trouble the House—I hope they will not think me wearying them—by calling attention to the recommendation of this Commission, because without calling attention to it I cannot really justify the 325 position that I am taking before the House. Well, the Commission, having stated the difficulties which arose, stated the difficulty with reference to parents who objected to the vaccination of their children. They opposed any relaxation of the law relating to vaccination, assuming that if it were not enforced it might lead to children remaining unvaccinated, which must necessarily result in diminishing the number of convictions. That is a result which I do not want to see arrived at, and which I think the majority of this House do not want to see arrived at—namely, that vaccination should diminish. But what do these great lawyers and great doctors say?—We believe that this assumption is not well founded. It has apparently been forgotten that under the existing law a penalty, or even repeated penalties, can be paid without difficulty by a man only moderately well-to-do, and that a poor man will constantly pay, or suffer a distress of his goods, or go to prison, rather than allow his child to be vaccinated. We think these ardent advocates have not always been the widest friends of vaccination, and that there would have been more vaccinated persons if the law had been enforced with more discretion.Then they go on to recommend—After careful consideration and much study of the subject we have arrived at the conclusion that it would conduce to increased vaccination if a scheme could be devised which would preclude the attempt (so often a vain one) to compel those who are honestly opposed to the practice to submit their children to vaccination, and at the same time leave the law to operate, as at present, to prevent children remaining unvaccinated, owing to the neglect or the indifference of the parent.And they make the very wise remark, which, I think, applies to other laws—Too blind a confidence is sometimes reposed in the power of an Act of Parliament. It is thought that if the law be only sufficiently stringent, and inflexibly enforced, the desired end is sure to be attained. There is, however, abundant experience to the contrary. When that which the law enjoins runs counter to the convictions or prejudices of many members of the community, it is not easy to secure obedience to it; and when it imposes a duty on parents, the performance of which they honestly, however erroneously, regard as seriously prejudicial to their children, the very attempt to compel obedience may defeat the object of the legislation. At the same time, we think it would be well to make the change a temporary one in the first instance, say for a period of five years, and that in the meantime the effects should be carefully watched.326 The present Bill is the first attempt at legislation since the Report was presented to the House. Now, Sir, I want to point out what the Government propose and what the Commission propose with reference to this question of repeated penalties. The right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, whose services on public vaccination I, for one, fully recognise, because I think he has had a very difficult task to perform, and has performed it with ability and courtesy to all, has inserted a clause providing that an order, under section 31 of the Vaccination Act of 1867, directing that a child be vaccinated, shall not be made on any person who has previously been convicted of non-compliance with a similar order relating to the same child. Just see where the Government have got to. They have got to this—that a penalty shall not be inflicted if a person has previously been convicted of non-compliance with the order. That means that when a man has been summoned and fined for not having his child vaccinated, all further punishment for non-compliance with the order, according to the Bill of the right honourable Gentleman, ceases. The matter is at an end so far as he is concerned. Well, Sir, the Committee had a very stiff Debate, judging from the reports in the newspapers, on this question upstairs; and what did they propose? Gentlemen on this side of the House know—all gentlemen opposed to vaccination know—that it was proposed by the Member who has made the most powerful and convincing speech in favour of the Bill on the Second Reading—a man who is at the head of the medical profession, the honourable Member for Edinburgh University (Sir William, Priestley)—that no proceedings should be taken against a parent who has been convicted on account of the same child until the child reaches the age of four years. I have no doubt that the honourable Member made that proposal on satisfactory scientific and medical grounds; it was not a haphazard Amendment on his part. Then mark the next step—No such parent shall be liable to a penalty under this section if he satisfies the court that he conscientiously believes that vaccination would be prejudicial to the health of the child.327 Well, now, I put it to the House—what is left? The second penalty is not to be enforced until the child is four years of age, and is not to be enforced if the parent conscientiously objected. I put it to the House, as men of practical common sense, where is the good of talking to compulsion with reference to vaccination if it is subject to all these nullifying exemptions if the parent has a conscientious objection? Well, where are we to-day? I say compulsion is gone. Whether right or wrong, it has absolutely gone. It has ceased to be a question of principle; it has now become purely a question of expediency. I desire to retain the machinery for compelling, or punishing the negligence of, the indifferent parent—the parent who will not take the trouble to see that his child is vaccinated. What does the Bill propose? It makes a very good reform in the law, because instead of compelling the parent to go to the vaccinator, it brings the vaccinator to the parent; and we know that that is a very great step. I will now go into the scientific question. I am quite willing to leave my conscience on that point in the hands of the honourable Member for the University of Edinburgh and my honourable Friend beside me, the late Secretary of the Local Government Board (Sir Walter Foster). They are quite satisfied themselves that this is a step in the right direction. I am quite satisfied to leave it there. But what I want to put to the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and what I want to put to the First Lord of the Treasury, is, that in order that a Bill of this magnitude and importance may be passed into law, with the assent and consent and approval of the overwhelming majority of this House, that they should accept what my honourable Friend has proposed with regard to the vaccination of a child at the end of four years. If you desire to save vaccination, this is the way to do it. What does the Government want? What does the President of the Local Government Board want? You want to extend vaccination. I think this is the best way to do it. I think you will have a great many more children vaccinated if you make this alteration in the law. I think you would secure what is of immense importance—you would secure the force of 328 public opinion behind you. I need hardly recall to the House a very well-known passage in Macaulay's "History of England," in which he contrasted the policy of James II. and William III. James II. said, "That man wants to be a martyr and I will gratify him." William III., a few years afterwards, under similar circumstances, said, "That man wants to be a martyr, and I will disappoint him." The historical results of the two policies show which of the kings was the wiser statesman. We do not want martyrs on this question of vaccination; we are better without them. What we want is to convince the people. We want to make the people who object to vaccination believe that it is the best thing for the children themselves that they should be vaccinated. And then, Mr. Speaker, last of all, I put this to the House, that even if the Bill were amended as proposed by the honourable Member for Edinburgh University, even then to a limited extent it has this bad principle in it, that there would be one law for the rich and another law for the poor; one law for the man who is well-to-do, and another for the man who is not well-to-do. The man who is well-to-do pays his sovereign or his five or ten shillings, and all your compulsion is gone, and his child remains unvaccinated. But you say to a poor man, whose parental affection and whose convictions may be quite as strong, "We will punish you more severely, and we will extract from your pocket a sum which you will feel, and, if you do not pay it, we will sell up your goods and chattels." Well, Sir, I do not think that is a doctrine which will hold water at the present day. You do not treat a man who commits a crime on a different line because he happens to be a rich man or a poor man, for it is a very unsound principle. I therefore ask that, in the interests of vaccination and of extended vaccination, in the interests of wise, consistent legislation, and in the interests of practical, statesmanlike administration—I ask the Government to meet the House and let us endeavour on both sides of the House, in view of the strong and conflicting range of opinion, to see if we cannot settle this question in, at all events, a practical manner, and one which will not perpetuate the most unjust and 329 irritating state of things which has existed during the last few years—a state of things which I say the President of the Local Government Board, any more than the Presidents who have gone before him or will come after him, would not wish to see perpetuated.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
I have listened attentively to the speeches of the honourable Members the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment, and of the right honourable Gentleman who has just sat down, and I will reply as briefly as I can to the two speakers who moved and seconded this Amendment, and afterwards to the right honourable Gentleman. Sir, I confess that when I heard the speeches of these three gentlemen, although I listened with great attention, I was at a loss to understand what could be their motives in moving and supporting that Amendment, for I confess that the honourable Member who moved it did not appear to have studied the question sufficiently to deal with it in all its bearings, and I should think that he was ignorant of some of the main provisions of this Bill. The honourable Member poses as the great champion of those who are opposed to vaccination, and he went so far as to say that if it were a Bill to mitigate penalties he would support it. Now, the right honourable Gentleman who has just sat down has told him that it is a Bill to mitigate penalties, and everyone who has given to the subject the smallest attention must also be of the same opinion. The honourable Member for Northampton says the Bill is an, improvement, but while he hopes that it will be altered during its further stages, he is moving an Amendment which is to prevent all further consideration of the question. Now, how can the principle of the Bill be altered if the Amendment of the honourable Member should be carried? The honourable Member for Northampton says that the Bill reinstates compulsion, but compulsion, whether he likes it or not, is the law now, and it is compulsion of a very much harsher and sterner description than will be the case if this Bill becomes law. Sir, I do not think I need dwell at 330 greater length upon the speeches of these two honourable Gentlemen, except to point out to them this fact, to prove to them and to those whom they represent that if they are successful in the Motion now before the House they would inflict upon a number of people, whether it be great or small, who are opposed to vaccination the greatest cruelty and hardship. We have done our best in this. Bill to remove all the main and principal objections which at different times have been urged, perhaps with more or less force, against the present practice. Not only that, but we have given to the poorer classes in particular facilities which they have never enjoyed before. In addition to this we have done our best to provide them with the latest discoveries of science in the form of the lymph, which the experience possessed in all the other countries in the world, as well as our own, goes to show is absolutely free from those defects which it is alleged have sometimes characterised the lymph which has been used in former days. The honourable Member, I suppose, who moved this Amendment desires that children should be vaccinated as they formerly were, that they should be taken to stations which were a long distance from their homes, and that there the child should be subject not only to vaccination, but should have its arm re-opened and the wounds again inflicted for the purpose of vaccinating other children from the arm of that particular child. I suppose he also desires that the doctor shall not be required, when the parents request it for their own convenience, to attend at their homes; and when he complains of the penalties imposed upon those who do not comply he forgets the penalties to which they are subjected at the present moment. But whether he desires it or not, that is what he is going to vote for; that is, that they shall be liable to penalties repeated over and over again in the future, although under this Bill they would be limited to the penalties which have just been described. Sir, I hone, at all events, that those outside this House who are so deeply interested in this question will at least recognise that in seeking to prevent the further progress of this Bill, which removes these objections, which gives greater facilities for vaccination, 331 and which, makes great concessions, that in seeking to retard its progress they are doing the worst injury in their power to those whom they seek to protect, and who complain of the present state of things. Sow I pass to the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, who has given us a review of the whole history of vaccination in this country, and, if I may be permitted to say so, it was a very able, concise, and, as far as I know, a perfectly accurate review. Now, he criticised the Act of 1867, and in one respect I think somewhat unfairly. He ridicules the idea in the clause of that Act that there may be such a thing as a reasonable excuse for refusing to comply with the law which requires vaccination to be performed, and he says that if a man steals you do not allow him to make a reasonable excuse, but you punish him, no matter what may be the consequences. Now, with regard to the Vaccination Law there may be necessities and causes for a reasonable excuse in the one case which cannot possibly exist in the other case of stealing. The reasonable excuse in the case of vaccination is sometimes because of illness and sometimes because of the general state of health of the child, its strength or weakness, and its ability to bear an operation; and sometimes also the general conditions in the immediate surroundings of the home. These are the matters for which a reasonable excuse is provided for under that clause of the Bill, and I think the House will see at once, that in his criticisms on that point the right honourable Gentleman is not quite so reasonable himself as he generally is. Well, then he referred to the Committee of 1871 to point out what their opinion was at that time. He also alluded to the Circular which some years ago was addressed to the various boards of guardians by the Local Government Board, and he made these references in order to deal with the whole question of repeated penalties. It could not help crossing my mind while I was listening to this statement that after all the right honourable Gentleman at this particular point was merely repeating with much more ability, and in an amplified form, the statement which I myself made at some considerable length upon the introduction of this Bill. I do not think that 332 he has met the statement which I made on that occasion, and I think we, at all events, have recognised and taken full account of the Report of the Committee of 1871, and the Report of the Royal Commission upon this particular point. I think it has shown pretty clearly that we recognise the value of those recommendations by inserting as one of the clauses of the Bill in the first instance that repeated penalties should be abolished. Now, Sir, there is much in the speech of the right honourable Gentleman which I practically hold myself, and with which I entirely agree. I was glad to hear what I had always believed to be the case, that he was an unflinching advocate, of vaccination, and of course I entirely agree with him when he says that we should endeavour to arrive at a wise, a safe, and practical settlement of this question. Sir, I agree with every word of that, but it must also be an effective settlement. The right honourable Gentleman desires to increase vaccination throughout the country, and to secure for it the support of the intelligence of the country, and of course I desire the same thing. But I am strongly convinced that as far as the intelligence of the country is concerned vaccination has the full support of intelligent people now. The intelligent people desire to promote vaccination by every reasonable means that are possible, and the whole agitation and the whole of the clamour against it comes, I think, from the want of intelligence, and I do not think I should be far wrong in saying from widespread ignorance.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
Yes, and so do I. The right honourable Gentleman, again, reminded us that it was the duty of the State, according to the Report of that Committee, to secure vaccination of the whole of the people. There again I agree with him, but how is it that he secures it, and how is it going to be done? That is the whole point of the question at issue. The speech of the right honourable Gentleman has made it perfectly clear that the only 333 difference between himself and myself, and between sitting on that side of the House and on this, is as to what is or what is not the best and most expeditious method of accomplishing it. Upon that I am quite aware that there is a great difference of opinion, but unfortunately the responsibility of deciding upon this rests with me. Now, with all the facts and the information and the knowledge which I possess on this subject, and which I shall lay before the House, directly, I think it will be more convenient to take this discussion upon the Motion which is directed to that question, and with all those facts and the information in my possession which I desire to submit to the House, I believe I shall convince the majority of the Members of this House and the majority of the people outside that if I were to adopt the views so zealously and earnestly advanced by the right honourable Gentleman to-night we should be very far indeed from securing the due vaccination of the whole of the people. One word in reply to what has been said as to the distinction made by this legislation between the rich on the one hand, and the poor on the other. I am afraid it is one of the disadvantages which always prevail with regard not only to vaccination, but to many other legislative Acts, that, no matter what a Government may do, this disability always attaches in some degree to the poor as compared with the rich. With regard to the Amendment now before the House, I hope the House will mark its sense of the policy of those honourable Members who moved it, and will condemn their policy as absurd in their own interests, as it would be cruel in the interests of those whom they pretend to represent.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I represent a constituency which feels more strongly on this question than any other constituency in the country. My right honourable Friend the Member for Wolverhampton seems to suppose that all who object to compulsion can refuse. But my constituents at Northampton are not anxious to become martyrs; in fact, they object entirely to become martyrs. Rightly or wrongly, they believe that 334 this vaccination is injurious to their children, and in that belief they are prepared to go to very great lengths; in fact, whether the Government passed this Bill or not, whether the Government attempted to force the people to vaccinate or not, I guarantee they will not get the people of Northampton either to be vaccinated, or in any way, directly or indirectly, to pay fines. And I trust the same line will be adopted by the constituencies that take this view. If I believed that by voting for the Amendment of the honourable Member for Bethnal Green that would put an end to compulsion I would vote with him; but I do not see that that result would follow. In some parts this Bill is a good Bill, and in other parts it is bad. The honourable Member for Bethnal Green says we ought to vote against the Bill because it recognises the fact of compulsion. But compulsion exists, whether we recognise it or not, and I do not see that we would gain very much by voting for my honourable Friend's Amendment. The right honourable Member for Wolverhampton said that a species of local option exists which will be put an end to by this Bill. The right honourable Member's view is that at present the boards of guardians have to decide whether they will impose a penalty or not; whereas, if the Bill is passed, this local option will be taken from them. I do not understand that to be the state of the case. I understand the view of the President of the Local Government Board is that he possesses those powers at the present moment, and that, whether the Bill passes or does not pass, he intends to enforce those powers. Whether the right honourable Gentleman does or does not possess those powers, most unquestionably this Bill in no way alters the law, and will not give the President of the Local Government Board those powers if he does not already possess them. By the 27th clause of the Act of 1867, guardians have powers to take proceedings against defaulters. That provision of the Act was repealed in 1871, but in 1874 a further Act was brought in giving the President of the Local Government Board power to make rules and regulations in regard to vaccination. But I contend that, after the penal clause had been repealed by 335 the House of Commons, and the President of the Local Government Board was, at the same time, given power to make rules and regulations, it was never intended to reinforce that penal clause under the rules and regulations of the right honourable Gentleman. That is the view entertained by the predecessors of the right, honourable Gentleman, who may have consulted his law officers upon the point, as, I suppose, his predecessors did. On February 17, 1883, the then President of the Local Government Board, in reply to a question, said that this order was not binding upon the guardians, but was merely communication, and it rested with the boards of guardians to exercise their discretion in the matter. On July 5th of the same year the then President of the Local Government Board said—The enforcement of the Vaccination Act is committed to an elected tribunal, and