HC Deb 15 June 1933 vol 279 cc351-8

The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper:

In page 4, line 41, at the end, to insert the words: of whom one shall be a person who carries on business in Scotland as a retail pharmacist."—[Mr. Stevenson.]


My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stevenson) put this Amendment down with a view to raising a question in connection with the constitution of the Statutory Committee, but in view of the Amendment in the name of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, which meets the point, I do not propose to move it.

4.53 p.m.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Douglas Hacking)

I beg to move, in page 5, line 5, at the end, to insert the words: (4) The members first appointed by the council of the society shall include a pharmacist resident in Scotland and if, on the occurrence of a vacancy amongst the members appointed by the council of the society, none of these members is a pharmacist so resident, the person appointed to fill the vacancy shall be a pharmacist so resident. I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Albert Russell) for withdrawing his Amendment. It was moved in Committee upstairs, and on that occasion I resisted it on three grounds, first, that the Bill, as originally drafted, was an agreed Measure, secondly, because the North British branch of the Pharmaceutical Society were satisfied with the position as it existed in the Bill, and, thirdly, because the Scottish Office did not press for the concession. But since the Committee stage a change has taken place, and the position now is that the Scottish Office would like a Scottish representative on the committee, and, moreover, the Pharmaceutical Society has definitely asked for an amendment providing that one of the persons appointed by the society shall be a pharmacist resident in Scotland. That leaves the Government free to move this Amendment and to accept in principle the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stevenson).

The Amendment as originally drafted was not acceptable because of its wording. If it had been accepted the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society would only be able to appoint a man who was actually and actively engaged in the business. They would have been prevented from appointing an experienced pharmacist who may have retired, or from appointing a Scotsman of standing in the profession because he did not happen to be keeping a shop at that moment. But more important than that, if the original wording had been accepted while the original appointment would undoubtedly have been a Scotsman if and when a vacancy occurred, through death or retirement, the next and subsequent appointments might not have been Scotsmen. That was the weakness of the hon. and learned Member's original Amendment. The Government's Amendment will allow an experienced man, although he may not be actually engaged in business, to be appointed, and it will also make express provision for keeping this representation to Scotland in the filling of each vacancy. I hope that hon. Members will prefer the Government's proposal to their own.

4.58 p.m.


I regret very much that this Amendment has been introduced on behalf of the Government. I can well understand what has been said from the professional point of view and the necessity of balancing the correct psychology of the council in regard to those members who will administer this Bill when it becomes an Act, and, therefore, because the Pharmaceutical Council and the Government, in their wisdom, think this Amendment is essential I do not feel justified in going to a Division in opposition to it. But I want to register my most emphatic protest on the fact that a, great number of pharmacists in Lancashire and Yorkshire, who outnumber by thousands the pharmacists in the whole of Scotland, will not have even 10 per cent. of the representation on the committee which the few scattered pharmacists in the upper end of this island are to have on this committee. I speak with some little knowledge of the subject. During the War I had the honour and pleasure of serving in what was known as the poison section of the Royal Engineers, and under the most skilful pharmacists in the world one had an opportunity of knowing and seeing the practical application of this great and splendid profession. We had a more efficiently trained and a finer group of pharmacists in the fighting men from Lancashire and Yorkshire and the North of England than you will find in the whole of Scotland. They were wonderful in fighting efficiency. As I say, I shall not go to a Division on this matter but I want to register my protest against what I consider to be the most undemocratic position which the Scottish pharmacists have taken up in this matter. If the inner history of this Amendment was examined it would be found that a rather remarkable super representation will be presented to the Scottish pharmacists for some unknown reason; but if the Government feel that the symmetry and balance of the matter requires that this man shall sit on the committee on behalf of Scottish interests specially, I hope it will not be taken as a precedent in similar Measures.

5.0 p.m.


I have listened with great interest to the opposition which has been presented to the Amendment moved by the Minister. As one of those interested in the original Measure, I would express my gratitude to the Minister for the much improved form which the Amendment has now taken, because, in spite of the protest of the hon. Member for West Leyton (Sir W. Sugden), it will ensure not merely the immediate appointment of a Scottish representative upon this council, but the perpetual appointment of a Scottish representative.


Most undemocratic.


When the hon. Member describes Scotland as the "upper part of this Island," I venture to make my protest. Robert Louis Stevenson was very indignant with a correspondent who addressed a letter to him and put on the envelope "North Britain." He said: "Whatever we are, we are not North Britain. We are the country of Scotland, and I enjoin you in future to address me as residing in Scotland, whenever I am there." The "upper end of this Island" is a term of insolent reproach which I refuse to accept on behalf of my native country. While in general questions, in regard to which all parts of Great Britain are mutually concerned, I am not one of those who would wish to support any kind of division, in connection with this Bill the hon. Member for West Leyton ought to recognise that there are circumstances which make necessary the appointment of a Scottish representative upon this council. There are five representatives, apart from one who has to have a legal training, and out of those five it is not disproportionate to ask that Scotland should have one representative.

