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Misuse of Drugs Act 1991
#1
Mr. Speaker, 

I rise to present the Misuse of Drugs Act 1991. 

The sale of illegal drugs in The United Kingdom is a major threat to the health, safety, and wellbeing of every British person. Their use, and the addiction that nearly almost follows, is a national tragedy. The growing threat that illegal drugs pose to British society warrants a powerful, swift response. The Government is committed to meeting this challenge head on, using the full force of the law and our authority to overcome it. This legislation, Mr. Speaker, is the embodiment of our commitment. 

The scourge of illegal drugs is like a multi-headed hydra: if you only manage to strike one of the heads, rather than at the core of the beast, you'll fail to truly defeat it. That is why the Government is taking a multi pronged approach, rooted in three key strategies. The legislation lays out those strategies, focusing on cracking down on those who sell drugs, mandating state authorized rehabilitation for individuals convicted of drug possession, and offering a compassionate second chance to youth offenders. This legislation represents the Government's renewed, iron clad commitment to having absolutely zero tolerance for criminals who sell illegal drugs. At the same time, it marks a significant evolution in the way in which this Government seeks to handle drug addiction, by acknowledging the role public health should play in the criminal justice system. 

So first, we are enshrining into law the Government's zero tolerance policy for some of the most serious, dangerous criminals in The United Kingdom: those that sell illegal drugs. I say that not in attempt to dramatize the situation, Mr. Speaker, but because I mean it. Because the fact of the matter is that the sale of illegal narcotics is not a victimless crime. The victims, Mr. Speaker, are the countless people who purchase illegal drugs and become addicted, develop life long health issues, and in many instances, die. The Government's response is clear: with this legislation, we are raising the maximum sentence that courts can impose on individuals convicted of selling Class A, B, and C controlled substances. We're also, for the first time, introducing mandatory minimum sentences for individuals convicted of illegally selling controlled substances. With this decision, we are sending a powerful message: if you sell drugs, you will wind up serving jail term in every instance. No exceptions. 

Second, the legislation implements a new procedure by making the release of drug offenders conditional upon their agreement to enter state mandated rehabilitation. Offenders who were convicted of the possession of controlled substances who are granted parole, or who are rewarded early release, will have their parole or release be conditional upon their willingness to enter a rehabilitation program. The Government recognizes that when an offender is released back into society, that it is in the interests of every British person that their return is as successful as possible. Reducing the rate of recidivism is vital, because it alleviates the burden placed on the taxpayer for having to finance the care of additional prisoners while simultaneously increasing the number of productive members of British society. For the justice system to grant parole or early release for an individual serving a sentence for drug possession, they must show a willingness to take responsibility for their past behavior and take meaningful steps to ensure they don't repeat it. On the Government's end, we're prepared to assist them in taking that responsibility, and will facilitate the mandated rehabilitation program.  

And finally, this legislation marks the introduction of Drug Treatment and Testing Orders, or DTTOs, for youth offenders. Drug use is a horrible thing, but it is even worse when the user is a young person. Young people are impressionable and often lack the information they need to make the right decisions, which makes them particularly susceptible to drug dealers and other influences that would motivate them to use drugs. Rather than see them serve jail time, and potentially continue to lead a life of crime for the indefinite future, the Government has decided that we need to intervene. It is my position, and the position of the Government, that young people should be offered a second chance to make up for their mistake, reject a life of crime, and realize their full potential. That is why our legislation empowers Courts to offer youth offenders a DTTO instead of serving jail time. The DTTO would require youth offenders, ages 10-18, to partake in a full-time rehabilitation program as an alternative to serving their original sentence. The DTTO will be an option offered to every youth offender convicted of either the possession or sale of Class A, B, and/or C controlled substances.   

The use of illegal drugs robs innocent people of their full potential. It tears apart families, undermining the most critical facet of British society. And it endangers communities, plunging neighborhoods into violence and uncertainty. The Government believes that enough is enough, and we introduce this legislation as a powerful first step to address this problem at its root. It is my privilege to commend this legislation to the House, and I humbly ask that it be read a second time.
Reply
#2
Mr speaker

I beg this bill is read and printed a second time
Reply
#3
ORDER! Second reading!
Reply
#4
Mr Speaker,

I thank the Home Secretary for presenting the bill today and for his remarks in introducing it. 

The drugs epidemic is a grave tragedy in modern society. Drug addiction ruins countless lives and represents one of the greatest public health challenges that this country has ever had to face. Much like a disease, drug addiction does not discriminate. It can happen anywhere and to anyone.

It is therefore right that the government should consider a wide-ranging approach to tackling the problem of drug addiction and we propose to work with the government to ensure that this legislation is robust and fit for purpose. 

We agree that there must be tough sentences for drug dealers. These are people who profit from ruining lives, pure and simple. Their business relies on corrupting innocent victims with narcotics that cause addiction and other serious health problems. Their business breaks up families, friendships and relationships, causing great anguish to victims and their loved ones. Their business makes our streets less safe and fuels crime across our land from our inner cities to our rural communities and above all, their business costs countless innocent lives. 

With all that is at stake, it is vital to ensure that there is equal enforcement in the new sentencing and charging policies for drug offences. We hear the stories in the media about recreational drug use in high society and in our mind, you cannot treat a drug dealer at a soiree any differently from a drug dealer on an estate. Dealing drugs brings destruction and desolation whether you’re cutting lines of coke in a nightclub for your friends or handing out ecstasy for money on a street corner. 

