HL Deb 28 July 1960 vol 225 cc944-60

5.25 p.m.

THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY rose to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to certain restrictions which adversely affect the practice of herbalism in this country. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, before I come to the Question I have put upon the Paper, I should like very much, as an old Leader of the House and as a very old friend of Lord Home, to add one word of warm congratulation to those that have been showered on him this afternoon on the great post in the Government to which he has been appointed. The office of Foreign Secretary—I know it, because I worked in the Foreign Office—is one of the most fascinating that can fall to the lot of man. No one, I am sure, could fill it with more lustre than the noble Earl, and we are all—all who know him —very happy to think that it should have fallen to him to occupy it. It is no reflection on the noble Viscount, Lord Hail-sham, to say that we shall miss the noble Earl sadly as Leader of this House; but I have no doubt that, with his great attainments, the noble Viscount will be a very worthy successor to him in a post which his father filled with such notable distinction in earlier years, before most of us were Members of this House.

Now I should like to come immediately to the Question which is standing in my name. In doing so, it would perhaps be for the convenience of the House if I made a brief explanation of the issues raised by the Question. As the House will know, the science of herbalism is, if I may use so homely a phrase, almost as old as the hills. Its purpose, as it is defined in the Oxford Dictionary, is to study, collect, sell or administer herbs with medicinal properties". It has been practised, I think, ever since primæval times, and there is no doubt at all that over the centuries it has given relief to many of the ills of humanity.

In this country two bodies, the Institute of Medical Herbalists, which was founded in the latter half of last century, and the Society of Herbalists, founded in 1927, exist to further the practice of herbalism. So far as I know—indeed, nothing. I think, has ever been suggested to the contrary—both of these societies are of a most respectable character; and until 1941 it was legal for them to sell scientifically prepared remedies to members of the public without any restriction on the processes used in the preparation of these remedies. Nor, so far as I know, were there at that time any complaints about their activities. But in 1941 the Government of the day, which was an all-Party Government, decided to bring in a Bill, called the Pharmacy and Medicines Bill, the purpose of which, to quote the Long Title of the Bill, was to prohibit certain advertisements relating to medical matters and to amend the law relating to medicines". I was myself a member of that Government and, though I am ashamed to say it, I have very little recollection of the circumstances in which that Bill was introduced. I must, therefore, take my share of responsibility for its results, and it is for that reason that I have felt a special obligation to bring this matter before your Lordships.

To-day, my Lords, I am not concerned at all with the main purpose of the Pharmacies Act. No doubt the Government of the day had strong reasons for pressing forward with a measure of this kind at that crisis in our history, and for carrying it through at a speed which provoked a protest from my father, who was then a Member of this House, and other senior Members of the House. What I am concerned with is the effect that that legislation has had on the practice of herbalism. Clearly, the Government of the day did not think that it would have any deleterious effect. Indeed, I think that that was made quite clear by the Ministers in charge in both Houses of Parliament at the time of the passage of the Bill. But, my Lords, in fact—at least, by all accounts I have had—it has had a considerable effect and a very serious one.

For example, up to the date of the passage of the Bill herbalists could prescribe any individual remedies they wished to individual patients (that is to say, remedies which did not contravene any other legislation) just like any doctor can. And I would emphasise here that a duly qualified herbalist, if I may use such a phrase, to some extent combines the functions both of physician and of dispenser. But the Act of 1941 did, in practice, severely limit the scope of their prescriptions. Henceforth, under Section 12 (4) (a) of that Act, herbalists were precluded from selling to the general public any medicines except dried herbs and some proprietary medicines"— thus, I am told, denying many of the remedial benefits which should be given by proper processing. If the remedy which the herbalist wished to prescribe came within the scope of Section 12 (4) (a) of the Act, then, of course, the position remained unchanged by the passage of the measure; but if it did not come within the scope of that section, not only the seller but the buyer, too, had to be a member of the Society of Herbalists, and that cut out the sale to the general public of remedies produced by all the following processes, which your Lordships will see are very considerable: boiling, decocting, distilling, evaporating. extracting, expressing, infusing, macerating, percolating, pilling, pressing, tableting and tincturising—all of them, I understand, processes used in the legitimate practice of herbalism. This, as it has turned out—and one can well understand it—put the herbalists at a very serious disadvantage.

