HC Deb 13 May 1953 vol 515 cc1327-43

Order for Second Reading read.

7.35 p.m.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Iain Macleod)

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

I propose to take only a few minutes in commending to the House this Bill, which, in effect, has only two Clauses. The object of the first Clause is to extend the scope of the Penicillin Act, 1947, which has been found to be too narrow in that it applies only to what are known as the group of antibiotics. It is known that there are three major dangers from inexpert use of these drugs. The first is that it is possible to produce resistant strains if the dosage be inadequate. Second, some of these drugs have unexpected and toxic effects; and, third, self-medication can mask the symptoms of a disease without curing it. There is one drug which is very much in our minds at the present time. The full name is Isonicotinic Acid Hydrazide, but for the purposes of this debate it may be referred to as I.N.A.H.

Clause 1 is extremely wide, and on principle I do not like asking for powers as wide as this. But I think it right to do so because we are in an age of immense advances in chemotherapy and we do not know what sort of substances will be discovered. We think it right, therefore, that we should ask for powers to make, in respect of any substance which appears to myself and the other Health Ministers to be capable of causing danger to the health of the community, regulations similar to those made under the 1947 Act.

I.N.A.H., which gives rise to Clause 1, is a simple chemical substance, very cheap to make and may be purchased over a chemist's counter. At the moment the Pharmaceutical Society, with a full sense of responsibility, have suggested to their members that they do not supply it except on a doctor's prescription. But that does not discharge my duty to the public in these matters, and it is much more satisfactory that I should be able, by these new powers, to make regulations similar to those that can be made for the antibiotics, because I.N.A.H. is not, in the accepted sense of the word, an antibiotic.

It is necessary that we should consult the Medical Research Council, and the question has been raised particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) about whether I would also consult manufacturers whose interests are affected. It was the general practice under the Penicillin Act to have such consultations, and I am prepared to give an assurance that in the future there will be such consultations, provided it is clearly understood that the final decision in this matter must be taken only on medical grounds.

I come to the new part of this Bill—Claue 2, which is known popularly as the "penicillin for pigs" Clause. I am bound to say that this is a difficult problem, and the Prime Minister on Monday found accidentally exactly the right word, because what is proposed is indeed a "pigmeal" solution to this particular difficulty. It has been found by experiment in the United States—and we are advised by the Agricultural Research Council—that a minute quantity of antibiotics put into feedingstuffs can have a most remarkable effect in encouraging growth, and in the fattening, of pigs. The amount of the antibiotic is minute— a proportion between of two and 20 parts in a million.

When I first heard of this proposal the first consideration which occurred to me was whether this could conceivably have any ill-effects on the human being who would eat the meat thus produced, because although it may well be admirable for the pigs to put on 30 per cent. in weight, I cannot imagine that Parliament would be very popular if some who ate the pork reacted in the same way. I am assured by the Medical Research Council that there is not the slightest danger of this happening and that there will be no adverse effect whatever upon human beings.

The other danger against which we shall guard is the possibility of creating, by this much wider use of antibiotics, a sort of black market in penicillin. The answer to that is that we shall take steps to ensure that the antibiotics are used in such a way that they cannot be extracted and used for medication.

At the moment we propose to apply these regulations only to penicillin, since that is the only substance in this class which we have at present in sufficient quantities. But it is possible that in the future both aureomycin and perhaps terramycin will be manufactured, probably in this country, in adequate quantities for us to use them in a similar way, if the advice is suitable. This is mainly an agricultural matter, and we shall, of course, consult the Agricultural Research Council. If necessary—this point was raised in another place—when we consult the Ministry of Agriculture they will consult, in suitable cases, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

The remainder of the Bill is common form. I have said on a number of occasions recently that I have not introduced any legislation into the House of Commons. In sporting terms, I will award myself a bisque in respect of this Bill, partly on the well-known housemaid's plea—that it is only a little one—and partly because it is not my Bill at all in respect of the innovation in Clause 2. It extends, and I think wisely extends, the 1947 Act, which has been found to be too limited, and it brings forward a new and most interesting use for antibiotics which might have a most important effect on the foodstuffs of this country.

7.43 p.m.

Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)

I think we can all give a general welcome to this small but useful Bill and we can thank the Minister for giving us a useful explanation of it. Looking at it as it stands, I must admit that it does not tell us very much of its purpose. It was suggested in another place that there might have been some explanatory notes attached to it, but I think that the Minister's comments have filled that gap. No doubt some of my hon. Friends will wish to discuss some of the implications of the Bill, but I have only one or two points to raise dealing with some of the matters mentioned by the Minister.

He suggested that one of the difficulties about penicillin and other antibiotics, as well as some of the other substances in which we are now making progress, is that their value may be, if not destroyed, very much limited if they are misused. Our general anxiety is to make absolutely sure that the Bill does not open the way to any wider use than is desirable. I believe there are many who are anxious at present, even with the restrictions, about the effects of too great a use of some of these substances for purposes for which they are not absolutely necessary on medical grounds. There is some danger that even an insistence that there should be proper medical prescriptions sometimes has the result that some of these substances are prescribed for conditions for which they are not medically required, useful though they may be. It will be useful if we let it go out from the House that we are also concerned about this aspect.

Clause 1 makes a very desirable extension of the existing provisions, widening them considerably. I do not see what else we can do at present, but it means that we must examine with some care any regulations which are laid before the House. The Minister disclaims Clause 2 as his product. On the face of it, the Clause seems to open the way rather dangerously to a wider use than might be desirable, but I think we all accept the fact that there has been proper consultation with the Medical Research Council, and we ought to be prepared to accept the recommendation of that body, as well as the recommendation of the Agricultural Research Council.

We should not leave the Bill without first stressing our anxiety to ensure that it does not open the way to abuse of the use of these materials and that it is not possible to extract penicillin and use it for purposes other than the very restricted purposes envisaged here. The Minister has already given assurances on the second point—that there will be no ill-effect from eating pig food in one form or another, and that we shall not be endangering ourselves in the years to come. We have had those assurances from the Minister, which I am sure we are prepared to accept. Some of my hon. Friends will probably wish to raise matters of detail as well as some general matters, but on behalf of my hon. Friends I think I can say that we wish the Bill well, and a rapid passage through the House.

7.48 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Linstead (Putney)

I should like to commend the Bill to the House and to make one or two very brief comments upon it. The provision in Clause 1 to extend the power of the Minister is one which it is becoming more and more clear that the Minister of Health must possess as the applications of modern medicine become more and more apparent. We have a number of statutes which control the distribution of poisonous substances, but there is nothing on the Statute Book which enables control to be exercised over articles which are not poisonous in the criminal sense of the term but which are, in the words of the Clause, capable of causing danger to health. It is very proper therefore that the Minister should take this power.

When we come to the exemption provisions of Clause 2, we are entering into unknown country. We are still groping as to the effects of feeding penicillin to pigs and other livestock. We have not been doing it long enough, I feel, to know what effect it will produce in the long-term on herds and on meat and, indeed, on human beings who eat the meat. I was very glad to hear the Minister say that he proposes to keep in touch with the manufacturers as he develops his regulations, because the manufacturers are concerned about this question of the distribution of penicillin; not merely from the point of view of their manufacturing interests, but they are also concerned that there shall not be developed, as a result of these exemptions, what might be called a black market in penicillin.

This drug has acquired a reputation as an efficient and magic cure-all, and, particularly in the veterinary field, there is a real danger that, if farmers can get hold of penicillin without having to pay the fee of a veterinary surgeon, they will be tempted to use it carelessly and in a widespread way on their flocks. The whole essence of the Penicillin Act is to prevent that happening, since what we do not want to do here is to open a door which will place large supplies of penicillin at the uncontrolled disposal of the farming community. I am sure that the manufacturers will want to emphasise that point to the Minister, as they have emphasised to me, as something that needs to be taken care of.

The Minister also said that he would take steps to ensure that material intended for use as feedingstuffs should be distributed in a safe form, and I hope that, when either he or his Parliamentary Secretary replies, we shall be given an indication at what point in the chain of distribution that barrier is going to be erected. At the moment, there is only the sense of duty on the part of the four or five manufacturers of penicillin which prevents penicillin getting into what I might call the black market. Once we get the manufacturers of agricultural feedingstuffs for a large rural community in possession of penicillin for the purpose of putting it into feedingstuffs, we shall not have the same responsible group of firms who will be taking the greatest care to see that it does not get into improper hands. Therefore, I should be grateful if the Minister would indicate how he contemplates carrying into effect the undertaking which he has just given to the House. It may be, of course, that he can do it by means of a condition attached to the Therapeutic Substances Act licence which all manufacturers have.

