HC Deb 06 May 1994 vol 242 cc937-8

'. On registering the death of a registered chiropractor, a registrar of births and deaths shall send forthwith by post to the Registrar a copy certified under his hand of the entry relating to the death in the register of deaths; and the cost of the certificate and of sending it by post shall be payable by the Registrar to the registrar of births and deaths from whom it is received.'.—[Mr. Spring.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Richard Spring (Bury St. Edmunds)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause duplicates the provisions that obtain in the Opticians Act 1958. It would place a duty on a registrar of births and deaths to notify the Registrar of Chiropractors in any case when the death of a registered chiropractor was recorded. That would lower the risk of fraudulent use of a deceased chiropractor's identity.

When dealing with the spine, someone who is perpetrating a fraud can do considerable damage. There must be protection. We are aware of a mental disorder whereby people choose to masquerade as doctors or surgeons. That disorder has been well reported. As opticians deal with a delicate part of the body, they have sought to use a provision which I believe should now be applied to chiropractic. Opticians have sought to protect their patients from exposure to risk and injury and I believe that chiropractors would, through the Bill, wish to do the same.

The Bill specifically contains a provision to prevent fraud. New clause 3 seeks to ensure that the identity of a deceased chiropractor cannot be used to achieve registration by fraudulent means. As registration and the raising of the quality of professionalism of chiropractors is at the very heart of the Bill, I believe that the provision is important.

There is also a simple human aspect to the provision. For the family of a deceased person, it would stop the distress caused by the family continuing to receive, for some time, telephone calls or letters after the death of that person. Of course, the General Chiropractic Council would not be guilty of such an error.

The new clause would bring chiropractors into line with another respected group of medical professionals—the opticians. It would bring about good practice, which all of us want to see and which is at the heart of the Bill.

Stealing other people's identities has become big business. We know that it happens in the criminal world, with the stealing of passports; stealing other people's identities has become a big business among the criminal fraternity. People have stolen the identities of people of comparable age to very negative effect. When we are dealing with health issues, we must ensure that such fraud does not happen and that we protect the public against it.

All of us who have had chiropractic treatment know that in the process of manipulation, there is a delicate balance to be achieved in relieving stiffness and tension in the spine. If it is not done professionally, it can lead to considerable damage. The Bill, in ensuring a proper register to give people the assurance that properly trained and recognised individuals will be the only practitioners, requires the new clause. It would prevent frauds from being perpetrated, with all the unhappy consequences. It would remove the threat of a false identity being assumed after the death of a chiropractor.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Tom Sackville)

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Spring) for tabling the new clause, although I have several points to make about it. There are, of course, already many ways in which the Bill, as drafted, would ensure that the good character and suitability of chiropractors was recognised. There are many safeguards in it to ensure that—

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Is the Minister aware that the best way of helping people with spinal difficulties today in this House is to be as quick as possible in dealing with this Bill to get on to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, which otherwise will be endangered?

Mr. Sackville

A new clause has been tabled and I have to put the Government's view, which I shall do as briefly as I can. There are many provisions in the Bill that would prevent the fraudulent registration of a chiropractor. In the very unlikely event that the whole process, as contained in the Bill, were bypassed, there would be other factors at work which would make the new clause unnecessary.

There is a published register of chiropractors, which is an extract from the main register. If a colleague died, it is very unlikely that members of this close-knit profession would not become aware of that death. There are newsletters and all sorts of ways in which the death would become apparent.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Bill would set up quite a bureaucracy, with a large council of 19 members to look after 900 people. Will my hon. Friend comment on the fact that the new clause would place obligations and, presumably, costs on the registrar of births and deaths?

Mr. Sackville

Indeed, the new clause is unnecessarily regulatory. It would add nothing to the security of registration of the profession. The most likely source of a fraudulent registration would be the death of an overseas chiropractor after which someone passed himself off as that person and set up in practice. We have no assurance that the new clause would prevent that from happening. The new clause is unnecessary and adds nothing to what is already in the Bill. I therefore advise the House to reject it.

Mr. Spring

In view of what my hon. Friend has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Forward to