HL Deb 06 July 1964 vol 259 cc860-95

3.41 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.—(Lord Grenfell.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]


May I point out to the Committee that if Amendment No. 1 is agreed to, Amendment No. 2 could not be called, and Amendment No. 3 might need an alteration before it could be put.

Clause 1:

Amendment of section 14 of Pharmacy Act 1954. 2 & 3 Eliz, 2. c. 61.

1. Section 14 of the Pharmacy Act 1954 (which provides that every registered pharmaceutical chemist shall, by virtue of registration, be a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain) shall be amended by the insertion at the end thereof of the following proviso: Provided that any person who satifies the registrar—

  1. (a) that he has a conscientious objection to being a member of the Society, and
  2. (b) that his conscientious objection is based upon religious beliefs which he shares with others,
shall not by virtue of registration become a member of the Society or, if he is a member of the Society, shall cease to be a member thereof".


moved to leave out all words after "Britain)" and insert "is hereby repealed." The noble Viscount said: The effect of this Amendment makes it possible to register and practise without being a Member of the Pharmaceutical Society. This Amendment has been called a wrecking Amendment, but I did not put it down with that end primarily in view, though I would say now that I feel most strongly that this Bill should not pass. I should like to consider that aspect of the question a little before actually speaking on the details of this Amendment.

I abstained from voting in the Division recently, but I have reconsidered the matter and feel, for a number of reasons, that it would be most unwise to pass this Bill. In the first place, I do not think it is an issue of discrimination against a religious society, because it is they who are discriminating against our society. In these circumstances, I think we are entitled to take in to account their merits as citizens and their importance as a minority. But there is an even more important reason why I think this Bill should not stand as it is at present. It is really the thin end of a wedge. The associate membership of many societies —and I quote in particular that of accountants—is required in a number of jobs. In other words, one has little prospect of obtaining certain posts and appointments unless one can say that one has the associate membership of one or two of these professional bodies. That applies to engineers as well.

I think there are a number of other religious societies who for a long time have been labouring under minor disadvantages, none of which they felt it right to raise. If we pass this Bill, I see no logical reason why it should stop short of the Pharmaceutical Society associate membership or the equivalent membership required in the other learned bodies. I feel that many other of the smaller religious sects would feel that they, in turn, could rightly ask for a similar type of help. Mr. Stanley, leader of the Exclusive Brethren, in a letter of June 30 said: With one exception, every one of my fellow Christians who owned a chemist's business has either sold the business or converted it into a non-pharmaceutical business if he has not been able to sell it. It is not a case of 26 Exclusive Brethren who cannot dispense poisons; and until Mr. Taylor recently came from America there was no difficulty on this question. He stirred things up, and I think it might be profitable to make inquiries as to what his motives were, and possibly as to his general character.

If we pass this Bill, I feel that we are not only leaning over backwards to help a small religious minority; I should say we were falling over backwards to do so. An argument has been put forward that if we do not do so the Exclusive Brethren may feel that they are martyrs. Personally, I think it would be much better that they should have this feeling rather than that they should be heroes and champions. I might also say what the position was when this matter came up in another place. In 1963 no Conservative M.P. would sponsor the Bill. One Labour M.P. did so ultimately, but decided not to move the Second Reading.

Now I should like to speak on the actual effect of this Amendment and why I put it down. I think it is wrong in principle to require the membership of a society. Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, issued by the United Nations, says: No one may be compelled to belong to an association. There are plenty of other alternatives: one is, the payment of a registration fee, plus a yearly practising fee. This, I feel, is much more equitable. It distinguishes between money required to administer the profession and that required by the society as such. One of the arguments put forward on this point is that the whole matter was looked at carefully in 1930. I suspect that the present arrangement was agreed as a matter of administrative convenience. But the fact that this was done in 1930 makes me feel that it should be looked at again very carefully. Apart from the Pharmaceutical Society, I think the Veterinary Society and the Law Inns, there is, to the best of my knowledge, no other society or institution which manages its affairs in this way. I feel that on principle this matter should be looked at, and unless we press this Amendment to a Division it is very unlikely that it will receive the consideration which it ought to have.

I should like to deal for a moment or two with one or two of the objections put forward by the Pharmaceutical Society. They say, first of all: This separation is contrary to the findings of the Departmental Committee which inquired into the workings of the Pharmacy Act and reported in 1930 in favour of the identification of membership and registration. I have already said that the fact that this was in 1930 makes me feel that it should seriously be reconsidered. They say: This identification has been a source of great strength to pharmacy. There is no demand among members of the Society for an alteration. Probably there are few members who would in fact leave the Society now, and the threat of a decreasing membership is probably not a real one. Even if it were, I suggest the alternative of a yearly practising fee. They state also: The organisation of pharmacy in Great Britain is based upon this identification and to do away with it would mean a complete recasting of the Society's constitution. The change would involve a major recasting of Pharmacy Acts. This may be so, but, as your Lordships will see a little later, I do not think the whole matter has been considered in any great detail.

They then said that the change would represent the abandonment of a new statutory principle adopted for the Pharmacy Act, 1933, and subsequently followed for veterinary surgery, and that it may well be a pattern which should be developed for other professions, rather than curtailed. This is precisely the point I am making. On a matter of principle, I think that this should not be allowed to continue if it can be altered without any serious harm being done. They then said: The effect of this change would be so fundamental that it deserves that no Amendment with such an effect should be contemplated until there has been a full examination of the many implications. My reason for pressing this Amendment is precisely that these various factors should receive full consideration. Unless we pass this Amendment I am reasonably certain that there is very little chance of that ever being so. I beg to move.

Amendment moved. Page 1, line 8, leave out from ("Britain)") to end of line 17 and insert ("is hereby repealed.")—(Viscount Hanworth.)

3.52 p.m.


I have considered this Amendment very carefully and I agree with very much of what the noble Viscount has said. Having listened to the Second Reading of the debate of this Bill we all appreciate that. I think an important fact is that the Pharmaceutical Society is not blameless in this matter. They have behaved in a most inefficient way; and their officials have behaved in a way which astonishes me because they slipped this Bill through another place without its being revealed at any one stage—Second Reading, Committee stage or Third Reading—that the people with whom we were dealing were this tiny little sect of 26 people called the Exclusive Brethren.


May I interrupt the noble Lady? I am very sorry, but I may say that the Pharmaceutical Society did not slip this Bill through the House. It was put through on behalf of the Exclusive Brethren. The Pharmaceutical Society have been perfectly neutral the whole time about the Bill. I had to put that right.


The noble Lord is being very kind. The Pharmaceutical Society have, of course, circularised us all and said in the first sentence of the circular that they were neutral. People who are neutral do not immediately circularise every Member of this House and ask them to take certain action. That is surely not the action of a neutral body. I would point out to noble Lords that the Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society is a Member of the other place, and he sat there throughout the debate but was remarkably quiet. Only when the Bill came to this House and was analysed and they did not get their way did the Pharmaceutical Society move from a neutral position—and they moved very fast. They had a remarkable amount of literature printed in a very short time and have directed us how to act. That, in my opinion, is a remarkable way for a neutral body to behave.

