Oral Answers to Questions — Cancer Research

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th July 1949.

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Photo of Sir Frank Medlicott Sir Frank Medlicott , Norfolk Eastern 12:00 am, 28th July 1949

asked the Lord President of the Council whether, in view of the serious increase in deaths from cancer during the last 30 years, he will make a statement as to the research which is now being conducted under the auspices of his department, or with his encouragement; and, in particular, what joint research or co-operation with America is taking place.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

Research on cancer forms a very important part of the programme of the Medical Research Council; it is also promoted, with official encouragement, by bodies such as the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the British Empire Cancer Campaign. I understand that there is particularly close co-operation in this field between British workers and their colleagues in America.

Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many research workers are engaged and how much money is being spent on this purpose?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

I could not state the number of research workers without notice, but I can say that the Medical Research Council's expenditure on cancer research was only about £6,000 up to and including 1945–46, it rose to £12,000 in 1946–47 and to £24,000 in 1947–48, and it is estimated at £145,000 for 1948–49 and at perhaps £200,000 in 1949–50. Other expenditures are being made. I assure the House that it need not worry that financial limitations would be imposed on an important matter of this kind. It is a question of getting to the roots of the problem.

Photo of Sir Frank Medlicott Sir Frank Medlicott , Norfolk Eastern

In view of the rather disturbing figures, which have now risen to some 80,000 deaths per year from cancer, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there will be widespread support for the fullest extension of research that he can encourage, especially as the figures which he has quoted seem rather modest in face of the terrible nature of the problem?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

I appreciate that, but real progress is being made in research and the House may rest assured that the limiting factor is not finance. It is knowledge. We are all impressed with the great need to do everything we can about it.

Photo of Mr Louis Tolley Mr Louis Tolley , Kidderminster

Will not my right hon. Friend agree that up to a point, it is a question of finance, because the Medical Research Council can only go into these matters and make investigations scientifically and otherwise according to the amount of money which they feel they have at their disposal? Will he considerably increase the grant from the Government to the Council so that they can proceed more actively with this work?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

I am sorry but I could not disagree more with my hon. Friend. The mere voting of money does not do anything. The thing is to find a good case for the spending of money. That is what I am after.

Photo of Sir Stanley Reed Sir Stanley Reed , Aylesbury

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm or deny an allegation which is made that, despite these extensive inquiries and all the skill and devotion of those engaged in them, no real progress has been made in relation to the discovery of the causation of cancer?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

No, Sir. I would not say that no real progress has been made. Progress towards the big fundamental solution is disappointing, but real progress is being made into various phases of cancer research.