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Durban Passengers Grievance

Volume 180: debated on Wednesday 14 August 1907

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the fact that three passengers on board the White Star liner s.s. "Persic," which sailed from Durban on 27th March, were forced to land at Plymouth, notwithstanding that they intended to proceed to Tilbury, without being informed of the risk which one of them ran from exposure to a railway journey, owing to the fact that he was suffering from typhoid fever; whether the fact of this disease having occurred on board was notified to the port authority or Board of Trade; whether it ought to have been notified, and to whom; whether the summary landing of these passengers at Plymouth relieved the ship's officers from any duty of reporting the disease on arrival at Tilbury, or in any way expedited the discharge of the vessel in the port of London; whether he proposes to take any action in the matter; whether his department, or other authority, has any power to prevent the spreading of disease in this way in this country; and whether, having regard to the loss and expense incurred by several persons through the above events, he will cause full inquiry to be made into the whole matter. (Answered by Mr. John Burns.) Perhaps I may be allowed to Answer this Question. My attention has been called to the case mentioned in it, and I have made inquiry with regard to it. The passengers referred to left the ship at Plymouth under the advice of the ship's medical officer, but I do not understand that they were forced to do so. The medical officer appears not to have regarded the case as one of typhoid fever, but as extremely suspicious. He states that he reported the case at Plymouth to the pilot, giving him the principal symptoms as a guide for those ashore, and that the pilot assured him the case would be looked to. I am informed that the discharge of the vessel was not in any way expedited by the landing of the passengers at Plymouth. The Local Government Board have informed the steamship company that in their opinion the ship's medical officer should either have sent an intimation in writing to the port medical officer of health respecting the case or should have mentioned it on the certificate given by him with regard to the health of the passengers and crew. The Board have suggested to the company that it should be made clear to the surgeons of their ships that, in all cases where suspicion exists of infectious disease on ships arriving in any port, information of the facts should be sent in writing by the surgeon to the port medical officer of health. The company have given an assurance that in future this will be done.