HL Deb 07 July 1964 vol 259 cc956-82

4.4 p.m.

Debate on Second Reading resumed.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his lucid exposition of this short but important Bill. I regard it as of great importance, because it is designed to stop the traffic in drugs which is increasing in volume. As he quite rightly said, the Government have not been armed with the necessary powers, and if this Bill does not give them massive weapons, at least it is a very important beginning. I think it has special significance, because it is an attempt to stop the consumption of drugs which hitherto have been prescribed freely for therapeutic reasons, but which do not come within the category of narcotics. Perhaps—who knows?—this may be the beginning of a series of similar Bills, because we are moving into an era where not only the Western countries of the world but all countries are being embraced by the octopus growth of the drug industry which, in alliance with the advertising world, persuades old and young to consume its products, irrespective of their value.

In the course of the passage of this Bill through another place we were told of young people who had pills in their pockets and their purses. Why should we lift our eyebrows at these revelations? There is hardly a home in the country where there is not a box or a bottle half full of tablets, either in a cupboard or on a shelf or, in a one-room home, on the mantlepiece, and children are accustomed to-day to seeing the adults of the family take pills for trivial ailments. They take pills to get fat, pills to get slim, pills to curb the emotions and pills to excite the emotions. Who are we, then, to criticise these teenagers because they quite publicly in their playgrounds, I am told, exchange pills? This is what mother and father do, and we are always taught—are we not?—to set an example to our children. The consumption of pills to-day is a national habit, and I am told that in the United States of America it is worse even than in this country.

Again, the newspapers tell these children about pills with fascinating properties, and taking a pill has become a lark. I suppose "lark" is an old-fashioned word, and they say a "giggle" in the modern idiom of these young people. The immediate result of taking amphetamine is not serious, but it induces a condition of euphoria—life seems wonderful. It does not matter what your parents have said; it does not matter if you fail in your examinations; it does not matter if your girl friend or boy friend has let you down. Amphetamine gives you this feeling of happiness and of wonder.

Unfortunately, when the teenager does this, his judgment is impaired. This stuff depresses his appetite and enables him to dispense with sleep. Therefore, surely, it cannot be argued that this condition produced in a young person who may find himself dependent upon these drugs is not harmful. And yet when this Bill went through another place there were newspaper articles, and honourable Members in another place, saying, "Really, this pill is harmless". I say that the compulsive taking of whatever form of pill or drug in due course demoralises the victim. They are completely dependent on something, whether it is alcohol or a pill. Gradually the moral stamina is sapped, and the boy or girl degenerates. Yet there were people who opposed this Bill on the grounds that it was premature. Also, in another place, it was opposed by people who were actuated by a desire, so they alleged, to defend the freedom of the individual to possess drugs; that this was an encroachment on the freedom of the boy or girl. They professed to protect them against the encroachment of an all-powerful State. This argument is as old as the first regulation on public health. There are some noble Lords who cannot recall it, but others will remember that compulsory vaccination aroused some people to a frenzy of indignation. It was said that the registration of doctors, nurses and midwives was a denial of freedom.


Imposed Chadwick.


Certainly. All that Chadwick asked for was a higher form of cleanliness, but collecting the dust and dirt and so on, because in those days it cost money, was a denial of freedom to the individual. To-day this is history repeating itself, as I read the debate in another place. As I say, it was said that registering doctors and nurses was a denial of freedom because it did not permit the amateurs to try their hand in the cure and treatment of disease. I have observed, my Lords, that in politics the cause of freedom can always be evoked by those lost for a rational argument. I believe that it was evoked in the debate yesterday. The academic argument that amphetamine has not the properties of a narcotic drug like morphia or opium and therefore should not be controlled is, in my opinion, a piece of wishful thinking by those, I suspect, with an interest in the pharmaceutical industry. I see the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, at the back, and he will again say that this is my ritual dance. Somebody has to do this ritual dance if we go on like this with, day after day, more new drugs put into the shops, and day after day the representatives of the pharmaceutical industry coming along and forcing doctors—yes, forcing the doctors, who sometimes agree in order to get them out of the consulting rooms—to take some of these drugs. So, if we are truly to resist this frightful encroachment we must raise our voices every time, and this is such an opportunity.

The only offence created by the Bill, as the noble Lord quite rightly said, is unauthorised possession. There were various suggestions in another place that the penalties were inadequate. I disagree: I think the penalties are quite adequate, for these reasons. First of all, these boys and girls, we are hoping, will be frightened that their mothers and fathers will pay the penalty if they are found possessing those drugs; and it would be wrong I think to penalise parents because, for the first time, their son or daughter has been found with a drug in their possession. It has been said that the ugly individual in the club—I use the word "ugly" because I believe the Home Secretary described him in such a way—the nasty little man who sits in the club distributing the pills to the boys and girls—


He was called "sleazy".


I think the club was called "sleazy". "Ugly" rather sums him up; ugly in appearance and ugly in mind. There were people who said that this man or woman should be subject to a heavier fine. Of course, these men are only the agents of the suppliers, the faceless men who are even more corrupt. In my opinion the only way to stop the traffic is to find these men who hide behind a facade of respectability, who enjoy the profits and leave the work of distribution to somebody they consider socially inferior.