they must use their discretion in cases that come before them.With these facts before us, I do not think the right honourable Gentleman can fairly say that the Local Government Board have a right to enforce fines, without the consent of the guardians, and, if the right honourable Gentleman does not adopt an entirely new course, we shall retain that local option in places that object to vaccination. With regard to the conscience clause, the right honourable Gentleman will remember that a very important Committee on Law only decided against it by a majority of two—24 on one side and 26 on the other. I do not suppose that the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will say, for an instant, that those 24 voted for the conscience clause, because they were opposed to vaccination. I do think the House has realised the ground of the opposition to compulsory vaccination. It is not a general belief that vaccination does not give some sort of immunity against small-pox, or does not reduce the violence of it, after a person who has been vaccinated catches the disease. That is not the general reason for the opposition; it is that people consider cow-pox itself a disease, and that they have no right to inoculate into children a disease which may have very serious conse- 336 quences. The right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, says that an unhealthy child is not vaccinated, but there is a wide difference between children well nurtured, and children badly nurtured, and many of those children forcibly vaccinated are so badly nurtured that they cannot resist the effect of this cow-pox. Probably, it rarely kills children, but it destroys their constitution. There have been cases—the right honourable Gentleman must know of them himself—in which the vaccine taken from one child to another has been impure, and has transmitted the germs of disease. Doctors have always been faddish. At present they are for calf lymph; in half-a-dozen years they may go back to human vaccine. The other day I happened to take up a book in which some conversations were recorded by Mr. Tollemache with Mr. Gladstone. I was rather interested in a conversation on vaccination, and to learn that, according to the writer, Mr. Gladstone was entirely opposed to compulsory vaccination. Mr. Tollemache suggested that all the doctors were in favour of it. "Yes," said Mr. Gladstone; "but I can remember the time when all doctors were in favour of inoculation, and there was a desire on their part that everybody should be vaccinated." But it has become a criminal offence to do what the whole of the medical profession are not themselves agreed upon should be done, and which they desire to compel parents to do by law. So, Mr. Gladstone was strongly opposed to compulsory vaccination. The right honourable Gentleman spoke a good deal about the benevolence that was here manifested towards the working-man in regard to whom there was only imposed a single penalty as a non-vaccinator. But can anyone reduce the whole principle and practice of vaccination to a more absurdity that by imposing a penalty, say, of £1 per annum, or less, and going about inflicting poor people in this way—as it is certain they would never do if vaccination were not compulsory? There is a Dog Bill—or, rather, there was a Dog Bill, which is no longer in existence—which possessed somewhat similar features. But what on earth would the right honourable Gentleman, who is a 337 man of agricultural parts and learned in agriculture—what would he say of any person taking his dog about without a muzzle, whether the dog be mad or not? In the same way, what would be said about a person, inflicted with small pox, being permitted to go about in a public carriage because he had paid £1 for the privilege? It is a reductio ad absurdam to say that anybody should be allowed to free himself from the obligation, of vaccination by the payment of £1. But, what I want to know is, and I should like to hear some medical gentleman explain—I see a medical gentleman behind the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board—and I should like to have explained to me something about the doctrine of vaccination. As far as I can understand it, the immunity from small pox disappears after seven years. Well, then, why should you not oblige everybody to be revaccinated every seven years? Sir, I ask the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board when last he was vaccinated?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Seven years? It is evidently so long ago that the right honourable Gentleman does not remember. I think we ought to examine the right honourable Gentleman. But, is it not a farce that the right honourable Gentleman should come down here and make a long speech about the non-vaccination of poor people, when he admits that the immunity from vaccination disappears after seven years, and he does not remember when he was last vaccinated himself? We ought always to be prepared to do ourselves what we wish to do unto others. The right honourable Gentleman, the Member for Wolverhampton is a much experienced man. He has been vaccinated four times. Well, let him be vaccinated again. My contention is this: if we are prepared to practice what we preach, we should be able to go in and make a declaration that we have been vaccinated every seven years; and all those who cannot make that declaration should submit to the operation forthwith. I agree with my 338 right honourable Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, that you are making distinctions between rich and poor in this matter. The right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board tries to get over that difficulty by saying it is a natural state of things that there should be a distinction between rich and poor. But nature never proposed to make such a distinction. Nature never proposed vaccination. It is obviously the most monstrous distinction one ever heard as between rich and poor: the rich man can pay his £1 and roam about untouched; the poor man must either pay the £1 or go to prison in order to save his children from the terrors of vaccination. However, I trust the Bill will turn out better in Committee, and improve on Report. It does seem to me that we should not object to the Bill at present, by our votes, and so prevent its going into Report; but rather should we wait until it comes out of Report and arrives at the Third Reading; then, if we find that the bad to be derived from the Bill is more than the good—for I admit there is good in it—then we may cast our votes against the Bill. But if my right honourable Friend does go to the vote, although the constituency I represent is most strongly opposed to vaccination, then I should vote in favour of the Bill.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Really, Sir, I think we are discussing a subject which is much more appropriate to the important Amendment which is down on the Paper. Every scheme, every important scheme, is invested with a certain amount of risk; but this discussion has regard solely to that Amendment, and it is around that Amendment this Debate must necessarily centre. I would therefore suggest to the House that it would be more convenient to dispose of this particular Amendment as soon as possible, and proceed with the discussion of more important topics, as soon as honourable Members are ready to go on. I do not agree with all that the honourable Member for Northampton has said, but I do agree that to reject this Bill because honourable Members opposite do not get all they want, would be an unwise proceeding. To some the Bill may not appear to go far enough, while others 339 say it goes too far. To say that every provision in the Bill is not an improvement upon the existing law is denied by nobody. There have been criminal codes which have led to gradual reforms in successive stages of trial and experience; and it is the same here. To conceive a man with a conscientious objection to capital punishment refusing his assent to a Bill which reforms the principle of punishment in other cases, is, I think, inconsistent, and I hope the House will not adopt such an attitude on the present occasion, but proceed at once to the discussion of the Amendment on the Paper.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 2, after clause 1, insert the following clause—
Where a child is by this Act required to be vaccinated within six months from the birth of the child, the parent or person having the custody of the child may, not less than two months before the expiration of six months from the birth of the child, make a statutory declaration of conscientious objection to the vaccination of the child, before not less than two magistrates in petty sessions, and if the statutory declaration is, within seven days after its date, delivered to the vaccination officer for the district in which the child resides, the vaccination officer shall register the same, and shall, if required, deliver to the parent or other person making the declaration a certificate of such registration, and thereupon an order shall not be made or proceedings taken with reference to the non-vaccination of the child mentioned in the certificate."—(Sir Waller Foster.)
§ *SIR W. FOSTER
I rise, Sir, to move the Amendment on the Paper in my name in order to facilitate the relief which should be given to those who have a conscientious objection to vaccination by enabling them to make a declaration so as to avoid penalties. In bringing forward this Amendment I do so as a perfectly earnest and unswerving believer in vaccination. I take this view of the question after I have been convinced, for some years, that there are a largo number of people in this country who have an honest and deep-rooted conviction against vaccination. I say that I believe their reasons are honest; but, because I do not agree with their reasons, that is no ground 340 whatever for disputing their honesty. There are men of great intelligence and of high reputation who do not believe in the efficacy of vaccination; while there are men equally intelligent, and of equally high reputation, who do believe in its efficacy, but who have a conscientious objection to the present methods being practised on their children; and I have come to the conclusion that in this country, at any rate, we can no longer compel the children of such parents to be vaccinated. I think we ought to give them an opportunity of avoiding the penalties which this Bill would seek to impose. I think myself, Sir, that I need not go further to show the reasonableness of my proposition than to refer for a moment to the terrors which haunt these people and lead them to take up the position they do. I have always held, since it has been proved by actual demonstration, as a scientific principle, that you can communicate syphilis by means of vaccination, that it is unwise to compel people haunted by this fear. Therefore, I say that the position assumed by these people is a reasonable one, and one, be it remembered, for which they were prepared to undergo any sacrifice rather than submit their children to the operation. However small the risk may be, the risk exists all the same, and as long as the fear of it exists in the mind of a parent we have no right to punish him or to compel him to vaccinate his child. In taking up this position I have the authority of one of the most distinguished members of the profession—no less a person, in fact, than the late Sir Thomas Watson—who, as far back as 1878, wrote these words—I can readily sympathise with, and even applaud, a father who, with the presumed dread or misgiving in his mind, is willing to submit to multiplied penalties rather than expose his child to the risk of an infection so ghastly.That was the declaration of a man who was one of the most distinguished Presidents of the College of Physicians. And after all the Reports and inquiries that have been made since then, especially the Report of the Royal Commission, why should we put this ghastly liability upon people who have all its possible horrors in their minds, and 341 continue to impose all sorts of penalties upon them? In the name of humanity, I say, we ought to find the means of obviating a recourse to such penalties. That being the position, it is no answer to say that the risk is infinitely small, because it is infinitely great to the man who fears it. Once that idea gets into the public mind, it takes a long time to get it out. Now, it is said that we are trying to introduce a new form of lymph which will abolish the likelihood of infection, but the fear will continue to exist for a long time. Therefore, I say, in order to give this lymph a fair chance you ought not to keep up the system of persecution of those who have honest objections. I believe, in order to give the lymph a fair chance, the proposal which I have placed on the Paper is one that will secure the best chance. The weakness of the position as regards compulsion has been over and over again recognised, even in the various Acts of Parliament and by the action of the Local Government Board. The weakness has been added to by the very strong Report of the Royal Commission. If you continue to impose penalties on conscientious objectors you will have difficulty in enforcing them, and it is for that reason I propose to do away with them. Let us consider for a moment how far compulsion has succeeded. In 1872, under the Acts which have been referred to by my right honourable Friend, there were only 5.1 per cent. of the infants in the country who escaped vaccination, but in 1893 the proportion was 16.1 per cent.; so that under the compulsory laws the proportion of unvaccinated children has been trebled. We are not getting any "forroder"; but the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board admitted more in his speech in Committee in referring to my Amendment. Out of 922,000 births, under the present system of repeated penalties, he admitted that you get no less than 300,000, or one-third of the whole number, who escape vaccination altogether. The penalising law that brings about a result of that kind is not worth keeping on the Statute Book. But go on to another point with reference to this proposal; it is not a proposal that emanates from myself alone, it is the proposal of the Royal Commission. In the Grand Com- 342 mittee upstairs I had the support of the only Member of the present Parliament who was a member of that Commission, the honourable Member for Ipswich voted in favour of my Amendment. The Commission was absolutely unanimous in supporting the principle I advocate; two Members only wanted to have one penalty. The opinion of the Royal Commission was then in favour of a conscientious objector being relieved from penalties; the members of the Commission were men of the highest position in the legal and medical worlds, and their opinions ought to have effect on every Member of this House. Beyond that, when we went into Grand Committee every medical member of that Committee was in favour of my Amendment except the honourable Member for Edinburgh, who practically admitted it by the clause which he introduced. I can therefore say that, including the honourable Member for the University of Edinburgh, every medical man on that Committee was in favour of my principle. Not only that, but I have had a very heavy correspondence on the subject since I have taken up this attitude, and I have not had a single letter from a member of my own profession condemning it. And if it comes to that, if you look into the medical journals, you will find that their position is the same, and that they practically support the proposal which I am inclined to press upon the House. In the leaders in the Lancet and the British Medical Journal they admit that they would be delighted to have conscientious objections accepted. The Lancet says—If it were to be found—and it would not surprise us to find—that your single penalties could be wisely dispensed with, then no body of men would more heartily welcome the abolition of fines than would the profession of medicine.The British Medical Journal says—With systematic revaccination, and with the direct and recognised aid of the medical profession throughout the country in carrying out the new law, the demand for a conscience clause might well have been granted.Well, one very distinguished professor of medicine, who holds strong views on the necessity of vaccination, and who would, if he could, take children forcibly 343 to be vaccinated, wrote me a letter, in which he said—I think it is a great pity your Amendment was lost in Committee, as I believe to make martyrs is a very unprofitable occupation in this country.These are the reasons why I press this Amendment on the House, and when I find leading members of my profession supporting me in the stand I am taking, I think I am perfectly justified in asking the right honourable Gentleman to consider my Amendment. Now, in the Debate which we had in Grand Committee there were certain objections raised to this Amendment, and I have no doubt that the same objections will be raised again to its acceptance by the House. One of the objections of the right honourable Gentleman in Grand Committee was that he was afraid that the acceptance of this Amendment would practically abolish vaccination. The Commissioners, however, having weighed this argument, say—We believe this assumption is not well founded.So that the right honourable Gentleman's view is in direct opposition to the Royal Commission on this point. At present vaccination is not enforced in one-fifth or one-sixth of the poor law unions of the country, and the results of this condition of things have been that you have the law, where it has been enforced, brought into contempt. Now, only the other day the chairman of a petty sessions district, a medical man, said to me—So far as I am concerned, I approve of your proposal, for I will not punish these people, who will not have their children vaccinated. I believe in vaccination, but I will not inflict penalties, because by so doing I bring the law into contempt and disrepute.He also said that if a fine were inflicted the man would not pay; his goods were distrained, but no one would bid for them, and they had to be given back again. When these men are sent to prison they are looked upon as martyrs and are met by a musical band on being released, and for every one sent to prison a hundred converts are made to the Anti-Vaccination League. A condition of things like that brings the law into 344 contempt and brings the system of vaccination into disrepute. I feel, then, that under these circumstances I am justified in pressing strongly on the House the necessity of finding some way out of this difficulty. A parent who objects to the vaccination of his child ought to be allowed to make a conscientious declaration to that effect at once. My honourable Friend opposite [Sir W. Priestley] tries to find a way out by introducing an Amendment to the effect that the parent of a non-vaccinated child shall be punished by a fine the first time, and for four years afterwards no proceedings shall be taken with reference to that particular child, and at the end of four years he is to be allowed to make a conscientious declaration. That, no doubt, is an improvement on the Bill as originally drawn, but I do not think it is sufficient. When the child is, say, four months old and the father is summoned he resents this interference, and if he is fined even once he becomes a permanent enemy of vaccination. It is no use to tell him that four years afterwards he will be able to make a conscientious declaration; he should be able to make it at the time. Moreover, at the end of four years, 50 to 75 per cent. of these children would not be traceable. And so, although my honourable Friend's Amendment is an improvement on the Bill as it originally stood, I do not think it goes far enough to secure the objects I am anxious to obtain. It would, in working, produce the maximum of irritation with the minimum of vaccination. I am afraid the form into which he has put it will not add to the number of children who are vaccinated, and so promote the object which I have in view, which is to make vaccination more general throughout the country. There is one other point which I wish to refer to, and that is with reference to the observation made by the right honourable Gentleman opposite. He says my proposal will bring about the practical abolition of vaccination, and he quoted in the Committee upstairs some remarkable figures from a union where this plan is enforced, the union of Barton Regis. Now, this union, the right honourable Gentleman told us, is a union where that system which. I am advocating has been put in force. 345 There the guardians, finding very great difficulty in enforcing the vaccination laws, had taken the law into their own hands, and when they found there was a conscientious objection upon the part of the parents of a child against its being vaccinated, they allowed a declaration to be made setting forth that conscientious objection. When the child is born they, first of all, give notice to the parents that the child must be vaccinated by a certain date. Then they follow that up by sending a circular containing these words—If you have a conscientious conviction that the vaccination of your said child is calculated to do it injury, and will furnish me with a declaration to that effect, within 14 days from the date of this letter, upon a form you can have from me, which must be signed by yourself, and witnessed by a magistrate, the guardians will favourably entertain your objection.It is a very simple matter. Anybody having a real conscientious objection can go to the magistrate and make his declaration, and then they do not prosecute. The right honourable Gentleman told us that he thought it would certainly increase the number of people who were not vaccinated. The right honourable Gentleman's suggestion was that the adoption by the Barton Regis Union of that system had led to the increase of non-vaccinated children. Now, the chairman of the union writes me a letter, in which he says that the statistics which were given by the right honourable Gentleman before the Committee are very misleading, and he gives these figures—In the last half of 1897, at Barton Regis, with 200,000 people," he says, "the number of births were 2,944; the defaulting parents 350; and the actual number of declarations 130.The right honourable Gentleman admitted, upon his own figures, that, taking the whole country through, 300,000 children escaped vaccination under this present system out of 922,000 births. Now, the proportion of declarations under the Barton system of administration was 130 out of 350 defaulters. On the right honourable Gentleman's figures, one-third of the 2,944 should escape vaccination.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
Pardon me, 346 I said defaulters, not births. What I said was that one-third, or whatever the proportion was, of the defaulters, not of the births, escaped vaccination.
§ *SIR W. FOSTER
Then I cannot reconcile the right honourable Gentleman's figures with the arguments and the figures given before the Royal Commission, showing that in 1893 150,000 people escaped vaccination in a less number of births, and the right honourable Gentleman says that the number goes on increasing.
