HC Deb 07 March 1929 vol 226 cc532-4
9. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Home Secretary what medical examinations are made of women and girls entering British ports from France; under what regulations these examinations are made, and in what cases; if he is aware that there has been indignation in France over the alleged humiliating nature of these examinations in certain cases; and whether he will cause inquiries to be made?


The Aliens Order, 1920, provides that leave to land in the United Kingdom shall not be given to an alien if a medical inspector certifies that for medical reasons it is undesirable that the alien should be permitted to land; and for the purposes of the Order, medical inspectors are appointed by and act under instructions issued by the Minister of Health, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State. Legally, every alien, whether arriving from France or elsewhere, is liable to medical examination, but in the absence of special reasons it is the practice only to examine those who propose to stay for a considerable period, and in the case of women and girls, the examination, at which a nurse or female attendant is present, is usually of a superficial character. As soon as the complaints appeared in the public Press, I caused the fullest inquiries to be made into the matter, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. Responsible officers of the two Departments visited the ports, and as the result of their investigation they reported that they could find no foundation for the allegation that the examination of women and girls was of a kind that could be regarded as humiliating. I may, perhaps, add that there is no examination of women for venereal disease. I am anxious to remove any possible source of friction, and I am considering with my right hon. Friend what, if any, modification of the existing instructions might usefully be made.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

May we take it that the reports, which have received wide publicity on the Continent, to the effect that young girls have been examined in this way are quite devoid of foundation?


Absolutely. I made the very fullest inquiry.


Do the examinations to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred apply to the first-class passengers, or only to the third class?


To all passengers.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

Will my right hon. Friend take great care that any such modifications as he threatens to make in response to the inquiries will not in any way restrict the carefulness with which we are enabled in this way to keep infectious disease from coming into the country?


I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend may be satisfied that the Ministry of Health, which is primarily responsible for the investigation, will see, in conjunction with my own Department, that no undue laxity which could possibly allow the incursion of infectious diseases will be allowed, but we want to remove any reasonable cause of grievance.


Are Englishwomen subject to a similar medical examination on entering France?


I believe there is one, but for particular accuracy the hon. Member ought to address that question to the Foreign Office.


Did my right hon. Friend state that women are in no cases examined for venereal disease, and, if not, why not?


The fact is as I stated, that men are examined for that particular disease, but women are not.


Does this apply to all women and girls arriving from the Continent?


Yes—aliens, of course.