First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Wednesday 13 December 1989



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The Committee consisted of the following Members:


Arnold, Mr. Jacques (Gravesham)

Bermingham, Mr. Gerald (St. Helens, South)

Burt, Mr. Alistair (Bury, North)

Dunn, Mr. Bob (Dartford)

Field, Mr. Barry (Isle of Wight)

Gordon, Ms. Mildred (Bow and Poplar)

Gorman, Mrs. Teresa (Billericay)

Hoey, Miss Kate (Vauxhall)

Home Robertson, Mr. John (East Lothian)

Jack, Mr. Michael (Fylde)

Livsey, Mr. Richard (Brecon and Radnor)

Maclean, Mr. David (Parliamentary-Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Morley, Mr. Elliot (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

Raffan, Mr. Keith (Delyn)

Sackville, Mr. Tom (Bolton, West)

Shepherd, Mr. Colin (Hereford)

Thornton, Mr. Malcom (Crosby)

Ward, Mr. John (Poole)

Williams, Mr. Alan W. (Carmarthen)

Ms. E. C. Samson Committee Clerk

3 First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 13 December 1989

[MR. TED LEADBITTER in the Chair]


10.30 am

THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD (Mr David Maclean): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Medicines (Intermediate Medicated Fedding Stuffs) Order 1989. The order is part of a routine package of controls on medicated feeding stuffs. The package has been developed and implemented in stages since the early 1980s, when it became evident that the existing legislation was open to abuse and did not adequately implement existing or proposed European Community controls. The order is the only one that is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, which is why it is before the Committee. A further seven statutory instruments, which will be adopted by negative resolution, will come into force on 1 January 1990. The Committee will recognise that the responsible use of medicated feeding stuffs is an important feature of modern livestock husbandry. It can significantly benefit animal welfare and the safety and quality of animal produce for consumers. However, we need to ensure that all those concerned in the manufacturing, distribution, incorporation and use of these products accept responsibility. Since 1985 we have progressively introduced tighter controls on medicines that can be incorporated into feed, and a registration system for manufacturers of medicated feeding stuffs. Our purpose in the package is to build on those measures by ensuring that medicinal additives and intermediate medicated feeding stuffs are available only to registered manufacturers, and by requiring merchants dealing in intermediate medicated feeds to be registered and to observe certain conditions. We shall limit incorporation to medicinal products that have been licensed as feed additives, and we shall make a number of minor improvements to the controls. The order, which is made under section 130(3A) of the Medicines Act 1968, will enable us to achieve the same control over the distribution of intermediate medicated feeding stuffs as over medicinal feed additives. Why should we do that? The basis for control of medicines in the United Kingdom is the licensing system under the Medicines Act. That ensures that products are not put on the market until we are satisfied that they work, that they are of appropriate quality with not undesirable contaminants and, above all, that they are safe. "Safe" in the context of veterinary medicine means that it is safe for 4 the animal, for the environment, for anyone who may come into contact with the product and for the consumer of animal produce.

The Chairman: Is it safe for Members of Parliament?

Mr. Maclean: Absolutely.

10.33 am

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian): The Ministers speech was inspiring and stirring. I am grateful to him for the way in which he presented the statutory instrument. This is one of those happy occasions when there can be almost total unanimity, which is just as well for at the moment I have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) and no one else. There must be total support for the application of proper controls on the availability and distribution of medicines and intermediate medicines. The Minister mercifully did not tell us the difference between medicines and intermediate medicines. People in this county are worried about medicinal products being incorporated into animal feed. That practice should be restricted wherever possible, not least because the general use of medicinal products in agricultural feeding stuffs raises the risk of promoting the proliferation of strains of micro-organisms resistant to such medicines. We welcome the fact that the Government are taking steps of control such activities. I am alarmed to hear that there will shortly be a further seven statutory instruments. We shall consider praying against them if we believe that there is a need to debate the narrow points that they raise. Once again we should thank our comrades in the European Community for ensuring that the British Government come into line.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight): My hon. Friend the Minister did not mention the fact that some antibiotics, for reasons that are not understood, act as growth promoters. Will he confirm that there is no intention under the order to license therapeutic antibiotics for inclusion in animal feed?

10.36 am

Mr. Maclean: It would be churlish if I did not respond to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and thank him for his support of the order. I hope that when the Opposition have had a chance to consider the seven statutory instruments that will be laid under the negative resolution procedure, they will conclude that they are as sensible and as good at protecting consumer and animal welfare interests as this statutory instrument, and that they will decide not to pray against them. I could give the Committee a technical explanation of the difference between medicines and intermediate medicines, but I do not propose to do so. We-have intermediates because medicines come in small amounts and if they have to be used in feeding stuffs they are difficult to measure precisely. With intermediates, precise amounts of medicine are mixed into a limited quantity of animal feeding stuff under strict scientific measuring arrangements. It is easier to mix that intermediate feeding stuff in with larger quantities of animal feeding stuffs. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) that that has no connection with any proposal to authorise hormones for use. As he knows, under EC rules, hormone growth promoters are illegal.


Mr. Field: Does my hon. Friend accept that some antibiotics, for reasons that are unknown to us, promote growth in poultry and pigs?

Mr. Maclean: Only in the sense that if a sick animal is given an antibiotic for therapeutic reasons, its health improves and it may put on weight, as we all do when we are on a course of antibiotics. My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight should not see anything sinister in that because it is not an excuse to license hormones for growth promotion.

Mr. Home Robertson: The Minister is being less than fair to the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field), who is not talking about hormones but about antibiotics and medicines, which is what the Minister is supposed to be talking about. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight referred to the fact that some such medicines can be incorporated into feed for the economic rather than the therapeutic purpose of causing animals to put on more weight. Many people are very unhappy about such practices. If antibiotics get into the foodchain through such general usage they can undermine the effectiveness of antibiotics used not only as veterinary medicines but as medicines for human beings. That practice should be discouraged, restricted and controlled as effectively as possible.

Mr. Barry: That was precisely my point.


Mr. Maclean: I am sorry if I was unfair to my hon. Friend. I accept the point that he made. Antibiotics are licensed for use as growth promoters, but they should not be confused with therapeutic antibiotics. The safety assessment, which is part of the normal rigorous licensing system, takes into account the potential risk to humans. The order deals with the general controls on how medicated feeding stuffs are kept, controlled and used once they have been licensed. There are two separate questions: the first is about our strict licensing system, and the second, which the order deals with, is about the practical use and abuse of medicated intermediate feeding stuffs that have been licensed for use. We have had a good discussion this morning—a perfect Committee on a statutory instrument in the run up to Christmas—with excellent chairmanship. It has taken only 11 minutes. I commend the order to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved. That the Committee has considered the draft Medicines (Intermediate Medicated Feeding Stuffs) Order 1989.

Committee rose at nine minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Leadbitter, Mr. Ted (Chairman)

Arnold, Mr. Jacques

Burt, Mr.

Field, Mr. Barry

Hoey, Miss

Home Robertson, Mr.

Jack, Mr.

Maclean, Mr.

Raffan, Mr.

Sackville, Mr.

Shepherd, Mr. Colin

Thornton, Mr.

Ward, Mr.