§ *SIR W. FOSTER
No, no; not of Barton Regis, but of the whole country. In Barton Regis 130 people make declarations out of 2,944 births. Let us take the case a little further. There are 350 children who default; 130 of those make the declaration; what happens? In this union, before they adopted this system, the board of guardians had very great difficulty in administering the law. They adopted this system of a declaration of a conscientious objection, and what happened was this: that the moment they allowed the declaration of a conscientious objection to be made, the anti-vaccination people on the board of guardians ceased to place any difficulties in the way of prosecutions, and the chairman writes as follows—Had not the statutory declaration been adopted, a resolution would have been passed by the Board refusing to order prosecutions, and so the whole 350 children would have escaped vaccination in place of the 130 referred to, the remaining 220 having no objection to vaccination, but being simply negligent, or careless, and requiring pressure.Although you have this state of things in this typical union, the right honourable Gentleman assures you that the proposal which I make is one that is calculated to decrease vaccination. I make this proposal because I think it is advantageous to vaccination, and I want the House of Commons to look at it in that way. I do not think it would be an easy way to escape the Vaccination Acts. If my Amendment is accepted, I do not propose to interfere with any other portion of the Acts. What will happen? First of all, when the child is born the parent would receive a circular showing that 347 the child is required to be vaccinated. The parent, having thought about it, states that he would make a statutory declaration so that he should not have the child vaccinated. He would then have to go to a court of petty sessions and stand up before the public and make a statutory declaration that he thought that the operation of vaccination would be prejudicial to the health of his child, and having done that, he would have taken the first step towards saving his child from vaccination. He would then have to get a certificate, which he would have to take to the vaccination officer and have registered, and perhaps have to get another certificate from that officer. Surely all that trouble is enough to put a working man to in order to save his child from the operation of vaccination and the possible infection of some dreadful disease. I am not particular if the right honourable Gentleman wishes to make the proposal I have laid before the House more stringent than it is, but what I do want him to adopt is the principle, so as to enable the honest, conscientious objector to vaccination to escape the fines and the prison. My honourable Friend who represents South Worcestershire, and who, I hope, will support this Amendment, takes the same view of the subject as I do. I think the statutory declaration would only be made by people really in earnest. If the Anti-Vaccination League are able to get the people in their thousands to make these statutory declarations, then they are strong enough to defeat your Bill; but I do not believe the Anti-Vaccination League, or any other body, would be able to induce Englishmen to go into a court of law and take the oath and make a statutory declaration that they had a conscientious objection which they did not possess. The honourable Gentleman [the Solicitor General] who opposed this Amendment in Grand Committee said that it would lead to wholesale declarations being made, in order that people might escape vaccination. I do not believe that. I do> not believe so meanly of my countrymen as to think they would be guilty of such behaviour. I think that no Englishman would go into a court of law and take an oath of this kind unless he had a very good ground for doing so. What I want to 348 do is to bring about more general vaccination than there is at present, and I want to do away with the agitation which is going on in this country now, which I believe is prejudicial, and which interferes with the proper administration of the law. I hope that no one in this House will be led astray by any feeling of false pride against giving way to the anti-vaccinators. It is not giving way to them, but it is doing justice to people who in my estimation are as honest in their convictions as ourselves. I hold that by giving way to people who have lost children through the operation of vaccination, and whom we cannot doubt must have very strong convictions on the subject, we can get a better result. Let vaccination rest upon its own merits; the medical profession will support it as the best security for the health of the people. In taking such a course we shall not bring the law into contempt, nor keep up an agitation prejudicial to the public interest, but we shall make more popular and more universal an invaluable means of protecting the public health.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
The able and moderate tone in which the honourable Gentleman has addressed the House—as he did the Committee upstairs—and his acknowledged authority in all matters of this kind, greatly add to my regret and the diffidence which I feel when called upon to differ from him. I have listened with the utmost attention and respect to the speech of the honourable Gentleman, and I will endeavour to the best of my ability to state the case of the other side, which I believe to be a perfect answer to the contention of the honourable Gentleman. In the first place, I wish to refer to two points which have been raised by the honourable Gentleman, the first of which is that with regard to the inoculation of syphilis by vaccination. I am very sorry that reference was made to that, for this reason: I am very much afraid it will tend to mislead the public out of doors. The honourable Gentleman is perfectly aware that under the new propositions contained in this Bill the inoculation of syphilis from vaccination will be absolutely impossible.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
And in the words of the Report of the Commission to which he has so frequently referred, I find this paragraph. "We put the use," and I wish to emphasise this—We put the use of calf lymph in the forefront, because, as we have said, it would afford an absolute security against the communication of syphilis.The next point to which I wish to refer is where the honourable Gentleman said that every medical member of the Committee was in favour of his proposition. That is not my recollection. I am quite certain of this, that my honourable Friend the Member for Edinburgh University voted with me upon that question, and what I remember about the medical profession is this, and I think he holds to this opinion as well—
§ *SIR W. FOSTER
I must correct the right honourable Gentleman for one moment. What I said was that every medical member of the Committee, with the exception of my honourable Friend the Member for Edinburgh University, voted for my Amendment, and that my honourable Friend adopted the principle of my Amendment in his.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
I thought the honourable Gentleman said that the whole of the medical members of the Committee supported him on that occasion, whereas one of them certainly supported me. The speech of my honourable Friend, like the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, makes it perfectly clear that we do not differ on any point at all; that we are absolutely together as to the importance and necessity of vaccination, as to which there is no difference between us. We are also agreed, I think, as to the advantage which will be derived from the new method which it is proposed to adopt. Where we differ, and, so far as I can see, it is the only point upon which we differ, is this—not upon any ground, as I understand, of principle, but merely on the ground of expediency—namely, what is or what is not likely to be the most efficacious mode of achieving the object we all have commonly in view. When I say we all, of course, I am only 350 speaking for those who are in favour of vaccination; I am not speaking for the anti-vaccinators. Now, my honourable Friend, in his argument in support of that conclusion, states that he believes that general vaccination will be best promoted by allowing people to make a statutory declaration of a conscientious objection. I believe myself, on the other hand, that if you allow that to be done, the result will be that in many districts it will practically lead to the entire abandonment of vaccination altogether. It is with great deference that I differ from the honourable Gentleman of so much knowledge and practical experience upon this point, but I certainly do differ from him. My contention is this, that nine out of every 10, or 99 out of every 100, cases of default in vaccination arise not from any conscientious objection to the operation of vaccination upon the part of the parents, but from negligence and carelessness, and because of the trouble to the parents which is necessarily entailed by nursing for three weeks or a month what is practically a sick child. I am not at all sure that my honourable Friend would differ from me upon that score; I am glad to see that he concurs in what I say. He proposes to meet that state of things by imposing what he thinks will be a greater trouble to the parents than taking the child to be vaccinated, or receiving the doctor at home who is going to perform the operation, and he said that he would show us that that was the way to get out of the difficulty. He thinks that would be quite sufficient inducement to the careless and negligent to conform to the duty which is imposed upon them by the law; it would give them more trouble to avoid vaccination than to have their children vaccinated, and that being so, it would enable Parliament to get rid of the penalties altogether which have given such trouble to enforce. I admit that that is a very plausible statement until you get the answer, but I think I have got an answer to that statement which is tolerably complete. What is the chief trouble given by vaccination to the parents of these children? It is not the operation of vaccination or the inspection in a few weeks afterwards, and which will be less than ever when the doctor who has to perform the operation is 351 obliged to go to the home. The trouble which vaccination imposes upon the parents of these children, and the trouble which they would like if possible to avoid, is the extra trouble of attending to and nursing what is practically a sick child for three weeks or a month, and if you give them the choice between going to the court once, on the one hand, and the trouble of the whole extra month's nursing at a time which it may be very inconvenient when we have regard to the working conditions and the hardships under which these people live—if you give them this means of escaping, in my humble judgment, which the House must take for whatever it is worth, the temptation to go into a court and make the statutory declaration will be absolutely irresistible to many people, and I believe in hundreds and thousands of cases in which the operation is now allowed to be performed vaccination will become a dead letter. If, on the other hand, the troubles of going to the court is supplemented by what this Bill suggests, a substantial penalty, none but those who have a really genuine conscientious objection, and who are, comparatively speaking, very few, would refuse compliance with the law. That, I venture to think with great respect, is one of the faults of the argument of the honourable Gentleman. Another one I presume to be is this. He points to the Royal Commission as the author of his proposal, and it is quite true that this is one of the alternative methods which they propose, although the House would do well to remember that they were not even unanimous upon that point; but the Commission also said something else, which has been referred to to-night by my honourable Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, which I think escaped the attention of the honourable Gentleman opposite; they said as to his recommendation—At the same time, we think it would be well to make the change a temporary one in the first instance.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
—say for five years, and that in the meantime its effects should be carefully watched.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
Yes, but we have already had that opportunity; we have been watching the system which has been adopted in some unions for some time, and have had ample means of watching the effects of a system which, to all intents and purposes, had been in use for a considerable time—ever since the Commission was appointed in 1889. The House will remember that this is an answer to the challenge of my honourable Friend opposite, when he says, "But you admit yourself that you have got 350 cases of default now," and he proposes this resolution. Since the appointment of the Commission in 1889, which has reported, and which says at the and of their Report that there has been hardly any difficulty in promoting vaccination, and that the earnest endeavour to enforce the law has practically ceased, the whole thing has been allowed to slide. Prosecutions had practically ceased, and people to a very great extent had been allowed to do just what they liked, and more than that in certain parts of the country; since the Commission reported two years ago, acting, I suppose, upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission, they have taken the law into their own hands, and adopted a system of statutory declarations for themselves. One of those bodies has just been referred to by my honourable Friend, Barton Regis elected, as he has just now told us, to send out a circular and a form of statutory declaration upon their own account. This has been assented to, and this is exactly the system which is now proposed by my honourable Friend:—I do solemnly and sincerely declare that I have a conscientious objection to the vaccination of my child, as I fear that vaccination may be the means of seriously injuring its constitution, and I further solemnly and sincerely declare I have not been induced to make this declaration through the solicitations of any person not belonging to my own family. Signed and subscribed, etc.So that the House will perceive that in that particular district they are carrying out a system which has precisely the same effect as the Amendment now before us.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
Well, very nearly the same effect as the Amendment before us, except you substitute two justices for one.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD
Well, there is not a very great deal of difference. This has been impressed with results and certain descriptions upon the Committee. Now the honourable Gentleman has said that my figures with regard to that matter, and which I gave to the Commission, were all wrong. Those figures he must remember referred to the last two quarters of the year 1897, and they were only used to show how the system was working, but I was misreported at the time. I referred only to 350 defaulters; but I must admit that there was one mistake in my figures between 130 and 183. But that is not very material, because I have now much later information than that. I have this information as to the first quarter of 1898. Boards of guardians upon this occasion behaved extremely well as to the first quarter of 1898. One board, in view of new legislation, decided not to take any further steps or proceedings pending the passing of the new Act. So that no statutory declarations have been accepted, although applications for them have been exceedingly numerous, and certificates of successful vaccination are very few. Out of the births registered, say 169 or 180 per week, not one-sixth of the children are being vaccinated. Since then I have made further inquiries, and full information reached me this morning, as to what the effect of this statutory declaration, or so-called statutory declaration is in the district. With regard to the Barton Regis system, my information is this, that that system would abolish vaccination entirely, and the present returns by no means represent the whole truth. Now I want to call particular attention to this, because this is the very latest information that I have—Only one declaration in a street is quite enough to close the doors in the whole street against anyone who has endeavoured to secure the vaccination of unvaccinated children.I am told that that is the effect of it, that where it has become known that one of these statutory declarations has been made in any particular household conversations take place which are listened to by other people, and the effect of it is at once to frighten people who up to that time had no objection to having their children vaccinated, but who have been brought to believe that the effect of the operation would be injurious to their 354 children, and have a prejudicial effect upon their health, and who in consequence absolutely refuse to have their children vaccinated at all. Quite apart from individual cases, I wish the Members of the House to ask themselves this question: how much has vaccination prospered in the country generally since the prosecutions have been practically suspended, some years ago. I can give the House some information on this point, some figures which appear to me to be sufficiently striking, and which, I believe, few people outside this House, and not many in it, excepting those in Committee, have any idea of. They really are deserving of attention on the part of those who are really anxious to see vaccination promoted throughout the country. The number of children annually born in the country—what is called the birth rate—is 922,000. When the vaccination Returns of 1893 were received, what the honourable Gentleman says is true, that at that time 150,000 remained unvaccinated. In 1897, a year ago, from the present time, it was estimated that they had increased up to 252,000. I imagine that I am not very wide of the mark when I put it at 300,000 at the present moment, or, as the honourable Member says, one-third of the whole. We have had already a very unfortunate experience—that experience which the Royal Commission thought was so desirable and so necessary to watch. That experience, I may say, is distinctly averse to their views and the proposal they made to the country. I cannot doubt myself that if, at the time when they made their Report, similar facts and similar information, and similar experience had been before them, they would have very greatly modified their view. At all events, I am not going to take upon myself the responsibility of making a proposal to Parliament, the result of which would be still more widely to diminish the practice of vaccination throughout the country, and to invite the recurrence of these frightful epidemics of small-pox, which, in quite recent years, we have witnessed in so many parts of the country, and which have caused so much suffering among vast numbers of our people. After all, Mr. Speaker, what are the grounds on which we are invited to make this change? Honourable and right honourable Gentlemen opposite say, "You have a number 355 of local authorities throughout the country refusing compliance with the law, and that, taken in connection with the fact that the Commission has reported against it, has killed compulsion." I decline to believe that if Parliament in its wisdom declared that such a clause was to be passed, and maintained with regard to vaccination, the local authorities throughout the country are going to assume this foolish attitude, and are going to say that no matter what Parliament says, no matter what the representatives of the people have declared, they are going to judge for themselves, overrule the law, and refuse compliance with it. More than that, when we are told, so lightly and so easily, that you cannot enforce the law, that it is impossible, it must be remembered that we have not tried. I have every belief, and am confident that if we only had the courage and determination to do what we believe to be right, the common sense and law-abiding instincts of the people in this country will recognise what Parliament has passed and has declared must be done for the good of the whole community, if we only had had the courage and manliness to do what we ourselves believe to be right, then we shall be successful in greatly diminishing the scourge of small-pox, which in former times has made such ravages in this country.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I entirely agree with the right honourable Gentleman that the majority of this House desire to take the best possible method for increasing the practice of vaccination. I know that certain gentlemen take an opposite opinion, who think that vaccination is disadvantageous, and who are prepared to oppose it. I do not share those opinions any more than the right honourable Gentleman, or my right honourable Friend who spoke "earlier in the Debate. We have to consider what are the arguments which the right honourable Gentleman has addressed against the Amendment of my honourable Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division. He has made a declaration against what he called the statutory, conscientious declaration. Does he or does he not stand by the Bill as it is now before the House? The Bill is not the original Bill of the right honourable Gentleman, but is a Bill which has had a most 356 important clause added to it in the Grand Committee. Section 31 embodies the very principle which the speech he has just delivered was intended to denounce. Does he not accept the broad principle of the Bill as it stands before the House? One would suppose from his silence that that is accepted by Her Majesty's Government. That clause says that when a child has reached the age of four years, no such parent or person shall be liable to a penalty under the sub-section if he satisfies the court; he has to go to the court, and declare that he conscientiously believes that vaccination would be prejudicial to the health of the child. Does the right honourable Gentleman accept that clause and that principle, or does he not? One would have supposed that if the right honourable Gentleman demurred to that clause he would have given notice to strike it out or amend it. The House is asked to vote in the dark as to whether or not the Government does or does not accept that principle. In the absence of any declaration on that subject from Her Majesty's Government, I am entitled to assume—I am bound to assume—that they do accept the principle that at some stage or other the parents shall be exempted from prosecution on the ground of conscientious objection. Let us start from that position, and then see what is the course which is best adapted for the purpose of increasing and supporting a system of vaccination. I have not the least doubt that so distinguished a member of the medical profession as the honourable Member for Edinburgh proposed and carried this clause because he thought that giving force and effect to conscientious objection would increase and improve the system of vaccination. He successfully pressed it against the right honourable Gentleman in the Committee. I understand, upon his authority, and on that of my right honourable Friend who sits beside me, that they speak the overwhelming view of the medical profession in that matter, that the contest which has been waged so unsuccessfully against conscientious objectors has been a great evil and a great retardation of the cause of vaccination. The honourable Member is in agreement with my honourable Friend on the principle of admitting the right of exemption by the conscientious objector. There was 357 no difference on that point. The only difference between them is this: at what stage is that conscientious objection to be taken which is to relieve the parents of the child? On the one hand it is proposed that you shall enforce the penalty on the parent immediately after the birth of the child, within six months; and that no penalty shall be enforced for four years, but at the end of that time there is to be exemption altogether if there is a conscientious objection. I cannot reconcile to myself the reasonableness of such a proposal as that. I can understand a man saying that there is great danger in admitting conscientious objections at all. That is not the position taken up by the Member for the University of Edinburgh. The only question is, if parents conscientiously object, are you prepared to give exemption? Why is it not to be taken equally when the child is six months old as when the child is four years old? I can see no reason whatever for such a proposal as that. If it be a question between the proposal of the honourable Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh which is in the Bill, and that of the honourable Member by my side, who proposes practically to amend that proposal by making the conscientious objection available at the end of the first six months, I have no doubt whatever as far as I can judge in the matter. I shall support the proposal of my honourable Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division as the most reasonable and practical method of dealing with the question. What is the objection taken by the right honourable Gentleman to this conscientious objection? He says these objections arise mainly from the trouble that is given, and he defines that trouble in ft singular manner, from which I am prepared to express my entire dissent. It is not the trouble, he says, of taking the child to be vaccinated—of course, that is obviated by the vaccinator going to the child—but he says it is the trouble of having a sick child to nurse. I must say that my judgment, of the working classes of this country will not lead me to the conclusion that this is a cause which prevented them from having the children vaccinated. Sir, the nursing of a sick child is a necessity of very frequent occurrence; but I do not believe there is any class of the community who 358 are more ready to give that care than the working classes in this country. What is the view of the right honourable Gentleman? It is this: that the parent, to whom the vaccinator comes, who does not object to vaccination, who may believe that the vaccination, so far from being injurious, will be beneficial ultimately to his child, refuses to have that child, vaccinated because he may have a sick child in the house. I believe that is not the cause of the opposition. I believe that a good many who have no conscientious objection do not have their children vaccinated because they will not be at the trouble to take them to be vaccinated. There are a certain number of objectors on conscientious grounds, or grounds of conviction. They think that vaccination is either an injury, or may be possibly injurious to the health of that child. It is not at all that they are averse or unwilling to nurse a sick child who may have undergone the operation, which, in our opinion, is not injurious, but may be beneficial to the child. Therefore the great argument which was the first argument on which the right honourable Gentleman relied is one which carries no weight, I am bound to say, in my mind. Well, then, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman's second objection was this: he says there has been an increase of unvaccinated children in the last six years. What is the conclusion to be arrived at from that statement? It is that your existing law, which professes to be a compulsory law, has totally failed. It has not been suspended by law, but it has been suspended because the people who had to carry it out would not carry it out. If the law that really does prescribe not only a certain penalty, but repeated penalties, could not be carried out, why are you to suppose that your coercion is going to be more successful than the coercion which has been the law before? Then there is the argument advanced by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, that there are those to whom the penalty would be a serious burden, while there are others to whom the penalty would be no burden at all. You may say that these arguments are of no great force when you are dealing with difficulties of this description; but it cannot be denied that the working of this law has been 359 admitted by the Commission and by the Committee to be wholly unsatisfactory. If it were a mere question of carelessness—if it were a mere question of objecting to the trouble in the matter, I believe you could enforce it. But what gives real force to the objectors, what gives real force to those who carry on the agitation against vaccination is that there is at the back of it a minority—I believe not a great minority—of conscientious objectors; and what you have to do, if you want to give vitality to your law—if you want to make your Act of Parliament work, if you want compulsion against the careless and the ignorant, is to remove that which alone gives the opposition vitality and force, the sense that there are a number of people who are conscientiously convinced that vaccination is not beneficial, but injurious to their children. What carries with me greater weight than anything else is the opinion of distinguished medical authority and of the Royal Commission which has so thoroughly examined this question, that if you can only get rid of this difficulty, of the conscientious conviction, they would be able to carry out that which we all desire—the extension of vaccination to a much greater extent than before. Therefore, I welcome the clause of the honourable Member for Edinburgh in the Bill as establishing that principle; and I shall support the Amendment of my honourable Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division, because I believe it carries out that principle which is already in the Bill in a manner much more reasonable and much more efficient than that suggested by the Member for the University of Edinburgh
