HC Deb 27 March 1984 vol 57 cc124-5
2. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he plans to meet the British Medical Association to discuss its inquiry into alternative medicines.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I have no plans to do so at present.

Mr. Atkinson

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that all the main alternative medical professions have declined the BMA's invitation to submit representations to its inquiry because they do not believe that such an inquiry will be impartial? In view of the growing public support and appreciation for the alternative medical professions, will he now embark on a Government inquiry into them?

Mr. Clarke

Ministers have no responsibility for the BMA, and we have not been involved in the arrangements for the inquiry to which my hon. Friend referred. We do not at present see any case for a full-blown Government inquiry, but I will consider my hon. Friend's suggestion. It is entirely up to patients to choose the kind of treatment they prefer, although they should make sure, if they can, that they go to reputable practitioners. The Medical Research Council is financing research on behalf of the Government into the treatment of back pain, comparing the results of chiropractic with those of conventional treatments.

Mr. Freud

If the Minister should set up an inquiry into alternative medicines, may we be assured that it will be wide-ranging? Will he try not to emulate the Health Promotion Research Trust, which is specifically debarred from inquiring into certain diseases — for example, tobacco-related diseases?

Mr. Clarke

That has nothing to do with the main question. However, I have repeatedly said that that trust is producing £11 million which is available for useful research into health education. It would be foolish to turn down the money simply because it is excluded from one subject for entirely understandable reasons. Those who are genuinely interested in preventive medicine and health education would be cutting off their nose to spite their face by not accepting the money.

Mr. Greenway

If my right hon. and learned Friend should consider alternative medicines in the form of parallel imports, will he bear in mind that it has been estimated that such imports would cost the home-producing industries £120 million worth of orders a year and 7,000 jobs, which is alarming for my constituents who work in this industry?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That supplementary question was very wide of the main question. However, does the Minister wish to comment on it?

Mr. Clarke

Perhaps I can stay in order, Mr. Speaker, by remarking that a common thread running through all the questions is the fact that the Government's only interest is to protect the safety and well-being of patients.