In view of the fact that there are very large numbers of these tablets—the noble Lord said that considerable quantities are being distributed—surely it is surprising that the police are never informed that there has been a major theft from the manufacturers, wholesalers or importers. The noble Lord will correct, me, but although there are these huge quantities of drugs on the market, and there is only one general source of supply, manufacturers, wholesalers and importers, and we are seeking to find how these pills get on to the market, why is it that there is never a case reported of a large-scale theft? It seems to me very curious. The noble Lord nods his head; I can only say that we open our newspapers constantly and find every kind of theft reported, but I cannot remember reading of a large-scale theft or repeated thefts from these suppliers.

It is now proposed in this Bill, and in my opinion this is the teeth of the Bill, to register manufacturers and wholesalers, and this will at last enable the Government to exercise more control. I think this is absolutely right and the only thing to do at this stage. Of course, it will have surprised many people who have listened to the noble Lord to learn that importers of these drugs did not need a licence. It has been an amazing thing that they have been able to bring, presumably, an unlimited quantity into this country, and only now are we going to license the importers of these drugs. This is to be rectified also in this Bill. Those are the only comments I wish to make. We wish this little Bill well and hope that its provisions will provide some protection, a beginning at least, for our young people.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to say just one or two words in support of this Bill which the noble Lord has just introduced. These particular drugs are not quite the same as the normal drugs which tend to form addiction. I should like to make a point at the start which is not strictly apropos this Bill: that I have been puzzled by the figures given by the Home Office for the total number of drug addicts in the country. This has always seemed to me to be surprisingly small; and that view has been confirmed to me by several people who have made a habit of studying these figures and treating such addicts. They are sure there are more drug addicts in the country than the Home Office figures suggest.

One of the reasons why the drugs referred to in the Bill are not quite the same as those which cause normal drug addiction is that the usual drugs to which people tend to become addicted are taken, in the first place, because they have been supplied under a proper medical prescription. The people have then become addicted to them and have gone on having to take them. Unfortunately, we find that a number of doctors and some nurses become drug addicts because of their familiarity with these drugs. But these drugs called "purple hearts" are quite a different thing. As the noble Lord said, they are taken by people to obtain a "kick" and one of the difficulties about them is that it is very easy, once you have begun to take them, to step up the dose to a very big one, even though you may start with only one or two pills when the occasion arises.

One of the points we have to think about is what exactly are the risks involved in taking these drugs. There appear to me to be two permanent risks. The first is that one can get an acute state of mania which is very difficult to distinguish from a real attack of mania, and it can lead to considerable brain disease which may in time either become incurable or take a long time to cure. The second thing is that it is very simple to move from taking these drugs to taking drugs which become real drugs of addiction, and people thus get involved in the chain of drugs addiction. The kind of case of which I am thinking is one which I came across the other day. A girl, the daughter of a prostitute herself, at the age of sixteen was flung out on to the streets and took up her mother's profession. To keep herself awake she took these "purple hearts" or some other kind of amphetamine pills. From these she moved on in a short time to another drug; and now, at the age of nineteen, she is a heroin addict, whom it is going to be very difficult indeed to cure. That kind of case does occur from time to time with these people, and it is one of the real dangers.

Conversely to that, one has to wonder what is the therapeutic value of these drugs. I suggest that their therapeutic value is extremely small. They can be used to control people's appetite, which I suppose is a good thing in some circumstance, but I do not know if that is a very valid justification for the drug. It is said that they are a good treatment for depressive states. There are a great many drugs which have been invented and come on to the market since then which are far better than these amphetamine drugs, and I do not think that is a very valid argument for them. One case in which they are specific is in the treatment of one extremely rare disease, narcolepsy (of which I will not inflict a description on your Lordships), which is so rare that cases of it are almost impossible to find. But that seems to be the sole real justification of these amphetamine drugs. Surely, supposing it became necessary to use the drugs, it would be possible to mix them with some kind of emetic, so that up to a point they were all right; but if a man took too many he would make himself violently sick. I believe that that is done in some treatments, and works very well.

There are two points we have to think about from the point of view of control. One has been referred to by the previous speakers; the difficulty of knowing the source of supply. It is very easy indeed to get these drugs. One has come across patients who have been discharged from the mental wards of hospitals, and who, within half an hour of their discharge, have supplies of these drugs in their pockets. Quite naturally they will not say where they came from; but it is very easy to get them, if one knows the right place to go. The second point, which is also very important, is that it is simple for those who wish to obtain these drugs to get on the list of more than one doctor, even a large number of doctors. I was told about one person who got on the list of ten doctors between the months of October and March, and got his drugs on the prescription form, EC.10. That, I think, is a difficulty in control. It should be looked at very closely. One possibility is that doctors' prescriptions should have some identification mark on them so that one man can get prescriptions only from the same doctor. With those general remarks I should like to support this Bill.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, I am a director of a pharmaceutical manufacturer but not one that makes these drugs or distributes them; therefore, I have no interest in the drugs. But I have an interest in the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry, and I must say that I deplore the opportunity which the noble Baroness takes, in giving her very proper support to this Bill, to make insinuations and unfounded suggestions as if the whole industry were to blame for something or other which she does not define. I hardly think that is worthy of her station and status as a Member of this House or as a member of such an honourable profession.