Finally, under this Act, the power to inspect and prosecute herbalists for breaches of the Act was given to the Pharmaceutical Society, and this, perhaps not unnaturally, was regarded by the herbalists as a very bitter pill for them to swallow. They have felt, and still feel, though I am sure the Pharmaceutical Society is the most reputable and responsible of bodies, that, in the nature of things, pharmacists are not likely to have any particular sympathy for herbalism as such. Why, they ask, choose that particular body, of all the possible ones, to be adjudicator in cases of this kind? And why, they add, were they, the herbalists, never consulted at all in the preparation of the Bill of 1941, although the pharmacists, and even the grocers, were?

Now, my Lords, I am not myself a herbalist. So far as I know, I have never taken a herbal remedy—not because I distrust them, but because (and I suppose the same is true of most of your Lordships) they have never happened to come my way. But I do not like to feel that a perfectly respectable body of people, fulfilling a function which is, after all, hallowed by antiquity, should believe that they have been subject to serious injustice. All they ask now is that they should be restored to the position which they held before the 1941 Act. That, I gather, could be easily effected by the introduction of an amendment into the Pharmacy and Medicines Act, 1941, extending the provisions of Section 12 (4) (a), to which I have already referred, to cover those other processes which I mentioned earlier, and which are clearly used in the legitimate practice of herbalism.

If there is any fear in any quarter that such action might open the door to quacks, the Institute and the Society would, I understand, welcome the introduction into the amendment which I have just mentioned of some wording making it abundantly clear that these additional processes should be used only by herbal practitioners who were approved by the Society and the Institute. They would also, as I think was made clear by the noble Lord, Lord Plumer, at the time of the passage of the Bill in 1941—and I am going to use his words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 119, col. 947]: … not in the least object to placing on the labels the proper designation of the substance recommended as a medicine.

That, quite briefly, my Lords, is their proposal; and unless it is the view of the Government that there is something inherently dangerous to the public in properly conducted herbalism, there seems to be good reason why this change should properly be considered. I understand that the Government have lately set up an inter-Departmental working party to examine the body of legislation which concerns medicine, and I should like to suggest to the Government and to the House that the position of herbalists, and their specific proposal for an amendment of the Act of 1941, ought to be given full and fair consideration by this body in the light of the experience which there has now been, over the last twenty years, of the working of the Act. If the Government could give an assurance to that effect, I am sure it would be greatly appreciated by a body of people who are anxious only to be useful to the general public in the practice of their ancient craft.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I should like just to say one or two words, not in complete support of the noble Marquess, but in support very largely of what he has said; because, although I must confess that I am not a herbalist myself—indeed, I do not think I have ever taken any medicine prepared by such a society—I feel that people who do prescribe medicines in perfectly good faith should be controlled by roughly the same kind of regulations as apply to doctors and pharmacists in the normal kind of work. In other words, there are certain things one may not advertise today. One may not say that such-and-such a medicine will cure cancer, will cure tuberculosis, will cure venereal disease, or one or two more diseases like that. I should like to see the same sort of rule applied to medicines prescribed by herbalists.

Another thing which is extremely important, I think, is that the composition of the medicine should be upon the bottle, upon the label, so that we know exactly what we are taking. We have to be very careful about that, because I remember that some time before the war there was a curious body of people from Wales who called themselves "The Cardigan Cancer Curists", and they claimed to treat cancer with some herbal remedy which had been handed down from father to son. It was enormously difficult to get some of this remedy, but when some of it was obtained in some way, and was submitted to a proper chemical analysis, it was found to contain some extremely strong caustic material, and there was no question of there being any herbal remedy at all. What I should like to see, therefore, is the Government following the line that the noble Marquess has suggested, and putting medicines and remedies made by herbalists under the same regulations as apply to those prescribed by the ordinary doctors, with the same rules about advertising and about indicating the contents of the prescription.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, I want only to say a few words. I think the House should be very grateful to the noble Marquess for having raised this question. Most of us have not, in the course of our busy lives, had particular contact with herbalism, and we should have been in some difficulty in defining it if we had been called upon to do so. It was an education to us to hear the noble Marquess's very clear explanation of what are the functions of people who practise herbalism. Speaking for myself, I am bound to say that if a substantial body of people feel that an injustice exists as a result of legislation, then it is something that ought to be attended to. Of course, I am not in a position to accept the fact that there has been an injustice here; but at least the matter ought to be looked into, in the light of what the noble Marquess has just said, and in the light of the speech we have just listened to from the noble Lord, Lord Amulree. There are obviously various aspects of the matter which need to be considered, and I am all in favour of an examination into a matter of this kind, where a body of people feel that they are not being properly and fairly treated.

