HL Deb 14 May 1897 vol 49 cc467-91

rose to call attention to the prevalence of contagious diseases in Her Majesty's Army, especially in India, and to move,— That in view of the Report of the Departmental Committee of the India Office of February 20, 1897, it is, in the opinion of this House, urgently necessary that an Inquiry be made into the effect of such diseases upon the Forces of the Crown, the civil population, and the native races within Her Majesty's dominions, and into the nature and results of the measures which are, or have been, in force in this and other countries for the prevention of such diseases. He said that since he put this Motion down on the Notice Paper some time ago, a very considerable change had taken place in the circumstances. Had he brought the matter forward at that time, he would have been bound to enter into a somewhat lengthy and exhaustive examination of a good many facts and statistics. But since then a Departmental Committee, presided over by his noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for India, had presented a Report which dealt with all the facts of the case as far as they affected India, clearly and graphically, and the Secretary of State had issued a Dispatch to the Indian Government on the subject with which their Lordships were cognisant. It would not, therefore, be necessary for him to go in great detail into ancient facts and statistics. The Report relieved him of that, but it also opened up a very much larger aspect of the whole case, for it referred not only to the reaction of the disease upon Her Majesty's troops in India, but also to the reaction and its effects upon the whole population at home. While he most heartily approved and applauded what the Government had done he could not conscientiously say he believed that any Measures which might be taken by the Indian Government subject to the limitations which were laid down in the Dispatch of the Secretary of State would prove efficacious in dealing with this evil, which was so detrimental to the strength of the Army in India and dangerous to the health of the whole community at home. In 1877 the admissions to hospital from venereal diseases were 362 per 1,000. In 1895 they had risen to 537 per 1,000. That was to say that during those eight years this proportion of men on the sick list owing to these causes had increased at the rate of 48 per cent., and more than half the total number of the forces in India had been affected by the diseases. The effect of this condition of things upon the efficiency of the troops in India was most graphically described in the Departmental Committee's Report. It stated that in 1895, 45 per 1,000, or, altogether, 3,200 men out of a total force of 71,031, were constantly in hospital from this cause. These were terribly high figures; but bad as they were they did not, as the Report showed, by any means represent the actual inefficiency. The Report mentioned cases of these diseases which were being treated outside the hospital, and which did not come into the Returns at all. It called attention to the fact that many men were in hospital or under treatment for various diseases of another character, which were either induced or greatly aggravated by venereal disease. The Report also alluded to the fact that a large number of men who were nominally cured were only fit for service under peace conditions, and would break down on field service. Among 5,822 men detailed for field service with the Chitral Relief Force, 462, or nearly 8 per cent., had to be rejected for venereal disease; 279 more, or an additional 4² per cent., had to be transferred from the field hospitals to the base for the same cause. The Chitral force was a fair sample of the whole, and calculating on that basis they were face to face with the appalling fact Hint out of a force of 70,000 men no less than 9,000, or 13 per cent, of the whole, were unlit for native service, owing to a cause which, to a great extent, at any rate, was a preventible cause. ["Hear, hear!"] The Deport certainly did not make the worst of the case. In cases of that kind it merely assumed that a soldier sent to the field hospital and from there to the base on active service was a soldier lost. As a matter of fact the detriment was greater than that, for every sick soldier on a campaign was an encumbrance and infinitely worse than no soldier at all. He remembered very well the speech of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for war, in introducing the Army Reserve Bill, in which he lamented the difficulty of sending so small a force of 20,000 men out of the country without dislocating and disarranging all ordinary military routine, and as their Lordships knew he recommended, and the Legislature sanctioned, an increase in the Army at an annual expense of, £600,000. Putting aside altogether their duty as a civilised country, putting aside what he thought their duty as a humane nation and acting within the spirit of the religion they professed, putting aside also the protective duty that Parliament owed to the whole community and looking at the matter purely from a commercial point of view as a mere question of pounds, shillings, and pence, it was perfectly plain that if efficacious steps could be taken to check the ravages of this disease there would be a greater gain to the efficiency of the Army than there would be by the increase to the Army that the Legislature had recently sanctioned, and his noble Friend would no longer have to deplore, or, at any rate, not to the same extent, the lamentable fact that they could not send 20,000 men out of the country without disarranging the whole course of their military routine. That was bad enough, but this dead loss to the Army did not represent the whole of the mischief, for the knowledge of the prevalence of these diseases had a most detrimental effect on recruiting, parents dissuading their sons from entering the Army from a natural dread of the consequences to which their children might be exposed by service in India. That was not strange, but was a natural state; of things. The Report gave an account of the condition of these unfortunate men in Netley:— Before reaching the age of 25 years these young men have come home, presenting a most shocking appearance; some lay there having obviously but a short time to live; others were unrecognisable from disfigurement by reason of the destruction of their features, or had lost their palates, their eyesight, or their sense of hearing; others again were in a state of extreme emaciation, their joints distorted and diseased. Not a few are time-expired, but cannot be discharged in their present condition, incapacitated as they are to earn their livelihood, and in a condition so repulsive that they could not mix with their fellow-men. Not, only had the diseases increased enormously in quantity, but they had also increased enormously in virulence. In 1887 there were 29 per 1,000 suffering from secondary syphilis. That number had been steadily rising until it now amounted to 85 per 1,000. The Return for 1804 showed that of a total of 70,000 men in India 5,421 had been in hospital for secondary diseases during the term of their Indian service, and probably many more were suffering from the same disease who had not been treated in hospital, for it. The officials at Netley