Misuse of Nitrous Oxide

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:16 am on 23rd November 2022.

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Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department 11:16 am, 23rd November 2022

Thank you. That is very helpful, Sir Christopher; that was the clarification I was seeking, alongside your more metaphysical point about the pressing nature of time in general.

I return to the questions on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest eloquently and accurately put it, this matter was referred to the ACMD by the Home Secretary in September of last year, 12 or 13 months ago. We have not yet received its report. The Home Office has raised the matter. The ACMD is independent of Government so cannot be compelled, but it would be proper to draw its attention to this debate and the concerns that have been expressed from both sides on the issue, to make sure that it is aware of the strong parliamentary interest in this matter. That would be a proper and reasonable thing to do without trespassing on its independence. I agree with my hon. Friend that the issue needs to be looked at urgently.

Generally, the Government follow the advice of the ACMD because it has the medical expertise, although we are not obliged to do so. It is within that organisation’s power to make a recommendation on how the drug should be classified. If it were to give advice that it thought the drug sufficiently damaging, it would be open to the Government to reclassify and bring it within the remit not of the 2016 Act but of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, at which point it would become a prohibited drug and would fall into class A, B or C. The Government take the ACMD’s recommendations very seriously because it is the expert in this area.