United Kingdom

Labour proposal would leave UK struggling to develop its own Covid vaccines, warn science experts

A Labour proposal to shake up the pharmaceutical industry would leave Britain struggling to develop its own coronavirus vaccines, science experts have warned.

The plan is revealed in a document titled Medicines For The Many unearthed by The Mail on Sunday – a 50-page policy dossier, unveiled at the 2019 Labour Party Conference, 12 weeks before the first Covid cases surfaced in China.

Present Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, deputy leader Angela Rayner and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth embraced then-leader Jeremy Corbyn on stage to launch the proposals, which remain live on Labour’s website.

The plan has been slammed by scientific experts, charities and drugs manufacturers – who warn they would destroy the country’s vital pharmaceutical research sector.

A Labour proposal to shake up the pharmaceutical industry would leave Britain struggling to develop its own coronavirus vaccines, science experts have warned (file photo)

The news comes as the Labour-led Welsh government has been accused of bungling the vaccine rollout there.

Under international trade laws, drugs firms are normally granted 15-20 years to exclusively make and sell a medicine they have developed, enabling them to sell it at a higher price and recoup their huge investment.

The Medicines For The Many policy would allow Ministers to revoke this exclusivity period at will if they decided the price was too high. State-run companies would then be able to make cheaper copies of the drug or vaccine, denying the company revenues.

Labour’s idea was drafted in the wake of a huge row in which US drugs giant Vertex was accused of trying to milk the NHS of cash for its stable of cystic fibrosis drugs.

Experts say such a policy would have a chilling effect on Britain’s world-leading life sciences sector, because companies would balk at ploughing millions of pounds into a new medicine here if the fruits of their research could be seized from them so easily.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said that Labour’s plan would ‘completely undermine the system for developing new medicines’ and ‘send a hugely negative signal to British scientists’.

Last night a Labour source said: ‘This was a Corbyn policy – we are going in a very different direction' (file photo of former Labour leader)

The importance of ‘home-made’ medicines has been made clear in recent weeks, with the UK being at the front of the global queue for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, developed and made in the UK.

Last night a Labour source said: ‘This was a Corbyn policy – we are going in a very different direction.’

But Amanda Milling, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, said: ‘Labour’s policy on pharmaceuticals would cripple Britain’s world-leading medical research sector, which has done so much to get us on the road out of the pandemic.’

Labour-run Wales, like the rest of the UK, aims to immunise the four groups most vulnerable to coronavirus by mid-February. Around 300,000 vaccines have been delivered, but latest figures show only 126,375 have been administered.

Stephen Crabb, Tory MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said last night: ‘I can’t see how on the current trajectory they will meet the targets. First Minister Mark Drakeford says “this is not a sprint” – well, it bloody well is a sprint.’

Tory heavyweights aim to be big losers as they shed the pounds

They are the fat-fighters of Westminster – a group of Tory MPs determined to shift the pounds to reduce their risk of succumbing to Covid.

Acutely aware of the links between the virus and obesity – more than three-quarters of patients admitted to intensive care with Covid are overweight – the 36 newly elected MPs are competing in four teams to see who can shed the most weight in six months. Virtual weigh-ins will be held each month and the MPs will raise money for charity through sponsorship.

The competition is based on the Reality television show The Biggest Loser, but this being Westminster there have already been allegations of skulduggery.

The driving force behind the competition is Lee Anderson the stout, no-nonsense MP for Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, who told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We all started officially on Monday, but there were a few cheats who had already started. Some were shocked when they got on the scales. It’s a rude awakening for many of us, but it’s needed.’

Mr Anderson, 54, who says he is ‘power walking’ more than five miles every morning, added: ‘There were a few people saying their scales were broken or they were getting incorrect readings on the scale, but I don’t believe that for one minute.’

In November, the Prime Minister and Mr Anderson each had to self-isolate after the Ashfield MP tested positive for Covid.

Mr Anderson said the weight-loss contest was ‘probably the kick up the backside that I need’.

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