§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill is important and it is positively needed, despite the suggestion in a newspaper that to legislate is premature. When an evil is growing, and manifestly growing, I believe in acting to stop it. The Bill does not, of course, affect the legitimate use of drugs for proper therapeutic purposes. My intention in introducing the Bill is to provide new and needed powers to deal with what, I am certain, is the increasingly serious social damage arising from the growing misuse of drugs, particularly of the amphetamine type.
This misuse of amphetamine type drugs, popularly known as pep pills, is a comparatively recent development in this country, although it has been doing much damage abroad. In recent months, there has been increasing evidence that the habit of taking these pills for completely non-therapeutic purposes has been spreading outwards, first from London to other big cities and then beyond. To satisfy the demand, there has grown up a widespread illicit traffic. The police are increasingly concerned about it. The powers available under existing legislation have proved to be inadequate and I hope that the House will, therefore, agree that the Government are right to ask for further powers.
The future of growing numbers of young people, of both sexes, is at stake. I am advised that the immediate physical effects of taking excessive quantities of these drugs may not be serious, except for people with cardiovascular disease, because further damage may be done to the heart or to the cerebral arteries by the higher blood pressure resulting from an overdose. Even in physically normal people, however, the long-term ill-effects of prolonged overconsumption are more serious.
These drugs give a stimulus which takes away desire for sleep or for food. 601 The deprivation of sleep and the lack of interest in food which can be endured with the help of these pills lead eventually to a state of such intolerable discomfort that it can be relieved only by yet further substantial taking of similar drugs. Rapidly, an amphetamine type of drug dependence is set up. It may not be addiction in the sense in which someone becomes addicted to a drug of the morphine type, but it creates a kind of psychological dependence.
Where a mixture of amphetamine and another drug, such as a barbiturate, is misused, there is the extra risk of the development of a barbiturate type of drug dependence, and that does more closely resemble addiction to the opiates. I cannot believe that anyone would say that young people should be lightly exposed to this.
The main purpose of the Bill is to make it an offence to be in unauthorised possession of the drugs concerned, and to prohibit their import without a licence. In making unauthorised possession an offence, the Bill follows the precedent of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1951, which creates a similar offence as regards drugs controlled under that Statute.
The police tell me that this additional power will be particularly valuable to them in dealing with traffickers in the drugs, who are likely to have in their possession large quantities of pills without being able to account for their possession of them. At the present time, these drugs are subject to control under the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, 1933. and the Poisons Rules made under that Act.
The effect of this control is that the drugs can lawfully be sold only on a prescription and by an authorised seller of poisons on his registered premises, that is to say, the chemist's shop. The Bill does not affect this control; it will continue in force just as at present.
Nor does the Bill seek to deal with the increasing number of offences concerned with alteration or forgery of prescriptions. The reason is that already there are sufficient powers to deal with offences of this kind, if the culprits are caught. The remedy here is greater care in preventing blank prescription forms from getting into the wrong 602 hands, and in watching for forged or falsified prescriptions.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has already warned doctors of the dangers of prescribing drugs of this kind for people who are not known to them or who are known to be addicts, and I think that most doctors are well aware of the need to keep their prescription forms in a safe place to avoid their being stolen.
The Pharmaceutical Society, for its part, has taken pains to impress on its members the importance of watching for prescriptions which have been forged or tampered with, as well as the importance of adhering strictly to the requirement that drugs of this kind may be dispensed only against a prescription. I am grateful for what has been done.
But this type of action, by itself, is not enough: we have the proof of that. Supplies of pep pills can be obtained without much difficulty in certain clubs and cafes, particularly in London and the larger cities. That is a fact. They are thought to be obtained in various unlawful ways, and particularly by theft.
It is always difficult to obtain information about the sources of drugs which are being traded in illicitly, for the obvious reason that neither the buyer nor the seller is usually prepared to disclose information which may affect his ability to obtain supplies in the future. In these circumstances the only offence which it would often be possible to prove is that of unauthorised possession.
In making unauthorised possession of these amphetamine-type drugs an offence, as the Bill for the first time does, obviously it is essential to identify those categories of people who may legitimately be in possession of the drugs. Provision is made in the Bill for various categories to be safeguarded. First, there are those who are getting the drugs for medical purposes, either for their own use or for the use of some other person or perhaps an animal in their care.
Secondly, there are the manufacturers and wholesalers and importers of the drugs, who deal in them by way of trade. These latter classes are not clearly and indubitably identifiable, so the Bill requires manufacturers and wholesalers to register with the Home Office, and 603 requires importers to obtain a licence. This will enable lists to be kept of manufacturers and wholesalers and importers, and will enable Customs officers to identify consignments of the drugs which are imported legitimately.
The third group of people are those who need to be in possession of drugs in the course of their profession, business or employment. This includes doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and chemists. Exemption is also given to police and Customs officers who may need to take possession of drugs in the course of their duties.
There is also power for the Secretary of State, by Regulations which could be prayed against, to make further provision for exempting any other persons or class of persons who may hereafter be shown to need to be in possession of the drugs for legitimate purposes.
Another source of supply of these drugs is by importing them from abroad. At present, there is nothing to prevent anyone from bringing these drugs into this country or having them sent in, perhaps through the post. It is known that this is done. The Bill prohibits importation, except under a licence granted by the Secretary of State. The intention is to grant bona fide importers open licences for the import of the drugs to be controlled. So there will be no interference with legitimate trade. But any drugs not brought in under a licence will be liable to be seized.
The police, if they are to check the misuse of these drugs, must be able to search clubs and cafés where they are known to be obtainable, or places where traffickers in them are suspected of keeping their supplies. So the Bill gives power for a justice of the peace to issue a search warrant to enable the police to search any premises on which it is suspected that an offence of unauthorised possession is being committed.
§ Sir Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I should have interrupted the right hon. Gentleman a little earlier to ask him this question. Is not this drug manufactured in this country? If it is, is there any reason at all why it should be imported in any event?
§ Mr. Brooke
It is manufactured in this country, but we do not normally put 604 a prohibition on the import of articles which can be manufactured in this country, and this drug has perfectly legitimate uses.
I have explained that the Bill gives power to issue a search warrant. There is also power for a court to order the confiscation of any drugs which may be found in the possession of a person who is convicted of unauthorised possession. These follow similar provisions in the dangerous drugs legislation.
The drugs which will be subject to control under the Bill are listed in the Schedule. I hope that the House will not ask me to read them out. Hon. Members will be able to read them for themselves. These are all drugs of the amphetamine type, which are liable to have a stimulant effect on the central nervous system.
I hope that the House will support the inclusion in the Bill of provision for the Secretary of State, by Order and after consultation with the Poisons Board, to add drugs to the Schedule or to remove them from it. It may be necessary for an Order to be made removing a particular drug from the Schedule, because the description used in paragraph 3 of the Schedule could cover drugs which have not at the present time been synthesised.
It may be that at some future time new drugs of this kind will be produced which will not have the kind of effects that would warrant their control under the Bill. In that case an Order would be made removing that substance from control. On the other hand, it may well be found that drugs other than those listed in the Schedule are abused. If the availability of one kind is checked, the demand may swiftly switch to another.
The power to add substances to the Schedule is drafted in such a way that it would be possible to bring under control substances of a different nature, such, for instance, as the barbiturates, should events prove that desirable. At present, there is not sufficient evidence of the abuse of any other kinds of drug to warrant their inclusion in the Schedule.
Orders adding drugs to the Schedule, or removing them from it, could be prayed against, like the other Orders I mentioned.
