Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Wednesday 2 December 1987



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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Michael J. Martin

Amess, Mr. David (Basildon)

Aspinwall, Mr. Jack (Wansdyke)

Blackburn, Dr. John G. (Dudley, West)

Boyson, Sir Rhodes (Brent, North)

Butterfill, Mr. John (Bournemouth, West)

Clark, Dr. Michael (Rochford)

Clarke, Mr. Tom (Monklands, West)

Currie, Mrs. Edwina (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security)

Dover, Mr. Den (Chorley)

Emery, Sir Peter (Honiton)

Fallon, Mr. Michael (Darlington)

George, Mr. Bruce (Walsall, South)

Gordon, Ms. Mildred (Bow and Poplar)

Griffiths, Mr. Win (Bridgend)

Kirkwood, Mr. Archy (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Lewis, Mr. Terry (Worsley)

Lightbown, Mr. David (Staffordshire, South-East)

McAllion, Mr. John (Dundee, East)

Mr. R. I. S. Phillips, Committee Clerk

3 Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 2 December 1987

[MR. MICHAEL J. MARTIN in the Chair]

Draft Pharmaceutical Qualifications (EEC Recognition) Order 1987

Motion made, and Question proposed.

That the Committee has considered the draft Pharmaceutical Qualifications (EEC Recognition) Order 1987.—[Mrs. Currie.]

10.30 am

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West): I have no desire to detain the Committee unduly, but there are a few questions that I should like to ask the Minister. I shall put the questions first and then, to give her time to think, I shall make one or two observations. Will the Minister tell the Committee how many qualified pharmacists from other parts of Europe are practising in Britain? That would be of interest to us. Can she also tell us how many United Kingdom pharmacists are employed in other EEC countries, because that would be of equal interest? She will understand my reason for asking what is the latest position about Greek derogation. I am sure that the linguistic problems which arise from this statutory instrument and from the Community's thinking are very much in the Government's mind, and it would be interesting to know how they are responding to that. It could cause difficulties if people from overseas who are employed as pharmacists in this country have not mastered the English language to the necessary extent. Over the past 24 hours I have had an opportunity to speak with some hospital pharmacists, and it seems to me that there is something of a crisis in pharmacy in hospitals. In many ways pharmacists in hospitals feel that that arises because of the difference in salaries and in conditions of service between hospital pharmacists and pharmacists in the high street. The Minister will appreciate that given the problems of relatively low pay—all the evidence is that we are not unduly generous in this country towards our pharmacists, especially in comparison with other European countries—there is the danger that we could lose even more hospital pharmacists to European countries. Equally, the comparatively low pay provisions could be exploited—I put is no higher than that—by some EEC states. Perhaps the most unprotected area within the Health Service as regards employment, salaries, conditions of service, and so on is that of hospital pharmacies, and I should like to hear the Minister's response to that. Will the Minister also give us a brief report on the twinning proposals, especially the relationship between ourselves and France and ourselves and the Republic of Ireland?


10.34 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mrs. Edwina Currie): The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) asked about the number of pharmacists from other Common Market countries who are working here and British registered pharmacists who are working in the European Community. The answer to the first part of the question is eight, and the answer to second part is 176. Those answers were set out by my noble Friend the Earl of Arran in a letter dated 25 November to the noble Lord Ennals. As the hon. Gentleman knows, Greece joined the European Community later than some of us, and will have 10 years from the date of joining before it enjoys the full benefits. Meanwhile, it has only the basic right to free movement of workers—that is, employees—under the original treaty. This order and the directive that it implements are concerned with self-employed persons, and it will be some time before Greece is able to catch up with the provisions of the directive. Greece may submit proposals before 1997. However, until it does, Greek pharmacists can function only as employed persons in the pharmacy profession of a member state. They cannot become proprietors of a UK pharmacy. Similarly, British pharmacists, along with pharmacists from other member states, can function only as employed persons in the pharmacy profession in Greece. The rules are set out in article 3 of the directive. As and when Greece makes the appropriate orders, we shall see some improvement. The next question was about linguistic arrangements. Article 4 and article 5 of the order, which amends the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978, are concerned with the linguistic ability of those registered as pharmacists. As in the case of doctors and dentists, it is envisaged that the statutory bodies will be responsible for making arrangements to ascertain that a practitioner has a sufficient knowledge of English. That means that family practitioner committees in England and Wales and health boards in Scotland must satisfy themselves about the linguistic competence of applicants for National Health Service pharmaceutical contracts. I take the hon. Gentleman's point on pharmacists in hospitals. There has been considerable discussion on that as he is probably aware, and a substantial improvement, particularly in the basic grade salaries, was agreed last year. We hope that that will have the beneficial effect that he would like to see. I take the hon. Gentleman's point that the financial circumstances of high street pharmacists have improved dramatically in recent years—I welcome that, as my brother-in-law is one—particularly since the new contract came in, in April this year. We are well aware that maintaining a balance between the two services is difficult, and we have that under review. The hon. Gentleman also asked about the twinning arrangements. I am not quite sure what he is getting at, and I have nothing in my papers on that. If he will permit me, I shall write to him about it.


10.37 am

Mr. Tom Clarke: I thank the hon. Lady for her reply. The twinning arrangements, as I am sure that she will discover, were recommended initially as between ourselves and France, and perhaps in time, as I understand it, there will be an arrangement between ourselves and the Republic of Ireland. But if I have not explained that properly, I am sure that the hon. Lady's brother-in-law will be able to do so.


Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Pharmaceutical Qualifications (EEC Recognition) Order 1987.

Committee rose at twenty-two minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Martin, Mr. Michael J. (Chairman)

Amess, Mr.

Aspinwall, Mr.

Butterfill, Mr.

Clark, Dr. Michael

Clarke, Mr. Tom

Currie, Mrs.

Dover, Mr.

Emery, Sir Peter

Fallon, Mr.

Griffiths, Mr. Win

Lightbown, Mr.

McAllion, Mr.