HL Deb 18 December 1908 vol 198 cc2182-90


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the object of this Bill is to prevent the spread and to provide for the treatment of tuberculosis in Ireland. Your Lordships are no doubt aware of the terrible ravages of this disease in Ireland in recent years, and of the attempts which have been made to check it. I may mention that deaths from tuberculosis form 16.7 per cent. of the total mortality in Ireland. The Bill is divided into three parts. Part I. deals with notification and disinfection, and may be adopted by any rural or urban sanitary authority. When this Part is adopted it will be necessary for medical practitioners to notify certain cases of tuberculosis which occur in the course of their practice. It is not desirable or necessary that every case should be so notified, but only cases where there is danger of infection spreading. Part II. confers on county councils the necessary powers enabling them, if they think fit, to establish hospitals, sanatoria, and dispensaries for the treatment of tuberculosis. There is no compulsion upon those local authorities to establish such institutions, but it is left to them if they feel that the necessity exists in their counties for dealing with the disease in this manner to take steps for the purpose. Part III. deals with sanitary matters, and contains a number of provisions which may be availed of by local authorities for the purpose of combating the disease in some of its aspects. I may add that it has been my business now, I think, for three sessions to take some part in the arrangements at the end of the session as to the business of the two Houses. I think I am able, therefore, to form some idea of what it is reasonable to expect this House to consider at a late period of the session, and although my own ideas of what is reasonable may differ slightly from those of noble Lords opposite, more especially when they are in opposition, I confess it is with some misgivings that I move a Bill of this magnitude at this period of the session. Therefore I will only say that if there is any considerable opposition to it in any quarter I should not think of pressing the Bill at this period of the session. But if the Amendments are not numerous and the Bill does not meet with opposition after your Lordships have examined its provisions, I think it would not be unreasonable on my part to ask that it may be passed through all its stages to-day in order that it may become law before the prorogation.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Lord Denman.)


My Lords, the noble Lord who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill has indulged in language rather conveying that he was giving a lecture to the House as to how Bills should be approached and considered at this period of the session. Each Bill, of course, has to be taken on its own merits, and there has been no desire in reference to this Bill, so far as I know, not to treat it with the sympathetic consideration which a measure dealing with this prevalent disease may require. The Bill is undoubtedly an important one, and I should have been glad if it had come up earlier so that it could have been gone through in some detail. I am aware of the spread of this dread disease in Ireland, and of the great efforts that have been made, notably with the sympathetic aid of Lady Aberdeen, to cope with it, and I would be extremely sorry if anything interfered to prevent this Bill passing into law. Experience may show the necessity for change, and the Bill may require to be supplemented as time goes on. When the Bill was first brought in a considerable amount of alarm was excited owing to the generality of the provisions for notification, and it was thought that there would be great anxiety if in every case where a person was seized with any form of this disease the doctor was bound to notify it, thus placing the person in a very painful and distressing position. This led to a modification in the Bill which I think has removed, to a large degree, the necessity for alarm. The Bill has attracted a good deal of attention and been discussed at length in another place, and it is not my desire to offer the slightest opposition to it. I hope it will become law, and that it will be attended by all the results anticipated by those who have so benevolently applied themselves to the examination and study of this question. With these remarks I readily accord, with every sympathy, my support to the Second Reading.


My Lords, I should not have intervened but for an observation made by the noble lord in charge of the Bill with reference to the state of mind of those who are in Opposition. I think what he said is absolutely without foundation. I believe no harsher testimony has ever been borne against the practice of introducing Bills at a late period of the session than by those who sit on the same side as the Minister who introduced this Bill, and I do not think there is the least foundation for saying that there is any accentuation of the objection entertained to the late introduction of Bills according to the side on which noble Lords sit.


My Lords, I fully sympathise with the intentions of the Bill and desire to express my admiration for the extraordinary devotion, unselfishness, and energy which Lady Aberdeen has shown in endeavouring to cope with the terrible ravages of consumption to which the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading referred. But I should not like the occasion to pass without saying that, in my opinion, the measure will accomplish very little. It will possibly prevent a certain amount of infection, and, so far as hospitals are founded, will relieve those persons who go to the hospitals, but, speaking as one who lives in Ireland, I do not believe that the extent to which tuberculosis exists there is due to causes with which the Bill deals. The reason why the number of cases of the disease is so large in proportion to the population of Ireland is that the healthy young people are emigrating month, after month, while unhealthy persons who seek to emigrate are sent back by the medical inspectors in Ireland or in America. This summer I had the greatest trouble in reference to the daughter of a peasant woman in my own neighbourhood. This woman had sent her daughter, eighteen years of age, who was apparently in the best of health, to America, and instead of hearing in a fortnight's time of her safe arrival she received a notification from some union in a suburb of Glasgow to the effect that her daughter was shut up in a lunatic asylum there. This girl had left Ireland in apparently the best of health, but, as a result of the voyage and the change of scene, had became more or less insane, with the result that when she arrived in America, she was sent back. Therefore you constantly have emigration of the healthy, while the unhealthy remain and become the parents of the next generation. There is another side to this question. None of the healthy emigrants come back to their native land; but the most appalling cases of consumption return to Ireland to die. I know of cases in my own neighbourhood where men have returned from America to spend the few remaining months of their lives hovering over the fireplaces in their old homes or in the homes of relatives who give them shelter, reading Yankee newspapers sent to them by their old pals in America, and actually expectorating consumption all over the floors of those houses. Those are, to my mind, the real causes of the terrible statistics of consumption in Ireland. Not alone is the emigration of the healthy and the return of the unhealthy the cause of the spread of tuberculosis in Ireland; it is also the cause of the terrible statistics with reference to madness. While the population of my comity is dwindling we are constantly having to add new wings to the lunatic asylum, which is the only thing that is thriving in the county. I notice that the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred the other day to the enormous number of old people in Ireland. That is due to the fact that the young and middle aged who are healthy leave the country. Thus we are left in Ireland with an extraordinary and abnormal number of sick people, of mad people, and of old people.


