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Lord Rea: Before my noble friend sits down, does she feel that banning magic mushrooms and thus
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driving them into criminal hands underground makes control easier than if they are a perfectly legal substance? Would it not be easier to monitor what is going on if they were on sale in the open market? It would also be possible for environmental health officers and others to check on the strength of magic mushroom preparations, whereas, after the passing of this Bill, they will go out of sight.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I repeat what I have said already. Of course, magic mushrooms in their prepared form are already classified as class A drugs. That classification has been endorsed on an international level in the way that I have just indicated. The difficulty has been in the way matters have been dealt with when coming before the court and there is an assertion that, although the constituents are present in fresh mushrooms, they are not a preparation and they are not therefore covered.
The courts have indicated that that lack of clarity was causing difficulties. We have sought to deal with that in the way that I have just described. It is an important issue because these drugsand drugs they areare being imported and sold for considerable profit, and are causing real harm. It is that real harm with which we really have to deal.
Lord Cobbold: I thank the noble Baroness for that response. On listening to the technical explanation that she has given, it seems that she is saying that prepared elements are already categorised as class A. But this clause will change ordinary, unprocessed, fresh mushrooms growing in the fields of England from being just nothing to being a class A drug, which I think is unacceptable.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. In doing so, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in the Bill and given it such a swift passage, including my noble friend on the Woolsack. I also take this opportunity to thank members of the Bill team, who have worked incredibly hard, and all those who have ensured that we have had our Marshalled Lists in time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I should like to use the opportunity to explain, especially for the benefit of external organisations that have argued long and hard on the Bill, the approach that our Front Bench will be taking during this very compressed Committee stage of the Bill. On a wash-up of this nature, with only one day of the Committee stage behind us, there is a huge number of potential amendments, many of a technical but important nature, in the Marshalled List.
Agreement has been reached, however, between the Government and opposition parties in both Houses to allow the Bill to pass, provided certain key amendments are made. It would not be fair in these circumstances, we believe, to single out a few other amendments or spend the next several hours debating points and seeking clarification on issues which are not part of that broad agreement. It would, in fact, defeat the purpose of the wash-up agreement to expedite the passage of the Bill before dissolution.
We recognise that we are this evening essentially going through a set of formalities where it is simply impossible, in the time available, to raise substantive issues, many of which have merit. Our Front Bench will therefore not be moving further amendments. However, I want to put it on record, and seek the Minister's acknowledgment of the fact, that the text of the Bill has not received the fine tuning that passage through the Lords normally ensures. In those circumstances, it would be helpful for the Minister to give the assurance that the Gambling Commission will take account of this in its operation of the Bill and that the commission and the Government will ensure that an early and thorough review of the operation of the Bill will take place. That assurance would be helpful in circumstances in which there are still many doubts and fears about the precise operation of many parts of the Bill and the definitions contained in it. I beg to move.
Baroness Buscombe: I concur with what the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, has said. We and the
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Liberal Democrats have achieved a deal with the Government. Therefore, we see this very much as a formal process. That said, I want to put it on record that I feel we have achieved a great deal, given the lack of time and proper scrutiny of this controversial and, in many ways, difficultalbeit importantBill. Time has been so short, and a lot of us feel this keenly.
To that end, I am grateful to the Minister for publishing the Ministerial Statement in Hansard, for the various meetings that we have had and for his listening approach to the Bill. Again, I concur with the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in that there are many people beyond your Lordships' House who would like to have heard more from our Benches and from others about certain issues. We cannot go into detail on all those tonight. We accept that, but we want to be sure that the Gambling Commission and the Government will take on board the necessity to consider in detail many of those areas of an important Bill on which one day in Committee has not really provided enough scrutiny.
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