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1999 Health Act: remove “catch-all” clause on regulation of professions.

Comment 7th July 2010

Paragraph (b) of Section 60 of the Health Act 1999 (Part III Miscellaneous and Supplementary) states that "Her Majesty may by Order in Council make provision … regulating any other profession which appears to Her to be concerned (wholly or partly) with the physical or mental health of individuals and to require regulation in pursuance of this section."

This paragraph is too broad and should be removed or amended to specify what professions it refers to,

Why does this matter?

The clause is simply far too broad. Almost anything one could think of – an evening at the theatre, a game of darts, a good meal at a decent restaurant –  could be said to "be concerned (wholly or partly) with the physical or mental health of individuals". Why should a Health Act be so broad that it could be used to give the Government the power to regulate anything that it wished to?

The clause was probably designed to allow the regulation of complementary and alternative medicine, but in its current form it is open to abuse and should be either removed or amended to specify which professions it refers to; only those professions which use invasive or potentially dangerous treatments need be included.

During the House of Lords debate on The Professions (8 July 1992) more than one of the noble Lords made reference to Ralf Dahrendorf's views on regulation.  

Lord Walton of Detchant said:

"Ralf Dahrendorf , now Sir Ralf, said in his Jeffcoat Lecture, the self-regulation of the professions is one of the glories of a learned society. He spoke with authority, then being a German citizen, pointing out that regulation by the state as an alternative was fearful and in his view quite unacceptable."

Well a lot has happened since 1992, but can we get back to common sense and allow the professions to regulate themselves without unnecessary Government intereference?


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