I want to make only one or two statements, not authoritatively or officially on behalf of the trade, but as I believe the trade would wish. The pharmaceutical trade support this Bill. Any implication or suggestion, if the noble Baroness had this in mind, that the trade, or the people speaking for the trade in another place, or elsewhere, are opposed to the Bill because it will damage their profits is unworthy and quite erroneous. The trade and the trade society support this measure. No reputable manufacturer, such as my firm, or others who are members of the Association to which we belong, is responsible for conniving at the theft of these pills, which is another of the noble Baroness's suggestions or implications—she did not quite say that, but she implied it. None of us does that.

None of us advertises these pills. They are prescription drugs. They are useful drugs which doctors recommend and which have their place in the therapy. But they are not advertised and sold, and their manufacture and the trade in them are not open to the widespread assault which the noble Baroness made upon, it seemed to me, the whole pharmaceutical trade. How these pills are sold to teenagers I just do not know, but it is obvious that there is a loophole in their importation of them and that we are now going to stop it. Can we not welcome this Bill without making it an opportunity for false and erroneous and, I think, extremely unfair attacks?

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome this Bill, and in any criticism I make I want to assure the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, that in my animadversions I shall not be making any false or erroneous attacks. I have only one main criticism and that is on the question of penalties. I think the Bill is quite right in dividing the two offences: that of the person who is consuming the goods—possibly a teenager who has been tempted—and that of the second person, the pedlar. I believe that these people are the worst form of rat that is crawling the country to-day, and I think they ought to be dealt with very severely indeed.

While I admit that a penalty of two years' imprisonment, which is included in Clause 1(1), is pretty severe, I think that there is another penalty that could be imposed—and I am open to criticism here—because the Commonwealth Immigrants Act may deal with it. But I am thinking of the question of deportation. I believe that any alien caught peddling drugs should, on conviction, immediately be deported. I hope that the Commonwealth Immigrants Act covers this point. I rather regret that the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, is not here at the moment because I think she was guilty of a flight of hyperbole, to put it mildly. I do not believe that every household in this country is inundated with drugs—far from it! In most of them all you will find is a bottle of aspirins. This practice of taking these amphetamine drugs, and indeed pheno-barbitone also, is largely confined to what the Home Secretary referred to as certain "sleazy joints" in certain large cities.

I am glad to see that the Bill contains power of entry. That is very important, because there is not the slightest shadow of doubt in the mind of anybody who has gone through Soho, or any of the surrounding purlieus, that there are some pretty illegal transactions taking place. I think that "C" Division of the Metropolitan Police need to tighten up patrols in the area, particularly in regard to other offences and not only drug peddling. While I am on this point, one other interesting fact occurs to me. I am informed by a person who did many years' service in the Metropolitan Police, and in the "Vice Squad", that a lot of exchange of drugs takes place in the concourse of certain Underground stations. I am told that Piccadilly, Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road are quite well known for the exchange of these drugs. I presume that the Metropolitan Police have certain authority there; if not, I certainly presume that the message which is to be sent from the Secretary of State to the police forces will include the London Transport Police. That seems to me to be very important.

I welcome the Bill. It is a great tragedy that we have to consider a measure of this sort, but there is not the slightest shadow of doubt that the effect of these drugs on youth is completely demoralising. In my view, there is ample evidence from the police, and, indeed, from the confessions of youths who have been arrested in disturbances at the South Coast resorts that many of these troubles have been induced by consumption of these drugs. I hope that the Bill will have a very smooth passage. As I have said, it is a measure that I welcome. I feel very strongly—and that is why I have said these few words—that, after murder, rape, and possibly manslaughter, this peddling of drugs is the most hideous offence in the country.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to welcome this Bill, as have other speakers. I have no interest to declare in the strict Parliamentary sense, but have two reasons why I venture some observations on this subject. First, I was for several years a director of a company operating in the ethical pharmaceutical field and, secondly, I have myself for some time been taking amphetamine preparations under doctor's orders. Like my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, I am concerned with the reputation of the industry.

It is, I think, important to know the properties of the drug which your Lordships are seeking to restrict in this way, and here I call in aid a text book on pharmacology left over from my pharmaceutical days. It says: 'Doping', by a single dose of 10 mg. of amphetamine sulfate for a 'spurt' of temporary stimulation, may be justified to meet emergencies, in severe and extreme fatigue. It may be repeated in six to eight hours, but not more than three doses should be taken. It should not be used if the emergency continues more than twenty-four hours. Further, reference has been made, particularly in the Press, and not by your Lordships who are better informed on this subject, to addiction in reference to amphetamine. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the Seventh Report of the Expert Committee on Addiction of the World Health Organisation, which states that there are clear distinctions—and here I follow the noble Lord, Lord Amulree—between addictive drugs, which require strict international control, and habit-forming drugs for which such control is not necessary, but which require warnings regarding use and national control in the form of availability on prescription only.

