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Drug Policy

Volume 573: debated on Monday 13 January 2014

The coalition Government has decided to opt out of the European Commission’s proposals for a regulation and a directive on new psychoactive substances.

The proposals would, as drafted, fetter the UK’s discretion to control different new psychoactive substances, binding the UK to an EU system which would take insufficient account of our national circumstances. In addition, the Government agrees with the House of Commons’ and House of Lords’ reasoned opinions that the proposals infringe the key EU principle of subsidiarity.

We also strongly dispute the evidence base stated in the EU Commission’s impact assessment which estimates that 20% of new psychoactive substances have a legitimate use. While the proposed new psychoactive substances directive cites a title V legal base, the proposed new psychoactive substances regulation does not, as drafted, recognise the right of the UK to opt out. We will remain a full and active participant in the European Union negotiations to shape the proposal and defend our national interests.

New psychoactive substances pose a significant global challenge and the decision to opt out should not in any way be considered to diminish our commitment to tackle this issue. As I informed Parliament on 12 December, the coalition Government is conducting a review into new psychoactive substances, and alongside our programme of work, we are looking at a range of options including legislative ones to enable us to deal with the dangers many of these substances present even more speedily and effectively. The international comparators study begun by my predecessor has been useful in identifying different approaches adopted around the world and those approaches are being examined as part of this work.