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Select Committee on Home Affairs Third Report


PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE RELATING TO THE REPORT

TUESDAY 26 MARCH 2002

Members present:

Mr Chris Mullin, in the Chair


Mr David CameronBob Russell
Mrs Janet DeanAngela Watkinson
Bridget PrenticeMr Tom Watson
Mr Gwyn Prosser



The Committee deliberated.

[Adjourned till Tuesday 9 April at half past Four o'clock.




TUESDAY 9 APRIL 2002

Members present:

Mr Chris Mullin, in the Chair


Mr David CameronMr Gwyn Prosser
Mrs Janet DeanBob Russell
Mr Humfrey MalinsAngela Watkinson
Bridget PrenticeDavid Winnick


The Committee deliberated.

[Adjourned till Tuesday 16 April at a quarter past Ten o'clock.



TUESDAY 16 APRIL 2002

Members present:

Mr Chris Mullin, in the Chair


Mr David CameronMr Marsha Singh
Mrs Janet DeanAngela Watkinson
Bridget PrenticeMr Tom Watson
Mr Gwyn ProsserDavid Winnick
Bob Russell


The Committee deliberated.

[Adjourned till Thursday 18 April at half past Two o'clock.




THURSDAY 9 MAY 2002

Members present:

Mr Chris Mullin, in the Chair


Mr David CameronMr Marsha Singh
Mrs Janet DeanAngela Watkinson
Bridget PrenticeMr Tom Watson
Mr Gwyn ProsserDavid Winnick
Bob Russell


Mr David Cameron declared an interest as a non-executive director of Urbium plc, a bar and nightclub business.

Draft Report [The Government's Drugs Policy: Is it working?] proposed by the Chairman, brought up and read.

Ordered, That the draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraphs 1 to 10 read and agreed to.

A paragraph—(Angela Watkinson)—brought up and read as follows:

    'However, we do not accept the argument that because alcohol and tobacco are legal and have acknowledged risks, drugs should also be made legal.'

Question, That the paragraph be added to the report, put and negatived.

Paragraphs 11 to 19 read and agreed to.

A paragraph—(Angela Watkinson)—brought up and read as follows:

    'We note that the supply of drugs is demand-led and that the twin strategies of prevention and enforcement, as demonstrated in Sweden, offer the best chance of reducing the number of addicts and, therefore, demand and supply.'

Question, That the paragraph be added to the report, put and negatived.

Paragraphs 20 to 23 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 24 read, as follows:

    We believe it is self-evident that by focussing on the relatively small group of problematic drug users, the Government could have a significant impact on the harm caused by drug use.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph, and insert the words:

    'We recommend that while focussing drug policy on problematic opiate users, prevention and enforcement of all drugs offences should be maintained as a deterrent to new users.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 2Noes, 7
Bob Russell Mr David Cameron
Angela WatkinsonMrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Paragraph 24 agreed to.

Paragraphs 25 to 28 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 29 read as follows:

    The Department of Health statistics submitted to the Committee suggest that during 1999-2000, there were 8,505 hospital admissions with primary diagnoses of mental and behavioural disorders relating to drug misuse, although this may include some patients who were admitted more than once. Long-term harm commonly associated with tobacco smoking, such as cancers and cardio-vascular problems, also attach to smoking of drugs such as cannabis. There is much we do not know about the long term harm caused by the use of illicit drugs.

Amendment proposed, in line 7, at the end, to add the words:

    'Cannabis is also known to be a risk factor for schizophrenia and to affect levels of attainment in students, performance at work, the ability to drive safely, judgement and insight.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 29 agreed to.

Paragraphs 30 to 37 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 38 read as follows:

    We believe that drugs policy should primarily be addressed to dealing with the 250,000 problematic drug users rather than towards the large numbers whose drug use poses no serious threat either to their own well-being or to that of others. It follows that government policy should be examined in this light, and it is to this that we now turn.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the words 'We believe...that of others' (in line 3) and insert the words:

    'We believe that all illegal drug use is harmful and that drug policy should focus equally on deterring new users and treating problematic drug addicts.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 2Noes, 7
Bob RussellMr David Cameron
Angela WatkinsonMrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Paragraph 38 agreed to.

