HC Deb 28 March 1944 vol 398 cc1327-30
Mr. Viant (Willesden, West)

I beg to move, in page 55, line 29, at the end, to add: Nothing in this Act shall be used for ascertaining the vaccinal condition of the children or their condition in respect to any other form of inoculation, or for securing the performance of such inoculations, or for the imposition of mass radiography or any other medical discovery. This Amendment has been put down because there is a considerable amount of apprehension among many parents as to the powers we are conferring on the Board of Education in regard to medical inspection and treatment. There is nothing like unanimity of opinion, even in the medical profession, in regard to vaccination and inoculation. The Minister has already been kind enough to present to the Committee an Amendment which gives parents the opportunity of informing the local authority that they desire that their own medical practitioner should examine their children and give them treatment. I hope we shall get from the Parliamentary Secretary a statement that will remove that apprehension.

Dr. Haden Guest

I very much hope the Parliamentary Secretary will not accept these words. They are so widely drawn that they would create considerable difficulties in regard, for instance, to school feeding. In my hon. Friend's Amendment there are the words: Nothing in this Act shall be used for ascertaining the vaccinal condition of the children … or for securing the performance of such inoculations, or for the imposition of mass radiography or any other medical discovery. If a medical discovery is that extra milk is desirable, or that vitamins in the form of orange juice are desirable, are children to be excluded from these things? That would be the most unfortunate result if this Amendment were accepted. The words: Nothing … shall be used for ascertaining the vaccinal condition … mean that the fact that a child has three marks on its shoulders shall not be recorded on a card. This Amendment is out of touch with the realities of school life. No one wishes to impose on a child or on anyone else any form of treatment to which there is reasonable objection. In its present form this Amendment would exclude the application for the benefit of the child of any new improvements as, for instance, the science of nutrition.

Mr. Messer

This Amendment brings to my mind the fact that something which is not being done might be done. It is clumsily drawn, because it deals with treatment and examination. Mass radiography is quite a recent thing. Until recently it was not possible to take miniature X-ray photographs. That is now possible, and a very large number of such photographs can be taken, with the result that it is possible to discover at an early stage a condition which might later become very serious. If the Amendment had asked that medical examination should include mass radiography among the children it would have been better. As it is, I am certain that the Parliamentary Secretary cannot accept it. I do not wish to say anything about vaccination or inoculation, but I know something of the success which has attended the efforts of miniature radiography, and I hope the Board will consider the advisability of ensuring that something in the nature of that examination should take place.

Mr. Ede

My right hon. Friend, at an earlier stage of the Bill, inserted an Amendment to meet the point of view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) with regard to treatment. I do not think the words of the Amendment are necessary; in fact, I cannot imagine how the applica- tion of the first part of the Amendment could possibly be worked under any scheme of medical inspection. If a child is stripped, it at once reveals whether it has been vaccinated or not, but I would like to tell my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) that not all children are vaccinated on the arm. Occasionally, vaccination marks are discovered elsewhere. But nothing will be done under this Clause or in this Bill to compel a child to be vaccinated or inoculated, or to undergo any of the other experiments mentioned in my hon. Friend's Amendment, without the consent of the parent being previously obtained. I am sure that that is what my hon. Friend aimed at. We do not desire that the latest medical discovery shall, of necessity, be foisted upon every child in our schools. I, for one, know that the latest medical discovery is sometimes discarded with even greater speed than it is introduced.

Mr. Viant

In view of that explanation I have great pleasure in withdrawing the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Dr. Haden Guest

This Clause provides that the Minister may require particulars of arrangements made by the authority in the exercise of their functions relating to medical inspection and medical treatment. Would it be possible for the Minister to have an inquiry made into the relation between home conditions of the child and school conditions? Many of the conditions which affect a child adversely in its school life arise not from the school but in the home. A report regarding overcrowding, infection and bad psychology would be of the greatest possible value in helping on school work, and I hope it will be possible for reports to be made on those lines.

Mr. Ede

My hon. Friend raised this matter on an earlier Clause, when my right hon. Friend gave a reply to which I can add nothing further.

Dr. Guest

The right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about making reports.

Mr. Ede

This is an Education Bill and we have to be careful in examining the suggestions of people who want to expand it into a scheme for the complete recasting of our social system. I have had to resist several Amendments which appeared to have been designed with that object in view. We are anxious to get as much information as we can about the reactions of social environment upon the schools, but as to a right to insist on a report on things which are not in the school, frankly I should think we could give no answer to-day which would satisfy my hon. Friend on this particular Clause.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 75 ordered to stand part of the Bill.