declared that never had there been so many cases of secondary syphilis in the hospital nor of so bail a type. Consider the effect that that must have upon the civil population at home. Out of 13,000 men who returned from India every year, 3,640 were impregnated with this terrible and fatal disease, and a very small proportion were married. They became absorbed in the population at home; they married, and in many cases they transmitted the disease to their innocent offspring. Moreover, this disease, amongst many terrors and horrors, was transmissible by many means and with the greatest facility. The Departmental report said:— Doctors contract it in the performance of their duties. It may be caught through drinking out of a cup, or smoking a pipe, which has been touched by diseased lips; nurses can communicate it to infants, and infants to nurses. It is altogether a most easily communicable poison. The present condition of the Army in India, with the enormous prevalence of venereal disease, which has been shown to exist, yearly sending home thousands of men infected with constitutional taint, is therefore a great and growing source of danger to the whole community. The influence which it is liable to exercise upon the health of the home population is one of the gravest aspects of the whole question. These grave words were worthy of the attention not only of Parliament, but of the whole country. The gravity of the disease had always been known. In 1882 a Select Committee of the House of Commons reported:— The testimony to its severity, and to the injuries inflicted by it on the person who contracts it by contact, and on his or her innocent descendants, was irrestible. He remembered that Sir James Paget stated in his evidence before the Lords Committee:— We now know that certain diseases of the lungs, liver, and spleen are all of syphilitic origin, and the mortality from syphilis in its later forms is, every year, found to be larger and larger by its being found to be the source of a number of diseases, which previously were referred to other origins or to accidents. Quite recently the Royal College of Surgeons described the disease as one which not only undermines the constitution of those who contract it in the first instance, but, by reason of the many ways in which it may be transmitted, destroys the health and happiness of countless other persons, and induces in the children of those originally infected diseases of a most formidable character. The Royal College of Physicians said that in its opinion the disease was:— One of the most serious, insidious and lasting of all the contagious diseases that afflict humanity. That was the situation as far as India was concerned. Out of 70,000 men in the Army there, 3,200 were invalided, and 9,000 wore absolutely unfit for active service. A constant stream of men was being poured into the population and absorbed by it, conveying the most persistent and virulent poison known into the blood of the people. As to the Army generally, he maintained that the figures were not creditable to us. In round numbers, the figures per 1,000 were—in Germany 27, France 44, Russia 43, Austria 65, Italy 71, and British troops in United Kingdom 204. Various measures had been enforced both at home and in India to deal with the evil. He admitted that the preventive and sanitary measures adopted in India had been more or less a partial failure because they had disappointed those who expected better results. But the causes of the partial failure were the change to the short service system, which introduced into India a very large number of very young and inexperienced men; the creation of camps of exercise; and the greater movement of troops throughout the country. When the men were in the cantonments they were influenced by the regulations in force; when, they were absent from the cantonments they were not; and it would be found that disease increased whenever large numbers of men were absent from the cantonments, and decreased when they were within the sphere of influence of protective and sanitary measures. Strong presumptive evidence on that point was made conclusive by the enormous increase in disease and the increase in its severity since the Indian Government were obliged, owing to a most lamentable Resolution of the Legislature —[cheers]—to abolish the regulations. That view was borne out by all the authorities most competent to judge. An experiment was made by the Indian Government in 1884. They closed some hospitals to see what the result would be; and in 1885 it was reported that the experimental closure had resulted in— such an enormous and progressive increase in the prevalence of disease that the military authorities considered it absolutely essential to the efficiency of the troops stationed in the cantonments concerned that the lock hospitals should be speedily re-opened and the preventive rules again enforced. The Army Sanitary Commission reported not many years ago rather adversely to the regulations; but now they said:— We have now proof that the measures heretofore adopted in India, imperfectly administered as they often were, nevertheless exercised a very sensible influence in checking increase in the number of British soldiers admitted into hospital for venereal disease, and in mitigating the severity of the disease itself. It had often been said in argument that regulations and rules had proved useless, and that the only thing to be relied upon was moral suasion. It was perfectly certain that both in this country and in India regulations and sanitary measures had proved to be most beneficial. Some years ago a Special Committee of the House of Commons in looking into this matter as it affected England, reported very strongly to the effect that the Acts in force in England had a most beneficial effect. Acting on that Report the House of Commons not long after passed a Resolution and the Acts were repealed affecting England. This evil was of the greatest gravity, and he asked their Lordships to consider how it was proposed to meet and grapple with it. There was an Act in force, in India dealing with other contagious diseases like typhoid, cholera, and small-pox, the gist, of which was that if a medical officer was convinced on credible testimony that a person was diseased he could be ordered lo hospital for examination. If be refused the cantonments magistrate could on the request of the medical officer expel him from the cantonments, but owing to the Resolution of the House of Commons this particular disease was not allowed to come under the operation of the sanitary rules that affected other contagious diseases. This disease was made a privileged disease—[cheers]—and allowed to contract itself out of the Act. He was glad to say that the Government had relieved the country of that gross slur on its common sense and humanity["Hear, hear !"] At any rate, this disease was placed in the same category as all other contagious diseases. But he did not see how it was possible for a medical officer to obtain credible testimony of disease in this instance. Where could he get any testimony? In other diseases he thought that their presence was more or less evident in the appearance and general health of the sufferer, even in their early stages; but he believed he was correct in saying that in syphilis there was nothing to