asked the President of the Local Government Board, If his attention has been called to the case of Joseph Abel, who has been fined five times since the 8th of March last, at the instance of the Faringdon Board of Guardians, for refusing to have his child vaccinated; whether it is the fact that in each case the maximum penalty has been inflicted by the local justices; and, whether the Board of Guardians have informed Mr. Abel that it is their intention to continue to enforce these proceedings until he complies with the Law; and if he will endeavour, as far as he is able, to arrest further proceedings being taken in this case?
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH,
in reply, said, he was aware that Mr. Abel had been fined a number of times—no doubt five times, as stated by the hon. Member—at the instance of the Faringdon Board of Guardians for refusing to have his child vaccinated. He had communicated with the Guardians some weeks ago, stating the opinion of the Local Government Board that proceedings under the Vaccination Act should not be frequently repeated, especially when taken by the Guardians, and that it should be considered whether a repetition of prosecution was likely to result in the due observance of the law. The Guardians had replied fully and clearly to the communication of the Local Government Board, and had stated their reasons for considering it expedient to continue the prosecution in the present case. They stated that Mr. Abel was well to do, and was a member of the Anti-Vaccination Society, and that it was impossible to know how much of the fines was paid by the society. They had therefore given instructions for the prosecutions to be continued. In reply to the last Question, he had to state that he had given instructions to the Guardians to consider carefully the course they were taking. He could not say on general grounds that he agreed with the 1156 policy of the Guardians; but, at the same time, the law had vested them with a certain discretion, and it was not competent for him to interfere arbitrarily with their decision. He was unable to answer the two other specific questions, because he had not had time to communicate with the Guardians on the subject. He was not aware whether the maximum penalty had been inflicted, and still less was he aware that the Board of Guardians had informed Mr. Abel that it was their intention to continue to enforce these proceedings until he complied with the law. It was to be hoped they had not taken this step.