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Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): I sympathise strongly with my hon. Friend's remarks, although I will not necessarily vote with her tonight. Would she advise me, as a person who takes a lot of supplements, to look out for the ones that are to be banned and stock up with sufficient supplies for the next few years?
Kate Hoey: That is what people who are aware of what is to happen will do, but many more will do what some of us have already had to do to get certain products that have been banneduse the internet. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said, that is leading to huge problems. The implications of the regulations have not been thought through. I am holding up a container of one of the supplements that I takepotassium, which is to be banned. That is potty, if I am allowed to use such a word in the Chamber, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Simon Thomas : The hon. Lady is making a clear and coherent case as to why we should support the motion. As she knows, the name of my hon. Friend the Member for East Carmarthen and Dinefwr (Adam Price) appears alongside her own on the Order Paper in support of the motion. I understand her attitude to Europe, although I somewhat disagree with it. Does she agree that there are two consequences arising from the Government's position? First, whatever position one takes on Europe, the Government, by failing to negotiate on the directive, have helped many people to feel alienated from Europe because certain essentials to their daily lives are being affected by European legislation.
Secondly, most of the public and consumers do not perceive a great threat from some sort of binge vitamin drinking, yet the Government appear to manufacture that threat and are almost scaremongering. That drives people away from abiding by the regulations to the internet and illegal ways of getting hold of supplies. We shall end up with spam messages about nutritional supplements instead of Viagra.
Kate Hoey: If citizens are to have confidence in the European Union, they need to know that our Government and Ministers are at the forefront, hammering away, and are not prepared to take no for an answer on such an important subject.
Miss Melanie Johnson:
I appreciate that my hon. Friend holds a different view on some subjects. However, I hope that she appreciates that I believe that it is a serious matter if she spreads unnecessary anxiety.
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She mentioned potassium; nine sources of it are already on the positive list. How, therefore, can she justify the remark that she made a moment ago?
Kate Hoey: I can justify it by saying that if I have been used to a specific brand of supplement, I should be entitled to continue to use it until someone has proved to me, publicly and scientifically, that it poses a risk. The Minister has yet to come up with one single nutritional supplement on the banned list that has been proved to be unsafe. We keep asking for proof. All we want is some transparency.
Let me read out some brief quotes from people who will be affected by the directive. More and more of those who suffer from myalgic encephalomyelitis find that alternative and complementary medicine is best for them. One person states:
"I have in the past been extremely ill with ME but now fully recovered and am in excellent health. I monitor my state of health very carefully and use a number of natural supplements. I would not only be compromised healthwise if these disappeared from the market I would also be very angry."
People who use complementary medicine have not suddenly gone out to the nearest health food shop and decided, "Oh, I'll try this." They usually think about it carefully. They know what they are doingthey are adults. As other hon. Members have said, it is amazing that we are making it easier to get cannabis and downgrading it and making it easier to go binge drinking, yet the lives of adults who have thought matters through carefully will be made much more difficult.
"The fact that I am still around today, and in healthy condition, is due largely to the regular ingestion of a selection of carefully chosen vitamins, minerals, supplements and herbs, and massive modification to my diet. And no, it wasn't the 'treatment', because I declined it all, except for surgery."
Again, that person has thought the matter through. Perhaps, as the Minister implied, if such people look carefully, they will find a variation of something that is vaguely similar to what they have been taking. However, why should they, when no one has proved that the original supplement is harmful?
Tom Levitt: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. My intervention is relevant to demonstrate that we are not necessarily speaking in the interests of the big drug companies. In some quarters, potassium is believed to promote humility. People should therefore know that bananas constitute one of greatest natural sources of potassium. Perhaps they could be recommended to people.
I repeat: where is the evidence? Can she give us any scientific proof that the products that are to be banned are unsafe? She knows, as do many hon. Members, whether we are sceptical about Europe or very pro-Europe, that this policy is all about harmonisation, and we have ended up losing out because of it.
Mr. Cash: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. She has no doubt studied the manner in which the European Food Safety Authority operates. The cost of the dossiers can be up to £250,000. Does she agree that one of the problems relating to the so-called period of grace is that, after it comes to an end, even the vitamins submitted in the full safety dossier that are not on the positive list will be banned? I am sure that people will want to know on what basis those nutrients would be added to the positive list in the four weeks during August 2005. That will be the crucial moment.
I see the hand of the pharmaceutical industry somewhere in all this. It is very good at lobbying and very involved in Brussels, and it is in its interest not to make a diversity of vitamin supplements easily available in health food shops. We should be worried about that. There is no reason, even at this late stage, why the Government should not negotiate some kind of amending directive that would allow member states to permit domestic market production recognised by the
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Food Standards Agency. If we respect and trust the FSA, why not let it do that job? Those products could then be labelled as safe and appropriate.
I know that the Whips will be whipping the vote later, but I hope that any of my colleagues who are not prepared to vote for the motion will abstain. By doing so, they would show that they have concerns about this issue. We must send out a message today that, as sensible intelligent citizens, we are not prepared to accept unnecessary regulations from Brussels that force businesses to abandon their products for no good reason, and that stop us having a choice.
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