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Mr. Bercow : The Home Secretary is being extremely generous in giving way. Further to the intervention of the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon), I am strong on civil liberties but there is one important exception in relation to drugs. One of my constituents lost his daughter in a car crash in 1984. To this day, he and his wife believe that the guilty party was either high on drugs or influenced by copious consumption of alcohol. Under the law there was no right to take a test without consent. That strikes me as wrong. As a parent, my constituent has to live with uncertainty as to whether there was causality for the rest of his life. Does the Home Secretary plan to address that important matter in the Bill?
Mr. Clarke: The hon. Gentleman's general point illustrates extremely clearly the point that I was trying to make earlier. We are looking into impairment tests in that regard. There are some difficulties in relation to consent for people in certain conditions with which I dealt previously as a Minister. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) took up with vigour ways of dealing with those issues and we are looking at them in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): I have been following the Home Secretary's arguments carefully as he sets out the Bill. I hope that he will turn his face against the legalisation of drugs, although he seems to have left a small opening for the hon. Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn).
Why does the Home Office put so much emphasis on harm reduction and treatment, but so little on abstinence and rehabilitation? Does the Home Secretary intend to reverse that balance and will he tell the House when he will be able to offer a rehabilitation place on demand to somebody who wants to get off drugs?
I have obviously been guilty of misstatement if there is any doubt in the hon. Lady's mind: I am wholly against, without qualification, legalising drugs. If I was unclear in what I said, I reiterate it clearly from the Dispatch Box.
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On the point of substance that the hon. Lady raised, abstinence is obviously the right way to proceed. I have seen some excellent work by abstinence-based groups with prisoners and others, which takes a positive course. I do not think that the various regimes should be based on tolerance of a certain level of drug abuse as acceptable but we have to listen to the advice of the professionals about the best way to proceed. I am certainly not such a professional, but we should look at the various ways of proceeding.
On the hon. Lady's point about demand and that we should reach a state of affairs where a rehabilitation or treatment place is available at the outsetthe point made by the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green earlier onI am with her in principle, and that is the direction we are following. The path that we have set out is precisely drawn so that we can reach that stage.
Clauses 9 to 19 deal with the police's power to require those who test positive for a class A drug to attend an initial assessment of their abuse. That will increase the engagement of drug misusers with treatment providers. At present, those who test positive are encouraged to attend assessment but only on a voluntary basis. The powers requiring such an assessment will enable the assessor to determine the level of dependency or the propensity to misuse the class A drug and whether the person might benefit from further assessment, treatment or both. The powers also provide for the police to require a person to attend a follow-up assessment to give a further opportunity to discuss their drug misuse with a drugs worker and to draw up a care plan setting out the assistance and treatment that the person needs.
Clause 20 deals with antisocial behaviour orders and a new civil orderthe intervention orderto be attached to an ASBO where the underlying causes of the antisocial behaviour relate to drug misuse. An ASBO sets out behaviour that the perpetrator is required not to engage in; the intervention order will set out activity that the perpetrator should engage in to address the causes of his antisocial behaviour.
In that context, the Bill deals with so-called magic mushrooms. The chemicals inside them are class A drugs; the mushrooms themselves are class A drugs, if prepared or in the form of a product. The Bill will end uncertainty by making it clear that all magic mushrooms, in whatever form, are class A drugs, and will make it an offence, to import, export, produce, supply, possess or possess with intent to supply magic mushrooms in any form.
Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central) (Lab/Co-op):
That part of the Bill deals with an anomalous position, but it also raises other anomalies. Can my right hon. Friend explain what harm currently done by the partially legal position of that drug will cease to be done or will be reduced by making it illegal? The drug grows widely naturally in this country and people could have it in their gardens without knowing it. Are they committing an offence? There is a hugely anomalous position on khata drug widely used by part of the community in my constituency; the drug is certainly harmful but it is entirely legal. The Bill does nothing
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about that drug yet magic mushrooms will be made more illegal than they are currently. What benefit will that bring?
We are addressing the status of magic mushrooms in particular because the chemicals inside them are class A drugsthey have an effect. As a result, people are preparing products using a brand of magic mushroom, and taking approaches designed to bypass the existing legislation, which is why we are addressing the matter in that way.
Paul Flynn: The Home Secretary is extremely generous in giving way. I want to be clear about the meaning of the provisions. He referred to the possession of magic mushrooms. I own a gardenas do the Queen and the Church of England. If magic mushrooms appear in those gardens, the Bill changes the law so that they become a class A drug for which people can be thrown into the slammer for seven years. Is my right hon. Friend really saying that we should treat the possession of a growing magic mushroom in the same way as we treat someone who owns a crack house?
Mr. Clarke: Obviously my hon. Friend can pursue the issue in Committee if he wants to do so, but the fact is that there has been an increase of 400 per cent. in the number of outlets where those products are made available to the public and we have to deal with that, which is what the legislation will do.
Dr. Iddon: Bearing in mind the fact that we declassified cannabis from class B to class C on the grounds of its harm, what evidence is there that psilocybe mushrooms are as harmful as heroin or either form of cocaine?
Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP): Does the Secretary of Secretary believe there is a case for increasing the bands used for the classification of drugs? Does he agree with the Runciman report and even the Home Affairs Committee, which say that classifying such drugs as class A exaggerates the dangers of magic mushrooms and ecstasy, while diminishing the dangers of heroin and cocaine? We have heard nothing at all about young people. Surely, we must make our drugs laws and classification credible to young people.
Let me be quite candid. There have been two or three interventions from Labour Members and from the Opposition that suggest a tolerance or understanding of people who use those drugs for their own pleasure, or whatever they do. I do not share that view in any respect whatsoever. It is crucial to deal with
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such drug use, which is what this measure does. Of course, when we look at the analysis of the banding classification system, it is appropriate and right to consider the advice of the professionals who make the medical assessment before coming to a view. That is precisely what we will do, but I do not share any of the apparent tolerance of those drugs that the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) appears to demonstrate. I may have misunderstood him, in which case I apologise, but that is certainly the impression that I have gained.
Mr. Duncan Smith : I suggest that the Secretary of State look again at Sweden for one reason: it overcame the problem because it stopped classifying drugs in any way at all. Sweden just has one system: all drug use and abusethe addictionis prosecuted, which has had a huge result. Before the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) tells the Secretary of State that there is a better way, I wish to make the point that Sweden did exactly what Portugal did and it was a total disaster, which is why Sweden has gone hard back on classifying drugs.
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