§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
With regard to the first Amendment, in the names of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffiths) and other hon. Members—in page 6, line 22, at the end, to insert: 2080(3) A prosecution for an offence under this Section shall not be instituted without the consent in England of the Attorney-General or Solicitor-General and in Scotland of the Lord Advocate or Solicitor-General."—I understand that they desire to move the Amendment in a slightly different form, and I think it should come in a slightly different place, namely, in page 7, line 37.
§ 11.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Spens
I beg to move, in page 7, line 9, after "members," to insert "of either House of Parliament or."
Sub-section (4) of Clause 4 enumerates a number of classes of persons to whom advertisements or circulars relating to cancer or possible cures for cancer may be sent without committing an offence under the earlier part of the Clause. If there is one class with whom people who think they have something that would be useful to the public would want to communicate, one would think they were the Members of this honourable House or of the House of Lords; but apparently they cannot be communicated with in this way without committing an offence under the Clause.
§ Mr. Elliot
I feel that this is a reasonable Amendment which improves the Bill, and I would advise the House to accept it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 11.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies
I beg to move, in page 7, line 37, at the end, to insert:A prosecution for an offence under this Section shall not be instituted in England or Wales without the consent of the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General.I have changed the wording of my Amendment as it appears upon the Order Paper, because in view of Clause 7 some of the words are now unnecessary. The purpose of the Amendment is to limit the right to prosecute under Clause 4. This Clause very properly prohibits certain advertisements, and gives aright to prosecute in circumstances which are there set out, but it is felt that that right might be abused, and so it is proposed that a prosecution shall not be instituted except with the fiat of the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General. We think that will provide sufficient protection for the public.
§ 11.48 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Terence O'Connor)
My right hon. Friend is prepared to accept this Amendment. Paragraps (a) and (b) of Sub-section (1) have had to be drawn in extremely wide terms, because it will be necessary to catch any offer of an advertising kind and also to catch any article calculated to lead to the use of a purported remedy for the treatment of this disease. So far as I am aware there is no statutory definition of an advertisement, and it has been represented to my right hon. Friend that bona fide newspaper articles descriptive of treatment might conceivably in certain circumstances be made the subject of a prosecution, and that is not desired. It is almost impossible within the limits of an Act of Parliament to define an advertisement in such a way as to exclude the kind of statement that nobody wishes to see made the subject of proceedings. I think the words of the Amendment effect a compromise by putting the responsibility for a prosecution where it can rightly lie, on those who are responsible to this House.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 7, line 38, at the beginning, insert:
Subject to the provisions of the last foregoing Sub-section."—[Mr. Clement Davies.]
§ 11.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Leach
I beg to move, in page 8, line 4, at the end, to insert:and the said expression shall not apply to reports or accounts of treatments for cancer issued or published, orally or otherwise, by registered or unregistered practitioners, to persons or in publications other than those enumerated in paragraphs (a) and (b) of Sub-section (4) of this Section.The chief purpose of the Amendment is to keep wide open the door of exploration in regard to cancer treatment and cure. I cannot help thinking that Clause 4, as it now stands, goes a great deal further than the Minister and his advisers calculated on. I presume it will not be disputed that it is gratuitous interference with the liberty of the subject. By gratuitous I mean in this case that it does not propose to put a stop to any existing evil. As far as I am aware, there are no swindling cures for cancer afflicting the columns of the daily Press at 2082 present. If the Minister has had complaints of such, perhaps he will let the House know about it. I believe the law provides against fraudulent remedies, and surely that ought to be sufficient. In my judgment the Clause puts a stop to exploration and study on the part of unregistered practitioners. If one such discovers a satisfactory cure and reports or advertises it, he becomes at once a lawbreaker. The Minister informed me on 25th February that Clause 4 does not prohibit an unregistered practitioner from reporting or advertising the successful treatment of cancer as long as the report or advertisement did not contain any offer to treat or prescribe or give advice on cancer. Surely that statement is very nearly meaningless. What is such an advertisement but an implied offer to treat? The relevant words of Sub-section 1 (b) are:No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement. … in terms which are calculated to lead to the use of that article, or articles of that description.If an advertisement of a successful cure for cancer can be so worded that no sufferer will dream of asking for its application to his own case, I should like to see it. I imagine no such advertisement is possible. The Minister went on to add a footnote to his letter:The prohibition against advertising or offering to treat or prescribe applies, of course, to registered as well as unregistered practitioners.So it does, and that will not worry the registered practitioner in the slightest degree. He does not advertise, anyhow, and what advertising is necessary on his behalf is very well done for him elsewhere. His freedom in that respect seems very well preserved in this Bill. It must be clear that the effect of a rigid application of Clause 4 would be to put a ring-fence round cancer treatment and to say, "Inside this ring only registered practitioners are allowed." It is all very well for the Minister to assure us that nothing in the Bill prevents an unregistered practitioner from treating cancer. As long as the results of such successful treatment are hidden from the eyes of the public, what chance has this unregistered practitioner at all? The public may have rejuvenation pastilles, slimming drugs, baldness lotions—I speak feelingly there—obesity cures—even that is not outside my range. These may be advertised by the mile, but 2083 we must not hear a word about cancer. The only thing to be seen in the daily Press in regard to cancer, if the Bill passes, will perhaps be the Registrar-General's qualified death figures. One could understand the Clause better if the record of the registered practitioners was a story of brilliant success, but unfortunately the exact opposite is the case. I recommend anyone seeking information on this matter to read "Cancer; the Failure of Modern Research," by M. Beddow Bayly, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. I give it this free advertisement.