be seen in the persons outward appearance and general health during the incipient stages of the disease. He did not see how it, was possible for the medical officer under the ordinary rules to ascertain the presence of this disease in its early stapes, and of all the diseases which afflicted mankind this was the one disease which required specially to be treated in its early stapes in order, if possible, to prevent the frightful ulterior consequences that often ensued. It seemed common sense that if any effective precaution was to be taken, examination was necessary, and he did not see how medical officers could be satisfied of the presence of disease if examination was absolutely forbidden. He should be perfectly content if the Indian Government had a free hand in this matter. If the suggestion that was made by the Committee of the Royal College of Physicians was carried out, he should be perfectly content. They made the following suggestion:— That is the civil, military, and medical officers in India are best, acquainted with the local conditions now existing, and affecting this prevalence of venereal disease, so they are the best judges of the most efficient means of dealing with it. Your Committee, therefore, suggests that power be given to the Government of India to take such steps for the mitigation of this evil as these officers may advise. He saw the other day that the Commit tee of the Council of the British Institute of Public Health, under the chairmanship of Lord Playfair, were preparing to present a congratulatory address to Her Majesty on the great progress made in the matter of public health during the reign. It was true great advances had been made—except in one particular, and was it not a scandalous and iniquitous thing that now, if they wished to congratulate the Sovereign on the progress sanitation had made during her reign, they must, either wilfully shut their eyes to the existence of a terrible evil, or they must admit that never during that reign had her forces been so decimated by disease, and never has the country been in such danger from the same cause. [Cheers] That was due to the action of Parliament—["hear, hear!"]—ineference to, he had no doubt, a genuine but a very mistaken opinion. He could not understand why people who recognised the danger of pouring a poison of this kind into the blood of the nation, could not unite in their efforts lo cleanse the blood of the Army, to purge the life of the nation, and to remove so great a scandal from us as a civilised State. [Cheers.]One thing was absolutely proved, and that was that disease was not a, deterrent. The moral argument was totally illogical. If it was wrong to mitigate disease because the fact of disease argued immorality, then it must be wrong to cure the disease—["hear, hear"]—and no human being would make so barbarous a proposition as that. He had seen it suggested that the hospital sheet should be taken into consideration as well as the defaulter's sheet in determining a soldier's character. Nothing could be more unjust. The act was not illegal, and it was suggested to punish not the act, but the purely chance results, for the act in itself was legal. That was not only illogical but monstrously unjust. They had experience on this point. Lord Cardwell passed an Order in 1872 which was in force for seven years—an Order which made a stoppage of pay while men were in hospital from this disease. What was the result? It had no effect whatever as a deterrent, but produced the most disastrous results by inducing men to conceal the fact of disease to the last possible stage. He could not see how any man of common sense could rely on moral force and moral force alone. As practical men, they had to deal with men as they were, and not as they ought to be. If the time came when moral force was sufficiently strong to enable men, at the age when the instincts were strongest and the will power weakest, successfully to resist one of the most dominant of human instincts, then there would be no need for sanitation. But while we did everything possible to bring that time about, it surely behoved us meanwhile to do what could legitimately be done to save these men and the whole nation from the effects of acts which might be immoral and improper. ["Hear, hear!"] There were many matters in connection with this subject on which information was needed: whether the general sanitary law in India could be made more effective; the general and local amount and character of the disease in India; the regulations enforced in other countries and the colonies, especially where they had dealings with native races; all these were questions about which information was difficult to obtain. He did not know where he should go to learn what effect we had had upon the native races with which we had come into contact. That subject had never been much noticed, but it ought to be; because, though we might have a perfect right to colonise and extend our possessions, we could not have any moral right to plant alongside the flag the seeds of an insidious and terrible disease. ["Hear, hear !"] Public opinion needed instruction, though, thank God ! it had greatly changed on this matter. The great mass of opinion in the country was beginning to realise the gravity of the evil, and the sinful-ness of inaction. The Departmental Committee had performed a most admirable work in bringing together in an accessible form the immense amount of information which was before diffused and difficult to obtain; and he thought that an investigation and report of a similar character, but more extensive, would be the best form of inquiry to hold. Nearly all that was wanted could be obtained from the three Departments most concerned—the War Office, the Colonial Office, and the India Office; but the information must be collated, weeded, examined, and brought into accessible shape, so that those who wished to instruct themselves on this great national matter should have facilities for doing so. ["' Hear, hear !"] He was rather puzzled to know what to do in respect to the Amendment which was to be moved. Theoretically, he entirely agreed with it: but he did not see how it was practicable. Hut perhaps if the House agreed to his Motion and refused to accept the Amendment, they might put themselves in a position which would be capable of misconstruction. In some quarters his Motion had been construed as a dilatory Motion; but nothing was further from his intentions. He asked for an inquiry because he thought information was greatly needed to educate public opinion. He entirely applauded Her Majesty's Government for the steps which they had taken: but he feared that they would not prove effectual, and that their comparative failure would be used as an argument against any regulations. He looked upon this as a matter of great national moment. [Cheers] It was not a question of party. ["Hear, hear !"] He would support any Government which attempted to deal efficaciously with this great evil; and he was certain that the great bulk of common-sense opinion in the country would sustain this or any Government in a resolute attempt to check the ravages of an evil which was so detrimental to Her Majesty's forces and so dangerous to the whole population, and which was a scandal to this country as a great people and a civilised nation. [Cheers.]


