I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state how many prosecutions have been instituted by the vaccination officer of the borough of Bethnal Green since the passing of the Vaccination Act, 1898; (2) how many convictions were obtained; (3) and how many of the fines imposed remain unrecovered; (4) whether he is aware that most of the persons prosecuted were unable to defend themselves effectually owing to ignorance of the procedure provided under Section 2 of the aforementioned Act; and, if so (5), is he prepared to allow a remission of the fines imposed.
It would be impossible to give the information asked for in the first three queries without a search of the police court records or without reference to the guardians, and the work of obtaining the information would involve much time and labour. I have no reason to suppose that persons prosecuted under the Vaccination Acts in Bethnal Green have found any greater difficulty in defending themselves than persons similarly prosecuted in other places: but if the hon. Member will furnish me with full details of any case in which he thinks the defendant has suffered injustice I will inquire into it.
I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he is aware that vaccination prosecutions in Bethnal Green and adjacent boroughs are being rigorously pursued against persons who have a conscientious objection to vaccination, and have resulted in convictions owing to the difficulty encountered by the accused persons of proving that their objection is based on a conscientious belief; and, seeing that in this respect and owing to loss of time and wages which is occasioned by the process of asserting their objection under Section 2 of the Vaccination Act, 1898, that Act does not give full relief to objectors, whether he purposes adopting any steps by which the operation of that Act might be rendered more easy and effective in future.
I am not myself aware of difficulties of the kind referred to in the first paragraph, of the question, and I should regret if any such difficulties were experienced. The answer to the second part of the question must, however, be in the negative.