Drug addiction is broadly defined as a state of periodic or chronic intoxication produced by repeated consumption of a drug—an overpowering need to continue to take it, a psychological and physical dependence on the effects of the drug, and the need to take progressively increasing doses because of the development of tolerance. The World Health Organisation Interdepartmental Committee, in its Report published in 1961, modified this definition of addiction to include specific reference to the appearance of a characteristic abstinence syndrome in a subject from whom the drug is withdrawn". I do not think that this is the case with the amphetamine drug. I think the word to use is "habituation" and not "addiction". This is not to say that there have not been, are not, or never will be in the future persons who can become habituated to amphetamine and will indulge in abuse.

If I may quote from Martindale's Extra Pharmacopœia, which appeared as recently as 1958, it says: An amphetamine habit may develop but it is not a true addiction. There is no risk of cumulative ill-effects even after prolonged administration of therapeutic doses. It does, of course, say therapeutic, and not excessive, doses. I personally have no intention of defending those who have in the past committed what will be offences under this Bill, whether by altering or forging prescriptions, stealing drugs, or National Health Service prescription forms to obtain this drug, on which they have become psychologically dependent, but would merely try to establish in your Lordships' minds that there is a real therapeutic value in amphetamine products. The attention of the public, and indeed of Parliament, has been drawn to a particular combination of dexamphetamine and amylobarbitone known by the trade name of Drinamyl, and manufactured by the long-established firm of Smith Kline and French Laboratories Ltd. of Welwyn Garden City. This is the British subsidiary of a famous American ethical pharmaceutical firm, and surely, as I hope all your Lordships will agree, is above reproach in this matter. Regarding the particular substance Drinamyl, it is perhaps worth pointing out to your Lordships that the tablets are neither purple in colour nor heartshaped. They are in fact blue and approximately triangular in shape. I have one in my possession in case any of your Lordships would like to examine one. I am delighted to say that I did not get it other than by arrangement with my own doctor.

At the request of the Pharmaceutical Society, significant changes will be made in the physical characteristics of these tablets. The ones that are coming off the machines now are in the new shape. The manufacturers have satisfied the Metropolitan Police and, I believe, the Home Office that their security precautions are more than adequate. I have had the opportunity to inspect many facets of the process of manufacture and dispatch of these amphetamine products from the factory and I am, if I may say so, much impressed. Since these drugs have been made, I am assured that no thefts have occurred from the premises or from the company's vans delivering to wholesalers; so any thefts that do occur are, I believe, happening lower down the distribution chain.

I should now like to turn to what your Lordships may regard as a Committee point, but one which I consider to be of importance. Amphetamine products may, according to Clause 1(1)(a) be held by an individual if they are in his possession by virtue of the issue of a prescription by a duly qualified practitioner…". That is quite clear. Clause 5(1) also provides that the importation of amphetamine without a licence from the Home Secretary is prohibited. That, too, is clear. May I ask the Minister of State what is the position about visitors from abroad who may wish to bring in a supply of amphetamine for their own use? It may have been supplied on prescription in the country from which a visitor comes, but he is unlikely to have with him documentary evidence that it has been prescribed. I wonder whether such a prescription would satisfy the provisions of Clause 1(1). Then, I wonder what happens in this case. Have the officers of Customs and Excise—presumably the Water guard—any discretion to allow small quantities for visitors' own use, under some other legislation or directive from the Home Office?

More generally, I think this is a valuable Bill because it will give the necessary powers to the police to stop this illicit traffic that is going on in amphetamine products. The interesting thing is that there seems to be much more interest in amphetamine products by themselves than in Drinamyl which has, after all, a built-in "brake" in the barbiturate content. I am sure that it would not be in the public interest to restrict the right of any medical practitioner to prescribe for his patient any drug which he thinks desirable. But, subject to that, I consider that control of drugs is a good idea. I do not, however, see why amphetamine products should he singled out especially for these restrictions which it is proposed should be imposed. I would have thought that this Bill might well be a precursor of wider-drawn legislation affecting many of the drugs now coming into the "prescription only" schedule of the Poisons Rules. Those members of the community who use these drugs legitimately on doctor's orders have nothing to fear, and everything to gain, from the stricter control of the illegal and improper uses of these drugs. I support the Second Reading of this Bill.

4.38 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support the Bill, I declare an interest. As most of your Lordships are aware, I am chairman of a pharmaceutical company though, like the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, I am not concerned with the manufacture of any of these drugs. Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill; I wholeheartedly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hobson, said, in feeling quite strongly about the need for this measure, and I express the hope that we lose no time in getting it on to the Statute Book. I feel that it would be proper to support what the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, said about the implications in the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. I am sorry she is not in the House to take part in this measure of the ritual dance to which we are getting used. I say that because this is the third occasion on which I have spoken in her absence, when she has handed o It an attack such as she has done to-day. I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, and I feel that we should boldly say that implications such as have been made are quite out of order in a place like this.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene for one moment, may I say that I am holding a watching brief for my noble friend and will report all that he says to her, and I will do my best to reply for her.