Paragraphs 39 to 47 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 48 read, as follows:

    The proponents of the most radical change to the drugs laws are those who suggest that the prohibition of currently illicit substances has not worked and cannot work. They argue that, far from limiting the harm caused by drug use, it is prohibition itself which causes the greater part of that harm. The argument here is that illegality militates against safe, open use and creates a dangerous environment in which drug use, criminality and social exclusion become unnecessarily wedded together.

Amendment proposed, in line 6, at the end to add the words:

    'We find no merit in this point of view. We conclude that the greatest harm comes from the mind-altering properties of the drugs themselves, the detrimental effects on mental and physical health of the individual user and the effect of their antisocial behaviour on others.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 2Noes, 6
Bob RussellMr David Cameron
Angela WatkinsonMrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson

Paragraph 48 agreed to.

Paragraphs 49 to 55 agreed to.

A paragraph—(Angela Watkinson)—brought up and read as follows:

    'We believe it is impossible to separate the self harm done by addicts from the resulting harm done to other individuals and the wider community.'

Question, That the paragraph be added to the report, put and negatived.

Paragraphs 56 to 65 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 66 reads as follows:

    While acknowledging that there may come a day when the balance may tip in favour of legalising and regulating some types of presently illegal drugs, we decline to recommend this drastic step.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph, and insert the words:

    'Whilst acknowledging that pressure in favour of legalising and regulating supply of some types of illegal drug may increase, we do not support this step.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Another Amendment proposed, in line 3, at the end, to add the words 'except for cannabis, for the reasons set out in paragraphs...below.'—(David Winnick.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 66 agreed to.

Paragraphs 67 to 77 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 78 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraphs 79 to 87 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 88 read as follows:

    We, therefore, conclude that the time has come to reconsider the existing classifications for the less harmful drugs and we address each in turn.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph, and insert the words:

    'We conclude that the message must be robust in its warnings about outcomes and penalties and these must be backed up by enforcement.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 1Noes, 8
Angela WatkinsonMr David Cameron
Mrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Bob Russell
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Paragraph 88 agreed to.

Paragraphs 89 to 105 read and agreed to.

A paragraph—(Angela Watkinson)—brought up and read as follows:

    'We note with concern that cannabis cultivation in The Netherlands is among the largest in Europe and that an estimated 80% of the heroin seized in Britain and France has passed through The Netherlands where it is considered to be "relatively trouble free from a criminal's point of view". We conclude therefore, that relaxation of the law has led to an increase in availability, use and marketing.'

Question, That the paragraph be added to the report, put and negatived.

Paragraphs 106 to 113 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 114 read as follows:

    The surveys of public opinion, conducted at the end of 2001, found that there was a considerable degree of confusion over what exactly the pilot entailed. However, 74% of people consulted felt that the scheme would result in police time being released to deal with more serious crime—but 17% felt serious crime would increase, and 21% felt use of hard drugs would increase as a result of the pilot. Despite this, 36% approved of the scheme unconditionally, a further 32% supported it provided the police spend more time on serious crime, and 15% approved provided it actually reduces serious crime. 71% of people thought the scheme offered a better way to deal with young cannabis users. Having said this, parents of primary school children are amongst the most likely to disapprove of the scheme.

Amendment proposed, in line 10, at the end to add the words:

    'We conclude that both users and dealers have been attracted into Lambeth from other boroughs during the experiment. It has created a damaging message, many young people think that drugs are now legal in Lambeth.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 114 agreed to.

Paragraphs 115 to 119 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 120 read as follows:

    We accept that cannabis can be harmful and that its use should be discouraged. We accept that in some cases the taking of cannabis can be a gateway to the taking of more damaging drugs. However, whether or not cannabis is a gateway drug, we do not believe there is anything to be gained by exaggerating its harmfulness. On the contrary, exaggeration undermines the credibility of messages that we wish to send regarding more harmful drugs.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'We believe that cannabis is harmful, both in its mind altering properties and as a gateway to more harmful drugs and that its use should remain illegal. We accept that nearly all hard drug users start on cannabis and for that reason alone, its harmfulness cannot be exaggerated. The credibility of messages we wish to send regarding more harmful drugs depends upon the gateway danger being made explicit.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 120 agreed to.

Paragraph 121 read as follows:

    We support, therefore, the Home Secretary's proposal to reclassify cannabis from Class B to Class C.

