HC Deb 15 May 1924 vol 173 cc1631-5

Again considered in Committee.

[Mr. ENTWISTLE in the Chair.]

Question again proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £206,072, be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State, for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices, including Liquidation Expenses of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Contributions towards the Expenses of a System of Probation.


When the even tenor of our proceedings was momentarily interrupted by the advent of Black Rod, I was addressing you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, as to the failure of the Home Secretary to give adequate protection to small shopkeepers against having their business interfered with by street traders, and you were calling him to order on the ground that that did not properly come on the Vote for the salary of the Home Secretary. I submit, with all respect, that as we are discussing the salary of the Home Secretary we are entitled to draw attention to his failure to give adequate protection to a particular class of His Majesty's subjects.


My ruling on that is this, that we cannot discuss, on the salary of the Home Secretary, anything which comes within some other specific Vote. The next Vote deals with the police, and it seems to me that the point raised by the hon. Member comes under that Vote.


I wish to hark back to the subject of sweepstakes in clubs, and I think I am entitled to make a few observations, because, as chairman of the great organisation which the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) described as the headquarters of the Association of Conservative Clubs, I have taken steps to put my foot firmly down against an extended system of appealing to members who are not members of the precise club which is concerned. I object very strongly to the using of the affiliated movement for the purpose of increasing technically the membership of a club, and I am glad to find my hon. Friend realises that, and recognises that headquarters have done their best, at any rate, to put an end to a practice which I do not think can be justified for a moment.


I think in this matter there is a variation of policy on the part of the authorities in different areas, but I would like to point out an anomaly which is still more marked. In a given area exception is not taken by the police authorities unless someone takes specific exception to a particular undertaking. If a scheme is launched by a given body or organisation, and if complaints are made, they will take action, whereas, with more influential bodies in operation, where no such complaint is made, the thing goes through as if it were all in order. That is something that ought to be dealt with, but when we come to the larger aspect of the question of sweepstakes, then we come on to a plane that will open up, or ought to open up, all the wide range of gambling which certainly goes on, even to the depths of the Stock Exchange—not simply the working man with his sweepstake, or something of that nature, but the whole gamut of the gambling business which is patronised by the very highest authorities in this country. I therefore feel that we have to deal with this thing squarely, and if we are going to deal with these national evils, we ought not always to talk as though it were only the wicked working man who was concerned.


I wish to make a suggestion with respect to factory inspection from a particular standpoint, namely, with regard to the incidence of tuberculosis, which I feel to be a very serious matter, and one which should demand the attention of the Department. In the particular trade with which I was connected for over 30 years, there was a predisposition to tuberculosis among the employés, and I understand that in several other trades the same state of affairs prevails. There seems to be a very unequal distribution of the incidence of tuberculosis. In the boot and shoe industry, with which I was associated, there is a very large proportion of the number of those who die, dying from this disease. Last year, nearly 24 per cent. of the deaths amongst the operatives in the boot trade were from this disease, and I think the Under-Secretary for the Home Department will agree that that is a very large proportion, and one which demands serious consideration. I want to ask whether it would be possible, on the part of the Department, to set apart several inspectors, medical men, specially in regard to these trades which show a large incidence of tuberculosis. I believe the money would be well spent, and that if you could send round to the factories, which in these particular trades are largely found in certain settled districts, medical men, who would invite the operatives to submit themselves periodically to inspection with regard to this disease, it would be the means of stopping a large amount of the disease in its incipient stages.

Those of us who have had connection with this fell disease and have had to deal with administration in connection with it, know that if attacked in its incipient stages it is very curable, and the results are very satisfactory. I should like to call the attention of the Under-Secretary to the fact that, if he could stop this extraordinary amount of disease in these special trades, he would be saving the community very large charges which afterwards come upon the community with respect to the care of the families of these men who die. I do not know how it is that in the particular trade I have mentioned there is this large predisposition to tuberculosis, unless it be on account of the large amount of dust and waste in the cutting up of the leather in this industry. I believe the same thing applies in regard to saw mills and other trades where the atmosphere is vitiated by dust pr anything of that kind. Therefore, I suggest to the Department that they should consider the advisability of having a few men like this periodically to visit these factories, say, half-yearly, without putting any compulsion on the men to be examined. I believe it might be found that they would be willing to submit themselves to the test, in their own interests, because we know how easy it is for a man with tuberculosis to go on for months, and sometimes for years, before waking up to the fact that he has tuberculosis, and that it is then too late for anything to be done for him. I think this is a suggestion which might be taken into consideration. I have had conversations with the medical officer of health in the county of Leicester with regard to the matter—I am chairman of the health committee—and we both consider that this may be the means in our county of Leicester, where there are so many boot factories, and where the incidence of this disease is so bad, of helping to stem the disease.

7.0 P.M.


I would like to say a word or two in relation to the remarks of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Black), who has just sat down. I quite agree that inspection is necessary, but I do not like the idea of this special inspection of the workmen. I say that we should make the inspection of the causes of the disease, rather than of the men, because there must be a cause. Either the ventilation is bad or the conditions of the workshops are bad, and if you remove the cause the effect will quickly disappear. I know perfectly well by experience the difficulties, and the objections, and the serious consequences of periodical inspections of individual men. I know that when the doctors come round and examine for a particular disease a man puts himself to no end of trouble to persuade everyone that there is nothing at all the matter with him. He will even lose time to avoid the doctor's inspection, and frequently, when a doctor reports that a man shows symptoms, he will keep out of the way. So I think there is a great danger of that. I believe in the inspections, but the inspection should be to get at the cause of the evil. Some of the wretched factories that exist, and the scandalous conditions, are a disgrace to civilisation, and so we want to get rid of the evil.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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