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Mr. Allan: These Lords amendments were very much welcomed by my colleagues here and in another place. The issue was of concern to us, so the fact that the Government have accepted its substance is important. I have come late to the Bill, so I have been given briefings on what has gone on before, and they tell me that the statement that I need to make is that we are very grateful on behalf of all rare invertebrates to the Government for agreeing to amend the clause. Given the forthcoming election, we are electioneering and the next bit is the best bit of all: few people have time to think about insects, but for our six-legged friends, we are the effective Opposition. We believe that a success has been achieved on behalf of our six-legged and, I assume—to classify spiders as insects—our eight-legged friends as well. These Lords amendments are useful and helpful, and we are glad that the clause has been adjusted to take account of some very genuine concerns that were expressed.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 4 agreed to.

8.59 pm

Sitting suspended.

6 Apr 2005 : Column 1542

Drugs Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 3

Drug Offence Searches: England and Wales

Lords amendment: No. 1

9.45 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Caroline Flint): I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

Caroline Flint: I should like the House to consider a group of three technical Government amendments, which remedy the fact that by error the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill and the Drugs Bill were drafted to insert new paragraph 35B into schedule 4 of the Police Reform Act 2002. The amendments ensure that the Drugs Bill inserts new paragraph 35C after paragraph 35B inserted by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill and no longer inserts a second paragraph 35B.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): I thank the Minister for her constructive amendments. In due course, on another occasion, we will want to return to the subject of drugs in order to press for tougher sentences for those dealing drugs to schoolchildren and to look again at the reclassification of cannabis to category B. However, we accept that the Bill takes matters a step forward, and on that basis I am happy to thank the Minister for the amendments.

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): It would not make sense to oppose amendments that seek to correct an error that unfortunately crept into the Bill. Like the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats have not sought to oppose the Bill. We believe that it helps to take the law forward in respect of drugs, although we may have some disagreements about where we should go with drugs policy thereafter. However, the amendments make perfect sense, and I hope that the Bill is able to proceed on to the statute book.

Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): This Bill was conceived in prejudice, written in ignorance and is being enacted with incompetence. Those who are supporting it will come to rue the day when this piece of legislative garbage went through the House. It is the worst Bill in my parliamentary experience since the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. As parliamentarians, we should at least ensure that our decisions do not do harm, but this Bill will do harm. It will ensure that a legal trade that causes no problems and is conducted by many businesses will end and be replaced by an illegal trade. We are banning psilocybin—a natural product that will disappear from the market possibly to be replaced by drugs such as fly agaric, which we are not banning but which is a far more dangerous drug.
6 Apr 2005 : Column 1543

This sorry Bill is the latest in a series of Bills since 1971 supported by Governments and Oppositions. It has even been supported by the Liberal Democrats, who should know better, do not have anything to gain by it and should oppose it. Every organisation of people who are knowledgeable about the drugs world has opposed the Bill. The Government have had no support for it. They did not even go to their advisory counsel to ask him for an opinion.

The Bill will go down as one of the worst Bills enacted in Parliament in recent times. It will come back to haunt us, because it will do a great deal of harm. Part of its populist, tabloid nonsense is the attempt to restrict people who are selling drugs near schools. That is a laudable aim—of course we want drugs to be kept out of the reach of children—but the Bill has developed that as it has gone on. Starting with the idea of trying to cure a problem that does not exist, it has built up the absurdity by putting in special penalties against those who sell drugs not only near schools but in other areas where children might be—youth clubs and so on. Then it moved on to routes to schools, and then even short-cuts on those routes. Our urban areas will be cobwebbed with a series of places in which restrictions will apply throughout, when in fact only special restrictions should apply.

The Bill was considered in the other place on Monday and today, and all the very knowledgeable Lords opposed it; indeed, I know of no one who has taken an interest in these issues over the years who supports it. It will close down the "magic mushroom" business, which has carried on with very few problems and pays, so I understand, about £1 million a year in VAT. We are repeating the same old mistake in believing—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman very gently that we have before us three very technical amendments and he is ranging rather wide of the mark.

Paul Flynn: You have been very generous to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I should point out that the three amendments were presented to us at three minutes' notice, when the bells started to go.

My observations are general ones. We know that a deal has been done between the Government and the Opposition parties. It is deal made between people who were afraid to take an intelligent view on this issue. Again, we have a so-called tough policy. Oh, that we as a legislature could one day have an intelligent policy on drugs.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2 and 3 agreed to.


Supermarket Site

9.53 pm

Mr. Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): For many years now, the residents of Hodge Hill have campaigned against Tesco concreting over local playing fields while the city council takes the money to spend elsewhere in the city. So, following my recent Adjournment debate and questions to Ministers, I am now pleased to present this petition.
6 Apr 2005 : Column 1544

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

Mobile Phone Mast

9.54 pm

Mr. Kerry Pollard (St. Albans) (Lab): I present a petition from my St. Albans constituents, which, I am proud to say, is, I believe, the last of this Parliament.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

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