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Infant Mortality

Volume 655: debated on Monday 5 March 1962

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asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the most recent statistics issued by the medical officer of health in Manchester show an increase in the infant mortality figures which are 50 per cent. above the national average; to what factor he attributes this increase; and what action he is taking to help to reverse the trend.

Yes, Sir, approximately. The specific causes of the recent increase have still to be shown.

Is the hon. Lady aware that the medical officer of health of Manchester and all the best informed people know more about the matter than she does, because they attribute the increase, first, to lamentably bad housing in the city of Manchester and, second, to the shortage of maternity beds? Does not she think that it is an indictment of the Government of which she is a member that, in 1962, more infants are being put in the grave and more stockbrokers and take-over bidders are growing fatter?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman betrays a true concern for the Service in making comments of that kind. There was a sharp drop in the infant mortality figures for Manchester in 1957. I admit that the Manchester figures are higher than the national average, but, if there was a sharp drop in 1957, I cannot believe that the reasons for the increase which the hon. Gentleman adduces are the right ones. We are looking into the matter with the Medical Officer of Health for Manchester, who has prime responsibility, because we want to know the reasons. It is too early yet to talk of specific action.