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Policing and Crime Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 7th December 2016.

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Photo of Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Labour 5:15 pm, 7th December 2016

My Lords, in Committee I endeavoured to remove the Government’s redefinition of “alcohol” in the Licensing Act 2003 to cover alcohol “in any state”. I was worried that that covered powdered and vaping alcohol and I sought to remove them from the redefinition. The Minister argued that we really needed to establish the legal status of powdered and vaping alcohol and that if my amendment was accepted, it would have left us still in an unclear position about the legal status of those products, and we needed clarity. I accepted her argument and suggested that the difficulty might be overcome if we decided to class powdered or vaping alcohol as class C substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or prohibit their production, supply, import or export by an amendment to the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. Either course of action would resolve the legal status and leave beyond any doubt where these two substances stood. Accordingly, I asked the Minister to remove Clause 117, which sought to cover alcohol in all forms, but she was not prepared to do that at that stage.

Today I have returned to the subject and have tabled an amendment which would no longer allow powdered or vaping alcohol to be classed under the 2003 Act; instead, they would fall under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. I will not repeat all the arguments I made at Second Reading and in Committee, in the light of what has been happening in America, where the number of states that have banned these substances has gone up from the 26 I mentioned when we discussed this subject previously to 32. Of particular interest is that they have now been banned in California. Governor Jerry Brown signed a Bill into law on 28 September. Of course, this is a state which on 8 November voted to legalise recreational marijuana. So California is prepared to legalise marijuana but will not permit powdered alcohol to be sold in the way that our Government will permit, if this clause remains.

How have we got to this position? As I understand it, there was a consultation in the summer in which the Home Office spoke primarily to representatives of the drinks industry, it pondered what it should do with these technological developments as they come along, and it was decided that it was better that they should be legalised for sale. For all the reasons I have advanced previously—you can take powdered alcohol anywhere, you can mix it with existing drinks, you can take it into prisons very easily, and so on—I urge the Government to think again before they move forward in this way. I ask the Minister to consider accepting the solution that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and I are offering. It is straightforward and very much in line with what is happening in the States and elsewhere.

Given all the problems we have with liquid alcohol and with drugs in prison, it is quite wrong to be legalising the sale of these substances. I believe the public would share that view. If they knew what we were debating today, they would be absolutely outraged that we are about to legalise these substances so that in due course people can be vaping alcohol and using the powder. In the hope that I have been as reasonable as I could be in trying to see the Minister’s point of view and have endeavoured to help her as best I can, I beg to move.