HC Deb 26 March 1956 vol 550 cc1766-8
38. Mr. Chapman

asked the Minister of Health what action he has now decided to take, following the reports of his advisory committees, to inform the public about the dangers of lung cancer from smoking.

39. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Minister of Health whether he has now considered how to inform the public of the connection between smoking and lung cancer.

42. Dr. Stross

asked the Minister of Health what further action he proposes to take to enlighten the public as to the association of cancer of the lung and excessive smoking.

The Minister of Health (Mr. R. H. Turton)

I am not yet able to add to what I said on 19th March in answer to the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman), but I have this very important subject under urgent review.

Mr. Chapman

Will the Minister try to tell us how quickly he can make up his mind on this very important issue and try to give us a date? Will he also take note of the feeling which exists that there should be a national campaign and that the matter should not be left to small bodies and local authorities but should be officially sponsored by his Ministry? Will he make a note of the fact that he should try to emphasise in propaganda that one of the things which people can best do to help themselves is to give up smoking in the dangerous years between 40 and 50 when they become more susceptible to the disease?

Mr. Turton

I am studying the very points which the hon. Member has mentioned in his supplementary question.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Is the Minister aware that the Government have created the impression that they are not very enthusiastic about the whole thing? Has any pressure been exerted to delay action on the matter? The lung cancer figures are really shocking.

Mr. Turton

There is no basis for that impression at all. My right hon. Friend the present Minister of Labour and National Service made a very full statement on the position on 12th February, 1954. I am now considering what further statement should or should not be made.

Dr. Stross

Has the right hon. Gentleman as yet consulted his right hon. Friend the Minister of Education in order to ensure that the facts are taught continuously, or certainly at intervals, throughout all schools, and not only to boys but to girls as well? Will he bear in mind that this might well be the most fruitful field if the facts as we have received them are correct?

Mr. Turton

The first step is to find out exactly what the facts are at present as regards research, and how far they are additional to what was explained by my right hon. Friend on 12th February, 1954.

Dr. Summerskill

I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he already had the facts and that he implied last time, indeed I thought he made a statement, that he was now prepared to take action. Now the right hon. Gentleman says that he must first elicit the facts. May I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) has said? It may be too late to convert the tobacco addicts of 40, 50 and 60 years of age, but surely the most effective long-term policy, which I ask the Minister to consider—and we are discussing a serious matter—is to introduce this subject into a course of elementary hygiene in the school-leaving year for boys and girls.

Mr. Turton

I have never told the House that I was aware of all the facts. What I said last week was that I was considering what action would be appropriate to inform the country of what is known of the connection between smoking and cancer of the lung. That involves my seeing what is actually the state of our present knowledge of that relation.

Dr. Summerskill

The right hon. Gentleman has been pressed on this question for some weeks. Did he not say, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman), that he did not have enough facts on which to make any statement, whereas last week I understood that he was inclined to change his position?

Mr. Turton

I quoted exactly what I said last week. The right hon. Lady is under a misapprehension. If she refers to HANSARD she will find that I read out the Answer I gave last week.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the Minister remove this uncertainty? Is it safe for me to have a smoke this afternoon?

Mr. Turton

If the right hon. Gentleman abstains from smoking, he knows that there will be no danger at all.