I am delighted to have the opportunity to address the Bill. I start by congratulating my hon. Friend Jonathan Evans on bringing it before the House and raising this very important issue. As he has said, he and I have met Department officials and we very much agree on the Bill’s objective to promote off-label use of medicines. The only disagreement is on the mechanism to achieve that and whether the mechanisms proposed by the Bill are the right ones. That disagreement continues, and for that reason the Government want to work with my hon. Friend and the campaigners and charities that support the Bill to find a way to achieve our agreed aims.
I want to set out some of the background, outline my proposals and explain why the issue is not quite as straightforward as we would all like to think it is. If only we could legislate to get the right drugs into the right patients at the right time, the world would be a lot easier, but we are not able to do that.