HC Deb 17 February 1921 vol 138 cc251-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that the draft Regulations under the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1920, are causing dissatisfaction and alarm to registered pharmacists and dispensing chemists; whether the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain has protested against the Regulations being further proceeded with until the whole situation has been considered by the Government Department in consultation with the Pharmaceutical Society; whether these draft Regulations supersede the Pharmacy Acts, interfere with the reasonable liberties of the people, and involve details leading to unjustifiable expenditure; and whether he will consider the advisability of suspending the Regulations meanwhile with a view to their amendment and adjustment?


asked the Home Secretary if he can see his way to withdraw the draft Regulations issued under Section 3 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1920, which are considered unworkable in their present form by those who will have to carry them out; and will he consult the representatives of the pharmaceutical societies in the redrafting of these Regulations so that the objects of the Act may be achieved with the minimum instead of the maximum of inconvenience to the public?

20. Lieut. - Colonel W. GUINNESS

asked the Home Secretary whether the new Dangerous Drugs Regulations will be withdrawn and redrafted in view of the overwhelming opinion among medical practitioners that in their present form they are unnecessarily irksome, totally impracticable, and likely only to encourage the desire for dangerous drugs by notifying patients by means of a label whenever medicines contain morphine and other narcotics?

23. Mr. CLOUGH

asked the Home Secretary whether he has received protests from the medical profession against the new Regulations made by the Home Office under the Dangerous Drugs Act on the ground that they will not only be useless and expensive but a source of danger; and whether he will again investigate the whole matter before enforcing these Regulations?


asked the Home Secretary whether in view of the strong feeling against the Dangerous Drugs Act. he will open an inquiry with the object of removing some of the hardships which the Act will entail?


asked the Homo Secretary if his attention has been called to the widespread objection to the now Regulations for the sale of dangerous drugs; and if he can make any statement?


asked the Home Secretary if, in formulating the draft Regulations for the sale, proscribing, dispensing, and distribution of cocaine, ecgonine, morphine, heroin, and opium (medicinal), the British Medical Association, which represents and speaks for over 22,000 medical men, were not consulted; if he is aware that the proposed draft Regulations are regarded by medical practitioners throughout the Kingdom as impracticable; that if Clause 13 of the proposed Regulations be strictly carried out it will be impossible for medical men to obtain those drugs from wholesale chemists by train or through the post; and that however urgently needed it will be impossible for a doctor to obtain these drugs by telephone message; and if he is prepared to submit the Regulations for consideration and amendment to a committee composed of representatives of the Home Office, the Ministry of Health, the British Medical Association, and the Pharmaceutical Society as well as of the Veterinary Surgeons, as representing all the interests concerned in dealing with these drugs?

89. Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. HOPE

asked the Minister of Health whether the Regulations under the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1920, will prevent farmers and other horse owners keeping colic draughts containing opium, the administering of which in cases of emergency often saves the lives of animals, especially where it is impossible to get veterinary aid quickly?

90. Lieut.-Colonel HURST

asked the Minister of Health whether he consulted the British Medical Association or the Pharmaceutical Society before issuing draft Regulations on the 7th January last under the Dangerous Drugs Act; whether he is aware that transactions in morphia, cocaine, heroin, opium, and ecgonino represent, roughly, half the dis- pensing practice of a doctor, and that the records of such transactions required by the Regulations must be a burden upon all doctors in dispensing practice; and whether he will now reconsider this question, having regard to professional opinion?


With the permission of the House I will make a statement covering all of these questions.

In the first place, I desire to make it clear that the Regulations are at present in draft only, and will not come into operation until they have been formally made. They are issued first in draft for the express purpose of giving all parties interested the opportunity of expressing their views before they are finally made. The criticisms that have been directed against the Department for not having consulted this body or that before issuing the Regulations are, I think, therefore a little misplaced. Representations have been received from a number of bodies, and these are being carefully considered. Many of the objections are based on a misapprehension of the meaning of the Regulations, as, for instance, the objection to Regulation 13 referred to in the question of the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Sir T. Bramsdon); and where necessary the wording of the Regulations will be amended so as to make the meaning perfectly clear. Apart from these, a number of important points have been raised, and these are being, or will be, discussed with the representatives of the interests concerned. As regards the application of the Regulations to agriculture, my right hon. Friend is in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture.

I may remind the House that the regulations are proposed in order to carry out the obligation which the Government have undertaken, by the International Opium Convention and the Treaty of Versailles, to confine the use of the drugs in question to medical and other legitimate uses. Parliament gave express powers for the purpose in the Dangerous Drugs Act of last Session. I imagine that the need for additional restrictions, in view of the prevalence of the drug habit, will be generally admitted. At the same time, it is not my right hon. Friend's desire or intention to impose any restrictions beyond what are absolutely necessary to effect the purpose, and he hopes he may be able to meet to a very large extent the views which have been submitted to him. When the regulations are finally made, they will be laid before Parliament, and Parliament will have an opportunity of discussing them if it so desires.

Colonel GREIG

Is it not a fact that these draft regulations have been published in accordance with an Act of Parliament which has been on the Statute Book for the last twenty years—the Rules Publication Act—in order that anyone may object or comment as he thinks fit?


Are we to understand that the Home Secretary will receive a deputation from these various societies, and discuss with them the points that have been raised?


The Home Secretary has already agreed to receive a deputation.


Will the Rules become operative before the discussion which has been promised takes place in this House, or will the Minister be guided by the views of members of this House before the regulations assume their final form?


The position is that the Rules have to lie on the Table of the House for twenty-one days, and during that period a Member of this or of the other House can move an Address to the King objecting to them. It does not lie with the Government or the Minister to find time.


They do not become operative until after the expiration of twenty-one days?




When does the hon. Baronet think that these Regulations will be laid? Will it be in the course of the next month?


Yes, I think certainly in the course of the next month. The matter is rather urgent, because, in the event of the Treaty with Turkey being ratified, the Regulations under which we can now exercise restrictions on opium and cocaine will lapse, and unless there is something to put in their place a deplorable state of affairs will be created. I am afraid I cannot give an absolute date when these Regulations will be laid or when the discussion with bodies affected will take place.

Sir J. D. REES

Is the hon. Baronet aware that these draft regulations are viewed with consternation by the people concerned? Is it really contemplated that the few supermen of the League of Nations are to worry every under-dog about every matter like this? Will my hon. Friend represent to the Home Secretary the intense unpopularity of these regulations, which are utterly unjustifiable?


I think my right hon. Friend is aware that a certain amount of unpopularity has been aroused by them. He is doing his best to meet the objections so far as he legitimately can, having regard to our international obligations.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

Will the representatives of agriculture have the fullest opportunity of putting their views before the Minister?


Certainly; we are in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture.


Is it not a fact that the International Opium Agreement was come to before the League of Nations was born or thought of?


That is perfectly true.


Is the hon. Baronet aware that the opportunities of discussing an Order laid on the Table of the House are absolutely illusory unless the Government give time for it?


I will not presume to argue a matter of that sort with the right hon. Gentleman, who has had much more experience than I have, but I believe he is in error. The Government has nothing to do with it; the House has the right to discuss the matter on any day.