The subject brought forward by the noble Earl is one which nobody would willingly discuss in public if he could conscientiously avoid doing so, and I have been most reluctant to take part in this Debate. But, my Lords, I recognise so strongly the necessity for measures being adopted to arrest the progress of a great and growing evil—an evil which is sapping the strength of our Army and paralysing many of our best troops—that I feel I should be wanting in my duty to my country and the service to which I have the honour to belong were I to shrink from speaking plainly or neglect to do whatever lies in my power to make my countrymen understand the culpability of permitting to continue unchecked a horrible disease, so far-reaching in its results that it threatens seriously to injure the health and physique of a large proportion of the population of the United Kingdom. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not propose to take up your Lordships' time by giving detailed statistics of the disastrous effects of this disease upon the British troops in India; the proceedings of the Committee presided over by the Under Secretary of State for India show how appalling these effects are. I wish merely to draw your attention, my Lords, to two facts which completely, I think, prove the fallacy of the assertion that contagious disease in India has not increased since the abolition of the Contagious Diseases Act, and clearly demonstrate the; necessity for action being taken without delay to preserve the health and efficiency fit British soldiers serving in our Eastern Empire. One of the facts, my Lords, which I would bring to your notice is the extraordinary number of men now being invalided from India suffering from the effects of this loathsome disease as compared with the numbers invalided from the same cause when the Contagious Diseases Act was in force. In the statement which I hold in my hand the comparison is made out for 1879 and 1880— the two years immediately preceding the relaxation of the regulations framed under the Contagious Diseases Act—and for 1894 and 1895—the two latest years for which returns are available. In 1879 and 1880 the number of British soldiers in India (exclusive of those on service in Afghanistan) were respectively 49,537 and 50,Kiti. During those two years only 126, or less than 13 per cent, were invalided to England on account of this special disease. In 1894 and 1895 the number of British soldiers in India were respectively 70,983 and 68,331, of whom a total of no less than 648, or nearly .5 per cent., were sent home from this same cause. In other words, the proportion of men invalided during the latter period on account of this disease was more than four times as great as it was when the Contagious Diseases Act was in force. ["Hear, hear!"] The other fact, my Lords, to which I would draw your attention, is the number of British soldiers who were found unfit to do their duty during the short time the Chitral expeditionary force was employed in 1895. That force consisted in round numbers of 6,000 British and 11,000 native soldiers. The troops selected were all medically examined before the expedition started, and about 8 per cent, of the British troops were weeded out as unfit for service on account of this most horrible form of contagious disease. The force crossed the frontier on April 3, and by July 31, less than four months, 957 British and only 294 native soldiers had been sent back sick to India. And Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Low, commanding the force, reported that this enormous excess of British soldiers was entirely due to contagious disease, not disease contracted locally, for the condition of affairs rendered that an impossibility, but the old disease breaking out afresh in consequence of the hardships and privations of a four months' campaign. In all other respects the British were as healthy as the native soldiers; so, taking the number of natives sent back as normal, the proportion of British should have been 160 instead of 957. Or, to put it in plainer language, 797 men, more than 13 per cent, of the British troops engaged, were rendered unfit for their duty as soldiers, and therefore a useless expense to the State, from what the majority of our medical officers call preventible disease. These figures, and those given in Lord Onslow's Report, alarming as I think, my Lords, you must consider them, for they show that one-fourth of the 70,000 soldiers serving in India are unable to take the field from contagious disease and its consequent disabilities, cannot be gainsaid. And they further prove how fallacious is the argument urged by the opponents of the Contagious Diseases Act, that the protective regulations enforced under that Act failed to mitigate the evil which caused them to be introduced. I know, my Lords, that those regulations did not work all the good that was hoped for, but this was not the fault of the regulations, but of the half-hearted manner in which they were applied. So apathetically were they brought into force that, although the Cantonment Act which legalised the regulations was passed in 1864, it was not until 1869, live years later, that Fort William and its environs were protected, although this is certainly the station most in need of precautionary measures on account of its immediate proximity to the City of Calcutta. Up to the last, 12 military stations in Bengal were left unprotected, and at three of those stations in 1879 the number of admissions to hospitals from contagions disease actually rose to upwards of 700 per 1,000 men. I think, my Lords, you must agree with me that it speaks well for the benefiical results of the Act that, not withstanding these astounding figures were included in the total number of registered cases during the year, the proportion of men invalided was, as I have already shown, nearly four times greater in 1894 and 1895 than it was in 1879 and 1880. The truth is, my Lords, the Contagious Diseases Act was never given a fair trial in India. It was not believed in by the authority responsible to the Government of India for its being properly carried out, and, in consequence, no attempt was ever made to investigate the working of the Act or to ascertain what cases of disease were contracted within the area to which the Act applied, and what cases were contracted outside that area; so that even if every station in India had been brought within the scope of the Act, the good really