Surely the Minister must agree that on the whole subject of cancer we want the fullest possible light and publicity, and not the darkness prescribed by this Clause. If I had my wish, the Clause would be withdrawn altogether and consigned to the dustbin. If any hope is to come to cancer sufferers, the fullest freedom must be granted for the unorthodox as well as the orthodox. Cancer, as we have already freely admitted, is a deadly menace. In closing the doors to its treatment we may be dooming many to death who might be saved. I, therefore, implore the Minister to accept the Amendment and keep the door open.
§ 11.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Hayday
I beg to second the Amendment. It proposes to make it quite clear that the Clause shall not apply to reports or accounts of treatment issued or published orally or otherwise. There is no guaranteed cure for cancer, and therefore you ought not to close the possibilities for expert investigation and research and, where such research takes place even by an unregistered expert, you ought not to prevent those methods being reported. At the moment I am thinking in terms of the medical herbalist. Even the registered practitioners make errors——
§ Mr. Leslie Boyce
Is the hon. Member speaking for the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) when he says that?
§ Mr. Hayday
I am speaking from my own experience in these matters as a believer in the nature treatment. I would not close the door to individuals who feel that, by inquiry through his faculty, easement and a possible discovery of a cure can be found in nature treatment. They should not be told that if they report to their annual conference the results of 2084 their inquiries they must not publish the report in their periodical or any other periodical. Under the Clause that would be taken as advertising. This Clause would also prevent a person who had had treatment saying to somebody else, "I have been treated by a medical herbalist, and I would advise you to see him." Such a person would be responsible for orally conveying a belief that something might be done for a person suffering from this dread curse. We should not shut the door to those who are prepared to devote their energies to finding a remedy.
The broader and wider we can make the sphere of investigation, the more we shall be able to call to our aid the experience that has been accumulated, and the more likely we are to find something beneficial for the victims of this disease. I know of persons who have been diagnosed as suffering from it and who have been told by the qualified people, "We can cut you, but we cannot guarantee that we shall cure you." I also know of persons who have gone to medical herbalists for nature treatment, and while no cure has been certain, they have had ease and comfort and a prolongation of life. I feel that such people ought to be able to contribute from their experience towards the development of the research associated with this problem. At any rate, we should not say to them, "You must not speak of your work; you must not address your annual conference on your experience or publish an account of it in your periodical," while the medical practitioners are allowed to do so through the "Lancet" and other medical publications.
There was in my mind another point which I would have liked to mention in this connection, and it is one of some value. When the Government are making this grant, for what purpose are they making it? They are making the grant in order that investigation and research shall take place. I am all for the abolition of the advertisement that scares and frightens people. I am all for the restriction of an opening to the quack that he may play on the emotions of people and get them to pay heavily, clutching at a kind of false hope of rescue. I believe everybody is against that kind of advertisément, but it is the interpretation which may be put upon that Clause about which I am concerned. If you are going 2085 to stop people talking of it and from their experience trying to make their contribution and are going to bring them within the scope of the Clause and open to prosecution, then I think it is entirely wrong, and I hope that the Government will not restrict the operation. Just as in other realms of science Pasteur was not what you call a qualified man, you have no right to close down the area of research, but should call to the aid of your labours all who may be able to make a contribution.
§ 12.8 a.m.
§ Dr. Peters
I want to support this Amendment, and in doing so I agree entirely with what the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) has said. There are very many people up and down this country who can cure, and have cured, cancer and who are not practitioners. It is well known that the Reverend J. Maillard, W. T. Parisland many other great healers are carrying out this work. I, myself, have had some unwanted publicity, but I have never given any publicity to those papers. For years I have been healing people of that disease. Now we are met by a Bill which, while the Minister has very kindly tried to meet my point of view, his correspondence leaves me entirely cold. This is a matter of very serious import and I would ask the House to give it their attention. Not only do spiritualists do this but there are faith healers and all sorts of people, some who claim no connection with Divine power or anything else, but who are definitely doing this work. An hon. Member may laugh but that only shows ignorance. When you have treated and seen the cancer in all their roots what is medical science going to say about that? What I say is that if all the letters that I and other people get are to be laid on one side, and we are not to be allowed even to advise people where to go, and we are not to be allowed even to telephone them and give them any advice where to go, when they have already been to medical science and have had operation after operation and have had their trouble then recurring, I say that the Minister is doing something very wrong to suffering humanity.
I do not mind what people say with regard to this subject; there is an ever-growing feeling that we want more and more investigation of it. I have for some 2086 three years or more been President of the Psychic Investigation Society, of Cambridge, and we have investigated many cases, and I say that if the Minister feels that he cannot meet us now, possibly he can give further consideration to the matter and bring in some safeguarding Clause. I think that his acceptance of the previous Amendment, that brings in the fiat of the Attorney-General, goes a long way to meet us, because I cannot conceive that in well-known cases of people who have been devoting years of their life to this sort of thing, and often without any payment whatever, but merely forth love of humanity, any prosecution ought to take place. I support the Amendment.