I fully appreciate the point that is being put in this Amendment and I had to think very carefully what my attitude would be. But may I point out to noble Lords that this Bill in the first place was presented for a certain purpose; and should we, therefore, take action so that we destroy the constitution of the Pharmaceutical Society through an Amendment? If it could be proved that some dictator, some rather stupid official in the Pharmaceutical Society—I have now discovered that there are just under 30,000 members —had said to all the members that in future registration and membership should be identical, that he or a small committee had behaved in an arbitrary fashion and had imposed this on the membership, I should immediately support this Amendment.

But what are the facts. The facts are that in 1930 a very powerful Departmental Committee was set up which inquired into the working of the Pharmacy Act and then, after a long time, reported in 1930 in favour of the identification of membership and registration. Are we to-day entirely to dismiss the findings of that Committee? I have been told since the Second Reading that the other organisation which regards registration as identical to membership is the Veterinary Society. I am not in a position to say, because we really have not had time to make inquiries to find out, why these two powerful and reputable organisations should feel that this is the right approach. I must confess this afternoon that I am a little diffident, because I feel as aggrieved as many noble Lords here about the way in which this Bill was conducted in the other place. I feel that we should be a little irresponsible if we said in an Amendment that we reject the findings of the Departmental Committee which decided that this was the best way to conduct the business of the Pharmaceutical Society. Therefore I am afraid that I will oppose the Amendment, but I will support the next two Amendments.

When I made a remark about things being slipped through, I certainly did not apply it to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, who interrupted, because when he rose in this House he made it quite clear that he was dealing with this sect, and did not attempt to deceive us. It was then that we realised that we were being asked to pass a Bill in favour of a tiny sect who were demanding privileged treatment. But, in view of the fact that the constitution of the Pharmaceutical Society was recommended by such a powerful and responsible body. I cannot, just in this rather arbitrary fashion, dismiss it.

3.58 p.m.


I am sorry to find myself in disagreement with my noble friend on this Amendment, although I supported her on the Second Reading when we sought to reject the Bill. Nor do I find myself in agreement with her remarks about the Pharmaceutical Society. I think they were neutral until they found this Amendment was on the Paper, and they quite properly circularised noble Lords to inform them, as they were entitled to do, that they did not approve of this Amendment and of what would be the consequence of our passing it. I have carefully read their memorandum and I am prepared myself to face the consequence of passing this Amendment, and I think it is right that we should.

What are we asking the Committee to say? Here is a professional body, the Pharmaceutical Society, which, with possibly one excepttion (I do not know about the Veterinary Society), is unique in insisting that those who pass the examinations and become registered also become members of the professional body. The difficulty arises because a few people object to being members of the professional body. How it has come about I do not know, because this has been law for a very long time and, so far as I know, nobody has ever disagreed about it. But I think it is time the law was changed. My noble friend referred to a Committee in 1930. It may be that they were fully justified in the findings that they made in 1930, but we are now in 1964. Circumstances may well have changed. I think the time has come when people who are registered as pharmacists should be free to choose for themselves whether they want to become members of the Society or not. After all, that is the spirit of this Bill. This Bill wants to give certain people freedom to opt out of membership of the Society. I want to give everybody freedom to opt out if they so desire.

What would be the consequences of it I do not know. The Pharmaceutical Society must face up to freedom of membership just as all other organisations do. The Law Society, of which I am a member, does not insist on solicitors being members. They manage to get along quite well by giving their people complete freedom to join or not to join. Whether you are a member or not, you are still subject to the jurisdiction of the Law Society, and presumably pharmacists will still be subject to the jurisdiction of the Pharmaceutical Society for disciplinary purposes. Nobody wants to take that away. But the object of this Amendment is to give everybody complete freedom to be a member or not, whether on religious grounds, conscientious grounds or other grounds. I hope this is a principle which will appeal to noble Lords in this House.

4.2 p.m.


So far as I can make out, this is the first time in either House of Parliament that the question of compulsory membership of a body on registration has ever been discussed. I have taken the trouble to go into the history both of the 1933 Act and of the 1954 Act; and although the 1933 Act was in fact founded on the Departmental Committee's report, it was introduced into this House by the then Lord Lucan. He drew attention to the two important provisions: that registration and membership of the Society were to go together, and that there was to be a disciplinary committee. But nobody else discussed either of those points. And when the Bill went to another place it was introduced somewhere about 12.55 a.m. one day, by the then Home Secretary, I think it was, and except for a very spirited protest by the late Mr. Michael Bowman not a soul spoke on the Bill. The 1954 Bill was a consolidation measure, and therefore there was little or no discussion in either House. And so we get the principle of Section 14 of the 1954 Act being discussed for the first time in this House. It is, of course, really a unique society that compels everyone to belong who desires to practise that particular profession. In the case of my profession we do it rather the other way round: we introduce them as students and they go forward and have to qualify under our examination for call to the Bar and practice. As regards other societies, this is the only one of which I am aware with a rule that a member of the profession must join the professional association.

My difficulty, quite frankly, about this matter is that at the time the 1933 Act went through I had only just got into the other place. If I felt myself free to discuss the compulsory registration of membership of a professional body I should certainly vote against it, for the first time. But I still feel that all who know anything about it have very great respect for this particular Society. They have run their profession for the last 31 years and have undoubtedly improved the standards in every kind of way. Therefore, I personally should be very sorry to see us, with, after all, what has been comparatively little time and consideration, put that Society into the position it undoubtedly would be in if we passed this particular Amendment. It is for that reason I personally propose to vote against this Amendment in hopes that the Committee will consider favourably the next Amendment. Because—and let there be no mistake about it—I most strongly object to the only exception to a general law for the land being given to one or more bodies, based on religious, sectarian views.


I greatly sympathise, and agree almost entirely, with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Spens. If we carry this Amendment we shall, in fact, wreck the Bill, and I feel certain that the sponsors of the Bill would wish to withdraw it. So we should achieve absolutely nothing. We should not in fact liberalise the Pharmaceutical Society in any way, nor should we make it possible for people to object on the grounds of conscience to belonging to it. Therefore I hope we shall not carry this Amendment, though I must say that I can see a case for wrecking the Bill if one dislikes the Exclusive Brethren strongly enough. My feeling is that here is a chance to do a little good, and that the little good is worth doing; that is, to make it possible for people to opt out of membership of the Pharmaceutical Society on grounds of conscience, provided that they are still required to pay the subscription in the same way as every other pharmacist does. This would be a worthwhile advance towards non-compulsory membership of a body, and this would be a fruitful product of this small Bill.