I am sure that it is wise that large quantities of this material shall not be let loose into the agricultural community unless it is mixed with some other substance which does not affect its potency as a feedingstuff, but which does make it impossible for it to be used improperly for medicinal purposes. With those brief comments, I support the proposals in the Bill.

7.54 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I think that this is a very important Bill in respect of both its two main Clauses. We entirely agree that, so far as the first Clause is concerned, the Minister has every right to ask that the community should entrust his Department with the care of public health in the way which the right hon. Gentleman suggested in his remarks; for it is certainly true that we have not seen the end of these new substances which will come on to the market, and which may be very potent to stave off disease, or to cure it and save life, and which are very dangerous if wrongly applied by people who do not understand either the quantities or the proper mode of application.

In addition, in the Bill the Minister gives Parliament the safeguard of being able to object to the Statutory Instrument which he must bring forward, and I think we are, therefore, doubly safeguarded. In the first place, we would have said, "You must take this power," and, in the second, it is quite right that we should have the right to have a look at the matter again.

The second Clause is very interesting and exciting, for we are really treading into strange country. The Minister spoke only of pigs and pig-meal, but he should have said that the pigmeal, to be ideal, must not be intermittently fed but should be of the "creeping feed" type. The right hon. Gentleman forgot table poultry, which really come in as well, for we are satisfied that the same technique can be used for the more rapid putting-on of weight or fattening of table poultry.

This is not, indeed, what the late H. G. Wells would have termed the "food of the gods," for, although the animal grows more quickly there is no evidence that it will grow bigger than the normal size, and it is at a certain stage of the development of the animal that the best results are obtained. There is a tendency in the later stages of the animal's life for the benefits to be less apparent and the increase in weight from the utilisation of the food taken to be not so apparent as in the earlier stages. I hope that some of our scientists will later do something even better than this. I do not know if we shall be using penicillin because we do not make enough aureomycin ourselves, but the figures for aureomycin are better than those for penicillin, and there is some evidence that the former will be very useful when we have it in sufficient quantities.

Something that the scientists might do to help the country is to find some method whereby all these humble animals like fowls and pigs could be induced to put on weight in the same way as hibernating animals, which can go to sleep and do nothing at all but yet grow fat on it. I have never known any hon. Member of this House putting on weight while resting. I am speaking of the hibernating animals, and I have in mind such creatures as the squirrel. We know that they can change their metabolism because they give off less carbon dioxide while asleep and retain some of the carbon atoms. These they synthesise with water vapour and thus form glycogen, which they store in their livers or convert to fat. If we can find a method by which we can achieve this, we shall have solved our food problems, but a solution does not seem likely at the moment.

Both in the debate today and in another place much point has been made in reference to penicillin and resistant organisms as well as allergy in man. There cannot be any danger of allergy in man if it is true that the animal excretes any penicillin out of its system through its kidneys. All that is needed is that the penicillin be not given in the last two days before slaughter.

As to the question of resistant bacteria, I am not so sure that the reports that have been made by the Medical Research Council are 100 per cent. correct, but one has in mind something like this. The mode by means of which these animals are able to utilise their food better and put on weight assumes that bacteria are active in the alimentary system.

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that one of the factors which gives us this beneficent result is that bacteria are enabled to synthesise Vitamin B.12, which is a growth factor. Or let us suppose that the bacteria which normally destroy the growth factor are themselves destroyed by penicillin. For example, some growth factors we know are amino acids like lysine or tryptophane, or Vitamin B.12. I hope I am making myself clear to hon. Members; it is not a difficult matter in reality. The alimentary system is full of bacteria of many types. Some of them synthesise and manufacture the growth factor. Others, on the other hand, have a putrifying and destructive influence and would destroy Vitamin B.12 or the aminq acids which we get from proteins. Thirdly, there are others which produce toxins and make the animal ill.