§ 12.12 a.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill
I rise to oppose the Amendment, and in doing so I must express my regret at having to oppose some of my colleagues on these Benches. The hon. Member for Huntingdonshire (Dr. Peters), who has just sat down and who has told us of the cases that he has treated, is in fact a Doctor of Literature.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I should have said a Doctor of Law, and he does not approach this question from the medical angle.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I suppose I need not apologise for being a Doctor of Medicine, and I can assure the House that I and all my colleagues are conscious of the debt that we owe to people like Pasteur and others who have not been members of the medical profession.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Yes, we were. I feel that these interruptions are a little feline. As I was saying, or trying to say, my profession appreciate the debt that we owe to these men and realise the contribution that they have made to medical science. If this Amendment applied to some other disease than cancer, I might be inclined to support it, but it is almost frivolous for the Mover of the Amendment to compare cancer with obesity or baldness. Cancer is a malignant growth. It is said that we have little knowledge of its origin or 2087 its cure, but in condemning our profession you must remember that 150 years ago we had little knowledge of the origin and cure of smallpox, yet I believe that this year there have been no deaths in this country from smallpox and that there have been only five mild cases reported. I think we owe this achievement to a humble little medical practitioner called Dr. Jenner.
§ Dr. Summerskill
May I remind the House that this disease cannot in any way be compared with any other disease? We have certain evidence, which cannot be disputed, and it is on that that I argue my case for the rejection of this Amendment. That evidence is that after analysis of about 3,000 cases of cancer, it was discovered that if cancer is taken in the first stage there is an excellent chance of cure. I quoted the figures on the Second Reading. They are astonishing. Unfortunately, I did not bring them to-night, because I did not realise that the Bill would be before the House. But it was discovered that if cancer is taken in the first stage 60 per cent. of the patients are alive at the end of 10 years; if it is left till the second stage the percentage drops to something like 30, and if it is left till the third stage the percentage drops to something like 10. If this Amendment is carried, you will allow any Tom, Dick or Harry in the country to try his nostrums, almost certainly, in this vital first stage. It is no comfort to say that, the herbalist's cure having failed—and the herbalists, of course, have no qualifications at all—[Interruption.] Rubbish. I beg pardon; the hon. Member is misinformed. Anybody, with no qualifications at all, can start in a little shop as a herbalist. [Interruption.] I wish the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) would confine her remarks to alcohol, and leave cancer to me. I feel that this matter is of such seriousness that it does demand the attention of the House.
This is a dangerous Amendment, and I want people to be fully informed so far as I can inform them. It is no comfort to say that after the herbalist, or whoever he may be, a boiler-maker or anybody else, has treated the patient, then the patient can be sent to the doctor or the 2088 surgeon. Then, almost certainly, it is too late. Perhaps the glands are involved, there is a secondary growth, and the patient is in the second or third stage. The innocent patient has submitted to this treatment in the first place believing that in that way he can avoid an operation. I am asking hon. Members to consider the patient. I bear no malice towards anybody who believes he can treat disease. I hope the House does not feel that I am bigoted in my attitude, or that I think the medical profession should have a monopoly of disease. I appeal to the House to reject the Amendment, because I believe that if put into effect it will be a source of danger to the community.
§ 12.19 a.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
I rise to support the Amendment. While I bow to the superior knowledge of the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill), in that she is a registered medical practitioner and I am a lay person, I believe many of her arguments are without substance. I think I am stating the truth when I say that cancer is one of the diseases about which the medical profession have still most to learn. The hon. Lady says that, if we allow these advertisements, we shall prevent people from being treated in the first stages of cancer, but I would suggest that it is generally after the medical man has failed and they have been operated upon perhaps once, twice or even three times, that they turn to these unqualified men. It is not in the early stages. I was astonished to hear the hon. Lady mention vaccination as an illustration of the achievements of the medical profession and tell us here in this House that there had not been one case of death from smallpox in this country during the last year. I wonder whether she has looked up the number of deaths that there have been from vaccination, and whether she is quite convinced that what the medical profession put forward as a cure for smallpox is indeed a cure.
We have no right to regard and treat the disease of cancer, about which we all admit little is known, as being different from all other diseases; we have no right to say that the quack-medicine man, the herbalist and the spiritual healer may all advertise and make public such knowledge as they consider they possess in the treatment of any other diseases, but that this one disease, which up to date very few doctors can say they never diagnose 2089 wrongly, has to be treated quite differently from all other diseases. The hon. Lady must have forgotten the speech which she made on the Health Estimates in this House last year, when she told us that she had taken her degree as a doctor and was qualified to go out into the world and treat mothers in childbirth, although in fact she had never treated a woman in childbirth herself when she was qualifying.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I think that if the hon. Lady will look up the Official Re port she will find that I said that it was possible for a student to go out after having treated 20 cases——
§ Mrs. Tate
It is extraordinarily difficult to treat a mother in childbirth if you have not been near the bed. Personally, I am not in the least a fussy woman, but if I were relying on medical attention in child-birth I should like the doctor somewhere near the bed. The abysmal ignorance with which some doctors are allowed to treat mothers in childbirth is as nothing compared with their abysmal ignorance when they sometimes find themselves in the position of having to diagnose what may or may not be cancer. The mere faith of a human being in what may be a possible cure is of some value, and for that reason, and until our knowledge is far more extensive than it is to-day, we have no right to take this one disease and treat it differently from all other diseases.
§ 12.25 a.m.
