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Discussions with Scottish Government

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2023

I am pleased to say that the inaugural meeting of the inter-ministerial group on justice is taking place this afternoon, chaired by Lord Bellamy and attended by the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Angela Constance MSP, as well the Counsel General for Wales, Mick Antoniw MS. That new forum has been established by an agreement between the four nations of the UK. It has discussed justice issues of mutual interest.

I rise as a convinced devolutionist. In fact, I think I am the only Member of this place whose signature is on the Claim of Right for Scotland. As and when a new law is agreed in Edinburgh or Cardiff, say, what mechanism is in place to ensure that any such new law will not disrupt either England or other parts of the United Kingdom?

The hon. Gentleman raises a good point. We have more recently seen the Scottish Government attempt to railroad the rest of the UK on gender recognition. It is better when our legislatures work in tandem for the benefit of all parties, not when Scotland tries to disrupt other parts of the United Kingdom with ill-thought out legislation.

The Government will amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 this afternoon. That 50-year-old piece of legislation controls the shape of Scotland’s criminal justice system to punish drug addiction with the full force of the law rather than treat users, in health settings, as addicts with health conditions. What conversations has the Minister had with Cabinet colleagues in the Scottish Government on introducing a safe drug consumption room pilot in Glasgow?

I am not sure, based on recent reports, that that particular pilot is working well. I will happily ask colleagues to see whether that pilot is working as the hon. Gentleman says it is, but that is not what the newspapers are reporting. The UK Government’s response to it is something for the inter-ministerial group, which is meeting this afternoon.

I am a bit confused by the Minister’s response. There currently is no pilot in Glasgow, but perhaps there have been some positive discussions between the Scottish Government and the Government here. Given that there are 100 drug consumption rooms in more than 60 cities across the world, supported by mountains of evidence from NGOs, civil society groups and drug activists, alongside the Lord Advocate’s new policy not to prosecute drug users for possession offences committed within a pilot safer drugs consumption facility, can the Minister give an iron-clad commitment that the Government will not block this life-saving health measure?

How that legislation is dealt with is a matter for other colleagues, but I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that, if treating drug taking as a health issue is working as he suggests it is, we will learn from that and discuss it with our colleagues in the NHS. The broad principle of it being a health issue is being dealt with by the NHS and the Health Secretary. In terms of legislation, that is a matter for Cabinet colleagues.