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Ten-year Drugs Plan

Volume 743: debated on Monday 15 January 2024

5. What progress his Department has made on implementing the Government’s 10-year drugs plan “From harm to hope”, published on 6 December 2021. (900917)

The commitments in the drugs strategy are being delivered, including investing more than £300 million in additional treatment capacity to create over 50,000 extra treatment places. We are also enforcing hard, such as by closing down more than 2,000 county lines since 2019.

Local police in and around Weston-super-Mare have had notable successes in disrupting drug dealing and supply, but new dealers quickly take the place of the old ones. The quantity of drugs and the number of addicts are not declining. Does the Minister accept that although enforcement and education are vital, they are not enough to solve this problem on their own, and that the underlying legal frameworks we use to control these dangerous chemicals have to be addressed, too?

Enforcement is important. Besides closing down those 2,000 county lines, Border Force seized about 19 tonnes of cocaine in the year ending March 2022—the largest amount seized in a single year on record. I have already mentioned treatment. The most important thing is to get people out of their addiction entirely, which is why we are investing so much extra money in treatment.

There are no plans to change the legal framework. Drugs are illegal for a reason. They are highly addictive and harmful, and the out-of-control public drug consumption in those jurisdictions that have liberalised significantly, such as California, San Francisco and so on, is not something we want to see in this country.

We are seeing escalating consumption and movement of drugs in Northern Ireland, and the drugs are coming from England and the Republic of Ireland. What discussions will the Minister have with the Republic of Ireland to ensure that we stop drugs crossing the border? We want to stop them coming from England, too.

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Of course, one feature of the island of Ireland is that there is essentially no border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and he has alluded to the various challenges that poses. I would be happy to take up that issue and to see what more we can do to disrupt the supply of drugs north-south and east-west. I thank him for raising the issue.