Question proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'We do not, therefore, support the Home Secretary's proposal to reclassify cannabis as a Class C drug.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 1Noes, 8
Angela WatkinsonMr David Cameron
Mrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Bob Russell
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Another Amendment proposed, in line 1 to leave out the paragraph and insert the following new paragraphs:

    'Therefore having given much consideration to whether cannabis should be decriminalised we wish to go further, and recommend it should be legalised. Decriminalisation would simply leave users and the authorities, including of course the police, in a kind of no man's land, as well as ensuring that supply largely remained in the hands of criminals.

    'As pointed out in paragraph 89, amongst 16 to 29 year olds some 44% had used cannabis in their life and 22% in the last year. We see little or no sense in continuing to criminalise a drug used by a substantial minority which on all the evidence certainly does less harm than tobacco and the excessive use of alcohol, which again we have referred to in earlier paragraphs.

    'Nevertheless as we say, this drug can be harmful, and certainly it is not our wish that our recommendation should somehow be seen as 'approving' its use, except for strictly medicinal purposes as mentioned in paragraph 109. We remain firmly of the view that all drug taking is undesirable and should be discouraged, as with tobacco and excessive alcohol drinking.

    'However, the reality is that despite what we as a Committee, or Parliament itself, would like, many otherwise law-abiding citizens do take cannabis and see no reason not to do so. Is it really realistic to criminalise cannabis use while tobacco and alcohol are legally and so widely available for sale?

    'If our recommendation is not acceptable, we would support the Home Secretary's proposal to reclassify cannabis as a Class C drug. It does show how opinion generally has moved that such a proposal has aroused so little controversy and opposition compared to the likely reaction just a few years ago.' —(David Winnick.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 2Noes, 6
Mr Marsha SinghMrs Janet Dean
David WinnickBridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Bob Russell
Angela Watkinson
Mr Tom Watson

Paragraph 121 agreed to.

Paragraph 122 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 123 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraphs 124 to 127 read and agreed to.

Paragraphs 128 and 129 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraphs 130 to 134 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 135 read as follows:

    We agree with the Police Foundation and therefore recommend that ecstasy is reclassified as a Class B drug.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'We support the Minister in this view and recommend that ecstasy remains classified as a Class A drug.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 1Noes, 7
Angela WatkinsonMr David Cameron
Mrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Bob Russell
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson


Paragraph 135 agreed to.

Paragraphs 136 to 168 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 169 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraphs 170 and 171 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 172 read as follows:

    Not all users want to be treated. There will usually come a point when treatment does seem more appealing to most users than the other alternatives open to them, but for a large part of their using career this will not be apparent. It is vital that treatment programmes are well publicised, that addicts know where to go to seek treatment and that they are encouraged to join such programmes. However, some will still be reluctant. In the meantime it is necessary to minimise the harm which even these users are causing to themselves and others, in the hope of providing a bridge into a more ordered way of life. The user can then be offered treatment with the eventual goal of abstinence. One obvious possibility is the provision, under strict conditions, of legal, clean heroin (or diamorphine) to persistent heroin addicts.

Amendment proposed, in line 10, at the end to add the words:

'However, we consider that the provision of diamorphine to persistent heroin users would signal approval and lead to increased use.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 172 agreed to.

Paragraphs 173 to 183 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 184 read as follows:

    It has been persuasively argued to us that the legalisation and regulation of heroin would collapse the criminal market, drastically reduce the level of acquisitive crime and make addiction easier to treat. For reasons already given we do not propose to go down this road. We do, however, accept that there is a strong case for bringing heroin use above ground, so that those who wish to be helped can be, and those who do not wish to be helped can at least indulge their habit at a minimum risk to their own health and that of the public. The obvious first step is the introduction of safe injecting houses (so-called "shooting galleries") of the sort that exist elsewhere in Europe. At their most basic these are places where addicts can go without fear of arrest to inject illegally-purchased heroin and where practical advice is available as to the safest means of injection and the safe disposal of needles. The Home Office told us that "the current government position is that injecting rooms for illicit drugs should not be introduced in this country whilst we have no evaluations of those developed in other European countries".

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'It has been argued to us that the legalisation and regulation of heroin would make the criminal market collapse, reduce the level of acquisitive crime drastically and make addiction easier to treat. For reasons already given we do not propose to adopt that policy. A case has been made for bringing heroin use into the open, so that those who wish to be helped can at least indulge their habit at a minimum risk to their own health and that of the public. The introduction of safe injecting houses (so-called "shooting galleries") of the sort that exist elsewhere in Europe has been proposed. At their most basic, these are places where addicts can go without fear of arrest to inject illegally-purchased heroin and where practical advice is available as to the safest means of injection and the safe disposal of needles. The Home Office told us that "the current government position is that injecting rooms for illicit drugs should not be introduced in this country whilst we have no evaluations of those developed in other European countries".'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 184 agreed to.

