Liberal Democrat MP wants medicine from Israel labelled

By Jennifer Lipman, November 1, 2012
Israel critic Sir Bob Russell

Israel critic Sir Bob Russell

A Liberal Democrat MP has called for medicines produced in Israel to be labelled as such.

But Sir Bob Russell, who represents Colchester, said he would have no problem using Israeli-made pharmaceuticals “provided that I was made aware of this”.

His comments follow last week’s European Parliament decision to remove trade barriers for pharmaceuticals made in Israel, allowing for their speedier arrival in the European market and reducing the costs of vital medicines. The Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products was backed 379-230 by MEPs.

In the wake of the vote, Sir Bob asked if the Health Secretary “would introduce measures to ensure that any medicines available across the counter made in Israel are clearly marked as being a product of that country”.

Sir Bob, a vocal critic of Israel in Parliament, said he wanted all products to be labelled with their country of origin. “This is not just applicable in my mind to the state of Israel,” he said. “In the case of the West Bank all products should be clearly marked ‘From the Occupied West Bank’.”

But Norman Lamb, LibDem minister at the Department of Health, rebuffed the call. “The requirements for medicines labelling are set out in both European and national legislation. There is no requirement for medicines labelling to indicate the country of origin,” said Mr Lamb in a written response. “Labelling is required to indicate the company authorised to place the product on the market in the United Kingdom. There are no plans to amend the legislation to require country of origin details to be included.”

Sir Bob also called for an estimate of “the number of jobs that would be lost in the UK pharmaceutical industry if medicines produced in Israel were available in the UK”. His inquiry was echoed by Lord Warner, a Labour peer who was a senior policy adviser to Jack Straw.

Replying for the government, David Willetts said the government had no intention of assessing this.

LibDem MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford said singling out Israeli medicines would be “discriminatory”.

“I strongly believe that EU trade links can help foster a positive attitude towards the attainment of Middle East peace,” she said. “This deal will deliver the attractive benefits for my constituents of wider choice, better treatment options and lower costs for the NHS.”

Last updated: 5:45pm, November 1 2012