Drug Treatment Services

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:27 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons) 5:27 pm, 16th July 2019

I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have made such excellent contributions to the debate. I will mention two in particular. I was very much enjoying the speech of Dr Poulter until he was cut off in his prime. He made some important points about commissioning. That is not something I went into in detail, but it is certainly something that the Government need to consider. My hon. Friend Mr Sweeney told the story of Chelsea, which brought home the ways that our drug policy is failing and the way that we need to address issues that end up in tragedies like Chelsea’s sad death.

I also thank the two Opposition Front Benchers for their powerful speeches, which had a welcome focus on support, rather than the criminalisation of addicts. That is absolutely the way that Government policy needs to go. I thank the Minister for her response. We have a Health and Social Care Minister here, which is exactly right; on a general principle, when talking about drug policy, we should have a Health and Social Care Minister. Responsibility for the policy should be situated in that Department, but as the Minister rightly pointed out, much of the responsibility is currently in the Home Office.

The focus on the legal framework was interesting, as was the frustration about how the legal framework fails us and how the focus on criminalisation fails us and distracts us from focusing money and resources into the drug treatment services that we so badly need. I hope the Minister will go back to colleagues in the Home Office and talk about this. I was expecting the debate to be a lot more about cuts to drug treatment services, rather than the legal framework. However, I think that brings home the frustration that many of us feel: that a progressive drugs policy is being blocked by the fact that responsibility is situated in the Home Office, rather than in Health and Social Care.

The Minister mentioned a couple of points that I question. Without a national framework or programme, we will end up with a postcode lottery for naloxone, which is a real concern. She talked about the legal framework for drug consumption rooms, but that is for the Government to change, as Alison Thewliss said. Drug testing is very sophisticated these days. A charity based in my constituency operates excellent drug testing in festivals and city centres around the country. We have nothing to fear from the drug testing that those sorts of organisations carry out.

I finish by urging the Minister to do two things. First, the spending review is coming up. I hope she will be going in to bat for her Department, and particularly for investment in drug treatment services.

Motion lapsed, and sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(14)).