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Chris Grayling: How does the hon. Gentleman think that each individual company will decide whether it should be the one that submits the dossier for the whole of Europe? How would it decide whether it should take on the cost itself rather than waiting and hoping that another company will do it?

Tom Levitt: I appreciate that commercial issues will be involved. However, organisations, such as the Health Food Manufacturers Association, speak for the industry as a whole, and I hope that there will be European equivalents. If there is openness and we can tell what dossiers have been submitted and if the Government know what dossiers are in the pipeline, it should not be too difficult for companies to make such decisions.

Six minerals do not yet qualify subject to the evidence of their being safe, but they still could qualify if the dossiers are submitted even prior to the evidence in them being fully taken on board by the European Food Safety Authority. Those minerals are vanadium, tin, cobalt, silicon, boron and nickel. The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) told the House that vanadium plays a role in fighting diabetes, but I had no knowledge of that. I have taught diet and nutrition and I remember studying invertebrates at A-level and learning that only sea squirts had a biological use for vanadium. They have it in their blood. At that time, there was no other known biological function for vanadium. Similarly tin has no known biological function. Cobalt is included on the list, but it forms part of vitamin B12. Cobalt will obviously not be banned, because vitamin B12 is allowed. Silicon, boron and nickel are trace elements that are required in the diet, but there are no recorded cases of deficiencies in them. They occur naturally in sufficient trace quantities in the diet for them to be effective as trace minerals.

Dr. Pugh: I am a former teacher, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not mind me making this point and I am sure that he will be happy to answer me. He used two expressions when he spoke about what needed to be proved about an acceptable mineral or nutrient. He said that they must show no evidence of harm and evidence of safety. Are they the same things? Or once one has proved no evidence of harm, does one then need to prove evidence of safety?

Tom Levitt: The Minister outlined what the dossiers were for and what they would have to prove. I am sure that the detail is much better known by the industry than it is by me.

The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell put his finger on what the issue is all about. He talked about people believing that these products did them good. I think that
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we are talking about an element of faith healing and a placebo effect. I do not criticise or condemn alternative therapies, but healing or health care based on belief rather than scientific evidence is a dangerous path to go down. I am not against people taking supplements, but I am against people making claims for them that cannot be justified.

In my time, I have had reflexology, and I do not understand how that works. I have had treatment from a chiropractor—I do understand how that works—and homeopathy. Some of the elements and minerals that we are talking about occur in such small quantities that we are almost talking homeopathic quantities. Large doses are exactly what people do not want. I was particularly interested in the intervention by the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) when he said that he had taken zinc. It clearly galvanised him into action—a scientific joke for the House.

When many of these products are in the diet to excess, they simply pass through the body and are excreted at the other end. They clearly do not perform a particularly useful function, especially in respect of the fact that people have spent their money on them. However, other products are retained in the body. For example, if carotene is taken in excess as a vitamin, it can cause discolouration of the skin and other well understood effects.

The people who have the most to gain from greater sales of greater quantities of higher doses of the supplements are the manufacturers. It is like the mustard principle, because the bit left aside that does no good—the excess consumed—generates profits for the industry. I am not against people making profits, and more profit will be made when the products are sold to a larger market, which will be possible under the commonality of the rules that will apply throughout the European Union. However, we must ensure that there is no medical risk from the products, which is why the precautionary principle is right, and that we base our recommendations to people on daily doses of vitamins, for example, on well established scientific principles. Although I do not accuse everyone in the field or every supporter of this, an element of mumbo-jumbo is involved in the belief element of the way in which the products work, which can be dangerous in certain circumstances.

Having considered the Opposition motion, I read the Government amendment. It talks about products being

It refers to

and hon. Members should bear in mind that the current list is not exhaustive, or the end of the story. It says that:

Reopening negotiations would not only lead us down a legally dicey path, but could risk making the effect of the regulations more restrictive, as the amendment says. Having considered the motion and the amendment in great detail, I have no hesitation in plumping—would you believe it, Mr. Deputy Speaker—for the Government amendment.
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6.16 pm

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): I declare a past interest because during the 1970s, I was involved in the field of complementary and alternative medicine as a lawyer. In about 1973, the acupuncturists came to see me, and I later discovered that there was a vast amount of discrimination against chiropractors, homeopaths and others in such fields. In those days, it was contrary to the rules of professional ethics of the General Medical Council for a doctor to refer to an osteopath. One can thus gauge the extent of the changes that have taken place, because many doctors today practise therapies that are generally described as complementary medicine. I am sure that most people think that that is beneficial and advantageous. Indeed, if we go back to the time of the Medical Act of 1853—I think—people who went on to the medical register, if there was such a thing, had virtually no qualifications of any description, so I think that we have made enormous progress.