It may be that penicillin works in one of three ways; either by curing the animal of an endemic illness and allowing it, therefore, to grow faster, which is, of course, one of the thoughts in the minds of those who know more about it than I do—the Agricultural Research Council; or it may be that the growth factor is in part synthesised through fermentation by other forms of bacteria; or, thirdly, that organisms inimical to the presence of growth factors are directly destroyed by the antibiotic. I am not sure that it would be fair to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to answer these technical details. I will acquit her if she does not.

But aureomycin in sufficient quantities will give a sterile gut. That means that, sooner or later, if pigs are fed and rendered clean in this way new types of bacteria may evolve and thrive which are resistant to the penicillin which the pigs are eating regularly in their food. That point is clear. Should that arise, it would mean, first, that we should lose the benefits that we are now about to gain because in such cases the pigs would tend to cease to be able to make use of penicillin for improving their growth and the better utilisation of the food we give them. The other factor is that if there be migration of the bacteria to humans we may find ourselves in trouble. I do not want to frighten anybody, but these are the matters we must look at. As the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead) said, we are treading on strange and new territory.

As I said earlier, we may also expect a better return of table poultry as a result of this Bill. It is estimated that the food saved in bringing the pig to the bacoa stage by using penicillin amounts to 46 lb. and the amount saved by using aureomycin to 68 lb. I can remember it more easily in this way, that, by and large, one can save 5 per cent. of the food needed to bring the animal to, say, 180 lb. weight. What is still more interesting and surprising, one can save 10 per cent. of the time.

In the case of aureomycin, 25 days can be saved, whereas in the case of penicillin only 12 days are saved. The cost of doing this is very little because antibiotics cost roughly, I believe, about 1s. 3d. a gram, and, as we have heard, only two or three parts in a million of antibiotic is required in the food. This means only a few grams per ton. I see no danger of a black market in penicillin if it is properly prepared before being handed over to the farmer, either as a mixture from which he will be unable to extract the penicillin, or mixed with the meal in cwt. bags, as suggested in another place. In any case, penicillin is very cheap and anyone who needs it can get it from his doctor. Its cost retail is about 2s. or 2s. 3d. for 100, 000 or 250, 000 units. Therefore, I cannot see that there is any purpose in thinking in terms of its irregular use.

With regard to the care that should be taken, we should remember an experiment made in America which gave the lead in so much of this work nowadays. They found that another chemical substance, an oestrogen, a type of ovarian hormone, could be used to fatten table poultry. It produced birds with large breasts which were very succulent, and they made a much greater delicacy on the table. What they did not know, of course, when they offered those birds to people in expensive restaurants, and no doubt to Senators and Congressmen, was that the oestrogen remains in the breast of the chicken and causes, in men only, I am glad to say, sterility which is a very serious matter. [Laughter.] We may well laugh at it, but I think we are lucky that that particular experiment was not made in this country.

I remember hearing in another place a discussion about a substance which is added to our food, agene. I heard a very experienced noble Lord say that unofficial strikes were due to agene in flour. I have never been guilty of that one. Although I have blamed agene for many other things, I would never have gone so far as that. Here we may well wonder whether it is possible that some Senator, possibly Senator McCarthy, fed too well on these delicious morsals, and whether his operations and type of conduct are due to the fact that, sterile in one direction, he has found it necessary to embark in strange fields of activity which we find so reprehensible. However, I think I had better leave Senator McCarthy and return, with relief, to the pigs.

I welcome this Bill wholeheartedly because it is one of the examples of science offering help to the community as a whole. I sincerely hope that we shall find richer and more varied ways by means of which food can be increased, not only for our own people, but, through our experiments, for people all over the world. It is certain that if we can conquer the problem of world hunger or of an insufficiency of food we shall have done something that will allow us, when time has gone by, to say that we have some reason to be proud of ourselves.

8.8 p.m.

Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)

I thank the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) for his lecture on penicillin and other drugs, and also for warning us what not to eat if we go to America.

I rise as a member of the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to say a few words on this Bill, and although the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) is not here, I think that what I say tonight will be agreed to by him. He is also a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. We have been concerned with the Bill because of its effect on animals. I think that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central will agree that some of these antibiotics have bad effects on animals, but not on human beings. He referred to the feeding of pigs and table poultry. That is all right. Human beings and those sort of animals both derive benefit from penicillin, but penicillin would soon ruin the health of ruminants because of its effect on their stomachs.