§ *COLONEL LONG (Worcester, Evesham)
I welcome this clause because I think it will result, if it is accepted, in greater efficiency in our vaccination system. The right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board put forward certain reasons why he thought it would not do so. He stated as a fact that the mother would always have trouble with the sick child, and that that trouble would be greater than going before the magistrates. First of all, I think, from personal experience, that he rather exaggerated the trouble; and, secondly, I think there is a 360 slight confusion of persons in his mind, because it is the mother who will have to look after the sick child, and it will come quite naturally to her to do so, but it is the father who will have to go before the magistrates, and it does not come naturally to any man either to take unnecessary trouble or to go before the magistrates in petty sessions. Then another thing the right honourable Gentleman urged was that the number of children who had escaped vaccination was very rapidly increasing on the average year by year. That, no doubt, is quite true; but what does it come from? It comes not only from the laxity of the law, but it comes also from the fact that a great agitation has sprung up persuading people not to have their children vaccinated. He seems to think that by the powers he possesses, of bringing influence to bear upon the various officers, he will be able to enforce the law. It is quite true that he has powers over vaccination officers at present, but he has no power over the court by which the matter is ultimately decided. The magistrates are to use discretion, but there are many places where the law is not enforced at all, where vaccination is a dead letter, and there are other places where it has fallen into disrepute. It was only the other day that I was told by a magistrate that in a court of petty sessions, where they had been until quite recently, before they got the Bill into their hands, enforcing very full penalties, they were now half persuaded that the best thing to do would be to inflict only nominal penalties. I think it is a mistake to have a law which will be enforced in one part of the country, and will not be enforced in another part. I think that when we are reconsidering the whole question of vaccination we should put it on a firm basis, and consider the possible results of a sudden and vigorous reassertion of a law which undoubtedly has been in abeyance, and in some places in disrepute, for a good many years. Now, Sir, the principle on which this clause is based is this: that if a man has really a conscientious objection to having his child vaccinated he ought not to be penalised. There are people who do not think that conscience has anything to do with the vaccination question. The right honourable Gentleman the Member 361 for Wolverhampton said he preferred the word "convictions." Personally I do not. I have talked with a good many of these men, and it appears to me that conscience really expresses the feelings they labour under. They honestly believe that it is dangerous for the children to be vaccinated; they think it is wrong. I do not defend this view for a moment; I do not agree with them. But they do think there is something absolutely dangerous in vaccination, and it will be years before you will convince them of anything else. Some of them think it wrong to inocculate in any form whatever. I do not defend that view. We know in this House that inoculation in certain forms will, in the future, probably produce great advance in medical science just as the use of toxine has produced cures in diphtheria—as inoculation is being tried successfully in India against the plague—but the fact remains that there are a certain number of these people who entirely changed since the year 1867, everybody knows that the position has entirely changed since the year 1867. which was the Act which practically made vaccination compulsory. Then it was believed that vaccination once performed did mean almost absolute and complete immunity from small-pox, and that an unvaccinated child was a source of great danger to other people's children. Therefore it was considered that public safety ought to overrule personal rights and personal liberty. Now to one supposes for a moment that vaccination, however valuable it is, does not gradually lose its power, and cease to give, unless repeated, any certain community against attacks of the small-pox. Now there is no doubt that an unvaccinated child, partly in consequence of vaccination and partly from the advance of medical science, is no longer the same source of danger it used to be. Then, again, in this Bill all idea of repeating punishment is entirely given up and surrendered; but if you surrender that, you cut away all the ground on which the idea of compulsion exists at all. Of course, as has already been said by the Leader of the Opposition, the real force against the whole movement of vaccination comes from the men who conscientiously object—the men who go to prison—and they are sup- 362 ported by a very large number of persons who think that in prosecution there is an element of persecution, there being no longer any warrant for interfering with personal liberty and personal right. It appears to me that the two great difficulties we have to contend with, if we are to have a thoroughly efficient system of vaccination throughout the country, are, first, the supposed element of persecution, and, secondly, the fact that infant vaccination is a very feeble system, looked at from the point of view of modern science. I say it is a very feeble system, because it is recognised in every country where it is best carried out that it is necessary to have a second vaccination, and in the case of Germany most of the males are vaccinated again when they join the Army. If you want to improve a system the first thing to do is to get rid of its weak spots—and the possibility of a theory of persecution is a weak spot. I think everybody, whether they agree with vaccination or not, will admit that to cope with the element of persecution is of the very greatest importance indeed. Attention has already been drawn to the fact that the Royal Commission recommend the introduction of a conscience clause, and although the right honourable Gentleman, the President of the Local Government Board, seemed to think that the Report was not unanimous, I must say, after very careful study, it appears to me that that is the one thing that they were unanimous upon. Under clause 3 of the Bill you have a conscience clause, with a test to it, but as that test consists of summons, prosecution, and sentence, it in no way gets rid of the element of persecution, which, after all, is the strong point in the agitation against vaccination. This new clause proposes that a man shall attend at petty sessions, and make a declaration voluntarily, instead of compulsorily, under a summons. It is true that there will be no fine, which now varies from 1s. to 20s. and no costs, but the procedure will involve a certain amount, of trouble and loss of time, and I think that that will be sufficient to stop the idle and careless using the excuse, for, on the other hand, they have nothing to do but to go away to their work, and the vaccination officer comes to their child and relieves them of all 363 trouble and of all responsibility. No doubt it is possible for a time there may be a certain amount of undue use of the conscience clause, but when you remove the source of agitation the agitation very soon dies away of itself.
§ *MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
Mr. Speaker, I quite agree with my right honourable Friend the Leader of the Opposition in the statement that what we are really discussing is the extent to which conscientious objections shall be allowed as a ground against compulsory vaccination. I do not agree with my right honourable Friend in the small importance he attaches to that difference to the State. My opinion is that the difference is almost vital. Now, Mr. Speaker, I do not think, although I am a strong vaccinationist, that anybody in this House can deny that there is a considerable number of honest, earnest, and convinced opponents of vaccination in the country. We have to remember that we have some of them in this House. I do not deny that the men and women who think this way have shown the strength of their principles by suffering both fines and imprisonment for their convictions. If the question we have to discuss is whether a number of conscientious people, and conscientious people alone, should be allowed to have their children go unvaccinated, it would be easily settled. I entirely agree with my honourable Friend who proposed the Amendment that compulsion is very often the very best means of provoking opposition. But, Sir, it is not so much the conscientious people with whom we have to deal as the careless and neglectful people who may take advantage of any relief that may be given to conscientious people. Now, on this point we have some very startling evidence. I must say my own general political tendency is to trust to the free acceptance of a law by the people as the best way to carry out that law; and if it could be proved that leaving this matter a purely voluntary matter would produce a general acceptance of the law, then I think a strong case is made out in favour of the Amendment. But is that so? The law has practically been left to the voluntary acceptance of the country for the last five or six years, and with the result 364 that instead of vaccination having increased, as those who advocate the voluntary principle declare it would, the number of unvaccinated persons has increased by leaps and bounds to a most alarming extent. Now, Sir, what we have got to do is to make a distinction between the conscientious objection and the objection of careless parents. On this my honourable Friend proposed this Amendment, and suggests that we should do nothing. He suggests that anyone who is willing to sign a conscientious objection to vaccination should thereby be protected from any proceedings under the Vaccination Laws. But what will happen? You put the burden of proof practically on vaccinationists instead of putting the burden on those who oppose vaccination. Why, Sir, nine men out of 10 are thoroughly convinced that vaccination is the true remedy against one of the foulest and most terrible scourges to which human nature can be exposed. I know my honourable Friend the Member for Northampton is not convinced of it. I can understand any enemy of vaccination proposing this Amendment, because he knows that it will increase the number of unvaccinated people in this country, but what I do not understand is how those who are in favour of vaccination can support this Amendment. What will happen? There are careless parents everywhere who will be only too willing to avail themselves of this opportunity to evade the law. It is impossible to take up any newspaper in the country without finding that there are a large number of careless parents. The careless parents will take advantage of the conscientious clause and rush for this document just to save them from the trouble of having their children vaccinated. Why, you hold out a temptation to them. The anti-vaccination crusades throughout the country will take good care, from conscientious motives no doubt, to bring home to the minds of as many people as they can this easy means of escaping vaccination. I do not blame the anti-vaccinator for doing this. It introduces an escape from vaccination, and, in his mind, it introduces an escape from poison and disease, and of course he will go all over the country, and endeavour to do his best to get a number of people 365 to take advantage of the provision. Some honourable Members have suggested that we should regard this as a temporary Measure. I think we ought to regard it as a Bill which makes an enormous advance in vaccination. In the first place, it brings vaccination to the very door of every house, and, in the next place, it surrounds vaccination with safeguards which never existed before. It proposes vaccination in a form which makes it absolutely impossible to communicate disease. It is said that the Bill gives up the principle of compulsion, because it does not inflict a second penalty in the same case. Surely there is a distinction between the two things. We make a distinction between the conscientious man who is willing to suffer a fine in proof of his conscientious conviction and the careless and neglectful parent who will not have his child vaccinated because he will not take the trouble to do so. But when a conscientious man goes to court and accepts the penalty, and thus proves his conscientious conviction, the Bill says cumulative fines will not be inflicted, because their only effect will be to increase irritation. What is the state of feeling in the country? On the one side there is an overwhelming mass of the intelligence of the country in favour of vaccination—I acknowledge there are some conspicuous exceptions—and on the other hand, you have what I believe is a small but active and energetic opposition to vaccination. Between the two there is a large mass of inchoate and indecisive opinion, which will be swayed either to the benefits of vaccination or to the horrors of small-pox by the action of this House. If this House abandons, as it is now asked to do, the attempt to make vaccination as compulsory as it can, I very much fear that this indecisive opinion will go back to the wrong side, and that you will put back the cause of vaccination for many years.
§ *SIR W. PRIESTLEY (Edinburgh University)
Sir, personally I very much regret that this question has been opened again at such length in this House, after it has been so carefully and, exhaustively discussed in Committee. I feel, indeed, after having heard so many speeches on the subject, as if I had got vaccination on 366 the brain, and it is impossible to get rid of it, night or day. I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments while I just show the position which I have taken in Committee in reference to the additional clause which has been inserted at my instance. I may say at once that I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of the Amendment of my honourable Friend. I particularly regret that I cannot agree with him in supporting this Amendment, and I still further regret that I cannot agree with the statements and opinions of my right honourable Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, because there is no man whose opinion I value more in matters of this kind. Sir, the proposal of my honourable Friend opposite is, I take it, tantamount to a proposal to abolish compulsory vaccination altogether. General experience shows that the principal defaulters are not conscientious objectors, but indifferent and careless parents, and if we were to abolish the penalties altogether I fear we should not exempt so much conscientious objectors as a very large number of those parents who, though I believe they have respect and affection for their children, are certainly indifferent on some of those points which are so essential to health. It has been said that the Report of the Royal Commission spoke as if it recommended an entire abolition of penalties. I confess I do not read it so, and I am confirmed in that opinion by a statement made to me years ago, and still more recently repeated to me by my revered friend, Sir James Paget, who assisted in drawing up this Report, in which he assured me more than once that the Commission did not intend to abolish all penalties, but only cumulative penalties. The whole tenor of this Report shows that there is quite a different aspect to this recommendation. For instance, in paragraph 521—We are now in a position to state the reasons which led us to recommend that repeated penalties should no longer be enforced; indeed, they will be apparent from what we have already said.And then it goes on, in paragraph 523, to say—Why, it is asked, should not vaccination cease to be compulsory altogether, and be left to the free choice of parents? If no penalty 367 were attached to the failure to vaccinate, it is, we think, certain that a large number of children would remain unvaccinated from mere neglect on the part of their parents, or indisposition to incur the trouble involved, and not because they thought it better in the interest of their children. This appears to us to be a complete answer to the question. If we he right in the conclusions which we have expressed on the subject of vaccination, it is better for the child, and better for the community, that it should be vaccinated than that it should remain unvaccinated. A parent can have no inherent right under the circumstances to which we have alluded to prevent or neglect its vaccination.Now, Sir, I do not like compulsion in any form, especially in this particular matter, but it may be necessary for the public interest. Those who are old enough to look back to the time of the introduction of the Factory Acts will recollect that parents objected extremely to their children being restricted from working in the factories at an early age. They protested that they had rights in their children, and that no one ought to interfere with them in what they wished to do in reference to sending their children at an early age to factories. And so it is in a great many other things. It is nothing new that compulsion should be objected to; but the question is, whether it is desirable, for the sake of the welfare of the community, and in the interests of the majority, to see that a system, which is known to be of the greatest prophylactic value in relation to small-pox, is really made compulsory, in order that it may be of the greatest possible value to all. Now, we may have regard for the objections of those who are misinformed in respect of vaccination, but I think we ought to have more sympathy for the poor children who, if neglected, may possibly become victims of small-pox, be permanently disfigured by its ravages, lose their good appearance, and possibly their eyesight. The experience in Germany, in Switzerland, and in Chicago, is, I think, conclusive evidence in these matters. In Germany, it is well known, there is compulsion, not only for early vaccination, but in middle life also. Every child must be vaccinated in infancy, and re-vaccinated on leaving school, and it is further provided that every man who enters the Army must 368 be re-vaccinated. We know what the effect of that was in the Franco-German War, when the French lost 23,400 men from small-pox, whilst Germany, which required vaccination in the Army, lost only 459 men. In Switzerland, there is no compulsory vaccination, but vaccination is secured in another way. No child is allowed to enter a school until vaccinated, and every conscript has to be vaccinated before entering the Army. There is, consequently, no small-pox. In Chicago, where you have people of all sorts of nationalities, who are thoroughly averse to anything like compulsion, every child must be vaccinated before it can go to school, for the benefit of the community generally, and thereby small-pox is kept out. There is a good medical reason for suspending proceedings for non-vaccination after the first penalty until the child is four years of age. While the child is at home it is a danger to the household only, but as soon as it goes to school it becomes a danger to the community. We all know the terrible epidemic of small-pox that broke out at Gloucester. A child went to school with small-pox, which had not been recognised; from the school small-pox extended in all directions, until practically the whole town was a victim to its ravages. We all know what has been the effect of it. There is one other point to which I desire to draw attention. If a child has not been vaccinated during infancy, and the parents are required to vaccinate when it goes to school at four years of age, the objections that the parents have to the child being vaccinated in infancy may entirely disappear. A child four years old is not so much surrounded by the tender sympathy of the mother as when it is a babe in arms. Besides, when the child is four years of age, there are probably little brothers and sisters coming after it, and the parents care less about submitting it to vaccination at four years of age than they may have done at an earlier period. There is also this to be said, that when a child is four years old it is not liable to as many accidents as it is at an earlier period of life, and, consequently, it may be supposed that vaccination may best be done when the child goes to school. 369 It may be said that it is very illogical to have a penalty for the first offence and none for the second. I admit that that is so; but the laws of this country are not made according to the rules of logic, but according to expediency. It seems to me that for the public safety it is very necessary to enforce one penalty, but inasmuch as there is to be no penalty after a second proceeding parents may well be let off fine or imprisonment then. The advantage of a second proceeding is that it gives an opportunity of whipping up defaulters a second time. If they still decline vaccination it may be taken for granted that their objection is deep-rooted, and the penalty may be remitted. Thus we may lessen in a great measure the tension that has been felt in regard to repeated penalties, and not only ensure more efficient vaccination, but also lessen the amount of antagonism which has unfortunately been provoked against it.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
The right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has enumerated various causes which prevent parents getting their children vaccinated. Some are indifferent and some have conscientious objections. The right honourable Gentleman did not leave out of sight altogether the operations of the anti-vaccinating agents, now working throughout the country, who make the lives of Members of Parliament a burden to them. I support the Amendment because I believe it will knock on the head the proceedings of those gentlemen. I am sorry the President of the Local Government Board could not see his way to accept the Amendment. The right honourable Gentleman announced in advance a stiff-necked attitude which, perhaps, rendered it painful for him to give way, and the best thing would be that he should be well beaten in the Division Lobbies. As the Bill now stands it pleases nobody. I am no admirer of the conscientious objectors; still less do I admire those people whose proceedings I should not venture to characterise unless in language which would be unparliamentary, if not, perhaps, libellous. I agree with one observation of the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, that a large proportion of medical men are in favour 370 of this Amendment. In connection with the British Medical Association there is a small select body called the Parliamentary Bills Committee. It is an important body—a sort of volatile essence of the Parliamentary wisdom of the 17,000 medical practitioners who comprise the Association—and this body is more or less in favour of the Amendment of the honourable Member for Ilkeston. I wish to read to the House a letter I received from a medical practitioner, whose name I shall not mention, although, if I did, it would be recognised as one of the most honoured amongst the medical profession in England. He says—"This Bill of Chaplin's"—he uses an epithet before "Bill" with which I dispense on this occasion—"will work badly unless you succeed in altering it"; altering it, that is, on the lines of the Amendment. Public opinion is with the Amendment, the medical profession is with it, and I give it my hearty assent.
