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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 13th March 1922.

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Photo of Lieut-Colonel Nathan Raw Lieut-Colonel Nathan Raw , Liverpool Wavertree

I should like to congratulate the Minister of Health on the excellent provision he has made for the vital services with which he is concerned. I would like to refer briefly to the question of maternity and child welfare and also the treatment of tuberculosis. I notice in the Estimates that the right hon. Gentleman has provided the same amount of money this year as was provided last year for the treatment of child welfare and maternity benefit. I think we all agree that this Vote and this amount of money has given not only relief, comfort, and safety to thousands of poor women in maternity, but it has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in this country. I sincerely trust that the Minister, when financial conditions improve, will be able to devote more money to this valuable work than he has done in the past. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has somewhat reduced the amount to be devoted to the treatment of tuberculosis. In 1921 the amount was £1,700,000, and in 1922 it is to be reduced to £1,300,000. This terrible disease of tuberculosis is attacking largely the industrial population of this country, and there are over 1,000,000 people in Great Britain affected at this moment by this disease. The sum which the right hon. Gentleman has put down represents a little more than £1 per head per year in the treatment of this great disease. The eradication of tuberculosis is a national concern. It is not a disease which affects just a few people, and, therefore, I sincerely hope that the Minister, instead of reducing the amount of money devoted to the treatment of this awful disease, will see to it that next year a very much larger amount is secured.

The question of housing, as the Committee knows, is at the very root of the prevention of tuberculosis, and until we can get a really complete system of proper sanitary and decent housing, we cannot hope very seriously to reduce tuberculosis amongst the industrial classes. It is quite impossible to expect any improvement in the present overcrowded and insanitary conditions under which a great many of our people have to live to-day, I am sure that when it is possible to provide the community with really decent housing accommodation, tuberculosis and other evils will be very greatly reduced.

The other question, of the amount of money devoted to the treatment of tuberculosis, has been argued by many people in the country as so much money wasted. I do not take the view that a single penny of this money is wasted, but what I do consider is that a great amount of the effort and the money is wasted because the work is not continued. It is quite useless to devote three or four months to sanatorium treatment of a working man affected with tuberculosis and then to allow him to go home to living conditions in which he is almost bound and certain to relapse. I therefore do press on the right hon. Gentleman to consider the importance of training in the sanatoria, and of providing tuberculosis colonies in which the working man when once affected with tuberculosis can be detained and taught an occupation, and proper provision made for the remainder of his life. I quite agree that in treatment tuberculosis is the most costly disease with which we have to deal; but it is worth it. We are losing 60,000 people every year from this disease alone, and therefore on economic grounds only it is well worth the serious consideration of the Minister of Health not only to spend £1,000,000 but £2,000,000 in the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis. I have to congratulate the Minister on the very excellent provision which in my judgment he has made for these vital services, and I only wish he could have made the amount greater for tuberculosis than he has done this year.