Why we are so concerned from a veterinary point of view is because regulations may be made under Clauses 1 and 2 to enable the freer distribution, not only of penicillin, but of some new drugs which have not yet been discovered— I am looking to the future—and which may have bad effects on animals although they may be beneficial to human beings. That is why we welcomed the statement in the other place, giving the assurance that both under Clause 1 and Clause 2 the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons would be consulted before regulations were made. The speech of my right hon. Friend this evening said only that the College would be consulted in certain cases in connection with Clause 2. We are concerned with the effect on animals in this uncharted field.

There are other effects on animals and we do not know very much about them. New drugs are invented by the scientists and tried out on guinea pigs, human or otherwise. They gradually extend to the human being, and then some enthusiast, usually in America, tries them out on animals and they are a great success in the beginning. Even in the case of penicillin I do not think that anybody really knows yet whether pigs for breeding, fed on penicillin, will, in the end, become resistant to penicillin or lose fertility.

In the case of the new drug auromycetin, and new drugs still undiscovered, there is still further danger. We ought to issue a grave warning to farmers in England and in Scotland that if they use such a drug for fattening pigs for slaughter it will be all right but if they use it for rearing pigs for breeding there is the danger, to which there is no answer yet in veterinary or medical science, of loss of fertility which may have serious consequences for farmers breeding pedigree pigs.

Dr. Stross

I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for giving way. I only want to say that there is evidence among fowls that no benefit from these drugs is gained by perfectly healthy poultry. From that one must deduce that the best use of antibiotics is to cure them of endemic disease and that there cannot be any harm done, as far as we know.

Captain Duncan

The hon. Gentleman says there is some evidence.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Conflict of medical evidence.

Captain Duncan

But I do not think the hon. Gentleman would go so far as to advise the farmers of Britain to feed penicillin to breeding pigs, because the effect of it upon fertility is not certain.

The same applies to chickens. It is all right to fatten table poultry, although we do not know yet whether the effect of penicillin through the generations even on table poultry will be bad. When it comes to breeding poultry, as in breeding pigs, we do not know enough of the effect on fertility and on the quality of the breed. In this country the quality of our cattle and livestock is so important that warnings should go out to farmers from the Departments in England and Scotland to be very careful how they use these substances on cattle and sheep.

I should like to be reassured by my right hon. Friend, on behalf of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, that they will be consulted on these matters. It is of vital importance to the future of our livestock industry, using that term in its widest sense, that we should have every possible safeguard for our livestock. If the Minister would give that assurance, I assure him, in return, that he will have every co-operation from the veterinary staff and service in this country.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Richard Law (Hull, Haltemprice)

Before making the very few observations I have to offer in support of the Bill I must disclose my personal interest in the subject matter of Clause 2. I am a director of a firm which both manufactures and distributes antibiotics. I do not think that anyone could dissent from the warnings given to the House by my two hon. Friends on this side. There would, clearly, be considerable danger from broadcasting these new substances throughout the agricultural community.

I entirely accept what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead) in that respect. When the Minister of Health said that, like the Prime Minister, he favoured a "pigmeal solution" to these problems, I hope he was not speaking literally. To safeguard distribution in agriculture I do not think it would be necessary to insist, for example, that the only safe way was to incorporate them in a prepared animal feedingstuff. I hope that the Government will consult not only the manufacturers of feedingstuffs but those who are concerned with the distribution of antibiotics.

8.18 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

I am glad to hear such a general welcome to this little Bill. In the short debate we have had on the subject a number of interesting points have been made, largely directed towards Clause 2 and the possible effects that may follow in the agricultural world.

On the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan) I can give him the assurance he sought, which is to the effect that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will be consulting my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, and that there will be consultations with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons on many matters concerning both Clauses 1 and 2 where agricultural and veterinary considerations are concerned. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that consultations are at present in progress, as the regulations are in course of drafting, and I am sure that we shall benefit from the advice we receive.

To turn to the general issue, this Bill has a very great interest for the farming world. Farmers have seen these antibiotics fed in America in the last few years and have seen the very valuable results obtained in a limited field there. They are naturally anxious to see the same facilities extended here and, therefore, this Measure will be welcomed when they are able to use penicillin in feeding-stuffs here. The use is so great in the United States that it is brought into something like a quarter of the compounded feedingstuffs in that country.