There are duties of discipline entrusted to this council. Although it may be true that in the general run of science the interests of England and Scotland are entirely alike, when it comes to a ques-of dealing with people who have committed some act which it is supposed has been inappropriate or illegitimate, it is expedient at least that someone who knows the conditions in which the supposed offences are committed should be on the council to represent a part of this Island which, after all, has traditions as separate and as honourable as those of any other part. Life is not entirely the same in Scotland. It is necessary, when it comes to decision of questions which may easily be raised under this Bill, that someone who knows the conditions of life in Scotland should have a place on the council. Accordingly I emphatically support the Amendment.

5.5 p.m.


I expected, of course, that the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) would support the Minister's proposal to include a representative of Scotland on this council, and he will not be offended, therefore, if I speak of the rights of Wales in this connection. I am amazed at the Under-Secretary so easily giving way to the claims of Scotland without considering other parts of the Kingdom. I was astonished too at the hon. Member for West Leyton (Sir W. Sugden) putting the weight, as it were, against Lancashire in his argument, for he is a Lancashire man himself.


You misquote me entirely. I supported Lancashire.


The hon. Member argued about the large number of persons employed in this profession in Lancashire, and he compared them with Scotland. As a Lancashire representative I want to stand for the claims of Lancashire.


Hear, hear.


I would ask the Under-Secretary whether he considers it fair to do what he is proposing in this Amendment. The five members of this council ought to sit there as representing the best intellect in the profession, irrespective of the disitrict from which they come. There was nothing territorial about the representation in the original Bill. If the five best men available are Scotsmen, they ought to be chosen from Scotland. In that case there would be none from Wales or England. Likewise, if the five best representatives are to be secured from Wales, as might be the case, the five ought to be Welshmen. If the five men with the best brains come from England they should be chosen. I ask the Minister to ponder over his proposal and to ask himself whether he is playing the game in giving territorial representation on this council. If the vast majority of the pharmacists are in London and Lancashire, as is probably the case, then, on the argument of the right hon. Member for Hillhead the total representation, on territorial qualification, ought to come from London and Lancashire. I notice that the Under-Secretary, when the Bill was in Committee, said that if he accepted an Amendment which was moved to give Scotland special representation, how could he resist an appeal for Welsh representation or for representation of any other part of Great Britain? The strange thing to me is that he resisted an Amendment of this kind in Committee, but has given way since.

I protest against a proposal to include a representative from Scotland without any regard being paid to representation from Wales. Unless I am mistaken, one of the leading men in this profession who has recently passed away was a Welshman and an officer of the Pharmaceutical Society. We ought to be very careful what we do. Before we pass this Amendment the Minister ought to explain how he can square his resistance to this proposal in Committee with his total collapse now in face of the claim of Scottish Members to secure special representation. The day is fast coming in this House when every claim made by the Scottish people for anything under the law of this country will result in a similar claim coming from Wales. I ask the Under-Secretary again what he has to say regarding the contradiction that in Committee upstairs he resisted such a proposal as this, and that now he is willing to give this special representation to Scotland.

5.10 p.m.


It has been noticeable in this House for many years that when people get obsessed with an inferiority complex they always ask for special representation. We see it from time to time in connection with the trade unions. It is one of the things which obsesses Socialist Members. There have been innumerable cases in the past in which women have asked for special representation. As one who has the greatest respect and honour for the Scottish people, as one who knows that they are bound to get representation on their merits, I ask the Government not to inflict this penalty on the Scottish people,, but to withdraw this Amendment, which all Scotsmen capable of real thought realise would be a slur on Scotland. I ask the Government not to do this thing in these days. There is no reason for it. I do not know who is the person who started it, but it cannot be anyone with any considerable wisdom. We really have passed beyond the days of the inferiority complex. The Scottish people are quite capable of getting this place on their merits. They are absolutely efficient and capable. I do dislike hearing one or two timid Members of the Scottish race running down other people of that great race.

5.13 p.m.


As a Scotsman I cannot let this Amendment pass without thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) for his solicitude and his anxiety to do full justice to the Scottish people. We rarely have a Debate affecting Scotland without the hon. Member giving us the full benefit of his large-minded outlook and sense of humour. As to the inferiority complex, I do not think that this question comes under that heading at all. As far as I understand it, the whole point is a question of procedure in legislation. In Scotland we have our own form of legislation and procedure. Here it is a question not so much of ability as of local knowledge. We wish to have on this council someone who is conversant with the pharmaceutical practices of Scotland. With regard to the hon. Member for West Leyton (Sir W. Sugden), who spoke for Lancashire, we regard as impertinent his insular or semi-insular views in referring to Scotland as North Britain. Personally I always address anyone who writes to me from England in that way as "South Britain." In the special forms of procedure and legislation, such as we have in Scottish pharmaceutical practice, it is advisable that Scotland should have this special representation on the Council, and we are grateful to the Government for having accepted that view.

Amendment agreed to.