I think this is a difficult question, and I should like to say that I propose, as at present advised, to vote for this Amendment, though my name is associated with the next. As I see it, it is a very striking fact that the Amendments that have been put down have been put down by those who supported the Second. Reading, those who opposed and even by one who abstained. What was common to all was the thought that the Bill as it stands was intolerable. The Bill as it stands has no principle whatsoever that has ever been approved by Parliament, so far as I know, at any time. In order to introduce a tolerable principle into the Bill we can do one of two things, and they are embodied in the first two Amendments. Instead of adding a proviso to Section 14 of the Pharmacy Act, 1954, we can repeal it. That is one way of introducing principle into the Bill. The second is to allow a principle of conscientious objection which, unlike that at present in the Bill, has some parallel in our law.

Might I correct one point made by my noble and learned friend Lord Spens? I think there are two other Statutes which contain a similar provision to that which this Amendment proposes to repeal. They are the Legal Aid and Solicitors (Scotland) Act, 1949, which so treats the Law Society of Scotland, and the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1948, Section 1 of which has a similar effect to that of the Section 14 which this Amendment proposes to repeal. Those are the only exceptions to the rule that it is not automatic that you become a member of a Society on becoming a registered practitioner in a profession. I think that that will be borne out by my noble friend who will give the Government view. The principle is almost unparalleled.

I think it is worth seeing what was the argument of the Committee that proposed that this should be incorporated in the law. It will be found in the second paragraph of Paragraph 20 of the Report of the Departmental Committee. Perhaps I might read it: Under the Society's present constitution members are elected on their application, by the Council from among those who are registered as 'pharmaceutical chemists,' and 'Chemists and Druggists.' At present, it appears that there are only 12,500 members out of 20,000 eligible for membership. This is, in our opinion, an element of weakness both to the Society and the profession of pharmacy, which it would be well to remove. It is now proposed that registered persons should, by virtue of registration, become members of the Society. That is the only reason given, so far as I know, in the Report—that it was in the interests of easy membership of the Society. The question is: is that good enough? In common with all other noble Lords who have spoken, I feel some sympathy with the Pharmaceutical Society in this matter because, whether they ought or ought not to have realised the danger of being neutral about this Bill, it is quite clear that they were not alive to all the implications. But if we introduce the principle of this Amendment into this Bill, that will not be the final and last word. It will still be for this House or for another place to say whether, this Amendment having been incorporated in the Bill, they want the Bill or not.

It is not for me to say what either House is likely to do, but I think it is so essential to introduce some principle into this Bill that we must carry one or other of these two Amendments; and as this will be the first to be voted on I propose to vote on it, though I shall certainly, if it fails, speak and vote on the second. As the second cannot arise if we succeed in the Division on the first, I should like just to say one word about the second Amendment by way of anticipation. I have been unable to discover any Statute—and we have had Statutes that recognise conscientious objection—that has ever thought it necessary to mention religion in this connection. Still less am I able to grasp exactly what is the principle of having a conscientious objection based on religious grounds, but having to show that there are others who agree with you. That I say merely by way of anticipation.

What I say is that either this Amendment or the next introduces an arguable principle into this measure. At present it has none. I propose, therefore, to vote for each of these Amendments—this one because it is the first one that gives me the chance of introducing a principle. If it fails, I shall speak and vote on the second. But in reply to both the noble Baroness and my noble and learned friend Lord Spens, I think it is worth reminding the Committee that, if we pass this Amendment, neither House will have yet disposed of the Bill; it will still be for Parliament to say whether they desire this Bill to continue with this Amendment.

4.16 p.m.


It seems to me that the Committee is in a peculiar position this afternoon. The noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships tells us that there are only two examples dealing with the Pharmacy Act, 1954, one being the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1948, the responsibility for negotiating which through another place was mine. I do not recall that through, out the subsequent sixteen years there has been any complaint against the Act as it has existed from 1948 down to to-day. If that is the case, then clearly there must be a strong case for repealing the Pharmacy Act, either to-day or at any other time.

The noble Lord who has just spoken told your Lordships that he is willing to support the first Amendment, which abolishes the principle in the Pharmacy Act that is embodied in the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1948; but that if he cannot abolish this principle, then he is willing to go forward to the next Amendment and support that because it simply leaves the Act as it exists at the moment, plus the fact that there is a conscience clause. Is there a conscience clause in any other similar Act dealing with a profession? If not, then clearly we must have some strong arguments in favour of embodying for the first time in an Bill of this description, a conscience clause. Usually I agree with my noble friend the Deputy Leader of my Party, but I am afraid that I utterly disagree with him on this point. It may be that in 1948 we were all wrong over the Veterinary Surgeons Act. But Parliament approved it. The veterinary surgeons have never been stronger than they are to-day, and I do not think they have ever been more useful to the animal kingdom than they are to-day, because of their new prestige.

I am all against the complete freedom for everybody that my noble friend Lord Silkin suggested that he wanted to support. There is such a thing as licence, as well as liberty, and as well as freedom. I started my working life at eleven years of age, and, as a trade unionist, paid my first sixpence out of my first week's wages. I remained in the trade union until I came to your Lordships' House. I am still an honorary member—though I have no "bobs" to pay, for which I am grateful. It was my lot, with many of my colleagues, to support the union, because in those days our power to negotiate with the employers was so weak, that, unless we had a strong trade union to help us, we had not a chance in life.


May I put one point? I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing this intervention. As I understand him, he has indicated that he is opposed to both these Amendments. May I therefore ask him what his attitude would be to a Bill that proposed to amend the Veterinary Surgeons Act in exactly the same way as this Bill proposes to amend the Pharmacy Act?


I should oppose it, of course. Any attempt to abolish or repeal the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1948, which has been so useful, I should quite obviously oppose. The noble Lord is quite right when he suggests that I am opposed to both of these Amendments. I would leave the Pharmacy Act as it is. Unless there is something happening that ought not to happen, which is weakening either the profession or the members of the profession, or weakening the morality or stability or sensible approach of your Lordships' House, and that of another place, I do not see any reason for either of these two Amendments. Consequently, I should vote against both. If I were driven to support any one—


Does not the noble Lord propose to vote against the Third Reading, if the Bill goes through in its present form?


Possibly that would be my attitude. I am not going to prophesy at the moment, because I do not know whether either of these Amendments is going to be carried. I am suggesting that, unless there is a strong case for doing something about the existing Pharmacy Act, we ought not to do it. If a strong case can be put up, on the lines suggested by my noble friend Lord Silkin that he wants to give more freedom to people, either to become a member of a society or to refrain from becoming a member of a society, there may be something in that; although I must say that my trade union experience tells me that there is not much. Remembering all the years that we relied upon combination to get the miserable, shocking, slave-like wages we then got, I am willing for combination, at least in most cases, for the purpose of preserving a lot of good sense in the country. I do not think that the country has lost because the trade unions have become stronger. The situation has completely changed; the workers now have more freedom and liberty in the economic field, as well as more political freedom. It has been said by the ex-Prime Minister that we have "never had it so good". Whether he is right or wrong, I do not know, but I feel that there is no justification for the first Amendment on the Order Paper and little justification for the second, at least, until a substantial case can be put up—and so far that has not been done.


