Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by the Greater London Authority



  1.  The GLA is a new form of strategic city-wide government for London. It is made up of a directly elected Mayor and a separately elected Assembly. In preparing this evidence the Mayor has consulted with a number of regional bodies, including the London Drug Policy Forum, the Drug Prevention Advisory Service and the London Drug and Alcohol Network.

  2.  The Mayor welcomes the Committee's inquiry into the Government's drug policy, and would be happy to provide further information and oral evidence.

  3.  London has higher levels of drug use and drug problems then the rest of England and Wales.[7] The Mayor is committed to tackling the complex consequences of drug use as they manifest in the capital. To further this aim the Mayor has established the London Alcohol and Drug Alliance, bringing together regional bodies to co-ordinate resources and tackle Londonwide problems. This submission provides a specific London perspective on whether the Government's drug policy is working.

  4.  The focus of the submission is on where the Government's drug policy can be improved. The Mayor welcomes many aspects of the Government's drug strategy, especially the new resources brought in to enhance the capacity and effectiveness of treatment services, and the establishment of Drug Action Teams.

  5.  In summary this submission makes the following recommendations to improve the Government's drug policy:

    —  Recognising the importance of regional variations

    —  Placing a stronger emphasis on public health

    —  Using quality of life indicators to judge the success of supply reduction efforts.


  6.  The Government drives the ten-year drug strategy through stringent performance management over local delivery by Drug Action Teams. Though performance management is necessary, this centralist approach does not adequately acknowledge the significant regional variations in the nature of the drug problem. London has unique characteristics, for example:

    —  Over 100 problem drug users sleep on the streets every night.

    —  One in 20 men and one in 100 women in inner London have injected drugs.

    —  HIV prevalence is 7 per cent in current injectors compared to less than 1 per cent in the rest of England.

    —  Over half the people in treatment for drug dependence also have a mental health problem.

    —  One in five arrestees test positive for crack cocaine and poly-drug use.

    —  Nearly one in three of London's population is from an ethnic minority.

  7.  These factors, alongside the mobility of the population and high levels of deprivation all shape the nature of London's drug problem. The Mayor recommends a strengthened regional perspective in the implementation of the Government's drug strategy. Performance measures of DATs should reflect concerns such as crack cocaine use, homelessness, co-morbidity and the levels of drug-related crime committed by offenders who live outside the capital.

  8.  The limited acknowledgement of regional differences is reflected in resource allocation. Without adequate resources the national drug strategy will fail in the capital. Consideration should be given to the factors such as:

    —  London is home to international drug markets.

    —  One in four of England's drug misusers live in the capital.

    —  London suffers from higher costs in providing services to drug users with a multiplicity of other problems, such as homelessness and mental health.

    —  There are major problems in recruiting and retaining of skilled staff in the capital.

  9.  The Mayor recommends that funding allocation be reviewed to take these differences into account.


  10.  The emphasis within the national strategy on bringing drug users into services that have a positive impact on health and crime is correct. But services that aim only to prevent the spread of the HIV and hepatitis virus are also vital to the public health of the capital. The Mayor recommends that within the treatment strand in the strategy there should be an aim to reduce drug-related deaths. In support of this, the Mayor recommends that Section 9a of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is repealed, so that citric acid, sterilised water and other paraphernalia can be supplied to drug users to reduce the risk of viral transmission.

  11.  Visible drug use on the streets is the source of major public concern in London. Managers of homeless hostels and day centres are very reluctant to provide support and shelter to drug users for fear they may face prosecution. The Government must ensure that a legal framework exists so that public services can be provided to engage with chaotic street drug users.

  12.  The Public Entertainment Licence (Drug Misuse) Act 1998 has deterred some nightclub owners and managers in London from taking responsible measures to promote the safety of potential drug takers in their venues. The Mayor recommends a review of this legislation to ensure that adequate health and safety measures exist in environments where drug taking inevitably occurs.

  13.  In view of the Government's acknowledgement of the impact of problem alcohol use on violent crime, public disorder, families, physical and mental health, and its links to drug use, the early publication of the national alcohol strategy is vital, as is the provision of sufficient resources to support alcohol services.


  14.  The Mayor recommends that the success of supply reduction efforts should be measured by their impact on local communities. Enforcement effort has little discernible impact on availability or price of illegal drugs in London. Experience in London suggests that enforcement operations that focus solely on arresting drug dealers have limited impact. Street level dealers are rapidly replaced or markets are displaced from one area to the next.

  15.  Adequate funding should be provided for policing and enforcement. Activity should be weighted towards improving quality of life. Emphasis should be given to strengthening communities to prevent drug problems. As the impact of drug dealing is felt in London's poorest and most marginalised communities, action against drug dealing, particularly community-led initiatives should be built in to programmes tackling regeneration and social exclusion. The Mayor will contribute to building community led drug prevention into regeneration and looks to government to match this commitment.

September 2001

7   All references Drug Use in London (1998)-Stimson, Fitch, Judd Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour. Back

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