I was slightly worried when the hon. Member for High Peak (Tom Levitt) said that everything would be done in accordance with well established scientific principles. I am an administrative lawyer, among other things, which is why I intervened on the Minister to ask how decisions will be arrived at. When such scientific decisions—they are well outside my knowledge—are taken, we need to ensure that that is done properly. Nevertheless, there is great prejudice and bias against many aspects of the field, which is reflected by what I discovered regarding osteopaths in the 1970s and what I know from having been extremely closely professionally involved with it for many years, although I am not now.

In the 1980s, the British Medical Association attempted to ban alternative medicine, and was supported by the medical profession at the time. The response from 150 Members of Parliament put an end to that sort of virulent opposition to complementary and alternative medicine. It seems to me, on the balance of the evidence—looking at the experience of my constituents and of people I know who have benefited—that a great deal of good has come from alternative medicine.

Having said that, I ask again: how do the "difficult" nutrients get on to the positive list? By "difficult" nutrients, I mean those that are causing disputes between the various parties. That question has not yet been clearly answered. The EFSA has its own procedures and mechanisms and the point that I have been probing, but on which I have not yet received a reply, is that there appears to be a considerable body of opinion among the advisory councils that tends to be less than objective in arriving at decisions. It is important that we know who makes appointments to those bodies, the principles on which they operate, whether they are entirely devoid of conflicts of interest and what decision-making process is used in determining whether a dossier will lead to a ban. I need not enlarge on that point, as I have dealt with it in interventions.

One point that I do not think has been mentioned in the debate—forgive me if it has, Mr. Deputy Speaker—is that today the European Court of Justice is to make a decision on the challenge passed to it by the High Court about a year ago. The case raises some important questions. If the Court decides in favour of the Government and decides that the regulations are effective, what would the Opposition be able to do about
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it if we took a contrary view? On the other hand, what would happen if the decision, based on the arguments advanced in the case, went against the Government and the regulations had to be repealed? The answer to the second question is simple: if the Court decides that a directive and the regulations based on it are defective or ultra vires—whatever grounds it uses—according to the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, that is the end of the matter. However, it is not the end of the matter for the UK Parliament, or for the many thousands of people who want their views to be reflected in the repeal of the regulations.

I was therefore delighted to see the terms of the Conservative motion, because not only does it call for renegotiation of the food supplements directive, but it indicates a willingness to

We could say the same about fisheries and over-regulation. I would argue that we could say the same about the European treaties, as well. The European Union Bill is to be introduced tomorrow. The question I put to the Prime Minister the other day is: what will he do if there is a no vote in the referendum? Will he return to the issue that is before us? Will he do what is necessary to give effect to the will of the British people as expressed either in a referendum or by a vote in the House? That is the crucial democratic question that faces us all in the House and outside it. It happens to arise, as a matter of principle, under the provisions of the measures that we are discussing in the motion. The issue is whether we are able to repeal the regulations if renegotiation does not reach a satisfactory compromise. The short answer is: yes we can.

I do not intend and I do not need to go through all the reasons for that. There will be time enough to consider these matters both in respect of the European Union Bill, which will be presented tomorrow, and also the Constitutional Reform Bill, to which I have tabled some amendments, which is to be discussed in a Committee of the whole House next week.

The fact that we are prepared to state that we would repeal the regulations, if it becomes necessary to do so, is a fundamental constitutional matter that the House, as a whole, must address. It arises, for example, in relation to immigration and asylum. The Minister for Energy and E-Commerce, who is to reply, has a great deal of experience in this area. He knows exactly what I am talking about. There are answers to these questions and there are two bodies of jurisprudence. There is the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice, which is considering this challenge today. It says, under the case of Costa v. ENEL 1964, that the European Court—this is endorsed by another case called Simmentahl—has the right to decide the issue of the superiority or supremacy of legislation in terms of its jurisdiction as against the laws and the constitutions of member states.

On the other hand, we have a tradition, which is based on the fact that Parliament can decide by a subsequent clear and unambiguous enactment passed after the European Communities Act 1972, not only that we can—this is in line with McCarthy's v. Smith involving Lord Denning, and Lord Justice Laws in the Metric Martyrs case—make such provision as we wish but, in addition to that, the judges are under an obligation to
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give effect to that law as passed by Parliament, providing that it is clear and unambiguous. The Factortame case is based on the 1972 Act and, therefore, is within the general rubric of what I have described.

We are dealing, perhaps for the first time, with a serious motion that raises the question of the Conservative party being prepared to go down the route of stating on the Floor of the House, in line with what I have been arguing for the past few years, including when I was in my previous position, that it is open to us to be able to repeal or amend legislation that is inconsistent with that which has arisen from the 1972 Act. I do not need to enlarge on that any further. The importance of what we are discussing cannot be underestimated.

6.28 pm

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