My noble friend Lord Williams of Barnburgh has said that he feels great regret at disagreeing with my noble friend Lord Silkin. So should I;but on this occasion I agree with my noble friend Lord Silkin. I have equal regret because I disagree with my noble friend Lord Williams of Barnburgh, with whom I usually agree. I am sorry that this should be so. Trade unionism has really nothing to do with this Bill. It is true that in the trade union field the "closed shop" is often enforced by industrial action of the unions, or by agreement with the employers. There are controversies about it, but that is not an issue which is before the House. What has never been proposed by the trade union movement, so far as I can recall, is that the "closed shop", compulsory trade unionism, should be enforced by Act of Parliament—never!


No; but the noble Lord knows full well that there is no trade union in this country that allows its members to have a conscientious objection to paying its share of trade union fees.


The noble Lord can raise that point on the appropriate Amendment: it will then be relevant. But at the moment it is not. The point I am raising is that, whatever is the practice of the individual union —and the practice varies—there is no proposal from any responsible trade union quarter, nor, so far as I know, from any irresponsible trade union quarter (if there be such), to propose that membership of a trade union shall he made compulsory by Act of Parliament; and that is the principle which is embodied in the Pharmacy Act, 1954. It is perfectly reasonable for Parliament to require that, in professions of this kind, people should be registered and, if appropriate, should be required to go through an examination before registration to be certain that they are fit and competent to carry on the procedure of the business they are proposing to enter. That is legitimate; indeed, I should think that in this case it is probably in the public interest that that should be so. But I do not think that an Act of Parliament has a right (and I shall come in a moment to the Veterinary Act, which I admit is an awkward one) to say, "We require you to belong to a certain society or organisation." That is where the mischief began, and that is where the difficulty with these troublesome Exclusive Brethren began.

My noble friend has a point in regard to the Veterinary Act, and there is also a rather less important one that has been mentioned. I was a member of that Government—and so was my noble friend, Lord Silkin—in 1948; but Members who are experienced in Governments will know that, even though you disagree, if you remain in a Government you have to put up with it. And sometimes matters of relatively less importance than the primary ones, especially when skilfully pioneered by my noble friend Lord Williams of Barnburgh, may get through without a certain point being considered. Anyway, I still object to the principle of compelling a person to belong to a particular society.

I do not think that the Pharmaceutical society will suffer. Probably it will make less than 5 per cent. difference to its membership—indeed it may be materially less than that. But that is where the trouble began, and that is where the scruples of the Exclusive Brethren began. Not that I think much of their scruples, because I think they are a nasty bit of work and, in some respects, rather sadistic in their conduct towards fellow human beings—and even, from what I can hear of it, towards their own families. So there is no defence for them. Nevertheless, I think that this Amendment is right. If the Amendment is carried, it is true that the promoters of the Bill (I do not know whether they require consent) can withdraw it. I have no doubt that that can be done. I am advised that it cannot be withdrawn here, because it is a Commons Bill, and as it has passed through the Commons there might be difficulty there as well.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? The Bill cannot be withdrawn, but I, personally, can refuse to proceed with the Bill. Any other noble Lord in the House can then take up the Bill, if he wishes, but I would not proceed with it. That, I understand, is the correct solution to the problem as put by the noble Lord.


I do not know about "the correct solution", because now this has degenerated into a bit of a threat.




Excuse me, but it has. The threat is that if we pass this Amendment, the noble Lord will not proceed with the Bill —although it is not his Bill; it is a Bill which belongs to another place. I think that is questionable, very questionable indeed, and I do not think the House should bow down to threats of that kind.

In all the circumstances the question is, what will happen if the Amendment is carried? If the Bill is not killed, all right; it will continue with that Amendment. If it were killed, or if the noble Lord "committed suicide" with it, then the law would remain as it is, and the Exclusive Brethren would have to put up with what is happening to them, which I should not mind. But I still object to the principle of compulsion on the individual, not by trade agreement but by law, to belong to a particular society. I think it is an improper interference with the liberty of the subject, and that when Parliament does it Parliament is overstepping the limits of its legitimate functions in the light of civil liberty.


Hear, hear!


I allowed my noble friend to put my name to this Amendment on a muttered word of agreement during Second Reading debate, and because I knew that it would be the proper way in which to bring up this subject for discussion. I have listened to what your Lordships have said with great appreciation of the strongly held opinions from different points of view, and in the course of the debate I have slowly come to the conclusion that the only thing to do is to throw out this Bill altogether. If we allow this individual group to contract out of the need to join the Pharmaceutical Society, it is in logic necessary that we should widen the provision to include any other group which wants to do the same; and, indeed, the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Spens does allow individuals to contract out of their own volition, without any explanation except that of conscience. That might indeed wreck the Society in the same way that, to pass this particular Amendment which we are now discussing would, they claim, wreck the Society. In fact, I think that in the documents they have addressed to us they take as much exception to the Amendment to be moved by my noble friend Lord Spens as to the one moved by my noble friend in front of me.

In these circumstances, what ought this House to do at a late stage in the Summer when the Bill has already passed the Commons, and when the Commons have to consider any Amendment made by your Lordships' House in the next two or three weeks? The arguments adduced by the Pharmaceutical Society are not very strong, and I think that is what influenced the noble Lady and others who spoke when they said, "Let us, for goodness sake, pass this Amendment and bring about a change in the principle." On the other hand, there may be—and perhaps we shall hear from my noble friend the sponsor of the Bill in a minute —much more weighty considerations that the Pharmaceutical Society possess in detail, as to what would happen to their life and livelihood if your Lordships did pass this Amendment. I think it is extremely difficult at this stage in the legislative programme, without any prospect of another learned committee sitting on this whole principle as sat on it in 1933, one understands—


It was 1930.


—to take it upon ourselves to use such a sledgehammer on a Society of great worth and usefulness to our country. In spite of my having put my name on this Amendment, as a result of what I have heard and the thinking I have been able to do while sitting here listening to your Lordships I would urge you not to pass this Amendment, but to wait for the appropriate stage of the Bill and throw it out altogether.


Hear, hear! I have never said "Hear, hear!" to the noble Earl before.

4.33 p.m.


I think it would be convenient if I now put the views of Her Majesty's Government. When I spoke on Second Reading, I told your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government took a neutral position on this Bill as it stood then. I am afraid I must say that Her Majesty's Government will not be neutral on this first Amendment, and will in fact advise your Lordships to reject it for three reasons which have already been mentioned by various noble Lords. First, they consider it would be wrong at this stage in a Private Member's Bill to revert to the position before the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, 1933. I think your Lordships should remember that, before that Act was passed, only 60 per cent. of pharmacists were members of the Pharmaceutical Society. That was what prompted the Departmental Committee on the Pharmacy and Poisons Acts, in their Report to the Lord President of the Council, to suggest that registration should carry with it automatic membership of the Society.