done by the Act could not have been correctly appreciated from the returns furnished by the sanitary commissioner. Tables prepared from such unreliable data, were bound to bring the Act into disrepute, and to strengthen the arguments of those who were, and are still, opposed to its introduction. Then, again, my Lords, the Act was administered in some places with zeal and intelligence by medical officers, in others it was carried on in a very perfunctory manner. When visiting Lock. Hospitals I invaiably found that success was complete when the medical officer in charge took an interest in his work and satisfied himself that those who came for treatment were properly looked after. The disease under such auspices diminished rapidly, and at one station, where it had been extremely prevalent, it was almost entirely stamped out owing to the exertions of the medical officer. I am well aware, my Lords, that those who are opposed to the enforcement of the Contagious Diseases Act contend that direct interference is adverse to morality, and that, in all justice, the sinner should be allowed to reap the punishment of his sin. Although to my mind this is not a very Christian doctrine, I can understand and respect the horror of wrong-doing of which it is the outcome, provided the punishment could be confined to the sinner himself; but what I cannot understand is how any one can think it right to take no measures to prevent the spread of an evil which involves disease and misery on innocent women and children, and which must seriously injure equally innocent generations in the future. In my opinion it is as bad or worse than it would be to allow a mad dog to bite as many people as he felt inclined, or to permit a person known to have smallpox or diphtheria to mix freely with people in health. I say worse, because the evil in such cases might, at all events, be limited to those bitten or infected; while, in the other, it is impossible to calculate how far-reaching will be the deadly results of neglecting to take precautions. My Lords, we have to deal with human nature, and, in considering the question at issue, we must not lose sight of the fact that, year by year, several thousand young men, mere boys, indeed—freed from all moral restraint, arrive in India and are at once subject to great and peculiar temptations. For many months of the year they are necessarily kept within barracks from sunrise to sunset, only to emerge when darkness, which comes on so rapidly in the East, prohibits anything in the shape of such healthy recreation as out-door games. A great deal has been done of late years by the Government of India to enable the men to amuse themselves in a rational manner, by poviding comfortable and attractive reading-rooms, coffee shops, etc. These regimental institutes, as they are called, have helped to raise the tone of our soldies and to reduce crime, especially drunkenness, but they seem to have had, I regret to say, but little effect in preventing contagious disease, which, though it might have assumed still more gigantic proportions, had these counterattractions not been provided, has, notwithstanding all that has been done in this direction, gone on steadily increasing, as your Lordships will perceive from Lord Onslow's Committee's Report. Other and more direct measures should now he resorted to. The disease under consideration ought to be treated as all other contagious diseases are treated. It is even more essential that precautionary measures should be adopted in regard to it than to any other disease, for as slated in the Report of the Royal College of Physicians, dated March 23 last, The constitutional form of the disease is one of the most serious, insidious, and lasting of all the contagious diseases that afflict humanity. When it is prevalent there should be periodical examinations of all unmarried soldiers during their first period of service, and of older soldiers, if thought necessary, and any infringement of the order requiring men to report themselves on the first sign of becoming affected, should be severely punished. There ought to be no doubt as to the intention of these orders in the Army Regulations, but I am afraid that they are now frequently lost sight of and the importance of strictly enforcing them not thoroughly appreciated. With regard to women, I would leave the matter in the hands of the Government of India, on the distinct understanding, as stated in the Secretary of State's Dispatch that "there must be nothing which can be represented as an encouragement to vice. In the interests of morality, and to protect, as far as is possible, young soldiers from temptation, women professedly belonging to a certain class should be forbidden to reside in regimental bazaars or follow regiments on the line of inarch. And in every military station all women, professionals or otherwise, known to have communicated disease to any soldier, should be obliged to submit to medical treatment and subsequent periodical examinations or to quit the station and its immediate neighbourhood. Each case of expulsion should be carried out in communication with the local civil authorities, who will, I trust, be empowered to take such further action as may be considered necessary For the protection of the community at large. To limit the Contagious Diseases Act (or whatever regulations the, Government of India may think proper to introduce) to cantonments and to exclude the neighbouring cities and towns would, in my opinion, be altogether insufficient, and would certainly not get at the root of the evil. There must, of course, be some punishment, such as line or imprisonment, for disobedience of orders, but my belief is that it would seldom have to be enforced if the women are kindly treated in the Government hospitals. The employment of women as coolies in the construction and repairs of barracks should be discouraged, but where this kind of labour is unavoidable, special precautions should be taken by means of civil and regimental police. These are surely only reasonable preventive measures, in the enforcement of which there should be little difficulty, for the calling of every person in a cantonment in India, is well known. Boundary pillars mark off the space set apart for the soldiers' barracks, parade ground, and officers' quarters, and within these limits, at any rate, it is our bounden duty to protect, the health of our soldiers, who, we must remember, are cut off from the pleasures and enjoyments of home