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Point of Order

Volume 701: debated on Wednesday 20 October 2021

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On Monday, in answer to my supplementary question during Home Office questions, I believe—I have obtained guidance on the law from a senior lawyer—that the Minister for Crime and Policing most inadvertently misled the House, and I humbly invite him to take this early opportunity to correct the record. The Minister stated that the process for the rescheduling of compounds is that approval is given for a medicine by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, and advice is then taken from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs about the rescheduling, as happened with Epidyolex. Nothing in the legislation requires MHRA authorisation for a compound drug to be moved to schedule 2 to 5 under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

The effect of the Minister’s statement means that in practice, compounds will largely not be researched to become medicines. That would require market authorisation as, under the apparent new policy, which has so far never been presented to the House, compounds can never escape the rigours and expense of schedule 1. For British scientists that is a particular barrier to the exciting science around the psychedelic class of drugs that is now more easily developed and researched in North America than it is in the UK, where the science began. For those British scientists denied the opportunity to do that research, due to the costs imposed by the scheduling, it is a constant frustration that there is no recent scientific basis to support the scheduling in the first place.

The Minister’s statement was contradictory not only in logic, but also given recent precedent because—ironically, on the basis of the example given by the Minister—market authorisation for Epidyolex was granted two years after cannabis-based medicines and medicinal products as a whole were placed in schedule 2, precisely to facilitate the prescription of non-MHRA approved special medicines.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me notice of his point of order. I have reviewed my words carefully and I do not believe I did, inadvertently or otherwise, mislead the House. He asked about the rescheduling of psilocybin, and I outlined general Government policy, which is—quite rightly—to follow MHRA authorisation on advice. He did not ask me about the law. His point on the law is, I believe, correct, but that is separate to the process of Government policy, which is to take advice on the rescheduling, or otherwise, or the use of substances, either medicinally or otherwise. I know he would not expect me to reschedule a hallucinogenic compound purely on his say so; he would expect me to do so following the examination of serious scientific advice, and that is what I was intending to communicate to him on the day.

The hon. Gentleman has put his point on the record, and the Minister has responded. If further conversations need to take place, perhaps they could be outside the Chamber. This is obviously a complicated subject, and I suspect that even more detail could be entered into if we left it at that.