Secondly, Her Majesty's Government understand that removing the membership provision would create an element of doubt in the position of the Society. In the first place, they would have to petition for an amendment of their Royal Charter. Secondly, at the moment the election of members is, by Statute, automatic, and they would have to work out some new system of how members would be elected. A third reason, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh, expressed so well, is that this provision has worked very well since 1933, and Her Majesty's Government know of no members of the Pharma- ceutical Society who object to being compelled to become members in this way. They have never had a complaint. The debate on these small—


Is that not equally an argument for giving registered people freedom to join or not to join?


Is the noble Lord suggesting that, if nobody has protested about not having freedom in this way, that should be an argument for giving them the freedom? Members of the Society seem to be quite happy with the position. The debate has covered a great deal of ground, and it has also covered very much wider ground than this small detail; it has covered the principle of whether one should be compelled by law to be a member of the society of your profession. There are, as your Lordships have heard, three Societies where this applied—the Pharmaceutical Society, the veterinary society and the society of the solicitors in Scotland. Also, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will be interested to know that under Section 75 of the Solicitors Act, 1957, membership of the Law Society can be made compulsory for practising solicitors on a day appointed by the Lord Chancellor, after a poll of practising solicitors in which two-thirds indicate their approval of the measure. So that is a fourth society that could have similar provisions. It has not got them at the moment, but it could do.

I think this debate has gone so wide that we are in danger of losing sight of the point of the original Bill. This Amendment is risking the right of a small number who suffer hardship under the existing law for the sake of extending the right to all members of the Society, very few of whom seem to want it in any event. I should also like to point out to your Lordships that any right given to avoid membership of this Society would confer no advantage on any pharmacist but, if anything, a disadvantage. A pharmacist who opted out of the Society on religious grounds would still have to pay, would still be subject to all the disciplines, would have no right of saying how the money was to be spent, would have no right of election to the council of the Pharmaceutical Society, and would have none of the other advantages that members enjoy. In fact, somebody who opts out on religious grounds is going to have to pay for membership of the club without having any of the advantages to which membership entitles him.

I feel that we have been apt in this debate to confuse two issues. The first is whether your Lordships' House approve of the doings of the Exclusive Brethren. As I said on Second Reading, it would not be right for me to follow your Lordships into any mention of the rights and wrongs of a religious minority. The second issue is this small question of religious hardship. My noble friend Lord Hanworth, in moving this Amendment, said that we should take into account the merits of citizens and their importance as a minority. I think your Lordships might possibly consider it a dangerous principle, in a democracy which prides itself on religious freedom, to take into account the amount one approves of a religious minority in deciding whether or not you give them relief from some disadvantage.

4.39 p.m.


I think I might describe myself to-day, if I were a good deal younger, as a rather "mixed-up kid." But perhaps that would hardly suit my age and my dignity. But prior to speaking to the first Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Hanworth, I should like, with your Lordships' permission, to say a few words on the first two Amendments in general. These Amendments change the whole concept of the Bill, which was, as the Committee will remember, to give a small minority the right to practise pharmacy though opting out of the Pharmaceutical Society by reason of conscientious objections on religious grounds. The Bill, if amended, would still allow this minority to practise pharmacy but would cut out the religious aspect, and in doing so would, in my opinion, gravely damage the Pharmaceutical Society.

The Committee will remember that no mention was made in another place of the Exclusive Brethren, and I believe that if they had been mentioned the Bill would not have had such a smooth passage through that House. Since the Second Reading in this House I have had a number of letters, none of them condemnatory of myself but all sincere and very moving. They disclose infinitely sad stories of broken homes in the name of religion, with hate taking the place of love. Whatever the noble Lady may say, the Pharmaceutical Society has been neutral up to the present regarding this Bill, but since these Amendments were put down they have had, very naturally, to come forward to protect their own interests. For these reasons, I treat these two Amendments as wrecking Amendments. I do not see why the Pharmaceutical Society should he severely damaged just to assist a very small minority of people who, although they call themselves Christians, do not act up to the Christianity which I understand. I must be very frank with the Committee and inform Members that, as is my right, if both these Amendments are carried, or if one of them is, I shall feel it my duty not to proceed with the Bill.

I now turn to the first Amendment, moved by my noble friend. This Amendment seeks to separate statutory registration from membership of the Society. As has already been said in all parts of the Committee, it is contrary to the findings of the Departmental Committee which inquired and reported in 1930 in favour of the identification of membership with registration. There is no demand whatsoever among members, except this small number of Exclusive Brethren, for any alteration in this fact. The change would probably involve a major recasting of the Pharmacy Acts and a probable granting of a new charter, together with an abandonment of a statutory principle adopted for pharmacy in 1933.

This, I think, is an exceedingly important part of my few words: the effects of this change would be so fundamental that no Amendment with such effects should be contemplated until there has been a full examination of the main implications. Here, in answer to my noble friend Lord Sandwich, I would say that the Pharmaceutical Society do not really know the full implications of this Bill, should it be amended. They cannot tell. It would need to have a great deal of thought, and to my mind there does not seem to have been time to do this in the short period since these Amendments were put down. For that reason alone, I think we would be mistaken if we passed these Amendments. Hence, I must ask the Committee to resist this Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Hanworth.


I have listened with great interest to the speeches on this Amendment. There is a lot to be said on both sides, but

4.55 p.m.

LORD SPENS moved, in the proviso, to leave out "and", at the end of paragraph (a), and the whole paragraph (b). The noble Lord said: I shall certainly be brief in moving this Amendment, as I spoke on the last Amendment and said then most of what I wanted to say regarding this clause. But I would ask the Committee to study for a moment paragraph (b) of the proviso. Your Lordships will realise that it does not refer to a conscientious objection based on an individual's own belief: it is a conscientious objection "based upon religious beliefs which he shares with others". That is an exception the like of which we have never seen in our law before, an exception in favour of a man saying that he has a conscientious objection because he belongs to a certain religious sect. I would suggest that this is a proviso which we do not want introduced for the first time into our law. I do not feel, in the circumstances, that I can withdraw it.

4.45 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 25; Not-Contents, 45.

Addison, V. Hobson, L. [Teller.] Milverton, L.
Alexander of Hillsborough, E. Horsbrugh, B. Morrison of Lambeth, L.
Amwell, L. Iddesleigh, E. Shepherd, L.
Archibald, L. Lambert, V. Silkin, L.
Brentford, V. Latham, L. Sinha, L.
Burden, L. Lindgren, L. Williams, L.
Colwyn, L. Long, V. Williams of Barnburgh, L.
Conesford, L. Meston, L. Wise, L.
Hanworth, V. [Teller.]
Aberdare, L. Grenfell, L. [Teller.] Samuel, V.
Ampthill, L. Hastings, L. Sandwich, E.
Attlee, E. Hawke, L. Selkirk, E.
Auckland, L. Hurcomb, L. Spens, L.
Bessborough, E. Ilford, L. Strang, L.
Bossom, L. Inglewood, L. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Cawley, L. Kinnoull, E. Suffield, L.
Champion, L. Lawson, L. Summerskill, B.
Coleraine, L. Luke, L. Taylor, L.
Craigmyle, L. McCorquodale of Newton, L. Teynham, L.
Denham, L. Margesson, V. Thurlow, L.
Ebbisham, L. Merrivale, L. Twining, L.
Ferrers, E. Merthyr, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L. [Teller.]
Forster of Harraby, L. Rea, L.
Glentanar, L. St. Davids, V. Westwood, L.
Greenway, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Therefore, my Amendment seeks to leave out paragraph (b) altogether, so leaving the matter as one of individual conscientious objection. That appears to me to be in conformity with other provisions in our law as regards conscientious objection.