The figures given by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) with regard to the commercial value of the inclusion of antibiotics in feedingstuffs are, broadly speaking, confirmed by work done by our own Agricultural Research Council, preparatory to the introduction of this Bill. The Council found a figure of approximately 8 per cent. for speedier growth and approximately 5 per cent. for better food conversion. This roughly corresponds with what the hon. Member said. I think the best view is that aureomycin probably gives a slightly better rate for feeding up pigs and penicillin for poultry.

Dr. Stross

Would it be fair to say that there is a specific benefit of a financial nature to the pig breeder? Is it not true that, as a result of the saving of feedingstuffs, he gains about 10s. 6d. in the penicillin-fed pigs and 18s. in the aureomycin-fed pigs?

Mr. Nugent

It would be most unwise for me to try to confirm specific figures, but in general terms there is a cash advantage to the pig fattener or the table poultry fattener in using these substances. I must not stray far into the fascinating field opened by the hon. Member as to exactly what is the effect of an antibiotic. I suppose he would agree that nobody knows exactly. I, too, have read the American reports and the best view seems to be that the effect is to destroy in the gut some of the growth-depressing bacteria and thus enable the pig or chicken to achieve an optimum rate of growth and to catch up with those which have the greatest resistance.

As the hon. Member rightly said, the antibiotic is not a food of the gods or a magic wand. It only removes some natural obstacle holding the animal back. If we look at it in that light, which is unconfirmed but is probably the explanation, it is unquestionable that it would be unsound to use these substances for feeding breeding stock, because in the selection of breeding stocks it is vital to choose pigs or birds which have the maximum vigour and resistance to growth depressants. If one fed breeding stock on these substances one would not have the natural selection brought about by environment to show which was the best breeding stock.

I should like to emphasise the words of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Angus, South that in their own interests fanners should treat the use of this stuff for breeding stock with the greatest caution and should limit its use to pigs for fattening and to table poultry. The rather spectacular results in America may be due to the fact that their compounds contain a greater proportion of vegetable proteins than ours do; where there is a greater proportion of animal protein the reaction is not so great.

As to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead), about the possible danger of a black market in penicillin after extraction from feedingstuff compounds, the law will remain the same in respect of the control of sale. Under the Regulations it will be illegal to sell feedingstuffs containing antibiotics other than for the fattening of pigs and poultry. That controls the antibiotic up to the point of the retail sale to the farmer. As to the possibility of the farmer proceeding to extract, I think that the practical difficulties would make it impossible. Half an ounce in a ton of compound feedingstuffs would clearly be impossible to extract, and where the antibiotic is sold as a pure feedingstuff supplement it will be diluted, and diluted again by the farmer to one in 100 or something of that order.

Mr. Linstead

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that we would not see the farmer attempting extraction from feedingstuffs, or, indeed, from concentrates. I was concerned about at what stage between manufacturer and farmer it was proposed to impose some sort of control. It seems to me that at the moment it is proposed to have nothing between the manufacturer and the farmer, and that it will be possible for the farmer even, let alone the feedingstuffs manufacturer, to buy penicillin to make feedingstuffs for himself. At what stage will the barrier be put up?

Mr. Nugent

The barrier is at the point of sale by the feedingstuffs merchant. The manufacturer will supply the feedingstuffs to the merchant, who will have the statutory obligation to sell it only for these purposes. So the position at the moment is exactly the same as it is in the pharmaceutical trade. My right hon. Friend has stressed that the danger to humans is considered to be nonexistent, and on that point he has the best evidence of the medical profession, so I hope that hon. Members will be reassured that the dangers of leakage will not be serious.

I can assure my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Law) that there will be consultation with the manufacturers. Consultations are going on now, when we are engaged in drawing up the regulations. The manufacturers play a most valuable part in helping to develop the use of this substance and we should all be very glad to recognise that fact.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Can the hon. Gentleman give any general indication when we are likely to have the regulations before the House?

Mr. Nugent

As far as I know the drafting of the regulations will be completed concurrently with the passage of the Bill through the House, and it should be possible to lay them within a fairly short time after the placing of the Bill on the Statute Book. From the farming point of view we are most anxious to see that that should be done. The farmers are most anxious to start to use this substance. I hope that the House will now be prepared to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Standing Committee.