I should like to go on to say that the moral to it all is that we ought not to embark upon hasty legislation—and we get a lot of that in this House in the month of July every year, when we are asked to "swallow" Bills and pass them through all their stages, as we did the other day. The noble Earl himself asked us to take a Bill through all its stages on the one day, although in my opinion it could have waited a couple of days. We have been asked to take other measures of a complicated character, without time being left for amendment, or to accept Amendments from another place without the opportunity of giving them the closest possible scrutiny. I beg of the Government to take this matter to heart. Somehow this question of hasty legislation ought to be attended to.

Yesterday I was speaking on the Commons Amendments to two Bills which had been introduced in your Lordships' House, and which I thought had been somewhat improved by our work here. I was gratified to find that the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack and the noble Viscount now the Leader of the House agreed that the Bills had been much improved by the Amendments made following discussions here, and subsequently adopted in another place. That is the advantage of full consideration and discussion. The noble Marquess has given an account of what happened in 1941 and how it was possible for the measure to which he referred to be slipped through without the fullest consideration and consultation with the people concerned. I hope that we shall take the lesson and see that in future Sessions of Parliament we are not forced to indulge in this hasty legislation. I think that the particular matter which the noble Marquess has raised should be properly and fully investigated.


My Lords, I should like to support the noble Marquess in what he has said. Herbalists are innocent, harmless and very useful. They say that they have been injured by hasty war-time legislation, and I think that anybody who has a case of that kind has a right to have his position re-examined. I have received from people who are undoubtedly good herbalists very effective remedies for illness when no other remedies were available to me, when I was removed from getting doctors' prescriptions or anything of that kind. Therefore, I owe herbalists a debt of gratitude, and I am glad to add my voice to that of the noble Marquess who has raised this question.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak on this question, but following on what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, I think that I should point out that this was not a case of hasty legislation pushed through owing to the force of circumstances. I am afraid that the history is rather more grim than that. It was discovered in the early days of the war, after purchase tax had been introduced, that for some time the chemical companies had been paying double duty on the goods they sold, and that had they made a claim against the Government then in power, they would have been entitled to receive very heavy compensation, which was not convenient at that time of the war. There is good evidence to indicate that the Government made a bargain with the chemists—I do not know if that is too strong to say; but at any rate this heavy debt was never paid off to the chemists. Instead, this Bill, which had the effect of putting herbalists out of business, was produced in an almost hole-and-corner way. That is to say, the final Bill was printed only a few days before it came up for discussion. The Amendments that many Members brought in another place were all refused. When the Bill reached your Lordships' House, a sort of compromise arrangement was made, on which the herbalists were consulted. Then, when the Bill finally came up in your Lordships' House to be passed, the agreed arrangements in Committee were all withdrawn and the Bill was pushed through without amendment. That is what herbalists believe to be the case. It is a grievance under which they have suffered ever since, and are still suffering.

Several noble Lords who have spoken have said that they are not herbalists and have never taken herbal remedies. I have taken herbal remedies and I think that in some instances they are very valuable. But I cannot buy from any source herbal remedies which, in my opinion, would be of value to me or to my friends unless I become a member of a certain company which creates and dispenses these herbal remedies. So I hope that when this matter is considered, in the way in which the noble Marquess has indicated, the case of the herbalists may receive the most sympathetic consideration.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, I entirely agree with what the noble Marquess has asked, that there should be an inquiry into the position of herbalists. Some noble Lords have said that herbalists have been put out of work altogether. Of course, that is not the case, and many people to-day are benefiting from the remedies they prescribe.

I must declare at once that I was at the Ministry of Health and took part, as is perhaps known, in presenting to Parliament the Bill that has been mentioned, and urging that it should be passed. I should like to say that we had consultations with many people and many groups. Speaking from memory, I cannot be sure that the herbalists were among the groups consulted. Certainly individual herbalists were, but whether the consultations were official or not, I cannot say. But I do know that consultations took place with an enormous number of groups, organisations and individual people. I am naturally not now going into the details of the reasons, as some of them, although not all, have already been stated. But I should like to assure your Lordships that, from our point of view, it was not meant, and I do not think it would have been considered in the other place, as hurried legislation. A great deal of thought and discussion went into it.