My Lords, I am glad of that, and I appreciate that this also is a step in the ritual dance. Sometimes the noble Lady does for the noble Lord what he will do for the noble Lady to-day. But this is a most serious matter, and I shall speak for longer than I had intended because of some of the things that have been said and some that have not been said. We have heard, as the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, and the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, have said, that these drugs are of therapeutic value, and, as the Minister said, they are legitimate and beneficial medicaments—I think those were his words.


My Lords, could I interrupt for one moment? I in fact said that I thought they were of very limited therapeutic value. I was not saying they were of great therapeutic value. I think they are of very limited therapeutic value indeed.


I know that that is the noble Lord's view, and I think it is the view of most doctors. Nevertheless, the fact is that these drugs are prescribed by doctors.

This brings me to a point on which I was going to comment later in my speech. We hear little about the doctor's part in this matter and a great deal about the manufacturer's part, but we must bear in mind that these drugs are produced in these quantities because doctors prescribe them in these quantities. This should be borne in mind. I may have misheard the noble Lord at the Dispatch Box, but he did not say, I think, that the industry was fully consulted in the preparation of this Bill. This was said by his colleague in the other place, and drew the attention of the other place to the fact that the Bill was drawn up in full consultation with the industry.


My Lords, I must remind my noble friend that I still have to answer the debate.


Then I have taken the words out of the noble Lord's mouth. There is, of course, no evidence that doctors or pharmacists or manufacturers have treated their responsibilities in respect of these drugs lightly. Indeed, specific warnings have been issued and circulated by all the associations concerned with the medical profession and with the pharmaceutical industry and profession on this subject—if indeed that was necessary, for the Press have not failed to publicise any little incident they can over this. Indeed, in my view, they have overstepped the bounds of wisdom in their pursuit of sensationalism in this matter. It is fashionable to carry out, in full cry, a "witch hunt" after the pharmaceutical industry.

The noble Lady asked, "Where are the Press notices? Why are they not reported?" The implication of what she said was noticed by other speakers than myself, especially by my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale. But has it occurred to the noble Lady, and to others who think on these things, that perhaps it is not wise for these matters to appear in the Press? I will undertake now to let the noble Lady or the noble Lord have cuttings about the theft of massive quantities of these drugs which appeared in the Press. In fact the drugs were recovered by the police, but it is possible their task was made the more difficult by the fact that it was so publicised. I think this point is worth mentioning. There have also been in the Press attempts, such as the noble Lady has made to-day, to imply that the industry has resisted this Bill. Of course, the reverse is the case. They have welcomed it, and they do welcome it. Another point to which attention was drawn by my noble friend Lord Furness was that the manufacturers have agreed in regard to "purple hearts" no longer to manufacture either in the colour or in the shape. On the matter of shape, I would take issue with Lord Furness, for I am pretty sure that I have seen a heart-shaped pill of this nature.


So have I.


In some cases there is a serration down the middle. The original object was to enable a pill to be readily broken so that half a dose could be taken. As I have said, the manufacturers have agreed to discontinue the manufacture of this pill, either in colour or in shape. I think I am right in saying, and I am not a pharmacist, that the use of coloured pills is discouraged in this country in general, not only by the pharmacist but by the doctor. The noble Lady said that we live on pills, but let us bear two factors in mind. One is that the day of what in Scotland we call "Going to the doctor for a bottle" is over. The liquid draught, the medicament in liquid form, has been replaced by the tablet, and probably wisely so, for the tablet is a more easily handled and secured medicament. That is one point. Secondly, I am reminded of an occasion when I heard an eminent physician describe a visit he had had from a lady patient from America, who had in her bag three different kinds of pills which she took at different times of the day. They were of different colours, and had on them her initials. This is an illustration of the level to which in the United States people have gone in consuming drugs in the form of pills. I quote that example only to show how reasonably sensible we in this country are on this matter.

In saying this, I do not in any way detract from the wisdom of the action the Government have taken in introducing this Bill with the objects they have in mind. It is proper that the regulations should be tightened up. Two or three years ago these drugs and drugs of this nature were scheduled under the Poisons Act and became saleable only on prescription. Now we have this Bill, and there have been suggestions as to how these drugs reach the public. It is quite well known that there are patients who manage to get their names on to the lists of a number of doctors and in that way are able to get excessive quantities, either for their own consumption or for sale at a profit.

I mention this because they do this on EC.10 forms. I think I am right in saying that doctors are tightening up the whole matter of these EC.10s; it is proposed in future that the doctor's name should be printed on them, rather like the cheque form in modern banking practice. Nevertheless, a friend of mine told me the other day that he was in a doctor's waiting room and there, on a table, was a pad of EC.10 forms which somebody could have taken and, with a forged signature, obtained drugs of this sort. In talking of doctors' waiting rooms I cannot resist referring back to what the noble Lady said in her picture of drug salesmen forcing trembling doctors to order their drugs. The doctors of my acquaintance are not the sort of people who are going to be forced—I think was her word—to order drugs which they do not feel inclined to order.

