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Veterinary Surgeons Qualifications (Eec Recognition) Order 1980

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 4 December 1980

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3.43 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the Veterinary Surgeons Qualifications (EEC Recognition) Order 1980, which was laid before this House on 29th October, be approved.

I should explain first that the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 provides the framework of rules within which the profession operates in this country. Under that Act, an individual may not practise as a veterinary surgeon unless he is registered in accordance with its terms. A register of veterinary surgeons is therefore maintained. In December 1978, the Council of Ministers, who were acting under the rules of the European Communities, agreed two directives which are designed to set out the rules under which veterinary surgeons who are nationals of a member state may have the right to practise in another member state. The draft Order in Council which is now before your Lordships is designed to alter the terms of the Act and it would permit appropriately qualified nationals of other member states to practise in this country. This follows the precedent which has been established by similar orders relating to doctors, dentists, lawyers and nurses which are already in force.

As I have said, the Ministers adopted two directives. The first (78/1026/EEC), which for convenience is referred to in the draft order as the Recognition Directive", prescribes the terms under which the appropriate qualifications may be recognised either on a permanent or on a temporary basis in the member states. The second directive (78/1027/EEC)—which is called the "Training Directive"—co-ordinates the provisions which govern the activities of veterinary surgeons. The draft order now before your Lordships would enable this country to meet the requirement to comply with the provisions of the two directives by December of this year.

Turning to the details of the draft order, Articles 1 and 2 contain the usual explanatory material dealing with such matters as citation, date of commencement and interpretation. Article 3 amends the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 so as to put veterinary surgeons of other member states on an equal footing with United Kingdom nationals. A European veterinary surgeon who holds a recognised European qualification in veterinary surgery and who complies with the requirements set out in the article will be entitled to be entered in the register which is kept by the registrar of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. On registration, the European veterinary surgeon automatically becomes a member of the college.

Article 4 of the draft order relates to a veterinary surgeon who has been disqualified from practising in a member state on the grounds that he has committed a criminal offence or has misconducted himself in a professional respect while practising in that country, and who, as a result, is no longer recognised as a veterinary surgeon or is prohibited from practising. Such a person is not entitled to be registered in the United Kingdom, but the registrar's decision to reject such a person is subject to it being confirmed on appeal to the council of the college. On the other hand, a veterinary surgeon who is a national of another member state and is properly registered under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 as amended by this draft order, and who is subsequently disqualified in a member state, will be treated in the same manner as provided in Section 16 of the 1966 Act for all veterinary surgeons who are registered under the Act. That is the effect of Article 4(5). Therefore such a case will stand referred to the disciplinary committee of the council of the college which has a discretion to remove or to suspend the veterinary surgeon from the register. An appeal against their decision will be heard by the Privy Council as provided in Section 17 of the 1966 Act.

Articles 5 and 6 relate to European veterinary surgeons who reside and practise outside the United Kingdom but who wish to provide veterinary services during a temporary stay in this country. The provision of veterinary services across national boundaries on a temporary basis is in fact a common practice in continental member states. It has also operated in both directions across the United Kingdom border with the Irish Republic for many years.

Article 5 enables a veterinary surgeon who is lawfully established in practice in another member state to provide veterinary services temporarily in the United Kingdom subject to prior production of a declaration and a certificate. The declaration will show the particulars of the services to be provided and the period during which they are to be rendered. The certificate will provide evidence that the veterinary surgeon holds a recognised qualification and that he is lawfully practising in a member state other than the United Kingdom. On production of the declaration and certificate he will be registered in the list of visiting EEC veterinary surgeons which is to be a part of the register kept under the 1966 Act.

In cases where animals are in urgent need of veterinary services and a visiting veterinary surgeon has been unable, because of short notice, to submit a declaration to the registrar giving particulars of the services to be provided, the declaration, but not the certificate, may be submitted after the animals have been treated in order to prevent them from suffering pain unnecessarily. Veterinary surgeons who have been disqualified from practising by a member state will be refused registration in the list of visiting EEC veterinary surgeons under the same conditions which will apply to disqualified veterinary surgeons who wish to register under the Veterinary Surgeons Act as provided in Article 4.

Article 6 contains the disciplinary provisions which will be applied to a veterinary surgeon of a member state who is registered in the list of visiting EEC veterinary surgeons and who provides services while visiting this country temporarily. If such a person is found to have been convicted anywhere in the world of an offence or to be guilty of unprofessional conduct, he may be prohibited from rendering veterinary services in the United Kingdom either for a specified period or indefinitely. His case will first be investigated by the preliminary investigation committee of the council of the college. This committee may refer the case to the disciplinary committee of the council, which may, if it thinks fit, impose a prohibition on him. The procedure is based on that contained in Sections 15 and 16 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. It provides parity of treatment between the visiting EEC veterinary surgeon and his colleague who is established in this country and whose position in similar circumstances I have already outlined.

I should explain to your Lordships that the profession in this country have been fully consulted on the proposed arrangements. I am glad to tell your Lordships that they agree with what is proposed to effect these two directives, and I therefore have pleasure in commending this order to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 29th October be approved.—( Earl Ferrers.)

My Lords, in the light of the concluding part of the statement of the noble Earl, I am sure the House will wish to give a fair wind to this proposal. I should like to ask only one question. Will veterinary surgeons registered in this country have a right to render veterinary services in the Community countries, as a piece of reciprocity, so to speak, to what is proposed here?

My Lords, all member states have to be signatories to this agreement, which should take place before the end of this year. So far the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark have already done so, and it is the responsibility of the other states to do so, and in that case our veterinary surgeons will then be able to practice in other member states.

My Lords, does that mean that there is no such right until there is general approval, general ratification, or does it mean that at this stage in the countries which have ratified our veterinary surgeons will have the same rights as EEC veterinary surgeons? I did not quite follow the answer.

My Lords, all member states have an obligation to bring into force the measures necessary to comply with the provisions of the two directives not later than December of this year. Any member state that failed to implement the directives within the required time would be in breach of its obligations, and it could not plead its own failure to do so as an excuse to prevent United Kingdom veterinary surgeons practising in that country in accordance with the terms of the directives.

On Question, Motion agreed to.