It is proposed that the Bill shall apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland, for 605 drug traffic does not halt at borders. These provisions have the approval of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and of the Northern Ireland Government. The power to register manufacturers and wholesalers in Northern Ireland, and to license imports into Northern Ireland, is given to the Minister of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland.
I doubt whether I need explain the Bill at greater length, except to say that the power to register manufacturers and wholesalers and to license importers will come into effect immediately the Bill becomes law. I estimate that a period of three months will be necessary for initial registration and licensing, and at the end of that period the other provisions of the Act will take effect.
I believe that the Bill is a necessity. I have been out with the police at night to see for myself some of the social problems which face the police in Central London. Amid all that sleazy stuff, the thing which impressed itself far the most deeply on my mind was the danger to the teenagers, both boys and girls, if this easy getting and taking of "purple hearts" and pep pills went on growing and spreading. I had been thinking about legislation on these lines for some time, and that convinced me. Our weapons for checking it are at present not effective, even with all the help that doctors and pharmacists can give.
I ask the House to give us new and stronger weapons in the Bill—weapons to save youths and girls from a habit which can become a vice.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I find myself on this occasion in the unusual but happy position of substantially agreeing with practically everything that the Home Secretary said. I agree with him that it is not premature, as The Times suggested recently, for the Home Secretary to invite the House to deal with questions of the misuse of pep pills, whether they are "purple hearts" or other pep pills.
Nevertheless, I think that it is necessary on an occasion such as this, when new crimes are being introduced, that the House should for a moment look somewhat critically at what is being 606 suggested. The House will have observed from the Home Secretary's speech—I noticed it particularly—that he based the case for the Bill almost entirely on medical grounds and on the necessity of protecting adolescents and other young people from what he thought, no doubt quite rightly, is becoming a social danger.
The right hon. Gentleman apparently did not base his case, as one might have expected him to do, on the ground that addiction to these pep pills is not merely harmful to the individuals themselves but also has a causal connection with crime. That would have been a possible line of argument, but I notice that he did not rest his argument on that ground.
It therefore seems to me worth while to say a word or two both about the form of the proposed legislation and about the principles which underlie it. On numerous occasions we have heard from both sides of the House that the whole of the present legislation both on dangerous drugs and on poisons is in a chaotic state and ready at an early opportunity for overhaul.
As I understand the position at present, dangerous drugs are dealt with under Acts passed by Parliament pursuant to international regulations and they are aimed at prohibiting, except under the most stringent conditions, dangerous drugs such as Indian hemp, cocaine and heroin, some of which have no therapeutic value at all and others of which have only a very limited therapeutic value.
No one would doubt the wisdom of that legislation. I gather that the reason why that legislation is not being extended in the case of the drugs with which we are dealing today is that at the moment there is no international convention dealing with them and, therefore, they are in a different category. That brings me to inquire into a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stross). In the case of dangerous drugs of the narcotic type I understand that in some cases there is a prohibition against import.
I therefore ask, when we are dealing with a less dangerous drug—and when I say "less dangerous" I mean in the sense that it has obviously considerable therapeutic value in those cases, quite numerous, in which it is properly prescribed by medical practitioners—and 607 when we are dealing with drugs which are manufactured in this country, why it is necessary to permit importation at all. I appreciate that the Bill will make it an offence for them to be imported except under licence, but perhaps the Home Secretary will consider what it is in the economy of the country which makes it necessary that there should be any importation.
As the Home Secretary said, at present these are subject to the prohibition with regard to poisons under the Poisons Rules, which means that no chemist can sell them to any member of the public except upon a prescription by a medical practitioner, a registered dentist or a registered veterinary practitioner.
Nevertheless, as the Home Secretary said, it is notorious that there has been a widespread illicit consumption of these drugs, notably by adolescents. We must accept what he said, based no doubt on statistical evidence which is available to him but perhaps not to others, that these illicit sales and growing addiction or, as he said, drug dependence, are a recent manifestation which is growing in volume.
It seems to me, therefore, that we face this situation: as the law stands it is not an offence to import these drugs. It is not an offence to have them in one's possession. It is not an offence to consume them even in quantities, nor do I think that it is an offence to distribute them. Certianly, it is not an offence to distribute them wholesale, although it may be an offence to distribute them in retail or small quantities. I agree with the Home Secretary that in those circumstances some further measures are necessary to prevent what is a mental and physical danger to those who become dependent upon them.
Having said that, I think that we should just look at the matter and observe that we propose taking a somewhat novel step. No doubt it is justified. The State has always recognised the principle that it has a duty to protect members of the public in certain circumstances from doing some things which may be harmful to them. That, however, is obviously a principle which one cannot carry too far, and one must be on one's guard, because if that principle 608 were accepted, one could extend it to the excessive consumption of alcohol, or of tobacco, or of a variety of other matters.
§ Mr. Percy Browne (Torrington)
I absolutely agree with the hon. Member on the point which he is making. But does he not agree that in Clause 5 these powers are being taken and that they could extend to include alcohol, which I believe to be a far greater evil among teen-agers than pep pills?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I gather that the hon. Member was following and not dissentiing from my argument. I object to it being said that the Home Secretary is taking powers, because Ministers do not take powers; they ask Parliament to confer powers upon them. It is our duty to decide whether we should confer on Mnisters the powers for which they are asking.
I am saying that I am prepared to support the Bill for the reasons adduced by the Home Secretary, because marginally—not merely marginally—I think it is right to support it; but I just thought it appropriate to add, as a word of caution, that there is also, as the hon. Member realises, a principle involved in the Bill which ought to be stated.
The principle, it seems to me, is that the State has, in certain circumstances, a duty to prevent members of the public from doing things which at present they are free to do, but which public opinion regards as producing harmful social consequences to them either mentally or morally. That, it seems to me, must be the principle underlying the Bill.
It is not a criminal offence to be a drug addict. Under the Bill, I suppose, it will become a criminal offence. That is why I was a little surprised that the Home Secretary did not give us any information at all about the causation, if there is one, between drug addiction and crime—for this is a penal Measure. Just to pursue the analogy we were talking about, as an analogy, Parliament, quite rightly I think, passes laws against the importation and dissemination of obscene literature, but it has not yet thought fit to make it an offence for an individual to have obscene literature in his possession. Nor do I think that such a recommendation would meet with the approval of the community.
609 There is one other thing one ought to observe in connection with the Bill. By passing it, stringent though some of its provisions are, I do not think we must delude ourselves into thinking that we are necessarily dealing with the medical and social problems which underlie the fact that in recent years increasing numbers of people have become drug addicts through addiction to "purple hearts" and various other forms of pep pills. That is a social problem which obviously requires much more social and medical research into the causes which have brought it about, and I have no doubt that that research will continue.
The only other observations I should like to make are on a few matters of detail of the provisions of the Bill, some of which, I have no doubt, would be more appropriate to deal with in Committee. I have already asked the Home Secretary to deal with the question of whether Clause 4 is necessary. I am sure that it is necessary to prohibit the importation of these substances, but one hopes that it will not be found necessary to grant many, if any, licences to licensed importers.
I should rather like the Home Secretary to tell us something about how he proposed to exercise his discretion under Clause 1(5) with regard to registering manufacturers or wholesalers.
Then with regard to the penalties, the House will observe that as the Bill stands, by Clause 1(1), contravention of the Measure renders the person who offends liableto a fine not exceeding £200 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both".As far as I can see, those penalties apply equally both to the person who, after the Bill is passed, may continue to peddle large quantities illicitly obtained of those drugs, and also to the person who is found with a few of these drugs in his possession without having obtained them as a result of a medical prescription.
