Drugs: new psychoactive substances and prescription drugs - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Formal Minutes

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Members present:

Keith Vaz, in the Chair
Ian Austin

Mr James Clappison

Mr Michael Ellis

Paul Flynn

Dr Julian Huppert

Mr David Winnick

Draft Report (Drugs: new psychoactive substances and prescription drugs), proposed by the Chair, brought up and read.

Ordered, That the draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraphs 1 to 18 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 19 read, as follows:

We welcome the use of alternative legislation to prosecute suppliers of new psychoactive substances and congratulate West Yorkshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service on their use of the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 to secure convictions of two suppliers of new psychoactive substances—the innovative use of such legislation is to be commended. We also commend all of those involved in Operation Burdock and would highlight the cohesive nature of such an operation. Until the law has been amended we expect to see similar operations taking place as the benefits of such an approach are clear and we will be writing to every Police and Crime Commissioner to highlight the work done on this case. We are concerned by the length of time it has take the Government to produce guidance on the use of alternative legislation. When new substances are emerging at a rate of more than one a week, taking twelve months to produce a five page note is an unacceptably slow reaction time. The use of alternative legislation, however, in order to cover this increasingly blurred legal area is insufficient. The Government's inability to establish an effective legislative response is indicative of its sluggish response to this problem. The issue of new psychoactive substances is unique and needs an immediate and tailored response. We recommend that any new legislation, brought in to address the problem of 'legal highs', is specific and focused. The law must ensure that the police and law enforcement agencies can take action comprehensively against those who sell new psychoactive substances and remove the reliance on existing legislation which is ill-suited to comprehensively tackling this problem. The legislation needs to allow sellers of new psychoactive substances to be prosecuted for an offence which is equivalent in sanction to that of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Amendment proposed, in line 14, to leave out from "focused" to the end of the paragraph.—(Dr Julian Huppert.)

The Committee divided.

Ayes, 2

Paul Flynn

Dr Julian Huppert

Noes, 3

Ian Austin

Mr James Clappison

Mr Michael Ellis

Question accordingly negatived.

Paragraph agreed to.

Paragraphs 20 to 32 agreed to.

Annex and Key Facts agreed to.

Resolved, That the Report be the Twelfth Report of the Committee to the House.

Ordered, That the Chair make the Report to the House.

Ordered, That embargoed copies of the Report be made available, in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order No. 134.

[Adjourned till Tuesday 7 January at 2.30 pm

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Prepared 20 December 2013