Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Lansley: If we are going to break the consensus, I shall ask the Minister this question. The Prime Minister at one point pledged that 1.5 per cent. of the NHS budget would be devoted to research and development. When will that happen?

Mr. Byrne: I am sorry to see that the consensus has collapsed as quickly as a soufflé. I do not have the precise figures on research and development in front of me, but I shall be delighted to write to the hon. Gentleman with the details of NHS research and development. It is an issue of great importance not only to the NHS, but to the country, which is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced such bold proposals to increase funding in that area by, potentially, more than £1 billion over the next few years.

Mr. Lansley rose—

Mr. Byrne: No, I must conclude, because I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley is waiting to respond to the debate.

It is important that the relationship between the health service, the Government and the pharmaceutical industry is transparent. It is also important that continued investment goes into new drugs. Those drugs will be vital as we put record investment into the NHS over the next two or three years so that we can continue to make the advances that we have made in the battle against big killer diseases.

4.53 pm

Mr. Barron May I first say to the House—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The right hon. Gentleman should ask for the leave of the House to reply to the debate.

Mr. Barron: With the leave of the House, I wish to reply to the debate. I thought that the Whips had more influence on the debate than they have.
8 Dec 2005 : Column 1074

It was remiss of me not to say that the report was brought together and put before the House under the chairmanship of David Hinchliffe. Many hon. Members have said what I should have said at the beginning, but I shall say it now. David was a well-respected Chair of the Health Committee and I hope to be as helpful to the House and, on occasions, to our Front Benchers, as he was. I agreed earlier today to have lunch with David before Christmas and I will pass on everybody's good wishes, as well as a copy of Hansard to digest along with his turkey and whatever else he has at Christmas.

I thank the hon. Members for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) and for Wyre Forest (Dr. Taylor) who went to Australia on behalf of the Committee. They have been to Dublin with me, which may be a reflection on me as Chairman. They took part in a long investigation and I am pleased that they have been here this afternoon.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) mentioned all-party groups. Had this debate taken place six weeks ago, I would have had to declare that I was the chairman of the all-party group on the pharmaceutical industry, which I was for eight years. I gave that up because of the position I now hold, although I will remain a member.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West will know that the ABPI provides the secretariat of the all-party group. In all the years that I have had dealings with the ABPI, I never thought that it was trying to get me to come here and argue its case. If that is what it was after, it failed quite miserably in many areas. But over the years it has given me, and many other hon. Members of this House and the other place, the opportunity to discuss issues relating to the industry, whether animal testing or any of the other things that have happened. We were able to question it and the professionals involved on issues related to what is, and will always remain, I hope, a very important sector of the British economy and an industry that looks after the health of many hundreds of thousands of people.

Over many years, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said, the ABPI has played a key role between different Governments and the pharmaceutical industry, making sure that the industry remains a healthy part of the economy and at the forefront of European research and development.

Mr. Lansley: Doctors attend many industry-sponsored conferences, meetings, dinners and events, including those supported by drugs companies. Their integrity is no less than ours and my experience is that they are not in the least affected by who their sponsor or supporter might be.

Mr. Barron: That is my experience as well.

I declared that I am a lay member of the General Medical Council, the regulatory body for doctors. I was at the GMC on Tuesday on Euston road and had an exchange of letters with the chief executive about this debate. I was not able to have a long discussion with him, but he wrote to me on the recommendation to keep a register of members' interests, for want of a better expression.
8 Dec 2005 : Column 1075

There are about 230,000 doctors registered with the GMC and we think that about 130,000 have an active role. Many have retired but remain on the register, as that was a big part of their professional career and they would like to keep their names on the register. The chief executive, Finlay Scott, said that the GMC as a regulatory body—unlike the Royal College of Nursing, which is a membership association, or trade union, for want of a better expression, without the GMC's statute—lays down conditions under which doctors have to work.

The publication "Good Medical Practice"—often described as the doctors' bible—clearly states what doctors should and should not be doing. The chief executive reiterated the section to me:

If doctors breach those rules, they go before a fitness to practice committee, with the likelihood of action being taken against them—they could even be struck off the medical register—but that has not happened during my six years' experience of serving on the GMC.

