A Tory health minister has been branded “absolutely shameful” after speaking for almost half an hour in order to block a new law which would allow the NHS cheap access to drugs once their patent expires.
Alistair Burt filibustered the Off-Patent Drugs Bill by speaking for 27 minutes in the Commons on Friday, the Independent reported.
The bill, which had cross-party backbench support, would have pushed the Government to to seek new licences for medicines that were not covered by patents but it ran out of time.
A number of charities were in favour of the bill, which supporters said could open up availability to treatments for a range of diseases, as well as saving the NHS millions of pounds.
Burt set out his intention to block the bill when he began speaking, saying: “I will talk until half past two and I make that very clear.”
Despite jeering, “The government doesn't support the Bill, still doesn't support the Bill. And I will defend that position.
“No sensible government would seek to resist people's access to drugs in any way and the reason for resisting is the government believes there is another pathway.
“It is not always the case that something brought forward by a charity and advocated passionately by colleagues is always the answer. It's not disgraceful - it's the right answer.”
Reaction to Burt’s filibuster online were furious…
. @AlistairBurtMP I can only imagine that you have neither compassion, humanity or conscience or you couldn't have behaved as you did today.— Jan Smith (@JanJancsmith) November 6, 2015
Unbelievable act of cowardice from @AlistairBurtMP on behalf of the government by deliberately talking out off-patent drugs bill. Shameful.— Richard Berks (@DrRichardBerks) November 6, 2015
Tory Minister Alistair Burt has just said he is going to talk the Off-patent Drugs Bill out of time. Absolutely shameful— Jo Stevens (@JoStevensLabour) November 6, 2015
This is not the first time Burt has made use of the tactic.
Last week Tory MP Philip Davies spoke for an hour and a half in the Commons in order to block a law that would give carers free hospital parking.
He was helped by Burt, who also spoke in the debate.