Submitted by the Greater London Authority
SUBMISSION OF EVIDENCE TO THE HOME AFFAIRS
COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO THE GOVERNMENT'S DRUG POLICY: IS IT WORKING?
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.
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
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
Placing a stronger emphasis on public
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
7 All references Drug Use in London (1998)-Stimson,
Fitch, Judd Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour. Back