HC Deb 02 July 1890 vol 346 cc606-11

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [25th June], on Consideration of Bill, as amended, "That a Clause (First election of representatives of chemists and druggists to council,)"—(Mr. Sexton,)—be read a second time.

Question again proposed.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause added.

Another Clause (Penalties,)—(Mr. Sexton)—brought up, and read the first and second time, and added.

Another Clause (This Act and the principal Act to be read together,)—(Mr. Sexton,)—brought up, and read the first and second time, and added.

Amendment proposed, to leave out Clause 4.—(Dr. Fitzgerald.)

Question proposed, "That Clause 4 stand part of the Bill."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made.

*(4.22.) DR. FITZGERALD (Longford, S.)

The 6th clause, which I now propose to omit, seeks to abolish the power of the Society called the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, and to replace the Society by a very different body of persons. This is done for reasons which I suppose will be explained by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), who, I regret, is one of the principal supporters of the Bill, and without whose powerful aid the Bill would not have had the least chance of passing. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland was established by Act of Parliament for the specific purpose of the education and training and examination of a body of men who were to dispense medical prescriptions, and otherwise deal in poisons and keep open shops for the sale of drugs in general. This was a small body, and they carried out their professional purpose to the letter of the law. It has never been charged against them that they have done any illegal act, either collectively or individually, as members of the Society; but who are the other persons whom my hon. Friend wishes to endow with the particular claim of this Society to dispense poisons and deal in drugs, They are a body of men of whom many have been pronounced by Judges to have been guilty of illegal practices, and some have been visited with severe penalties in consequence. I have the disadvantage of having to speak before my hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton), and I do not know what will be the contention of my hon. Friend why these 3,000 men, who have been acting in defiance of the law, should now have their actions legalised. I cannot by anticipation say what blandishments my hon. Friend may use on behalf of this body of men. Perhaps my hon. Friend may say that the number of qualified chemists in Ireland are too small a body of men, and do not live in those remote districts in which it is necessary to obtain these poisons and medicines; but will he contend that because in some districts in Ireland and Scotland persons have to go from 14 to 20 miles for a doctor, and because in these districts there are a certain number of old ladies with whom my hon. Friend is very well acquainted, who are called "knowledgeable old women," who think they know more of medicine than all the doctors, will my hon. Friend be ready to qualify these interesting old dames as M.D.'s and Fellows of the College of Surgeons? I do not know what arguments my hon. Friend may put forward to support the claims of these men, whom he seeks to put in the place of qualified chemists, except an unaccountable craving among persons in the North of Ireland to poison themselves and everybody else. If this clause passes we must be prepared to find in the shops of small general dealers, side by side on one shelf, to be sold by men who have had no practical training, oxalic acid and washing soda, arsenic and baking powder. I cannot but think my hon. Friend is influenced by this particular class of traders within his own constituency, and that is natural, perhaps, on his part; but I cannot foresee upon what plea the Attorney General for Ireland will support this claim. My hon. Friend may introduce some statistics to the House in order to further the claims of these persons in the North of Ireland. I am quite prepared, should I ever arrive at a more exalted place, to find my hon. Friend demonstrating to archangels, upon incontrovertible statistics, that the electors of West Belfast ought really to have all the front places. But I do not think the House of Commons will be persuaded by any statistics to-day to do what, to my mind, will be a very dangerous thing—to legalise the acts of unqualified men who have continued to trade in defiance of the law. I do not think that all the legal acumen of the Attorney General for Ireland will persuade this House to allow these persons, who have had no experience whatever in dealing with these drugs, to mix up these things with the food of the people in their shops. On these considerations I move the omission of a clause for which I do not think my hon. Friend can have much to urge.

Amendment proposed, to leave out Clause 6.—(Dr. Fitzgerald.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'every chemist and druggist' stand part of the Bill."