§ Mr. Lansbury
We are discussing a very serious and terrible disease, and I am sorry that it has to be discussed at this very late hour. We are at the moment considering the question of publicity on the part of people who may think that they have a cure. I have, personally, known Mr. Maillard practically all his life. He started life without any thought of becoming a person connected with faith-healing. There have been some most remarkable instances of downright cure. I am quite certain that the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) has quite good reasons for her faith that Mr. Maillard and those who believe in him are just stupid, silly, 2090 sentimental fools, but facts are facts and there have been cures which can be substantiated, and it is no use anyone saying that this is not so. I should not have intervened but for the statement of the hon. Member for West Fulham that people will go to quacks in the early stages of this disease. I have had a very bitter experience in connection with this disease, in fact several. In the early stages much money was spent on diagnosing by the ordinary practitioner and experts in medicine. I have much to be thankful for to medical men, surgeons and nurses, but it is a mistake, if the hon. Lady will allow me to say so, for the medical profession to be as dogmatic as she has been to-night on this subject.
I could detain the House with, from my point of view fearful to know, incorrect diagnoses of children and young people in my own knowledge and connected with myself. I do not blame the medical profession. They are only human, they do not know everything and never can know everything, and about cancer they know precious little. There has been one case which I knew well from beginning to end and in that case it never was diagnosed—although very large sums of money were spent on expert advice—until the last three months. Directly it was decided what was wrong, every sort of proposition which offered any relief we wanted to try, because we were in despair with the medical profession. I am not standing here in judgment on the medical profession. I repeat that they cannot know everything and cancer has defeated them up to the present time. I would not have spoken to-night but for the notion which has been expressed that it is people in the early stages of the disease who rush to the people whom my hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham thinks are quacks. That is not so. It is when they are in absolute despair that they go from one to the other. I know a case from my own personal knowledge where we went from one man in Harley Street to another, and each had a different remedy. We could have spent hundreds of pounds on the case, going from one man to another, with each having a different remedy for dealing with it.
I do not want—and I hope the Minister will not imagine that I do—to open the door to all kinds of quackery, but I do 2091 wish the people who think they have a legitimate cure shall not be penalised for it and prevented in any way from bringing it forward. I protest altogether against the notion that there is no such thing as faith healing and scientific healing through faith. I believe in it and I would not be here to-night if I did not believe in it. I owe a great deal to doctors and nurses but I owe a great deal more to the mercy of God, in whom I hope I may claim that I put trust.
§ 12.32 a.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
Especially after the moving remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) the House will not expect that, answering on behalf of the Government, I should enter into any dispute in the question-begging area of whether cancer should be treated by registered or unregistered practitioners or whether "quack" is the appropriate term to apply to somebody who does not happen to possess particular qualifications. I do not think it is along that line of approach that this Amendment can be judged at all. The real question underlying the whole discussion and the whole case made by those who put forward the Amendment was that put by the hon. Member for Bradford Central (Mr. Leach). He said, "I would like to see Clause 4 withdrawn altogether." That, and nothing else, is what the House is considering in this Amendment, because I hope it will accept it from me that on an analysis of the Amendment there certainly might not be a Clause at all if the Amendment were accepted. What does the Amendment do? It exempts from the provisions of the Clause reports or accounts of treatment for cancer, whether they are published orally or otherwise, by anyone—because within the category of unregistered practitioners you can include anybody—to anyone, because it is to persons and in any publication.
§ The Solicitor-General
Yes, that is the law which he wishes to see sustained. Almost the whole voice of the House of Commons on Second Reading and during the Committee stage Debate desired that it should not be, and desired particularly that the public in this country should be protected from it. The hon. Gentleman based his case for doing what he seeks 2092 to do on what he said was opening wide the door to exploitation. I should prefer to put it in this way: If this Amendment is carried and indiscriminate advertisement of this kind, following the campaign which this Bill will inaugurate, is permitted, it will open the door to exploitation of the most hideous form of suffering. It is just exactly that that this Clause aims at preventing. I want to make things perfectly clear on this point, because misapprehension seems to have underlain some speeches. There is no discrimination in this Clause as between the doctor and the unregistered practitioner. Any defence is open to a doctor which is open to an unregistered practitioner. Provided that the publication of the matter is made only within the limits set down in Sub-section (4) it does not matter a rap whether the person who publishes the matter has a medical degree or not. There is no discrimination of that kind effected by this Clause.
Let us then for a moment examine what the Clause does, because I am still convinced that there is a. good deal of misapprehension on the matter. The first thing is that to infringe the Clause the matter which is published must be an advertisement. Far be it from me to try to define what an advertisement is. It has never been defined in law. It is something like the boy and the dromedary. He could not define it but he knew one when he saw it. If there is any difficulty in deciding whether a matter comes within the limits of an advertisement I would remind the House that we have just passed an Amendment which requires the consent of the Attorney-General or Solicitor-General before a prosecution shall be instituted.
§ Mr. Hayday
If I were to speak to him and say "I have been treating a person for cancer and I could look after you, too," would that be orally an advertisement? That is the sort of thing which is in my mind. Would my conversation constitute an advertisement?
