The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Guinness):
I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Under the constitution of the Isle of Man, the Tynwald has considerable fiscal autonomy. But there is a common arrangement with the Customs and Excise of this country, and it is necessary to have an annual Bill to give approval to the arrangement which is provisionally applied to Customs and Excise by the resolution of the Tynwald. This is an annual Bill, which is never amended by the House of Commons, and it is really a formal matter.
Vice-Admiral Sir REGINALD HALL:
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman in charge of the Bill a question or two? Can he inform me whether there is any other land in the vicinity which could be used for this purpose, and whether in acquiring this land the Admiralty have been consulted, and have agreed that this is a suitable spot on which seaplanes can be worked with advantage to the combined Air Force and Navy?
The land which it is proposed to take over is for the making of a seaplane station. This seaplane station is absolutely essential for the West aerial defence of the South of England. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that there is no other land in the neighbourhood which could be acquired for the purpose, and there is no land at all suitable for the making of land aerodromes. The Admiralty have been consulted, and are in entire agreement with the Air Ministry on the subject.
With regard to the breakwater, do I understand that it belongs to the Air Ministry? I notice that in the White Paper it is stated that:
the average annual cost of maintenance of the breakwater and the light is estimated at £500 and the construction of the road is estimated to cost £1,500 ".
Does that £500 a year go on indefinitely?
The Air Ministry, as a matter of fact, have already been in possession of the breakwater, and the ob- ject of the Bill is merely to transfer the responsibility in a legal way. We have always been under an obligation to maintain this light for the purpose of safety on that part of the coast. The actual cost of maintaining the breakwater is very small.
Yes, certainly. We are fully alive to the importance of maintaining the amenities and historic associations of that part of the country, and the hon. and gallant Member may rely on our doing everything we can in that direction.
Have the Ministry considered the possibility of using cliff eaves for the purpose, instead of appropriating land on which food could be grown? There would be greater safety in such a method.
We are considering that, but there are great difficulties in the way of underground hangars, from the point of view of cost. The whole question is being gone into, and I could not now make any statement usefully about it.
This Clause gives an opportunity for an explanation. It says:
This Act applies to the therapeutic substances specified in the Schedule to this Act,
and any otter therapeutic substances which may from time to time be added to that Schedule by regulations made under this Act.
I wish to know what width of powers we are giving to the Executive under this Clause. I am very jealous of giving away to any Government Department a right to add to Schedules by regulation. It is a power liable to abuse and should be very carefully watched. I see that the Undersecretary for Health for Scotland, who is a technical expert, is present, and perhaps he can give us some information as to the progress in science which will necessitate adding to the present list of vaccines, toxins, anti-toxins, etc. Why does not the Ministry of Health put in the Schedule a complete list of the chemicals that it is proposed to restrict or control? Is it that other substances are expected to be discovered, or what is the reason? It may be a perfectly legitimate reason, but the House ought to have it. I am a layman in the matter. I do not even know what dioxy-diamino-arseno-benzol-di-hydrochloride is. I see that it is commonly known as salvarsan. I do not even know what salvarsan is. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] I am sure there are many Members on the other side who know all about it.
The Clause says that any other therapeutic substances may from time to time be added to the Schedule. It refers to therapeutic substances specified in the Schedule. The Schedule mentions substances one of which I mentioned but will not repeat. What I am interested in is this, and no technical knowledge is required for it. If the substances the manufacture of which it is required to control are known, they ought to be mentioned in the Schedule, and it is unnecessary to give the Minister of Health power to add various other ingredients or chemicals or substances by way of regulation.