Perhaps the Minister will explain why it is necessary that the main provisions of the Bill are not, as I read it, to come into operation till three months after the operation of the Act. If, as the Home Secretary has told us, there are urgent reasons for giving the police these additional powers, one would 610 have thought that the sooner they are in a position to operate under the Bill the better. Is there not some risk in allowing a locus poenitentiœ of three months to elapse, within which, no doubt, those who are so minded may be able to accumulate quantities of these drugs for subsequent distribution? I would have hoped that the administrative measures could be taken to enable that period to be very considerably abbreviated.
Finally, let me echo the hope expressed by the Home Secretary that, in addition to the powers given under the Bill, steps will be taken to prevent the misuse which has occurred in the past, by urging all medical practitioners to take some effective steps to prevent the theft of prescription forms and to advise registered chemists, pharmacists, to be on their guard against forged prescriptions.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
I am glad to have this opportunity of following the hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), because I take very much the view which he has expressed. Like him, I find that the case for this kind of legislation is convincing, and I certainly support the Bill, but I feel that when we introduce new legislation to create a new criminal offence the House should always look at that legislation with the utmost of care and caution.
I find myself certainly sharing the sense of concern which he expressed, and which my right hon. Friend expressed, about the widespread illegal use of these drugs, amphetamine drugs, but my sense of concern is not only about the physical consequences which follow from the excessive taking of these drugs. In certain circumstances, such as those which my right hon. Friend mentioned, the excessive taking of amphetamine drugs can be physically dangerous.
My sense of concern is also because the widespread illegal use of these drugs means that so many young people are being brought into the thoroughly murky world of theft, of black marketeering and intimidation. They are being brought into the world where the key figures are probably the most unattractive and sinister persons in society, drug pedlars and drug pushers.
611 Also, I feel a sense of concern because the widespread illegal taking of amphetamine drugs is yet another indication that there are quite a number of our young people who find the real world in which they live so unrewarding and so unsatisfying and so unconstructive and unexciting that they turn to the unreal world of drugs. This is an immense sadness for those who come into contact with these people and see the lives they have to lead.
I am rather diffident about taking part in the debate, if only for the reason that the list of drugs in the Schedule is quite unpronounceable to me. I cannot bring, as some hon. Members can bring, any qualified medical opinion to bear on the subject. Nor can I claim ever to have had these drugs. I certainly have never taken them in the quantities in which they are sometimes taken. I understand that 50 to 100 tablets taken on a Friday night to keep one awake throughout the week-end is by no means unusual. Nor can I claim, like some hon. Members, to know how widespread is their use. There is no doubt though, according to reports in the Press and authoritative surveys, that there is an extension of some forms of drug addiction. Today, it is reported in the Press that, according to a medical survey, about 500 undergraduates at Oxford University are smoking marijuana cigarettes fairly regularly.
I want to take part in the debate because I have a special interest in the sense that the company which manufactures one of the main drugs covered by the Schedule lies within my constituency. This is the pharmaceutical company of Smith, Kline and French, situated in Welwyn Garden City. It manufactures the drug drinamyl. It is the drug which has won for itself a mystique factor amongst young people. It has been given by them the evocative name of "purple heart" because of its triangular shape and light blue colour.
As the hon. Member for Islington, East said, this drug has a very great therapeutic purpose. Paradoxically, it is used for the curing of alcoholic addiction. It is also used for manic depression, for obesity, schizophrenia, and as an appetite suppressive. The company is of the very highest reputation. At my 612 request, several months ago, it has given me quite a lot of information about this drug, but I have not asked the company whether it supports the Bill. My information is that the Bill is welcome to the company, but I speak for myself and I deliberately did not consult it because I believe it to be my responsibility to judge this matter not from the interests of the pharmaceutical industry, but as an elected representative of a cross-section of the community.
§ Sir B. Stross
I think that the hon. Gentleman should tell us, also—and it is to the credit of this very great company—that it is the original patent holder and first originated the stuff we used to call benzedrine.
§ Lord Balniel
I believe that the hon. Member is right and I shall certainly refer to some aspects of the company's work.
The drugs contained in the Schedule fall into much more normally known names if we group them under the headings of benzedrine and dexedrine, in which group the particular drug drinamyl is contained. There is also the drug group called lucofen, a little known appetite suppressant, and another group, tonyl, which is very little known in this country.
I hope that the Home Secretary will look at the Schedule with great care. I am told by a chemical analyst that any substance containing yeast is included in it. My right hon. Friend is a strong Minister, but a fine of £200 for possesion of a bottle of beer seems to be a little draconian. If my informant is correct, I hope that my right hon. Friend will examine the Schedule very carefully.
I am told that these drugs are now very widely obtainable in "pubs", clubs, and dance halls, and that their circulation and distribution is by no means confined to Soho, but that they can easily be obtained in almost any of our great cities.
Messrs. Smith, Kline and French is a firm of the very highest reputation and it has no wish to see drinamyl being used for non-therapeutic purposes. It has no commercial interest in such distribution. Also, drinamyl forms only a tiny proportion of its total production and, rather surprisingly at a time when the illegal use of this drug is increasing, 613 during the past five years the manufacture of drinamyl has decreased by 50 per cent. No one is more concerned than this company to ensure that its products are available only for therapeutic purposes through proper medical channels.
§ Lord Balniel
I cannot say what the actual quantities are, but I think that I would not be far out—although I cannot speak with authority—if I said that about 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. of its total production is of this drug.
§ Mr. Parkin
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the production is 1 million tablets a week, amounting to a turnover of £125,000 a year?
§ Lord Balniel
The hon. Gentleman should address his suggestion to the Home Secretary, who had close consultations with the company before framing this legislation. I cannot attempt to speak as a representative of the company and I do not consider it my duty to do so.
One of the earliest inquiries I made was about the security arrangements, which are very strict indeed in the manufacture of this drug. I am told that all the active ingredients are kept under lock and key, that the only person who can issue them to the appropriate processing department is a qualified pharmacist, that, after processing, they are returned to the locked area and that withdrawal from stock of any supply of tablets cannot be done without authorisation. The security arrangements have been examined on a number of occasions by the police, who, I understand, are satisfied that they are effective. Incidentally, none of the company's representatives is allowed to carry these drugs around when visiting doctors in different parts of the country.
I support the Bill, but I do have certain reservations about it. It is purely repressive legislation and the House should always look at repressive legislation with the utmost caution because prohibition so frequently has completely unforeseen and unexpected results. One has only to remember the prohibition of alcohol in the United States. It was 614 introduced to curb addiction to alcohol, but it resulted in corruption, gangsterism and about 20,000 cases, in the Mid-West alone, of paralysis through illicit distillation. The Bill introduces an entirely new type of criminal offence.
Schedule 4(b) of the Poisons Regulations includes amphetamine. The Home Secretary has power at present to prosecute the illegal sale without prescription of amphetamine drugs. Presumably, what is happening is that he is finding it impossible to secure convictions and, indeed, his drug squad is, I expect, finding it impossible to enter into the clubs where these drugs are being distributed. So, instead of legislating, as in the past, against an illegal supplier, he is forced rightly, to legislate against the consumer.
I say that this is an entirely new type of offence because, in the past, both in international law and in our national legislation, we have always drawn an absolutely clear line between drugs of addiction and drugs of habituation. The drugs of addiction are those highly dangerous drugs, like morphine and heroin, which are associated with painful physical consequences when one attempts to withdraw from them.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
Is the hon. Member aware that there are a good many chemists who regard "purple hearts" as being in quite the same category?
§ Lord Balniel
I am aware of that, but I should like to develop my argument, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me.
The definition of a drug of addiction, in very broad terms, is something like this: a drug of addiction is a drug which creates an overpowering need to continue to take it. It creates a psychological and, this is the key word, "physical" dependence upon the effects of the drug. A drug of addiction results in persons progressively increasing the dose because they become more tolerant to the drug, and it results in physical consequences when they are being withdrawn from the drug.
