Considered in Grand Committee
That the Grand Committee do consider the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Temporary Class Drug) Order 2016.
My Lords, I thank the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for its expert advice, which informed the order we are considering today, which was laid in Parliament on 15 June.
If the order is made, seven methylphenidate-based compounds, as well as their simple derivatives, will be subject to temporary control under Section 2A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 for a further 12 months, thereby maintaining the offences concerning their production and distribution. These compounds were controlled for 12 months under a previous temporary class drug order, which expired on 26 June 2016. The new TCDO came into effect on 27 June and will remain in effect for 12 months, subject to Parliament’s approval.
We are seeking to extend the temporary control following a request from the ACMD for additional time to strengthen its evidence base. This will give it the opportunity to consider the most recent data, including data from festivals, drug-related deaths and information from the drugs early warning system. The additional 12 months will allow the ACMD to consider whether these drugs should be made subject to full control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The ACMD notes that the initial TCDO has had a positive effect. Police Scotland has reported that in Edinburgh, where there had been reported injecting practices and an outbreak of infections involving some of these substances, there has been a reduction in harms.
These seven compounds are thought to be highly potent stimulants, similar to methylphenidate, a class B drug. One of these substances, ethylphenidate, had previously been marketed online as an alternative to cocaine. Their harms are reported to include anxiety, paranoia, visual disturbance, chest pain and a strong urge to re-dose. Other reported harms include anti-social and violent behaviour, loss of fine motor control, a high risk of bacterial infection and local tissue damage from injecting.
The order enables UK law enforcement to continue action against traffickers and suppliers of temporary class drugs while the ACMD gathers evidence. The order also sends out a clear message to the public, especially to young people, that these drugs and the brand names associated with them carry serious health risks. We know that the change in the law cannot on its own deter all those inclined to use or experiment with these drugs. However, we expect the TCDO to continue to have a notable impact on their availability, and in turn on demand for them, as we have seen with other substances controlled under a TCDO.
We know that legislation alone is not enough and continue to take action across education, prevention, treatment and recovery in order to reduce harmful drug use. We will continue to update our public health messages to inform the public of the harms caused by these substances, using the latest evidence gathered from early warning systems. In these circumstances, I commend the order to your Lordships.
My Lords, as we have heard, the order seeks to renew a temporary control order on the substances listed in the paper for another year, while further work is undertaken and a decision is made on what should happen in the long term. I have no issue with the order whatever. All I would say is that I hope that in granting this temporary ban for another year, we are able within that time to gather the information that the council has asked for, so that it can come back to us to recommend a permanent ban. Clearly, these drugs are harmful to health, and it is important, as the noble and learned Lord said, that education, treatment and advice are made available to young people so that they understand the harm that they can do to themselves and to others by taking them. I am happy to support the order and hope that sooner rather than later we will be able to deal with this issue permanently.
I am obliged to the noble Lord. I should explain that generally speaking the council has to be helped to make a recommendation about six months before the expiry of a TCDO in order for there to be time to transpose the prohibition into the Act itself. It was therefore thought necessary in the present case that there should be an extension. I do not believe that it is anticipated that a further extension will be required, because further evidence of harm has become available and is now being analysed.