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Mr. Swayne: The hon. Gentleman is a physician. He is discussing complementary therapies, which are also competing therapies. Does he admit that if such therapies are to be regulated, that must be achieved without the influence of their competitors--physicians such as himself--affecting that regulation?

Dr. Brand: That is very difficult intervention to answer. I do not regard looking after people as a competitive event. I am always delighted when someone else can do it better than I can, because it means that they will have the hassle, not me--and the same is probably true of most of my colleagues. I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman has made a valid point.

The Prince of Wales's think tank produced an excellent paper, "Integrated Medicine", and I was present at its initial launch at St. James's Palace. The only therapies mentioned during that event, and those that formed the substance of the opus itself, were acupuncture, manipulative medicine, homoeopathy and hydrotherapy. That is not surprising, given that those four disciplines are well established: a body of work has been produced that shows that they have an effect and that, when handled responsibly, they are safe--in fact, far safer that some of the things that bog-standard medicine gets up to.

Incidentally, as the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) says, acupuncturists, osteopaths and chiropractors are all adopting the PAMs--professions allied to medicine--route, whereby they become

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registered and gain protection of title. They tend to be insured, and the insurance company will ensure that they have a certain competence.

My problem is with the phrasing of new clause 7, because its definition of an alternative or complementary therapist is someone who is

and so on. That basically means that anyone who says "I can make you better" becomes an alternative or complementary therapeutic specialist, and subsection (2) provides that the commission "shall maintain" such a person on a register--there is no condition attached. If I said that a Mars bar a day helped you work, rest and play, that would constitute a claim to offer better health, so I would be able to go to the commission and say that I wanted to be registered as a Mars bar therapist. The commission could do nothing about that. Under the new clause, it would have to register me. Subsection (3) states:

so presumably the Secretary of State has an option whether I make the claim by post or turn up in person to demonstrate the size of my Mars bar.

12.15 am

We have a well-meaning attempt to introduce a measure of consumer protection where people are at risk of being ripped off or emotionally and physically abused, which does happen, with little sanction other than in criminal law or under trading standards. There should be a more established way in which some of the alternative therapies could be recognised as mainstream. We have already seen that with some of the manipulative interventions, and I have no doubt that others will follow suit.

We have had an in-depth and entertaining debate, which has taken us into the next day, but the new clause does not meet the requirements of the Bill, and I shall be surprised if the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) pursues it.

Mr. Swayne: I shall confine myself exclusively to the new clause and avoid the wide-ranging analysis of the complementary therapies that my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) drew to our attention. I mean no criticism--I found his exposition fascinating--I simply do not have the breadth of knowledge to comment on the areas on which he touched.

I am not hostile to these therapies. The key issue is whether the therapies will be improved by being regulated under the new clause. I took my son to an osteopath after a diagnosis that he needed grommets, and his head was manipulated. The hearing test was subsequently repeated by a conventional ear, nose and throat consultant, and--lo and behold--grommets were no longer necessary. So I have every confidence that many of these therapies work. The issue is entirely whether they will be assisted by the new clause.

My hon. Friend was eloquent in pointing out how these therapies have grown in status and extent during recent years. But that has happened without the benefit of the new clause, by which he laid so much store. I do not see

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by what process the new clause would make matters so much better. When he told us of the acupressure available in the Palace of Westminster, I asked what it was and how it would be changed by and benefit from the regulations specified in the new clause. Interestingly, he answered only the first part of the question. He told me what it was; he did not go on to expand on how it would be improved or changed by the regulation to which he drew attention.

Mr. Tredinnick: I should have said that this type of acupressure adjusts the meridians, which are the energy lines in the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine there are a number of meridians. They are like different pulses. A traditional Chinese medical practitioner would take a range of different pulses. Through the massage of the feet--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The hon. Gentleman is going into far too much detail, and away from the substance of the new clause. I cannot permit further discussion down that line.

Mr. Swayne: My hon. Friend has helped us enormously. The new clause provides an overarching regulatory framework for all those therapies. He has just described a therapy that does not lend itself in any way to the regulation of technique or of description, as specified in the new clause. The description that we have just heard is testimony to the fact that the therapies cover a wide range. We were told earlier of crystal therapy, whatever that might be.

The idea that such vastly disparate therapies could be covered by the same regulatory framework, as specified in the clause, is manifest nonsense. They are a consequence of very different life styles and religious backgrounds. I do not believe that they lend themselves to regulation in any way.

If we attend to the clause in some depth--I promise to be brief, as I see that some hon. Members are enjoining me to be so--we see that subsection (1) outlines the therapies that will be covered by the new provision. As the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Dr. Brand) pointed out, it is extremely widely drawn. That subsection would encompass the healing ministry of evangelical priests. They would be included as healing practitioners.

Of course, alternative or complementary medicine derives part of its attraction from being precisely that: alternative. Much of its attraction might be jeopardised by bringing it into the medical establishment by such overarching regulation as is outlined in the new clause.

Subsection (3) states:

that seems innocuous enough and entirely proper, but it continues:

The Secretary of State will determine how applications for registration are to be determined--by what test, criteria or validity. We have just heard my hon. Friend's exposition about energies, crystals and all the rest. How on earth is the Secretary of State to draw up regulations to govern such things?

Subsection (4)(a) refers to

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The description that we heard was alternative enough. I listened to an exposition of what the osteopath had done to my child. I accept entirely that what he did worked, and that, as the Prime Minister says, what is right is what works--but the description was utter mumbo-jumbo. One might as well try to regulate witchcraft.

The fact is that the descriptions defy regulation. It is nonsense to provide the Secretary of State with a power to determine what the description should be and what is acceptable.

Mr. Tredinnick: May I ask my hon. Friend to put away his box of matches for a moment? I support what he said earlier about grommets. There is a well-documented case of a child being given one dose of a homoeopathic medicine and having the problem solved.

Mr. Swayne: I understand that. I do not dispute for a moment the effectiveness of alternative treatments. I know that they are effective. I have had experience of them in my own family, What I question is whether the Secretary of State is competent to regulate them in his capacity under the clause. The point is absolutely clear. Subsection (4)(c) refers to

It is not up to the Secretary of State to determine how therapies should be applied. In fact, having given his exposition on the therapies, my hon. Friend hit the nail on the head. He said that he supported the new clause, but came round at the end to saying, extremely lucidly, that regulation should not be as described in the clause, but should be self-regulation. That is what he said, and it is entirely proper.

Therapists should regulate themselves. I do not believe that an acupressurist could in any way regulate an acupuncturist. They are clearly separate therapies with quite different philosophies. They do not lend themselves to the sort of regulation outlined in the new clause.

Subsection (4)(d) contains an absolutely extraordinary provision, allowing for

If I were the Minister, I should leap at that with alacrity. Just think of the power being ceded to Ministers. I look to my own Front-Bench spokesmen for some explanation of the justification for giving Ministers such enormous powers.

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