Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Poliomyelitis (Sea Bathing)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th December 1957.

Alert me about debates like this

Dr. Bennett:

asked the Minister of Health what action, other than routine, has been taken by his Department and local health authorities to ascertain accurately the causes of the three cases of poliomyelitis, medically attributed to sea bathing at one heavily polluted beach, particulars of which have been sent to him.

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

Further inquiries reveal that the notification of poliomyelitis in two of these cases has been corrected. I am advised that in the third case, as in most cases of poliomyelitis, it is not possible to establish accurately the mechanism of infection.

Dr. Bennett:

Unless the most careful examination can be made of any case reported by doctors as having been probably infected by sea bathing, it is not unlikely that evidence will be supplied on which to make a decision whether or not sea bathing is to blame and there will continue to be uncertainty behind which the forces of inertia can shelter?

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

I should not like to feel that there is any inertia regarding a subject of such great human interest and social importance. As my hon. Friend is already aware, a Committee of the Public Health Laboratory Service is at present making a survey of the degree of bacterial pollution of seawater on various sections of the coast and is trying to find out whether any relationship exists between enteric disease, including poliomyelitis, and recent bathing in heavily polluted seawater.

Photo of Mr Somerville Hastings Mr Somerville Hastings , Barking

Can the Minister say when this Committee is likely to report and whether he is convinced that its terms of reference are sufficiently wide? Is the Minister aware that there is great disquiet among people who take young children to the seaside, and also among people who make their living in seaside towns?

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

I hope there will not be any disproportionate disquiet. So far it has not been revealed that any significant risk attaches to sea bathing in this country. I have no reason to think that the terms of reference of this Committee are unduly restricted, but if with his great experience in this sphere the hon. Gentleman can suggest any improvement, perhaps he will be good enough to communicate it to me.