Off-patent Drugs Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:28 pm on 7th November 2014.

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Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Conservative, Cardiff North 12:28 pm, 7th November 2014

I thank all who have contributed to the debate, including the Minister. In fact, other than the Minister everybody has spoken in favour of the proposition contained in the Bill. I am especially grateful to my hon. Friend Mr Nuttall, who has been involved from the inception in supporting the Bill. I am grateful for the intervention of my hon. Friend Mr Chope, who has been such a source of great support in this process which, even after 22 years, is relatively new to me. He, of course, is something of a Friday expert. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend Bob Stewart for his interventions and his clear articulation of support for the Bill. Let me also thank the shadow Minister and those on the Labour Benches who have made it clear to me and to the charities their complete support.

The problem is that the Government take one view on the Bill, whereas charities, clinicians and others are saying that the current situation is unacceptable. It is not good enough to argue against going down the road of legislation, given that we already have a legislative process for licensing. For instance, it is the law that if a drug has not had a licence, it cannot be effectively marketed in the UK. The reason GPs often do not routinely prescribe life-saving medicines is that the rules in essence make it illegal to market them in that way. It is not surprising, therefore, that GPs, given that legislative background and the litigious world of the medical and legal profession, decide to avoid something unless it is licensed. It is not as though the charities sector has not provided the Department with a welter of information on why GPs are not doing it. The lack of licensing is at the core of it.

As the Minister knows, I respect him and his background career, and we have had several conversations about the Bill, but the proposition that passing the Bill would damage the current situation is simply laughable. I do not know who wrote that line for the Minister, but that proposition needs to be re-examined. Nothing in my Bill would cause a GP to say, “Well, actually, I was going to prescribe something, but I’m not going to now.” With due respect to him, that was the weakest of his arguments.

We heard earlier from the Labour Benches that several colleagues have received representations on the Bill from a widespread coalition of charities covering a range of medical conditions. Yesterday, I spoke to several of my colleagues on a day trip to a constituency in southern England, and everyone spoke of having 50 or 60 constituents urging them to support the Bill and of being pleased to have received a response saying that the Government were speaking to me as the Bill’s promoter. Many people interpreted that to mean that the Government would be broadly supportive of the Bill.

For that reason, I am deeply disappointed to hear now that the Government are opposed to the principle of the Bill. I do not need to rearticulate its provision—it is a very simple Bill—but it says that in the absence of somebody applying for a licence, the Secretary of State has the duty to make that application or to appoint another public body to do it. Thereafter, the Bill makes provision for the drafting of regulations that present widespread opportunities for the Minister to address his concerns.