(4.35.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I understood my hon. Friend was about to move the insertion of the words "and styling himself as such," of which he has given notice. He has certainly dealt with a simple point, in an eloquent and amusing speech, in defence of the Pharmaceutical Society. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Society will still remain the Governing Body in all matters connected with the Bill; we only propose that these chemists and druggists shall elect seven members on the Board, and the Society will still have 14, or two-thirds of the governing power. The English Pharmacy Act had the effect of establishing two bodies, the Pharmaceutical Society and the body of chemists and druggists. Members have been appointed upon different examinations, and these two bodies have pursued their respective functions in a manner satisfactory and convenient to the public. But, unfortunately, the powers given to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland under the Act of 1875 to create a second grade of chemists have remained unused. The Society have excluded from the provisions of that Act all those who are not members of the Society. The Council by their culpable inaction have omitted to create a second grade of chemists and druggists, and the consequence is that, except in the larger towns, such as Dublin, Belfast, and Cork, duly qualified chemists are not found, and to supply the public need there has sprung up a class of traders, numbering now some 2,000 or 3,000, who, in diffe- rent parts of the country, supply such drugs and medicines as farmers and others may require for their families, or for their cattle, at a more reasonable rate than if the trade remained in the sole possession of the pharmaceutical chemists. It is obviously unfair that these persons who have come into the trade in consequence of the default of the Council should be driven from the trade. The main portion of their business is the supply of drugs, sometimes of a poisonous nature, to farmers, for use in regard to cattle; and the efforts of the Pharmaceutical Society have been directed to prevent such sales, with the result that a man has been fined £5 for selling a pennyworth of laudanum, though the sale was conducted in strict conformity with all the precautions required. The Magistrates, while inflicting the penalty, said they greatly regretted and condemned the state of the law that obliged them to enforce the fine. This is a condition of things which should not be allowed to continue. What I propose is that those who have been in the trade since 1875 should be allowed to be registered as qualified. I am willing that hereafter there shall be examinations, but those who have conducted business, hitherto, with great convenience to the public and without casualty of any kind, should retain their position. My hon. Friend represents a constituency of farmers. Can he maintain that a farmer of Longford who requires to purchase some substance necessary for the treatment of his horses, cattle, sheep, or pigs, shall write to Dublin, Belfast or Cork, and, after long delay, pay double price for the article? I trust my hon. Friend will not persist in his Amendment.


The hon. Member who has moved the Amendment has expressed some curiosity to know upon what ground I could support a Bill in the interests of certain persons whom he represents as breakers of the law; but I support the Bill not in the interest of such a class, but in the interest of the general public. A great public want has been proved to exist, and it is no answer to a Bill which proposes to supply that want to say that certain persons are supplying the want in a manner by which they have rendered themselves obnoxious to the law. That is the manner in which the subject presents itself to my mind. I need not detain the House, because the hon. Member for West Belfast has clearly and accurately stated how the present state of things has arisen since the Act of 1875. I do not enter into motives; but, as a matter fact, the Pharmaceutical Society have not availed themselves of the powers conferred upon them by the Act of 1875 to create another grade of chemists and druggists, and so this legislation is necessary. As has been pointed out, there are substances used in veterinary medicine which are more or less poisonous in their character, and those compounds are largely required all over the country; to say, for instance, that the poisonous compound known as sheep-wash shall only be purchased of one of the few pharmaceutical chemists in the country is, in my opinion, an absurd state of the law.


I am content to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, Clause 6, lines 27 and 28, to leave out "half-a-guinea," and insert "oneguinea."—(Mr. Sexton.)

Amendment agreed to.


At the end of Clause 6, I propose to add the sub-section transferred from the end of Clause 7. It will be observed that, appearing where it does, the sub-section is out of place. Clause 7 provides for examinations of various persons, and the sub-section provides for a class of persons who are not to be subject to examinations, and, therefore, should take its place at the end of Clause 6.

Amendment proposed, in Clause 6, page 2, after line 28, insert the following sub-section:— (4.) A person who has, prior to the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-nine, served as an assistant or apprentice and assistant for a full period of seven years to a chemist and druggist who has registered under this Act, or who, had he survived or continued in business, would have been entitled to register under this Act, shall be entitled to be registered as a chemist and druggist without examination on complying with the other provisions of this section.

Amendment agreed to.


I may explain that as Clause 7 stands, it provides that every, person who goes into business after the 1st January shall be subject to certain examinations, but it might be doubtful if he would be so subject if he goes into business after the passing of the Act, and this Amendment is to make the drafting clear.

Amendment proposed, in Clause 7, page 2, line 32, to leave out "and before the passing of this Act."

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made, in Clause 7, page 2, line 34, after the word "become," to insert the words "or who, had he survived or continued in business, would have been entitled to become."—(Mr. Sexton.)


It is a fact that it would be unfair for a person who has failed at the first examination that he should present himself for re-examination without payment at any time whatever, and so I propose to insert the limit of 12 months.

Amendment proposed, in Clause 7, page 3, line 14, at end, to insert the words, "within twelve months."

Amendment agreed to.

Other Amendments made.

Bill to be read the third time tomorrow.