Supply of Relevant Veterinary Medicinal Products Order 2005

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 18 November 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Spokespersons In the Lords, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 3:45, 18 November 2005

My Lords, I almost feel tempted to put the matter to a vote, but I will not do that—the noble Baroness's eyes just hit the deck. Quite clearly, there is a problem. Our party of all parties has always been keen on competition, so this Motion must seem slightly strange—the Minister did not draw that to my attention, so I draw it to his. But the whole question is that I do not know whether we are necessarily comparing like with like—and I shall return to that point.

The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, about his concerns that treatment might be put off is very valid. I accept that vets are "piggy in the middle" in that regard; I am more than happy with that.

The noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, touched on several very important issues and particularly referred to the work of RUMA. I should like to return to that because, in human health—as we all know when we are suffering from a cold—one does not get a prescription for an antibiotic very easily at all these days from our doctor; indeed, it is the same with vets. There is a real issue about prescribing drugs too freely, that then animals whether human, bovine or of whatever sort, builds up a resistance. That is a worrying problem. I know that it is only a trial, but it is something that the Government should keep well in mind when it goes ahead, because it is a very valid point.

The point that my noble friend made that you can get prescriptions, or will be able to get them, from anywhere, and particularly from the Internet, is something else that the Government should bear in mind. Some Internet sales on other products—although I am not suggesting that it is the case with the products that we are discussing—have been quite questionable. The need to ensure that the product being sold is the product that is supposed to be sold and that it is up to the standard that should be sold is something that the Government should be aware of—and I hope that they are.

The noble Lord, Lord Kimball, raised an important issue. Having had horses—and my last one unfortunately ended up on Bute—I know that it is easy to go across the water and come back with cheaper prescriptions over there. In fact, the use is more extravagant perhaps than if the drugs were prescribed and the animals were looked after by a veterinary surgeon. That is another important issue that the Government need to address.

On the breakdown of my questions earlier, if the Minister could tell me specifically who responded—the person and the name of the group—I would be grateful. The Minister alluded to the fact that he felt that the measures should reduce the question of the price overall. Yes, I believe that in pure commercial terms, he is right that it will; but I suspect that for the consumer who normally uses a veterinary practice, it may well not do so, because prices will have to be raised in other ways, be it through consultation or whatever, to maintain their practice.