§ The Solicitor-General
I do not think so. At any rate, as a Law Officer of the Crown I would not permit a prosecution upon it. Before this Clause comes into operation at all the first essential is that the publication must be an advertisement. The only case decided on the point which I know of was where a newspaper was distributed gratis in the streets of London 2093 and it was held not to be an advertisement within the meaning of a particular Act, and it is quite obvious that the mere publication of a written statement with regard to something is not by itself an advertisement. Secondly, it must either offer to treat or it must be calculated to lead to the use of an article. Reading either of those restrictions of the term "advertisement" in conjunction with the generic word "advertisement" itself, I am perfectly satisfied that in law an academic statement, by which I mean a statement for the general information of the public or inquiry as to a particular method of treatment, does not come within the definition of an advertisement in law at all, quite apart from the discretion which is put upon the Law Officers of the Crown. I should say that it is inherent in the whole conception of the Bill that it should be a publication which was designed to effect a disposition of a treatment to the advantage of somebody.
§ Mr. Hayday
The wording of the Clause is "and any announcement made orally." If two persons meet and one says "Mr. So-and-So has treated me, I should advise you to go there too," or Mr. So-and-So says "I treated somebody and I could treat you," would that be an announcement made orally?
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) will recognise that I had the last Subsection in mind. There again he is under a misapprehension. The last Sub-section does not define what is an advertisement. All it says is, if a thing is an advertisement. The term "advertisement" is wide enough to include a notice, circular, label, wrapper and announcements made orally, and so on. In other words, it has got to be an advertisement, and advertisements may include the ordinary things which one recognises as being advertisements, such as a piece of newspaper containing a description of an article, with a recommendation for its sale or use or recommendation on payment, and, in addition to that, advertisement may now take place by means of some oral description of an article, and it will not be sufficient as a defence to say it was not an advertisement because it was merely words. It is not a definition; it is an amplification of the term so as to make it perfectly clear that you can include in 2094 the term "advertisement" something not put down in writing.
What I submit is this: If the House accepts the principle that it is desirable in the present state of, shall I say, scientific knowledge, to limit the possibilities of exploitation for private gain of treatment of this dreadful disease, it will pass this Clause in its main principle. If it disagrees with that as a conception and it desires to leave the matter at large both for exploration and for exploitation, it will pass the Amendment on the Paper, but it should be in no doubt that the Amendment renders the Clause completely and absolutely valueless as a protection against exploitation and suffering by means of advertisement. That it interferes with the unregistered or unorthodox exploration of the remedies will not stand analysis for a moment, because there is no discrimination made between the one and the other. For these reasons, while my right hon. Friend appreciates very much the caution with which the House has approached this topic, and desires to express to all sides that there should be no undue limitation of reasonable scientific research, he cannot accept this Amendment, which would throw the door open wide to abuses of the kind that really are too terrible to contemplate, without an attempt by Parliament to deal with them.
I think it was said by one of the speakers that this was an absolutely exceptional and unique power. That is not so. There is a parallel in the Venereal Diseases Act of 1917, the provisions of which against advertisements are more stringent than this. In that case, also, there is no definition of advertisements—simply the bald phrase and complete and absolute prohibition, and it can at any rate be said that in that case the remedies for the treatment of venereal disease are comparatively well known and that many of them are well tried.
§ The Solicitor-General
I should have thought that was one reason why you should prohibit advertisements offering 2095 treatment for something which after all is not yet well diagnosed. Whereas there are certain quite well known and specific remedies for various types of venereal disease, Parliament took a most strict line under the Venereal Diseases Act in saying that notwithstanding that these remedies are, so to speak, of household knowledge and well-known specific remedies, they shall not be advertised at all. With that example, which is a much stronger one than this, it is not the case that the House has no precedent for legislation of this kind. For these reasons I hope the House will resist the Amendment and allow the Clause to stand.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
Supposing there was a herbalist society and they published in a paper not the ordinary kind of advertisement but certain things would aid in the cure of cancer, would that be counted as an advertisement.
§ The Solicitor-General
I think that if the question is whether a statement which constituted an offer to treat, or represented an article as being calculated to effect a cure, was inserted in such a form as to aim at recommending the use of that treatment, then that would constitute an advertisement, but it would be a defence if the publication was made within the limits and to the persons specified in the Clause.
§ 12.46 a.m.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
It is quite evident to the Minister, as to us here, that the opinion of the House on this matter is very much divided in all the parties here represented. I think it would be a very great pity if at this very late hour a matter of such importance should be decided finally by the application of a strict party whip, in view of the expressions of opinion which have been put forward so sincerely from people of very different political views. I myself would be very loth to think that the House would be persuaded to a final decision and to the view of the Minister of Health by the legal address we have just heard. I speak with rather bitter experience, not unconnected with the trade in patent medicines. Legal opinions have been given from time to time, not only by the Law Officers of the Crown but by Departmental officials, but since then, having been tested in the courts, they have been found to be of 2096 no value. I have a case on at this moment, with regard to a certain pan of the business of pharmacy, in which we are pressing the Home Office for some relief from a decision of the courts which one would never have believed could possibly have happened from the assurances which had been given to us at previous stages of the passage of that Bill. The kind of opinion just given by the Law Officer of the Crown is of no value in asking the House to make up its mind. That is not said in any disrespect to the Solicitor-General, because he was very careful to lay down how difficult it was to define what an advertisement really happened to be. I hope the House will bear that in mind when it comes to make a decision.
