HC Deb 17 March 1852 vol 119 cc1218-22

Order for Second Reading read.


presented petitions in favour of the Bill, from the President and Censors of the Royal College of Physicians, London; the President, Vice-Presidents, and Council of the Royal College of Surgeons; one signed by 150 eminent medical practitioners residing in London; and numerous petitions from medical practitioners, chemists, and others, in various parts of the country. He hoped the House would consider the above petitions, especially those from the two colleges and the members of the medical profession, a sufficient answer to the allegation that there was no necessity for a Bill of this nature. It might be laid down as an axiom, that education in any branch connected with the profession of medicine was necessary; and repeated attempts had been made to supply the deficiency in the present law relating to Pharmaceutical Chemists. No doubt could exist as to the propriety of establishing an Examining Board, and ensuring the proper qualification of the members of that body, by means of an examination. Some difference of opinion had existed as to the jurisdiction under which such board should be constituted; and about the years 1839 and 1840, communications took place between the chemists and the several medical bodies on this subject. It was proposed at one time to form a joint board of examiners with the College of Physicians; but after much discussion and consideration this was found to be impracticable, and was abandoned. The College of Surgeons declined to entertain the question; and there were insuperable obstacles to an amalgamation with the Society of Apothecaries. The result of these deliberations, was the establishment of the Pharmaceutical Society, consisting entirely of chemists, as the institution which should regulate the education and conduct the examination of the future members of that body. This society, which was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1843, was entirely of a voluntary character; its powers did not extend beyond those who thought proper to come within its ranks, and only those young men who desired to distinguish themselves came forward for examination; consequently, the influence of the society numerically, on those entering the business, was small, while the result of the system of education and examination, in the cases of those who availed themselves of it, afforded satisfactory evidence of its efficacy. It was therefore, necessary, in order to extend that beneficial influence, to increase the powers of the society, and for this purpose the Pharmacy Bill was introduced. The Bill confirmed the Charter of the society, with certain modifications, and gave power to make by-laws and other necessary regulations. It then enacted that it would be unlawful for any person to assume the name of Pharmaceutical Chemist, or Chemist and Druggist, &c., unless he had passed the prescribed examination, as a guarantee to the public that he was qualified to perform the responsible duty of dispensing medical prescriptions. There was a clause exempting from interference all persons already engaged in the business, as it would be unjust to make the Act retrospective in its operation. There was another clause, exempting all the medical bodies in the three kingdoms, the provisions of the measure being confined exclusively to chemists and druggists. The penal clauses were not nearly so stringent as those in other Acts of Parliament of a similar nature, as they only went so far as to prevent the public from being imposed upon by unqualified persons, and to recognise and establish a standard of qualification for those who assume the name and profess to be Pharmaceutical Chemists. The Bill was generally supported by the chemists throughout the kingdom, and also by a large proportion of the medical profession. The only opposition which had arisen, was from the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, and the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow. The first objection was, that it would obstruct the progress of a general measure for regulating the entire medical profession. This he (Mr. Bell) was prepared to refute, as it was one of the merits of the Bill that it did not interfere in any way with the existing medical and surgical bodies. Those who had any experience in what is called medical reform must be aware that it is a most complicated and intricate subject, involving a great variety of interests and prejudices, and it had been the studious endeavour of the promoters of this Bill to keep it perfectly isolated and distinct. The medical profession might legislate independently, and the passing of this Bill would rather facilitate such legislation than otherwise. Another objection was, that too much power was vested in the Pharmaceutical Society, and that the by-laws and regulations ought to be under the supervision of the Secretary of State or other officer of the Government. Now this provision had been introduced into the Bill of last Session; but it was omitted in the present Bill, on account of the indisposition of the late Home Secretary to have anything to do with it, under the idea, no doubt, that the question would be involved in the same intricacy as that of medical reform. This, however, was not the case. If it were thought right, the clause which had been expunged could be reintroduced. Another objection was, that the Bill would affect the licentiates of the abovenamed corporations, who have the power of granting licences for general practice, including the practice of pharmacy. This, however, was a misapprehension, as the parties in question would be expressly exempted, and would enjoy all the rights and privileges that they would have possessed if the Bill had not passed. They could not, however, be registered as pharmaceutical chemists under the Bill, as that term was confined to "persons who dispense medical prescriptions and prepare medicines, not being members of the medical profession, or practising under a diploma or licence of a medical or surgical corporate body." These latter words were introduced by the desire of the apothecaries in London, and now he was required to take them out to satisfy the medical practitioners in Scotland. If he were to comply, and confer by the Bill new powers on the two licensing bodies who made the demand, a contention and rivalry would immediately arise between the practitioners in England and the practitioners in Scotland, which would hazard the passing of the Bill. It was necessary to confine the registry to pharmaceutical chemists, to make the institution strictly pharmaceutical, and to avoid the confusion which would arise if medical chemists, surgical chemists, and pharmaceutical chemists, having different kinds of qualification, were all registered together on one list. In fact, the charter of incorporation defined the members to be chemists and druggists; and members of the medical or surgical profession were disqualified for admission as members of the Pharmaceutical Society. The Society of Apothecaries had fallen into the dilemma of gradually assuming the character of medical practitioners, and this had led to their abandonment of pharmacy as their primary and principal pursuit, an example which the Pharmaceutical Society was desirous not to imitate. It was needless to discuss more in detail the minor provisions of the Bill, which would be duly considered by a Select Committee, in the event of the House acceding to the Motion of which he had given notice, lie felt assured that if the Bill should pass, it would, in a few years, raise the character of pharmaceutical chemists. It would oblige all those who regularly follow the business to learn the rudiments of chemistry and the collateral sciences. Among the number some would be found who, by their natural talent and industry, aided by the fundamental education rendered necessary by the Bill, would turn their attention to the higher branches of science, and reflect credit on the country. The majority, however, would confer a benefit on the public in another way, by performing in a more safe and efficient manner the duties of pharmaceutical chemists in the preparation of medicines, many of which are powerful poisons, and ought not to be entrusted in the hands of ignorant and inexperienced persons. He moved that the Bill be read a second time, for the purpose of being referred to a Select Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


, considering the great powers given by the Bill to the Pharmaceutical Society, was not prepared to give his assent to the second reading before the Bill had been referred to a Select Committee. The second clause gave very great and irresponsible powers to the Pharmaceutical Society in making bylaws and regulations; and the fifteenth clause subjected persons to serious penalties for assuming the business of a chemist and druggist, contrary to the regulations so laid down. Very difficult cases might arise on that question, unless the clauses were worded with exceeding care; and he hoped therefore, that the Committee be- fore whom the Bill should be sent, would be very careful in the construction of these clauses.


agreed with what had fallen from the right hon. the Home Secretary. Very grave objections could be stated to the Bill as it now stood. In fact it would give a trading monopoly to a chartered body, of which that House knew very little indeed. So far as he could understand the object of the Bill, it was intended to turn chemists and druggists into apothecaries, and to derive a revenue for the society by levying large contributions from chemists already in business. The business now pursued by the chemists was formerly carried on by the Apothecaries, also a trading body, to whom an Act of Parliament had given great powers; and unless great care were taken they would find a fresh crop of medical practitioners springing up among the chemists.


said, that the object of the Bill was diametrically opposed to that stated by the hon. Member, and was about to explain further, but being called to order, he resumed his seat.


said, he trusted that the House would have an opportunity of discussing the Bill after it should have come from the Committee.

Bill read 2°, and committed.