asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the recent increase in cases of smallpox throughout the country; what is the total number of cases which have been notified during the past three months; and whether he has received any report as to the causes which have brought about the recent increase in such cases?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affimative. The total number of cases of smallpox notified in England and Wales during the 12 weeks from the 4th January to the 28th March was 1,609. My right hon. Friend has received numerous reports made by medical officers of his Department who have visited the districts in which smallpox is prevalent, and is advised that the recent increase in the number of cases may be attributed to the neglect of vaccination in many of the invaded districts, and to neglect of the precautions which are essential if the spread of the disease is to be checked. My right hon. Friend may perhaps take this opportunity of informing the House and the country that he is advised that there is no doubt that the disease now so prevalent in certain districts is true smallpox, though happily mild in degree, and that vaccination is the only reliable protection against it.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that each of these cases costs the local authority £250 for treatment, isolation, disinfection and so forth; has his attention been drawn to the report of a medical officer of health who proves distinctly that in his area, with the money which had to be spent on these cases. they could have built 1,000 or 1,500 houses?
Will the hon. Gentleman issue Orders to local authorities to expedite the building of houses and the opening up of spaces, and to take steps to eliminate this disease by fresh air and pure food instead of by vaccination?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, it is presumed that my hon. Friend is referring to the Order issued by the late Minister of Health, which had the effect of reversing an Order issued by my right hon. Friend on the 20th July, 1923, and of re-inserting the form of statutory declaration of conscientious objection in the notice of the requirement of vaccination handed to the parent or guardian when the birth of a child is registered. The Order of the late Minister came into force on the 1st October last, and my right hon. Friend is carefully watching its effect, but there is not yet sufficient evidence to enable him to form a final opinion.
Are His Majesty's Government considering the transference of these powers from the boards of guardians to the sanitary authorities so that they may be worked in common with the general maintenance of the public health?