HL Deb 17 March 1924 vol 60 cc559-62

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Marquess of Salisbury).

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Restrictions on manufacture of therapeutic substances):


Clause 2 of this Bill prescribes for the grant of licences, and I think either that clause or a later clause provides that there shall be a Committee which shall examine the strength of these substances, and shall see that they are of the standard quality. There seems at present to be no provision in the Bill for the cost of such examination. It is true that at present the amount of these substances is comparatively small, but it-seems to me that the manufacture of some of them, such, for instance, as insulin and thyroid, might be on a very considerable scale. I have been in unofficial communication with the noble Marquess and his advisers, and I do not understand whether it is intended that the Committee which tests these strengths is to be a voluntary Committee recruited from the medical service, or whether it is to be a Committee manned by full-time public officers; but in any event, if it is to involve public money, it would none the les6 seem fair, if it examines the products of manufacturers, that the manufacturers themselves should pay for the tests, or pay by way of licence. I am not sure which would be best. I do not, of course, move any Amendment, but perhaps before the Bill finally passes the matter will be considered by the Ministry of Health.


My Lords, it is true that a system of tests is contemplated. There will be tests of the ordinary routine type, and those will be at the expense of the manufacturers. They will be, of course, subject to the Regulations prescribed in the Bill, and there will be no charge on public funds in that respect. In addition, there will be certain special tests. These will be prescribed in cases of special importance, and it is contemplated under the Bill that the samples which are to be used will be supplied free of charge by those who wish to sell or deal in them. There remains, therefore, the cost of the examination of the special tests which will be carried out by Government officials. I ask the noble Lord to check me if I do not make myself quite clear. What is proposed is, that this should be done by the Medical Research Council which is, of course, an official body. The Medical Research Council has a Vote in Parliament, and the expenses of these tests will be defrayed out of that Vote. The noble Earl asks: Why do you not have fees and make the people themselves pay for the licences? The matter is too small. The number of manufacturers is very limited indeed, and the fees which would be obtained would not be worth collecting.


It is limited now, but is the noble Marquess sure that it always will be.


We think so. There is no difficulty as to the machinery of the Bill. It is contemplated that it should be paid out of the Vote of the Medical Research Council. If the House of Commons feels that too large a charge is being thrown on that Vote then, of course, the matter will be raised in that House. I do not think that is likely, as the matter is too small.


I agree that the matter is one which is much more appropriate for another place than your Lordships' House, but if this became extensive you would be spending money on making tests for manufacturers for which they ought to pay.


These tests are in the interests of the public.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Restrictions on importation of therapeutic substances):


I put a question on the Second Reading of the Bill with reference to this clause. Certain of the substances to be imported, as defined in the Schedule, are substances which will be imported in small quantities by men of science, very distinguished men of science, for the purposes of research. To force them to make special application to a Government Department is to put upon them an obligation which they will not face. They require protection just as much as the clergymen require protection against the moneylender, and the question I put to the noble Marquess was whether he could devise any means of softening the position so that a distinguished physiologist might be recognised as being upon the list of people who could be trusted and get his stuff with the minimum of trouble to himself. Is it possible for the noble Marquess to give the House any information on that point?


Let me say that any suggestion which conies from the noble and learned Viscount on this subject will be received very favourably by His Majesty's Government, and if he is not satisfied with the explanation I am going to give and he will revert to the matter on the next stage of the Bill, I shall be pleased to consider it. Let me point out how it is proposed this should work. It is not proposed that these special licences should be granted for particular parcels of commodities introduced into this country. What is proposed is that special licences should be given to individuals or institutions enabling them to import at will what they require for research purposes. The necessary information that A.B. being a scientific man of eminence, or C.D. being a scientific institution have received these licences will be conveyed to the Customs authority, and will he good enough to pass anything for them. That is what is contemplated.

If the noble and learned Viscount is not satisfied with the Regulations under which this will be carried out, he will have an opportunity of checking them when they are laid before Parliament. This applies also to what was said by the noble Earl. All these Regulations will be laid before Parliament, and any noble Lord who is interested will have an opportunity of seeing that these provisions are carried out in the manner which Parliament desires. If the noble and learned Viscount is not satisfied with this explanation and will revert to it on Third Beading, I will gladly consider any further suggestion.


I think the proposal as outlined by the noble Marquess for getting round this difficulty is satisfactory. The only difficulty now is that men of science should know about it. It is all very well to say that everybody should know the law. They do not, and if it could be made known in some way to the scientific world that this very convenient short cut is being taken in the interest of people sufficiently qualified, it would help matters very much.


I would suggest that the noble and learned Viscount should put it in the next public speech he makes.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.