London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Holborn 1924

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Holborn, Metropolitan Borough]

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In accordance with the suggestion of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
"rat week" was observed in the Borough during the week ended the 3rd
November. With the object of securing concerted effort during this week and
drawing attention to the importance of rat repression the following action was
taken: —
A circular letter was issued io the Occupiers of restaurants, hotels, eating
houses and other food premises, factories, workshops, and premises where it was
thought rats might exist.
A leaflet on "some simple suggestions for rat prevention and destruction
was widely distributed in the Borough.
A variety of rat traps and poisons were exhibited in the Public Health
An anti-rat film was exhibited at a local cinema, and still slides were shown
at a local music hall.
The baits laid weekly in the Council's sewers were quadrupled during rat
The enquiries received gave ample indication that in a number of cases the
desired action was being taken.
The general arrangements made by the Council for the repression of rats
during the year were the same as last year.
The Rats and Mice (Destruction) Act, 1019, places the obligation to carryout
work for rat repression on the "occupier" of infested premises. This sometimes
leads to difficulty in cases where structural work is required and the
" occupier " has only a short holding. It is desirable that in any amendment of
the Act the liability should be extended to the owner also.
In the Annual Report for 1922 reference was made to resolutions adopted by
the Council and a number of other Metropolitan Borough Councils in favour of
legislation requiring owners or occupiers of property to notify the local sanitary
authority on ceasing to use any drain or similar sanitary fitting and for making it
an offence to cease to use any such drain without sufficient sealing off.
Clauses to deal with the matter were included in the London County Council
General Powers Bill, 1923, but having regard to certain points of difficulty were
ultimately withdrawn for further consideration. The difficulties referred to arose
in connection with a proposal that owners and occupiers should become liable for
the sealing off of drains already disused at the time of the passing of legislation
as well as those which might become disused after that time. It appeared that
hardship might be caused to owners or occupiers by these requirements, because
such owners or occupiers might be in no way responsible for the existence of such
disused drains.
As a result of further consideration by the London County Council it was
suggested that in the case of drains, the use of which had already been abandoned
at the time of passing of legislation, the owner or occupier if he had knowledge
thereof should be required to notify the sanitary authority, but the authority
itself should be responsible at its own cost for any necessary sealing off or removal.