To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the proposals not to allow veterinary surgeons to charge for prescriptions over the next three years, within the OFT proposals based on the Competition Commissions inquiry into the supply of prescription only veterinary medicines. 
[holding answer 3 June 2003]: The Competition Commission's reasoning for not allowing veterinary surgeons to charge for prescriptions over the next three years is set out in paragraphs 2.169 to 2.173 of volume I of the report. The Commission stated in the report that if it was concerned simply to establish the correct market price for prescriptions then it might be reasonable to leave vets to set their own prices and then rely on the market. The Commission reasoned that prescription charges have a major impact on competition with pharmacies, as vets are able to set the charges so as to deter clients from asking for prescriptions. In that way, they can influence the terms of competition with pharmacies to their own advantage. The Commission's view is that the three-year period of writing prescriptions at no additional charge is necessary in order to ensure that charges will not deter animal owners from obtaining written prescriptions and making use of pharmacies.
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what organisations were consulted in the Competition Commission's inquiry into the supply of prescription only veterinary medicines. 
Parties who gave evidence during the course of the Competition Commission's inquiry included: manufacturers of veterinary medicines, veterinary wholesalers, veterinary surgeons, pharmacists, veterinary organisations, Government bodies and other interested parties. A full list of those who gave evidence, and details of their evidence can be found in pages 273 to 537 of volume I of the report.
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what discussions she has had with representatives of veterinary practices in Scotland on the impact of the recommendations contained in the Competition Commission's report Veterinary Medicines: a Report on the Supply within the United Kingdom of Prescription-only Veterinary Medicines on rural veterinary practices; 
(2) what discussions she plans to have with the Scottish Executive on the impact of the Competition Commission Report, Veterinary Medicines: a Report on the Supply Within the United Kingdom of Prescription-only Veterinary Medicines in Scotland. 
[holding answer 3 June 2003]: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Trade & Industry has asked the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to discuss with interested parties the terms of orders that could be made under the Fair Trading Act 1973 (FTA) to implement the Competition Commission's proposed remedies. The OFT has written out to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the British Veterinary Association and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, among others. Each of these bodies have members who practice in Scotland. Many vets based in Scotland have also written individually to the OFT.The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is currently preparing a response to the Competition Commission's regulatory recommendations. The Scottish Executive has been asked to contribute to this.
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what guidance she gave to the Competition Commission regarding the consideration of animal welfare in its recent inquiry into the supply of prescription only veterinary medicines; and whether animal welfare fell within the remit of the Competition Commission's inquiry. 
The Competition Commission was asked to assess whether there was a monopoly situation in the supply of prescription-only veterinary medicines, and whether such a monopoly acted against the public interest.The Commission, in its report, fully accepted that the supply of prescription-only veterinary medicines raises issues that go wider than competition and that the public interest includes protection of public safety and animal welfare. The Commission received submissions from interested parties including vets, members of the public, animal charities and the Government's Chief Veterinary Officer, which touched on animal welfare issues. The Commission took account of these submissions in reaching its conclusions.