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Mr. Blunkett: I respect the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has been interested in and committed to such issues for some time. I am disappointed, therefore, to hear what many of his hon. Friends have to say. They claim that a differential rate for trafficking and dealing would lead to people receiving a lesser penalty for dealing in cannabisthey would get away with it and encourage people to get involved in class A drugs. We now hear the reverse argument: that by having a similar penalty, we make it more likely that people will turn to class A drugs. We cannot have it both ways. It has to be one or the other. [Interruption.] We have used the word "confusion" a great deal this afternoon. I will examine Hansard and the public statements to ensure that we are clear about where the confusion has arisen.
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point on traffickers. We said that we will target the middle-market dealers. The assets recovery agency will assist with that when the Proceeds of Crime Bill completes its stagestomorrow, I hope, if it is not blocked in the House of Lords. We also intend to use the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies more effectively, as we have been doing, to work in combination to break the trafficking route, but that is the biggest challenge of all.
Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central): Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement is important because he is concentrating on the hard drugs, which do enormous damage not simply to the individual but to the fabric of society? I urge him, however, to look carefully at the practice of prescribing heroin for the chaotic users. Breaking the link between money and heroin or crack use is important if we are to have an effect across society, and prescribing has a significant role to play.
I hope that the Home Secretary will return to the issue of cannabis because I think that he needs to move further on it. In cities such as Manchester, the use of cannabis is so widespread that it no longer makes sense to take even the approach that he outlines. However, I strongly welcome the emphasis on hard drugs, which are the real issue.
Mr. Blunkett: I welcome my hon. Friend's comments on harm minimisation through prescribing. The Netherlands and, recently, Portugal found that without legitimising fully the world supply of those drugs, which breaches every international convention, and the trafficking, by which I mean dealing and selling across the counter, the same conflict is faced all the time. There will be a contradiction whatever steps we take. If we were all prepared to examine that problem and be honest about it, we would have a much more rational debate.
Ann Winterton (Congleton): I pay tribute to the work of Keith Hellawell, with whom I had contact in the previous Parliament. His work was valid and his views were sound.
I and many parents believe that not enough emphasis is put on drug prevention, especially on education. I am not merely talking about harm reduction, which is often
Mr. Blunkett: I might be prepared to accept that, with some exceptions, there is not a hard-drug user who did not start on either tobacco, alcohol or cannabis. If we were all more rational in what we think and say, we could have a more reasonable debate. I agree that the education campaign is critical. It is why we are stepping it up and seeking tenders for an entirely new approach. We accepted the hard-hitting approach recommended by the Select Committee.
I pay tribute to Keith Hellawell, who gave his time, energy and commitment for many years.
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Having rubbished him.
Mr. Blunkett: I am being heckled. I have not rubbished Keith Hellawell; he rubbished me. He, not I, went on the "Today" programme. He decided that he would announce today in an extraordinary fashion the resignation that he had tendered a month ago. On a lighter note, I thank him also for the drug targets that he set for us all. They were described as inspirational: they inspired him; they perspired him; and they appear to have expired him.
Mrs. Janet Dean (Burton): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. I welcome the extra money for treatment because, as I am sure everyone will agree, when treatment is requested, it should be made available. It is right that we should have a credible drugs message. I welcome my right hon. Friend's reassertion that all drugs are harmful because that is the message that we should get over to young people.
I welcome the proposal to increase the maximum sentence for dealers, but I am concerned that my right hon. Friend does not believe that there should be a supply for gain offence[Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. Mr. MacKay, let me chair the proceedings.
Mrs. Dean: I would welcome any further information and views that my right hon. Friend could give on a supply for gain offence. I also ask for reassurance
Mr. Speaker: Order. One question is sufficient for the Home Secretary.
Mr. Blunkett: We believe, as do our lawyers, that the supply for gain offence can be dealt with under the existing discretion, particularly with the new clarity about the offence of dealing.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney): As someone who sits on the Home Affairs Committee, may I thank the Home Secretary for his statement and for accepting some of our recommendations? It might have been more coherent if he had accepted all of them, but perhaps that is too much to ask.
Does the Home Secretary agree that the biggest prize is to get the 270,000 heroin users into treatment? With that in mind, will he consider a specific suggestion made to me by police in Oxford, which is to speed up the operation of the drug treatment and testing order because the wheels of justice turn slowly and it takes a long time for people to get to court? Will he consider making the start of treatment a condition of police bail in some circumstances? Will he ensure that all forms of treatment are available on DTTOs, including methadone replacement? Will he ensure also that, as the Select Committee suggested, if someone starts treatment outside prison, they are able to continue it in prison because stopping treatment can be damaging for the health and it increases crime?
Mr. Blunkett: I agree entirely with the latter point, and it is a serious issue. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his open mind and his willingness to engage with these issues on the Select Committee. These are difficult and sometimes dangerous questions to deal with in politics, and I respect him for doing so. We should examine the commitment to ensure that we use treatment as a clear incentive, whether that concerns bail, referral or the question of whether someone will be sent to prison. In the broader statement that will be issued in the autumn, I hope to be able to deal with that more thoroughly.
Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on being the first Home Secretary in 30 years to stand at the Dispatch Box and argue for a drugs policy based on evidence rather than prejudice and emotion. It was a great disappointment to see the shadow Home Secretary argue so uncomfortably a case in which he clearly does not believe. Will the right hon. Gentleman look to his own Front Bench and recognise that seven of its Members have admitted to using cannabis
Mr. Speaker: Order. The question is to the Home Secretary, not the shadow Home Secretary. If the Home Secretary can answer the hon. Gentleman's question, that will be fine, but the hon. Gentleman must understand that it is late in the day.
Mr. Blunkett: I am keen to maintain our privacy, as the shadow Home Secretary knows because he is always chiding me about it. I shall not ask anybody to reveal what they took, and I hope that the papers will not. I have not taken anything, by the way, just in case that answer evokes the question, but after being Home Secretary, who knows? I thank my hon. Friend for his words, which I greatly appreciate.
Angela Watkinson (Upminster): I was the only member of the Home Affairs Committee not to sign the report. I was implacably against the declassification of cannabis and I am grateful to the Home Secretary for not accepting the other recommendations to declassify ecstasy from class A to class B or to set up a network of heroin shooting-up galleries throughout the country. If the Home Secretary is in any doubt about the gateway theory relating to cannabis, will he please speak to any police officer, who will confirm it to him?
Colleagues have rightly referred to treatment for existing addicts. Does the Home Secretary agree that unless measures are put in place to prevent the