The next thing I want to say is that whoever speaks to-night from any quarter of the House will have to speak, as it seems to me, of his personal view. I certainly do not claim to speak as representing the Labour view on this Amendment, which happens to be moved by a Labour Member. There will be lots of people in my party who probably entirely disagree with me. I think it would be a great pity if we should have to vote on this particular issue to-night on a party basis because the Government put on the Whips. I have had some grave doubts in making up my mind about this and I put these points to the House and leave it to judge. I have been persuaded in the last resort to-night by a colleague of the House who has been treated for cancer by an unregistered medical practitioner. If he could have stayed to-night to address the House he would have been speaking in the course of his recovery from the disease. He is following the advice of the unregistered practitioner in going home to bed at a reasonable hour.
What are the facts? Two years ago he went away to be treated for internal trouble. He was operated on to the extent of being cut open and examined and at the end of that process they assured him they could not go further with the operation and that he had two months to live. He was sewn up and returned home. It is simply the case that by an oral advertisement to him from another person who had received advantage from a cure not put up by a medical practitioner, he reverted to this cure. The consequence is that he is not 2097 only improving but he has already lived two years instead of the two months which were given him by the medical practitioner, and he is back in the House as a living witness doing his work as the result of the advice of an unregistered medical practitioner.
The wording of the Clause leaves in the minds of hon. Members like myself complete doubt, after listening to the Solicitor-General, as to whether, when my hon. Friend, who authorises me to speak to-night, perhaps in three months time when feeling a little stronger, begins to talk of his cure by oral advertisement to people who are suffering, will be guilty of a crime. Will the Solicitor-General answer that?
§ Mr. Elliot
Certainly. He will be no more and no less liable than anyone recounting a cure by a registered practitioner.
§ Mr. Alexander
That is the view of the Minister of Health, because he is anxious for the Clause to pass.
§ Mr. Elliot
I do not think anyone could suggest there is not a certain divergence of opinion. Some hon. Members think the Clause differentiates between a registered and unregistered practitioner. There is nothing anywhere which prevents anyone saying: "Doctor Jones cured me of my cancer" any more than saying "Mr. Jones cured me of my cancer" If there is doubt whether that statement would be an advertisement my answer is that that is why we put in the Law Officer as the person who must be consulted.
§ Mr. Alexander
I appreciate the spirit of the Minister of Health and I accept some part of his argument, but what I do object to as a responsible Member of Parliament is leaving a point such as that to some future Law Officer of the Crown.
§ Mr. Elliot
That is the Bill, but nobody has suggested that any part of the Clause says anything contravening what I have said as to giving the assurance of the Law Officer as a further safeguard. The Bill and the Clause together cannot be read in any other way than the way I have mentioned to the House.
§ Mr. Alexander
I do not accept that, but in the particular treatment of the unregistered practitioner to which I have referred there is an actual bottle remedy. It may well be that from the experience 2098 of my hon. Friend, plus the experience of many other people, it would be in the public interest eventually if the experience of those people and the particulars of the bottle remedy be advertised. Why not?
§ Mr. Elliot
Published, certainly, but I do not think anyone would say that it was desirable that these very important matters should be the subject of front page advertisements. If that is not so, then there is a clash of opinion. I think all would agree that it should be published, and widely published; indeed, the results of many forms of treatment have been published, but I do not think they should be commercialised.
Would such a man be allowed to write an article, have it published in a journal and circulated to a number of people?
§ Mr. Alexander
I would like to say that I feel the Minister of Health has not answered my point. I feel that the answer the Minister has given has not removed the doubt in my mind and I am quite certain that in his last answer he has not interpreted what the Clause means. There will be great dubiety about it. I myself would not leave that point in the hands of any Law Officer of the future to decide whether or not an important cure of that kind was to be the subject of a prosecution. I have made up my mind, after listening to the Minister of Health's reply, and although I cannot speak for anyone but myself I shall support the Amendment.
Lieut.-Colonel H. Guest
After hearing the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) I most sincerely hope it is not proposed to deal with this as any party question whatever and that we may vote as we like. There may be people in this country who believe in any form of faith healing which may be of advantage to them and who think they may get the consolation of cure by those means. I hope we shall be allowed to vote as we like.
§ 12.56 a.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I should not have troubled to intervene if the learned 2099 Solicitor-General had spared me a moment in his remarks. Although he did not feel able to do that I do think my point is of importance and justifies me in raising it now. I understand from the intervention made by the Minister of Health that all he wishes to attack in this Bill is the use of advertisements which might be fraudulent, and, even if not, would be commercial exploitation of a very dreadful scourge. If that is all he wanted to do he has provided altogether too widely. It may be, too, that the Amendment has been too widely drawn, but I am bound to say that when I listened to the Solicitor-General's interpretation of what the Clause did I was assailed by considerable doubts. I have in my mind, as I have no doubts many hon. Members have in theirs, another occasion when a Law Officer of the Crown was interpreting another Act—the Official Secrets Act. The Attorney-General of the day said it could not be used for certain purposes and would be used only for other narrowly defined purposes. He lived to become the Lord Chief Justice of this country hearing an appeal on that very point, and he found himself in the position of having to deny as Lord Chief Justice what he had advised on that very point when he was the chief Law Officer of the Crown.
It is all very well for Law Officers of the Crown to say what the courts are going to decide on points in the law; but it is quite another thing to say that the courts will reach a decision of a certain nature. Let us look at Sub-section (7) of this Clause. It says that under this Section the expression "advertisement" includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper or other document and any announcement made orally or by any means of producing or transmitting sounds. Now the Solicitor-General says, quite properly, it is not a definition, and the only reason why it is not a definition is because it says it "includes," not that it must be an advertisement first of all but first of all that these things are advertisements.
