HC Deb 16 June 1921 vol 143 cc773-6

I beg to move, That a humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying him to annul Regulation 4 of the Draft Regulations made under The Dangerous Drugs Act, 1920, laid upon the Table of this House on the 24th day of May. I placed this Motion on the Paper for the purpose of drawing attention to certain hardships inflicted on Irish farmers by the Regulations which are at present lying on the Table, and which have been made in pursuance of the Dangerous Drugs Act. Laudanum is the principal drug we are concerned with in this matter. Laudanum is kept, as a rule, by farmers for the purpose of dosing horses and cattle in case of certain complaints, principally in the case of colic. Under the Dangerous Drugs Act, however, and the Regulations we are now considering, laudanum in future can only be purchased in the form of a prescription, and therefore the custom which has obtained in the past of farmers keeping a certain amount of laudanum in the house for the purpose of dosing horses and cattle at a moment's notice will no longer be permitted. This may not appear to be a serious matter, but it is really a hardship to the farmers, who must now, under the Regulations, procure a prescription from a veterinary surgeon. Very often a veterinary surgeon is not to be had within miles of where the farmer lives, money and time are wasted in getting the prescription in the first instance, and in getting it made up in the second. I have reason to believe that the Home Office is willing to make some modification of the Regulations on this point and to arrange in some way for laudanum to be obtained by the farmer on some sort of certificate given by the police or some other body, saying that he is a fit and proper person to have laudanum served out to him, and specifying the amount he will be able to get. That is shortly the case of the farmer.

I also want to draw attention to the hardship which is inflicted on a class of merchants in Ireland called chemists and druggists. There are two bodies in Ireland who have to deal with drugs—the pharmaceutical chemists and the chemists and druggists. The difference between the two is that the pharmaceutical chemists are the people who have the monopoly of prescriptions. The chemists and druggists, before the passing of the Dangerous Drugs Act, were able to sell poisons of any kind but not to compound prescriptions. Under the Regulations the drugs specifically mentioned in the Act can only be served out in the form of prescriptions, which means that the chemists and druggists who have hitherto had the right of selling these drugs have now had that right taken away from them. That is a serious thing for these people, because the sale of this particular drug, laudanum forms a very considerable item in their business. It seems hard that because there is a certain amount of drug-taking in some of the large cities, these people should be deprived of one of the principal items of their business. I would ask the representative of the Home Office to try, if he can, to meet the chemists and druggists, so as to enable them, in the first instance, to sell laudanum on the certificate I have suggested—which I have reason to believe they would be willing to do—and secondly, to make a declaration that these chemists and druggists will be at liberty to sell patent medicines, or medicines which are already made up—for instance, chlorodyne and zinc ointment, which I understand contains a prohibited drug, and other things of that kind, not actually compounded by them, which they receive from the manufacturers, but which, owing to the fact that they have no right to compound or sell prescriptions, they are unable at present by law to sell. I trust the representative of the Home Office will find himself able to meet me in these two respects.


The first point made by my hon. and gallant Friend can easily be met. The Committee which was appointed by the Home Secretary to examine the complaints made in regard to the draft Regulations reported—on page 9 of their Report—that it was certainly necessary to meet the case of the farmers, as put by my hon. and gallant Friend. The Committee suggested that this could easily be done in one of two ways—either by selling laudanum in a de-natured form, or else, pending the discovery of some method of denaturing laudanum, by a certificate being issued to the farmers by the local police which would entitle the farmers to obtain laudanum. It is the intention of my right hon. and gallant Friend to issue a form of certificate to the local police, and I think that will meet the case. That will, of course, be done in plenty of time before the Regulations take effect en 1st December.

In the case of the chemists and druggists, such legal opinion as we have been able to take and as has been available holds that though the chemists and druggists are prohibited from compounding mixtures, they are entitled to dispense made-up prescriptions of something they have not made up themselves. There is a further point in regard to that, that is the considerable list of drugs which are exempted. Taking those two things together—the exempted drugs as contained in Schedule 2 and the belief that we hold that the druggist will be entitled to dispense mixtures containing poisons which he has not himself compounded—I hope I have met my hon. and gallant Friend's point.


The Under-Secretary has not stated what is to happen in the case of a refusal on the part of the superintendent of police. Supposing that, of two superintendents in adjoining counties, one says it is quite a proper thing to grant these applications, while the one in the adjoining county thinks it is improper, what appeal, if any, is there for the individual whose neighbour or acquaintance in the one county gets what he wants while in the other there is a refusal? I fail to understand, and the Under-Secretary has not told us, why the right is taken away from the chemist of doing his compounding, as he has been able and privileged to do.


Not these chemists. They have never had the power. This applies to chemists and druggists in Ireland.


Do I understand that the chemist in Ireland is not being prejudiced as compared with the chemist in England?


There are two classes of chemists in Ireland. There is one class that does not exist here. They are druggists, and they have never had this power, so that we are not taking anything from them.


A deputation of Irish chemists came to me the other day, and I naturally presumed that they were enjoying the same privileges which the chemists of England were enjoying. If I am wrong, and if the Irish chemists are going to be permitted to enjoy the privileges which they have enjoyed in the past, I will not detain the House any longer.


Perhaps, with the permission of the House, I may clear up the point which the hon. Member has raised. The police authorities have not to state whether a man is entitled to be given laudanum. The certificate to be granted by the police authorities, which will be on a form supplied by the Home Office, will be to the effect that the man is a bonâ fide farmer or stockowner. That is a matter of fact, and not of opinion.

Captain CRAIG

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Two Minutes before Twelve o'clock.