Amendment 15

Part of Medicines and Medical Devices Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:15 pm on 12th January 2021.

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Photo of Lord Field of Birkenhead Lord Field of Birkenhead Non-affiliated 8:15 pm, 12th January 2021

I beg to move this amendment in my name and those of other noble Lords whom I count as friends. It is quite clear what the amendment is about; we list it at the very top:

“Entitlement of a doctor to prescribe medicinal cannabis products”.

It is an enabling clause to allow that to happen. The debate today is not really about whether we have been clever enough to draft an amendment which will satisfy the Government, but about whether there is the will in Government to make a change that will affect a large number of people in this country, myself included, who use cannabis as a product to counter pain.

We have heard the urgency in today’s discussions, and Oral Questions, to look at the plight of those little children whose brains are shaken to bits and beyond repair if they do not have access to this product. I would not want to be in the ministerial positions which have to decide how many more days those children must wait before their parents can obtain supplies which will abate the terrible effects of these endless fits, which come like the second hand on a clock, devouring their intelligence and ability to lead a proper life.

The debate is about whether the Government will make this change so that those doctors who wish to prescribe medical cannabis products are free to do so. We are not doing so in a form which, I hope, anybody could consider as irresponsible. We know that there need to be checks and that there are dangers with all medical products. But we have seen recently a wonderful example of the political will which decided that as soon as a vaccine was ready to distribute, providing that safety was ensured, that drug would be rolled out. I hope one of the things we will get from this evening’s short but important debate will be a commitment from the Government that the speed shown to protect the whole population from Covid will similarly be displayed when we come—I hope at some stage soon—to agree the distribution of medical cannabis via the NHS rather than privately.

It is rather appropriate that I discovered the world of campaigning on this product when I was involved in a minor role in trying to advance the interests of those children. I must say, to hear parents who are remortgaging their homes to buy the products for those children is pretty grim for somebody like me, who can acquire these products, quite legally, because they have the money in the bank to do so. It is not a principle which I think many in this noble House would agree with. We are anxious not only about the issue with Alfie, who was one of those very people when I first was engaged in this issue. Maybe we will have news from the Minister tonight about an agreement that has been made so that there will not be another day where those children are vulnerably exposed to the will of their bodies, which causes such destruction of their long-term futures.

I quite understand the need for political courage on this issue. Is it not amazing that I have to say that, when we are talking about maybe a million or more people who depend on this drug to counter the pain which they suffer, and that we should be talking in such terms? I do believe that there will be a change soon in these regulations and that we will move to a more civilised position, where people who have tried—as I did—all other traditional methods of controlling pain and then find a way of doing so will be able to secure this product on the NHS rather than because they possess enough private resources to do so.

It is an immensely important topic which, I think, Members of the House will be pleased to know we are not going to extend by reciting the same speeches that we have already given. We will want the key debate to take place—though it cannot—once the Minister has spoken and told us where the Government’s thinking on this issue is. I move the amendment in this brief way not because it is a topic lacking in importance; I hope the brevity will be taken as a sign of concentrating on the issue itself.

I very much hope that there will be a demonstration of the will of this House which strengthens the Government’s position in making a change in policy, particularly from the Home Office, which has the main leave now, to the Department of Health where, of course, this issue belongs and should be settled. I hope very much that we will get a very clear steer from the Minister on what the Government’s plans are in looking at this reform before the Bill goes into the Commons. Therefore, I beg to move the amendment which stands in my name and the names of my noble friends.