HL Deb 18 June 1947 vol 148 cc952-4

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government, whether they have any further information to give to the House with reference to the number of cases of venereal disease in armies of occupation, and whether they agree that the figures quoted from the Army Medical Department as an annual rate, were correct.]


My Lords, the figures which I quoted in the course of the debate on the Second Reading of the National Service Bill were correct. With the noble Lord's permission I will circulate with the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement giving complete quarterly figures, by theatres, for the period January 1946, to March 31, 1947. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Moran, received from the Army Medical Directorate monthly rates for one quarter. He appears to have multiplied the rates for a particular month by twelve to produce annual rates. The accuracy of the totals produced in this way varies according to the extent to which the month taken as a basis was representative of the incidence during the remaining months of the year in each theatre.

Following is the statement referred to by Lord NATHAN:

Cases of Venereal Disease occurring in the British Army.
Quarterly Rates per 1,000 strength January, 1946–March, 1947.
1946. 1947.
1st Quarter. 2nd Quarter. 3rd Quarter. 4th Quarter. 1st Quarter.
United Kingdom 7.7 8.7 9.6 6.8 5.3
B.A.O R. 30.4 41.8 44.6 41.8 30.0
C.M.F. 33.3 39.5 35.6 31.5 22.8*
M.E.L.F. 4.1 9.4 9.4 7.6 6.3*
S.E.A.L.F. 37.6 37.2 37.2 32.0 31.2*
B.C.O.F. 59.6 102.6 61.9*
* Quarterly rates based on January-February only.
Quarterly rates based on August-September only.


My Lords, arising out of that answer, for which I thank the noble Lord, I have a supplementary question to ask which, I think, requires three sentences of explanation. The noble Lord is under a complete delusion in thinking that I got the, monthly return and multiplied it by twelve. I have too long known the fallacies of statistical methods not to submit any statistics I bring to this House to a statistical expert first. The actual return is the official return from the noble Lord's own Department. In September of last year a meeting was held at the headquarters of the Army Medical Department of those who control venereal disease in the Forces. For the guidance and information of those who were at this meeting—namely, the Director of Hygiene of the Army, who was in the chair, and representatives of the Army, Navy and Air Force—there were prepared two papers, one of which I hold in my hand. It is an official return, and from it was taken the figures I quoted to the House during the Second Reading debate. I am rather surprised the noble Lord is not aware of this document because it was one of two given to every single member present on September 30. The question I would ask is: Does the noble Lord repudiate the accuracy of the figures prepared by his own Department as annual rates of venereal disease in all the armies of occupation?


I think the noble Lord is under a misapprehension in thinking that I am responsible for the Department. I am merely the spokesman of the Department in this House: I am not the Departmental Minister. It is necessary for me to say that, because although I have taken some care to be able to answer completely and accurately the noble Lord's question, I have no departmental responsibility in regard to it. What I am told is that the noble Lord's figures represented what the annual incidence would have been if the monthly rate throughout the year had been the same as that in June, 1946, for all theatres except B.C.O.F., and August in the case of B.C.O.F. The calculation was made by the multiplication by twelve of the figures for June in the several instances and for August in the remaining instance.


I regret to say that the noble Lord is misinformed. If I had been disposed to commit such statistical crimes I would have taken the other return, which was a monthly return for April, May and June, and multiplied it by four. That would have been statistically wrong for reasons which the noble Lord gives. Therefore I did not do it, What I did was to give the actual figures, which are down here in this return; they represent 185 per thousand, and 168 per thousand, etc. That is the way it is put out. I did no multiplication. I have merely repeated figures from the official return that was issued in September. My mathematics were not called upon this was done in the Department of which the noble Lord is a representative.