Paragraph 185 read as follows:

    We believe that such facilities may offer potential to reduce harm. As well as helping users to reduce the risks to their health, safe injecting premises could make a significant impact on the nuisance caused to others by illicit injecting. All members of the Committee have heard from constituents about the problem of discarded needles and other paraphernalia in the street posing a health and safety risk, particularly to children. If injecting users could be directed to safe premises, needles could be disposed of in a safe way and the problem contained.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'All members of the Committee have heard from constituents about the problem of discarded needles and other paraphernalia in the street posing a health and safety risk, particularly to children. However, there is no evidence that those same constituents would welcome "shooting galleries" in their neighbourhoods. We believe that the provision of such facilities would remove any personal responsibility or deterrent from addicts and lead to increased use which is contrary to the aims of the national strategy. We believe it would be wrong to make it easier for addicts who do not wish to be cured, to indulge their habits.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 185 agreed to.

Paragraph 186 read as follows:

    We recommend that an evaluated pilot programme of safe injecting houses for heroin users be established without delay and that if, as we expect, this is successful, the programme be extended across the country.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'We do not recommend, therefore, that a network of safe injecting houses for heroin users be established.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 2Noes, 7
Bob RussellMr David Cameron
Angela WatkinsonMrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Paragraph 186 agreed to.

Paragraph 187 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraph 188 read as follows:

    Opinion, however, is far from unanimous. Dr Claire Gerada, of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told us that providing diamorphine to addicts would mean "colluding and creating life long addicts". We asked Mr Ralf Löfstedt, Deputy Director of the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, for his opinion of heroin prescribing, given Sweden's more restrictive approach to drugs policy. He told us that providing prescribed heroin implied that some patients were "uncurable" and warned that society would be sending out inconsistent messages: "What will the effect on society be if we take more and more people directly from drug addiction into another type of drug addiction, but one sponsored by society?". He also suggested that it might be harder to motivate addicts to take up treatment such as methadone and drug-free programmes if they were able to access clean heroin. He told us that the reductions in crime which had been seen in the Swiss and Dutch programmes might not be sustained and suggested further that heroin treatment programmes might cause a rise in the numbers of new users.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, after 'unanimous', to insert the words 'We agree with'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Another Amendment proposed, in line 14, at the end to add the words:

    'We note further, that Sweden's drug policy was liberal in the 1960's, reflecting a harm reduction approach. However, in 1978, the goal of a drug free society was adopted officially. Swedish policy is based on education, treatment and enforcement. It is formulated around the gateway hypothesis. The dangers of cannabis are strongly emphasised in education. All non-medical use of drugs is regarded as abuse and possession is punishable by fine or imprisonment. The police have the power to enforce drug testing if they suspect abuse and abstention from prosecution is rare. After a quarter of a century, the outcome has been far more successful than the "harm reduction" approach used in The Netherlands where illicit drug use is significantly higher. The Netherlands is also one of the main entry points of drugs into Europe and the centre of synthetic drug manufacture in Europe, notably ecstasy and amphetamines.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 188 agreed to.

Paragraph 189 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 190 read as follows:

    We conclude that the Dutch and Swiss evidence provides a strong basis on which to conduct a pilot here in Britain of highly structured heroin prescribing to addicts. We recommend that a pilot along the lines of the Swiss or Dutch model is conducted in the UK. Should such a pilot generate the positive results which one would expect from the Dutch and Swiss experience, we recommend that such a system should supersede the little-used "British system" of licencing.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'We conclude that the Dutch and Swiss evidence shows that the harm reduction approach results largely in addicts' habits not only being maintained but also made easier to maintain. There is no deterrent to new addicts and no motivation for existing addicts to aspire to abstention. The policy has lead to a substantial increase in cannabis and hard drug abuse and trafficking in The Netherlands.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 2Noes, 7
Bob RussellMr David Cameron
Angela WatkinsonMrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Paragraph 190 agreed to.

