Clause 3 — Drug Offence Searches: England and Wales

Drugs Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:59 pm on 6th April 2005.

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Lords amendment: No. 1

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) 9:45 pm, 6th April 2005

I beg to move, That this House
agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

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

I should like the House to consider a group of three technical Government amendments, which remedy the fact that by error the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill and the Drugs Bill were drafted to insert new paragraph 35B into schedule 4 of the Police Reform Act 2002. The amendments ensure that the Drugs Bill inserts new paragraph 35C after paragraph 35B inserted by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill and no longer inserts a second paragraph 35B.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Secretary of State (Justice), Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Minister for her constructive amendments. In due course, on another occasion, we will want to return to the subject of drugs in order to press for tougher sentences for those dealing drugs to schoolchildren and to look again at the reclassification of cannabis to category B. However, we accept that the Bill takes matters a step forward, and on that basis I am happy to thank the Minister for the amendments.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

It would not make sense to oppose amendments that seek to correct an error that unfortunately crept into the Bill. Like the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats have not sought to oppose the Bill. We believe that it helps to take the law forward in respect of drugs, although we may have some disagreements about where we should go with drugs policy thereafter. However, the amendments make perfect sense, and I hope that the Bill is able to proceed on to the statute book.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

This Bill was conceived in prejudice, written in ignorance and is being enacted with incompetence. Those who are supporting it will come to rue the day when this piece of legislative garbage went through the House. It is the worst Bill in my parliamentary experience since the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. As parliamentarians, we should at least ensure that our decisions do not do harm, but this Bill will do harm. It will ensure that a legal trade that causes no problems and is conducted by many businesses will end and be replaced by an illegal trade. We are banning psilocybin—a natural product that will disappear from the market possibly to be replaced by drugs such as fly agaric, which we are not banning but which is a far more dangerous drug.

This sorry Bill is the latest in a series of Bills since 1971 supported by Governments and Oppositions. It has even been supported by the Liberal Democrats, who should know better, do not have anything to gain by it and should oppose it. Every organisation of people who are knowledgeable about the drugs world has opposed the Bill. The Government have had no support for it. They did not even go to their advisory counsel to ask him for an opinion.

The Bill will go down as one of the worst Bills enacted in Parliament in recent times. It will come back to haunt us, because it will do a great deal of harm. Part of its populist, tabloid nonsense is the attempt to restrict people who are selling drugs near schools. That is a laudable aim—of course we want drugs to be kept out of the reach of children—but the Bill has developed that as it has gone on. Starting with the idea of trying to cure a problem that does not exist, it has built up the absurdity by putting in special penalties against those who sell drugs not only near schools but in other areas where children might be—youth clubs and so on. Then it moved on to routes to schools, and then even short-cuts on those routes. Our urban areas will be cobwebbed with a series of places in which restrictions will apply throughout, when in fact only special restrictions should apply.

The Bill was considered in the other place on Monday and today, and all the very knowledgeable Lords opposed it; indeed, I know of no one who has taken an interest in these issues over the years who supports it. It will close down the "magic mushroom" business, which has carried on with very few problems and pays, so I understand, about £1 million a year in VAT. We are repeating the same old mistake in believing—

R

This is correct, the bill should not be passed. Give people the opportunity to make up their own minds.

I do not and have not taken illegal drugs but I am of the opinion that this is a free country (for the moment at least !) and people have the right to do what they wish as long as it causes no harm to others.

The facts show that if you banned alchohol a lot less people would die, however, banning magic mushrooms or cannabis would have no affect at all. Nobody has ever died from a cannabis overdose, you would have to consume 400,000 times the normal amount to render the user dead.

Mushroooms only cause death through accidents, do not even begin to compare this to alchohol where there are hundreds of deaths each year.

The Governmment are definately addressing this in the wrong way, let's get rid of alchohol, heroin and cocaine that do the real damage.

What will it take to get this message across, is there any point in trying ?

Are the people in this county incapable of making decisions, according to the Gvernment yes, because they never listen to us.

Submitted by Robert Price

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman very gently that we have before us three very technical amendments and he is ranging rather wide of the mark.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

You have been very generous to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I should point out that the three amendments were presented to us at three minutes' notice, when the bells started to go.

My observations are general ones. We know that a deal has been done between the Government and the Opposition parties. It is deal made between people who were afraid to take an intelligent view on this issue. Again, we have a so-called tough policy. Oh, that we as a legislature could one day have an intelligent policy on drugs.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2 and 3 agreed to.