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Illegal Drug Use

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th April 2014.

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Photo of Andrew Griffiths Andrew Griffiths Conservative, Burton 2:30 pm, 28th April 2014

What assessment she has made of the level of illegal drug use in the UK.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Conservative, Bournemouth East

What assessment she has made of the level of illegal drug use in the UK.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker The Minister of State, Home Department

Drug use in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level since records began, in 1996. The number of heroin and crack cocaine users in England has fallen below 300,000 for the first time since 2004-05. Drug-related deaths in England and Wales have continued to fall over the last three years. Numbers successfully completing drug treatment free of dependency in England have risen since 2009-10.

Photo of Andrew Griffiths Andrew Griffiths Conservative, Burton

I congratulate the Government on their success in reducing the use of certain drugs, but we are still not recording the use of many drugs, particularly legal highs. Given that we are seeing a fall in cannabis use but there is a great deal of evidence of an increase in legal high cannabinoid use, does the Minister not agree that if we want to protect our young people, we need to record all the drugs they are taking, including legal highs?

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker The Minister of State, Home Department

I agree with the thrust of my hon. Friend’s question and I agree that many of the chemical highs or new psychoactive substances—the so-called legal highs, although I prefer not to use the word “legal” because that implies that they are both legal and safe and some are neither—can be more dangerous than other drugs that people recognise as dangerous. There has been a decline in drug use among young people, but he is right to draw attention to that aspect. I established an expert panel on it late last year and I look forward to receiving its recommendations shortly.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Conservative, Bournemouth East

Drugs are often produced and sold by international crime gangs. What is the Minister doing to work with the international community to protect this country from the illegal movement and sale of drugs by such gangs?

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker The Minister of State, Home Department

I am happy to say that in the cross-governmental serious and organised crime strategy, we work in partnership with countries where drugs are produced and transported, as well as with the wider international community, to disrupt the organised criminal networks that distribute drugs. Our approach is to build political will and practical capacity to tackle high priority criminal groups. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Karen Bradley, takes this matter very seriously.