When one speaks of "hurried legislation" one is not referring to the time taken in the inception of the Bill. I was referring to the time given for discussion in this House and in another place.


I appreciate that. But, looking back—I have not looked this up, and I am speaking from memory; and perhaps to me it seems rather a long time ago, having had some responsibility in the other place—I should not have thought it was hurried there. Of course, I have no idea what happened in your Lordships' House. A great deal of effort was made to consult; and we certainly did not want to put them out of practice. In supporting my noble friend Lord Salisbury, I should be glad if the matter could now be looked at again to see whether any alterations could be made that would give legitimate herbalists the right to do good and would prevent other people from doing evil.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I think there are two separate issues here. The first is the right of anybody to make a decoction or a tincture and sell it in good faith to the public. Really, I cannot see any reason why anybody should not make such a decoction or tincture or maceration or what you like. In fact, we all do it. Every time we make a pot of tea we make a herbal infusion which cheers the soul and raises the spirit. This is a herbal remedy, and it is perfectly harmless. If anybody likes to sell me a bottle of cold tea, provided he labels it honestly and says how much tea he put in, I cannot see that the Pharmaceutical Society or anybody else should stop him. But if all herbal remedies are to be labelled as to their contents, as my noble friend Lord Amulree suggests, I am afraid that we shall get into great difficulties, because the herbalist could not possibly tell you what the contents of these herbs are. Only a pharmaceutical chemist, and possibly an analyst skilled in alkaloids and the higher biochemistry, could possibly tell you what is contained in a number of these herbs. I very much doubt whether there is any evidence that many of them are very pharmaceutically or pharmacologically active. I think that any attempt to do more than describe in simple ordinary English on the bottle what is actually put in would be foolish; and I doubt whether we ought to legislate even about that.

I am certain that we ought not to legislate about the rights of the herbalists to control their industry by legislation, because that would involve a recognition of herbalism as being a valid and scientific activity, for which there is really no evidence. I think the herbalists would have to make out a great scientific case, just as your Lordships will recall the osteopaths made out a great scientific case before a Select Committee of your Lordships' House in, I think, 1937. They came completely to grief, as I have no doubt the poor old herbalists would do if they tried to do the same thing. I think it would be a mistake for them to try. Therefore, in my view, it would be quite wrong to adopt the suggestion of the noble Marquess: that, in making any amendment to assist the herbalists in the innocent making of decoctions, we should thereby give them any sort of official recognition. That would be something absolutely different and a very serious matter, to be tackled seriously and only after prolonged consideration, which, in my humble opinion, would be a complete waste of time. On the other hand, that they should be allowed to go about their harmless ways, making their harmless medicines—as I am sure most of them are—and bringing cheer to many people, seems to me to be an innocent and perfectly harmless practice which should not in any way be controlled by the Pharmaceutical Society.

5.56 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to cross swords slightly with my noble friend who has just sat down. He waved off these remedies as being harmless and not having any value. I do not think that that is so at all. I think that some of these remedies, as the noble Marquess and the noble and gallant Lord who spoke have said, are of real value. I used years ago to be well acquainted with a herbalist who was a sound, sensible and intelligent man. I was not a patient of his, although I remember on one occasion when I had some indigestion he gave me something which I found very helpful. This type of rather unorthodox practice may be exceedingly valuable.

My particular herbalist lived within a mile or two of Mr. Barker, the famous manipulator, and the interesting thing about them is that they came from families who have for generations practised in this sort of work. Mr. Barker, of course, was a bonesetter. I remember him before he became famous in the First World War, when his undoubted skill as a manipulator and his remarkable knowledge of anatomy enabled him to put right a large number of people who had been badly wounded in the war. Afterwards he received a knighthood, much to the discomfort of many orthodox medical friends of mine; but I am certain that it was well deserved.

I am also quite sure that, while there are no doubt many quacks among the herbalists, there are a number of them who have this sort of wisdom which is handed down from one generation to another. The man I am talking about had a considerable knowledge of anatomy; he was a wise man and he had imbibed this sort of understanding of simple ailments, and the remedies which can do a great deal of good, from his father, who had handed them down. There is a great deal of lore in our countryside which has real value. If your Lordships will forgive what might appear to be a digression, I may say that when I was in China the problem of Chinese medicine, which to a great extent is of this old-fashioned herbal type, and modern medicine, was considerably discussed among the medical scientists. They were trying to discover, in a way which I thought was really interesting and valuable, some method of integrating the two expertises.