I gladly respond to the request of the hon. and gallant Member. I will give him whatever information I have, to the best of my ability. The Schedule contains a list of the therapeutic substances to which the Bill will apply, and these are the substances, so far as is known at the present time, in respect of which it is necessary to make provision for examination, both as to their purity and their strength. The hon. and gallant Member will recognise the probability, and indeed the likelihood, of other substances being discovered, and it would be unwise for us to have to bring in another Bill for every new remedy that might be discovered. Therefore we have taken power to add by regulation any other substances which it is found necessary to add. As regards the position of this House in the matter, the hon. and gallant Member will see that all regulations are to be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made. I think that gives adequate protection, and if any objection is taken to a regulation the usual Parliamentary procedure is provided. I do not think, however, Parliament will be anxious to intervene in a matter of this kind in which we shall have to be guided largely by the Medical Research Council. I do not know if the hon. and gallant Member really desires me to give a definition of the various substances specified in the Schedule. So far as the particular substance mentioned by him is concerned—
I do not want a long and learned discussion, such as I am sure the hon. Gentleman is capable of giving. I wish to know the reason why it is necessary to exercise this control.
I am glad my hon. and gallant Friend has relieved me so far. The position was made clear on the Second Reading of the Bill. At the present time the substances referred to in the Schedule come to this country, or are manufactured hero, without the application of any test whatever as to their strength or purity. The necessity for this Bill is reinforced by a proposal of the appropriate branch of the League of Nations, who have found that it is necessary, in dealing with these substances, that in all the countries of the world proper regulations should be laid down for the protection of medical men and their patients using these substances. At the present moment vaccines and anti-toxins are in use without any guarantee of strength or purity, and it may be that in some critical case, where a substance of this kind has to be administered as a matter of life or death, the doctor has to procure that substance either here or abroad without any guarantee at all as to its quality or its strength. It is essential to the purpose of remedies of this kind that their strength should be of exactly the proper proportion and it is to secure that end that the regulations under the Bill are necessary. This Bill has received approval of everybody interested in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), who is associated with the Medical Research Council, knows how vitally necessary is this Measure. At the present moment other countries of the world where high standards obtain—say America—may reject vaccines or anti-toxins, and these may be shipped over here without any regulation and placed on the English market. I should say, however, that our standards here in respect of chemists are, I believe, very high, but it is only fair to those who are carrying out this work and manufacturing these substances up to the proper standard, that they should be protected.
The hon. and gallant Member will see in the Schedule to the Bill exactly what they are. Substance No. 2. to which reference has been made, need not be explained further. This substance is used for the treatment of certain diseases, and it is very necessary that it should come up to the proper standard.
If the Schedule covers fine chemicals, then a great deal of the hon. Gentleman's argument about the necessity for having the best supply instantly available falls to the ground, because he and his Government support a heavy duty on these chemicals.
I support strongly the leaving open of the possibility of adding substances to the Schedule. I think it would be quite out of the question to have a new Act of Parliament every time it was found necessary to add to the list of substances to which this Measure applies. Even as it stands it seems to me that there are some omissions in connection with this Schedule. For instance, the United States pharmacopoeia requires cannabis and its preparations, and recommends digitalis and supra-renal extract to be standardised according—
I do not think it would be in order at this stage to propose additions to the Schedule. The question now is whether powers are to be taken to add to the Schedule by regulation. Any actual proposal to add to the Schedule must come at another stage.
If I am not in order in suggesting specific additions to the Schedule, I will content myself by stating that, in my opinion, there are omissions, and that an opportunity of adding to the Schedule is desirable.
I beg to move, in page 2, lines 31 and 32, to leave out the words "Commissioners of Customs and Excise" and to insert instead thereof the words "licensing authority."
This Amendment is considered appropriate, responsible representations having been made by various members of the medical profession that the proper people to test these substances are not the Commissioners of Customs and Excise but the licensing authority in connection with the Bill, described in Clause 7. That authority has the assistance of the Medical Research Council, and they will decide whether the substances mentioned comply with the standard of strength, quality and purity referred to in the Clause. Obviously the Commissioners of Customs and Excise are not the proper people to decide matters of that kind.