The Pharmaceutical Society have made one point that I think has some substance. They say that if the Amendment is carried it will throw a great burden on the Registrar who will have to decide whether or not a man has a genuinely personal conscientious objection. To that I would say that there is still a later stage of this Bill where we can either substitute some tribunal other than the Registrar himself or make some provision for appeal from his decision. For the time being, I ask the Committee not to accept this exception as it is worded in this clause and to reduce it to that of individual conscientious objection, of a kind which we have elsewhere in our legislation, and which has generally worked well for the purposes for which it has been inserted. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 12, leave out from ("Society,") to end of line 14.—(Lord Spens.)


I should like just for a moment to draw the attention of the Committee to the practical difficulties in this proviso. As my noble friend Lord Spens has already said, the Pharmaceutical Society have said that this Amendment would place an almost impossible burden on the Registrar. If I might ask the Committee to look at this proviso, I think it will be agreed that whether paragraph (b) is in the Bill or not, the Registrar will still have to decide, under paragraph (a), before he goes on to paragraph (b), whether a person has a conscientious objection. There are two parts to the proviso. One part is not an alternative to the other; nor is it a proviso to the other; they are both joined by the word "and". Therefore, whatever happens, the Registrar is first going to have the difficulty of deciding whether this man has a conscientious objection to being a member of the Society. It seems to me that, since he must then decide the point contained in paragraph (b), he is going to be placed in a much more difficult situation. His burden, if it was impossible before, is going to be even more impossible under paragraph (b).

The Registrar has, we will say, already decided whether a particular person has a conscientious objection; so decision number one is made. Now for decision number two: he must decide whether that objection is based on a religious belief which the man shares with others. How does he do this? The applicant who wishes to opt out may, perhaps, produce two friends; and he may say: "These two people have the same religious beliefs as I have." They do not have to belong to the same sect or to the same organisation. The Bill simply says, "with others", so I take the minimum of two—it would be even worse for the unfortunate Registrar if there were more. The duty is laid on him to discover whether their religious beliefs are the same. How is he going to do it? How does he start to work? Does he have some sort of examination into their religious beliefs? Does he question them? Does he try to find out from them, one after the other, whether their ideas and beliefs coincide? This seems to me to be an impossible proposition.

I think it is impossible for anybody, after reading this provision and considering it carefully, not to agree that this is not only absurd but unworkable. I supported this Bill on Second Reading, and my support will continue, because I am in favour of allowing people conscientious objection. They have a perfect right to object. I may disagree with this sect or the next sect—that has nothing to do with it: they have the right to make a conscientious objection and I support that. But I do not support this extraordinary idea that the Registrar has to find out whether man's conscientious objection is based on the fact that he can provide two others and is able to say that their religious beliefs are the same.


I shall vote against this Amendment, because I believe that it is quite impracticable to carry it out. How is the Registrar to satisfy himself that a man has a conscientious objection? It seems, as the Amendment stands, that it is sufficient for a man to stand up and say that he has a conscientious objection, without defining what his conscientious objection is. And if he starts to attempt to define it, how is he to satisfy the Registrar?


I think that this Amendment provides a logical approach to the whole question, because if we are asked to give 26 members of this sect special provision on the ground of religious conscience, why not give it to all those who have conscientious objection on some other grounds? The Pharmaceutical Society say: "It would be difficult to establish the bona fides of the applicant". This is very naive of the Pharmaceutical Society. I should have thought that there was no difficulty about the bona fides of members of this curious sect, the Exclusive Brethren. May I draw this fact to the attention of the Pharmaceutical Society? The latest pronouncement on religion was made on Saturday, when the President of the Methodist Conference said: Much of the religious thinking is quite wrong and unintelligible to scholars. Despite that pronouncement, the Pharmaceutical Society feel that they are quite capable of deciding, when these recruits to the Exclusive Brethren come along, whether what they subscribe to in the way of religious beliefs is genuine. They are very clever people to be able to do that. I think that what we are asking them to do is much more simple.

There are all kinds of conscientious objections. The test I would apply is to examine the life of the man or woman and see how he or she has lived. If these people have been members of the Pharmaceutical Society for many years, as many of them have, there will be little difficulty in doing that. I hope that your Lordships will take no notice of the objection that the Pharmaceutical Society has circularised—namely, that if this Amendment is accepted, the difficulty would be one which the Registrar could not face.

5.7 p.m.


This part of the Bill deals with conscientious objection. The idea of excluding a person from liability on the ground of conscientious objection is not new in our law. Both in the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, 1939, and in the National Service Act, 1948, provision was made for conscientious objection. The first was introduced by a Conservative Government, and the relevant section is Section 5. The second was introduced by a Socialist Government, and the relevant section is Section 17. Both the great Parties of the State came roughly to the same conclusion about how to provide for conscientious objection, if we are to provide for it. If I may remind your Lordships, Section 17 of the 1948 Act starts like this: If any person subject to registration claims that he conscientiously objects—

  1. (a) to being registered in the Military Service Register, or
  2. (b) to performing military service, or
  3. (c) to performing combatant duties,
he may, on furnishing particulars about himself, apply in the prescribed manner … Then Parliament set up a tribunal to consider his objection.

What I want to bring emphatically to the attention of the Committee is that every great Party in the State, when providing for exclusion on the ground of conscientious objection, has made the exclusion dependent on establishing a conscientious objection and has not thought it necessary to mention religion at all. To mention religion is something wholly novel in this connec- tion. Do we really wish in this little Bill to bring in a wholly novel scheme?

But my noble friends who put their names with mine to this Amendment have pointed out the further absurdity. It is not sufficient to prove your own conscientious objection. You have to prove that it is shared with others. I have no doubt why this rigmarole has been put in. It is in order to make it extraordinarily simple for the registrar. The argument that determined the promoters of this Bill is that the Exclusive Brethren was not a body to which anybody would claim to belong unless he in fact did and, therefore, it would be fairly simple for the registrar to accept the bona fides of a claim, and after two or three cases, in which it had been established that this queer body objected to its members being members of the Pharmaceutical Society, it would be a comparatively simple task. But suppose the claim of the Pharmaceutical Society is sound and that this Amendment, if carried, which on principle it is bound to be, would make it a very difficult task for the registrar. Then, as my noble friend pointed out, no doubt on Report stage we can provide for some more suitable body than the registrar to decide the matter. What we cannot do is, in the interests of easy machinery, to adopt an intolerable principle.