My Lords, I should like to say how grateful I am to both noble Lords from Ireland who have spoken for their references to the efforts of Lady Aberdeen and others to combat this disease, and I desire to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ashbourne, for the friendly and sympathetic reception he has accorded to the Bill. I regret that I should have given him the impression that I was endeavouring to read a lecture to noble Lords opposite upon what they should or should not consider at this period of the session. I am afraid I must have expressed myself very badly, because all I was trying to point out was that I thought I had no right whatever even to ask noble Lords opposite to consider a Bill of this magnitude at the end of the session, and that it was only by the favour of the House that I could do so.

On Question, Bill read 2a.

Then Standing Order No. XXXIX. having been suspended, committed to a Committee of the Whole House forthwith.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Earl of ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 11 agreed to.

Clause 12:

LORD DENMAN moved to amend this clause, which provided that— A person shall not suffer any disqualification or any loss of franchise or other right or privilege by reason of his or any member of his family being admitted into and maintained in any hospital or workhouse hospital provided under this Part of this Act, or being treated in any dispensary so provided, by omitting the words "or workhouse hospital." He explained that this part of the Bill was not concerned with workhouse hospitals, and that the words were retained in the clause by an oversight.

Amendment moved— In page 8, line 24, to leave out the words 'or workhouse hospital.'"—(Lord Denman.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 13 to 19 agreed to.

Clause 20:

LORD KILLANIN moved to omit Clause 20, which ran— Any urban authority being a sanitary authority shall have power to provide that all meat killed outside the town and brought into the town for sale shall on the same day, before being exposed for sale, be brought into the abattoir or other place to be appointed by the council for inspection between the hours of eight o'clock a.m. and eleven forenoon, and shall not be sold or exposed for sale until after same has been inspected and passed as fit for human food, but no person shall be appointed or act as an inspector under this section who does not possess a certificate as a meat inspector. The clause would enable urban authorities to lay down conditions which, in his opinion, would render it impossible, probably, for people who carried on the meat trade outside a town to continue their business at all. The clause was only inserted in the Bill late on Wednesday night in another place, and there had, therefore, been no opportunity for its consideration by those who would be most affected by its provisions. Neither had the clause been considered by the meat-consuming public, who, of course, would be affected. It might be said that, though the clause was not previously in the Bill, it was cognate to the other provisions, and therefore, might have been anticipated by those interested; but of the twenty-five clauses in the Bill, not one dealt with the meat trade in any shape or form. He submitted that the clause was an unfair and improper one, and would be most injurious, possibly, to a number of people who quite innocently and correctly followed this business in the country districts of Ireland. Could the noble Lord in charge of the Bill state that he had any evidence that any real injury had been done in the past by diseased meat sold in this way? He believed there were no statistics to prove that. Moreover, if diseased meat was, as a matter of fact, sold, there were the usual methods of punishment by fines and imprisonment. Some of the greatest scientific authorities differed as to whether human beings could contract tuberculosis from meat, and he therefore submitted that, without further evidence, Parliament ought not to cripple and injure, in the manner proposed, those persons who lawfully carried on an innocent trade.

Amendment moved— In page 11, to leave out Clause 20."—(Lord Killanin.)


said he was in entire sympathy with the Bill, because, although it might nor succeed in grappling satisfactorily with the terrible disease of tuberculosis, no possible harm could result, and it might effect a great improvement. He regretted [...]t [...] Bill conceived with that object should be disfigured by a clause like this, introduced at the last moment, and introduced, he thought there was more than a suspicion, in the interests more of butchers resident in an urban authority than of the suppression of this disease. He had no objection to the inspection of meat, but he thought it was evident, from the provisions of the clause, that it had been introduced in order to make impossible the importation of dead meat from the country into any urban authority.


said he understood this clause met with the approval of Irish Members in the other House, and he was also informed that a regulation, similar to this clause, was in force in the city of Belfast and had been found to work perfectly well. But, apparently, it had no friends in this House, and, having regard to the circumstances in which the Bill was being considered, he should certainly not oppose its omission at this stage.


I am very glad to hear that His Majesty's Government do not intend to persevere with this clause. It is evidently a very drastic clause indeed, and we understand it formed no part of the original scheme of the Bill, and was inserted at the last moment. The danger of all legislation of this kind, however well meant, is that, if we make it too drastic and too inquisitorial, we set up a feeling of irritation and lose that public support and sympathy upon which the success of Bills of this character so largely depend. The Bill already contains some large and stringent proposals, and I am sure it is wise not to hamper it with this particular provision. The noble Lord mentioned that a somewhat analogous regulation was in force in Belfast. It would be instructive to know whether there is any rule of the same kind in any parts of the United Kingdom. So far as I am aware, there is not.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Standing Committee negatived. Amendments reported. Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to Commons.