Paragraph 191 read as follows:

    We recommend that a pilot offering prescribed diamorphine to heroin addicts be targeted, in the first instance, at chronic addicts who are prolific offenders.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'We conclude further, that the Swedish evidence shows that prevention, education and treatment, backed by strong enforcement of the law is far more effective in reducing drug abuse and should be adopted in this country.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 2Noes, 7
Bob RussellMr David Cameron
Angela WatkinsonMrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Paragraph 191 agreed to

Paragraphs 192 and 193 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 194 read as follows:

    We recommend that the Government commission a further trial to look at the prescription of diamorphine to addicts who have not yet, or are not currently accessing any treatment, despite having a long history of heroin addiction.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'We recommend that the Government commission a trial to look at how prescription of diamorphine to problematic addicts who are not accessing any treatment, might contribute towards their withdrawal and abstinence.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 2Noes, 7
Bob RussellMr David Cameron
Angela WatkinsonMrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Paragraph 194 agreed to.

Paragraph 195 read as follow:

    It has been emphasised to us that diamorphine prescription should be used as a complement to already existing treatments which are backed up by strong evidence, such as methadone treatment. If diamorphine treatment could be offered to all problematic users who do not successfully access other treatments, we believe it could play a useful part in managing the social problems generated by this group of people.

Amendment proposed, in line 3, after 'methadone treatment' to insert the words:

    'It remains to be proved whether, if diamorphine treatment were to be offered to all problematic users who do not successfully access other treatments, it could play a useful part in managing the social problems generated by this group of people.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 195 agreed to.

Paragraphs 196 to 200 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 201 read as follows:

    We are also concerned about the quality of drugs education material, and the possibility of ambiguous messages contained within it. We accept Mr Ainsworth's recognition that "preaching at young people is not going to work". However, we believe that all drugs education material should be based on the premise that any drug use can be harmful and should be discouraged.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'We are also concerned about the quality of drugs education material and the ambiguous messages contained in it. We believe that the Minister's statement that "preaching at young people is not going to work" is defeatist. We believe further, that all drugs education should be far more robust in its warnings about the dangers to health, educational attainment and career prospects and the penalties incurred if caught and convicted. It should be based on the premise that illegal drug use is wrong.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 201 agreed to.

Paragraph 202 to 221 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 222 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraphs 223 to 251 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 252 read as follows:

    We recommend that the Government review Section 9A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, with a view to repealing it, to allow for the provision of drugs paraphernalia which reduces the harm caused by drugs.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'We recommend that the Government reviews Section 9A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 relating to the provision of drugs paraphernalia. We believe, however, that policy should not make drug use easier.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 2Noes, 7
Bob RussellMr David Cameron
Angela WatkinsonMrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Paragraph 252 agreed to.

Paragraphs 253 to 256 agreed to.

Paragraph 257 read as follows:

    We recommend that Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 be amended to ensure that drugs agencies can conduct harm reduction work and provide safe injecting areas for users without fear of being prosecuted.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the paragraph and insert the words:

    'We support Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in preventing and deterring a proliferation of premises where illegal drug use occurs.'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 1Noes, 8
Angela WatkinsonMr David Cameron
Mrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Bob Russell
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Paragraph 257 agreed to.

Paragraphs 258 to 261 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 262 read as follows:

    The Committee has heard representations that the schemes have, in some places, been set up in such a way that offenders receive preferential treatment over non-offenders: "in some districts, the quickest way to access treatment is to commit a serious crime". We consider it highly undesirable that it should be easier for a drug addict to access treatment through the criminal justice system than in the community. This is a further reason, if any were needed, for the Government to provide more treatment in the community.

Amendment proposed, in line 6, after 'more' to insert the words 'prevention and withdrawal'—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the Amendment be made, put and negatived.

Paragraph 262 agreed to.

Paragraphs 263 and 264 read and agreed to.

Another paragraph—(Angela Watkinson)—brought up and read as follows:

    'We have heard how a softening of enforcement leads very quickly to increased dealing and use: Lambeth experiment and The Netherlands. The evidence from Sweden however, has demonstrated how a robust combination of prevention, education and enforcement has resulted in a dramatic reduction in demand that in turn has affected supply. Sweden has sought to create a drug-free society through prevention and police control, following the failure of its previous liberal harm reduction policy. Public opinion in Sweden is very supportive of this policy. The evidence base for the effectiveness of enforcement measures is strong. For example, Swedish policy has demonstrated that stronger enforcement reduces demand and therefore dealing.'

Question, That the paragraph be added to the report, put and negatived.