There are, of course, temptations—not only to doctors, although that is a remote possibility—for the illicit disposal of these drugs. There are temptations to pharmacists and to pharmacists' employees, employees who may not be professional people; and those temptations are powerful. They will be inhibited by the provisions of this Bill, and, more than that, especially by the penalties the B.M.A. and the Pharmaceutical Society have in their power to inflict on members of their professions who disregard regulations.

I take the view that this Bill is a wise and a proper step towards controlling the situation. I have only one comment to make on the draft. On page 4, Clause 3 (1), line 10, the words appear: …may grant a search warrant authorising any constable named in the warrant". This may be a usual way of wording a clause of this nature, but I should prefer to see the words "police officer or police officers". From my personal knowledge of these things, when there is a question of a search to be carried out one may be up against pretty powerful brains operating from premises from which there are more than one exit. I would therefore ask the noble Lord the Minister to give that matter some consideration. I repeat, again, that I welcome the Bill, as does the industry in which I play some small part, though I have no authority to speak for it; I speak here as a Member of your Lordships' Chamber. There is a leak, as the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, said, and here is a way of stopping it. I have only one other thing to say. Let us hope that there is no delay in getting this measure on to the Statute Book, so that the situation which exists to-day may be speedily brought to an end.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, in moving this Bill the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said that it was modern, something new, for people to be taking drugs for "kicks". As a matter of fact, it is not. When Sir Humphry Davy discovered nitrous oxide gas it was widely used at fairs, and you could go into a booth at a fair and inhale nitrous oxide gas for a small sum. It was "laughing gas", and you got a great "kick" out of doing this. Then, when ether was discovered, exactly the same thing happened. Young medical students, in particular, used to have parties when they would sit round and inhale the ether. They were known as "ether jags"; and even to-day some people still inhale ether. Every now and then an anæthetist has to give up his profession because he has become addicted to the inhalation of ether. So this question of taking drugs for "kicks" is not quite so new as one might think.

But the story of these particular drugs is a very remarkable one. I entirely agree with what my noble friend Lord Amulree said about the amphetamine drugs. They are not very valuable therapeutically, and if they were all to disappear from the world nobody would be very much the worse. They are of value, as my noble friend said, in narcolepsy. They help a little if one cannot control one's gluttony, and if a man is depressed they sometimes un-depress him. Also, if anyone wants to stay awake for an examination they sometimes help to keep him going, as a number of medical students have found out. They are quite useful, I imagine, if one has to stay awake in a space capsule for a certain amount of time when one would normally be going to sleep. That is about the lot. That really covers the story of them.

But then somebody thought up the extraordinary idea of combining them with their antidote, as it were. An overdose of these drugs can prove extremely dangerous. One becomes over-excited, over-excitable and, finally, goes into mania. So somebody thought, "Why not put with them their antidote?" and they put with them a barbiturate, which is a sedative, and a combination of a stimulant and a sedative, in nicely balanced proportions, is given. The noble Viscount, Lord Furness, spoke of this as a "built-in brake", but I do not know. It is a built-in oddity to give stimulant and sedative together. But the result is that people, instead of taking two or three of these tablets, can shovel in handfuls. One can, in fact, take 20, 30, 40 or 50 of these tablets. Either of these drugs, taken alone, would be fatal in these quantities; but put together they make a harmless, or apparently harmless, compound. That is what these young people have been doing, and this is what is so extraordinary. But nobody knows what effect, long-term, this habit is going to have on them, or may have had already.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, as a matter of interest, what effect they have immediately, if any? Can the two drugs cancel out each other?


My Lords, their real effect is simply to keep the young person awake. They can stay awake all through the night and can go on playing their tunes, or whatever it is they play, for 48, 72, or even more hours, without, apparently, any very disastrous effect. This is all it does to them in the way of a "kick". It is not a sort of conventional "kick", so far as I can see.


My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me if I interrupt him? Before he leaves that point, could he say why, then, the medical profession prescribes these medicaments at all for ordinary patients?


My Lords, I think that in ordinary therapeutic doses they are quite good for depression. That is to say, if one is suffering from an ordinary psychiatric depression of a mild kind, it is quite often relieved by taking two or three of these tablets in the morning and at midday. But with amphetamine one is always advised not to take it in the evening because it keeps one awake. That is what happens with a combination of the two drugs. I am not running down Drinamyl, and I am not running down the pharmaceutical industry. I am merely stating that they have made this combination, and these "kids" have discovered that this combination of two things, which in large doses would be dangerous, becomes undangerous. That is what has led to this strange social position of these young people taking these enormous quantities of these drugs.

Some of your Lordships may have seen the excellent I.T.V. film in the programme "This Week", in which about 20 of these teenagers were inteviewed. They described the way they took these drugs in the sort of doses I have been describing—30, 40 or more at a time. Then there was an interview with the fellows who peddle the drugs—and may I say that I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Hobson that it is a despicable occupation. It is difficult to talk about sentences, but I certainly do not think that the sentence of two years proposed in this Bill is too great.

