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After all, how can one describe as anything other than deeply confused a policy that, on one hand, talks in a disapproving way about drugs, but on the other, seeks to declassify cannabis? Young people took the move as a signal that the Government were telling them that it is okay to smoke cannabis. That is probably why last week's European drugs report showed that Britain's 15-year-old boys smoke more cannabis than those in any other country. [Interruption.] The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), says from a sedentary position that that is out of date. I suggest that she read not just her own Department's publications, but those of the Department of Health, which is a touch more up to date than she is.
The Metropolitan police also admit that more people are being caught with cannabis, but fewer are being arrested. That is the effect of the Government's decision
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to reclassify that dangerous and addictive drug. Yet in this pre-election Queen's Speech, more than 10 years after the Prime Minister first promised to be tough on the causes of crime, the Government suddenly promise a crackdown on drugs.
David Davis: The hon. Gentleman is entirely right: it is our intention to change back that classification to give the right signal to the youngsters of this country. We will then not have to spend £1 million on putting up notices in every police station that say, "It's still illegal to smoke cannabis."
We will look at the Government's proposals on drugs on their merits. Overall, their proposed Bill does not offer the solutions that the British people want. The British people do not want programmes that have proven to fail, with completion rates of only a third and a reconviction rate of 80 per cent. They want programmes that rehabilitate drug addicts and free them from the life of crime that pays for their next fix. They do not want heroin and crack cocaine freely available on our streets. They want secure borders that disrupt supply and rid our streets of the drug barons, dealers and gangs. They do not want cannabis, which is undoubtedly far more potent than ever before, being obtained and smoked by our young with impunity. They want strong action against every illicit drug.
After seven years of Labour and as a direct consequence of its policies on drugs, there are more addicts, more dealers and more crimes. Suddenly, five months before an election, Ministers want us to believe that they will suddenly do something effective about drugs. Let us not pretend that there is much more to the Government's Bill than a desperate attempt in a run-up to an election to hide seven years of failure. After all, is that not what the Queen's Speech is really all about? I suppose we should take it as a great compliment. One day the newspapers tell us that the Labour party is worried about being outflanked by the Conservatives on immigration; the next we see an entire Queen's Speech designed to claw back the ground that it has lost to the Conservatives on crime.
Mr. Banks: That is very sweet. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I admire him intensely. What particular country will he be thinking of when, if he ever gets into the position, he wages his war on drugs? What examples will he follow?
There are some good examples. Sweden, with its rehabilitation programmes, is a good example and some aspects of the American programme provide a good example. That has shown a reduction of 11 per cent. in teenage addiction in two years. There are a number of models that we can follow, and we will pick the best from each of them.
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The next issue that I want to talk about is terrorism. Having earlier welcomed some of the proposals in this year's Address, I now want to add that we would have welcomed proposals that were trailed for the Address but not delivered in itnamely, proposals to deal with the threat of terrorism. The Government have decided to introduce only a draft Bill on terror. The Home Secretary promises action if he wins the next election, but we need action now. Terrorism is a problem today, not tomorrow; it is a problem that Governments should be addressing today and not tomorrow; and it certainly is not something that they should spin for electoral gain however the Home Secretary cares to describe the actions of the Leader of the House last week.
There are many practical things on which the Government could legislate now. For example, they could allow evidence gained from intercepts to be used in court. That was recommended by the Newton review nine months ago. Nine months later: nothing no action, just more talk. Yesterday, we had the unprecedented spectacle of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who, I suspect, knows at least as much about prosecuting terrorist threats as the Home Secretary, effectively giving a warning to the Government. In a signed article headlined "Dangerous times need jury trials", he said:
"We do not want to fight terrorism by destroying precisely those things terrorism is trying to take from us. Open liberal democracies fail if they try to protect themselves by becoming illiberal, closed and oppressive."
Claire Ward (Watford) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman has just criticised the Government and the Home Secretary for not bringing forward a counter-terrorism Bill in the Queen's Speech and introducing only a draft Bill. However, at the same time, he appears to support statements that suggest that this is an issue of controversy on which there should be debate. Surely a draft Bill is the right place for such debate.
The issue is now; the issue is today. The proposals that we are talking about have been around for a long time. I have referred only to the most recent report recommending the use of intercepts, but the
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Lloyd report goes back to 199697. The issue is not new, and it could have been debated at any point in the past few years.
David Davis: The issue of jury trial and, in particular, that of intimidation came up last year. I presume that that is the concern being aired here. It was the very first thing that I had to discuss with the Home Secretary when I took up my current role. We agreed with him that judges would be able to hold a trial without a jury in the event of clear evidence or a clear suspicion of actual or prospective jury tampering or jury intimidation. That provision is there already, so I do not think that we need further action to protect our system. Indeed, the point that the Director of Public Prosecutions madeI find it difficult to believe that he said it without the approval of the Law Officers, so there is an interesting division in governmentwas that the suggestion would never be a good idea, full stop, irrespective of how many Bills must be discussed over the coming years.
Simon Hughes: The right hon. Gentleman knows that I share his strong view and that of his colleagues on the defence of jury trials. May I take it that in the coming year in both Houses, his party, like the Liberal Democrats, will ensure that there will be no further reduction in jury trials? Does he agree that such reduction would send a strong signal to terrorists and those who are against liberty that they are winning the battle rather than losing it?
David Davis: My short answer to the hon. Gentleman is yes. He will remember the heated nature of our discussions last year. We endeavoured to achieve an outcome that protected justice and our long tradition of jury trials, yet also protected the state's ability to prosecute in circumstances in which intimidation or tampering could take place. I think that we got pretty close to an optimum outcome last year, so I would be incredibly surprised if we changed position. The hon. Gentleman can be assured that I shall continue to adopt the stance that I have taken thus far.
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