Orders of the Day — Drugs (Sentencing and Commission of Inquiry) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:38 am on 25th February 2005.

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Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst 10:38 am, 25th February 2005

No, because I think that we would get a positive cash flow. The intriguing thing—the hon. Lady will know this better than I do—is that it is beyond dispute or debate that the revenues raised from the sale of cigarettes and alcohol far exceed the cost to the national health service of treating the ailments that arise from abuse of such substances. Sad to say, I would probably argue that in the unlikely event that we legalised these substances and taxed them—indeed, it is unlikely that we would even consider debating my suggestion—the same point would apply. The tax revenues raised from them would far exceed the cost of treating through the NHS those who used them. That is a reasonable assumption to make, based on the historical evidence of tobacco and alcohol use.

I welcome these opportunities to have such a debate. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley for this one, and from that point of view I welcome his Bill, but I do wish that we took such opportunities to broaden the debate and turn it into a serious one. The sad truth is that we politicians are afraid of articulating this debate in the way that I am suggesting because we assume that there would be a backlash from the electorate. As a result, with a few honourable exceptions—sadly, one particularly honourable exception, who consistently speaks out bravely on this issue is not here today, albeit for a doubtless very good reason—an opportunity for Members to debate this issue is again being missed. I regret that greatly.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his Bill and I will support it today, if only because it would provide a proper vehicle for further such debates. If it goes into Committee, as I hope it will, I will try to amend it to broaden the remit of his proposed commission, so that we can go somewhat in my suggested direction. For that reason alone the Bill is well worth supporting, but sadly, today is an opportunity that has been missed.