I entirely agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, when he says that these are really drugs of habituation rather than addiction. He spoke, I suppose, as an amphetamine habitué himself. We may all have taken amphetamine on occasions. We used to take it as an inhalant, but it did not work very well. It did harm rather than good, because although it cleared the air passages for a while, it usually spread the infection even further and deeper, so it has been practically given up for that particular use. The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, was a bit "tough" on my noble friend Lady Summerskill, but he felt that she had been "tough" on him. As a matter of fact, many of the things she said she was saying about the pedlars of these drugs. They were the people who were receiving the bulk of her anger, and I think we shall all agree about this.


The noble Lord only said it because I was out of the Chamber.


I think it would be fair, my Lords, if I had your permission to join again in the dance. I am very sorry it happens that the noble Lady always leaves when I am going to speak. On the occasion of her maiden speech that was the case, and it was so again the other day. I assure the noble Lady that I really pulled my punches—I am sorry; I should not have said that; I mean that I said less than I would have done had the noble Lady been present.


My Lords, I must say that I agree with my noble friend Lady Summerskill, particularly on the subject of the number of drugs which are knocking about in the home. I am not blaming the noble Lords opposite for this, and on this issue I am disagreeing a little with my noble friend Lord Hobson, because one of the reasons why so many medicine chests in so many bathrooms contain unused drugs is that we doctors prescribe rather too many of them.

What happens is that, filled with kind thoughts for our patients, and bearing in mind that they must pay a shilling on each prescription form, we say, when they come to us, "Oh, well; let us give him a decent load to keep him going, and he will not come back so soon, perhaps. Also, he will need to spend only a shilling". So we write down "60" when perhaps the person can get by with 20 or 30, and the other 30 or 40 remain in the cupboard, doubtless to the legitimate profit of the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, and the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale. We do not blame them for this; but that is what is happening, and that is why there are a great many drugs knocking about in medicine cupboards, often with the labels falling off, and a very unsatisfactory state it is. I have one friend, a general practitioner, who makes it a rule never to prescribe, save on very rare occasions, more than three days' supply. This is a most excellent rule, and your Lordships would be surprised at how many people are cured in three days if the drug is going to work. One would commend that as a rule, though this doctor does have rather big surgeries because a number of people have to come back for more. But, still, he would rather do that, and know the amount he is prescribing, than risk having over-prescription and oversupplies knocking around.

The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, mentioned the E.C.10 form on which the doctor prescribes. A doctor is already bound by law to stamp his name on the back of each form, as well as to sign it on the front; but, of course, people could steal these forms perfectly easily. People are in and out of doctors' surgeries all the time, and I have no doubt there have been some cases of drugs getting into circulation in that way. But I must say that I think theft has been the main way. I think large quantities of these drugs have been obtained by theft from manufacturers, from wholesalers or distributors or from retailers; and probably not much from doctors' surgeries because they do not carry large stocks. I am not blaming any of those three or four groups of people for this particular thing, but am just saying that this is what I think happens.

When the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, comes to reply I hope he will tell us one particular point about the process of manufacture and distribution, and about the licensing of the manufacturers and distributors of these things. In the case of real drugs of addiction, the regulations are very strict, as the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, knows—very strict indeed—as to the control of the quantity taken. The quantity at each process is so controlled that I imagine thieving is practically impossible. But marginal drugs—drugs which are dangerous but are not drugs of addiction—are churned out in enormous numbers in modern pharmaceutical factories. The pill-making machines turn out these drugs in their hundreds of thousands or millions, and one wonders how strict is the accounting for the quantities of material put into the machines and the number of drugs coming out at the other end. I have never seen a counting device fixed to a pill-making machine. I may be wrong; I see the noble Viscount, Lord Furness—


My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting, at Smith, Kline and French Laboratories, who make the drinamyl product and, indeed, many of the amphetamine drugs. and whose premises I had the pleasure of visiting last week, there is, in fact, an electronic counter on all amphetamine-product machines.


I am delighted to hear it. That should greatly help the Home Office in drawing up regulations— because, if it can be done there, it can presumably be done everywhere—about the control of the flow of these drugs through the factory. Because it is rather a temptation to the operatives, who are dealing with millions of these things flowing past them all day on the production line, just to sneak a few into their pocket—and there is a ready market at a "bob" a time, or whatever it is, for them. They are not peddling in opium: they are doing something milder, although it is something utterly undesirable. But it is a temptation, and if there could be stricter control inside the factories I am sure we should all welcome it.

My Lords, I think this is a perfectly sensible Bill to deal with a small but rather unpleasant problem which has come upon us. It has come upon us, not because we have misused science but because some young people have found a way of tricking science, as it were. I am sorry we should have to take this action, but I am sure this is a reasonable way in which to do it. The noble Viscount, Lord Furness, suggested that it might be desirable to recognise prescriptions from other countries as entitling persons to have these drugs. I think it is perfectly all right to give Customs officers reasonable discretion, as indeed they already have, but I do not think we want to weaken the Bill in any way. I think that, on balance, the decisions come to in another place in this particular respect were right. I see no great need to alter this Bill at all, and I join my noble friend Lady Summerskill in giving it a warm welcome.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I think it would be proper for me to advert to his mention of pilferage rather than theft. The noble Lord referred to pilferage, in fact. I think I am right in saying that most pharmaceutical undertakings maintain a power of search which they impose rather strictly on their employees.


