Supply of Relevant Veterinary Medicinal Products Order 2005

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:16 pm on 18 November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson in the Lords (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Disability), Work & Pensions, Deputy Chief Whip, People With Disabilities, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities 3:16, 18 November 2005

My Lords, I feel on slightly firmer ground in my second step along this path, for the simple reason that I heard the subject discussed on "Newsnight" several months ago. On that occasion, a vet shrugged his shoulders and said, "If you do not allow us to charge extra on prescribed drugs, we will have to put it somewhere else to keep our profit margins up". That seemed a situation of zero net gain for the consumer, but a bureaucratic process. Larger-scale users of drugs may well benefit from the changes.

I wish to gain some idea of the Government's thinking. What evidence is there that manufacturers were over-charging? That is the nub of the situation. It has been common currency for a long time among anyone paying even the slightest attention to the issue that certain areas of veterinary practice have been under considerable pressure. If we expect them to keep on functioning and to make their businesses viable, and if the Government do not object to their shifting how they generate their income, should they not have been dealing merely with manufacturers or finding some other way forward there rather than putting vets in the odious position of having to increase the cost of minor, routine surgery on, say, small animals?

A minor cost may have been the drugs. With a larger animal the same thing would apply, but it might put off the treatment of the animal again. It is clearly a danger, which probably will occur in a few cases. I would be interested to know whether there has been a study into how much effect this will have. It seems that on this occasion the vets are piggy in the middle. The obvious way to ameliorate the downside effect is merely to shove the cost to somewhere else. In an itemised bill, some people may economise in certain areas.