Habituation to a drug is quite different. There is a desire, not a compulsion, not a need to continue to take the drug, because of the general sense of well-being which it creates. There 615 can be a psychological dependence on the drug, but there is no physical consequence on the person being withdrawn from the drug. That is the difference between the two types of drug.
I am aware that quite a number of young people become chronically intoxicated by these drugs. They take amphetamine drugs to give them a sense of abandon, a sense of release, a freedom from fear and a sense of energy. Then they take barbiturate drugs to sober them down and, having sobered down, they take amphetamine drugs to give them the sense of energy and abandon which they want.
I am not in any way opposing the Bill, and I am not in any way opposing the inclusion in it of drugs of habituation. But in departing from what, in the past, in international and national law, has been an absolutely clear defined limit, my right hon. Friend is, in fact, embarking on an entirely new type of legislation which is completely open-ended.
There are many other drugs of habituation—alcohol, caffeine, nicotine. My hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) has already said that, in his opinion, alcohol is a far more dangerous drug of habituation. I see, for instance, that the Medical Officer of Health to the Ministry of Health, only today announced that one-third of all middle-aged men entering psychiatric hospitals in Scotland are, in fact, alcoholics. It is very probable that alcholic addiction is far more damaging to the physical health of people than addiction to these amphetamine drugs. Of course, without any question at all, tobacco smoking is far more damaging to physical health than amphetamine drugs.
The point that I want to make is that my right hon. Friend is embarking on legislation which is completely open ended. He is taking, under Clause 5, powers to add any substance to the Schedule of restricted drugs. Is it right that these very wide powers should be given to my right hon. Friend by the negative Resolution procedure of the House? I believe that he should be given the powers to add to this list, but only by means of a positive Resolution of the House.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
The hon. Member quoted from a speech 616 by a medical officer on the question of alcoholism in Scotland. That medical officer said this problem was, in terms of numbers, negligible, 210 per 100,000 of the population in Scotland, and that the figures there were almost twice those of anywhere else in Britain. This is relevant to the point that the hon. Member is making, because if alcoholism is as serious a problem as he suggests, one would hope that the House would treat it in a purely pragmatic fashion.
§ Lord Balniel
I accept that in terms of numbers it is small, but it is infinitely larger in terms of numbers than the drugs that we are dealing with in the Bill. Alcoholic addiction is physically damaging. Amphetamine addiction—and there are innumerable reports which bear this out, including reports from the Ministry of Health—is not physically damaging in the sense that a drug of addiction is physically damaging.
§ Mr. Parkin
I hope the hon. Member will not leave this point about addiction and habituation before developing his idea whether it is not the case that we are concerned with drugs of habituation which can lead to addiction to things far worse than the pills involved. This involves not the troubles of middle-aged men here and there, a small proportion of the population, but a large section of the youth of the country at a particular age when they have enough troubles of their own to get over. Will the hon. Member do what the Home Secretary obviously cannot do in sneaking to a brief on the points in the Bill, sketch the framework in which this approach will play an important rôle?
§ Lord Balniel
The hon. Gentleman is completely right. Those who take regularly amphetamime drugs are, in fact, likely to be those persons who frequently go on regularly to take marijuana drugs and those who take marijuana are persons who not frequently, but in certain cases go on to the read drugs of addiction, morphine and heroin. I am saying, let us look, when we create a new criminal offence, at the legislation with the utmost caution. There are certain side-effects which are almost inevitable as a result of the Bill. We are creating a new criminal offence. One side-effect almost certainly will be an extension of blackmail. Almost certainly, in these very 617 shady circles which we are talking about, there is a substantial amount of intimidation at the moment. When consumers of these drugs are themselves committing an offence the ability of pushers and peddlers to intimidate the consumers is greatly increased. We shall also be giving to these drugs a scarcity value which is equivalent to the scarcity value of drugs of addiction. This might well make them even more attractive to the crook, because there will be a penalty not of £1,000, not of 14 years in prison, but a small penalty of only £200 or three months' imprisonment.
My last reservation is of a rather wider and slightly more intangible nature. Repressive legislaton, by itself, almost never achieves the object which it sets out to achieve. In the Bill what we are doing is closing an escape route, an admittedly dangerous escape route, which a number of young people are taking to escape from a world which they regard as unrewarding and unconstructive and unsatisfying and unexciting. In doing this we are taking a purely negative step. We are doing nothing to make their world more rewarding, more constructive and more exciting.
I know that my right hon. Friend has set up a Royal Commission to consider the problems of juvenile delinquency, I welcome this most warmly, hut what is needed today is not only more academic studies, although they are welcome. There are many hypotheses as to the causes of juvenile delinquency. What we need today is that some of these hypotheses should be tested and that we should spend a little money testing them.
We know, to put it in very simple terms, that many of these people take to drugs for excitement. They take to drugs because they are bored. To use their own language, they take them for "kicks", for a "laugh", for a "giggle". They get the excitement of flouting the law, flouting the rules at school, flouting society. What they are seeking is a sense of excitement and we are not providing them with a socially acceptable field of excitement.
I realise that I would be very far out of order if I went further along those lines, but this is my reservation. When a problem arises, the speed with which 618 negative prohibitory repressive legislation can be introduced is great. But if any of us goes to the Government and asks for very small sums of money to support the voluntary work which is beng done to channel the idealism and energy and vigour of young people into constructive and satisfying channels, our demands seem to fall between the Home Office and the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and the Minister responsible for sport.
My reservation about the Bill is a sense of regret at how quickly we introduce prohibitory legislation and how slow we are to give financial support to much of the good work which is being done by the voluntary societies.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Sir Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I have listened with great interest to the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel). I always find his speeches attractive—or nearly always—and this I thought particularly attractive because I agreed with almost everything he said. In particular, he stressed that this was a fragment of repressive legislation and the negative side of what we were trying to do for our young people, and that there was another face to the problem. In other words, he asked what we were to do to see that they did not need to get their kicks in this way.
I was surprised that he thought that be would be going wide or out of order by saying that we should take some very strong positive steps to help our youngsters. Everybody in the House is agreed about this and it is not out of order. It is not in the Bill and we have every right to complain that it is not in the Bill and, if necessary, to talk about it in some detail.
I was interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) had to say about addiction to this particular drug and the way it might lead to crime. We ought to be careful about this and understand what sort of drug we are talking about. What is its physiological and pharmacological effect upon the human brain, tissues, muscles and nerves compared with some other drugs, both of habituation and addiction? I shall compare it with only one drug, alcohol, which is a very common drug commonly in use.
619 The difference between this drug and alcohol is as great as the difference between the North Pole and the South Pole. Amphetamine stimulates the higher centres of the brain. This is of importance, because over-stimulation can be very dangerous and very bad. With alcohol the result is that layer by layer the latest acquired characteristics of the human personality are removed. Alcohol is therefore a depressant and not a stimulant at all. Amphetamine, like cocaine, is a stimulant, while alcohol is the exact opposite.
The youngster who takes too much alcohol is easily led into crime, because he can no longer control himself. The stupid young person who takes too much amphetamine, in which ever form, whether with phenobarbitone added or not, is stimulating himself, but not making a fool of himself in the sense of behaving in the sort of way that he might have behaved in another age in his original ancestry of a million years ago.