§ *CAPTAIN CHALONER (Wilts, Westbury)
I agree with all those who have welcomed with gratitude two slices off the loaf which have been offered us in the shape of what we are told is a nearer approach to pure lymph, and which will, no doubt, meet one of the great objections to vaccination—namely, the introduction of germs of disease into healthy children; and the other, the fact that vaccinating officers will visit the homes of children where laziness, or some similar reason, prevents the children being taken to the vaccinator. While thanking the Government for what they have done in that direction, I regret that I am bound to support the Amendment and to oppose the Government in regard to this question of compulsory vaccination; though where compulsory vaccination comes in I fail to see. At present it does not exist. The honourable Member for Northampton has already told the House that compulsory vaccination does not exist, and never will exist, in his constituency; it does not exist and will not exist in Leicester; nor does it exist in the division I represent. There the guardians and magistrates, with what I believe are full powers, have endeavoured to carry out the law. They have proceeded against the parents, they have imposed fines, and when the fines were not paid they have endeavoured to sell their goods and obtain the money in 371 that way; but the result was always the same. The people first of all had declined to have their children vaccinated; secondly, they had refused to pay the fine; and, thirdly, by coming in their thousands, they had prevented the goods of their neighbours being sold. Compulsory vaccination must be either right or wrong. If, as the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board says, it is right, why does not the Bill propose to enforce it? I have already said that compulsory vaccination does not exist, although the magistrates and boards of guardians have full powers with that object. But in the Bill now before the House these powers are to be limited, and we are told that what they have failed to fulfil with full powers they will fulfil with limited powers. If compulsory vaccination is right the Bill should say distinctly that all children should be vaccinated, and that if parents decline they shall be punished for the first offence and more severely punished for the second. If compulsory vaccination is wrong the sooner it is abolished the better for us and for the whole of the people. I believe that this Amendment will encourage vaccination, and increase the number of those who will be vaccinated; but I also believe that it will tend to the encouragement of law and order. At the present moment law and order are absolutely set at defiance. Unless the right honourable Member the President of the Local Government Board is prepared to enforce the Vaccination Acts all over the country he ought, rather than that law and order should be jeered at by the people, to abolish compulsory vaccination altogether. I trust the Amendment will not go to a Division. If it does I shall support it; but I trust the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will see his way to accept it, and by so doing bring about a settlement of this great question by abolishing for ever this obnoxious system of compulsory vaccination.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
I desire to ask the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board what he means to do in Leicester if he passes this Bill 372 in its present form and does not embody the Amendment in it? At Leicester there is a population of 200,000, almost unanimous against the practice of compulsory vaccination, and they are not all of one political party; they are not all Liberals, or Radicals, or faddists; the objectors consist nearly of the whole population. I think the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board must have received a great number of communications during the last few months from Leicester and from both political parties there. The greatest number of communications I have received from the town have come from Conservative sources. What, therefore, will the right honourable Gentleman do with Leicester? He cannot imprison a population of 200,000 people, and he cannot fine them. It seems to me utterly impossible to go on forcing a law of this kind upon an unwilling nation. The right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has heard the wise and weighty arguments of the honourable Member for Wiltshire [Captain Chaloner], who is a thick-and-thin supporter of Her Majesty's Government, but who, upon this question of conscientious objection, is naturally with the people. But the honourable Member has brought himself under a severe disability by doing so. The President of the Local Government Board said tonight that all the intelligence of the nation was on his side on this subject, so that everyone who differs from the right honourable Gentleman is a person of no intelligence, and therefore, I presume, not of much consequence. That, no doubt, was a slip on the part of the right honourable Gentleman, for he does not often indulge in that kind of argument. In Leicester for many years past vaccination has not been insisted upon; neither will it be, in my opinion, enforced, except with great trouble, great disturbance of the peace, and great turmoil, throughout the whole population if the Bill is passed as it now stands. The right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board quoted a statement, a short time back, to the effect that the number of offences against the Vaccination Laws had been considerably reduced. Why have they been reduced? It is because every board 373 of guardians and nearly every petty sessions court in the country has been withholding decisions or giving the summoned persons the benefit of the doubt until legislation took place on the subject. I believe that all, or nearly all, who have to administer this law—not only boards of guardians, but county justices—have been waiting for this enactment in the hope that the distasteful duty of fining people for objecting on conscientious grounds to having the health of their children tampered with would be dropped in the Government Measure. But, if I understand the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board correctly, he is still open to some gentle pressure, and I hope he may yet meet us to a considerable extent on this Amendment. I can assure the right honourable Gentleman that he will find many townships and some cities in entire revolt against this Act, unless he meets in some remarkable manner the suggestions set forth by the honourable Member for Ilkeston. There are many Amendments to this Bill. I have Amendments which I consider of some importance, or I should not have placed them on the Paper; but none of them equal in any degree of importance the Amendment the House is now discussing. Those who are desirous of mending this Bill concentrate in the main their objections to the Measure on this very ground of compulsion. If the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board or the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House can see their way to reconsider the position they have occupied on this subject I believe that the great body of the Amendments that must, under certain circumstances, be discussed will disappear with very short Debates indeed. I trust that the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House will give us his opinion the point, and will afford us some hope that we have not pleaded in vain from both sides of the House—his own supporters, as well as his political opponents—that this vexatious, despotic, unreasonable, and un-English system of compulsion shall not be inserted in this Bill; that, at any rate, that which exists shall be modified to the extent suggested in the Amendment. If 374 the Government does not give way on this point we shall, of course, have to take a Division and do our best to lessen the evils of this Measure in subsequent clauses.
§ After the usual interval,
Mr. Speaker, the honourable Gentleman who spoke from the Bench below me, the honourable Member for Edinburgh, I think, said just now that he, for one, was tired—heartily tired—of the question of vaccination; and, perhaps, Sir, any person who gets up and takes part in this discussion ought in some way to apologise for doing so, inasmuch as this matter has been very fully discussed before a Grand Committee upstairs. I have not had an opportunity of taking part in those discussions. I do not doubt for a moment I should not have added very much to the weight of their deliberations, but at the same time I might have relieved myself of what I feel it my duty to say. I feel, Sir, the sole test which honourable Members ought to apply to themselves with regard to this question at this particular stage is as to which of the two proposals before the House—the Bill of the right honourable Gentleman or the Amendment of the honourable Member for Ilkeston—is more likely to lead to the health of the people. In my mind that is the sole question which guides me in making up my mind, and it is because I have made up my views with regard to this that I venture to put my views before the House. In the first place, I do not view this matter from a sentimental point of view. I am not an anti-vaccinator. I am perfectly content to abide by the wisdom of those who have studied this question, and who ought to be the advisers of the State with regard to it. I am no anti-vaccinator. I have very little sympathy with those whom I have met who belong to the Anti-Vaccination League. I have not had much to do with them, and I have seen a great deal of unnecessary anxiety and pain and trouble caused by their indiscreet action at times. I have no sympathy with them, and far less have I any sympathy with those who use the Anti-Vaccination League for political purposes. It is a practical question and a very difficult question, and the position 375 which, the House finds itself in with regard to this question is as difficult as it can be. Undoubtedly, every Member in this House, or nearly every Member, is actuated by the desire and the intention of doing his best with regard to deciding which of these two proposals ought to be followed. I have watched this matter; I had the opportunity of watching the growth of this movement for a great number of years. Upwards of 25 years I have had the honour of being chairman of a very large board of guardians. During the same time, I have had the honour of being a magistrate, and, I was going to say, of sitting upon the hearing of these cases; but of course, I was interested by view of my other position, and I could not sit on these cases. But I have been brought face to face with the difficulties the bench have to deal with in these eases. I have seen this matter growing, the feeling springing up and becoming stronger; and, in addition to that, I have seen the apathy of the authorities in regard to it. I have seen the Local Government Board distinctly winking at the practical suspension of the Act from year to year, and the Government—not this Government only, but previous Governments—have been themselves to blame to a very great extent for the difficulties which confront them at this moment, and also for the feeling that exists in this country with regard to this matter. When I speak about the action of the Anti-Vaccination League, I do not mean to say that all those who object to the vaccination of their children have their action altogether dictated by the Anti-Vaccination League. I do believe, on the other hand—I know—that men and woman, notwithstanding all sorts of evidence brought before them from year to year, hold the strong feeling, which it is difficult, and almost impossible to eradicate, that vaccination means injury to their children. We know very well the style of argument that is applied to them, the literature that is poured into their homes, the dreadful booklets they are called on to read, and we cannot wonder that many of these people are led away with the idea that injury is to be done to their children. If that is so, how can you blame these men and women, whose fondness for their children is as 376 great as in any other class, for expending their last penny in doing what they feel is for the benefit of their own children. Mention was made just now of the action of a board of guardians in the vicinity of Bristol at Barton Regis. That is a very curious case. I live in that neighbourhood—almost the adjoining union to Barton Regis. I heard of the action of the board of guardians of Barton Regis, and they were unanimously of the opinion that that course should be adopted. Application was made to the Local Government Board, and we were met there with the fact—the undoubted fact—that the action of the board of guardians of the Barton Regis Union was not authorised by the Act, and had not the consent of the Local Government Board; but, at the same time, the Local Government Board did not interfere at all. The Local Government Board allowed the guardians of that union to take that action, and how can you blame them for feeling bitter disappointment, as they feel at this moment, when the course that was suggested by the circular that was sent round, and allowed by the Local Government Board, has been declared by the Bill to be illegal. It is a great pity, to say the least of it. The great object, I for one, have, is to hit upon some plan, or to support some plan, or rather the plan which will lead to the largest number of children being vaccinated. I am a firm believer in it, and I believe it is the right course to take. I need hardly say I am a supporter of the honourable Member for Ilkeston. I do so for some reasons that I have endeavoured to point out, though there are other reasons founded on many years of actual experience—that is, that the machinery at present in force will, to my mind, break down; it will produce a deadlock. Something has been said with regard to the duties thrown upon the relieving officers, and it has been stated that the relieving officers are to have their orders direct from, the Local Government Board.
Yes, the vaccination officers are to take their orders direct from the Local Government Board in London over the heads of their own 377 employers, the guardians or the district councillors. Very well, if that is to be so, there is a change. The law, I know perfectly well, is that the vaccination officers are to carry out their orders with regard to vaccination independently of the orders of the guardians. Notwithstanding whatever my Friend on the opposite side may say still, I think, the courts have so decided. If that is so, they are now met with this difficulty. I know the class from which these vaccination officers are taken; they are not men of independent means—very far from it; they are elected by the guardians, and they owe not only their appointment but the continuance of their appointment to the guardians. These guardians—everybody should recollect this now—are, for the most part, elected pledged against vaccination. County councillors have to receive that pledge, or, as many as will accept it; district councillors, parish councillors, too, have to do the same. These men who are now asking for the Act, will insist that these men shall carry out the orders of the Local Government Board, against the instructions, against the wishes, against the pledges of these elected councillors. Now, Sir, if this Amendment is carried, or if this Amendment is accepted, there will be great relief on the part of a great number of district councillors. I do not mean to say that these councillors have been forced to accept these pledges, but they have been given, no doubt. They have not the time to argue these matters out; they are men who are very often led away by the sentimental feelings which may naturally actuate them at the time, and they have pledged themselves to this. Very well, Sir; if you accept this Amendment, or anything like it, you will at once put the whole question in a far better and far more satisfactory position. If this is adopted you will at once relieve these men of the difficult position in which they are placed, and you will relieve the magistrates of the very great difficulty they are in in administering the law. I will not say, of course, that the magistrates are appointed pledged to anything of the sort, but I know a great number of cases where magistrates, previous to their appointments as magistrates, have declared themselves as anti-vaccinators, and it is a very difficult position they find themselves in when they 378 have to administer the law. I have very little feeling for them, I am bound to say, but, at the same time, the difficulty exists. I do not think I am straining upon the Amendment if I speak a word or two upon a subject I have already mentioned with regard to these vaccination officers. The right honourable Gentleman is in his place, and I should like to call his attention to it. If the Act passes in its present condition, I feel sure that the position of these men will be an almost unbearable one. I would ask him therefore, to keep a watchful eye on the working of this Act with regard to those officers. I do feel that with regard to them, we shall find a great deadlock. I would ask the Local Government Board to watch this matter in fairness to these men, who were appointed under a different state of affairs, under different conditions, and whose duties did not include wholesale prosecutions in these cases—I would ask him to watch the operation of this Act with regard to the position of these men. I have heard the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. I was in hope he would have been able to agree to some modification, if modification were possible. And, now, at the last moment, I sincerely hope something may be done. The right honourable Gentleman must feel some difficulty in regard to it because he cannot ignore altogether the clearly expressed opinions and feelings of a vast number of people; but if he cannot quite see his way to accept this Amendment or anything like this Amendment, if he could see his way to make it operative for a limited number of years, whether it be three years or five years, it would give him the opportunity, it would give the House the opportunity, and it would give those, who, after all, have to carry out the Acts of this House, an opportunity of seeing whether the Act in its modified form will produce good effects. My own opinion is that it will produce good effects—this modification, I mean. I do not see why the Government should decline to adopt my suggestion, or insist upon this non possumus position they have taken up. On the contrary, if they would only listen and pay attention, as they are no doubt inclined to do, to those who have practical experience of it, and not be guided 379 altogether or so much, by officials in Government offices, I think they would have hit upon a plan which would not only produce peace, which is of less importance really, but, which is of more importance, would be passing a Measure that would promote the health of all, especially of the young.
§ MR. STEADMAN
Mr. Speaker, I myself am a young Member of this House, and during the short period I have had the honour of being a Member I have never listened with more amazement to the delivery of a speech than the amazement with which I have listened to the speech delivered by the honourable Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool. He belongs to a party which suffered more than any other party through coercion. Men like me have travelled from the East-end of London to Hyde Park in a snowstorm to protest against the Coercion Acts which time after time have been introduced into this House; yet knowing, as he must know, how he has suffered, and how his party has suffered, through coercion, he is actually asking me and my fellow working men in England to adopt a principle of coercion which he himself is entirely against. Because, Sir, whether it is a question of vaccination or any other question, I myself am one of those men who are totally op-posed to coercion in any form. And the honourable Member went on to state that there were parents who were indifferent as to the interests of their children. That I am prepared to admit, Mr. Speaker. There may be a few parents indifferent to the interests of their children, but when the honourable Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool attempts to tell me and the country that indifferent parents will rush to this conscientious clause in order to prevent their children from being vaccinated, he practically answers his own argument, because every indifferent parent would not go to the trouble even of applying for a form under this conscientious clause, and therefore he would be in exactly the same position now as he has been in the past. Then again, Sir, we are told that vaccination for the last five years has diminished. That is true, Sir, but, on the other hand, while vaccination itself has diminished, so also has small-pox diminished, and, that being so, I fail 380 to see where vaccination has been the means of preventing small-pox during the last five years. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, even the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board—who, after all, is, like myself, only a layman upon this question, with all the information at his command, has not been able, so far as I can judge, to inform the House that vaccination is a good thing to prevent, small-pox. Why, Mr. Speaker, there is not a working man in this country, or the wife of a working man, however humble they may be in circumstances, who has not that love for their children that other people have who are in better circumstances; and if they believed, Mr. Speaker, that vaccination was good for the health of their children they would, be the very first to have their children vaccinated. We are told, Sir, that all the intelligence is on the side of the vaccinators. I deny, Mr. Speaker, the accuracy of that statement. I say there are gentlemen in the medical profession—who, after all, are better able to judge than I am—who are as much opposed to vaccination from a compulsory point of view as I and many other Members sitting on this side of the House are. Well, the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will not deny the fact that Dr. Collins, the late Chairman of the London County Council, stands as high in his profession as any other medical man. And what does he say? He was on the Royal Commission, and he himself stated that the remedy was worse than the disease. I admire, Mr. Speaker, a man who is a fighting man, whether I agree or disagree with him in any opinion; but after all, Sir, I do not believe that the President of the Local Government Board is in earnest himself on the present Bill before the House. My reason for believing that is this, that in the Grand Committee he himself was beaten on two occasions, and on the last occasion the Whips were set to work in order to bring up the supporters of the right honourable Gentleman, and then on a Division he was beaten. Then he comes down to the House, on the Third Reading of this Bill, reinforced by all the talent on the Treasury Bench, and yet he has not the courage of his opinions to place Amend- 381 ments down on the Paper on those two clauses on which he himself was beaten in Committee. If he believed in his Bill—that, as first introduced, it was a good Bill—why not stand by the Bill? It is, I believe, because he does not care about the Bill that he has not the courage to place the Amendments on the Paper that he otherwise would have done. He himself admitted in Committee that this glycerinated calf lymph was an experiment. Well, it is a concoction, I believe, of glycerine, calf lymph, and water—a very good concoction. But it is only in its experimental stages, and there have been deaths occur even under the present system of vaccination with this glvcerinated calf lymph. Now, it is still, Sir, in the experimental stages. Who are the Local Government Board going to experiment upon? They are going to experiment upon the children of the working classes of England; but seeing, Sir, that deaths have already occurred I fail to see why these experiments should be made upon the children of the working classes. In one case under the present law, if a medical man conducts an illegal operation the law sentences him, if he is found guilty, to penal servitude. So far as vaccination is concerned, if a child dies through being vaccinated, the law passes no sentence at all on the medical man who performs the operation. Now, in one case death occurs because the operation has been performed against the law. In the second case death occurs because the operation has been performed in accordance with the law, and the Attorney General will tell me, as he told me, perhaps, upstairs, that I have answered my own argument. I fail to see, Sir, the difference where death occurs through an illegal operation done against the law and a death that occurs through an operation which the law compels the parents to undergo, so far as the children are concerned. The difference is simply one of degree. In one case the law legalises the death, and in the other case the law sentences the operator to penal servitude. Now, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board also told this House that working men and their wives may object to their children being vaccinated, because it meant two or three 382 weeks' illness for the child. Well, I will take the right honourable Gentleman, Mr. Speaker, upon his own argument. Assuming that a child is ill, the working classes of this country have not got nursemaids or nurseries to put their children in. The infant child has to lie at night in the same bed as that occupied by the father and mother. The father comes home after a hard days toil; he has to be up at five o'clock in the morning to resume his daily occupation, and be at work at six. The poor little child is lying in the bed all night. What rest does the father get? He gets absolutely no rest at all. The mother, apart from nursing the child at night, has also to perform her household duties in the daytime and look after the child as well. This is no mere claptrap, Mr. Speaker; these are hard, solid facts which only a practical man, which only a hard-working man like myself can answer for the accuracy of. We are also told that if the boards of guardians refuse to carry out the law they will have to suffer the consequences. Well, I can inform the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that so far as Mile End is concerned I feel certain—and I can speak on behalf of the majority of the members of that board—that they would rather go to prison than enforce the Vaccination Acts in that district. And among the number who would rather go to prison would be my own wife; and I am sure the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, with all his faults on this question, would not like to see my wife go to prison. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, I should not, at any rate. But, after all, who are the best judges as to what is right and what is wrong upon this question. I maintain, the men and the women who are elected to our boards of guardians are in a better position to judge what is right and what is wrong upon this question than even the Local Government Board itself, because they are elected, and the constituency which elects them elects them upon condition that they will carry out their wishes and their desires; and therefore, however much the President of the Local Government Board may talk of what magistrates are going to do, so far as the boards of 383 guardians are concerned, I feel certain that, at any rate, those men and women who believe in principles will suffer imprisonment rather than sacrifice those principles. Now, Mr. Speaker, if I was to deal with this question from a party point of view I should like to see the Government carry this Bill, because I know when they carry this Bill that they are going to lose thousands of votes at the next general election. There is no getting away from that fact. We have an election on, even at the present time, in Reading, and because the Liberal candidate first of all comes out with a programme of no compulsion so far as vaccination is concerned, the Tory candidate does ditto, and he has placarded the town with bills that he is against compulsion. That ought to open the eyes of the honourable Member and the Party which supports him as to the keenness that is felt on this question right throughout the country. But, Sir, I do not look at it from a party point of view. Although I myself was vaccinated by my parents, and my children have also been vaccinated, I do not look at it from my own selfish standpoint. I look at it as being a representative to view and vote and work in support of the opinions of the constituency which sent me here; and it is because I know that constituency is against vaccination that I am opposed to the Bill now before the House. I do not, Sir, even agree with the Amendment of my right honourable Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division, for this reason, because the remedy in his Amendment is not much better than the disease, because he is going to compel, after all, a working man to go before two magistrates in petty sessions. What does that mean? That means that a working man has to sacrifice a day's work to go before two magistrates in petty sessions. I know what I should do. If I were a working man who was against having my children vaccinated I would rather suffer the penalties than I would take the trouble to go before two magistrates in petty sessions under this clause. Sir, it is on the principle that if I cannot get the whole of the loaf I will take as much as I can get that I shall vote for the Amendment of the honourable Member for the Ilkeston Division.
