§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, this modest measure, which was sponsored in another place by the honourable Member for the Rutherglen Division of Lanarkshire, requires, I venture to think, neither protracted argument nor studied eloquence in order to commend it to the acceptance of your Lordships' House. The purpose of the Bill, which, I may say, was received with a spontaneous welcome which is rare from all Parties in another place, 852 is to enable local authorities in Scotland to take appropriate measures for the prevention of blindness and also to take appropriate measures for the treatment of all those who are afflicted by optical maladies. I may add that the Bill has the cordial assent not only of the Scottish Office but of all local authorities throughout Scotland. The pivotal provision of the measure is to be found in the first clause, which is before your Lordships, and which enables local authorities, as I say, to deal by way of prevention and by way of treatment with blindness wherever it prevails. I would like to underline in that connection two considerations. The first is that the arrangements so to be made by the local authorities must receive the sanction of the Department of Health in Scotland before they have effect, and the second is that if the Bill passes your Lordships' House it will merely assimilate the law of Scotland to what has been the law of England since 1936. The only other operative provision of the Bill is to be found in its second clause, which enacts that the expense consequent on giving effect to the provisions of the measure shall be borne as are the expenses under the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897. To that proposal no objection has been taken from any quarter.
It would be otiose for me to stress what I may call the merits of the measure. There are in Scotland to-day, I am informed, 8,737 blind people, many of whom, had the humane provisions of this Bill been in force, would not now have been suffering from that dread affliction. Of these 8,737 blind persons, 6,799 are certified to be unemployably blind. I venture to think that any reasonable proposal to avert, or indeed to alleviate, a situation so catastrophic in its character must enlist the instant sympathy and support of your Lordships' House. I desire to add only one thing, and it is this. There has recently been established in Edinburgh, thanks to the munificence of one of her public-spirited citizens—himself, alas!, stricken by blindness—what is known as the Ross Foundation, the purpose of which is to study the prevention of blindness. The provisions of this Bill will render the practical application of the research which is contemplated by the Foundation not only attainable but, I had almost said, inevitable. Accordingly the Foundation 853 and the Bill are complementary the one of the other. The Ross Foundation, I am informed, is unique in these islands, and it is a fortunate chance whereby the Ross Foundation in Edinburgh will substantially synchronise, if your Lordships please, with the passage of this desirable and ancillary measure. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Alness.)
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Snell asks me to say that he and my other noble friends are fully in support of this Bill and hope that it will become law as soon as possible.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL)
My Lords, I only rise to say that His Majesty's Government view this Bill with complete sympathy and intend to give it their full support.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.