Some people become fighting fit when they take too much drink. The amphetamine addict does not grossly change his personality. What happens to him is an heightening of his personality. The alcoholic loses shyness and can be brutal and completely uncontrolled. The amphetamine addict, the silly boy or girl who takes five or ten or fifteen tablets of this type, does it in the first place because he does not want to eat or sleep. Mainly these youngsters cannot afford to eat and do not have time to eat if they are to sit up all night. They cannot afford to drink to the extent of getting kicks in that way. This is the cheapest way of sitting up all night and escaping from their original selves and their shyness and their feeling of inferiority. But this is terribly temporary.
This is why this habituation is in heart of our great cities, mostly in London. We do not want it to spread, and that is why I shall support the Bill wholeheartedly. Although, like the noble Lord, I feel critical because it is a repressive piece of legislation and in this fragment of legislation there is nothing very positive to help these children, I shall support the Bill.
620 We can compare this drug very well with caffeine. Medical students—and I was once a medical student—know all about these drugs because we have tried them on ourselves. Amphetamine is very similar to caffeine but is more convenient, because caffeine affects the kidneys and amphetamine does not, and so one has more time to enjoy oneself without having to run round the corner.
I have already said why youngsters fall into this foolish habit. They want to get away from themselves; it is exciting; and as long as the tablets are reasonably cheap they can afford to take them. They find that life is exotic and strange. They want to understand it and taste it, and how better than to sit up and talk the night through! They do not start to take these tablets because they wish to become criminals; but it is true that they run into great danger, because they sit and talk about their problems all night and discuss what they think about the world in general—certainly in Metropolitan London—in places where semi-criminals and the murky underworld congregate.
Let us remember that they are not drunk. Their minds are working fast and in a most exciteable fashion, but they may well be tempted by and, if they are weak, they may well succumb to people who want to offer them other things and lead them into a life of crime and into the use of drugs which are infinitely more dangerous than those which we are now discussing.
I member that in 1939, when mobilisation came and when I was still in practice in Stoke-on-Trent, I was called upon to assist the Territorials who that evening were driving somewhere to the South Coast to a place unknown to us but known to them. Straight from work, they were to drive all night long. I examined every one of them to make sure that no one was unfit to go. To the driver of every vehicle I presented a tablet of benzedrine and made him swallow it with a glass of water before allowing him to get into his vehicle and drive through the night. To those who had to stay up all night at headquarters planning what was to be done—after a day's work—I sent a handful of tablets telling them to use the tablets, with care, in order to prevent themselves from falling asleep. That is a reasonable way of using a drug of this 621 description, and I am happy to say that all those who drove through the night arrived at their destination at 11 o'clock the next morning safe and sound. No one was ditched, and every vehicle arrived there safely.
§ Sir B. Stross
My hon. Friend is, of course, right. One cannot misuse the human frame without paying a penalty, but under certain circumstances it is right to use a particular drug for a certain limited purpose.
That does not mean that students are wise in using this drug to enable them to sit up all night and cram for their examinations. I think that they lose by it. I am trying to make it quite clear to the House that we are not dealing with cocaine, morphia, hashish or Indian hemp. We are dealing with benzedrine and amphetamine. I have no personal experience of this, but I am horrified when I read of youngsters taking 20 or 30 tablets a day, or over two days, or over a weekend. I tremble when I think of their condition. It must be terrifying to recover from the effects of the drug. I presume that most of these tablets contain a modicum of barbiturate, and that, of course, makes them more dangerous. It enables people to take the tablets without feeling too ill in the early stages.
I applaud what the Home Secretary has done by bringing in this Bill. I do not for a moment blame him for not being able to make it anything but repressive. That cannot be helped; but what has happened is our fault, because we have not cared enough for our children. As a society we have not given them opportunities for kicks, excitement, exhilaration and spiritual uplift, with the result that they resort to drugs of this kind.
Let us be fair. When a pupil commits murder, one should hang the schoolmaster, and in this case we are the schoolmasters. Society must accept responsibility for all our youth. The majority of young people today are very much better than the youth of my boyhood days, but, because a small group of them can afford motorcycles, and because we have radio and television, everybody hears about what happens when some of these young boys, with 622 young girls as pillion passengers, go to some seaside resort and behave stupidly. Youth has always behaved stupidly. We always did when we were young, but it was localised, and not even the local newspaper took any notice of us.
Nowadays everybody makes an awful fuss about what these youngsters do, and we are apt to forget what magnificent youngsters most of them are. We subject our youngsters to stresses to which we were never subjected when we were young. We subject them to beastly and foul stresses of an erotic and stupid sexual nature by advertisements and literature of the type that was not available to us, and the way they stand up to these strains and stresses surprises me. We should not take too seriously what happens when some young people go into these devious by-paths to obtain fresh experiences.
For my sins, yesterday I spoke at a conference in Croydon. It was attended by, amongst others, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The meeting was held to discuss how we should provide public entertainment for our citizens, and followed an exciting report published only this week—I do not know whether the Home Secretary has seen it—"A Survey of Municipal Entertainment in England and Wales." It is the first analysis that we have had of the situation since the 1948 Act when Aneurin Bevan was Minister of Housing and Local Government. At long last we knew roughly—and I say roughly because I am sure that there are some inaccuracies—what is happening in every part of the country.
About £7½ million gross is spent by local authorities. The net expenditure on entertainment is £2½ million. Under the present rating valuation, that is a little more than ¼d. out of a 6d. rate. Of that ¼d., only 7½ per cent. is spent on cultural activity. I appreciate, of course, that education, too, does a great deal for our young people, so far as sport is concerned, but the fact remains that only 2 per cent. of £2½ million is spent on sports activities.
Speaking in Aberdeen for the Conservative Party in Scotland, the Minister without Portfolio made a most attractive speech on this subject, and yesterday I gave the conference at Croydon the full details of what he said. 623 The right hon. Gentleman had given figures of an official Government investigation into what is happening to our citizens. Our greatest addiction is gardening. Statistics show that 19 million of us are gardeners. Next in popularity is golfing, with 1 million people partaking in this sport. Fishing attracts 400,000 people, and 250,000 people have boats, most of which they have built themselves. From those figures it is obvious that we are not entirely a nation of gamblers, bingo merchants, and decadents, but there is another side to the picture.
It is not enough to have merely 1 million golfers and 18,000 young people under instruction at any time. In England and Wales there is only one municipal golf course per 350,000 people. We have about 300 cinder running tracks, whereas Sweden, with a population of only 7 million, has 8,000 such tracks, and in Finland there is a track in nearly every village and town. We have only two indoor swimming baths with 10 metre diving boards. That is why when one sees a television programme on swimming it always comes from Blackpool, because, apart from the bath at Cardiff, there is no other indoor bath where it is possible to hold Olympic diving contests.
Before we blame our children too much for what is happening, we must ask ourselves whether we have done enough for them. We must ask ourselves whether we are providing enough facilities for them, especially in the centres of our great cities. The problem does not arise to the same extent in smaller towns and rural areas because there is the open countryside and there are all sorts of ways in which youngsters can enjoy and exercise themselves. What facilities are available for people who live in Paddington—and we shall no doubt hear about this later—or in Kennington, or even in Kensington? If youngsters cannot afford to get away from those areas, they have to find some means of occupying their time.
Although the noble Lord referred to this as repressive legislation, I support the Bill. We must protect our young people against dangers of this sort. I hope that we shall never forget that we have not done all we should for 624 young people, and that we are at least partly to blame for the trouble in which they find themselves today.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
It is always a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stross). I agree with practically everything that he said in his most charming and delightful speech.
I, too, support the Bill. I disagree with the hon. Member to some extent, in that I connect pep pills with hooliganism. One had only to read of the unfortunate affair which occurred at Clacton—where, as far as I know, there was very little alcoholism, and where the young people taking part were "lit up" with these pep pills—to realise the connection. It may be that these pills brighten their brains, as opposed to dulling them, but they seem to brighten them just a bit over the top. In my opinion, there is a definite connection between pep pills and hooliganism.
