Conservative MPs block drugs Bill

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Indy Politics
A BACKBENCH Bill that would have given patients and doctors rights to information about the safety of medicines was talked to death in the Commons yesterday, writes Anthony Bevins.

Having spent the day watching precious time being eaten up by Tory MPs debating the Sexual Offences Bill in intricate detail, Labour supporters of the Medicines Information Bill accused the Government and the pharmaceutical industry of conspiring to stifle greater openness about medicine licensing.

Giles Radice, the Labour MP who was promoting the Bill, said ministers who had initially favoured the legislation had changed their minds because they wanted to buy off the industry's opposition to limited list prescribing by doctors.

'I accuse the Government of double dealing over this Bill,' he said during the Report Stage. 'I accuse it of collaborating with the industry, and I accuse it of reneging on its open government commitments.'

Tom Sackville, the Under- Secretary of State for Health, said the Government preferred to lead the debate towards greater openness in the EC. If Westminster 'jumped the gun', drugs companies might go elsewhere to market their products.

After his Bill had been 'talked out', Mr Radice said its Tory opponents had concentrated their energies on extending debate on the first Bill of the day.

'In the end, we had little more than 90 minutes for debate and we only got through two amendments. It was a thoroughly disreputable and cynical manipulation of the procedures of the House by an executive that appears determined to thwart any legislation it does not totally support. My Bill had all- party backing, and given a free vote there is no doubt it would have got through.'