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Overdose Prevention Centres

Volume 719: debated on Monday 5 September 2022

1. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on licensing overdose prevention centres. (901256)

11. If she will make an assessment of the potential merits of implementing a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of drug consumption rooms. (901266)

Welcome back, Mr Speaker. I endorse everything you have just said. We enjoy the right to lawful, peaceful protest, but we enjoy the right to open democracy as well. Those who behave in this way should feel the full force of the law.

Before I answer these questions, I will briefly remark on my three years as Home Secretary under Boris Johnson’s prime ministership. A written ministerial statement in my name was tabled this morning—[Interruption]—shut up—outlining the work of the Home Office over the last three years to meet our manifesto commitments, which include some of the biggest reforms on security, migration and public safety, about which Mr Speaker has just spoken. I am proud to have served in this Government, and I thank the Prime Minister, Home Office Ministers past and present, and a wide range of officials.

Drugs are a scourge on society that destroys lives, blights communities and fuels crime. There is no safe way to take dangerous drugs, so I do not support legalising drugs. Importantly, the drug strategy led by this Government will tackle drug supply, reduce demand and provide world-class treatment to those in need of help.

Tragically, York saw a number of deaths over the summer caused by substance misuse. There were 4,859 drug deaths in England and Wales last year, up 6.2% on the previous year, and Dame Carol Black’s second report highlighted that intervention services are not fit for purpose. It is important that we see change based on evidence. Will the Government look again at the impact of overdose prevention units and pilot them in places such as York?

The hon. Lady makes a very important point about the tragedy of drug deaths, and she highlights the incredibly important work of Dame Carol Black. I pay tribute to the work of Dame Carol Black, including everything she proposed on the drug strategy and treatment programmes. She also highlighted where funding needs to come together across the whole of Government, and a great deal of work is taking place on that.

The hon. Lady is correct. Not only does more work need to be done, but we need to have bottom-up solutions. Dame Carol Black has presented some strong proposals to the Government, and the Prime Minister and I have backed and supported them. It is right that that legacy continues, as it will help to save lives and re-establish rehabilitation programmes across the country.

Last week I spent an evening in Glasgow with families who, like me, have lost someone to drug addiction. They and I accept that the ideal situation is that people will conquer their addiction, but does the right hon. Lady accept that they can do that only if they do not die first? Does she also accept that, for those who continue to use, we should enable them to do so as safely as possible and as close to medical assistance as possible? The Royal College of Nursing supports drug consumption rooms. Will she support them? And will she support the families and the memory of all those who have lost their life to drugs? Will she give the go-ahead for just one pilot project?

I totally recognise and understand not only the hon. Lady’s remarks, but the scale of drug addiction and drug deaths—we have discussed this many times before in this House and it is tragic. Conquering addiction is not easy, which is why I stand by the work of Carol Black. It is pivotal in terms of putting forward long-term treatment programmes, because long-term treatment is really required. My views on drug consumption rooms, in particular, are known, but there are no easy solutions to this, because people who are addicted to drugs have taken drugs for a wide range of reasons. It is important that we seek to support them to conquer addiction and help them to rebuild their lives.