Drug Crime

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:47 pm on 20th April 2022.

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Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 4:47 pm, 20th April 2022

It is a great pleasure to appear before you, Mr Pritchard, either side of what felt like a parliamentary recess. It is good to be back.

I thank my hon. Friend Robbie Moore for securing this debate on an important area of policy. I am sure he will appreciate that the Prime Minister made it a Government priority on, in effect, the day he stood on the steps of Downing Street all those months ago. He and we accept that drug-related crime inflicts a terrible toll on our society. We have heard some horror stories this afternoon. We are determined to turn the tide.

Our unwavering commitment to addressing the problem was, as a number of Members have pointed out, set out in our drugs strategy, “From harm to hope”, published last December. That strategy is underpinned by a landmark set of investments totalling about £3 billion over the next three years. The plan comes in support of our general policy of levelling up across the whole of the UK. We want to see people living longer, healthier lives in safe and productive neighbourhoods. Our approach couples tough enforcement with renewed focus on breaking exactly that cycle of addiction mentioned by so many Members today.

We plan to achieve that difficult challenge with three simple strands of work. The first is to attack every single stage of the drug-supply chain. Ronnie Cowan asked what is different about our approach to drugs this time. From an enforcement point of view, we have shifted the emphasis carefully away from the notion of mass arrests—which, as he and a number of Members have pointed out, simply results almost immediately in replacement—much more to attacking the mechanics of the business itself. If our job is to degrade or restrict the supply of drugs into a particular area, we have to ensure that that is done in a way that means that no one can step in to replace and repeat the operation. Attacking the business and the supply chain is critical. We also want to ramp up our investment in treatment and recovery—we have been given hundreds of millions of pounds to do that across the whole of England and Wales—and, critically, to support those people ensnared by addiction to rebuild their lives, ensuring that they get off the roundabout in and out of the prison system, once and for all.

Alongside that, we want to address wider demand and to see a generational shift in society’s attitude towards drugs. For example, we will expand and improve the use of drug testing on arrest and diversionary schemes, such as out-of-court disposals, and undertake work to understand how communications can be used to change behaviours and drive down the use of recreational drugs.

We plan to publish a White Paper proposing a new range of sanctions particularly aimed at those who still choose to take drugs on a casual, non-addicted—whatever you want to call it—recreational basis, recognising that they play a huge role in stimulating demand for drugs across the whole of England and Wales. I will host a summit next month, bringing together experts and representatives from a range of sectors, to discuss the levers and interventions needed to drive down demand across the country, reduce harms and change societal attitudes. We recognise that as we enforce against supply, we must also do something to reduce demand.