• The political class has swung into action. The National Health Service, in Britain, will be replacing all the faulty PIP breast implants that they supplied and David Cameron has called on the private cosmetic surgery sector to do the same, claiming that they have a moral duty to do so. Of course, the private sector is an easy target for Cameron and this runs straight into a growing distaste for anybody who does business and has the temerity to be a success. The problem is that he is shooting the wrong target. And he is shooting it, knowing full well that the responsibility does not lie with the cosmetic surgery industry - which is highly regulated - but with those who control the regulators. Inevitably, when it comes to regulation today the buck stops in Brussels.
Mel Braham, chairman of the Harley Medical Group, has pointed the finger of blame at British regulator the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. But that is not fair on the MHRA. The real responsibility lies in a combination of regulatory failure in France and then European Union laws that prevent British authorities from protecting United Kingdom consumers. Under EU law, the national regulatory authorities can grant their own companies and products a CE mark - which is supposed to provide a guarantee of quality. European law then forbids the MHRA from conducting further checks as all products that carry a CE mark are given free passage in the single market.
Though the French authorities did finally shut down PIP, it was not before 40,000 British women had been fitted with the implants. The MHRA is forced, under EU law, to permit the import and marketing of any device which bears a CE mark - even though it has no direct jurisdiction over the manufacturer. The point is, and it is as true in the area of medical implants and their regulation as it is in the matter of legal procedure and the European Arrest Warrant, that there is no equality of quality among the 27 EU nations. It is a fact that medical training in one country is not to the same standard of medical training in another.
It gets to the nub of our problem with the EU. It creates a problem, in this case it demands equality of access of goods and services across the 27 member states, but there are wild differences between the different jurisdictions. To Brussels, this means that the problem they have created a single solution that only they can implement. In this case, the obvious Brussels answer to the problem is to have a single harmonised set of standards, enforceable across Europe. However, as we have learnt and as a cursory application of common sense would tell us, having a single set of standards across 27 legal systems, 22 different languages and a morass of different cultures will never be achieved by fiat instructions from the centre. What we need to is to allow national regulators and bodies to work in the interests of their own people; under systems comprehensible to their own people, with - in certain fields - some form of arbitration allowable for appeal.
I have written to the European Health Commissioner John Dalli and I am demanding that, in future, British authorities be allowed to make quality control border and spot checks on imported CE marked products - in order that they can do their job and protect the interests of UK consumers. I am also calling on the government to require the French authorities to provide the compensation that will allow British cosmetic surgeries to complete their work on removing and replacing implants without being driven to bankruptcy through no fault of their own. It must be remembered that many of these implants were conducted by firms that no longer exist, leaving the suffering consumer with no option even under Cameron's "moral responsibility" demand. To that end, and to satisfy all those currently wondering what they can do, he must act. Financial responsibility should rest where moral responsibility lies.
Paul Nuttall is a UK Independence Party MEP for the North West of England and a member of the Environment and Public Health Committee, in the European Parliament.