New Clause 2 - Legal highs — offence

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 16th July 2013.

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‘(1) It is an offence for a person to supply, or offer to supply, a psychoactive substance, including but not restricted to—

(a) a powder;

(b) a pill;

(c) a liquid; or

(d) a herbal substance with the appearance of cannabis,

which he knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, to be so acting, that the substance is likely to be consumed by a person for the purpose of causing intoxication.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.

(3) This section does not apply to alcohol, tobacco, or any drug currently scheduled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Medicines Act 1968.—(Mr Hanson.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Jim Dobbin Jim Dobbin Labour, Heywood and Middleton

With this it will be convenient to discuss:

New clause 3—Review of effect of legal highs on anti-social behaviour—

‘The Secretary of State shall carry out a review no more than 12 months following Royal Assent to this Act to assess the effect of legal psychoactive drugs on—

(a) anti-social behaviour offending rates; and

(b) NHS, policing and local authority resources dedicated to tackling anti-social behaviour.’.

New Clause 21—Consultation on proposals for reform of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

‘(1) The Secretary of State, no more than six months following Royal Assent of this Act, shall publish proposals for reforms to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and other relevant legislation, for consultation, to reduce the evidential burden placed on prosecuting authorities when demonstrating that a psychoactive substance has been supplied, or offered to be supplied, for the purposes of causing intoxication.

(2) Within three months of the consultation exercise referred to in subsection (1), the Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament an analysis of the consultation responses and legislative proposals they consider necessary to improve the operation of the 1971 Act and other relevant legislation in relation to the evidential burden in cases relating to the supply of psychoactive substances.’.—(Mr Woodcock.)

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

New clauses 2 and 3 were tabled by me, and new clause 21 was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham. The new clauses are designed to look at the issue of legal highs and to tease from the Government some strategy about how the Government will be dealing with that issue. Even if new clauses 2, 3 and 21 do not meet the Government’s wishes, I hope that they will reflect on the issues and make some progress on Report or in another place at a later date.

New clause 2 would make it illegal for traders to sell items that can be used as legal highs if the trader believes the items will be used for the purposes of intoxication. If adopted, it would have the effect of tightening up the sale of legal highs in the high street. Such substances mimic the effect of drugs controlled under schedule 2 to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, such as cocaine, ecstasy and LSD, but they are currently legal to possess and to supply. New clause 21, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness, asks for a review of the Misuse of Drugs Act. It wants the issue to be examined with a view to potential policy objectives. I think that is worthy of consideration by the Government.

Why are we concerned about legal highs? My hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness tabled a question on 20 May 2013. He asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office,

“how many deaths in the UK were attributed to legal highs in each of the last five years.”—[Official Report, 20 May 2013; Vol. 563, c. 471W.]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd), supplied the figures, which are worrying, and the Committee needs to examine them in detail, because we need an effective response in relation to the proposals before us today. In 2007, there were nine deaths as a result of legal highs. In 2008, there were 25; in 2009, 33; in 2010, 35; and sadly, in 2011, the figure had risen to 41 deaths. That indicates the level of concern. Over the past five years there has been a fourfold increase in the number of deaths attributed to the use of legal highs.

New clause 2 will affect the high-street trade, which is currently legal, and the internet trade, which is substantially larger. My view, which I think would be shared by my hon. Friends the Members for Rotherham and for Barrow and Furness, and others, is that the sale of dangerous substances in an everyday retail environment normalises their use, encourages experimentation, particularly among people under the age of 16, and potentially exposes people to more powerful psychoactive drugs downstream. New clause 3 would require there to be a review, as would new clause 21, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness. The purpose of new clause 2 is to look at what we can do to check the substantial increase in the number of outlets for legal highs and effectively cease the trade of untested psychoactive substances in existing outlets.

