Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 22nd March 2004.

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Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw 2:30 pm, 22nd March 2004

When his Department last recommended that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs consider the reclassification of amphetamines; and what plans he has to do so again.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs last reviewed the classification of amphetamines in 1995 when it agreed that class B was still the most appropriate class. There are no plans to request the ACMD to consider the classification of amphetamines, although it keeps the classification of all drugs under constant review.

Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw

Since 1995, we have had a tenfold increase in the volume of police raids involving amphetamines. Australia and New Zealand have found in that time span that amphetamines have become their largest single drug problem. As the drug can be made in the back of a van—it is a home-produced synthetic drug—is it not time that we upgraded it to a class A drug in exactly the same way as Australia and New Zealand have had to do in the past few years?

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)

There are different types of amphetamines: there is amphetamine, which is a class B drug, and methyl-amphetamine, which is also a class B drug. Methyl-amphetamine is especially a problem in the USA, the far east, Australia and New Zealand. Indeed, its use among the Maori tribes has led the New Zealand Government to consider reclassifying it as a class A drug. Estimates from the British crime survey for 2002–03 show that amphetamine use in the 16 to 59 age group has reduced by 50 per cent. since 1996. Of course we have to consider all drugs, but we also have to look at the families of drugs and at how they operate. I think that my hon. Friend is referring to methyl-amphetamine rather than amphetamine itself.

Photo of Linda Gilroy Linda Gilroy Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton

I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that although the classification of drugs and the messages that we get across about them are important, there are nevertheless many other things that we need to do to convey effectively the fact that drug abuse is bad not only for individuals, but for our communities. Will she say something about the Department's priorities for clamping down on drug abuse?

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)

My hon. Friend is right. It is about extending knowledge and information about the different harms of drugs and how they affect our communities. I am pleased that the powers in the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 to shut down crack houses—houses for the use and supply of class A drugs—are already beginning to take hold, and I commend that action to police forces throughout the country, working with local authorities. If a crack house takes root, it can have a devastating impact. We must consider the matter alongside better police enforcement and better use of intelligence to crack down on middle markets. With the serious organised crime agency, I hope that we will tackle the problem nationally and internationally even better than we are doing already.