§ *SIR W. WILLS
I am able, Mr. Speaker, from my own experience, to corroborate the statements made by my honourable Friend the Member for North Somerset, because for many years we have sat in the same petty sessional division, and our experience has been the same. Constantly we have people, anti-vaccinationists, coming before us wanting to air grievances and to pose as martyrs. Now I do not think that is a good thing for the law or for the country, that people should be able to pose as martyrs. I agree with my right honourable friend who spoke earlier, that the policy of William the Third in that matter was very much better than that of his brother-in-law, James the Second. In my own constituency there is a remarkably strong feeling against vaccination. I believe in it most firmly; I am satisfied myself that it has been the means of removing physical disfigurement to a very large extent in the last 50 years from the streets of our great cities, and that it has worked very admirably for the general health of the population. Still, I am bound to admit, from the cases that have come under my own knowledge, that the arm-to-arm system has been more than once productive of very grave danger and illness. I believe that if the Amendment of my honourable Friend the Member for Ilkeston were carried we should have a great deal of oil thrown upon the surface of waters which are now so disturbed. I believe the fact of people being compelled to pay a penalty, however small, and if only once, is a source of great irritation; and I think that the plan suggested would have a very good effect. I do hope that the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will in this matter listen to the counsels and pay some deference to the opinions of those who in different parts of the country are pretty largely in contact with the working classes, and who know how strong is the feeling in their minds. We all know the fable of the East Wind and the Sun; and I think in this case the President of the Local Government Board is much, more likely to obtain his object by kindness rather than by severity. I do not want to take up the time of the House, but I feel that this question, speaking for my own 385 constituency, is one of very great importance. I do not wish it to be a party question, but that it should be settled so that the working classes in this country may feel that in this House we are actuated at least by a desire to do that which is right and best for the health of the community.
§ MR. T. BAYLEY
Sir, the problem that we have before us this evening has, I think, been rather intensified by a remark of the President of the Local Government Board made in the Grand Committee on Law upstairs. He told us there that one-third of the children of England born last year were not vaccinated. Now, speaking on behalf of the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Society, the fact that in a very few years that society and kindred societies have been able to convert the parents of one-third of the inhabitants of England to their views is a strong case, and a case which requires most careful consideration. The question before us to-day is a question that the society for which I appear before you—from their point of view—would hope the Government would remain firm on, and not accept the Amendment before us. If that is done I can assure the President of the Local Government Board that the number will be in a very short time, in a very few years, more than half, with marked effect at the elections. There are questions which the gentlemen who are on the other side, who are speaking in favour of compulsory vaccination to-day will have to answer, and which, if they do not answer, the public will answer, and are answering, for themselves. The honourable Baronet the Member for St. Andrew's, Edinburgh, gave us statistics of what took place 20 or 30 years ago with regard to the German Army. But why did he not give us the statistics of the last few years with regard to the English Army? It was given in evidence before the Royal Commission on Vaccination that in the years from 1860 to 1888 there were 3,953 re-vaccinated soldiers in the British Army during that time who had small-pox. Now, the British Army is vaccinated and re-vaccinated. There is no body of men who are in better health or less likely to take it or more strongly and thoroughly vaccinated than the soldiers in the British Army, and if there 386 is anything in vaccination it should be apparent in their case; yet during that time there were 391 died of the disease—men who had been vaccinated and revaccinated, and had medical attendance when there was the slightest indication of small-pox breaking out amongst them. During the same time you have about the same number of persons in the borough of Leicester—180,000. There you have a strong anti-vaccination feeling, so strong that I believe about 90 per cent. in the last 10 years were not vaccinated. In that borough you have about the same number as in the British Army, which is thoroughly and entirely vaccinated. What are the figures there during about the same time. There are actually three outbreaks of small-pox in the borough of Leicester of 180,000, and how many death do you have in that time? You have 21 and a small death rate. The percentage of those who take small-pox were only about five per cent., yet in the army the percentage of those who take it is about 10 per cent. Those figures and those facts must be answered or you will not have the slightest chance of showing that vaccination has anything like the support which it has been represented to have. This Bill is admitted to be an experiment, but in admitting this, and the Government in bringing in this Bill you are admitting a very serious fact, that the old Acts which have been in force have practically broken down or else you would not have brought in this Bill. You are bringing in this Bill, and you are bringing in something which has not been absolutely tried by experience. You cannot tell until you have tried it what effect it is going to have, for it is an entirely new experiment. And yet you are going to pass a compulsory Act without any means of trying it although it is a big experiment which we have not had any experience of how it is going to work or turn out after a few years' time. A more serious question than that is this, that if you don't accept my honourable Friend's Amendment giving the consignee clause, which may not be the simplest way of doing it, but it is the only one we have before us, how are you going to enforce vaccination in places like Northampton, Leicester, and other large towns? Have you considered what you 387 are going to do? The President of the Local Government Board has threatened that the existing power of boards of guardians to deal with this question is going to be taken away, and that it is going to be enforced by the Government itself. Now, if this Amendment is not accepted you are bringing in a law which you do not put into force in Leicester and Northampton in the same manner in which you have it in force in other places. You have in Leicester a system where every man is perfectly free to have his children vaccinated if he likes, and that fact will bring the law into absolute contempt. It is a serious thing, and much more serious than the right honourable Gentleman thinks, because in one street you may have compulsory vaccination, whilst his next-door neighbour may have his children left unvaccinated if he likes. It does act in this way, which is a rather serious matter. Then, again, from a business point of view, there are men in Leicester and Northampton who will only go to live in a town where the anti-vaccinators are sufficiently strong not to allow the board of guardians to carry out the existing law. A man will not go to such a town, even if he gets a better situation offered to him in London, because if he goes to London and lives where vaccination is strongly enforced he knows that he may be fined for not having his children vaccinated before he can settle down. The President of the Local Government Board, in the Debate on the Second Reading, rather threatened us with the idea that under an old Act of Parliament the power that was temporarily given to boards of guardians of not carrying out the law with regard to compulsory vaccination was going to be altered, not by this Act, but by something he was going to do in sending instructions to the different boards of guardians. If the President of the Local Government Board has that power now, why did he not do that and exercise that power three years ago, when the outbreak of small-pox at Gloucester broke out? Why is he only threatening us to do it now? If he has had that power he has not being doing his duty honestly to the people if he did not use it. Why has he been for three years, during which time there were several outbreaks, 388 with that power in his hand without using it? I can tell you why he has not used it. It is perfectly well known that where there has been an outbreak of small-pox under the existing state of things almost invariably you will find following that outbreak a strong feeling growing up against compulsory vaccination. Now that feeling is growing, and will grow very considerably in my opinion, because the Government themselves will not answer the questions which the anti-vaccinators are putting to them. They go on talking about the German or the Italian systems, and the foreign army systems of this country and the other, but they do not talk about the facts immediately before them, which we can lay our hands on and prove for ourselves, such as the question of our own Army, the question of Leicester, the question of sanitation, the question of water supply. If the President of the Local Government Board will go thoroughly into the question next Session and give the whole country, or the whole of the country districts, a pure water supply, and give them good water and plenty of it, it will do more to put down small-pox than all the compulsory vaccination Bills that can be brought before us. I can assure him that although I am opposing him on this Bill, I would heartily and thoroughly give him my hearty support in any scheme which he will bring forward to secure a pure and wholesome supply of water for these places.
§ *MR. HAZELL (Leicester)
This is a somewhat protracted Debate, but as it goes on we seem to learn a good deal. It was most interesting to hear the statement of the honourable Member for Aberdeenshire in reference to the opinion of the British Medical Association. This association includes 17,000 members, and comprises two-thirds of the members of the medical profession of this country, and I understand that they are unanimous on this question as to the permissive method. I ask what opinion are we laymen to form now that the doctors by an overwhelming majority decide in favour of this permissive method of dealing with the question. I think that the honourable Member for Chesterfield, who has just sat down, has thrown further light on 389 the question, and I do not think we are over-estimating the importance of this matter. The objection to compulsory vaccination is not uniformly spread over the country. In such places as Leicester the objectors are in an overwhelming majority. It is said that the anti-vaccinationists are careless, indifferent, and reactionary in character, but those who know Leicester best are aware that it is prominent for its extreme thoroughness in all matters of sanitation. They have taken other means, and successful means, of saving their people from the horrors of small-pox. The figures which have been quoted are under the mark, for in my constituency there are 6,000 children born annually, and for five years there has not been a single case of death from small-pox in Leicester. They used the utmost possible precautions, and if there does happen to be a case of small-pox they isolate it in the most effectual way, with the results I have described. The evidence given before the Royal Commission was so voluminous and overwhelming that few people have mastered the whole of it. The report states in so many words that there is no country in the world where the danger of death from small-pox is less than in New South Wales. They have no compulsory vaccination and very little vaccination of any kind, but they make up for it by a very good system of isolation. That being so and having had placed before us the view that the medical profession are in favour of this Amendment, I hope the President of the Local Government Board will even at this late hour come to some workable compromise. This proposal that the vaccination officer should visit the houses of the people it is said will very much alter the present state of things. I understand, however, that in Scotland they have had a system of compulsory attendance for 20 years, and the result has been the same as in England. Now as to the objections to the Bill as it stands. We ask how are we to get over the fact that this Bill is based on the principle of having virtually one law for the rich and another for the poor? We have been told that if this proposal is accepted the Anti-Vaccination Society will set the whole of their machinery to work to prevent the people being vaccinated, but if you let the Bill 390 stand as it is to-day, and if parents are prosecuted once and a small fine is imposed the Anti-Vaccination Society can help poor parents to pay the fine. I want to put before the House another practical difficulty. There are 6,000 children to be dealt with every year in Leicester. Does the right honourable Gentleman think it is possible that the magistrates can hear all these cases, because every case must be taken on its merits? It would be impossible to deal with such a large number. Sir, it is not too late for some compromise to be arrived at. This question is exercising the mind of the public a great deal, and many of us who are more or less in favour of vaccination feel strongly that the conscientious objections of parents ought to be respected. The people of Leicester have struggled successfully against this law, and so have other great law-abiding communities. Therefore some compromise must be arrived at, and it can best be arranged by adopting the Amendment of my honourable Friend.
§ *MR. BRIGG (Yorks, W.R., Keighley)
I believe that the Amendment which it is sought to introduce is one to provide some means of escape for the conscientious objector. At the same time the Government fear that any attempt they may make in that direction will have the effect of increasing the number of those who are negligent and careless in the matter of vaccination. Now this Amendment which now stands for the consideration of the Committee is one which is framed to meet the exact condition which is being sought for by the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, for there are certain conditions in which his proposals would be irksome and troublesome, and it is this provision by means of which persons have to present themselves before petty sessions, where two magistrates are assembled, that the conditions are made so irksome that careless and indifferent parents would manifestly prefer to allow the vaccination officer to come to their houses. Now the Amendment to my mind has assured this, but the Government says that it is not reasonable that this should be the case. We all know that there are persons who for family reasons or for personal reasons have a dis- 391 tinct objection to the conditions of vaccination, and these people would under any circumstances resist any attempt to impose vaccination upon their families, and therefore we must consider their position. That being so I think the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board might have accepted this Amendment without any further objection. Those of us who have been called upon to take an active part in carrying out the Vaccination Laws know that in consequence of the action of the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board a distinct recommendation was sent down to all parts of the country giving instructions that persons who had been prosecuted once should not be prosecuted twice for the same child. The state of things that has existed so long has appeared a definite and constant condition, and people have grown up without any knowledge of vaccination and these people naturally look upon the present attempt to enforce vaccination as one which is open to very serious objections, especially when we consider that during the last 25 years, during which, this present condition of things has been in existence, we find that there have been comparatively few outbreaks of small-pox even throughout the whole of England. We have had the cases of Gloucester, Middlesboro', and Sheffield. In the case of Gloucester a difference of opinion exists as to its cause, but in reference to Middlesbrough it is well-known that it was a well-vaccinated town. Knowing as we do that it is impossible for us laymen to understand the scientific details, we are bound to admit the common sense view of the question, and say that the result does not prove conclusively that vaccination is a cure for all the evils which it claims to be. Well, now, if this Bill is introduced throughout the country, it seems to me that there will have to be a new medium through which vaccination can be imposed. To found a law the effect of contravening which may be fine and imprisonment, and when such law is based upon premises which are, to a large extent, experimental, this appears to me unreasonable. A fact we have heard a great deal about lately is the use of 392 glycerinated lymph, and I am told that only nine months have elapsed since it was first tried; and I am informed that it is by no means a success. Of course there may be good points about it; but medical gentlemen themselves do not yet know all the effects of vaccination by glycerinated lymph. What I contend is this, that this is altogether an illogical Bill, and I would remind the right honourable Gentleman that it is not a Bill that appeals to the sympathies of one side of the House more than the other. I appeal to the common sense of honourable Gentlemen opposite that they should take an independent stand, apart altogether from politics, on this matter. Look at the fact that magistrates in petty sessions, who are often anti-vaccinators, would do anything they could to ameliorate the condition of the poor people brought before them. Then there are the very police themselves, who are anti-vaccinators, who have to carry out the law, much as they dislike and detest it in every possible way. At the present time the right honourable Gentleman has the guardians very largely against him; he has got the magistrates very much against him in many districts; he has got public opinion against him; and now I am convinced he has got, to a large extent, medical opinion against him. So that I do trust he will take all reasonable means to satisfy himself of the justness of these objections, which I consider very reasonable, and that he will provide some such means as are defined by the Amendment now before the House to relieve those who conscientiously object to the practice of vaccination. I can safely assert this from inquiry I have made, that this is becoming more and more a test question, and will considerably affect the issue in the elections in the country in the future.
§ *MR. CARLILE (Bucks, N.)
I trust sincerely that the President of the Local Government Board will see his way to give way to a certain extent. As to the suggestion that the working of the Act might be limited to four or five years, I think that might be done in order that we might see how at the end of that time the Act works. I am strongly in favour of vaccination myself, but I would support the introduction of this clause, 393 as without it I am afraid the Bill would be unworkable and would largely fail in the object which the President of the Local Government Board has at heart—namely, to increase and popularise vaccination throughout the country, but without this clause it would please no section of the community. Under these circumstances I am in favour of the insertion of this clause, and shall vote for it.