I do not believe that there is any section of this Committee which really wants to say that a conscientious objection to be valid must be shared with others, and that it must be based on religion, when we have worked for a great number of years under Statutes introduced by different Governments that allowed the principle of conscientious objection not based on religious beliefs at all. But suppose you were going to mention religion; and suppose it were true that there is only one body claiming to be a religious body that desires the passage of this Bill. Then ought we not to look into the merits of that body? Ought we to do a wholly novel thing in our law in the interests of one particular religious body, on the idea that some people seem to have that anything that uses the name "religion" is bound to have some merit? I wonder if anybody seriously maintains that. There have been some sincere religions that believed in human sacrifice. I gather that such a religion would not be one to which we should wish to give privileges under our law for the first time. I ask the Committee to consider what is the principle in this Bill, unless the Amendment which I am now supporting is carried.

When I made some remarks about this measure in the debate on Second Reading I was wholly ignorant of the nature of the Exclusive Brethren. Since that Second Reading, I, in common, I take it, with other noble Lords in all quarters of the Committee, have received the most moving letters from people who are suffering from quite intolerable conditions at the hands of these people. In the Second Reading debate there were two right reverend Prelates who divided against the Bill, because, I think, they had some knowledge of the activities of these people. I am sorry that neither of them is here to-day to describe what each of them knows from his own experience. If there is a word of truth in some of these letters I have seen, then I am reminded of the great passage in Lucretius, in which, after describing the sacrifice of Iphigenia in order to produce a favourable wind for the fleet on the voyage to Troy, he concludes with this great line: "tantum religio potuit suadere malorum"— "so great the evils to which religion could prompt". Whatever our attitude on anything else in the Bill, I beg the Committee to pass this Amendment in order to introduce a principle which is known to our law, instead of a principle that has never been tried under our law, the only objection to which that has been put forward is on the ground that it would be unworkable. If the Committee still desire the Bill hereafter, and they think it unworkable, then we can have consequential Amendments setting up conscientious objectors' tribunals to make it workable. But the difficulty of machinery is no argument whatever for adopting an intolerable principle.


I do not wish to detain your Lordships for more than a minute. I will support this Amendment. But as a good deal has been said already in this Committee about the Close Brethren, I should like to say that, in my personal relations and as I have known them personally, I have found them conscientious and upright and fair dealing people. At the same time, I acknowledge what has been said about the effects of their religious intolerance. In my own experience, religious intolerance may have an extraordinary number of facets and an extraordinary number of quite unexpected results. I certainly distrust religious intolerance in pharmacy.


The effect of this Amendment, as we all know, would be to entrust to the registrar the determination of the question whether any person has real conscientious objection to being a member of the Society. I would put the point to my noble friend Lord Conesford that it is much easier in the case of conscientious objection to carrying arms, because that is quite a definite objection, and it usually carries with it, as was the case with so many people during the war, that they do wonderful work in other ways; but it also carries with it the knowledge by the person who is judging the conscientious objection that probably that person would not be of great value in the firing line in any war. I consider that this is quite different. It is a question of opting out of a society. Perhaps, if a person opts out of a society, he would not be much good as a member of the society. Still, the registrar will have a very difficult decision to make if the religious side is cut out. I firmly believe that. He will have no guidance in his decision, and must rely on his personal assessment of the applicant, in the knowledge that refusal may rebound on him. In other words, he might really just toss a coin.


May I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment, as one of those who during the war was in charge of the conduct of conscientious objectors courts? No such question was ever asked in the courts as to whether they would be good marksmen in the firing line or not. The objection was based on the conscientious ground.


I thank the noble Lord for putting me right on that point. The requirement that the applicant must share his conscientious objection with others seems to me—and it is very much in the minds of the Pharmaceutical Society—a condition which it is right to impose. I know that this is not an easy one to argue, but I stand firm now on the fact that I consider that it would be wrong to weaken the Pharmaceutical Society, which for many years now has done a wonderful job, just to give extra power to the Exclusive Brethren, who, in the minds of us all, are not doing a good job. For those reasons, I would ask your Lordships to resist this Amendment.


I very much hope that your Lordships will carry this Amendment and that the Government will advise your Lordships that they are neutral. I do not know which way they will come down. It seems to me that, whereas the Government could object to the last Amendment, in that it would wreck the structure of the 1954 Bill, this Amendment will not wreck the structure of the 1954 Bill at all. It leaves the 1954 Act as it is, and I personally think it should be left as it is. It simply and solely alters one small thing, which we were not asking to do. Many of us voted against the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, the proponent of the Bill, asked us to accept the double qualification of conscience—namely, this mixture of conscientious objection to belonging to a society, and conscientious objection to belonging to a society on religious grounds, linked with another person. When we had this Bill first before us, it seemed to me quite crazy to have religious objections to belonging to a pharmaceutical body. This seemed to me not to make logical sense, and to mean that we were here in danger of making legislative asses of ourselves.

I still feel that this is a great big legislative nonsense, and that the only hope of making any sense of it is to knock out the second of these provisions—to accept the Amendment—even though this means wrecking the Bill. I would much sooner have no Bill at all, and the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, perfectly rightly and perfectly reasonably, has said that he will not go on with the Bill if we carry this Amendment. I say, "Right-ho! Carry the Amendment". I think that will be the best thing for the Pharmaceutical Society and Parliament, and the only losers will be the Exclusive Brethren, which I do not think will be a very bad thing. I hope we shall accept this Amendment, whatever the consequences.


May I say one word?—because I took a little part on the Second Reading, on what, to me, was the vital question of whether, if these people were allowed to opt out of the Society—as I would put it—they would still be subject to exactly the same discipline as the people who are in the Society. We had a complete assurance from the Government that that was so, because the Act lays down that every chemist is subject to that discipline. On that assurance, I did not myself vote against the Bill on Second Reading. But I did not mean to give any adherence to what, to me, is a very wrong principle: that conscience is not a matter of individual conscience, as it has always been whenever we have had to deal with conscience as an objection. We are asked to exempt these people because they are members of a religious society. Having taken that stand on the Bill, but not voted against it, I would only say that I could not possibly do anything except vote for this Amendment, in order to maintain what has been the fundamental principle of English law on all religions in the past.


I made one or two observations earlier to the effect that noble Lords were in a hot spot this afternoon with a most peculiar Bill and with the Amendments on the Order Paper. To avoid any misrepresentation or misunderstanding outside, I want to make it perfectly clear that I voted for the last Amendment in order to kill the Bill. I think I am going to vote for this Amendment, because I think this might kill the Bill, too. In any case, I will be consistent and vote against the Third Reading as well, if the Bill reaches that stage.

