Lariam

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:03 pm on 27th October 2016.

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Photo of Fabian Hamilton Fabian Hamilton Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (Defence) 4:03 pm, 27th October 2016

As always, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I thank Members for bearing with me; I know they will all get the chance to say their piece. I apologise to the Minister for having to leave. I have had to stand in at the last minute for my hon. Friend Wayne David, who has been taken ill, and I need to catch a particular train to get back to my party meeting this evening.

Like my friend—I hope he does not mind my calling him that—Jeremy Lefroy, with whom I served on the International Development Committee for three years, I feel a personal connection to the subject of Lariam. Unlike him I have never had malaria, but had I contracted it I would no longer be standing here, because it is fatal to patients who have no spleen—mine was removed some 20 years ago. I really feel very concerned about malarial areas. The hon. Gentleman knows how difficult it is for people who do not have a spleen to go to them because of the risks involved. Even the prophylaxes that he mentioned are not 100% effective, so even places where there is a tiny risk of contracting malaria are too dangerous. The Foreign Office advises all its asplenic personnel not to visit those areas at all. His personal experience has informed us greatly about the effects of Lariam, and the fact that he has taken it himself and knows exactly what its side effects can be has brought the issue to life for many of us.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mrs Moon, because she has pursued and pursued this. I am so glad that the Chair of the Defence Committee, Dr Lewis, and the rest of the Committee agreed that the issue of Lariam was so important and wrote this splendid and well written report with all the evidence that they accumulated. I congratulate them and their staff on it.

I feel huge sympathy with the 25% to 35% of Army personnel who have been affected by taking Lariam. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend mentioned that geographical location was a consideration when prescribing Lariam, and the hon. Member for Stafford underlined that with his point about the resistance that is now growing in south-east Asia. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend also said something very important that is contained in the report: military deployment is very different from tourism. While it is unpleasant to suffer the side effects as a tourist, it is dangerous if not worse for military personnel who suffer them on military duties.

The biggest scandal of all that has been revealed in the contributions to this debate, many from former serving personnel such as Johnny Mercer, is that there seems to have been no duty of care from the Army. The right hon. Member for New Forest East said that just five minutes’ assessment may be sufficient to ensure that individual Army personnel have the right prescription and are not forced to take Lariam when it is wholly inappropriate for their needs.