§ *MR. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)
I do not propose to waste the time of the House to any extent over this matter; but if it be necessary that a man should make a declaration of his conscientious objection to his child undergoing what he believes to be an unwholesome operation, the means should be facilitated for his doing so. I think the time will shortly arrive when compulsory vaccination will be gone for ever. No one who has looked at this question disinterestedly can deny with absolute certainty that the day of compulsory vaccination is practically over in this country. A large number of us have looked upon it as a medical fad accepted in the same way that we have come to accept some other fads. Some of us have not taken the trouble to look it up for ourselves. We have deemed it sufficient to have the word and assurance of our medical adviser, upon whom we could throw the blame in case of disaster. But that is changing. Of course those who oppose compulsory vaccination do not propose in any way to interfere with those who believe in it. But it is when these people become unreasonable and ask us to follow them against our consciences and against our beliefs, and seek to compel us to have our children vaccinated, that we beg to differ, and seek to protect our individual liberties. Now the new clause proposed by my honourable Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division is drawn on the unanimous line adopted by the Royal Commission, with this exception, that their recommendation referred to only one declaration of conscientious objection. The right honourable Gentleman who is in charge 394 of this Bill, on the Second Reading in this House, and again before the Grand Committee upstairs, questioned the statement that the Commission were unanimous; but this evening it has again been repeated. Now, Sir, I say the right honourable Gentleman was in error. The Committee were in perfect agreement on this one point—namely, that the conscientious objection of parents or guardians should be respected; and the one small point on which the Commission disagreed, and on which there was any divergence of opinion whatever was as to the method of testing the bonâ fides of the objection. Now, Sir, I think that is a most important point. Of course, many honourable Gentlemen opposite, and many honourable Gentlemen on this side of the House absolutely disagree with us who do not believe in compulsory vaccination; but I would ask, although they disagree with us who say that compulsory vaccination should be abolished—I would ask them to remember that all we are asking by this clause is that the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission that was appointed by the party opposite, and who sat for seven long years—and which was composed of some of the most eminent experts in law and medicine—should be embodied in the Bill. When it is remembered that this Vaccination Bill proposes to supersede parental authority, I think, Sir, that we have the right in asking Government when introducing fresh legislation on the subject that they should, at any rate, follow out the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and respect the conscientious objections of parents who are opposed to the system. Now, a well-known authority, whose name will be respected in this House, speaking on this question of parental authority in regard to vaccination, says—Vaccination is beyond all comparison the strongest form of 'parental government' that was ever introduced into this country. It over-rides and tramples down parental authority, in relation to children. It takes them out of the care of the father and mother, who are ordained by Providence to exercise their parental care; and it insists upon a disease being infused into the blood of every child in order to prevent the contingency of its catching another disease. That might be justifiable, 395 but it could only be justifiable, not upon medical theories, not upon the observance of innumerable precautions, and the presence of favourable circumstances; but upon a truth undeniable and universal in its operations, certain in its results, free from peril, and an absolute preventive.Those words of wisdom, as I venture to call them, were spoken in this House by Sir Thomas Chambers, formerly Recorder of the City of London. The Commission, as I have said, Sir, were unanimous, and I feel sure that large numbers of honourable Members in this House cannot have read the final Report. I was hoping that the right honourable Gentleman, the Member for Wolverhampton, would have continued the Report. But all I wish to emphasise is the point that the Commission were unanimous in declaring that the conscientious objection of parents should be respected. The Commission also say—I have only a few more words to add—It may provide that if a parent attended before the local authority and satisfied them that he had a conscientious objection, no proceedings should be taken against him; or a statutory declaration made before some specified official, might be made a bar to further proceedings.That recommendation was signed by Lord Herschell and many other distinguished gentlemen. Sir G. Hunter and Professor Hutchinson were the only two dissenters from that recommendation; and what they said was that in all cases where parents or guardians so refusing and who might be summoned before the magistrates—the only change should be to permit the magistrates to accept a sworn objection and abstain from the infliction of a fine. So that Gentlemen opposite will see that not one of the Royal Commission recommended that a parent who had a conscientious objection should be fined. Now, Sir, the Bill, as it passed its second reading in this House, did profess to have some regard for conscience. That is to say, after a man had suffered two or three times, it was to be taken into account. Now that the Bill has come down from Grand Committee it has improved. A man's objection is to be taken into account in regard to his conscience, after having suffered one prosecution. Now, my honourable Friend goes 396 further, and says the parent or guardian may be able to escape all penalties in respect to one child after they have made one declaration. I take exception to that portion of my Friend's Amendment. I fail to see why a man should be compelled to declare again and again that he has a conscientious objection. But although we are in the minority on this point we have the satisfaction of knowing as it has been frequently proved in this House, that minorities are very often in the right. The minority in this House oppose compulsion on behalf of poor people. They are without that powerful organisation which the right honourable Gentleman imagined. This powerful organisation is composed of one woman and one girl. We do not wish for one single moment to interfere with those people who, many of them, are too indolent to have their children vaccinated. We do not plead for them. They have only to sit down and wait quietly till the vaccination officer comes to their doors. But we, Sir, who object to having our children vaccinated object also to going before a magistrate and making a declaration of the fact each time a child is born. That would be a considerable trouble which our authorities would have to reckon with. Any of those honourable Members who are acquainted with village life will bear me out in this. Such a condition as that will entail considerable loss of time and trouble, especially to the man who is only earning thirteen or fourteen shillings a week, if he has to go practically from one end of the county to the nearest town to make this declaration. I know a case, in my own division, where a man has been prosecuted nineteen times, and this is the class of men the right honourable Gentleman will have to deal with if he endeavours to carry through the compulsory clauses of the Act. I cannot for the life of me see why a man should be compelled to reiterate his objection. These men who are prosecuted in this way are not like politicians, changing their opinions with every breeze that blows. Therefore, I say, if this clause goes to the Second Reading I shall suggest that its application should be limited to one declaration and one only.
§ *MR. LLOYD WHARTON (Yorks., W.R., Ripon)
I have never had an opportunity before, and I take it now, Sir, of thanking my right honourable Friend for the efforts he is making for doing away with some of the greatest hardships endured by the poorer classes of this country. I have always felt that the conscientious objection which the poorer classes have had in regard to this system of vaccination—I won't say whether well-founded or not—in the belief that disease can be promulgated by it—was one to be respected; and I believe that anyone who can bring in a Bill which will abolish that objection will do a great deal for the poorer classes of this country. There is also another matter, which is one of greater hardship in my opinion, which I would call attention to, and that is where a poor person should be obliged, as she has hitherto been obliged, to trudge many a long mile through mud and sleet and snow, carrying her child to be publicly vaccinated at the nearest vaccination station. All that will now be done away with. And I welcome this Bill as an advance on all that has gone before, and as doing what we most of us cordially desire. Sir, that is why I thank the right honourable Gentleman for introducing this Bill. With regard to the special Amendment before us now, I am myself in favour of it. The House, at the present time, has the choice between two courses which are open to them. They have the choice of adopting that course provided for in the Bill that those in authority may inflict one fine upon those who refuse to have their children vaccinated. That will give five shillingsworth of cheap martyrdom to those who prefer it, though I do not know in the majority of cases of these poor people where that five shillings is to come from. On the other hand we have the proposition of my honourable Friend opposite, and which I believe to be a good proposition—that there should be a system of declaration of conscientious objection. My own belief—my honest belief—is that that declaration of conscientious objection will do more to win people over to vaccination—I won't call it compulsory vaccination, but rational vaccination—than the infliction of any fine; then I trust my right honourable 398 Friend will adopt the course which will bring to perfection and maturity his proposal, for which I again thank him. I also hope that my right honourable Friend will adopt the opinion of the majority of this House at the present moment, as well as the recommendation of my Friend the honourable Member for the Ilkeston division. No one, I believe, in this House is more anxious than my Friend opposite who has moved this Amendment, to bring this Bill to maturity.
§ *MR. JOHNSON FERGUSON
As I explained my views on this question very fully to the Committee upstairs, I had not intended to take part in the Debate to-night; but I feel so strongly the danger that we should run were we not to adopt some such Amendment as this, that I venture again to trespass on the time of the House. I do not say a word about the difficulty the President of the Local Government Board would have to enforce this Measure (were there not some such provision as this inserted in the Bill) amongst the population of the counties of Leicester and Northampton, and one or two other portions of the country. But, Sir, I do feel that we run a far greater risk by making these men law-breakers. It ought to be the first duty of the Members of this House to try and frame our laws in such a way as to secure for them the confidence and support of the bulk of the people of this country. When we find something like one-third of the children born throughout the year remaining unvaccinated, it shows how strong is the feeling against which we have to contend. Well, Sir, taking the Bill in its present form, we are practically saying to these men—If you only defy the law for a certain length of time, you shall be allowed to go unpunished in the future.In point of fact you say to them that after a short lapse of time after one prosecution, the resources of civilisation are exhausted, and you throw up the sponge. Well, Sir, that seems to me to be a most dangerous position to take up. Depend upon it, if that course is pursued, it will undoubtedly be pursued in respect of other subjects also. I have 399 had some experience of that sort of thing in my own constituency. There was question in which the inhabitants of one of the parishes in my constituency found themselves in direct hostility to the views of my right honourable Friend the then Home Secretary, and afterwards of the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary opposite. Upon that occasion, when those gentlemen tried to induce that parish council, and the inhabitants of that parish, to obey the law, they were met by the answer that if it was right to defy the law in the case of vaccination, why should it not be right to defy it in respect of other matters. I am confident that if this course is pursued, and if we do not adopt some such course as is suggested by my honourable Friend, and urged by the Member for Ripon opposite, who, I was glad to hear, advocate this course, and with whose remarks with respect to the other portions of the Bill, I entirely concur—if that course is not adopted, I am confident that we are teaching these men to become law-breakers, and laying up for ourselves the foundation of trouble in the future far greater even than at present exists.
MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)
I shall only trespass on the time of the House for a few minutes, but I do think that it behoves those of us who feel strongly upon this question to say a few words in support of it. I rise to support the Amendment because I believe that the Government, in the outline of this Bill, have already given away the principle of compulsion. It seems to me to be the only effective course now to get at the children in the schools, and vaccinate them, without regard to their parents' wishes. Now, the outline of the Bill having given away compulsion, practically, it behoves the House to put the reservation in such a form that it shall secure the hearty sympathy and support, not only of those who believe in vaccination, but of the community at large, and especially of the guardians and magistrates who have to administer the law in this country. It comes to this: that we are now discussing, having given away the principle of compulsion, we are now discussing whether the rich and the poor indiscriminately should be 400 called upon to pay a trifling fine, and whether the parent shall be able to get that exemption which the Bill already contemplates. I think that the Government, in the interests of vaccination, might as well accept the Amendment, and I believe that by so doing they will obtain the support of the boards of guardians in the present instance, and public sympathy, instead of being on the side of the offender, would be on the side of the law, and the guardians will be more ready to assist the servants of the Crown throughout the land to administer the law. By this means, the number of children vaccinated will vastly increase; in fact, the number has decreased within the last few years because the Royal Commission has been so long upon its business, and if they were negligent everyone in the country would be negligent. I think, when this Amendment is accepted, the door will be open for this most necessary reform which we wish to see, and thus the way will be open for re-vaccination to take place, which is most essential for the avoidance of smallpox, but which now, under the present law, is almost impossible, without an undue amount of friction. In the interests of vaccination, and the administration of the law, I appeal to the Government to give way entirely, or to accept the three or five years' limit which the Royal Commission have recommended. Let them make up their minds upon this, and then let us have a Bill for three, four, or five years, and then it can be renewed, according to whether the experiment has been a success or not.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I had hoped that the right honourable Gentleman might have accepted some compromise of this character, instead of the position which he has taken up. Now, may I point out that this Royal Commission was a very strong one, that there were medical men on it who hold very strong views, and that there were two dissentients to the Report—Sir William Hunter and Mr. Jonathan Hutchinson, the former once a Member of this House and the latter a man of the greatest possible experience in one of our departments of medicine? These two gentle- 401 men did not agree, and they dissented from the otherwise unanimous recommendations of the Royal Commission. Now, what did these two gentlemen, who felt so strongly, recommend? They could not agree to the proposals of the majority, and what did they propose? They merely proposed that a person—and this is a most orthodox view, a most conservative view—who objected should be brought up before a magistrate, and then, if they could show to the magistrate that they had a conscientious objection, they would be dismissed. They were not to be fined or convicted, but if they had a conscientious objection, it was to be respected, and the magistrate was to dismiss the case, or admonish him. Those are the most extreme proposals made on the other side by these two medical gentlemen, who could not agree with the otherwise unanimous Report of the Royal Commission, that compulsion should cease when a conscientious objection had been expressed. Now, on what grounds does the right honourable Gentleman urge this course? He can find no justification at all for it in the evidence before the Commission, or in the Report of the majority or the minority, because the only difficulty between the Majority and the Minority Report is as to the method, for they both recognise that the conscientious objection should be met, and that those who do so object should not suffer. I think that is the only rational position that can be taken up. If the right honourable Gentleman has read the evidence before the Commission he must come to the same conclusion that the Commission did. Several medical men who held very strong opinions on this question were placed on the Commission as partisans of vaccination. You had Dr. Collins, the late Chairman of the London County Council, and Mr. Lawson Picton, and they were placed upon the Commission as opponents of vaccination. Both sides were very fairly represented; you had the Minority Report, signed by Mr. Picton and Dr. Collins, who went against any form of compulsory vaccination, and who are practically anti-vaccinationists, but all the others were agreed. I believe that if the scientific opinion in regard to this question now held by the medi- 402 cal world had been so strong in 1853, when the compulsory Measure was passed, no such Bill could possibly be passed, and such a policy would have been impossible. Lord Lyttelton, who introduced that Bill, on its Second Reading said that the consensus of medical opinion was thoroughly in favour of vaccination as a thorough raid complete remedy. There is no scientific man living to-day who will come and tell us that. At the present moment, in all our small-pox hospitals, over 90 per cent. of the small-pox cases are persons who have been vaccinated. Under these circumstances, vaccination cannot be regarded as a complete precaution, and nobody will now say that vaccination is a complete remedy. What they say is that if you vaccinate there will be, to a certain extent, a modification of the danger, and you will not be so susceptible to catching it, and the attack will be milder. ["Agreed."] I do not know that we are all agreed. This is a matter affecting the lives of our children, and surely it is not policy to rush this Measure through without adequate consideration. The Report of the Commissioners points out that the result of vaccination is that the number of cases has been a constantly diminishing factor. To be consistent in this matter, it will be necessary that there should not only be compulsory vaccination, but also compulsory re-vaccination. Now, my honourable Friend the Member for Edinburgh quoted some German statistics, but what do they show? In Prussia you have had since 1834 compulsory vaccination and re-vaccination, and there every male has got to serve in the Army, and every trooper has to be vaccinated several times. If he refuses he is held down till it is done. Now, we had in 1871 and 1872 a serious epidemic in Prussia. The position of things in Prussia during that epidemic was as bad as here, and proves to us that both vaccination and re-vaccination are not preventives against taking the disease, though through them it may only be taken in a modified form. In ordinary circumstances vaccination is a fair protection. When, however, there is an epidemic it is absolutely necessary to have something in addition to vaccination. By vaccination alone we have not been able to prevent small-pox, but in 403 some countries it has been stamped out. In New South Wales they took the advice of the late Sir James Simpson, a most eminent man, who wrote a book on the subject of stamping out these epidemic diseases. They determined to try and carry out Simpson's plan, with the result that they have succeeded in absolutely stamping out small-pox, and when cases are brought from other countries or districts they immediately isolate them, and not only isolate the patient, but every person who has been in contact with him is also isolated in Sydney Harbour. Under those conditions New South Wales has been able to stamp out small-pox. Small-pox cannot be stamped out by vaccination only. It is a modified preventive, but we shall have to go much further, and have a complete system of isolation. I remember, in 1888, when the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Croydon was President of the Local Government Board, strongly opposing him in order to get an inquiry. In 1889 he gave us an inquiry, and the result of the evidence at the inquiry has been absolutely borne out by the evidence given before the Portland Commission. How do we stand to-day? We stand in a very curious position. In 1885, when the right honourable Gentleman came into power, arm-to-arm vaccination was the system proposed by the Local Government Board, and there was nothing about calf lymph vaccination. The Local Government Board have come to the conclusion now to try to prohibit arm-to-arm vaccination, and they are in the same position as in 1841, when they attempted to prevent inoculation. I must protest here, from the scientific standpoint, against the statement made by the President of the Local Government Board, because no evidence has been given to the House or the public to bear it out—namely, that glycerine has the power of killing tuberculosis and syphilitic germs. There is absolutely no information to confirm that statement. In the very last information published by the Local Government Board Professor Clyde demonstrated the fallacy of the right honourable Gentleman's statement. He gave the following experiment. He took a small-pox crust and kept it for three months in glycerine. Then he took—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The nature of glycerine calf lymph is a somewhat different matter to that raised by the Amendment.