We want to work with the government to ensure that such equal enforcement is made possible. This is so we can tackle the problem across the board and not end up, as we have in so many other areas of policy, with inequality perpetuated through the wealthy and powerful getting away with a slap on the wrist whilst the working classes feel the full force of the law. The same applies to regional, ethnic and gender considerations. If you’re a drug dealer, you must be held accountable no matter your class, gender, location or ethnicity. 

We welcome the move by the government to include rehabilitation as part of the anti-drugs strategy. As we know, drugs have a toxic, addictive hold that is incredibly hard to break for addicts and users. In this, we need to be ambitious. A rehabilitation program is only going to work if it is properly funded, staffed and maintained. The program also needs to be strongly integrated within prisons and youth offenders institutes so that recovery can progress before considerations about release and parole are made. It is also evident that rehabilitation programs, within and outside of prisons and youth offenders institutes, must be complemented by strengthened social services and investment into education and employment prospects. Those who fall into addiction are often those who struggle to access decent social services and who have a lack of opportunity available to them. 

With regard to the introduction of Drug Treatment and Testing Orders for youth offenders, we agree with the government that young and impressionable minds who are tempted by drugs will need a second chance. The introduction of DTTOs is a step in the right direction but far more must be done far sooner in order to address the root causes of drug addiction in the first place. We must consider better funding of youth services, improving drugs education in schools and making a more coordinated effort to involve parents, schools, social services, the police, local authorities and all other interested parties in addressing these problems in local areas. 

Based upon my remarks today and the views of the Opposition, I move the following amendments, should the government accept them: 

Quote:Section 6. Sentencing Review Processes

  1. The Secretary of State for the Home Department, in conjunction with the Lord Chancellor, must commit to a review process every three years of sentencing rates for drug offenders.
  2. The Secretary of State for the Home Department, in conjunction with the Lord Chancellor, must appoint an advisory board to coordinate the review process that is comprised of a group representing a broad range of interests relevant to drug policy.
  3. The primary function of the advisory board, as part of the review process, is to investigate and consider the conviction rates for drug offences amongst various regional, class, ethnic and gender groups, with particular respect to those groups with lower conviction rates and why conviction rate disparities for drug offences exist.  
  4. The advisory board must report their findings and recommendations to the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Lord Chancellor every three years.
  5. The Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Lord Chancellor must publish each findings report into the public domain.

Section 7. Community Drug Intervention Groups

  1. The relevant Ministers, government departments and local authorities will be empowered to set up Community Drug Intervention Groups (CDIGs) in local areas. 
  2. The purpose of Community Drug Intervention Groups will be to advise on and help co-ordinate local responses to the drugs epidemic, including on early intervention policies to address the root causes of the epidemic. 
  3. The membership of CDIGs must consist of persons representing a broad range of interests and responsibilities related to drug policy within the local area. 
  4. The relevant Ministers, government departments and local authorities must maintain sufficient oversight of each CDIG to ensure they are functioning to their parameters and purposes.

Section 8. Implementation and Exceptions 
  1. Upon passage, this legislation will go into effect immediately across The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 
  2. Controlled substances that are prescribed by a licensed medical professional are exempt from the above provisions 
  3. All legislation in conflict with this Act will be amended accordingly

The purpose of these amendments will be to identify disparities in drug sentencing rates and ensure more equal enforcement of drug sentencing options in the case of Section 7, alongside committing the Government to publishing data regarding drug conviction rates and associated contextual factors. In the case of Section 8, this formalises the empowerment of local communities and authorities in coordinating responses to the drugs epidemic at a local level and a mechanism for early intervention. 

As I stated in my opening remarks, the drugs epidemic is a grave tragedy in modern society. We must work together across this House to enact the most effective solutions in a wide-ranging approach and we on the Opposition benches are here to work with the Government on this legislation to ensure it is fit for purpose.
Marcus Redgrave
Labour Member of Parliament for Durham North West
(1987-present)
Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science
(1991-present)
Reply
#5
Mr. Speaker,

I am happy to see the Opposition endorsing the Government's touch on crime approach, and our innovative proposals to provide a second chance to those negatively impacted by the scourge of drug addiction. As I have said many times to the House, I will always welcome opportunities to work constructively with the Opposition in order to achieve the greatest good for the British people.

I have a few questions for the Shadow Education Secretary in relation to the amendments he has proposed on behalf of the Opposition. First, Mr. Speaker, can the Hon Member for Durham North West explain why he would like the sentencing review to occur every 3 years?
Reply
#6
Mr Speaker,

I’m pleased that the Home Secretary welcomes the opportunity to work constructively with us in order to ensure that this bill is fit for purpose and that we can seek to end the scourge of drug addiction for the British people. 

I’m also happy to answer his question about the amendments from the Opposition. With regard to the proposed timeframe for review processes, we have proposed a review every three years for two key reasons. Essentially, it is about finding the right balance between keeping a close eye on rates and disparities to ensure not too much time elapses before reviews can take place, but equally giving the advisory board enough time to conduct thorough reviews so that considered policy recommendations can be made.
Marcus Redgrave
Labour Member of Parliament for Durham North West
(1987-present)
Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science
(1991-present)
Reply
#7
Mr. Speaker,

Would the Opposition be willing to amend the 3 year review period to 5 years? The Government is interested in accepting this amendment, but we think the three year internal is too frequent in terms of providing the appropriate expanse of time between reviews to see the meaningful impact of Government policy.
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