Since 2009, we have had 33 deaths, and the number of outlets selling legal high products in the UK has risen dramatically. The trend began with the introduction of legal mephedrone to the UK from China in 2008-10. Some of these drugs come under the control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, but they continue to be misused. A large variety of new legal substances—synthetic cannabinoids—continue to be sold in retail shops as research chemicals. There have been many incidences of hospitalisation, as well as the sad incidences of death to which I referred in my introductory remarks, particularly when these substances are mixed with alcohol, which I understand they often are.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford 9:45 am, 16th July 2013

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right to raise the issue of deaths from legal highs. Is he also aware of the increase in hospital admissions we are seeing across the country as a consequence of people taking these drugs? In my area, the Medway Maritime hospital is seeing at least one to two people admitted each week as a result of taking legal highs.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The hon. Lady makes a valid point. Deaths are very tragic—they are at the sharpest end of misuse of these products. However, last month, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that the number of young people aged 15 to 24 in the United Kingdom who have taken a legal high is 670,000. Within that number, because of the lack of regulation of these products, there are people who will misuse either by taking too much or by mixing with alcohol,  resulting in hospitalisations. That affects their health, but in a wider context also affects the role of accident and emergency and GP surgeries, and has a cost to the state. The products are effectively legal, but are being misused for purposes that must be examined in detail, hence the reviews under new clauses 3 and 21. We could also use the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 as a model, as new clause 2 effectively does.

I am not an expert in such matters, but I am told by those who are that legal highs are actively marketed under a number of brand names, such as China White, Banshee Dust and Clockwork Orange. Such products carry no list of ingredients, no warnings of likely effects, no advice on dosage and no advice on the potential dangers of mixing with alcohol or other drugs. To evade prosecution under the Medicines Act 1968, they are invariably billed as “not for human consumption.” However, ultimately, they are used for human consumption. They often contain unknown, untested ingredients or sets of ingredients. Their psychoactive effect is therefore unpredictable, and in the long term leads to potential hospitalisation or ill health, as the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford mentioned.

It is interesting that not only are 670,000 young people in the UK estimated by the UN to use legal highs—that is 8.2% of people in that age range, which is the highest proportion in Europe—but there is also a great growth in the number of websites and formal retail outlets selling these products. The European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction estimated that there were 170 websites in 2010, in itself a considerable number, but by 2012 the number was 690. Half of those are UK-based websites. There is no register of the retail shops that sell these items but the Angelus Foundation, which examines this matter in some detail and was set up after the tragedy of a family death, is compiling a list. It is expected to show that there are several hundred retail shops. As an illustration, UK Skunkworks has 14 shops in and around the M25. Another outlet, Dr Herman, has six shops in the north of England.

Those are retail outlets and it is perfectly legal at the moment to sell those legal highs. The model that I have put forward for the Committee to consider is based on the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985. It regulates the sale of solvents, butane gas, glues and other substances that are used for a range of legitimate purposes but which in some cases have been misused by individuals and have caused many hundreds of deaths over many years. It was a private Member’s Bill promoted by the then Member for Tynemouth, Neville Trotter, and supported by the Conservative Government. It effectively said that retailers could sell the products for legitimate uses but if they sold them in the knowledge that they were being bought for the purposes of abuse they were committing an offence that is punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

The Act has stood the test of time. It has been enforced by the police and trading standards officers over the past 28 years. There are regular prosecutions. More importantly, it has led to a greater understanding among retailers of the harmful effects of these products if misused. The number of deaths has fallen from a high of around 150 per year 25 years ago down to a still difficult 40 to 60 a year now. On average, 100 young  people a year are alive because of that Act and because retailers are under pressure not to sell for the purposes of abuse.

New clause 2 establishes that it is an offence to supply, or offer to supply, a psychoactive substance including, but not restricted to, a powder, a pill, a liquid or a herbal substance with the appearance of cannabis, which is likely to be used for the purpose of intoxication. It would still be legal to sell any of these products if they were to be used for non-intoxicating purposes, but if they were being used for intoxication then an offence would be committed with a prison sentence not exceeding six months and a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale of fines. This does not apply to alcohol, tobacco or any drug currently scheduled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Medicines Act 1968. I think that is a reasonable model and I hope that the Minister will support it, given that such a model already operates effectively under the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985. That has raised awareness, secured prosecutions, reduced abuse and led to fewer deaths.