life, and are compelled to live as single men for a certain number of years. If there is reason to suspect that the disease is contracted outside the cantonment limits, the country round should be put out of bounds and the number of men on duty as regimental police should be increased until matters improve. I have myself found this an effective way of checking the spread of this terrible scourge. I believe that much valuable assistance might be afforded by military chaplains if they would interest themselves in the matter. An excellent example has been set by the Rev. John Crauford, a Presbyterian clergyman at Meerut, who, a few years ago, established a "Purity Society" at that station for the benefit of soldiers, many of whom joined it, with the happiest results both as regards health and conduct. Something also might be gained by warning I young and inexperienced soldiers, on first arrival in India, of the aggravated effects of immorality in such a climate, and its appalling results as can be seen at. Netley Hospital. I am certain, too, that medical officers would be able to do a great deal towards the desired end if they were brought into closer communication with troops than they are at present. ["'Hear, hear!"] They never now see or know the men as they did formerly, except those who come to them for treatment in hospital; and the cordial intercourse which used to exist between the combatant and medical officers and which was so conducive to good fellowship and to the general health of the Army—[Cheers]—is, unfortunately, a thing of the past. I trust, my Lords, I have not wearied you. [Cries of "No !"] My excuse for taking up so much of your time is that the efficiency of the Army and the moral and material well-being of the soldiers I love so well are at stake. I beg you, my Lords, to give this painful subject your most careful consideration, and I earnestly hope that the British public may be induced to look upon it from a wise and prudent, as well as from a, merciful and Christian point of view. [Cheers.]


I am grateful to the noble Earl and the gallant General for the way in which they have handled what is unquestionably a very difficult subject. I do not think it can be denied that the disease and its effects have come to such a point that it is impossible to refuse a thorough inquiry into the whole matter. I do not think it is possible to read the papers which have been distributed to Members of this House without feeling that it is the imperative duty of the Legislature to look into the matter and see what ought to be done. ["Hear, hear !"] I think there is one class of of consideration which has not received full attention in either of the speeches we have listened to; it is quite certain that you cannot get to the root of such an evil as this without giving a very large part of your attention to the moral side of the whole question. The old regulations were objected to, and not a moment too soon, because they unquestionably had the effect of giving the impression to the soldiers that the sin in which they were indulging was not anything very wrong in itself, and that it was the business and purpose of the Government not to stamp the sin as an evil, but only to stop the effects of it. I do not think there can be any doubt that that was the only impression which could be made upon the soldiers at the time when it was the custom to provide for the indulgence of this sin by special establishments. It was a long time ago, but there still remains the same kind of impression. The authorities should make it very clear that they look upon this kind of indulgence as a very evil thing which is to be condemned by every good man and by every good soldier. If you can change the tone of the Army in that respect you will have done something towards getting rid of the evil. It can never be done by mere regulations, and if your regulations are of such a character as to maintain the belief that you do not really care about the wrong of the self-indulgence, and that you only want to have soldiers who can right, depend upon it all your regulations will fall short of really extirpating the mischief. It is the habitual and continued indulgence that keeps up this mischief, and the temptation is increased by barrack-room conversation and the way in which the soldiers regard the sin itself. As long as that is the case you cannot have the co-operation of the men themselves in getting rid of the evil, and without their own co-operation it is hopeless to endeavour to raise any class of men to a higher position. If you leave out all this moral consideration, and think only of sanitary regulations as if they were really the complete remedy, every now and then you will find that your sanitary regulations will altogether fail. If there is to be ail Inquiry it ought to go beyond the mere examination of the sanitary regulations that may be made, and should consider how you can get at the soldier's conscience and his habits of life. How very much more might be done, for instance, if a larger number of men were allowed to marry. It would no doubt cost you money, but it will not cost you as much as the present evil costs you. Something has boon done, no doubt, to employ the soldiers and to keep their minds away from that sensuality which, when once men have allowed their imaginations to be affected by it, is sure to constantly recur to their minds. More may be done by occupying them in employment agreeable and interesting to them in their idle moments, and a great deal more than has yet been tried should be tried in this regard. I am only using this as an illustration of what I mean. I do not moan there are not many other things I could mention myself that could be done with this view. But what I want to emphasise is that in all that is done the moral impress made on the troops is to he one of the first considerations, and that whatever regulations you make you are doing, perhaps, benefit for the moment, but certain mischief for the future if you let soldiers think you do not care whether they are moral or not. ["Hear, hear!"] I think, my Lords, an Inquiry which looked into this side of the matter, with as much care as a medical man would naturally bestow upon the material side, an Inquiry of that kind would really be of great benefit. I do not propose to move any Amendment to the Resolution, or to vote against, it. I believe that such an Inquiry as the noble Lord proposes, if only it be conducted by men who will look at both