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Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1961

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6.

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will, under Section 4 (4) of the Television Act, 1954, so amend the Second Schedule to the Act as to provide that no advertisement for proprietary medicines and drugs shall be permitted unless its form and content have been approved by an advisory panel set up after consultation with himself and the Medical Research Council.

No, Sir. The I.T.A. informs me that expert medical advice is now being obtained on all advertisements for proprietary medicines and drugs before they are put on television.

Is the right hon. Gentleman correct in saying that the advice which the Independent Television Authority receives is medical advice? Is it not a fact that only one doctor, who, I understand, has not a great deal of experience of research in this field, is on its advisory committee? Is not this a case where asking the commercial interests to police their own advertisements is like asking Satan to rebuke sin? Will the Minister bear in mind that he has some responsibility in the matter and the authority to act?

Yes, I have some responsibility, and I think I am carrying it out. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is quite right in what he says. There are two checks against misleading medical advertisements now. The first is the Authority's advertising advisory committee which advises both the I.T.A. and the programme companies on standards for the advertising of medicines. There is now also a panel of medical advisers to the programme companies as such, and that panel, I emphasise, includes no advertisers at all. All proprietary medicine advertisements are now being referred to that panel. As a result, one or two advertisements have already left the television screen. I think the position is satisfactory.