New clause 3 is a standard measure through which I am trying to get the Government to commit to a review. It is important that in the next 12 months the Government review the impact of psychoactive drugs on antisocial behaviour offending rates and, as the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford mentioned, the impact on the national health service, policing and local authority resources. Not only would such a review provide the bland definitive statistics, which are appalling in themselves, on the number of deaths and the level of usage, but it would allow us to assess more widely the impact of legal highs on our communities.

New clause 21, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness with the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham, states:

“The Secretary of State, no more than six months following Royal Assent of this Act, shall publish proposals for reforms to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and other relevant legislation, for consultation, to reduce the evidential burden placed on prosecuting authorities when demonstrating that a psychoactive substance has been supplied, or offered to be supplied, for the purposes of causing intoxication.”

Taken as a package, new clauses 2, 3 and 21 would provide a model for legislation under the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985; establish a review of such a model in 12 months; and establish a review of the evolution of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, all of which would help the situation.

The Angelus Foundation, led by Maryon Stewart, has developed resources for young people and their parents to help them understand the dangers of legal highs, and those resources are being tested. Resources and awareness alone will not help to reduce the level of usage of legal highs and the level of deaths, however. We need to challenge the source of the substances that are being misused, which means that we need to challenge the websites and retail outlets. The Bill gives us an opportunity to legislate to do just that.

I urge the Minister to consider new clauses 2 and 3. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham may contribute further on new clause 21, and we will listen carefully to the Minister’s response. We all have a common interest in finding a way to reduce usage and death, to raise awareness and to help to control the growing epidemic of legal highs in this country.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham

I want to speak about new clause 21, which stands in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness. I support the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn, and I want to build on them. My hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness has campaigned tirelessly on the matter, but the problem is not confined to Barrow; it is a nationwide issue that has an impact on all our constituencies.

My hon. Friend was moved to table the new clause after hearing the testimony of a constituent, who spotted not only how legal highs were turning her son into, in her own words, “a zombie”, but the prevalence of the problem in her own school. She was able to work with her son to break his dependency on legal highs, but we cannot rely on every young person having such perceptive parents, so we must act to do something about the problem.

The scale of the problem in my hon. Friend’s constituency was underlined by the police superintendent, who told him that legal highs represented the

“greatest clear and present danger to young people’s lives in the area”,

eclipsing even the dangers of alcohol and illegal drugs. Such is the scale of the problem in the town that the local paper, the North West Evening Mail, has launched a campaign and a petition to tackle the dangers of legal highs.

The use of legal highs not only causes short-term health problems and damages prospects in education and employment, but increasingly leads to deaths. Figures obtained by my hon. Friend have shown that in the past five years, the number of deaths attributed to the four most common drugs used in legal highs rose fourfold—from nine deaths in 2007 to 41 deaths in 2011. That is why we urge the Government to do something.

The trend is genuinely worrying and reflects the increased ease with which legal highs can be obtained and the ever-growing range of such products. It is a clear indicator that the current system of regulation and control is simply not working and that we need to look urgently at how we can produce a system that truly protects people from these dangerous substances.

New clause 21 is straightforward. It seeks to concentrate the Government’s mind on how to deal with a genuinely difficult issue. Control of illegal drugs is hard enough, and in those instances we are dealing with a relatively narrowly defined range of substances. Legal highs, on the other hand, are constantly evolving—new highs are constantly being developed and entering the market. So we accept that the effective regulation of such substances under the current legislative framework is very difficult.