I am not suggesting that the herbalists come within a long way of making the great contributions which have been made by medical science, especially in recent generations, but I think it would be altogether wrong just to dismiss the whole thing, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, rather tended to do, as if there were nothing in it. I am sure that, provided it is handled in a scientific way, there is a great deal to be learned from these people, and I hope that the Government will do their best to assist the noble Marquess.

5.59 p.m.


My Lords, I trust that by the end of my Answer to my noble friend Lord Salisbury I shall have shown more appreciation and even some understanding of the cause he has championed than may appear at the outset. But, to begin with, I think I must point out the difficulties and risks of undoing some of the deliberate, thoughtful provisions of the Act of 1941, sponsored by a Government of which, as the noble Marquess reminded us, he was himself a member. The main purpose of this Pharmacy and Medicines Act, 1941, was to abolish the medicine stamp and licence duties which had been pay- able on certain medicines under the Medicine Stamp Acts. This abolition was made necessary, as was mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Dowding, by the introduction of purchase tax as applied to medicine, which would otherwise have been a tax on a tax.

In addition, the Act of 1941 provided that the retail sale of medicines should be restricted normally to chemists, doctors and dentists. But there were exemptions from this provision for certain existing named remedies under general types—for example, embrocation, linctus, cough medicines and mild headache pills—and these existing named remedies included such herbal remedies as had proprietary names. In a word, what was known and accepted as harmless at the time was exempted from the new safeguards incorporated in the Act. Unless these restrictions which my noble friend would like to see relaxed are seen as safeguards on the public's behalf, the difficulties and risks which accompany his proposals will not be apparent.

These safeguards were introduced in Section 12 (4) (a) of the Act by limiting the sale and distribution of herbal remedies except those already known, and in the case of substances produced by drying, crushing or comminuting—that is to say, breaking into small pieces. They could also be mixed with each other or mixed with water. This was thought, in the careful consideration given to the herbalists' position while the Bill was being drafted, to give adequate protection to legitimate herbalism and to the public at the same time. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady Horsbrugh for emphasising at first hand the care that was taken in these deliberations.

The herbalists are now saying, however, that the processes which they are allowed to use are too limited and prevent them from selling to the general public any medicines except dried herbs and certain proprietary preparations established before 1941. What the herbalists (who have found a formidable champion in my noble friend Lord Salisbury and other noble Lords in this House), wish the Government to do is to extend these provisions to include, in addition to the processes of drying, crushing and comminuting, the processes of boiling, decocting, distilling, evaporating, extracting, expressing, infusing, macerating, percolating, pilling, pressing, tableting and tincturising. The temptation to read the list already read out by my noble friend was, I am afraid, too strong.

As your Lordships will see, some of these are extremely technical terms, and as such they are open to varied interpretation by the technicians concerned. Certainly, some of the processes seem proper to the practice of pharmacy, and even dangerous when permitted to those untutored in pharmacy. My own advisers tell me that they cover practically anything you can do to a defenceless plant.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? These processes were open to herbalists before 1941. Was there any sign that they had been misused?


No, my Lords. I confess that I have inquired into this, and so far as I know there is no record of any abuse. But the fact that they were open to abuse is a matter of which I am sure my noble friend will agree the Government have to take note, and over which they have to take some action. For instance, macerating could involve the adding of alcohol to a substance, allowing it to stand, and then filtering off the residue for consumption. A tincture is the solution of a substance in one of the dilutes of alcohol. Percolating could also involve alcohol in sparing or generous proportions.


My Lords, the noble Lord will know that anybody who has made home-made wine uses precisely these processes, including the addition of alcohol.


My Lords, can the noble Lord tell me what exactly is the objection to the use of alcohol?


My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, may I say that in one theatre of war where the normal proprietary stimulants were hard to come by, with the help of some Central and East European advisers I produced an inexpensive and an acceptable form of vodka by such a process. It was hardly the sort of concoction which the Minis- ter of Health could, or should, authorise for sale across the grocers' counters of this country. What is made in the noble Lord's own bathtub is entirely his own business. That is not to say that my right honourable friend regards herbalists as being irresponsible, but it would be irresponsible for him to overlook the hazards of allowing unqualified individuals, untrained in pharmacy or chemistry, to have a free hand with all these processes and sell the results to the public. If they were really allowed to decoct, distill, infuse, macerate, percolate and tincturise anything that took their fancy, the results might he disturbing and harmful.