There is one other reason, which I feel is a substantial one, why I feel justified in voting for this Amendment —and this again is an explanation to avoid misrepresentation outside. As I said earlier on, I know of no complaint having reached either the Ministry of Agriculture or anywhere else against the relevant section in the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1948. I know of no objections against the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, which was passed in 1933. If we make a break-through here by approving this Amendment, it simply means that we are opening the door to any discontented vet. in any part of the country—and in all sections of the community there are one or two curious fellows. If we accept this Amendment which allows conscientious objection to being a member of a Society, then we give the other awkward customer the right to come forward and say, "Well, you did it in the Pharmacy Act; why should you not do it with vets? Why discriminate in this fashion? What sort of legislators are you?" It seems to me to be strictly consistent, as I said earlier on. The only thing I can do is to help kill the Bill, and I hope to kill it either by supporting an Amendment with which I do not agree, or by voting against the Bill on Third Reading.


Are we to hear anything from the Government on this? I think it is reasonable that the Minister should say what the Government's view is. It is quite likely that I shall disagree with it, but I should like to know what it is.


As your Lordships know, it is not customary for Her Majesty's Government to speak on a Private Member's Bill, except where they think it is necessary for their own views to be heard. Her Majesty's Government have no objection on principle to this Amendment, but they feel that the advice they have had so far is that the Amendment would make it more difficult for the Registrar. So in practice Her Majesty's Government advice is against this Amendment. On principle, they have no advice to offer to your Lordships.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.32 p.m.


moved, in the proviso at the end of paragraph (b), to insert: and (c) that he will regularly pay such dues to the Society as are paid by members of the Society. The noble Lord said: I am not really sure whether this Amendment is necessary: first, because it is doubtful whether the measure will progress much further; and secondly because, in fact, subscriptions have to be paid every year as a condition of remaining on the register of the Pharmaceutical Society. Our Amendment was intended to remove any doubt and ensure that nobody who opted out on conscientious grounds would be let off paying his subscription. In other words, we were determined that there should be no cash benefit to those who exercised this conscientious objection to being a member of the Pharmaceutical Society. I think it fair to say—and here I speak to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell —that they cannot remain on the register unless they do pay their subscription to the Society. If that be so, this Amendment is not necessary. But I will move it, in order that it may be discussed. I beg to move,

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 14, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Taylor.)


As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, says, in order to remain on the register pharmacists have to pay their dues. So, as I am advised by the Pharmaceutical Society and by everybody, this Amendment is unnecessary.


May I put another point, for clarification? The word which is put in the Amendment is "dues". I feel that "dues" is a rather generic term which might cover all kinds of contributions. In a society, very often, not only is there a statutory contribution, related to registration, but the members are sometimes asked for other sums for all kinds of reasons. May I remind noble Lords that last week, or the week before, it was announced that the chemists of this country are to have £5 million or £6 million added to their remuneration. This came about, of course, as a result of some pressure from the Pharmaceutical Society. May I ask the noble Lord whether there are any dues which might go under all kinds of names but, nevertheless, are paid in order to help the Pharmaceutical Society to act as a trade union?


The noble Lady gives me a "stiff one" to answer. As I understand it—and I shall have to give this answer subject to checking the position—the only dues that would be obligatory on registration would be the actual subscription to the Pharmaceutical Society. That is as far as I know. But I will raise that question, and if I am wrong in any way I will immediately write to the noble Lady and inform her. But I am pretty certain that I am right on that.


Perhaps I can help the noble Lady on this point. My information is that pharmacists pay a registration fee of five guineas, and that thereafter each registered pharmacist pays a similar amount annually by way of retention fee. Premises are also on the register kept by the Pharmaceutical Society, and authorised sellers of poisons pay a registration fee of £3 and a similar amount annually by way of retention fee. But under the provision of the Pharmacy and Poisons (Amendment) Act, 1964, the society are enabled to increase the registration fee, and I understand that they shortly intend to do so. But no other membership fee is required from members.


I thank the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and the Minister for their explanations. Their understanding was as mine, and I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


The noble Lord said earlier on that if one or other of these Amendments were carried he was afraid that he could not proceed further with the Bill. I wonder whether he still feels that way, because it seems to me that a very simple method of disposing of this Bill is to object, on the Question, That Clause 1 stand part. If the noble Lord agrees, I will gladly support him.


I had proposed to make a very short speech on the Question, That the House do now resume; but as it is convenient to the House I will make it now. First, may I say that I make no apology for bringing this Bill to your Lordships' House. I think, if I may say so, that it has shown your Lordships' House at its best in its vigilance on legislation. We can all have our conscientious objections; I have mine, and I agree that it is not a religious matter. But my objection is that by amending the Bill, which was intended to give a right to a very small minority, we have done a great deal to the detriment, to my mind, of the Pharmaceutical Society. I do not consider we are right in doing that. For this reason I personally am not going to proceed with this Bill. I understand that anybody else can proceed. But I must say that I for one, fascinating as its time has been, shall have no sleepless nights over not proceeding with this Bill.


I do not know whether at this stage any of your Lordships would be prepared to say that he is prepared to carry on the Bill to its further stages. If so, it will, of course, help very much if he would rise and say for what reasons he would like to take it on; otherwise it might be convenient to kill the Bill this afternoon, clause by clause; having nothing further to do with it, in the knowledge that this terrific principle of whether the Society should he established by law and its membership equated to the number of registered practitioners should continue.

I myself believe, as I said earlier, that some Committee will have to be charged with the investigation of this very complex subject. The Pharmaceutical Society have said, in a memorandum, that they like the principle here, and think that it should be further extended. That means, presumably, that someone may have to go into the question of whether the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal Society, the Royal Academy, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Organists and a great many other learned societies and public bodies should be subjected to legislation which requires compulsory membership. Alternatively perhaps we should go back on what has been done, and get rid of this principle in the Pharmaceutical Society itself, for the Scottish solicitors and for the English barristers. It seems to me that, clearly, at some stage a Committee will have to sit on the subject. My own inclination is to vote against the Question, That this clause, and the subsequent clause, shall stand part and kill the Bill altogether. I should not do so only if I were persuaded by some noble Lord or noble Lady who desires the Bill to continue.


I will try to persuade the noble Earl. I am not sure I am the right one to do it; but having taken the Bill sufficiently seriously to discuss one Amendment, which was lost, and another which was carried, I do not think it would be proper Parliamentary procedure then to proceed to strike out Clause 1 and Clause 2, and so on.


Why not?


As my noble friend behind me says, I think it would be a rather childish thing to do; and it is unnecessary. The noble Earl is quite right in saying that it would kill the Bill. It looks as if the Bill will not proceed unless some other noble Lord takes on the task the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, so ably started. In any case the House is still master of the situation. It would be pointless to go through this procedure of voting against the clauses. If the Bill does proceed, there will have to be a Report stage and a Third Reading. It would be better, if the House wishes to kill the Bill, to kill it in a proper parliamentary form. I suggest that the procedure suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich—I have no doubt from the best of motives—would not be wise. Therefore, I think we should leave the situation as it is.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with an Amendment.