Exiting the European Union (Medicines)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:41 pm on 19th February 2019.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:41 pm, 19th February 2019

Let me start by thanking the Department for an actual impact assessment. I have attended too many debates on statutory instruments when there has been no impact assessment. At least we know what we are talking about on this occasion, and I congratulate the Department on that.

I shall make three very brief points to which I hope the Minister will be able to respond. First, the headquarters of two of the top 10 pharma companies, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, are in the United Kingdom. That matters, because there is considerable evidence that the location of the headquarters is the location of much of the investment in clinical trials. We need to maintain that hegemony, and ensure that we keep those trials here. How do the Government intend to guarantee investment in both the industry and the clinical trials?

Secondly, the industry is very concentrated. I know more about animal medicines, because of my involvement with the shadow DEFRA team. For instance, it was decided that the trial of the bovine tuberculosis vaccines for badgers had to end because the vaccines were needed for human use. There was one major company in Paris. That shows what the industry is really like, and that is why I fear that if we do not get this right, it will drift to other parts of the EU and we will lose out.

My third point is about barriers. This is not just about physical resources, the drugs and chemicals themselves; it is about people. We might find ourselves in a very difficult position, particularly if we were to crash out, heaven forbid. How does the Minister intend to ensure that, in such an event, the key people will be able to secure transferability between the UK and the rest of the EU? That issue is heightened by the enormous pressure on the MHRA in connection with a crash-out. It would be useful to know from the Minister what we will do on the people side to ensure that we genuinely defend the industry.

There is important health investment in pharma companies in my constituency, as there is in many other constituencies. It really does matter to us all to know that there is some certainty in what is a very uncertain process.