The Amendment is very similar to one that I have down immediately afterwards, to substitute the Joint Committee for the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, and I should be quite prepared to accept the licensing authority as proposed by the Government. My reason for putting down my Amendment is that we, in this country, are very much behind continental countries in the use of sera and vaccines, and if this Clause is allowed to stand as it is, it would rest with the Customs and Excise authorities to decide or not whether certain substances should be admitted to this country. I, personally, having regard to the object of the Bill, which distinctly says that it is to deal with
substances the purity or potency of which cannot be adequately tested by chemical means,
quite agree that the Customs and Excise officers are not the proper persons to decide whether or not a substance should be admitted. I think this matter should be carefully thought out, because, if this Clause is allowed to pass without careful thought, it will exclude from this country supplies of the Spahlinger serum, which we are hoping in a very few months to obtain in large quantities, and that is my reason for putting down my Amendment to this Clause.
I should like to know if the people who will be licensed under this Clause are the persons who to-day have licences to perform what are called vivisection experiments in this country? The bulk of these toxins and other things mentioned in the Schedule to the Bill are really the results of experiments carried out for a long period by those who are popularly, but often inaccurately, known as vivisectors, and I am wondering whether anyone who has a licence at the present time from the Home Office to perform these experiments will automatically get a licence under this Bill without any further trouble.
I do hope my hon. Friend will not drag in the question of vivisection on this Bill. It has nothing to do with this at all. Anybody who desires to have a licence under this Bill will have to apply for it in the ordinary way, and comply with the rules laid down, but I beg the hon. Member not to introduce that question of vivisection today, as this Bill has nothing to do with it.
We have already set up Commissioners of Customs and Excise to examine and determine whether certain substances are or are not fine chemicals. There are two or three thousand articles in the tariff, and the Customs officer has to determine whether or not certain things are in that list. If we are going to set up an expert committee to decide on this question—a perfectly proper course— I think we might have an answer to my question. I do not know if the Undersecretary for Health in Scotland could answer the question, but I have not any idea as to what the answer is. Are the substances mentioned in the Schedule what are technically called "fine chemicals?"
I do not think they are, because, if the hon. and gallant-Gentleman will look at Clause 1, he will see that it says
being substances the purity or potency of which cannot be adequately tested by chemical means.
Therefore, I think, the answer to his question is in the negative.
I have not been able really to make inquiries and to get a reply except the one I have given. It is a technical matter, and I hope the hon. and gallant Member will excuse me answering more definitely.
Surely the position is this, that everything that comes into this country is subject to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, and if this happened to be a fine chemical, it would come under the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, but this Bill says it will come under the gauntlet of this new committee, and, therefore, the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite is really being helped in his campaign, whatever it may be, because it will have to run a double gauntlet in that case instead of a single gauntlet. This Bill only proposes to give an additional gauntlet to certain substances, whether or not they are fine chemicals.
The hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) is well qualified to answer my question technically, but I think he, mistakes my object. I am not in favour of what he calls the double gauntlet, but I am in favour of throwing down the glove. This Clause has a medical justification, but the taxation proposal to which I refer has none.
I beg to move, in page 2, lines 34 and 35, to leave out the words, "the substance in question manufactured," and to insert instead thereof the words
that substance, if the substance is one the manufacture of which is carried on in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, or, if such manufacture is not so carried on, with such standards (if any) of strength, quality, and purity as may be prescribed for that substance, or, if no such standards are so prescribed, with such standards of quality and purity as are prescribed in the case of therapeutic substances of a similar class the manufacture of which is carried on.
This Amendment is introduced to deal with the point raised just now by my hon. Friend the Member for Withington (Dr. Watts), in relation to the Spahlinger serum. I should tell the Committee that, as the Sub-section was originally drafted, it would have had the effect of prohibiting the importation of a vaccine or serum included in the Schedule which is not manufactured in this country. As a matter of
fact, that was really not intended in any event, and the object of the Amendment is to make it clear that, in the case of a serum of foreign origin which is not yet manufactured in this country, it must conform to such standards of strength, quality, and purity as may be prescribed, or, if there is no such standard—and that is the case mentioned by the hon. Member—it must comply with such general regulations in regard to quality and purity as apply to substances of the same class. I think that will meet my hon. Friend's point.
