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Mr. Griffiths: The hon. Gentleman was honest enough to say to the House that he might be wrong. He is completely and utterly wrong in this matter. I wonder whether his lack of a grasp of these issues was the reason why he was moved off the Committee.

There is no support for the amendments. Indeed, I have a card--I suspect that the right hon. Member for Wokingham does not have one--from David Sharpe of the Community Pharmacy Action Group, thanking me for my support for community pharmacies. The number that I rang this morning was that of the group's legal adviser, Sue Sharpe. We have support for our policy; no one supports the Opposition's amendment and new clause.

Mr. Redwood: What a dreadful statement from the Minister. He ended with a strange statement that no one

8 Jul 1998 : Column 1127

supports the amendments. We are shortly to show that quite a few Members support them. Many people outside the House want a solution to the problem, and the Government have left them without one.

I shall deal briefly with the Minister's attempt at a response. He said that I have made no representations to Brussels or to British competition authorities. I have made endless representations through debates on this Bill. As the shadow spokesman responsible for such matters, I believe that the right way in which to make representations is through the House, when parliamentary opportunity presents itself. I know that the Government do not like the House--but we do. This is a proper way in which to proceed.

The Minister said that a certain number of pharmacies closed while I was in the Cabinet, and that that proves that the outgoing Government did not care. It is not possible to prevent some pharmacies closing for commercial reasons. We are debating not whether the Minister can prevent commercial closures--I am sure that he will not be able to do so--but whether he can prevent deliberate closures on top of those that will be forced through as a result of the Bill and his inability to sort things out in Brussels. He has not confirmed the figures that have been bandied about in the trade, suggesting that perhaps 3,000 pharmacies will close as a result of the legislation and of the Brussels decision that he fears.

The Minister asked why I have not made representations to Brussels. There is no need to do so at the moment because, at the moment, the issue can and should be sorted out here, in the United Kingdom--either at the restrictive practices court or in the House by suitable amendment to legislation.

The Minister and I agree on one thing: community pharmacies will be very important to health care and health services in the next century. That makes the Government's attitude even more stunning. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) said, pharmacies provide a very important service in smaller market towns and the suburbs. If they are removed or destroyed by the Government, Brussels or some combination of the two, considerably more cost will fall directly on the health service as it struggles to replace the services.

Neither my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset nor I come easily to defending practices which, in all other industries and areas, we are happy to see go--and which, at times, we have helped to go. Normally, we prefer open, competitive markets, where prices and services are determined in the marketplace by people spending their money as they see fit. We make an exception for this issue. I urge the House, knowing, as it does, that both my hon. Friend and I nearly always come down on the side of free markets and complete choice, to think very carefully before rejecting the amendment. I stressed to the House--and shall do so again--that we are satisfied of two things: first, that there is quite enough price choice in the market for those who think that price is the most crucial aspect. Secondly, such community services are important and would be much more expensive to provide at the taxpayer's expense if they are demolished as a result of this ill-considered legislation.

8 Jul 1998 : Column 1128

I shall pass over the Minister calling our actions a political stunt; that is not worthy of him or of the Government whom he serves. We are seriously arguing a case for many small businesses in our communities that need some help and are looking to the Government for it--the Government whom they thought might represent them.

I agree with the Minister that the effect of the amendment would be to stop proceedings in the court. That is the point; the idea of the amendment is to settle the matter following democratic debate in the House of Commons. We could always return to it if we had second thoughts, if the commercial and service argument had moved on.

Mr. Lansley: Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the Government object to the amendment on the ground that it would stop proceedings in the court and would lead to intervention by the Commission, they could take the route of new clause 4, which would not stop proceedings in the court?

Mr. Redwood: Indeed; I am grateful to my hon. Friend for clarifying that point. That was my understanding of his new clause. The Minister seems to have a different view of it.

I gave the Minister due notice in Committee of the problems with Brussels and how I, on behalf of many people, expected the Government to go to Brussels to try to get a better deal for our pharmacies and to sort the matter out for them. I did not want the House to be left with Hobson's choice--either accepting my amendment then worrying about what Brussels might do as a results of our actions, or not being able to do anything at all to help community pharmacies. The inaction of the Minister and his colleagues places us in such a position.

If the Minister had taken my advice in Committee, he would by now have had productive discussions in Brussels. He would have explained that the practice has not driven a coach and horses through Brussels competition law during our membership of the Community. He would have explained that the practice matters to people in Britain--and that, for once, he could swing the will of the whole Parliament in favour of keeping our community pharmacies. He could surely have pleaded for some special treatment--an exemption, an agreement that the practice was in the public interest, not against it. Evidence from the previous Restrictive Trade Practices Act case in Britain and the previous RTPA finding were already available.

There was a most extraordinary dialogue on the Government Benches on the legal position of article 85 and direct action under the treaty. Of course my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset is right: the idea of the treaty, as set out by the founding fathers and in the debates when we joined the European Community, was to regulate competition between states and between firms in different member states. There was no presumption at all that the organisation also had to interfere in intrastate trading.

We wish to make clear that we believe that the measure is an extension of jurisdiction from Brussels and that it is about intrastate trade. The Minister needs to propose new legislation because the European Community should not have that power to start with. There is, as has been said,

8 Jul 1998 : Column 1129

a jurisdictional hurdle, which we are addressing. The Government have got it wrong, and have misinterpreted the matter. They should not allow Brussels to intervene in this case and they should accept our amendment. We urge the House tonight to do something decent for the retail pharmacies and for health care in our country. The only way to do that now is to accept the Opposition amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 161, Noes 328.

Division No. 330
[7 pm


AYES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Baker, Norman
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Evans, Nigel
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie
Fisher, Mark
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gorrie, Donald
Green, Damian
Grieve, Dominic
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Major, Rt Hon John
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Salmond, Alex
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Syms, Robert
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Wallace, James
Wardle, Charles
Webb, Steve
Wells, Bowen
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Willetts, David
Willis, Phil
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Nigel Waterson and
Mr. Stephen Day.


NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Stephen
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chisholm, Malcolm
Church, Ms Judith
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
(Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fatchett, Derek
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galbraith, Sam
Gapes, Mike
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
McLeish, Henry
McNulty, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Peter
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Greg Pope and
Ms Bridget Prentice.

Question accordingly negatived.

8 Jul 1998 : Column 1132

Clause 18

Abuse of dominant position

Mr. Lansley: I beg to move amendment No. 48, in page 10, line 38, at end insert--


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