sides of the matter, and will be thorough-going in looking at the moral side, may be of the greatest benefit. Lord Kinnaird proposes to add something to the Resolution. The noble Lord seemed to deprecate the addition. I confess I do not see why it should be said such an addition will in any way interfere with the Inquiry proposed. It seems to me that if your Inquiry is to be of permanent value, you must extend it to the whole subject. My Lords, I cannot sit down without expressing my strong sense of deep gratitude to those who have brought this matter forward. I believe they have done no more than their duty. I believe that we may safely follow their lead, if only we are careful to see that the Inquiry proposed shall not be confined entirely to physical considerations, which will be dealing, not with the root of the evil, but only with the symptoms of it, and which will leave untouched that out of which the whole tiling comes. If we can have an Inquiry which will avoid that, I believe it will be of the greatest use. My Lords, these young men who are so readily tempted to fall, come often from country villages, from the artisan class in the towns. They often have not lived very excellent lives before they enlist. Nevertheless, you do not find among them anything like the mischief you are now finding in your Army. And why? Because they have so much else to occupy their minds, because the moral influences around them are so much higher than the moral influences they find among their comrades when they join their regiments. They are protected by their surroundings, and soldiers are not. Look to it, and see whether something may not be done, something very real, to raise the whole tone of the Service in this matter. Lord Roberts pointed out to us various particulars in which he plainly aimed at that purpose. I thank him. I only wish to emphasise what he has said, and to press upon you that it is in that direction you must look if you desire to obtain permanent benefit. [Cheers.]


said he welcomed the contribution to the Debate that had just fallen from the most rev. Prelate, because he gathered from his remarks that he entirely agreed in the opinion already expressed that the magnitude of the mischief done was such that some steps must be speedily taken to put an end, if possible, to so terrible an evil. But when he joined with Lord Dunraven in desiring an Inquiry, he would suggest that the time for inquiry was past, and the time for action had arrived. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped Lord Dunraven would not persist in his Motion for two reasons first, because he thought any exhaustive Inquiry by a Committee or Commission might have the effect of leading some of those who were not prepared to take immediate action to point to the proceedings of the Inquiry as a reason for delay. Secondly, he hoped the Motion would not be pressed, because he hardly knew in what direct ion it would be possible to produce more facts or figures than those already available. The amount of literature on the subject was something overwhelming. Lord Dunraven asked that an Inquiry should be held into the effect of contagious disease on the forces of the Crown. Every year the Army Medical Department issued a Report which dealt with the affliction of the troops from these diseases in all parts of Her Majesty's dominions, whether they were Europeans, Asiatics, or Africans. Lord Dunraven desired that an Inquiry should be held into the effect of the disease upon the civil population. In the course of the Inquiry to which illusion had already been made he endeavoured to obtain from the principal hospitals in London and the large towns of England some information as to the proportion of these diseases to others, their influence upon others, and the increase of hereditary disease. But he found that statistics were not kept on these heads, and in many instances cases of venereal disease were not admitted. But if the noble Earl desired to find out what was the effect of the disease on the civil population, he had only to ask the superintendents of workhouses or the matrons of the women's hospitals or of the sick children's hospitals, or visit, he was sorry to say, the graves in our country churchyards, to be at once informed that the evil was rapidly increasing throughout the country. As to its effect on native races throughout Her Majesty's dominions, no fewer than live large volumes had been presented to Parliament, the result of inquiries made by governors and medical officers in all our colonies. Lord Dunraven asked for the regulations here and in other countries. The regulations in Great Britain were set forth in the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons in 1882, and in the Inquiry he himself recently held he obtained from our Ambassadors abroad a statement of the regulations in existence in each of the European countries and also the regulations affecting the troops of those countries, if Lord Dunraven would he content with a Return giving that information, he would have pleasure in laving it nil the Table, and he trusted that he would see that no further Inquiry was necessary. He would inform the House what had been the course of affairs during the last few years in India. In 1889 a new Cantonment Act was passed in consequence of a Resolution of the House of Commons in 1888. In 1892 instructions were issued by the Government of India for the strict observance of the rules under that Act. It was claimed that those rules were not strictly observed, and Lord Lansdowne, then Viceroy of India, while declaring that the Government of India at least had loyally carried out the Resolution of the House of Commons, said that local authorities might in some instances have evaded orders. In 1894 the Secretary for India ordered the introduction into the Viceroy's Council of a new Act to amend the Cantonments Act of 1889, and further rules eliminating this particular class of diseases from the infectious and contagious disorders, sufferers from which might be expelled from the cantonments, and imposing a fine or imprisonment on any public servant subjecting women to compulsory examination. The Government of India strongly protested against that course and said it was necessary to have power to exclude diseased women from the cantonments, or at any rate they must have power to exclude persons without giving a reason. But the Secretary of State was unable to agree in this view, and his sanction was refused