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Lord Oxburgh: My Lords, we have had a good debate today. I begin by thanking the Minister for his detailed and informative reply, and, indeed, for sharing with us a
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considerable amount of the Government's forward thinking in this important area. I have to say that I gained considerable encouragement from it.

I also thank noble Lords for their gracious reception of our report. I hope that our two specialist advisers, who are with us today, Professors Anderson and Elliott, and, indeed, our clerk will feel that their efforts in supporting us were worth while. We certainly had some excellent and vigorous discussions among the group in trying to sort out the complexities and the subtleties of the ROC system and other aspects of renewable energy and its support.

The most encouraging thing that I have heard today is the unanimous agreement that we have a major challenge in coping with atmospheric CO2 and climate change. I have not heard that questioned; that is enormously encouraging. The issue is urgent. Now the question is: what are we going to do about it? The Government have made a start. But this is where—traditionally in this country—the system has broken down. We have had good ideas, we have had committees and good recommendations, but then we have fallen down on the implementation.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I intend absolutely no discourtesy to the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh. Unfortunately, because earlier speakers took longer than the allocated time, we are now two minutes over time. I apologise most sincerely to the noble Lord and hope that in future all noble Lords in a timed debate will be as helpful as possible. My noble friend the Minister lost two minutes of his reply time because of other noble Lords speaking at length.

Lord Oxburgh: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness. I shall be as brief as I possibly can, but there are a few things that have to be said.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I must now put the Question. The Question is that this Motion be agreed to. As many of that opinion will say "Content"? To the contrary "Not Content"? The "Contents" have it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Renewable Energy

6.27 pm

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool had given notice of his intention to call attention to the Government's strategy and timetable for programmes of energy efficiency, use reduction and conservation and for the implementation of renewable sources of energy; and to move for Papers.

Motion not moved.

Written Statements

Thursday 23 June 2005

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Sentencing Guidelines Council

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Sentencing Guidelines Council has today published its first annual report, jointly with the Sentencing Advisory Panel, giving details of the excellent work it has achieved since its creation in March 2004 and outlining its work plans for the next 12 months. Copies of the annual report have been placed in the Library of the House.

Magic Mushrooms

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Section 21 of the Drugs Act 2005 will come into force on 18 July 2005. Section 21 has amended the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 so that any fungi containing psilocin or an ester of psilocin—commonly known as magic mushrooms—are controlled drugs. Psilocin is already a class A drug—fresh magic mushrooms will be class A too.

Magic mushrooms are a powerful hallucinogen and can cause real harm, especially to vulnerable people and those with mental health problems. The law has not been clear with regard to the status of fresh magic mushrooms and some have tried to exploit this apparent loophole. In the past two years there has been a sudden increase in the amount of magic mushrooms imported into the UK—HM Revenue and Customs estimates the imports for 2004 to be between 8,000 and 16,000 kilograms. The Government have acted to close the loophole by making it clear that they will not allow the open sale of fresh magic mushrooms. It is now an offence to import, export, produce, supply, possess or possess with intent to supply magic mushrooms, whatever form they are in, whether prepared or fresh. This is a clarification of the law not a reclassification. These measures received cross-party support during the passage through Parliament of the Drugs Bill.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs agreed that the law on magic mushrooms would benefit from clarification. Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chair of the council, wrote to me on 2 June stating that "Council members accepted entirely that there should not be easy access to hallucinogenic mushrooms" and "this was a sensible move to clarify the law".

During the Commons Committee Stage of the Drugs Bill, the Government undertook to bring in regulations dealing with exceptions from the offence of possession in certain circumstances. The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2005 are being laid before Parliament today and are due to come into force
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on 18 July 2005. The regulations amend the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 to provide exceptions from the offence of possession of magic mushrooms. For example, a person will not be committing an offence of possession of magic mushrooms if the mushrooms are growing naturally and uncultivated on their premises.

Also to be laid at the same time is the Misuse of Drugs (Designation) (Amendment) Order 2005. The order is due to come into force on 18 July 2005 and confirms legally that magic mushrooms, like psilocin, are designated as having no recognised medicinal use.

Known suppliers and importers of magic mushrooms will be notified formally of the legal change as a precursor to commencement of the provisions on 18 July.

Copies of the regulations and the order will be placed in the Library. Other sections of the Drugs Act 2005 will come into force later in the year.

Police Information Technology Organisation

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My right honourable friend the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Hazel Blears) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) is a non-departmental public body, established as a body corporate under the Police Act of 1997. In January 2004, I commissioned an independent, end-to end review of PITO and its business processes, including its role in the provision of information technology and communications services to the police service.

I am pleased to announce today the publication of the review's report. The review has provided a critical analysis of the most appropriate structure and organisation to provide information and communications technology to the police, through PITO and from other sources.

The review recommends that PITO should transfer its non-IT responsibilities and transform itself—either as a separate organisation or as a component of the National Policing Improvement Agency—to become a police national ICT group, with responsibility and accountability for ICT to the 43 forces in England and Wales. It recommends that this function should be owned by and professionally managed by the police service, with funding flowing from the police authorities, through the establishment of regional collaborations or combined police delivery groups.

The provision of high-quality information and communications technology to the police and the criminal justice system is vital, not only to manage efficiency throughout the system, but also to deliver better equipped front line policing. The Government welcome the review's analysis of the issues we should address but I do not intend to implement its recommendations wholesale. I intend that those PITO responsibilities that support the core functions of the National Policing Improvement Agency, which were outlined in the White Paper on police reform, Building Communities, Beating Crime, in November last year, will be rationalised and will transfer to the agency,
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along with a wide range of functions currently discharged by other national bodies. The considerable value of this report will be its significant contribution to the planning now under way for the new agency.

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