New clause 21 provides for amendment to the evidential burden placed on police and the prosecuting authorities in relation to offences of supplying legal highs. As well as there being an ineffective regulatory and control regime, police officers who attempt to bring prosecutions face a genuine difficulty. Many hours of police time is taken up attempting to prove that substances being sold as “plant food” or “bath salts”—the most common disguises for legal highs—are in fact intended for human consumption as psychoactive substances. We need to  make it easier to bring prosecutions where the law is clearly being flouted. As well as improving the actual law, we have to ensure that the law is a deterrent and not so easily bypassed.

Legal highs are blighting lives in my constituency, in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness, in whose name these amendments stand, and in constituencies across the country. The trend of deaths and health problems is clear: this is a growing danger. I hope, given the urgency of the situation, that the Minister will agree that urgent action is needed to change how we regulate and control these substances and that he will accept the tight timetable that the new clauses propose.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 10:00 am, 16th July 2013

I agree with the thrust of both the speeches that have been made. Legal highs are a growing social problem; the consumption of them has led in some cases to tragic consequences, which, obviously, we all deplore and regret.

The question is how, as a Government and a Parliament, we can best respond to this rapidly evolving social problem, as the hon. Lady the Member for Rotherham called it, and how we can frame the law in a way that best protects our constituents. I welcome this contribution to the ongoing debate about the policy framework that can best achieve those objectives.

The three new clauses seek to address the open sale of new psychoactive substances, which are often marketed under misleading descriptions but are ultimately for the purpose of intoxication, and their potential harms.

I start by saying that, as is obvious, there is no simple solution to the fast-moving drugs landscape around the “legal high” trade. Countries such as ours around the world are wrestling with the same issues. Successive Governments in this country, with the support of Parliament, have taken the view that our legislative response to drugs should be informed by the evidence of the harms caused by these substances and the advice given by our independent scientific experts, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. I pay tribute to the ACMD for its work on a whole range of drugs, which has informed Government policy under successive Governments for a number of years.

That legislative approach has enabled us to take action on a large number of substances: hundreds of new psychoactive substances have been banned in the last few years. I would not want the Committee to have the impression that we have been inactive in this area. The United Kingdom has already banned 80% of the substances recorded in the three main groups of drugs that have emerged across Europe. We should also reflect that, of the 73 new drugs seen in Europe last year, only 18 have been seen in the UK. There are different threats in different countries, but a lot of action has been taken here in the United Kingdom.

The legislative approach that we have taken is to ban whole families of drugs; that approach has been enhanced in the past year or so by the temporary drug control legislation that has allowed us to act more swiftly. In effect, we now have two systems with the ACMD: the traditional system, which allowed for extensive and deliberative consideration about the harms caused by drugs before the giving of advice to the Home Secretary—that still exists—and a parallel fast-track process, which  has been introduced precisely to enable the ACMD to provide scientific advice on these fast-evolving problems but to retain a scientific dimension.

We are therefore now able to ban drugs for a year, with a view to a permanent ban being put in place when the ACMD is able to undertake a process of more thorough consideration. Many countries have adopted the broad approach that we have taken, so I would not wish Members to think that we are back markers. A lot of countries feel that the United Kingdom has made substantial progress in this area.

Law enforcement agencies are also working hard to disrupt the trade in legal highs and to make the most of the legislation that we already have. For example, I understand that the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 was recently successfully used in circumstances where legal highs were sold to under-18s for the purposes of intoxication. However, I do understand the concerns of the right hon. Member for Delyn and other Members about this issue. We know that the legal high trade is resilient and evolving, and I see it in my constituency, as I am sure other Members see it in theirs.

The right hon. Gentleman may recall that last year we published an action plan on new psychoactive substances. We committed to keep the effect of that and the impact of our laws under review. Specifically, that included continuing to respond with evidence-based drug control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, using effectively the temporary class drug orders that I just described, and fast-tracking amendments to existing generic definitions of controlled drugs, following advice from the ACMD. It also included a commitment to

“review new evidence on what works in other countries and what we can learn from it, including the use of different types of legislation.”