§ Sir B. Stross
This has not been proved. All that we can be certain of is that the highest parts of the brain are stimulated by these drugs whereas alcohol removes the influence of the highest aspects of our personality and brain.
§ Mr. Dance
I am sure that the hon. Member knows more about this than I do, but I have been given evidence which leads me to conclude that these pills have an effect.
I very much agree with the hon. Member about the need to provide recreational facilities for our youth. This is vital. But, here again, I am a little frightened. I know of youth clubs, where young people are being brought along and cared for quite properly, which have been not only broken into, but broken up by bad elements among the local youth. Many parents will not allow their children to attend even the better type of club, especially if it is a mixed club, because they are frightened of what may take place.
Two years ago the appalling effect of thalidomide on unborn children was brought to my notice. As a result, I put down various Questions, and I was fortunate enough to win a place in the 625 Ballot for an Adjournment debate, when I raised the whole question. I have also appeared on television in this connection. I mention this because appearing on television with me was a manufacturing chemist who represented a big firm with a very high reputation. As a result of the programme he asked me to visit his factory to see exactly what went on there.
I was extremely impressed with the trouble which was taken there to see that all the drugs which were produced were properly tested. I know that mistakes do occur, but the firm was doing all that was humanly possible. The only thing that worried me was the question of security. I have always wondered where these vast quantities of drugs come from. They obviously cannot be obtained by means of the odd stolen prescription. They must come from somewhere in bulk. At this factory I was shown everything. Incidentally, the factory manufactured "purple heart" tablets. All the ingredients are carefully checked before they are issued to the big manufacturers, and the manufacturing process starts in huge vats, rather like those in a bakehouse. The various powders are poured in and mixed together, then various processes go on. At the end, "purple heart" tablets are produced.
What struck me was the fact that these tablets appeared out of a pipe at the far end of the production line, and I could not see how anyone could be certain that the girls who were filling bottles with them did not put a few into their pockets and go out with them. I am not saying that this is what did happen, but it could have happened.
In the factory in my constituency internal and external audits are carried out of all materials which come into and leave the factory. The audit is of a scientific nature. It pays due regard to human fallibility. The various materials are weighed as they leave the processing areas and also when they enter them. It is a scientific check, and I believe that it is absolutely foolproof.
§ Mr. Dance
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me that information, but it seems to me that the procedure could be rather haphazard.
626 In any process there may be waste, one way or the other. I was wondering whether my right hon. Friend the Minister would consider instituting a procedure something like that which takes place in distilleries, so that police inspectors could go round. I do not mean that they should be resident on the premises, but they could carry out spot checks, to see what is happening. I certainly cannot understand where these large quantities of drugs come from.
How can these tablets get into people's hands at the rate of 30 and 40 at a time? There must be a leakage somewhere. It cannot be through the odd stolen prescription, and I do not believe that it can be through the odd dishonest pharmacist. They must be coming from somewhere in bulk.
§ Mr. Dance
I suppose that that is possible. Perhaps that point could be investigated.
I understand that most manufacturing chemists put their own brand name on their tablets. Anyway, we shall have to be more careful at our ports and airports in order to prevent these tablets coming in. We must make certain, as far as is humanly possible, that these drugs are not made available in bulk to the public. Security is the keyword to the whole question.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
In a debate of this character, where all he the speeches favour the Bill, it is exceedingly attractive to take up the various points which have been made.
The hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) has persistently asked where these large quantities of drugs or pep pills come from. That is exactly the question which is exercising the minds of the Glasgow police. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) is also worthy of reiteration. He raised the whole question of importation and the extent to which the Home Secretary could control that facet of the business.
Those who witnessed an incident which took place not long ago on television, when a group of between seven 627 and 10 young people, and subsequently, two pushers, were interviewed, could not help but share the apparent loathing and contempt with which the interviewer plied the pushers with his questions. In this connection, the penalties suggested in Clause 1 might be considered not only in respect of the persons upon whom pep pills or drugs are found, but in respect of those who quite deliberately go outside the law and sell these pills at fantastically inflated prices.
As with so many other things, whether it be bingo or the commercial interests behind, for example, the boys in the Beatle Group—or any other group—it is the dirty commercial interests lying behind them that the Home Secretary has to seek out. Much of what I wish to say has already been said by the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel). Like him, I have a firm in my constituency which manufactures drugs and, for the same reason as he gave, I have not gone near that firm. I should support this Bill wholeheartedly and I did not want to give the impression that my views had been influenced in any way. Having interviewed the police authorities the previous weekend on this matter, it was, to me, ironic that the premises of this firm should have been broken into and several thousands of pounds worth of drugs stolen. I am told that these drugs can be manufactured at a cost of 1s., 1s. 6d. or 2s. a hundred tablets and are sold at the rate of 9d. or 1s. for each tablet. I heard of a case in Glasgow where a chemist was openly selling every two weeks bottles containing 200 tablets for £3. These are the people whose activities will, I hope, be curbed by the provisions in this Bill.
§ Mr. Hannan
I must correct that. It is not a chemist, it is a place where the tablets are manufactured such as is covered by the provisions in the Bill.
I propose to deal with the categories of people who will have extra duties, or rather responsibilities, because of the activities of others. These people try 628 to conduct their businesses properly and their reputations are above question. But, because of the actions of other undesirable people, these respectable citizens have to face more responsibilities. The Bill confines the legitimate possession of the substances set out in the Schedule to those persons mentioned in Subsections (1) to (4) of Clause 1—doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons, registered manufacturers or wholesalers, ships' captains carrying cargoes of medical stores, and the captains of other ships where the crew does not include a doctor. Extra responsibilities will have to be borne by these people and by those who manufacture and store the drugs, as well as by those who prescribe and dispense them. There are some people who have received prescriptions from doctors in order to dispense drugs but have abused the prescriptions.
There has been exaggerated and sensational newspaper publicity, and many respectable parents who have had the experience of seeing their own children take these drugs have gone to the authorities only to find that there is little that the authorities can do unless they have information about the sources of supply. I think that it will be within the experience of those at the Home Office that this is so. I do not accept the charge of carelessness which is sometimes made against professional people such as doctors, dentists and others. I agree that sometimes criticisms can be made. Like my hon. Friend. I think that one or two questions could be put with advantage, if they were put in a most kindly way.
One criticism which I have of the Bill—it was made also by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East—is that here an opportunity has been missed. It was suggested in a leading article in The Times that perhaps a consolidating Measure should have been introduced so as to bring some order into the existing "jungle" of Acts and regulations relating to drugs. Only recently, the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) introduced two Private Members' Bills relating to drugs, and there are the various Poisons Acts which I will not recite.
The habit of taking drugs may start at an early age. It is common for mothers to say that they have tried to 629 quieten a child by giving him an aspirin or some such sedative. When I was a schoolboy it was seldom that this sort of thing was encouraged. It would assist in dealing with this problem if some newspapers were more helpful in providing information for the authorities. Only recently three articles appeared in a Glasgow newspaper which stated that terrifying facts about Scotland's newest teen-age problem would be revealed. Incidentally, I am very glad that the Home Secretary was able to say that the Secretary of State for Scotland is associated with the Bill.
The newspaper articles said that an ounce of hemp had been bought in Glasgow for £7 by the writer; that opium seeds were lying on her desk and that these had been bought in Glasgow, and that if she had had sufficient money she could have bought heroin as well. It was stated that, within a short distance of the university, flats, tenements and terraced houses were becoming smoking dens. I speak subject to correction, because I have made no inquiries and it may be that the newspapers do furnish the police with this information. If that is not so, it should be the public duty of those concerned with the production of such newspaper articles to convey their information to the proper authorities. So often it is a case of the writers in the newspapers shedding "crocodile tears" while making some denouement about the white slave traffic, or some other undesirable and seamy side of life. They then give the most salacious details, under the pretext of helping the public to eradicate these evils. But in how many cases do they supply those details to the police?
