Manufacture, marketing and supply

Part of Medicines and Medical Devices Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:15 pm ar 8 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) 4:15, 8 Mehefin 2020

I beg to move amendment 16, in clause 13, page 8, line 22, at end insert—

“(1A) In making regulations under section 12(1), the Secretary of State must evaluate the extent to which the market is meeting medical need.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to ensure that the market in devices is keeping pace with the UK’s medical needs.

This is the very nub of the Bill, and of the process of leaving the European Union and transitioning away from the relationship with it. That bears some important consideration, because presumably one does not leave unless one intends to do something differently; otherwise it would not be worth it. What is not clear is whether we intend to do something differently across all pieces, or whether that just happens inevitably over time because others choose to do something within this topic area and we, by default, do not and we start to diverge.

We could make this argument for medicines, but I have restricted it to medical devices because I think it only needs to be discussed once, and it is more easily conceivable and easier for me to explain my case when we talk about medical devices. I wrenched my wrist a few weeks ago, so I went to find some wrist support. I was thinking about it in this context, because I was starting my prep for the Bill, and it is striking how I started to see things on the box that perhaps I would not previously have seen or was not looking for, about all the different codes and regulations. The schedules to the Bill have a whole litany of them, and every medical device has some configuration of them on there.

In the future that will change, or at least the Secretary of State will be able to make that change. He can make it more complicated, much easier or more onerous, depending on our perspective; but it is almost inevitable, if only by the passage of time, that it will diverge from our friends on the continent. At that point, we create a market force. We know that companies developing medical devices will now have to make a choice about how they span the two markets. Of course, these issues have had hundreds of hours of parliamentary time, so I do not intend to rehash them much further, but I think there is a legitimate anxiety about the risk—and there must be a risk—that manufacturers prioritise the EU market over us and therefore we are behind in the queue and cannot get access to meet medical need.

The purpose of amendment 16 is to be clear about that, because that will give us a chance to do something about it as a Parliament, and for the Government it will act as a call to action. The amendment asks the Secretary of State to keep the matter under constant evaluation. I am perhaps willing to take the point that any responsible Secretary of State would do so anyway, but I would like to hear that it will be uppermost in the Government’s mind.

The changes we make are driven by the things we have talked about, which we see repeated for a third time under medical devices: safety, availability and attractiveness. We understand that, but because those changes could be very small, there could be a butterfly effect where we change something on a leaflet, or a badge that has to go on a box, and thus create a “Sliding Doors” moment where we start to diverge in different places. Then there will be a choice, and manufacturers will have to try to work out whether they prioritise bigger markets or smaller ones, or try to do something that pleases everybody.

I would be interested to know what conversations have happened with manufacturers and what lobbying of Government they have done about the sort of regime they want, because that is the substance of this Bill. The Bill remains a blank canvas for Ministers to paint on later; we are taking a leap of faith with Ministers here, and that is why we have sought to restrict that. It is worth understanding this, because it is one of the most profound implications of the Bill, and I am keen to know from the Minister how it has been mitigated and, importantly, how, and how actively, it is being considered.