HC Deb 04 May 1959 vol 605 cc4-5
9. Mr. N. Pannell

asked the Minister of Health how many of the 275 persons in the United Kingdom suffering from leprosy at 31st December, 1958, were immigrants from the Commonwealth and Colonies.

Mr. Walker-Smith

As stated in my reply to my hon. Friend's Questions on 27th April, I regret that information as to the country of birth of persons suffering from leprosy is not available.

Mr. Pannell

Since most of the people suffering from this disease in this country at the moment contracted it outside the country, can we not assume that most of them are either colonial or Commonwealth immigrants? Does not my right hon. and learned Friend consider that regulations should be introduced to prevent people who are suffering from this disease from entering the country?

Mr. Walker-Smith

We must be a little careful about what assumptions we make. No doubt a considerable number are immigrants, but there are also those born in this country who see service in areas abroad in varying capacities who contract the disease and then return to this country. I do not think there is any case here for taking drastic measures of the sort which my hon. Friend seems to have in mind.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman resist any attempt to create anxiety about this matter in view of the perfectly well known fact that leprosy can be much more easily controlled than in the past?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Yes, I think that is right. Contrary to what is often thought, leprosy is not a highly infectious disease. I do not think there is any reason for great apprehension about it.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Is not leprosy nevertheless a very serious disease, whether curable or not? Even if the place of birth of these people is not known, should it not be easy enough to find their country of origin and to see whether any immigration control, based upon that, ought to be exercised?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The powers of the port medical officers, in regard to cases where they detect or suspect infectious disease, are well known. I do not think it would be right, unless there were some specific cause for so doing, to ask for an amendment to the statutory regulations by way of providing further machinery, which, as I say, I do not think the facts in this case at present call for.

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