I congratulate Jeff Smith on securing this debate and on speaking so well. Happily, much of what I intended to say I now do not need to, not that I would have time to say it anyway.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Dr Poulter; he began to get into the systemic problems in this area, which is what I want to focus my remarks on. We have a systemic problem in the assessment of the rate of return on the investment in drug treatment services, particularly compared with the rate of return on investment in law enforcement in drug policy.
According to the Government’s own statistics, we are not getting a satisfactory return at all on drug law enforcement. That is why the police’s operational policy has been progressively to withdraw from doing nugatory work, leading to effective decriminalisation in many parts of the country, simply because that is not a sensible use of resources. It certainly is a sensible use of resources to try to repair the lives of drug addicts. The cuts under the necessity of austerity, and the systemic issue that my hon. Friend referred to in respect of local authorities taking responsibility, have meant that we are making a shocking value-for-money judgment in the application of public resources in this area.
It has to be down to the Minister—no one else can do it—to review how we invest public money for the public good. That is at the kernel of this debate. If we do not make changes, enforcement authorities will continue to progressively withdraw, because they simply will not waste the public money they have been given by running ineffective operations. The just-retired chief constable of Durham, Mike Barton, is a huge authority on that, and I urge the Minister to talk to her Home Office colleagues about his experience.
There is a very clear overlap between the application of the law to drug users and recovery. One then gets into the toxic situation of stigma around those users. There is also a public health budget administered by local authorities, which are under pressure to use those resources elsewhere. People who have used drugs that we have made illegal do not get automatic support in our society, yet they are just as much part of our society as anyone else.
If we do not invest resources properly, we will simply find that we carry the burden of the consequences of the damage that has been done to all those people. There is an infinitely better way to do things, and I urge the Minister to try her hand at effecting the system change that is needed to do things infinitely better.