HC Deb 27 February 1953 vol 511 cc2501-6

Order for Second Reading read.

3.42 p.m.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This is a non-controversial Bill which has the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House. I hope that when the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) referred earlier today to the fact that Bills were becoming progressively worse, he did not include the Pharmacy Bill in that indictment, and that he will be able to support it.

It is a straightforward tidying-up Bill, which has as its object the improvement of the profession. Its objects are clearly explained in the Explanatory Memorandum. They are to merge the register of pharmacists and the register of chemists and druggists into one register only, to give effect to proposals to improve the standards for qualification and registration of pharmacists, to make certain provisions to facilitate the self-government of the profession, and to remove certain anomalies.

The Bill is mainly concerned with the Society's own organisation. The proposals need statutory confirmation because, since 1852, the procedure for registration as a pharmacist has had statutory form. In the days of the old apothecary there was not the same legislative control over the activities of apothecaries and pharmacists, and there was a time when one could go into any apothecary's shop for such things as potions designed to silence one's foes and love philtres to help those one wished to be one's friends to be friends in fact. I imagine that today the potions are controlled by the poisons rule and the love philtres by the Dangerous Drugs Regulation.

Today the pharmacist has a very different place in the community. He is an honoured and very respected member of it and holds a very important place in it. Since 1852, when the Royal Pharmaceutical Society was formed, the various Pharmacy Acts have laid upon the pharmacist ever-widening duties and responsibilities which he has always carried out with great efficiency.

Some of the provisions of these earlier Acts are now a little out-dated and certain anomalies have crept in following changes in the development of society. The principal changes which this Bill sets out to put right I can very quickly summarise. The first, to which I have referred, is the merger of the two registers into one. In the time when there were two examinations, one for pharmaceutical chemists and one for chemists and druggists, there was some point in having two registers, but since 1950 there has been one examination only and the need for two registers has passed. To cut out unnecessary duplication of work, it is proposed to have one register only, and everyone who registers, chemist and druggist alike, is entitled to use the title "pharmaceutical chemist."

The second change concerns a curious anomaly. The Pharmaceutical Society is enabled to register the holder of a university degree from an overseas university. Under existing regulations the society cannot register the holder of a pharmaceutical degree of a university in the United Kingdom. The provision in this Bill is designed to remedy that. Under existing Acts members of the medical profession, although they can be registered as chemists and druggists, cannot be registered as pharmaceutical chemists. A Clause in this Bill remedies that.

The existing statutory provisions relating to students and assistants are very much out-of-date. The Society is putting forward a supplemental charter and that, together with the proposed Amendment in Clause 4 (1) of this Bill, which amends Section 4 of the Poisons and Pharmacy Act, 1908, brings them up-to-date. Last of the important points covered, the Bill extends the objects of benevolent funds on a much more up-to-date basis.

The Bill has been exhaustively examined by members of the profession. I understand that it is accepted by them as a constructive contribution towards the progress and development of the pharmaceutical profession as a whole, and for that reason I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading. We have very little time before us, and I hope that those hon. Members who are supporting this Measure will refrain from speaking too long so that we can have some hope of a Second Reading in time.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I should like to ask the hon. Member one question. I do not think that he mentioned the reasons, whatever they are, for abolishing the maximum limit of £2 on the retention fee. It seems to me, and I have had representations to that effect, that it may bear rather hardly, particularly on the younger pharmacists.

Mr. Hall

The fee of £2 was fixed in 1933. The value of the £has changed a little since then and it is felt that it would be more realistic to allow the Society in their byelaws to make a more modern assessment of the value of being registered as a pharmacist. Their byelaws are subject to the consent and approval of the Privy Council, so there can be no question of an unreasonable assessment.

Mr. Mitchison

This is perhaps a Committee point, but do I understand that the Bill proposes not to change the maximum but to abolish the provision for the maximum?

Mr. Hall

That is the purpose of the Bill—to abolish the provision for a maximum.

3.49 p.m.

Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)

As a member of a profession closely allied to pharmacists, I desire to support this Bill and at the same time to say how very much we as doctors owe to the pharmacists.

