Manufacture, marketing and supply

Part of Medicines and Medical Devices Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:45 pm ar 8 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) 12:45, 8 Mehefin 2020

I am conscious that our carriage will turn into a pumpkin shortly, so I will move with some tempo.

New clause 2 is the Porton Down clause, and the world has changed greatly in the last few months. We now know, in a way we could never have grasped before, how an air-borne virus can lock us up in our homes for months on end, and even longer for many. We also know that what happens on the other side of the world can be with us quickly, and that at times, as with the current coronavirus, there is not much we can do about that.

We ought to reflect on what we are doing at home. We have reached a point where we could have a greater public understanding and scrutiny of the sorts of things being developed in our name by our Government. Porton Down is a world class facility full of incredibly talented people serving our national interest, but we do not know what they do. We get snippets. We know that in the past decade they have experimented on 52,00 animals, which is six times the rate of any other UK lab. I have absolutely no idea whether that is too high, too low, or just right, because we do not know. I am trying to probe the ways in which we can get greater transparency about what potentially life-saving or possibly life-ending products are being developed on our doorstep. If the Minister thinks there are better ways to do that, I am happy to consider those. The drafting does not refer to everything developed in the UK, but things developed by the Government. It is behind closed doors, very secretive, and potentially quite dangerous, so I am keen to know how we might get greater scrutiny.

New clause 4 on antimicrobial resistance is a passion of my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West. It is topical now as we wrestle with a horrendous virus, and I express my solidarity with the Minister and her colleagues on their efforts in doing so. Clearly, microbial organisms can adapt and have an incredible impact, as we are seeing. They can also disrupt much more conventional matters such as the antibiotics that are crucial for transplants and chemotherapy. It is laudable that the Government have a 20-year vision for this, although I hate long strategies. What is done in year one is much more important than what is done in year 20. I know there is a five-year plan sitting behind that, but even that feels too long a time. The new clause gives the opportunity instead for an annual report, which would be an improvement. If that is not the right vehicle, how might we be able to play our role in the conversation around antimicrobial resistance, and how do we get an appropriate period in which to hold the Government to account to ensure that we make progress?