The new ABPI code of conduct has been mentioned. The ABPI is a trade organisation that works well with the Government, but it is not a statutory body and therefore cannot issue statutory codes. Given all that is said about Members of Parliament enjoying BA upgrades, kettles calling pots black come into mind, so I shall move on from that because a lot has been said about patient safety and drug efficacy that does not hold water.

I shall briefly deal with what the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) said about the PPRS. Paragraphs 113 to 120 of the report explain in reasonable detail what the PPRS does. That is the most transparent translation of the PPRS that I have seen in over a decade of being involved in one way or another in the House with the pharmaceutical industry. We have gone about as far as we can go with the PPRS. If we were to make it totally transparent, the companies would be looking over their shoulders asking why one of them receives more on one scale and less on another than the others.

The PPRS is not the most transparent scheme and it is not a statutory one. The Government and the industry sit down together, and they have recently reached another decision that will benefit the NHS, inasmuch as they agreed that more money will come from it. I am not tempted by the suggestion to take a further look at the PPRS that was made by the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire. I may have to be tempted by members of the Committee if they decide that we should take a further look at it. However, making the scheme more transparent would probably destroy something that no one argues is detrimental to their case. I have spent a decade visiting pharmaceutical companies and having dialogue with them, and I have never yet met anyone with any weight in the pharmaceutical industry debate who says that we should get rid of the PPRS.
8 Dec 2005 : Column 1076

Mr. Lansley: I have not suggested getting rid of the PPRS either, but irrespective of whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks that there should be greater openness about the PPRS, frankly, the Office of Fair Trading will ensure that that happens. I was particularly concerned about the fact that past experience has demonstrated that the OFT will do a thorough job on the competition aspects, but it is very important that the Department of Health, the House or somebody thinks very hard about the NHS aspects.

Mr. Barron: If the OFT drives that, it will happen. The report suggested that the Department of Trade and Industry, not the Department of Health, should be the sponsoring Government organisation, but the Government did not agree with that either. I have some sympathy with the Government's response, because we get a lot more via the PPRS than we would if accountants considered the industry on the basis of how many pounds it is worth to the United Kingdom. The OFT may take us down that road, but we will have to wait and see. If it does so and the Government respond, the Health Committee will consider what should replace the scheme, but it has great benefits.

I visited Pfizer about 10 years ago and was shown the big second phase of its research and development in the UK. The company beat off Pacific rim institutions to bring that work to this country. We chatted about the UK's science base and what our universities were delivering at that time. Why did Pfizer want to come to this country and invest such massive amounts of money, especially on the north Kent coast? It is not the most attractive place on earth. Apologies to the people who live there—they would probably think the same about my home town. There are reasons why the UK has been so successful—as successful, if not more so, than most European countries—in attracting inward investment for research and development over recent decades and the PPRS has something to do with it, although what is happening with the OFT may overturn that.

Some people argue that the scheme is wrong. People who are not aware of the full R and D picture might think that small manufacturers, for example, would be better off without the PPRS, but I think that it is of great benefit. It is no coincidence that the pharmaceutical sector is the third largest in our economy. We shall see what the future brings, but that is my feeling at present. As well as the PPRS, the industry has much wider engagement with the Government.

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for what he said about the contributions to the debate. Like other Members, I pointed out the numerous aspects of the pharmaceutical sector on which the Health Committee will keep a watching brief over years to come. We shall also look at the Government's responses.

The debate has not been well attended, but the quality of the contributions and the knowledge of the participants on both sides of the House has been excellent. It shows the House and, I hope, the Executive what the Select Committee system can do to assist us in our deliberations on behalf of the nation. Parliament and the Executive can work closely together and Parliament can advise the Executive through the work of Select Committees. I hope that my hon. Friend's
8 Dec 2005 : Column 1077
positive approach to some aspects of the debate will extend to the Select Committee's reports and recommendations in the not too distant future.

Debate concluded; Question deferred until Six o'clock, pursuant to Standing Order No. 54 (Consideration of estimates).

5.7 pm

Sitting suspended.

6 pm

On resuming—

It being Six o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker proceeded to put forthwith the deferred Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 54 (Consideration of estimates).

Next Section IndexHome Page