Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460 - 467)




  460. What do you say to Mr Wilkinson who says that by legalising heroin and making it available in a regulated way you can collapse a fair share of the criminal drug market?
  (Mr Ogden) I disagree entirely. Would you legalise it for everybody? Would you legalise it for all ages? Who would actually supply it? There is no point in that.

  461. The argument is that a percentage, quite a large percentage, of crime is committed by people funding a habit. Do you accept that?
  (Mr Ogden) I would agree with that. We have just moved our figure of 65 per cent and reassessed it to 76 per cent following recent operations.

  462. So you think it is as high as that?
  (Mr Ogden) Yes.

  463. So if decriminalisation or legalisation could collapse the price and, therefore, the market, that would surely deal a blow to that degree of crime, would it not?
  (Mr Ogden) So would very effective treatment. So does vigorous arrest referral schemes. So does properly structured Drug Treatment and Testing Orders. So does prison schemes.

  464. Perhaps the gap between you and Mr Wilkinson is not as large as it appears to be. I think Mr Wilkinson—he can speak for himself—agrees with you about the need for better education, better treatment, I think everybody is agreed about that, but I think his argument is by itself that clearly is not going to make a sufficient impact. Have I got that right?
  (Mr Wilkinson) Yes, that is right, Chairman.

  465. Thank you.
  (Mr Ogden) We think that the National Strategy can work. We think that it can significantly reduce the number of heroin users in this country. By saying we are going to legalise it and make it available at various outlets that is actually throwing in the sponge and giving up on the national strategy, which we did not even have in this country until 1995 under the previous Government's Tackling Drugs Together.

  466. At what stage do you think it would be fair to evaluate the National Drugs Strategy?
  (Mr Ogden) It needs to be evaluated on a yearly basis by more rapid audits and more effective national evaluation, not evaluation that takes four years to produce, more rapid audits of how we are doing. Certainly I think the Drugs Directorate, which is now in the Home Office, is actually doing that moving towards the 2001-02 Spending Review. Probably you need to reconvene this Committee every two years to see how it is going. I do stress, we have got to make up for 30 years of waste when there was no drugs strategy at all until 1995 when the Drug Action Teams were first formed. That was only a three year strategy, this is a ten year strategy.

  467. Are you saying that we should wait to the end of the ten years before making any changes in the framework?
  (Mr Ogden) No. It should be constantly reviewed, as this Committee is doing now, as indeed the Drug Directorate at the Home Office is doing now. Any strategy needs change as it goes along but not change as drastic as legalisation of any drugs because that really is throwing in the sponge on something we have not given a proper chance to.

  Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen.

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