So this problem is clearly not unique to the United Kingdom.

That work of making international comparisons is being undertaken, and I have spoken to a number of people from other countries. For example, last week I had a conversation that lasted for over an hour with the Health Minister of New Zealand, where some interesting, innovative policy changes are being made. I am not saying that we would necessarily look to adopt them, but we should understand them better and learn from them.

By the end of this year, we expect to complete a study on drugs policies in other countries more generally, but the most dynamic aspect of the debate on drugs is not the drugs with which we are most familiar, such as heroin and crack cocaine, but the faster-evolving and mutating social and medical threat posed by legal highs, so-called.

I understand what the right hon. Member for Delyn and the hon. Member for Rotherham are seeking to achieve with their new clauses, and I am sympathetic to their objectives; I think anyone would be. New clause 2 is to some degree similar to our existing provisions in the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985, which has already been mentioned, and it is also similar to the new legislative models that we have seen in Ireland and Poland, but at present we only have limited short-term evidence available to determine the impact of that type of legislation. However, as I said, we continue to look at what we can learn from the experiences in other countries.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I appreciate that in other legislative contexts there is, as yet, no evidence on this matter. But the Minister can look at the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985, and its impact over 28 years on the number of deaths and usage and the wider understanding among retailers, parents and others. I urge him to do so in relation to solvents and volatile substances.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

I take the right hon. Gentleman’s point. I will take it away. Let me look more at what we can learn specifically on that.

However, I would inject a word of caution. Drugs are taken to a disproportionate degree by young people and, partly for that reason, they are prone to changes in fashions and trends; sometimes a fall in the consumption of one drug will simply be a displacement, as the consumption of another drug rises. People can attribute such changes to a whole range of factors—police or Government activity, for example—but the consumers of drugs may not necessarily be changing their consumption patterns as a direct result of action taken by Parliament, the police or other people in positions of authority.

Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman makes an entirely reasonable point, which we should consider. As I said, we will continue to look at countries—I cited Ireland and Poland—where changes have been made, although sometimes there can be a change in the law and prosecutions without there necessarily being an underlying change in consumption patterns. Again, we have to be careful about how we study and weigh up the evidence.

I acknowledge that the new clauses present opportunities and that on one level their catch-all nature is attractive, but we have to be cautious about some of their implications. If we move away from an evidence-based approach, that will be a big change in Government drugs policy, which has been followed by successive Governments. The possible unintended consequences need to be fully examined and understood.

For example, there are legitimate concerns about the new clauses’ use of the broad term “psychoactive substance”. Our current approach provides a high level of legal certainty about which substances are restricted under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Parliament legislates on those. If we have a temporary banning order, I will move it in a Statutory Instrument Committee in a room along the Committee corridor. That prevents the judiciary from having to make a finding in every case on the effects of a given substance, which would require expert scientific evidence, as well as on disputes between the prosecutors and defence over whether the substance was sold for recreational use.

There is a danger that we would take scientific responsibility away from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, with its high degree of expertise and experience, and make the decision dependent on the wranglings in each court case about whether the drug sold had psychoactive properties. In effect, the scientific burden would move from the council to the courtroom; not only the motives of the retailer but the toxicity of the product that he or she was selling would have to be proven. That would be a big change away from evidence-based, scientific, informed Government drugs policy.

So I have these words of caution: we should not adopt such a dramatic change in this Committee without thinking about the consequences in much greater detail.  Although the new clauses have attractive elements, there are profound consequences that Committee members would also wish to consider.

Of course, we will want to ensure that our legislative response continues to restrict the supply of harmful new psychoactive substances, both in our communities and online, providing UK law enforcement with robust and practical powers to tackle the trade. Although I do not believe that the approach taken by new clauses 2 and 21 is appropriate at this time without a lot more consideration about the potential effects and downsides, we genuinely have an open mind about how we can continue to make improvements in this area.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister. To help him reflect on the issue, I should say that we do not intend to press the new clauses to a Division. However, I would be grateful if he gave some indication about the time scale over which he will consider these matters, about whether he believes he can complete those investigations prior to the conclusion of the Bill’s passage and about whether he aims to bring back proposals with legislative capacity to meet our joint objectives and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock).