But there is a difference between retaining a power of search and exercising a power of search, inevitably and rightly.

5.6 p.m.


My Lords, may I thank noble Lords and the noble Baroness for the welcome they have given to this Bill—a welcome which seems general, I am glad to say. There are one or two general points that I ought to answer. Might I perform the rather extraordinary feat, perhaps, of trying to break up the ritual dance by pouring oil on troubled waters? As this is probably the last speech on this Bill in the two Houses, may I make the position as clear as I can about the pharmaceutical industry and about the medical profession; and may I say that both of them have been very helpful?

It was suggested in another place that before introducing this legislation steps should have been taken to get doctors, pharmacists and others who have legitimate use of these drugs to do all they can to prevent diversion of supplies into the wrong hands. My Lords, these steps have already been taken. Last August the Home Office wrote to the Pharmaceutical Society and to the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry asking for their assistance in ensuring that amphetamines and similar drugs should not be misused. The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry brought the Home Office letter to the notice of all their members concerned with the manufacture or wholesale of these drugs. The Pharmaceutical Society had already issued warnings to its members about the serious consequences of selling these drugs without prescriptions, and about the need to keep a sharp watch for forged prescriptions. The Society has continued to impress the importance of these matters on its members.

Steps were also taken, in consultation with the Ministry of Health, to bring to the notice of doctors the need for care in issuing prescriptions to persons not known to them, persons known to be addicts or persons known to have forged prescriptions. The need for care in these matters was brought to the attention of doctors through the National Health Service Executive Committee, and through the British Medical Association.

My Lords, as I said at the beginning, the associations and societies dealing with both doctors and chemists have all behaved extraordinarily well, and have been very helpful.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to ask one question? Can the Exclusive Brethren contract out?


My Lords, I think they would have to contract in; but I should require notice of that question.

May I now briefly answer one or two other points, because I think my "oil on troubled waters" remarks have already answered a good many. The noble Baroness said that she was surprised that she did not see in the newspapers stories of thefts and robberies of these pills. I can assure her that there have been some, and that some people have been caught. But I would remind noble Lords that it is possible to steal (and I am not now talking about pilfering) quite a lot of moneys-worth of these pills and contain them in quite a small space. They are quite small, and a man does not need an enormous lorry to make quite a lot of money. There have been some quite big thefts.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, does not agree with the Home Office figures about addiction. I shall argue that matter with him at some later date. I think I have answered my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale by breaking up the "ritual dance". He is not in his place, but I hope that he will read what I have said. The noble Lord, Lord Hobson, mentioned aliens and Commonwealth immigrants. I have a detestation of drug pedlars of any kind and I would place this offence higher on my list; but I think that there is no difference between Commonwealth citizens, aliens and any other criminals who commit this offence. The Metropolitan Police, who have, of course, been consulted, think that the Bill will give them adequate powers to do the job.


My Lords, will it cover railway stations?


My Lords, I think the Bill will cover everything, but I have made a note of that point. There will certainly be a message from the Home Office about it. I cannot go further, because I had no notice of that question, and I do not know exactly what has been done about it. My noble friend Lord Furness raised the question of importation of these drugs by visitors to this country for their personal use. We have looked into this matter, and discussed it at great length, and we believe that there is no solution to this problem except to say that people may not have these drugs on them without authorisation. Customs officers have pretty good latitude in what they are allowed to do; and if a traveller brings in enough for, say, a week for himself, no Customs officer is going to take them away from him. If he wants more he will have to get a doctor's prescription. I think this is the only way, and a sensible way, of dealing with the matter. My noble friend Lord Ferrier, apart from the "ritual dance", raised the question of the word "constable". "Constable" is the correct term for a police officer. A police officer holds his authority because of the fact that he is a constable. Police of all ranks are constables.


Does that apply to the plural?


My Lords, I know we call a police officer of the lowest rank a constable, bat the position is that a policeman of any rank is a constable.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, I think, asked the only other question that I have not yet answered. He asked about registration and licensing. Let me explain this point. It is the manufacturer who must be registered. We are of opinion that there may be one or two manufacturers who are not reliable. If we find that confirmed (I am not talking about my noble friend's interests; but there may be one or two, or they may arise), they will not be permitted to register. It will be exactly the same with importers. Unless we know all about an importer, and that he is reputable, he will not get a licence to import. As regards the rest of the trade, and doctors, chemists, and so on, we think that in this particular case it is important not to try to complicate their lives by requiring them to keep special records. Doctors or chemists at the moment are covered. Chemists have to have prescriptions. We did not want any more detailed keeping of records by either of them than exists at the present time. I hope that answers the question.


My Lords, it does not quite answer the question. What I was worried about was the manufacture and the flow-through of these drugs. I wondered whether it could be made a condition of the licence that a tally, as it were, of the amount of drugs in various processes of manufacture should regularly be kept and that this should be a condition of the grant of the licence.


My Lords, I cannot say that it would be a condition. We have not yet quite reached that stage. But I will say that it is possible to refuse registration. My right honourable friend can do that. May I thank noble Lords again for the reception that they have given this Bill?

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