HC Deb 02 July 1931 vol 254 cc1441-3

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the representations made to him by the pharmaceutical organisations on the subject of the Pharmacy and Poisons Bill; and whether he proposes to take any steps to meet the objections raised by these organisations?


As there has been a good deal of misunderstanding about the scope and objects of the Poisons and Pharmacy Bill, I crave the indulgence of the House for a somewhat long statement. This Bill is based upon the recommendations of a Departmental Committee which was appointed by the previous administration and reported in 1930. The committee which, apart from its pharmaceutical members, was entirely independent of any of the commercial interests affected, found that the existing position relating to poisons was far from satisfactory, and the object of the present Bill is to provide for a wider and much more effective regulation of poisons than exists at present. I understand that the Pharmaceutical Associations take exception to the Bill on two main grounds. In the first place, they demand that all doctors' prescriptions, whether they contain poisons or not, shall be dispensed by registered pharmacists only. This proposal does not, however, come within the scope of the Bill. Moreover, it has never been investigated and even if it were assumed that there was a prima facie case for considering that the demand is in the public interest, the Government could not ask Parliament to adopt such a proposal except after adequate inquiry, and after the interests who would be affected by the prohibition had had an opportunity of stating their case.

Secondly, the pharmacists demand that the increased facilities which the Bill proposes for the supply to farmers of agricultural poisons shall be limited to firms carrying on a bona fide business in the supply of agricultural requisites. I am advised, by the Ministry of Agriculture and by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland that this limitation would not make adequate provision for legitimate needs in the more rural districts. The Government, however, have decided to propose an amendment to the Bill, which will have the effect of requiring the Poisons Board and the Secretary of State, in considering the allocation of poisons as between Part I and Part II, to have regard to the desirability of restricting the contents of Part II (which will contain the list of poisons which may be sold by persons other than pharmaceutical chemists) so far as is consistent with the provision of adequate facilities for the public to obtain supplies of non-medical substances which are in common use.


Was not the reason for the formation of this Commission the desire of the public to restrict the sale of poisons, and has not the result of the recommendation been to increase enormously and to spread the sale of poisons by unauthorised and incompetent persons?


No, I think the design is to effect a useful and necessary regulation, and I do not admit the argument implied in the hon. Member's question.


Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to proceed with this Bill at an early date, or is he awaiting the observations of the particular associations concerned?


We are wishful to get ahead with the Bill and to pass it into law, with the Amendments to which I have referred.


Have the pharmacists been consulted with reference to the proposed Amendments?


It is because of the activities of the pharmacists that this reply has become necessary.


Is this the Second Reading of the Bill?


I can assure my hon. Friend that this information has been asked for.

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