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 10:15 am, 16th July 2013

Let me make two brief points on that. One is that the right hon. Gentleman’s intervention might imply that the Government are inactive. I am not saying he meant that. However, there is work going on constantly in this area.

As I said earlier, hundreds of new psychoactive substances have been banned in the past few years, including two temporary class banning orders introduced last month in Parliament. Indeed, 80% of the substances recorded in the three main groups that have emerged across Europe have already been banned in the UK. There is a danger of painting the Government as more passive on this issue than they are. The issue is receiving a considerable amount of attention and legislative changes are being made. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is working on an ongoing basis.

I said earlier that we hope to have a report looking at lessons from comparable countries by the end of the calendar year. That is not quite within the scope of this legislation, but it is only months away. That is also an ongoing process, including looking at the changes in New Zealand, which are often cited as an example. We are not committed to following that path, but it is interesting. The legislation has only just finished going through the New Zealand Parliament. Even by the end of the year there will be a limited body of evidence on how it has worked in practice. We constantly study examples from other countries.

In new clause 3, the right hon. Gentleman proposes to legislate for the Government to review the social harms associated with non-controlled new psychoactive substances. I understand that is linked to new clause 2 and an attempt to assess the impact that restricting the sale of all legal highs could have on societal harms, including their impact on local services.

It is not the Government’s policy to fetter or unnecessarily duplicate the statutory role of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which is to advise the Government  on drug-related matters, including giving advice on health and social harms if appropriate. We will continue to look to our experts for the provision of scientific advice on harms of drugs of misuse.

The right hon. Gentleman does not intend to press the new clauses, so I will conclude with two brief remarks. One is that I hope I have reassured members of the Committee, who see in their constituencies the social and medical threat posed by legal highs, that the Government are energetic and active in that area. We are constantly looking at what more we can do, how we can extend legislation, and we are genuinely creative and open about further measures.

My second point is that we acknowledge, as was mentioned in the two speeches, that this is a new area of drugs policy. There is a lot of familiarity with drugs policy towards drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine. Their use is falling year on year in the UK, which is very encouraging. The number of people dying from consuming heroin is falling. The average age of heroin addicts in the UK is now over 40. Substantial good progress is being made.

I believe everyone on the Committee would understand that the big, fast-mutating, evolving area is that of legal highs. We are open to ideas and suggestions, but it would not be appropriate at this stage to accept the new clauses, which would be a big departure from a lot of tried and tested drugs work that successive Governments have undertaken. They would not be the right approach at this time. We are, however, open to having this debate and will no doubt continue to have it. I am open to receiving representations from right hon. and hon. Members to further our progress.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I thank the Minister for his response. I want to place on the record my thanks to my hon. Friends the Members for Barrow and Furness and for Rotherham for their support for new clause 21. Both that new clause and new clause 3 indicate that we need to examine the issue. That is not to say that the Government are not doing things, but they need not only to look at the situation but to come up with a policy solution. New clause 2 offered a potential policy solution, which is based on existing policy that has been proven to work over time.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham

I listened with interest to what the Minister said, and he clearly recognises that there is a growing problem. I heard him say that he hoped to have a report that looked into possible ways forward, that he was constantly looking at things to do and that he was open to making changes. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need action, because young people are dying and the problem is getting worse?

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I agree, which is why, although I will not press the new clauses today, I want to follow up with the Minister on the suggestions that we have discussed and I hope that he will look at the model of the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985. The Minister and his officials need to reflect on the fact that we will return to the matter during the later stages of the Bill, either on Report or in the other place. We expect the Minister to bring forward policy solutions before the Bill’s passage is completed. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.