|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying from the new clause. Whether or not doctors support complementary medicine is neither here nor there. The new clause deals with registration and the hon. Gentleman must relate his comments to that.
Mr. Tredinnick: I am most grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are absolutely right to draw my attention to the new clause. I was talking about a type of registration, however, because those doctors could not practise unless they were registered as fundholders. The fact that they registered as fundholders provides the building block for some of the remarks that I want to make about the new clause, and I cannot make those points unless I refer to GP fundholders and primary care groups.
Another reason why we need the new clause relates to the primary care group system introduced by the present Government. New clause 7 deals with the registration of complementary and alternative medicine. However, there has been a real problem with primary care groups since the switch from fundholding. The reason for that is that the new boards are much larger and many of the health care professionals on them are not sympathetic to complementary therapies. Demand for complementary medicine has therefore dipped since primary care groups were introduced.
A positive aspect of the Government's approach to the matter has been the initiation of trials using NHS funds. For example, the acupuncture trial was funded by the NHS executive in collaboration with the Foundation for Traditional Chinese Medicine. Such trials are very important in relation to registration. A stamp of approval from the NHS means that the treatments would be more acceptable to people.
The Minister knows that I have been saying for many years that there is not enough money for research. If registers and better regulation are to be introduced, more research into complementary and alternative medical therapies is needed.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford is always helpful, and he asked earlier how we can know whether alternative therapies are effective. One way is through trials, and we need more of them. However, this is the same old chicken and egg problem: the Department
Mr. Swayne: My hon. Friend says that the techniques are effective. I do not doubt that, but why should the Secretary of State be given the power to determine whether they are used? That power would be afforded to him in this awful new clause.
Mr. Bercow: My intervention will be comparatively prosaic, but new clause 7(3) confers on the Secretary of State the right to determine by regulation the method of application for registration and the means of its determination. I return to my usual hobbyhorse: does my hon. Friend agree that the regulations should be subject to the affirmative procedure of the House, and that they should not be left to the administrative fiat of a Secretary of State?
Mr. Tredinnick: My hon. Friend tempts me. I am Chairman of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and of the House of Commons Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, and I have a great interest in affirmative and negative resolution procedures. I agree that an affirmative resolution procedure would be desirable in this case.
I have to declare another interest. I hesitate to answer his query in any other than a very friendly way, as my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) is due to speak in my constituency on Friday. It is therefore especially important that I do not upset him, for fear that he will not make the kindly opening remarks that colleagues occasionally make about each other. That might not be helpful in the run-up to the general election, whose date was let out of the bag by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz).
Let us be serious about this: my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West and other colleagues are on the right track about how the regulation works. I want to address that in a moment--[Interruption.] The Minister appears to be imitating my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) when he occasionally enjoys a joke. Was it something that my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West did? Or was it something that I said?
To consider regulation and registration, we must, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford said, deal with how complementary therapies interrelate and how they relate to conventional medicine. One of the difficulties of regulation is that complementary and alternative practitioners and patients tend not just to use one therapy, but to move between therapies until they find the one that works for a given ailment.
I should like to illustrate this with the true story of a child whose severely broken leg was repaired, with great skill, by a great surgeon. The child's parents wanted to do everything possible to help his leg repair. To support the surgeon's work, and with his agreement, they looked to complementary therapies to speed up the repair of the leg. To start with, they relieved some of the boy's aches and pains with the homoeopathic medicine arnica and used symphytum to help heal the wound, because the leg had been pinned. To encourage the bone to repair faster, they looked to traditional Chinese and ayurvedic medicine, which teach that one of the first things to do with a broken bone is to use frankincense and myrrh, which were, as we know, potent in biblical times. However, I am told by experts in traditional Chinese medicine that frankincense and myrrh bind bones. They are resins which help bone binding and encourage the healing process.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have to say that this is very interesting. I have listened to the hon. Gentleman speak in Adjournment debates, and I know that this is a favourite subject of his. However, alternative medicine is not specifically what we are debating in the new clause; we are debating registration. I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to go into detail about the great things that alternative medicine does for people--perhaps another time.
Mr. Tredinnick: I am grateful to you for guiding me back on to the rails, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I will not pursue that line further, other than to say that, in the registration of practitioners and the way in which we regulate, we must bear in mind that there is often no clear distinction between the various therapies because they are used in combination. That is a fundamental issue which relates to the new clause that I wish to deal with in a moment.
Before I do that--and I hope it is in order--I wish to refer to the Select Committee in the other place. I think that I am allowed to call it the House of Lords, nowadays. You would have called me to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I had called it anything other than the other place not long ago, and I am nervous because I do not want to be told that I am out of order.
In any event, the Select Committee on Science and Technology in the other place is currently considering complementary and alternative medicine and will soon produce its report. One of the issues that the Committee had to address was what is complementary or alternative medicine. That is germane to this debate on registration and regulation. What exactly are we regulating?
In 1976, I damaged my back in an accident and turned to a chiropractor, but I did not tell my GP. If I had done so, I would certainly have been ruled out of order. He would have told me that he would not treat me any more. That is how serious such matters were--it would have been the equivalent of suspension. However, under subsequent legislation--including the Osteopaths Act 1993 promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss)--such therapies are regulated by statute. A person falsely claiming to be an osteopath commits a criminal offence and could incur a heavy penalty.
Mr. Tredinnick: My hon. Friend may be treading on politically incorrect ground by talking about stringing things together with catgut. As I am afraid of being called to order, I shall not pursue that point, if he will forgive me.
I have lost my place in my speech. When that happened to me some years ago, one of my hon. Friends helpfully intervened to remind me of what I had been saying. None of my hon. Friends is rising to do that. It is a bitter disappointment.