HC Deb 30 March 1955 vol 539 cc372-3
48. Mr. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many leper hospitals there are in the Colonies; where they are; and in what Colonies lepers are refused permission, even when suitably accompanied, to visit towns away from the leper centres.

Mr. Hopkinson

There is an institution for the treatment of leprosy in every Colony in which the disease is endemic, either in leprosy hospitals, out-patient departments of general hospitals, or in separate settlements or villages. Contact with the general public in the case of patients under treatment is related to the risk of infection in each case.

Mr. Teeling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that recently there have been so many discoveries with regard to leprosy that it is considered by those who are studying this disease that it is no longer really necessary to have these completely isolated settlements? Will he make sure that the Colonial Office is keeping that in mind?

Mr. Hopkinson

Yes, Sir. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling). Fortunately, many of the new drugs which have been discovered have made it possible to treat an increasing number of cases as out-patients, to allow patients in institutions to go home for short periods, or to discharge them altogether. We certainly have this aspect of the matter very much in mind.

Dr. Stross

May we take it from that reply that it is now accepted that leprosy is not a dangerously infectious or contagious disease, and that free movement does not necessarily bring danger to the community at large?

Mr. Hopkinson

Yes, Sir. As I said in my original answer, the danger does depend, of course, on the specific case, but in the general way people still retain a very serious dread of this disease. Only education as to the effects of modern drugs and so on will eradicate that fear.

Mr. Nicholson

Can my right hon. Friend give, in round figures, the number of persons in the Colonial Empire suffering from leprosy, and give, also in round figures, the amount spent on their treatment?

Mr. Hopkinson

I shall need notice of that question.