HC Deb 16 November 1964 vol 702 cc24-6
34. Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that medical practitioners and others concerned with the treatment of leprosy are proscribing the use of the word leper, in view of the fact that the odium associated with this word has done much to prevent the co-operation of communities concerned and hence the eradication of the disease; and whether he will give an assurance that this consideration is borne in mind by the staff of his department.

35. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Minister of Health if he will give the numbers of lepers in England and Wales during each of the past five years, respectively.

37. Sir D. Walker-Smith

asked the Minister of Health what facilities at present exist within the National Health Service for the treatment of leprosy; and how many patients are under treatment therefore.

Mr. Robinson

My Department refers to "leprosy patients" or "sufferers from leprosy"

There are two special units for inpatients, one of which is outside the National. Health Service but accepts Health Service patients. Some patients are treated at other National Health Service hospitals. The numbers of patients in England and Wales on the Leprosy Register under treatment at 30th September was 328. The figures for the five years 1959 to 1963 at 31st December were, respectively, 189, 224, 221, 250 and 291.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

Could the right hon. Gentleman please answer my Question which refers to proscribing the use of the word "leper"?

Mr. Robinson

I told the hon. and gallant Gentleman what the practice of my Department is. I am not aware of any general proscription, but if he objects to the word "leper" perhaps he will have a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham), who uses it in his Question.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Would the right hon. Gentleman, whose accession to office I warmly welcome, having worked with him in the field of mental health, and knowing the constructive compassion he brings to these matters, nevertheless join in deprecating any use of terminology which, according to his own distinguished adviser on leprosy, is unscientific and inaccurate, and do what he can to stimulate a proper public attitude of sympathy and compassion for this unfortunate illness both in this country and among the many millions of people suffering in the Commonwealth and the less developed parts of the world?

Mr. Robinson

I am sure there is no need for me to stimulate any feeling of compassion for the sufferers from this illness, but perhaps I could help the right hon. and learned Gentleman by reminding him that, quite apart from its medical meaning, according to the dictionary the word "leper" is defined also as "a person shunned for moral and social reasons."

Sir Knox Cunningham

Could the right hon. Gentleman say if any of those "lepers" frequent the Labour Club at Smethwick?

Hon. Members


Sir Richard Glyn

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he would agree that this unfortunate complaint is more worthy of modern treatment, with the proper technological approach, rather than the use of a term of Old Testament abuse?

Mr. Robinson

This condition is subject to treatment, and I am advised that it is a condition of low infectivity, and the possibility of its transmission under normal social conditions in this country is virtually negligible.

Several Hon. Members rose


Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. Mr. Burden—No. 38.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

On a point of order.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I will deal with it before it is put. I apologise to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I forgot to call his next Question No. 36.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

On a point of order. With great respect, is is not the custom in this House to allow an hon. Member who asks a Question to ask a supplementary question?![HON. MEMBERS: "You did."]—In my case, all I asked the right hon. Gentleman to do was to answer my Question, which he has not done. Therefore, I have not yet had the benefit of a Supplementary Question.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member asked the Minister to answer that part of his Question which he failed to answer. The Minister thereupon gave a reply. I think the hon. and gallant Member did put his Supplementary Question and ought to be reasonably satisfied.