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Public Health

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 13 May 1943

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National Health Insurance (Ex-Service Men)

9.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the unfairness caused to discharged ex-Service men who are unable to obtain sickness benefit for a period of 26 weeks after discharge if the cause of sickness _arises out of the disability for which a pension is being paid; and whether he will take steps to remedy this hardship?

The rates of contribution payable under the National Health Insurance Acts are based on the expectation of incapacity under normal conditions and do not cover the risk of incapacity due to war service. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to propose any amendment of the specific provision of the Statute whereby a man discharged from the Forces becomes temporarily disentitled to sickness benefit in the circumstances referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend. I would point out, however, that the period of 26 weeks which he mentions runs from the beginning of the week in which the man was injured or was removed from duty and accordingly a substantial part of that period will ordinarily have expired before the date of discharge.

Is it not a fact that when a man is in the Services the State pays his contributions? If that is so, why should there be this discrimination when he leaves the Services?

There is no unfair discrimination. The issue is whether he has been subject to the normal conditions on which the scheme is based. Perhaps my hon. Friend would discuss the matter with me afterwards.

Tuberculosis

18.

asked the Minister of Health, the percentage increase in the rate per i,000 living of cases of abdominal tuberculosis in children under 15 years of age in the London area in 1914, as compared with 1938?

War-time fluctuations of population do not permit of any precise calculation of such a percentage as my hon. Friend mentions for any year during the war.

Has not the London County Council medical officer stated in the British Medical Journal recently that the rate is 141 per cent. higher than 1938?

Yes, Sir, but this figure was based on assumptions, not detailed in the article, about changes in population. I am not asked for calculations of that kind; I am asked for precise information; and I have given my hon. Friend the answers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that most of the cases of abdominal tuberculosis are attributable to infected milk?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware too that the milk in London is nearly all pasteurised? How then does he explain the increase?

Beveridge Report (Cash Benefit)

12.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the disquiet felt by many independent workers and traders about the proposal in the Beveridge Report that for the first 13 weeks of disability they, unlike employed persons, are to receive no cash benefit, but are to continue to have to pay contributions as though fit for work; and whether, in his examination of the Report, he will investigate the possibilities of rendering the scheme less harsh to such persons in this respect?

This proposal is one of the recommendations in the Beveridge Report which is being examined by the Government. My hon. Friend will be aware that Sir William Beveridge states in his Report that the main ground for his proposal lies in the importance of avoiding the difficult administrative questions that will arise in regard to the control of benefit for short illnesses in the case of people working on their own account. The secondary reason put forward by Sir William Beveridge for the proposed limitation is that it makes a substantial difference to the contribution.

Will my right hon. Friend advise those who are examining the plan on his behalf that the results of their work will be quite unacceptable to a large body of people unless something can be done to meet this point?

The hon. Member has rendered a service in calling attention to this, although I have not received other representations on the matter.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is very real concern about this question in the minds of a very considerable number of people who would be affected?

Venereal Diseases

20.

asked the Minister of Health how many persons, men and women, have been informed against under Regulation 33B; how many have refused treatment and subsequently been imprisoned; and whether the informers are compelled to complete their own treatment?

Information now received from all but a very few authorities in England and Wales shows that 36 men and 475 women have been reported to medical officers of health as alleged sources of venereal infection, of whom one man and 27 women have been the subject of more than one report, which is necessary before Regulation 33B can operate. Of these 28 persons, two women have refused treatment, one expressly and one by default, and have been prosecuted and imprisoned. On the last part of the Question, no civilian voluntarily undergoing treatment for venereal disease is subject to compulsion to complete it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that this Regulation has made a substantial contribution to reducing the incidence of venereal disease? Is he aware that, as we anticipated, this Regulation is operating unfavourably against women?

I do not agree with that at all. It is quite clear to me, from the reports I have received, that the Regulation is assisting local authorities in their voluntary work in this matter to a marked degree.

In view of the fact that only 36 men have been informed against, can the right hon. Gentleman say that this is a marked reduction?

The hon. Lady is interpreting the Regulation in a sense different from that in which the House received it. It was not the intention of the House to use compulsion for compulsion's sake, but in order to secure the desired end of an improvement in the position.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask local authorities and other authorities to see how far this Regulation is' contributing towards a reduction of the disease?

I have given the figures for the last quarter. I shall ask each quarter for a regular report. Of course, there is intense interest in this matter, stimulated by the widespread social and educational campaign we are carrying on.