Drugs Policy - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:57 pm on 21st November 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Stern Baroness Stern Crossbench 7:57 pm, 21st November 2016

My Lords, first of all I thank my noble friend Lady Meacher for initiating this debate and also for her outstanding and very effective contribution over the past five years to the movement for reform of global drug policy. She is very well known on the world stage for her efforts and it is gratifying that a Member of your Lordships’ House has been so very prominent. I too must declare an interest as an officer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, and in that capacity I want to express my total support for the legalisation of cannabis for medical use.

In my brief remarks, I would like to concentrate on the implications of the conclusions of the UN special session for UK foreign and development policy and for the protection of human rights worldwide. The UN special session concluded that national drug policies should,

“fully respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

It proposed that the balance between law enforcement and harm reduction should prioritise harm reduction.

I therefore ask the Minister—I appreciate that she is very overworked and will understand if she prefers to write to me rather than reply in the debate—to assure the House that Her Majesty’s Government never provide support, either directly or through multilateral agencies, to anti-narcotics law enforcement in countries such as Pakistan and Iran, where those convicted of drug trafficking face the death penalty. In the past, the FCO has made great efforts to ensure that United Kingdom money is not used when it might lead to a sentence of death. There was a Foreign Office document called The Death Penalty: Policy on UK Justice Assistance, which provided guidance to those making decisions on how funding from the UK could be used. Does this document still exist? Has it been amended recently? Does it still guide those funding decisions?

My second point is about the impact of the conclusions of the special session on the policies of DfID and the implementation of the sustainable development goals. To quote the United Nations development programme,

“in many parts of the world, law enforcement responses to drug-related crime have created or exacerbated poverty, impeded sustainable development”.

The description of Mexico given by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, illustrates this vividly and accurately. At the special session of the United Nations in April, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Letwin, said:

“We must ensure that our work is fully integrated with the Global Goals because the 2030 Development Agenda and our efforts to address drug harms are complementary and mutually reinforcing”.

How is this being implemented? Can the Minister tell the House whether DfID is planning, for instance, in the countries where it works to put resources into policies such as harm-reduction measures and treatment as part of its support for the sustainable development goals?