§ The Solicitor-General
It would be nonsense to say that a wrapper is an advertisement. All the Clause says is that it must be an advertisement. It does not cease to be an advertisement because you see it on a wrapper or hear it on a gramophone.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not concerned to say that what the hon. and learned Gen- 2100 tleman has said may not be the true interpretation; but I would like him to say whether he can conceive any court which had a document in front of it containing advice for the treatment of cancer which would not say it contained a reference to any article, or articles of any description, manufactured, produced, imported, sold or offered for sale in the treatment of cancer. I think it would be quite wrong to say that the courts would not hold that these were advertisements. This Clause is very widely drawn and is bound to give rise to the fears that have been expressed. I hope the Minister of Health will consider the points which have been raised.
§ 1.4 a.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I want to make an appeal to the Minister of Health to reconsider this proposal. Many of us have listened with open minds to the Debate on this particular Amendment. I have a tremendous respect for the medical profession, but listening to the Debate tonight I am convinced that should this Clause pass it might lead to a restriction of knowledge which would be useful for the cure of this disease. I asked the Solicitor-General earlier whether a journal could publish a statement regarding a cure for this disease and I gathered from him that it could. I believe that the. House thinks that this Clause is too restricted and I do want to appeal to the Minister to give further consideration to the Clause and to see whether he can meet the legitimate cases that have been brought forward. It may be that the words of the Amendment are too wide and perhaps they too may be reconsidered.
§ 1.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I also speak with considerable hesitancy on this problem. This is a Bill which provides money for local authorities to deal with this problem. One thing seems certain: we shall be no more agreed on this issue later on than we are this day. I should say, having read this Clause and the other Clauses, that I am in favour of the point of view of the Government. The first words of Clause 4 make it clear that no person shall take part in the publication of any advertisement. That is the kernel of the problem. I am not going to say a single word about faith healing; I know people who have satisfied themselves that they have been cured by means other than those employed by medical 2101 practitioners. Let me say on the other hand that we know of tragic cases where faith healing has not meant a cure but has aggravated the condition which could have been saved by medical practitioners. Let me say that it is the experience of anyone who sits in the office of an approved society and has to deal with every sort of ailment that the people of this country are probably the most gullible people on God's earth. They are being exploited right and left by quacks and advertisements and I agree with the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Holdsworth) when I say there might be a middle course between two conflicting ideas. My experience as the secretary of an approved society has shown that we should take some steps to prevent exploitation of the sick by advertisers who are making tons of money out of those who suffer.
§ 1.10 a.m.
§ Mr. Eastwood
I rarely speak in this House, but I hope that the House will forgive me if I add my voice to suggest that this matter may be further and more deeply considered. I accept everything which has been said by the learned Solicitor-General and by the Minister of Health as far as the legal side of this Bill is concerned. It is perfectly true that this Clause applies equally in its wording to registered medical practitioners and to unregistered practitioners, but it is a very different thing when one turns to the practical application of the Clause. If hon. Members will look at the Clause they will see that it starts by saying that no person shall take part in the publication of any advertisement, and then in Sub-section (4) it sets out what shall be an adequate defence in case anybody is charged. It shall be an adequate defence if the advertisement was published only so far as reasonably necessary to bring it to the notice of the following class of persons: members of the governing body of a hospital, registered medical practitioners, registered nurses, registered pharmacists and authorised sellers of poisons, persons undergoing training with a view to becoming registered medical practitioners, registered nurses or registered pharmacists That is a defence which is available for both registered and unregistered men, but it means that so far as the unregistered man is concerned if, perfectly genuinely, he thinks that he has made an important 2102 discovery and wants to advertise—and I use the word in its widest sense—in order to have a defence he must go to that very class of persons who, however able they are, are by virtue of their qualifications inclined to be prejudiced against an unregistered man who may have got some extraordinarily good advance in the science of the discovery of a cure for cancer.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but he has overlooked No. 7 of the categories, which is the widest possible one—persons carrying on a business which includes the sale or supply of surgical appliances. The only qualification is that it must be a person whose business includes the sale or supply of surgical appliances, and that is a very wide phrase.
§ Mr. Eastwood
With the greatest respect to the Solicitor-General, surely to draw my attention to that is unworthy of him. What it means is this: If one confines this Clause which I have been dealing with to its practical side it means that the unregistered practitioner may not like perhaps to go to a registered medical practitioner with his discovery and perhaps may not like to go to the governing body of a hospital or to a nurse, but he can go to a person who carries on the business of supplying surgical appliances. That is very cold comfort to the unregistered practitioner. There is a second point, and again I accept what the Minister of Health and the Solicitor-General have said. There is considerable security given to the unregistered practitioner by the Amendment which has just been accepted, that no prosecution shall be started without the consent of the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General. But surely the practical side of that must be this: No unregistered practitioner, be he herbalist, faith-healer or spiritualist, wants to put himself in a position where he may risk a prosecution. It is not for him to say, "I think I can do that because I do not think that the Attorney-General of the day will take a strong view about it." If he is an honest investigator, anxious to find a cure for cancer, he wants no check put upon him in the nature of the check which would be put upon him here if he thinks he would be prosecuted.