Taking the case of what is called the Spahlinger serum, any Spahlinger serum which may be imported into this country will, I think, quite properly—everyone will agree—be required to conform to such regulations in regard to quality and purity as apply to sera generally, the object of the regulation, of course, being to ensure freedom from toxic constituents. If the Spahlinger serum is prepared with reasonable care, there is nothing, of course, to prevent its importation, but I think the Committee will agree that, in view of the risk that any horse serum may, without proper care in its preparation, be contaminated by anthrax, there must be general regulations of this kind laid down.
I have put in a manuscript Amendment, of which I am sorry I had not time to give more notice, but which I shall be very glad not to move if T am satisfied that my purpose is met by the Amendment of the Minister. Perhaps I might be allowed to read what I have suggested. It is that an additional paragraph be added, as follows:
(c) or is consigned to a registered medical practitioner by authority of the licensing body for the purpose of testing the therapeutic value of such substance.
There is, of course, the difficulty in this case, as the hon. Gentleman has recognised, that there may be a substance with which there is nothing definitely to compare, and for whose strength and other qualities it is difficult in the first instance to get any standard. While the hon. Gentleman's Amendment meets that to a considerable extent, I should like to ask hint if it means that a substance must be consigned to a definite person licensed by the licensing authority? That might introduce hampering considerations. Supposing the serum which has been
mentioned was brought into this country for official or unofficial tests, and was to be used by a number of practitioners throughout the country, would there be any great difficulty in that being done? Would there be complicated processes, because it was not consigned to persons already recognised by the licensing body? It seems to me that the paragraph I have suggested would prevent any difficulty, and would only apply, of course, where the substance' was actually going to be tested. After it was once tested and approved, it would then come under the general regulations of the Clause. We would be quite prepared for that, but we are anxious that no substance should be prevented or hindered from being properly tested in this country because there is no similar substance manufactured in this country with which its standard could be compared.
I think the Amendment I have moved meets the hon. Gentleman's point. It is a little difficult, as he appreciates, for me to say exactly, because I have not had the opportunity of reading his Amendment. But I want to make this clear. I rather gather from the terms of his Amendment that it implies that if a substance were sent directly to the medical practitioner, no examination should be made. Really, the whole object of this Bill would go if the examination were avoided, by sending it to a particular medical practitioner. Subject to that, I think he may feel easy that the object, which I know several Members of this House have in this particular matter, will be achieved. If the hon. Gentleman will look at paragraph (b), he will see there that provision is made for such substances if
consigned to a person engaged in scientific research, holding a special licence
etc. Apart altogether from the question of this particular serum, it should be known—and quite properly known—that under Sub-section (5) of Clause 2,
Nothing in this Section"—
and, of course, nothing in the Bill—
shall apply to the preparation by a registered medical practitioner for any of his own patients or for and at the request of another such practitioner of a therapeutic substance to which this Act applies, if it is specially prepared with reference to the condition, and for the use, of an individual patient.
In other words, this Bill is more designed to deal with the commercial aspect of the matter, and I think the medical practitioners of the country are generally satisfied with that proviso. I have had the opportunity of conferring with one or two hon. Gentlemen upon the suggestion that the hon. Member has just made, and I think they are satisfied that the Amendment I have moved will meet all reasonable requirements such as those to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 28, after the word "Council," to insert the words "one member appointed by the British Medical Association."
The Committee may remember that, on the Second Reading of this Bill, it was urged that medical practitioners who would be using these substances should have representation on the Advisory Committee. The Committee will observe that Clause 4 provides for the setting up of what I venture to describe as a strong Advisory Committee. It was suggested that medical practitioners generally should have some representation on this body. I think that was a very reasonable request, and in order to meet it I am moving this Amendment. The British Medical Association, of course, covers all parts of the Kingdom, and, therefore, is representative. I have no doubt myself that the inclusion of a representative of the Association will add to the strength of the committee, and we very gladly respond to the suggestion that has been made.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 32, at the end, to add the words
one member appointed by the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and one member appointed by the Royal College of Physicians of London.
