Typhoid Outbreak, Aberdeen

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17 June 1964.

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Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West 12:00, 17 June 1964

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the concern caused by the growth of the typhoid epidemic in Aberdeen, he will set up an independent committee of inquiry to investigate both the causes of the epidemic and the manner in which it has been handled.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) on 8th June.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

I am aware of that reply, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it does not satisfactorily answer the latter part of my Question about an inquiry into how the outbreak was handled, particularly at the central departmental level? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a good deal of anxiety about the administrative procedures which are set in motion when an outbreak of this kind occurs? Will the Secretary of State consider extending the terms of reference of the Committee to look at the administrative problem, so as to allay any anxiety which may exist?

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I do not think that I should like to increase and widen the terms of reference of this Committee, because I think that it is of the greatest importance that we should get quick answers to the main problem at which we have asked the Committee to look.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, without waiting for any inquiry of any kind, the work and skill of Dr. MacQueen and his staff have diminished this epidemic and enabled Aberdeen quickly to recover its ancient reputation as a clean and healthy seaside resort?

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

Yes, Sir. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that on several occasions in the House I have praised the efficiency of Dr. MacQueen, his staff, and the hospital staff, and I think that the House can now see the effects of this in what we hope is the almost completely successful containment of the disease to Aberdeen, and the very rapid rundown in new cases.

Photo of Mr Henry Brewis Mr Henry Brewis , Galloway

Is it not the case that the central administration has worked very well in tracing contacts in other cities, and that those cases of typhoid which have broken out in other cities have all been known of and suspected before the actual case was confirmed?

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I thank my hon. Friend for reminding the House of that fact. Medical officers of health in the rest of Scotland have been very quick in getting on to likely suspected cases.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

We can congratulate the medical officers of health on being very much quicker off the mark than the Government were with regard to the withdrawal of the corned beef. It was nine days before we got a statement on the matter from the right hon. Gentleman. Can he assure us that the terms of reference are sufficiently wide to enable us to get a proper investigation and to draw the right lessons in respect of the import, distribution, control, and early withdrawal of suspected corned beef?

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I think that it is likely that the inquiry will give us this information, but if, as a result of the inquiry, the Government and the House consider that further points need looking into, it will of course be possible to consider those later.