The fraudulent quack can probably be dealt with now under the criminal law. 2103 If he is trying to sell something that is not genuine he may be prosecuted for obtaining money by false pretences. If, as a result of his ill-advised quackery, someone dies, then there may be a trial for manslaughter. That is under the existing law. You have venereal disease diagnosed with certainty and cured with certainty. By all means stop the sale of any harmful drug that some quack may try to foist on the public, because you know how you can cure it. But here you have something in regard to which the medical profession has failed. The hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) said that in its first stage a large number of cases of cancer were curable by operation. But operation is in itself a profession of failure. Here is a disease which is the secret fear of a large number of people and for which many earnest people are seeking a cure. If that cure is found, then by all means confine the people to that cure. If the Minister of Health can tell the House that there has been a large number of complaints from people who have been to unregistered practitioners and have thereby suffered—but I am convinced that he cannot—then there would become justification for this Clause. I do not like the Clause and I do not like the Amendment, but I shall support the Amendment because I think it is better than the Clause without the Amendment.
§ 1.19 a.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I agree with the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) that by postponing we shall not come to a clearer view of the issue. I think it is worth noting that it is not our doing that this matter comes up at this stage of the Bill, because when this Clause was under discussion in Committee there was only one voice raised, and that was the voice of the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams), who gave it his blessing. I am sure that the House is in a mood now to decide. I think it has been brought up in argument that there is a general desire that, if it is possible, the exploitation of advertisements of cures for this terrible scourge is repugnant to the feeling of the majority of hon. Members. Not all, because there are some who say, "Let us have complete freedom and liberty in this matter. Although a certain amount of damage is done, yet if one grain of corn is found in the chaff it will 2104 outweigh the damage that is being done." That is not the view of the majority of the House which considers that the commercialisation of remedies or alleged remedies for a thing so grave as this is repugnant to the sense of most of us. Part of the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Eastwood) was that we should adjourn or reconsider or take into account these words.
That argument was also put by the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth). I should certainly be willing to do so if I thought that by further consideration some further form of words could be found to resolve this difficulty. But it seems to me to be a difficulty which cannot be resolved merely by a formula of words. Let us face it. This Clause, if it is accepted by the House, will place certain restrictions on the advertising of cures for cancer, either by registered or unregistered practitioners, which do not exist now. If the House thinks it desirable that some step towards that should be taken, then it will vote for the Clause. If it thinks it is undesirable that such a step should be taken because of the risks—the admitted risks—to freedom and private enterprise which this Clause certainly involves, then the House will vote for the Amendment, and that will mean admittedly the end of the Clause.
I beg the House to think twice whether that is the decision it should come to to-night. We have done our best to meet the dangers which hon. Members in many parts of the House see here, by bringing in the assent of the Attorney-General as a step without which no prosecution can go forward. I think it is admitted by all that that has gone a long way to meet the dangers which hon. Members see. I do not believe that we can advance along this road without at any rate making a certain amount of interference with the complete and unrestricted power of any private individual to advertise anything he wishes to an unlimited extent. No form of words will preserve the bona fide individual who does that against the mala fide individual who is merely seeking to make money, save by the judgment of some responsible person, and that responsible person, I suggest, is one of the Law Officers of the Crown, acting in a judicial capacity.
If we were to say to-night that we will take no step along this road, I say that 2105 would be wrong. Committee after Committee, time after time, has suggested that some day, some how, in some way, we shall need to take some steps towards limiting and restricting the unrestricted exploitation of suffering by advertisements which admittedly does take place now. You will always find arguments put forward for not taking this step, but I beg the House to take this step. I am asked whether I will take off the Whips? I cannot do that. I have to give guidance
§ to the House as the responsible Minister. It is my responsibility, and in asking the House to come to a decision, I say it is my belief that this is a step which the House should take. It is right to take the course submitted in the Clause, which I beg the House to accept.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 60; Noes, 122.2105
|Division No. 58.]||AYES.||[1.26 a.m.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Barr, J.||Holdsworth, H.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)|
|Burke, W. A.||John, W.||Sorenson, R. W.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n.le.Sp'ng)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Kirkwood, D.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Daggar, G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Dalton, H.||Leonard, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobbie, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Ede, J. C.||Marshall, F.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Mathers, G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Messer, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Palmer, G. E. H.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Ridley, G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Mr. Leach and Mr. Hayday.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Hammersley, S. S.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Hannah, I. C.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Harbord, A.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Higgs, W. F.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Balniel, Lord||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Holmes, J. S.||Scott, Lord William|
|Bernays, R. H.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Selley, H. R.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Horsbrugh, Florence||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Holderness)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Silkin, L.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Hunter, T.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Bull, B. B.||Hutchinson, G. G.||Southby, Commander SI. A. R. J.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Jagger, J.||Storey, S.|
|Channon, H.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Clark., Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Kerr, Colonel C. l. (Montrose)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Leech, Sir J. W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Logan, D. G.||Tltchfield, Marquess of|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Cross, R. H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||McKie, J. H.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Duggan, H. J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Medlicott, F.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||White, H. Graham|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Emery, J. F.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Oliver, G. H.||Wise, A. R.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Peake, O.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Framantle, Sir F. E.||Poole, C. C.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Furness, S. N.||Porritt, R. W.||Wragg, H.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Price, M. P.||Wright, Wing-Commander J, A. C.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Procter, Major H. A.||York, C.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Radford, E. A.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Ramsbotham, H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grimston, R. V.||Rankin, Sir R.||Major Sir James Edmondson and|
|Guest, Maj. Hon.O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Mr. Munro.|