§ Mr. Dan Jones
In view of the criticisms which my hon. Friend has made about the Press, it is only fair to say that the Evening Standard has spent thousands of pounds and employed some of its most earnest and experienced journalists to bring this matter to the attention of the public.
§ Mr. Hannan
I do not dissent from that. I merely pose the question, and I hope that the information which appears in the newspapers is also given to the police. I welcome what my hon. Friend has said about the activities of the newspaper which he mentioned. When complaints are made to the police by parents, 630 they are too often in the position of having to say that they are helpless in the matter. They know that some of the young people are not, in fact, telling the truth. I agree with the noble Lord who said, I think, that the availability of these pills and drugs was more widespread than it was thought to be.
There is one practice to which I want to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary of State. I understand, for example, that there are many housewives who become addicted to this habit and who are not above making misrepresentations in order to receive supplies. They sometimes plead that they are in temporary residence from some other town. It is possible for such a person in London to go to a doctor and get a certificate, and, of course, to get a supply of the drugs. It is further possible to have a certificate supplied in London and then to proceed to, say, Glasgow, where some more of the drugs can be obtained.
The co-operation of doctors and chemists could help in these matters. It is true that when a chemist receives a prescription from the doctor he checks the dosage and, if he suspects that there is something wrong, he usually telephones the doctor. At that point, some doctors will say to the chemist that he, the chemist, should inform the police, but in more cases than not a doctor asks for the prescription to be sent back to him and says that he will speak to the patient.
As I understand it, there is the possibility—I w as actually shown a number of prescriptions which had been forged—that figures on prescriptions can be altered by adding a nought or two at the end or a figure one in the front. These are some of the little practices that go on, and while it would be wrong to say that this is a widespread practice in Scotland—indeed, until comparatively recently there was very little of it—there is apprehension among teachers and social workers generally that the practice could increase.
Some surprise was expressed, I thought, by hon. Members opposite when my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East suggested that the principle included in Clause 5 of the Bill could be extended to alcoholism. Why should surprise be expressed at that? If the principle is a good one, 631 why should it not be extended to alcoholism, particularly when other Government Departments are perturbed about drinking by drivers of motor cars? Alcohol is a poison and is causing increased suffering to many people. Why should alcohol not be regarded in the same way as drugs are regarded in the Bill?
To correct an impression given earlier about figures in respect of the number of patients diagnosed as suffering from alcoholism—I am speaking not only of Scotland but of England and Wales as well, and I should think that the ratio would be about the same—on 22nd April I asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to…state for each of the years 1956, 1959 and 1962 the number of patients diagnosed as suffering from alcoholism who were admitted to mental hospitals; what percentage such patients comprised of the total admitted to such hospitals; and whether the readmission rate of alcoholic patients was higher than that of all patients."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd April, 1964; Vol. 693, c. 173–4.]The figures that were given certainly did not seem to be in accordance with those mentioned earlier because I learned from the reply which I received that the number of those suffering from alcoholism who were admitted to mental hospitals was 732 in 1956, 921 in 1959 and 1,617 in 1962, which constitutes 7.1 per cent., 7.3 per cent. and 11 per cent. of total admissions to mental hospitals. I hope, therefore, that that will go a little way to clearing up some of the misunderstanding which existed about the matter earlier.
§ Mr. D. Jones
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, I wonder whether he has analysed the figures in order to find out how many of the people admitted to institutions because of alcoholism had, in fact, been drinking methylated spirits of one form or another.
§ Mr. Hannan
What the term "alcoholism" includes, I am sorry I cannot inform my hon. Friend. However, I think the fact should be noted that in America alcoholism is now rated as the third highest killer next to cancer and thrombosis.
I am very glad that this Bill has been introduced. It shall certainly have my support. I wish it well and I hope that 632 the criticisms made by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East will be paid regard to when the Bill reaches the Committee stage.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. William Roots (Kensington, South)
I am an exception in the general course of the debate in that I welcome wholeheartedly the introduction of the Bill. I also welcome the emphasis which has been laid by several hon. Members on both sides of the House on the need for a constructive approach to the probems of youth. However, in one respect I differ, and that is in the emphasis which I place on the object of the Bill, because I should be extremely disappointed if the result of the Bill were simply to be a handful of teen-agers were fined for having a few "purple hearts" in their possession.
As I see it, the Bill is aimed at one of the most cruel and bestial activities of the underworld, at people who are deliberately, for purposes of gain, promoting an evil which will destroy many young people. In that context, I do not think one can be too strict. I was particularly interested in the aspect mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance), namely, that it seems improbable that the total supply of these drugs which are getting into wrong hands is coming simply from errors in prescriptions or petty thefts. It seems very probable that there are some major sources of supply which should be tackled.
One aspect which surprises me is that in Clause 1 where the penalties are set out, the maximum penalty is either a fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months. For a first offence imprisonment would clearly be quite inappropriate for a teen-ager, but for the professional pedlar a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment seems to be totally inadequate, and, indeed, in many respects for some of the people concerned scarcely a deterrent.
I would have thought that, while in no way suggesting that heavy penalties should be imposed for first offences, where the court has before it a person who has a record in this field a maximum sentence of six months' imprisonment, which merely means that the criminal will enjoy Her Majesty's hospitality for only four months, may be 633 totally inadequate. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will look at that aspect again.
Another aspect with which he may care to deal is where the court has before it someone who can be shown to have become addicted but is not a criminal obtaining drugs for commercial purposes. That person may be someone who is innocent but has been found on several occasions to be addicted to this sort of drug. May it not be that in due course in certain circumstances a term of imprisonment ensuring adequate treatment and the breaking of addiction might be valuable to a person who is otherwise innocent?
I do not wish to prolong the debate, but I wanted to add those two aspects and to impress on the House, in case it were overlooked, that this Bill is directed to a particularly vicious type of criminal. I hope it serves its purpose in stamping the traffic out.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
It is indeed a pleasure to follow an hon. Member who does not distract one from one's own speech by saying something which me feels obliged to answer. I was delighted to hear the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) say emphatically those two things.
It is now nearly a year ago that I was investigating various interesting consequences of the very convenient death of Rachman and began to learn a great deal about the activities of this type of criminal. The London criminal world is very small and overlapping. Quite well known to the police, individuals who were in the property racket are also in the club racket. Part of the devices they have for protecting themselves against the law is to make themselves landlords and extract rents for the occupancy of premises. One of the ways in which they extract high rent for a sleazy basement is to give advice to a wretched man who says that he cannot make enough money out of soft drinks and coffee to pay that rent. He is put in touch with someone who shows how he can make something out of a sideline such as selling these drugs.
This is a case for a deterrent, and a thumping hard deterrent. This is not 634 the moment to talk about reformation and re-integration. This is the worst kind of exploitation, a moneymaking racket battening on the ordinary anxieties and difficulties of an adolescent who is growing up. Of course I support the introduction of this Bill, for which I have been asking for a number of months. The only regret I have is that it has been introduced fairly late and that the Home Secretary did not find time—although that is understandable in work on this kind of subject—to say that this is only part of a much bigger and far-reaching project.