Paragraphs 265 and 266 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 267 read as follows:

    We recommend that the Government initiates a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways—including the possibility of legalisation and regulation—to tackle the global drugs dilemma.

Amendment proposed, in line 2, to leave out the words 'of alternative ways—including the possibility of legalisation and regulation' —(Angela Watkinson.)

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 1Noes, 8
Angela WatkinsonMr David Cameron
Mrs Janet Dean
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Bob Russell
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Paragraph 267 agreed to.

Paragraphs 268 to 276 read.

Motion made, to leave out paragraphs 268 to 276 and insert the following new paragraphs:

    'There is little doubt that illegal drug use is widespread and is the cause of a great deal of acquisitive and violent crime as well as health problems and social misery.

    'Illegal drug use affects not just users but also their families, friends and the wider community. It is a personal freedom that cannot be exercised without impinging on the freedom of others and, therefore, cannot be tolerated.

    'Opinion on how to tackle the problem falls into two broad categories, greater acceptance and tolerance or stronger enforcement. However, it is generally accepted that no single strategy is likely to succeed and a combination of strategies are required.

    'The main justification for the more liberal approach is that the problem has grown to such unmanageable proportions that effective enforcement is impossible. This is the policy of surrender and defeat. The same argument could be used to justify decriminalising burglary or speeding. There is no overwhelming public demand in favour of a major relaxation of current anti-drug laws. The answer is not to give in but to step up enforcement and prevention. Prevalence will not decline while users know that there are no sanctions. The example of The Netherlands demonstrates this.

    'Our first duty is to protect young people from becoming the next generation of drug addicts. Much more robust education and prevention programmes are needed to enable children to reject peer pressure to experiment with drugs. This should include personal responsibility for decision making. Most new users are introduced to the habit by "friends" and they need to be taught how to resist emotional blackmail.

    'Robust enforcement regimes in New York and Sweden have been shown to succeed. They could also succeed here. Penalties should be severe enough to deter and should include mandatory drug treatment.

    'The treatment of existing addicts is a separate problem and the cost cannot be sustained unless the level of demand diminishes. There was consensus that more treatment should be available. However, drug use should not be made easier by simply maintaining habits. Treatment should have withdrawal or abstinence as its goal, otherwise the flow of addicts would never decrease. This would remove any incentive to abstain and would collude in maintaining lifelong habits.

    'Drugs are illegal for a very good reason—they are harmful. Government should not shrink from upholding existing drug laws and from enforcing them rigorously. However distant the goal might be, government should be aiming for a drug-free society'.— (Angela Watkinson.)

Question, That the paragraphs be read a second time, put and negatived.

Paragraphs 268 to 274 agreed to.

Paragraph 275 read as follows:

    Finally, many sensible and thoughtful people have argued that we should go a step further and embrace legalisation and regulation of all or most presently illegal drugs. We acknowledge there are some attractive arguments. However, those who urge this course upon us are inviting us to take a step into the unknown. To tread where no other society has yet trod. They are asking us to gamble the undoubted potential gains against the inevitability of a significant increase in the number of users, especially amongst the very young. They are overlooking the fact that the overwhelming majority of young people do not use drugs and that many are deterred by the prospect of breaking the law. We, therefore, decline to support legalisation and regulation.

Question put, That the paragraph stand part of the Report.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 7Noes, 2
Mr David CameronMr Marsha Singh
Mrs Janet DeanDavid Winnick
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Bob Russell
Angela Watkinson
Mr Tom Watson

Paragraph 275 agreed to.

Paragraph 276 agreed to.

Annex read and agreed to.

Mr Humfrey Malins joined the meeting from Standing Committee E (considering the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill).

Motion made, and Question put, That the Report be the Third Report of the Committee to the House.

The Committee divided.


Ayes, 9Noes,1
Mr David CameronAngela Watkinson
Mrs Janet Dean
Mr Humfrey Malins
Bridget Prentice
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Bob Russell
Mr Marsha Singh
Mr Tom Watson
David Winnick

Ordered, That the Chairman do make the Report to the House.

Ordered, That the provisions of Standing Order No. 134 (Select Committees (reports)) be applied to the Report.

Several Papers were ordered to be appended to the Minutes of Evidence.

Ordered, That the Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence be reported to the House.—(The Chairman.)

Several Papers were ordered to be reported to the House.

[Adjourned till Tuesday 14 May at a quarter past Ten o'clock




 
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