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Novel Psychoactive Substances

Volume 624: debated on Tuesday 25 April 2017

2. If she will review the effectiveness of legislation relating to novel psychoactive substances. (909795)

This is a matter for the Home Office. The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 requires the legislation to be reviewed within 30 months, so the review of that Act will happen in late 2018.

Wrexham, like many other towns up and down the country, is being blighted by the impact of so-called Spice. I received a letter this month from the Home Office that directly contradicts a letter from the Minister on the question of whether the possession of Spice is an offence. The confusion is causing real enforcement problems for police officers, who have already had their numbers cut by this Government. Will the Minister take this matter more seriously and act urgently to confront this really serious problem?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is a serious problem and, as I have said before, it is also a problem in our prisons. Possession of Spice in a custodial setting is an offence and is subject to imprisonment. If the hon. Gentleman could forward me his letter from the Home Office, I will look into this in more detail and get back to him.

May I say how much I welcome the 2016 Act, having lost two young men to what used to be called legal highs? The extra powers that it provides and the rigorous application of the law to rapidly changing chemicals are extremely welcome.

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I should also like to emphasise that the possession of Spice has been subject to further controls, and that that includes making it illegal.

As the Minister will be aware, the use of Spice and its impact on our communities are now reaching epidemic levels. This is particularly hitting city centres such as Manchester and other towns and cities across the country. What discussions is he having with colleagues in other Departments to get a proper handle on this issue and to crack down on it? It is putting intolerable pressure on our public services.

The hon. Lady makes an important point. Spice is a blight on our communities as well as in our prisons, where it fuels the disorder and violence that we see there. We take this extremely seriously and I am working with my colleagues in the Home Office to deal with the issue not only in the custodial system but in the community.

Banning psychoactive substances is one thing, but physically keeping them out of our prisons is quite another. Will the Minister tell the House what active measures he is taking to prevent these substances from getting inside our jails?

My hon. Friend is right. We are determined to keep these drugs out of our jails, and that is why we have trained 300 dogs to detect them. We have also introduced a new drug test for psychoactive substances, and the UK is the first jurisdiction in the world to do that. The testing has been rolled out, although we cannot comment on its impact because it started only last year. However, we know from the evidence that drug testing has a deterrent effect on use and possession.

With four suspected drug-related deaths in one weekend at the start of this month in Belfast and the coroner reporting that the number of such deaths has doubled in the past two years, this is an important issue that affects cities right across the United Kingdom. Will the Minister confirm that his review in 2018 will also draw on the experience of the implementation of the Act in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in order to get the full picture of how well the legislation has been operating?

As I have said, the review will be carried out by the Home Office, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s question has been noted and will be reflected in the review.