§ DR. CLARK
The right honourable Gentleman states that he is about to remove the evils of the past by new methods, and we have got to consider whether these methods are effective. The highest evidence published shows that glycerine does not do what is claimed for it by the right honourable Gentleman. It is a splendid preservative—
§ DR. CLARK
I want to make the point in order to justify conscientious objections, but I will not pursue it. All I will say is that there is no evidence whatever that calf lymph will not be able to create certain diseases, and the statements now being made are entirely unjustifiable. Experiments are being carried on at the present time. What they may be I do not know. No evidence regarding them has been given to Parliament. Under those conditions of uncertainty we are to bring about a change from one position, which was, until three years ago, orthodox, to a new form. I will not say by false pretences, but on inadequate evidence, and the conscientious objector is perfectly justified in refusing to have experiments tried on his child. I am not sure if I had children that I would not fight it out; and I am not sure that I would not advise my grandchildren against vaccination. Vaccination without re-vaccination is not a protective. A man may have one attack, then a second, and even a third attack. I have seen cases myself in which the patient was suffering from a third attack, one pit inside the other. If one attack of small-pox is not a preventive against another, surely vaccination is not a protective. To a large extent vaccination is a broken reed. What we want is to carry out the system which has been successfully carried out in New South Wales. By isolation we shall be able, when a disease appears, to prevent it from spreading, and I think it is time the House realised that.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Everybody, I think, will admit, in the first place, that this Debate has been extremely interesting; and, in the second place, that, while a considerable divergence of opinion has been disclosed between the two sides of the House as to the machinery which ought to be introduced into the Bill for obtaining the ends desired by the House, those ends have been practically agreed upon by the great body of opinion on both sides. There are gentlemen in the House who are adverse to vaccination; there are Members in the House, not many, who think that vaccination is a medical superstition, that it carries with it no> prophylactic effect whatever against small-pox; and undoubtedly produces disease—not usually very serious, but a disease of its own-it has no effect whatever in preventing the more serious disease against which it is intended to guard. But I believe these Members are a small minority in the House; and I believe their view is shared by a small minority in the country, while in other countries I believe that section of opinion can hardly be said to be represented at all. We may, therefore, take it that this House—broadly speaking, 99 out of every 100 Members of the House—are in favour of vaccination and of extending the practice of vaccination so far as that can be done by legislative means; and the controversy to-night is not as to whether vaccination is or is not a good thing, but as to whether the particular provisions in the Bill are the best method of carrying out the object the great majority of Members have very much at heart. It cannot be denied by anybody who has watched the trend of public opinion that undoubtedly since the original Act of 1854, since even the Act of 1867 was passed, and since the consolidating Act of 1874 was placed on the Statute Book, increasing difficulty has been found in administering successfully the Vaccination Laws. I do not think it would be relevant to this discussion to attempt to analyse closely the causes that have produced the change. Some gentlemen would put it down to the fault of the doctors, and undoubtedly there have been certain modifications in medical opinion in the years of which I speak on this important question. But, while I admit that, I do not admit as a corollary that 406 the medical profession and scientific opinion are subject to blame. After all, if science is anything, science is progressive, and you cannot have progress in any branch of knowledge without modifications of truths, or what were accepted as truths by the predecessors of those who doubt them; and it is no reproach to the medical profession that they should have stood out for facts with a dogmatic assurance hardly justified in a complete sense by subsequent investigation, but for facts which were in the main true, though somewhat overstated. This is a fact that has its analogue, its parallel in every branch of scientific investigation, and until you find some infallible authority you cannot escape these changes of opinion. They are not only necessary, they are manifestations of a healthy impartiality, that species of impartiality without which scientific progress is absolutely impossible. Do not let me exaggerate the change which has occurred and of which the utmost use and, in some, cases, illegitimate use has been made by anti-vaccinators. But, substantially, the medical profession have in no way altered their fundamental view that the practice of vaccination in a great measure affords a prophylactic against catching the disease at all, and that it is most successful in modifying the course of the disease if in some severe epidemics those who have been vaccinated catch it. That is all the House need be assured of, and if we are assured of this, I think it is our business to see, so far as our own action is concerned, that we do everything in our power to spread the employment of this most useful remedy against one of the most awful scourges that ever afflicted unfortunate humanity. I have the good fortune to belong to a nation that has had no doubt on this subject.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Yes, the question is open to the predominant partner agreement. It is only the predominant partner in the kingdom that has been affected by these unfortunate scruples. Speaking, if I may, for a moment as a Scotchman, my countrymen, like the men of sense they usually are—and if I may I would 407 associate the Irish with them—they have been content to take the best they can get of the medical knowledge of the time and act up to it, and in so acting have believed they were doing the best for themselves and their children. That is the rational common sense view. It does not mean that the doctors are infallible. They have made enormous mistakes in the past, and are predestined to make enormous mistakes in the future; but it means that, however ignorant the doctor may be, he knows at least more than the anti-vaccinationist. That really ought to be sufficient, and in Scotland and Ireland is sufficient for those who have to look after the health of themselves and their families. The question we have to discuss is, after all, an eminently practical question. Some persons have attempted to represent this as if it was what is called a question of principle—a question of right or wrong, a question of ethics, a question in which a man ought to have no transactions with his conscience. Of course, in one sense that is absurdly true, but, after all, in legislation of this kind the House has to look to the end to be attained, and the end to be attained is, by the common consent of the House, the spread of the practice of vaccination. That is what we have to look to alone. That being the case, it is manifest that we have to take account of public opinion in the populations with whom we have to deal. When the medical profession and the laity following the medical profession believed, in 1853, that vaccination was without doubt and without question an absolute safeguard against small-pox in all its forms, whether the disease was severe or mitigated, it was natural that they should enforce vaccination by penalties which were imposed as often as the offence recurred—in other words, by recurring and repeated penalties. It was natural, and public opinion supported them, and as long as public opinion supported them. I am not sure that that law was not as good a law as could be framed to meet the circumstances of the case. Take a parallel. We now compel every child to go to school. We did not venture to compel every child to go to school 30 years ago, and we were right, but this House believed in those days in education as strenuously as it believes in edu- 408 cation now, but it was not so foolish as to attempt to enforce on a reluctant population laws which that population would have resisted, and in resisting would have produced a reaction more destructive to the true interests of education than the wise course of this House. I do not think it likely, but it is not impossible, that an important, active, and wealthy section of opinion may arise which has conscientious objections—to use a phrase which has been very familiar to our ears during the last few hours—to education. I do not think it impossible, I think I could frame a very good argument if it were necessary, which should induce parents in certain circumstances to say that their children did not gain anything, but rather lost morally and intellectually, by being obliged to attend the school of their district; and no doubt there are cases in which that occurs. If that feeling—hardly existing at the present time, if it exists at all sporadically and not backed up in any sense by the general moral feeling of the community—were to grow and increase until it reached formidable proportions, I do not believe it would be possible, by the recurring penalties which we now remorselessly exact, to induce parents to send their children to school as we do now for the same offence. I think that what I have said explains to the House what I think is the precise situation in which we find ourselves. Some honourable Gentlemen have spoken to-night as if in having regard to the conscientious objection of the parents we were obeying a duty like that which requires us to be tolerant of the differences of theological opinion. I think that there is no parallel between the two. We compel people to educate their children, to look after their drains; and if we could effectually compel them to vaccinate their children I should not have the slightest scruple whatever in voting for a law or enforcing a law to that effect. But these laws can only be enforced with any effect if they have behind them, and as long as they have behind them, the kind of feeling which our education laws have behind them, and which our sanitary laws have behind them at the present time. Speaking of sanitary laws, let me say that more mistakes have been made with regard to sanitation, than 409 have been made with regard to vaccination; and while we have always insisted to the best of our ability on using medical and sanitary science at the stage at which we find it, we have, in looking back, to recognise that sanitary science has often made mistakes, and we muse admit that we may be now enforcing a law which the next generation may think inadequate. We can only do our best, and if we could enforce vaccination laws as we now enforce sanitary laws, I should not have any scruple in enforcing recurring penalties on those parents who refuse to accept the law. As the House can perfectly well understand, I think we cannot afford, in the interests of sanitary science itself, to shock public opinion, to compel parents to do in the case of vaccination what we compel them to do in education. In both cases we may be wrong, but in one case we have public opinion behind us, in the other we have not. When I say that we have public opinion behind us I do not mean to say that the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and I, and Members of the House, are superior to the rest of our countrymen, that we alone have the true faith about vaccination. I mean that while honourable Gentlemen opposite and we are both agreed that vaccination is desirable, we have to recognise the fact that there is a strong feeling against vaccination, the origin of which has been sufficiently indicated by some of the speakers who have preceded me. Therefore, when an honourable Friend of mine, who spoke earlier, said that either vaccination was right, In which case you ought to enforce it by recurring penalties, or else it was wrong, In which case you ought not to enforce it at all, I think he used a form of logical dilemma which is really not applicable to such problems as that with which the House at present has to deal. We have to frame a law which will get vaccination employed as far as we possibly can, and let the House notice how discreditable is the position in which the vaccination laws at present stand. My right honourable Friend the President of the Local Government Board has told us to-night that since the Commission was appointed in 1889 that has been taken as the signal by a very large number of local bodies on their own motion to 410 suspend the law, and practically it is admitted that between a sixth and a fifth of the local authorities in England absolutely refuse at present to administer the law passed by Parliament. No one suggests that if the law remain unmodified that unfortunate and discreditable position could be altogether cured. This is a long preamble, but I hope not one which is irrelevant to the matter which we have got to decide. Probably the greatest misfortune that could occur in the interests of vaccination is that it should be treated in the first place as a party question, and, in the second place, that any proposal—I do not care what it is, or in which direction it is, or by what party it is moved—should be carried after a party division by a narrow majority. That, it seems to me, would be absolutely fatal to the administration of laws which have already been permitted to fall into abeyance for nearly 10 years, and which, if vaccination is to remain part of our medical system at all, surely ought to be in a position in which they can be enforced, and in which they will have behind them the general opinion of all the bodies whose duty it is to enforce them. I come to the relative merits of the two proposals which are before the House. By common consent it is not proposed now to recur to the system of penalties indefinitely repeated. That was generally accepted 20 or 30 years ago; it is now universally repudiated. Neither the proposal in the Bill nor the proposal in the Amendment contemplates any such contingency as dragging a father of a family up again and again before the magistrates and subjecting him to recurring penalties. We all are practically, therefore, agreed that when a parent has clearly proved that he has an honest, decided, and strong objection in the interests of his own child to vaccination it is useless to attempt to compel him to adopt the wise course which medical science recommends. By persuading him you may succeed, but by the Bill now before us, and by the Amendment which it is proposed to insert in that Bill, it is admitted that you cannot treat the refusal to vaccinate as a crime, and really all you can do is to distinguish the man who honestly and strenuously objects to the process from the man who only objects because it is 411 easier to object than to take the trouble to vaccinate his child, and because he is perfectly ready, in lazy ignorance of all the questions at issue, to allow the vaccination of his child to slide and to take any step which is sufficiently easy to himself for relieving himself of the obligation of applying that prophylactic to his children. If I have accurately stated the problem, and I think I have, we have got to ask the House whether the Amendment moved by the honourable Gentleman opposite carries out that object which we should be satisfied to see carried out—namely, that of distinguishing between the two categories—the genuine, strenuous, and honest objector, and the lazy, careless, and irresponsible parent who is prepared to take any step to save himself a little trouble. Now, I frankly admit that, as I understand the Amendment of the honourable Gentleman opposite, I do not think that it is sufficient for that object. I admit that we have imperfect, information on the point. We have information clear and conclusive that if you allow the law to slide, if you permit the local authorities to do what they have in so many cases been doing in the last few years, to take no steps whatever, you will practically find that large sections of your population are never vaccinated at all, and I am afraid I think there is some evidence for saying that if you make it too easy for a parent to declare himself a conscientious objector results no less disastrous are likely to follow. I was very much struck by a sentence read out of a Report by my right honourable Friend the President of the Local Government Board, who, discussing a system in force in some places by which a kind of circular is sent round asking the parents whether they are or are not conscientious objectors, makes this comment on the system. The vaccination officer states—that the appearance of one form of declaration is quite enough to close the doors of a whole street against him in his endeavour to secure the vaccination or re-vaccination of children, whereas in a district of an outlying character, where the system of declaration is still unknown, the law is as efficacious as ever.I think that is clear proof that if the system which you substitute for the existing system is nothing more than the distribution by the post or 412 otherwise of a series of forms in which, parents can declare themselves conscientious objectors, you will destroy the vaccination system of the country. You would find, in the words of another vaccination officer, that conscientious objections would spring up like mushrooms.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I am aware of that. I should feel I have done my duty very ill if I have given the impression that a wide difference exists between the right honourable Gentleman and ourselves. I know that Members opposite wish as much as we do to find some method of sifting out the genuine objector and distinguishing him from the sham objector, but I do not think that that end would be sufficiently attained by the Amendment of the honourable Member opposite. I venture to suggest—and I think this would lead to that most desirable result, a general harmony of opinion upon a question of vital importance to the health of the people—I venture to suggest that it should be regarded as a complete defence if a parent, when brought before the court for not vaccinating his child, could show that he had genuine and conscientious objections to the process of vaccination. I should ask the House, if it is prepared to accept that view, to make the experiment only for five years, because great weight ought to be attached to the Report of the Commissioners, who, while advising unanimously that penalties should be abandoned in the case of the conscientious objector, were so conscious that the experiment might prove a perilous one that they suggested that it should be temporary in its duration. That view the Legislature would be wise and prudent to entertain, and I do not think that this new departure should be sanctioned except in an experimental way, and for a strictly limited term of years. The exact form of the clause which I would propose is—No parent or other person shall be liable to any penalty under section 29 or section 31 of the Act of 1867 if he satisfies the court that he conscientiously believes that vaccination would be prejudicial to the health of the 413 child, and that the failure to have the child vaccinated has been, and is, due solely to such conscientious belief on his part.There will be a proviso to this effect—Proceedings under the said section 31 shall be taken only once in respect of the same child, and not until such child shall have detained the age of four years.Then at the end of clause 10 I should add these words—The Bill shall remain in force until January 1, 1904.It will be noticed that by the terms of this Amendment the invidious part of "the Bill as it now stands is wholly avoided, and in the absence of experience on the subject, which appears to me to be adequate, precaution has been taken against the lazy declarator, or parent, because the man will have to appear in court. He will have not merely to suffer the inconvenience of an appearance in court, but he will have to satisfy the court that he really is a conscientious objector. In my opinion, that will be far more effective than the declaration—too often, I am sure, the sham declaration—likely to be made under the Amendment of the honourable Member. The House will see that I do not venture to propose this as an Amendment, which goes the whole length desired by honourable Gentlemen opposite. I think honourable Members on our side of the House may surely be asked to give way to some extent, and while I admit this does require some concession, I believe a very serious one, on the part of honourable Gentlemen opposite, I think it is a basis upon which the House might come to a common agreement, and upon which a Bill emanating from this House, carrying authority with men of all shades of opinion in the country, might be framed, which a Bill with a Party complexion upon it, and carried by a Party majority in this House never could command in the present position of public opinion upon this matter. Under these circumstances, Sir, I do respectfully suggest to the House that they should adopt this suggestion, which carries with it considerable concessions, as is admitted, on our part, which does, I admit, require some concessions on the part of others, but which I am convinced by all men of 414 moderate opinion and reasonable views will be regarded as a compromise not unworthy of this House, nor of the important interests which are involved in this great Measure of sanitary reform.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
I ask the indulgence of the House for a few words upon the proposal of the right honourable Gentleman. I fully admit that in departing from the proposal of the Bill that there should be a penalty in the first instance exacted irrespective of conscientious objection, the right honourable Gentleman has made large concessions to the views of honourable Gentlemen—I will not say sitting on this side of the House, because I think there are many honourable Gentlemen who share our views on the other side of the House as well. Therefore, there really is no Party question in this matter. As far as I know, there have only been two Members of this House who have spoken against the Amendment of my honourable Friend behind me. All the rest of the speeches have been in favour of that Amendment. I entirely concur with the right honourable Gentleman that it is highly desirable that we should come, if we can, to a unanimous decision upon the question, which concerns not one part of the country, but the whole of the country. Well, Sir, we are taken a little by surprise by the statement of the right honourable Gentleman, and we are not able entirely to appreciate the points on which he desires to depart from the Amendment of my honourable Friend. I confess I do not understand what are the distinctions in his proposals which he thinks it necessary to insist upon. He said that the court must be satisfied. Yes, but how is the court to be satisfied? That is important, and a great deal must depend upon what are the principles upon which the court will proceed in its investigation to arrive at a satisfactory decision. Then how is a person to be brought before the court? Is it intended he is to be brought to the court by summons, or is it intended that the person who has this conscientious objection shall make his objection known at the time most convenient to himself? This is a new proposal from the Government. I think we ought not to be asked upon this matter to commit ourselves to the exact proposal which the right 415 honourable Gentleman has made. I do not know how he intends to introduce this proposal into his Bill. Does he intend to amend the third clause of the Bill so as to convert it into that which is now adumbrated in his speech, or does he mean to propose a new clause in place of the clause of my honourable Friend? I believe it is felt on this side of the House, and it will be felt on the other side, that it is desirable we should come to a reasonable understanding—I will not say compromise, because in compromise you are giving up something that you consider important. I understand the right honourable Gentleman is offering us what we have contended for—namely, that the conscientious objector should be exempted. Now, how is that to be worked out in the Bill? I think before we come to a decision we ought to have the actual proposal before us. Therefore, before parting with my honourable Friend's Amendment, I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to consider how best that may be done, and to let us have his proposal before us in black and white, whether it be by Amendment of my honourable Friend's Amendment or a new clause in the Bill. In a matter of this importance we ought to know exactly what it is to be.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right honourable Gentleman has asked me a question, and, by leave of the House, I will answer it. I confess I had rather hoped from the tone of the Debate that the suggestion I had made, which I intended to be one of conciliation and peace, would be accepted; but I quite recognise that the clause is one which the House ought to see. It will be impossible by the rules of the House for us to move a new clause without giving notice of it, and under these circumstances I think the best course will be for my right honourable Friend the President of the Local Government Board to put the new clause on the Paper to-night, and to adjourn the Debate upon the honourable Gentleman's Amendment, and I hope when the House sees the new clause they will feel that we have done all that we can in the interests of peace, and they will help us to pass the Bill.
§ Adjournment agreed to.