HL Deb 05 May 1953 vol 182 cc223-8

3.23 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I hope, in the course of a comparatively short speech, to be able to commend to your Lordships this quite uncontroversial Bill. I feel that the Bill has the support of Her Majesty's Government; I know that members of the Opposition view it favourably, and that it has the support of the Pharmaceutical Society. There is no need for me to remind your Lordships of the work of chemists in the country in general, or of the responsibility which they now have with the arrival of more complicated drugs. It gives me, as a member of a profession which works closely with the chemists, great pleasure to be moving the Second Reading of this Bill in your Lordships' House.

The purpose of the Bill, put rather generally, is to tidy up the law relating to pharmacy, which is complicated and full of rather difficult technicalities. To appreciate that, I should like briefly to go over a little of the past history, which I think will make the Bill more easily understandable. The Pharmaceutical Society was founded in 1841, and obtained a Royal Charter two years later. The Pharmacy Act, 1852, placed upon the Society the responsibility for maintaining a Register of pharmaceutical chemists and of examining candidates who wished to register. Only registered persons could be called pharmaceutical chemists, but there was no compulsion to join the Society. One curious thing about that Act was that registered medical practitioners could not register as pharmaceutical chemists, and any pharmaceutical chemist who became a registered medical practitioner had his name removed from the Pharmaceutical Register.

The Pharmacy Act, 1868, set up a Register of chemists and druggists and the people registered became associates of the Society. One effect of that Act was that only people on these two registers could sell or keep "open shop" for the sale or dispensing of poisons. There was then a third Pharmacy Act, passed in the year 1898, which, among other technical matters, abolished associate-ship of the Society, and enabled chemists and druggists to become members of the Society, whereas previously they could only become associates. In 1908, there was the Poisons and Pharmacy Act, which, among other important things, demanded a certain practical preliminary training for candidates, and at the same time, purely for convenience, divided the examination into two parts. In 1933 there was passed a further Poisons and Pharmacy Act which established a statu- tory committee, with power to disqualify and to keep a certain discipline, and which made membership of the Pharmaceutical Society synonymous with being a registered pharmaceutical chemist or a registered chemist and druggist. That, briefly, is the past history of the Society.

I feel that the best way to deal with the Bill is to pass on at once to a consideration of the various clauses, which I believe will be quite easy to understand. Clause 1 of the Bill abolishes the dual Register and deals with the setting up of a single Register in its place. Clause 2 makes it possible for the Council of the Society to appoint the examiners to con duct the examinations, rather than that they should be appointed under the Charter, as was the case under the 1852 and 1868 Acts. That procedure has now become obsolete, and this merely changes it to what has become common practice. Clause 3 of the Bill enables the Society to make by-laws to change the annual Register, and to publish it in other months than January. Clause 4 makes it clear that the Council of the Society can make by-laws requiring candidates for examination to produce certain evidence of practical training and general education, because in the past there was some uncertainty whether the Council could insist on that. Clause 5 enables the Council to register persons holding a degree in Pharmacy which has been given by a university in Great Britain. Such degrees have been granted for some time now, but, by some curious anomaly, people holding degrees in Great Britain could not be on the Register, although under the Medical Practices and Pharmacists' Act, 1947, it was possible for the Council to register persons with a degree from a university outside Great Britain.

Clause 6 extends the scope of the benevolent fund to cover dependants completely. The previous Acts covered merely members or past members, with their widows and children, and did not include certain other dependants who might need assistance from the benevolent fund. Clause 7 does away with the phrase, "students, apprentices or assistants," that phrase having become obsolete—"students"is now the general term. Secondly, it takes away the disqualification preventing registered medical practitioners from becoming registered as pharmaceutical chemists. At the same time, it takes away the maximum from the retention fee of £2, which has been the custom in the past, and allows for the amount to be fixed from time to time by by-laws, which will be subject to the approval of the Privy Council. Clause 8 confirms the existing Charter and allows for its amendment. Clause 9 provides for the various amendments and repeals to which I have referred, and provides that until they come into force, the present Act shall continue. Clause 10 is the interpretation clause, and Clause 11 is the short title. The Bill has been exhaustively examined by members of the profession, and it meets with their entire approval. I trust that, with the rather brief outline It have given, your Lordships will be pleased to give the Bill a Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Amulree.)

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my support to what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree. This is one of the examples current at the present time of the raising of a particular body of people from one status to another. The Bill improves the status of those who are chemists and who are professionally qualified in that respect. The object of this Bill, of course, is also to remove those anomalies and anachronisms in the Pharmacy Acts, which extend back to 1852, as was mentioned by the noble Lord who introduced the Bill. The intention of this Bill is to prepare for the consolidation of the whole series of Acts which have gone before. It is to disentangle the constitution of the Pharmaceutical Society from its statutory duties. The effect of this Bill will be to put the statutory duties into the Act and the constitution into a new Charter. The Charter is now before the Privy Council and it is hoped to synchronise the appointed day under the Act and the granting of the new Charter.

Clauses 1 and 2 substitute for the two existing statutory qualifications—chemists and druggist, and pharmaceutical chemists—one only, namely, pharmaceutical chemist. The clauses also amalgamate the two existing Registers into one. It is the intention of the Society to make existing pharmaceutical chemists Fellows of the Society, to maintain differentiation. The present chemists and druggists will remain members, M.P.S. I mention these facts because they are vitally important in the professional status of the organisation. I must, however, draw the attention of your Lordships to the fact that it is not only in chemists' shops, or with the assistance of qualified people, that drugs can be sold. A very large quantity of drugs are sold at grocers' and other shops. It is true that they are only drugs which are more or less harmless—aspirin and things of that kind—but a large proportion of drugs are, in fact, obtainable in shops in which there is no chemist in attendance. This Bill is one to which I hope the House will give a Second Reading. It has the support of the Ministry of Health and of the Privy Council. It is a step towards further strengthening the Pharmaceutical Society, and so raising the whole profession, as a professional body. It is much to be hoped that the Statute Law Revision Committee will get to work on a consolidation of the Pharmacy Acts.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, I rise merely to indicate to the House that those associated with me on this Bench are not unfavourable to the passage of this Bill into law. They are somewhat intrigued by the fact that it is a Private Member's Bill, because when we have been reorganising or reconditioning other professional organisations it has been chiefly by Government Bills. We hope, however, that, notwithstanding the fact that this is a Private Member's Bill, the work which will accrue from it will be equally good with that of the others.


My Lords, I rise, as one who was responsible for the passing of the Poisons and Pharmacy Act, 1908, which was then a highly controversial measure, to say that I entirely concur in the amendment of that Act which is to be effected by this Bill.


My Lords, we have already discussed two measures this afternoon which may be considered as highly controversial, but they were both discussed in a very amicable manner. I am glad that it falls to my lot to continue that measure of agreement and friendliness, and to say, on behalf of my right honourable friend the Minister of Health, that not only does he fully support this Bill but he has given every facility possible from his Department to help its passage. With those few words, I bless the Bill on behalf of the Government.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.