The Society of Herbalists have, however, appreciated this point, and they have made a very significant proposal to meet it. That brings me to the more positive and hopeful part of what I have to say, and in this I hope to meet my noble friend's desire, at least in part, which would naturally always be my wish. The Government, as my noble friend noted, have undertaken to review the whole of the legislation relating to the control of medicinal substances, including the Act of 1941 A working party of officials was set up in November and is now receiving evidence and views from the various bodies mainly concerned with this subject. Among them are the herbalists, and they quite rightly have submitted a memorandum to this Working Party. In paragraph 10 of that memorandum they recognise the Government's duty to protect the public, and in seeking the authorisation of these additional processes they are prepared to see it restricted to "duly qualified herbal practitioners only." The problem remains—and it is not easy of solution at the moment—who decides what exactly is a duly qualified herbal practitioner. What could correspond to the close analytical control of the other medicines insisted upon to-day? How, without pharmaceutical training, would these herbal practitioners be able to measure the potency of the medicines they were producing? In fact, is good faith enough in the production and sale of these substances and remedies?

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, cast some doubt upon whether at the moment the herbalists could meet these necessary provisions, and I am bound to say that I echo his doubts on this matter. Undeniably, I think these are difficult questions to answer, but possibly the answers will emerge in the course of the Working Party's inquiries in which, of course, the herbalists' submissions will be received and given due weight.

In the course of my own inquiries, I discovered in my Yorkshire home last week two books, one massive, the other smaller, but almost equally rich in content, providing a great fund of remedies enjoyed, or at least indulged in, by my own family. There are, among the 150 remedies in the smaller book alone, a water to fasten teeth, a water for sharp humours in the blood, an electuary for coughs and snail water for consumption. There are also cures of different natures for the Falling of the Fundament, for the chin-cough, the thickness of hearing, for an easy labour, for St. Anthony's fire, for the biting of a mad dog, for ye scurvey, for the weakening of the knees, for an unthrifty horse and for Ye Piles.

Among more than 100 ingredients there are: poppies, carroway, sweet fennel, coriander, mugwort, gentian, rhubarb, marshmallows, lilyroots, honeysuckle leaves, violets, pumpkin seeds, saffron, acorns, strawberry leaves, a great deal of French brandy and not a little claret. I think I will not read to your Lordships the remedy for the weakness of the knees, which I confess habitually afflicts me when I rise to speak in your Lordships' House. But I should hardly forgive myself if I failed to acquaint your Lordships of the virtues of aqua mirabilis, which are as follows: It takes away the swelling of the lungs, keeps ye Blood from putrefying, it keeps ye Heart cheerful, it expels Rheum, comforts the Stomach, keeps youth florid, preserves ye Memory, it helps Palsy in ye Limbs or Tongue, if it can be given one at the point of Death it will revive him. It is ye best of Cordiall Waters. I will naturally impart the composition of this remarkable potion to any noble Lord who may be interested. As your Lordships can imagine, seeing the confidence that my forbears placed in herbal remedies, it would be disloyal of me to be sceptical. In fact, I have had later and more convincing evidence of their importance which will be known to some extent to other noble Lords. I have had described to me by my Polish friends those terrible days at the end of the war when disease of every kind was raging in large parts of Europe and when pharmaceutical drugs were entirely non-existent. In those days whole populations fell back upon the remembered lore of herbal cures, and large parts of those populations owed their survival to those cures.

No one, I think, would seek to deny that herbalism was the beginning of medicine, and as such, hallowed by antiquity, in the words of my noble friend. But now, except in tragic and terrible emergencies, some of which were known to Lord Saltoun, we need not return exclusively to those beginnings. Diagnosis and cure are infinitely more specialised and more precise than they were in those days. I think it would also be idle to deny that centuries ago, when nothing but herbal remedies were known, although thousands of lives were saved by those remedies many were lost by misapplication or ignorance. Such ignorance we cannot tolerate to-day, however rare and however well-intentioned. Safeguards must be insisted upon, and I am glad to see that the Society of Herbalists appreciate that. Since my noble friend has asked me to give him an assurance that their opinions and claims will be listened to and studied by the present Working Party, I can give him that assurance with the fullest confidence; and in fact they are already being studied.