Regulations and Orders

Part of Orders of the Day — Misuse of Drugs Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th December 1970.

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Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby 12:00 am, 9th December 1970

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The progress of the Bill through Parliament is getting almost as long as the "Forsyte Saga". I remind the House, however, that the original Bill, introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) when he was Home Secretary, included in its major provisions the establishment of an Advisory Council and an expert committee. The present Bill, introduced by my right hon. Friend's successor, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), omitted any proposals for an expert committee. This point was considered and discussed in Committee. The Minister explained that there were reasons for it, but no consultations took place between the Department and outside interests about the decision to exclude any provision for an expert committee.

In later proceedings, because consultation with outside interests was an integral part of the discussion on the Bill in Committee, particularly on 5th November, the Minister of State gave firm unequivocal assurances that it was the intention of his Department, in the drawing up of rules or regulations, that full consultation would take place all along the line. The Minister said: In reply to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), I repeat the assurance given by myself and that given previously by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) that affected interests will be fully consulted whenever the basic powers of control under the Bill are invoked. That is an assurance that runs right the way through and in particular, in relation to these very wide powers taken under Clause 10.I also take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford) that it is very much wider than simply consulting professional bodies. There are a wide range of interests that need to be consulted on this point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 5th November, 1970; c. 105–6.] Those assurances were certainly accepted, and they are embodied in the new Clause. There is no doubt that the Minister's assurances will be carried through, but I see no reason for not strengthening them, because Ministers change and policies perhaps may change.

Because of the wide range of interests concerned—professional, social, and all the way along the line—I hope that the Minister will accept—of course, this in no way casts aspersions on his integrity or the assurances which he has given—that it would be a good thing to write into the Bill, which provides for a whole range of regulations and orders, that, before such regulations or orders are made, the Secretary of State will consult the interests which are likely to be affected.