to any rules which would have that effect. So matters remained until recently, when public attention was forcibly drawn to the alarming increase of the disease in India and its appalling consequences. Upon that the Secretary of State had written a Dispatch in which most Members of the House would be prepared to agree, and he should like to dwell on one or two of the conditions laid down, because he believed they would go a long way to meet not only the views of Lord Roberts, but also of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Government said they could not acquiesce in the continuance of the present state of things, and that common humanity, no less than their duty to the large body of British troops in India, demanded that some measures should be taken to restrain the prevalence of venereal disease. The Dispatch went on to say that there were certain things which must not be done—that was to say, there should be no approach to what had been called official purveying for immorality, but it gave power to the Government of India to expel from cantonments persons suffering from these diseases. It was quite true the result might be that there might be examination of women in some cases, but it would not be, as it was in the former case, compulsory, except in the same degree as it was now compulsory when a person suffered from smallpox, scarlet fever, or any of those diseases which the community had long since recognised to be a danger to public health. There were certain other measures which the Secretary of State had not yet pre- scribed, but which he had in his Dispatch invited advice from the Government of India upon. The first of these related to the taking of precautions to see that women were not employed about the barracks in the manner which Lord Roberts had shown had proved such a danger to the health of the soldiers. In the second place, the Secretary of State expressed to the Viceroy his desire to co-operate with him in every way in improving the moral and physical condition el' the soldier. That was no new departure. For many years the Government of India and the Commander-in-Chief had been doing their best to improve the moral conditon of the soldier, and no one had done more than the noble and gallant Lord who had addressed their Lordships, and who had not only shown himself to be an incomparable captain in leading Her Majesty's forces against an Asiatic enemy, but had endeared himself to the common soldiers in India by the efforts which he had successfully made to improve their condition in all the commands he had held in that dependency. ["Hear, hear!"] He agreed with the most rev. Prelate that there was an opening not only for chaplains, but also for the commanding officers, to take this opportunity of inculcating upon the men under their command not only—as the Secretary of State had requested—the measures for the preservation of their health, but also impressing upon them the sin and wickedness of indulging in these vices. The Secretary of State desired that the practice, which was already in existence of warning young soldiers by regimental and medical officers of the risks they ran should in future be made universal. Me had every reason to believe that the measures winch the Secretary of State proposed to take would be efficacious, and the Viceroy had telegraphed on behalf of the Indian Government that the proposals of the Government Are in accord with our views. And, if sanctioned, will, we hope, enable us to combat successfully the spread of the disease. One other important point the Dispatch dealt with was the remarkable fact that in some cantonments the disease had decreased, while in others it had increased to a great extent. It was not quite clear what was the reason for that variation between different stations, but he was in- clined to agree with the explanation which had been suggested by Lord Roberts. The Government of India had been asked for further information upon this point. There was no reason to believe that women in India, any more than anywhere else, did not desire to be treated in hospital and regain their health, and he could not see upon what ground of Christian charity they could in any way say that the prevention of disease was not one of the first duties of a Government. ["Hear, hear!"] But how could they cure and how could they prevent disease if that disease was concealed? ["Hear, hear!"] It seemed to him the only course was to treat it like all other disease and compel the immediate notification of it. Some of those who, not long ago were most bitterly ranged against any preventive regulation now admitted that the time had arrived when something must be done. Their Lordships might have observed the letter in The Times from Lady Henry Somerset, in which she recognised that this horrible scourge had brought upon thousands of innocent women in England a load of suffering, and said that she gladly welcomed the Dispatch of the Secretary of State as a statement of inspiring and controlling principles never yet professed by any previous Government. That was not an isolated instance. A memorial had been presented to the Secretary of State and would shortly be made public, signed by a very large number of ladies of the highest position, philanthropists, nurses, superintendents, and matrons of hospitals, wives of doctors and clergymen, all praying that immediate action might be taken to check the spread of this terrible disease and the ravages it was inflicting among the population, at home. They stated that preventive measures, if exercised with scrupulous care, did not cause any real danger to women, but constituted a valuable safeguard to women's virtue, and afforded a great opportunity of escape from a life of vice. He earnestly hoped the noble Earl would not press his Motion; but, whatever the result of that Debate might be. Her Majesty's Government felt that the time for action had arrived, and that it was necessary at once to take such steps as might seem to the Government of India and the Government in this country most likely to make a real and efficacious diminution in the disease. ["Hear, hear!']


said that he would move the adjournment of the Debate, if there was no objection on the part of the Government, as several noble Lords were anxious to speak on the subject.


replied that the Government had no objection to the adjournment of the Debate, which would be resumed as the first Order on Monday.

Debate accordingly adjourned to Monday next.