Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Amendment (No. 3) Order 2000

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Mr. Luff: Did the Minister say 90 per cent?

Yvette Cooper: The information that I have been given comes from a survey carried out by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain which found that more than 90 per cent.of the community pharmacies surveyed had an area where advice could be given out of earshot of other customers.

The application from the company to change the legal status of this product has gone through all the proper procedures; it has been assessed by all the proper bodies, as safe and effective. It is a very sensible public health measure that improves women's access to a product that they want and need from time to time and that they should be able to get. The order will make it easier for them to do so, should they choose to buy the product through the pharmacies. Ultimately, it is their choice, but it will provide a way to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

It is important that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's guidance is properly followed and it will be the society's responsibility to ensure that the measure is implemented effectively. We should accept the order and accept that it is sensible in terms of public health and sensible for women right across this country as well.

5.19 pm

Dr. Fox: We have had a useful debate. I reiterate that the debate is not about whether EHC should be available, nor about its moral legitimacy. Those are not considerations to be taken into account in this order. We are debating the practicality of it being available over the counter, in the way proposed by the Government.

I have great respect for the hon. Member for Richmond Park and for her experience of these issues. She will, of course, recognise that there is a legitimate counter view to her own, but I in no way doubt her sincerity and the value of her experience in bringing her argument to the Committee.

I must tell the hon. Member for Romsey that we are not casting doubt in any way, shape or form about the ability of pharmacists to perform their trained duty. There is a question about the training they receive, and we have already had examples of where they have not carried out in practice what they should have, and that, of course, needs investigation. I must take complete exception to the idea that this is a frivolous debate. I would say most soberly to the hon. Lady, that it is the role of the House of Commons to debate issues where there are controversial elements. As Members of Parliament, it is our job to ensure that those views are heard inside the House, on behalf of those who have concerns outside and cannot express them themselves. Perhaps, when she has been in the House a little longer, she will give more weight to that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire's point about whether the Government are inadvertently giving the wrong message about the need for barrier contraception and the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted disease needs to be considered. If the Government proceed with this order, I hope that they find ways to strengthen the message in any advice that is given in guidelines to pharmacists, to ensure that greater emphasis is placed on that.

It would be a great pity if the order, which the Government want to see in place, were to have the opposite result to that which they seek in terms of public health policy and sexual health. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind in future guidelines.

Question put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 9, Noes 3.

Division No. 1]

Benn, Mr. Hilary
Cooper, Yvette
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Maria
Fisher, Mr. Mark
Gidley, Sandra
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Jamieson, Mr. David
Tonge, Dr. Jenny

Fox, Dr. Liam
Luff, Mr. Peter
Swayne, Mr. Desmond

Question accordingly agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Amendment (No. 3) Order 2000 (S.I. 2000, No. 3231).

        Committee rose at twenty-three minutes past Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Chairman)
Benn, Mr. Hilary
Cooper, Yvette
Drew, Mr.
Eagle, Maria
Fisher, Mr.
Fox, Dr.
Gidley, Sandra
Henderson, Mr.
Jamieson, Mr.
Luff, Mr.
Swayne, Mr.
Tonge, Dr.

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