(Class 7.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Ministry of Health. – in the House of Commons at on 9 March 1920.

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Dr. MURRAY:

It would be a pity if this Vote were passed without a word from some member of the medical profession. I do not rise to offer any criticisms, but I want to tender my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on the splendid administration of his Office.

We, of the medical profession know what has been going on. We have sometimes had to criticise the right hon. Gentleman in regard to housing, but that is a new development in regard to which we know he is doing his best, many of the defects in respect of housing being due to causes hardly under his control. But with respect to the items mentioned this evening, we have every reason to congratulate ourselves and the Ministry upon the efficient manner in which the officials of the. right hon. Gentleman have performed their work. Of this system of protecting the health of the country against the ravages of disease, the public see and hear very little. They do not realise the work done by medical officers of health, sanitary inspectors, health visitors and other officials of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, who are working day and night in order to keep the health of the country in as satisfactory a condition as possible, and especially to prevent the incursion on to our shores of some of those diseases that ravage other countries in a much more serious fashion than they do this country. Not only the officials of the right hon. Gentle- man but those of the various health authorities all over the country deserve the thanks of the House for what they have been able to do in guarding our shores from the plagues which have attacked other parts of the world.

I am very glad to see that infantile mortality is reduced. After all, that is perhaps the acid test of health administration. No doubt better social conditions, better housing, and possibly better looking after by mothers have contributed to this improvement. But it is a proof that this new aspect of health administration which has developed so much under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman is beginning already to have its effect, and that is certainly a matter for congratulation. Infantile mortality has gone down. In this respect the contrast between country and town is very marked. One great item in connection with the prevention of infantile mortality may be found in the fact that in rural districts breast-feeding is general while in the towns it is exceptional. Unless mothers feed their own children, unless they take the responsibility of breast-feeding with all that it entails, you cannot expect to have a healthy population in this country. In those areas where breast-feeding is the rule we have a very low infantile mortality, and that fact should not be forgotten, but should be pressed in every possible way on the women of this country. In the constituency which I represent housing conditions are not at all good, and yet infantile mortality is comparatively low because the mothers nurse their own children, and do not leave it to other people. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his own efforts in various Departments to promote the health of the people. After all, this is the most human and most humane Ministry we have. It is something worth paying for, and I trust that whatever money the right hon. Gentleman asks for will not be grudged by this House in promoting the health of the population. Question put, and agreed to.