HL Deb 25 March 1947 vol 146 cc791-4

6.48 p.m.

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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]

Clause I:

Control of sale and supply of substances to which this Act applies.

1.—(I) Subject to the provisions of this section, no person shall sell or otherwise supply any substance to which this Act applies or any preparation of which any such substance is an ingredient or part unless— (a) he is a duly qualified medical practitioner, a registered dental practitioner or a registered veterinary surgeon, or a person acting in accordance with the directions of any such practitioner or surgeon, and the substance or preparation is sold or supplied for the purposes of treatment by or in accordance with the directions of that practitioner or surgeon; or

(2) The last foregoing subsection shall not apply to the sale or supply of any such substance or preparation—

(d) to any authority or person carrying on a hospital, clinic, nursing home or other institution providing medical, surgical, dental or veterinary treatment.

LORD MARLEY moved, at the end of subsection (2) (d), to insert: under the direction of a duly qualified medical practitioner, a registered dental practioner or a registered veterinary surgeon or a person acting in accordance with the directions of any such practitioner or surgeon;

The noble Lord said: My noble friend the Earl of Listowel moved the Second Reading of this Bill in such a persuasive way that it seems a little odd that there appears to be a wide open gap in Clause paragraph (2) (d). It would be in- teresting, I think, if the noble Earl would explain why this gap has been left. It looks as though it is a deliberate gap. It looks as though it may be because there are certain organizations which deal with the cure of animals belonging to poor persons— I do not know. An unqualified or unregistered person may buy and use—that is to say administer—penicillin, provided that he is linked with another unqualified person or a so-called nursing home, hospital, clinic or other institution. This has caused some anxiety among qualified medical officers, and among registered veterinary surgeons, and accordingly the Bill has been considered by the National Veterinary Medical Association of Great Britain and Ireland. They are very anxious that the Government should safeguard the position by removing the gap which exists in the Bill, which in fact opens up a break in the embankment, and which might have to be closed later on.

I have been approached by the National Veterinary Medical Association with a view to putting down an Amendment along the lines of that standing in my name. Furthermore, I may say that this matter has been considered by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee which contains many members of both Houses and from all Parties, and they are definitely concerned with this gap in the Bill. I would like to call attention to the fact that in Clause 4 of the Bill the word "supply" includes "administer by way of treatment," and therefore in fact the unauthorized persons, that is to say the unqualified or unregistered persons, linked together under institutions such as nursing homes, dental or veterinary establishments, can buy and supply these substances and also use them for treatment. I hope therefore that if the Government feel they are unable to accept this very reasonable and simple Amendment, they will explain precisely why the gap has been left in the whole object for which the Bill was designed.


It seems an eminently reasonable Amendment. It can hardly be considered controversial and, as your Lordships have heard, it has the support of the Parliamentary Scientific Committee. That Committee has a composition such that I think it would not go wrong in a recommendation of this character. As a member of that Committee I certainly support the Amendment and I hope the noble Earl will see his way to accept it.


I have listened with great sympathy to what the noble Lords have said, and I think we all agree that the object they want to achieve is to prevent nursing homes or veterinary institution; run by "quacks" from obtaining penicillin for use in connexion with treatments given to their patients. But I think if noble Lords will look more closely at Clause i they will see that they are already safeguarded by subsection (I) (a), because under this subsection it becomes an offence for anyone who is not a qualified medical practitioner, registered dental practitioner, or registered veterinary surgeon, or person acting in accordance with their directions, to administer penicillin. Clause i (2) (d), to which the noble Lord, Lord Marley, is referring in his Amendment, turns only on supply to, and not supply by, a hospital, nursing home, or similar institution. Now, only these institutions, under this paragraph, can obtain freely a supply of penicillin. They cannot supply or administer it to their patients, except in accordance with subsection (i) (a) of the clause which I have just quoted. In other words, in theory a nursing home or veterinary institution of doubtful reputation might be able to hold a supply of penicillin, but under this paragraph they could not lawfully use it for treatment on their" patients, except in accordance with the directions of a qualified practitioner.

I hope your Lordships will agree that this is sufficient safeguard against the abuses to which reference has been made. Another difficulty arising out of the noble Lord's Amendment is that it would make it very difficult for bona fide nursing homes, hospitals and institutions to obtain penicillin, which is something very far from what the noble Lord desires to bring about. In these circumstances, I hope that the noble Lord will, on further consideration, withdraw his Amendment.


I would not say that it makes it more difficult for bona fide nursing homes with qualified medical practitioners to obtain penicillin. I cannot see why the Amendment should not be accepted.


The reason is that it adds a lot of red tape to the procedure which would be entailed each time one of these institutions wanted permission to obtain a supply of penicillin. Under the Bill they have only to prove that they are a nursing home, hospital, or whatever it may be. Under the Amendment they would also have to prove the sort of treatment which they gave, and this would clearly be subjecting them to a very great deal of red tape. This would waste their time and involve them in expense which I think is clearly undesirable.


I need hardly say that is one of the most extraordinary statements that I have heard for a long time. The Bill before your Lordships' House enables unqualified and unregistered people to buy such penicillin as they want, but contains rather doubtful powers to preclude them from using it. Why not tighten up the Bill so that they cannot obtain it, rather than allow large quantities of penicillin to get into the hands of entirely unqualified and unregistered persons in the hope, presumably, that they are only buying it to put on the shelf, and that they will never use it? It seems to me so illogical and so unacceptable in an otherwise reasonable Bill, and I fail completely to understand it. I cannot see that there is anything in the red tape argument. After all, there is red tape in a qualified medical practitioner having to sign some form of document before he can get penicillin. If this is red tape, I suppose it is red tape to have to stick a stamp on a letter, in order that the Postmaster-General will pass it through the post. So far as I am concerned, it seems very unsatisfactory, and I hope that there will be an opportunity for my noble friend to think this over again before a later stage, so that on that occasion there may be an opportunity to tighten up this gap which now exists.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause I agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported without Amendment.

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