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Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 14 December 2021

1. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the effectiveness of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. (904744)

21. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the effectiveness of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. (904767)

There are no plans to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The principle remains that drugs are dangerous and need to be controlled appropriately.

I am not surprised by the reply we have just heard from the Minister. However, in Germany, the incoming Government have agreed to join Canada and many US states in legalising cannabis, while across Europe drug consumption rooms are operating with positive results. As countries around us move forward, what message does the Minister think it sends to the rest of the world to see the UK stuck in the last century on drugs policy?

I refute the claim that we are stuck in the last century. In fact, we launched a world-beating strategy just last week, if the hon. Gentleman was paying attention, that proposes a three-pronged approach on drugs, which we believe will have some success over the next decade. I understand that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues often push for the legalisation of cannabis, but I point him to the mixed experience of various parts of the world that have done so, not least California, where it is widely agreed to have been a disaster.

I visited a drug consumption room in Geneva, right next to the central station in that city. Has the Minister visited a drug consumption room? It is important to make Government policy on the basis of evidence and what actually works in other countries.

I have not visited a drug consumption room, although I did have a very illuminating meeting with Ruth Dreifuss, the former President of Switzerland who has been promoting the policy, to discuss the issues they have faced in Switzerland and elsewhere. While I understand that repetition is not uncommon in this place, the hon. Lady will not elicit from me an answer that expands on the ones I have given to her previously.

Foreign-born criminals have long used human rights legislation to avoid deportation to their country of origin. Can my right hon. Friend confirm whether recent announcements to reform human rights will include the introduction of a British Bill of Rights?

Sorry, that question is unrelated to Question 1; it relates to Question 2. I call Peter Grant.

The Minister, as every Minister does these days, describes the strategy announced last week as world-beating. I suggest we maybe wait to see how it works before we make those claims. I also suggest that he also looks at what is actually working in the rest of the world. Can he explain why this world-beating strategy still insists on putting the medical and health needs of drug users in second place at best to treating them as criminals to be ostracised and punished, rather than sick people who desperately need to be helped?

As usual, SNP Members mischaracterise what we are trying to do. The key feature of the strategy is twofold. First, we are ramping up restrictions on supply, building on our success thus far, particularly on dismantling county lines, which will have a direct impact on drug supply in Scotland. The reason we are doing that is that by restricting supply we believe we can create more space for the £780 million we will be spending on therapeutic interventions, particularly with heroin and crack users, to have an impact. Critically, the two have to go together. If we are dealing with a heroin or crack addict, very often they will leave a therapeutic intervention—I am sure hon. Members see this in their own constituencies—and walk straight back out into the hands of a drug dealer. We need to make that less likely if we are going to ensure those therapies stick and have an impact. As far as criminalising addicts is concerned, large numbers of them do commit crime. They commit crime from which there are victims. Those victims deserve to see justice done, too.

Will the Minister be supporting my new clause to the Local Government (Disqualification) Bill, which is coming up for debate on 14 January? My new clause would make offences against the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 a ground for disqualification from being able to serve as a local councillor.

It is unusual that the doings of my hon. Friend pass me by in this House, but sadly that amendment has. It is an interesting proposal, but I hope he will give me a moment to consider it before I give him a response.