The hon. Member in mentioning this committee, spoke of it as a very strong body. I think it is open to many
objections. For example, I cannot understand why the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society should be represented, or why the Council of the Institute of Chemistry should be represented, having regard to the fact that the Bill, in the first Clause, presumes that these are substances the purity of which cannot be ascertained by chemical means. I venture to submit that the committee would be stronger by the addition of a member appointed by the Royal College of Surgeons of England and another member appointed by the Royal College of Physicians of London.
Of course, I quite appreciate the motive which my hon. Friend has in moving this Amendment. I do not think I am concerned with the point as to the inclusion of a representative of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society, because there is no Amendment on the Paper to delete that, or to delete the proposal to have one member appointed by the Council of the Institute of Chemistry. I need only say—and I think most Members will agree—that it will be helpful that a representative of the Pharmaceutical Society should be concerned and engaged in an inquiry of this kind. We want, if we can, to get representation of both those bodies with a view to making the very best arrangement we can in this Clause. The reason I cannot accept my hon. Friend's suggestion is this. He is proposing, that on this Advisory Committee, which is a body representing England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, there should be representatives of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and the Royal College of Physicians of London. If I accepted that, I should immediately be confronted with suggestions from Scotland, and, possibly, from Northern Ireland, and if I had to accede to such requests, the Advisory Committee would be of such a size, that I fear it would be perfectly unmanageable, and would not accomplish its work properly. I hope my hon. Friend will be satisfied with the representation which we have just made of the British Medical Association, which, I think, really meets his point. We could not accept the Amendment unless we dealt fairly with, other people, and then we should get in such a state, so far as numbers are concerned, that the usefulness of the Committee would be very much reduced. I hope, therefore, my hon. Friend will not press the matter further.
I think that this Amendment adds one more insult to poor old Scotland. We have there a splendid College of Physicians and a distinguished College of Surgeons. Why this suggestion and this invidious distinction are made, I do not know. I regret that my hon. Friend has been so blind as to overlook the most important and most modest part of these islands, and I am very glad of the uncompromising opposition of the Parliamentary Secretary.
I beg to move, in page 5, line 9, at the end, to insert the words
provided that if an address is voted by either House of Parliament within twenty-one days after such regulations have been laid, being days on which that House has sat, praying that such regulations be modified or annulled, such modification or amendment shall be made without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under the regulations".
This is quite a formal Amendment, and I am perfectly certain the Minister will accept it. The regulations, as at present proposed, permit the Minister, for example, to add new substances to the substances set out in the Schedule. It is obvious, I think, to every Member of the Committee that this Sub-section is quite valueless. The intention, of course, as the Minister said earlier, is to give the House some control over the Schedule. That is a very proper thing to do, but this Sub-section does not give us that. There is a general feeling that there should be some modification of this Subsection; if so, the House of Commons ought to give effect to that wish. The form of this proposed proviso has been insisted upon time after time by this House in such matters as this, and I am quite sure that the Minister, on consideration, will accept it.
May I express the hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not press his Amendment? What is it that we are desirous of doing? Simply that, if some other substance likely to be of a dangerous character is put forward, the Minister shall have power to add that to the regulations. We propose in Subsection (3) that all regulations made under this Clause should be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made. I quite appreciate the point of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but surely the addition of, we will say, a single substance, does not necessitate the Amendment he is putting forward! The suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman is really not necessary. We are acting in this matter purely for the protection of the public, and if the Minister desires to add substances of this kind for the protection of the people it is as well that he should be able to do it. I hope, therefore, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not press his Amendment.
There is some point in the last remarks made by the Parliamentary Secretary, but I do think that as a House of Commons we should be jealous on every occasion for the rights and privileges of this House. I am afraid that in the last few months we have been getting rather away from that. Rather more than usual, we seem to have been providing for government by Regulation in a way that tells against effective control by the House of Commons. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that in another connection we have a very important set of Regulations in relation to preservatives in food. The object we have in view is to see that these Regulations can be objected to in this House, and, if necessary, we may be able to debate the matter. I would submit that there could be no real harm in accepting the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn). As I said on the Second Reading of this Bill, that we on these benches desire the Bill, and are wishful to do all we can to expedite its passage.