HC Deb 24 June 1968 vol 767 cc66-7


Mr. K. Robinson

I beg to move Amendment No. 66, in page 41, line 37, at end insert: (6) Before making an order under this section the appropriate Ministers shall consult the appropriate committee, or, if for the time being there is no such committee, shall consult the Commission.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment we can consider Amendment No. 67.

Mr. Robinson

These two Amendments provide for compulsory prior consultation with the appropriate Clause 4 Committee, or the Commission, before making an Order listing products that may be sold or supplied on prescription only —Clause 50—or making regulations limiting, in exceptional circumstances, the sale or supply of specified products except by specially authorised practitioners or to their prescription.

In Standing Committee on 2nd May, on an Amendment by the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean), I undertook to reconsider the position regarding prior consultation on Clause 50, then Clause 49. The first Amendment fulfils this. It was thought appropriate to include the same provisions in Clause 52 which, in its limited field, is a more stringent requirement than Clause 50.

Mr. Paul Dean (Somerset, North)

We are obliged to the Minister for meeting the plea we made in Committee. When I withdrew the Amendment proposed to Clause 50 on the undertaking of the Minister that he would reconsider it, he expressed the hope that we would not look for "umpteen" other places in the Bill where such Amendments could be made. We have restricted ourselves to this part of the Bill which is an important and sensitive area involving the rights of doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons and practitioners to prescribe and pharmacists to dispense. It is of the greatest importance that these rights should not only be preserved, but should be seen to be preserved.

The Minister, by these Amendments, has gone a long way to meet the points made, but he has not gone quite so far as we should have liked. We pressed for specific words safeguarding the rights of practitioners to prescribe and pharmacists to dispense. I hope that his mind is still not closed, even at this late hour, on this matter because I am sure he recognises that there are real and well-founded fears among doctors and vets on this score.

I ask two specific questions. The first concerns the composition of the "appropriate committee" referred to in the Amendments. The Minister will not want to pre-empt the advice received in due course from the Medicines Commission, but I hope that he will assure the House that the medical and veterinary professions will be fully represented on these committees which he is obliged under these Amendments to consult.

The second question is a very minor one. Amendment No. 66 says, "Before making an order", whereas Amendment No. 67 says, "Before making any regulations". It may be that this is a procedural difference, but perhaps the Minister will enlighten the House about it.

Mr. K. Robinson

I think I am right in saying that one Clause provides for the making of an Order and the other for making regulations.

The hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) spoke of "real and well-founded fear" among the professions about the right to prescribe. I doubt very much whether there are any real fears. I am absolutely certain that if there are they are not well-founded. I have given the assurance many times that there is nothing in the Bill which compromises the doctor's right to prescribe. I hope that I repeat it now for the last time.

I think there is little doubt, although the composition of these expert committees will be drawn up in consultation with the Commission, that the appropriate committees will certainly include representatives of the professions concerned.

Amendment agreed to.

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