Progress in the healing art in the last 20 to 25 years has depended not so much on surgery as on the administration of many new substances. There are the vitamins. There are many gland extracts which are used for the treatment of disease and are capable of modifying the metabolic processes. Then there are the numerous drugs that are given for the destruction of germs, the antibiotics as they are called, such as penicillin. When I was a medical student they taught me that any poison capable of destroying germs would destroy me first; but that is not so, and we now have preparations which will kill the germs of septicaemia, tuberculosis, and more and more are being discovered at frequent intervals.

These substances, though ordered by the doctor, have to be prepared by the pharmacist. Some of them are given by the mouth and some of them by injection. The importance of the work of the pharmacist is increasing constantly. Of course, it is for the doctor to make the main decisions about treatment, but the responsibility of the pharmacist in making up the medicine is very great. He has to be constantly on the alert for considerations which are meticulous and difficult. The responsibility of the pharmacist is becoming greater and is continuous.

As a member of the medical profession, I am very glad to speak in commendation of the Bill which I believe all pharmacists desire. I have discussed it with several of them, and whilst they have differed from the Bill in very minor points in some cases, as has already been suggested, on the main principles they entirely agree with it. What the Bill does is to give the pharmacists greater control in their own house, and it gives them a certain amount of elasticity as regards the fees paid and so on.

From the administrative point of view —and that is the only way in which I can speak from any experience—the Bill facilitates matters because it proposes that, instead of there being two types of pharmacist that is to say, the pharmaceutical chemist and the chemist and druggist—those two classes shall he abolished and there shall be one class of pharmaceutical chemist. This Bill will grant the desires of a very worthy class of people actively engaged in the healing art, and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.

3.53 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Linstead (Putney)

I should like to reinforce a point which was not made in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) but which I think is worth mentioning. I am a secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society, and as such I have a special interest in the subject.

The great value of this Bill is that it is an amending Bill which I hope will be the precursor to the consolidation of the Pharmacy Acts, and I want to express the thanks of the backers of the Bill to the Ministry of Health for having assisted in the drafting of the Bill and putting it into a form in which it will serve as a basis of the consolidating Measure.

The Pharmacy Acts at the moment date back to 1852. They have been supplemented in 1868, 1869, 1898, 1908, 1929, 1933 and 1941, and during the whole of that process they have never been consolidated. So, as the House can well imagine, there is a great need for consolidation. If this Bill is finally passed, I hope the Ministry of Health will find it possible to send it for consolidation to the Statute Law Revision Committee, or whichever is the responsible body.

One other advantage of consolidation is that it will provide the opportunity for separating the provisions relating to pharmacy from those relating to poisons and medicines which, at the moment. are tied up together in many of these Acts. I hope we shall be able to have a double series of consolidations which will enable the two sets of statutes to be separately consolidated.

The hon. and learned Gentleman raised a point about the absence of a ceiling upon the annual fee. I recognise the importance of that matter, and some of us should have consultations about it with the Lord President of the Council and the Minister of Health between now and the next stage of the Bill, in order to see what is the proper thing to do. The Bill seeks to take this particular matter out of the hands of Parliament and put it into the hands of the Lord President of the Council so that when changes are to be made it is not necessary to set up the whole of the elaborate Parliamentary machinery.

Mr. Mitchison

Will the hon. Member go a little further? I think this change is wrong in principle. I have had representations about it. Is the hon. Member prepared to undertake not to press the matter if he finds there is real opposition to this particular Clause?

Mr. Linstead

In the very cautious words of the hon. and learned Gentleman, which I appreciate, I should certainly be prepared to say that, as far as I am concerned, if, on weighing the representations which reach me and on hearing the opinion of the Lord President of the Council and the Minister of Health, it seems desirable to impose a ceiling, I should be quite ready to accept it.

Mr. Mitchison

Would the hon. Member go one stage further and add to those weighty people the opinions of other hon. Members of this House, if there is a substantial number who feel opposed to it?

Mr. Linstead

If that opinion were expressed in Committee, the promoters would have to have regard to it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.

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