The right hon. Gentleman has thought it right to discuss the problem with various interested parties. I think he has had very good co-operation from those who know and understand this problem and know the dangers of this traffic. I do not think one can be other than grateful for the help of the Press. All types of newspapers have dealt with the subject wisely and responsibly. Reference has been made to the Evening Standard. That remarkable series of articles, by Miss Anne Sharpley, well documented and showing compassion and understanding, was an outstanding piece of journalism. It did her and the editor credit. This investigation, done at short notice, has been most helpful.
The Pharmaceutical Society has also been most helpful. In February it sent out a statement on the subject. One of the things said in that statement should be adopted as a key for dealing with this problem. It recalled that in August, 1959, it made representations which led to the strengthening of the Regulations in regard to prescriptions. The Society said that:the indiscriminate supply of drugs of this type encouraged the belief that by their use the problems and stresses of life can be escaped or evaded instead of faced and surmounted, and drugs which stimulate or depress the central nervous system should be made available only On prescription.That is good, sensible, political stuff. It went on to say:Although these measures are needed, the Society considers that the main safeguard against abuse is a much greater sense of responsibility in the public towards medicines of all kinds.The public is anxious about drugs of all kinds, pesticides and medicines, which may bring unforeseen dangers and even 635 horrors in their wake. This was a statement by a society of people who depend on selling pills for a living. Their helpfulness and responsibility contrasts very strongly with the attitude of the manufacturers who have been almost entirely unhelpful in this matter.
I am sorry that the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) has had to leave the Chamber. He obviously had a fairly well-documented brief from the manufacturers' side. It is extremely unfortunate that they dodged the recommendation that they should deglamorise a pill by altering its shape, its colour and its name. Doctors asked that drugs should be identifiable because they do not like to have to go into a bathroom wondering which kind of white pill a woman has taken, but there is all the difference between that and the psychological attractiveness of the name, shape and colour of this pill which is doing so much harm.
I have not been very happy in my contacts with the manufacturers. I do not like being told by American pill pedlars that they have better contacts with the Home Office than a Member of Parliament can have, still less that they have better contacts with Scotland Yard than a Member of Parliament can have. I do not like being told that I have whipped up a Press campaign. I have some reason to be irritated with them but I shall try to put the point as reasonably as I can. They take the view which we have heard even from the Front Bench today that this is a very valuable drug when used in the right circumstances. They say it has don[...] immense good and has been misused only by thieves and crooked people. That is not strictly true.
I know of one important mental hospital where the head and the whole of the medical staff agree that this kind of drug ought never to be manufactured, has no therapeutic value whatever and is one which they would never prescribe in any circumstances. I do not say that they are right but this is the difficulty we are in. This ought to be a matter of debate with an equal balance of argument, but the balance is unequal. When doctors have stated something in a learned article or a book there it rests but when the other side has skilled 636 teams of representatives repeating propaganda about the excellent value of this product the argument struggle is unfair.
Somehow or other we shall have to come to terms with this problem of how to designate research on drugs and how the medical profession can indicate the sort of drug required to deal with what sort of ailment. It ought not to depend on the drive for profit which can urge and switch the argument away from whether the drug is good or bad. Without referring to any firm, I merely wish to point out that this is the problem which both sides of the House, all parties, will have to tackle in the near future.
I am glad that the Home Secretary has introduced into the Bill the provision about the control of imports. I have been convinced for some time that there existed a clear way of reimporting a product manufactured in this country. I regret that the Home Secretary has not gone further in his control over wholesalers. I must not tell to many atrocity stories, although there is one that comes to mind—one case, well-documented, where a shady piece of work took place and where some young men managed to gain control of the shares of a long-established, rather small family wholesaling business in the drug and pharmaceutical industry. Hon. Members will know the sort of firm I have in mind; one which sold a few drugs, combs and sponge bags and which operated from an old warehouse in a cellar.
I leave to the imagination of hon. Members what a wonderful opportunity that was. That opportunity was certainly taken and used, very much to the detriment of the firm's customers, but very much to the profit of the people in question. Suffice to say that there has for long been an open door here and I hope, therefore, that the reference in the Bill to the Secretary of State having the power to refuse to register a business will be carefully followed up and that inquiries will be made.
I am also sorry that there is no proposal in the Measure to control distribution between wholesaler and retailer. It would have been one of the most helpful things had the Home Office done something in this direction, although I appreciate that it is not anxious to be 637 burdened with the same kind of meticulous paper work which is rendered necessary by the Dangerous Drugs Act. Nevertheless, it would be helpful if chemists who lose tablets knew that there were likely to be inquiries. It would be equally helpful if wholesalers had to keep books and had to have them available for inspection, a sort of spot check, if the police or Home Office thought that to be necessary.
Steps along these lines are vitally necessary, because I can assure the Home Secretary that I have plenty of evidence from chemists who have told me that it is all too easy, when a mistake has been made or when they have found that they are a tin short, merely to phone up the wholesaler and say that something is short. The warehouse usually says, "We will send it along on the next delivery". This happens in the ordinary course of business, whatever the drug, and when one considers the scheduled poisons it is obvious that a gap exists.
I turn to the question of penalties, and this is where we come up against a great deal of difficulty. I regret that the Home Secretary has not been able to introduce something along the lines hinted at by the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South because, in my view, it is on the question of penalties that there exists the most important gap of all. I should like to tell of a case which stimulated me earlier this year into intense anger and which made me determine to do something about it.
I refer to the case of the 16-year-old son of a perfectly well-known native Paddington family with enough little troubles of their own without having to go around looking for "kinky" ones. The boy left school at 15. This is an important point, because I am speaking of those youngsters who were probably damned from the age of seven when they got into the wrong stream in the primary school, as a result of which they never even got a smell at the grammar school stream.
Upon leaving school at the earliest possible date, from the bottom stream of the school, this boy was placed in employment by the local Youth Employment Service. I have no doubt that the officers of that service thought that 638 they had done a splendid job. They put the boy in a solicitor's office. Let us understand the picture, of a boy who has been taken out of one environment—a way of life, a standard of values which were perfectly adequate. In his own family, let it be clear, there was no crime or delinquency. They just got along quite well in their own rough and ready way and respected each other's standard of values. Then suddenly he was put into a completely different environment. He moved into a strange, cold world. He had to swim in chilly waters, all the chillier since he did not know how to mix.
He had not been at his employment, in the solicitor's office, for long when he was invited by one of his young colleagues to a party in Hampstead. He went along, and he told me, "They was fun, but they got a bit boring", That is all that happened. Nobody started to introduce him into any vicious practices. It was a harmless enough meeting of youngsters who were discussing exciting things they had discovered for the first time, things which their elders knew nothing about—like sin, Socialism and sex.
The trouble for him was not so much that he could not keep his end up in the conversation but that he could not keep his eyes open. He should have been in bed with a glass of warm milk. A member of the party gave him a pill and said that it would keep him awake and interested. From then on, so the boy felt, he could keep his end up in the conversation and was able to talk more and more.
It was not until later when he had become a victim of the pill that this youngster began to stay away from work. Perhaps I should leave the story there, because later in my speech I have some recommendations to make. Surely, for example, the Youth Employment Service must come back into the story somewhere? We cannot let these children escape into the world without some further protection. Under any other section of our education system, right up to the age of completing a university degree or taking a commission in the Guards, more protection is given and—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir. W. Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member but he is getting rather far from the Bill.
§ Mr. Parkin
That may be true, but I hope that I am entitled to complain and to use the device of saying that I am regretting that this subject is not included in the Bill. I am about to suggest ways in which some aspects of this can be introduced into the Bill because there is all the difference in the world between these penalties, if applied ruthlessly and instantly to the criminal traffickers, and the situation that is created by the activities of the youngsters, particularly the sort of boy about whom I have been speaking.
I hope that one assurance in particular will be given by the Home Office, and that is that the penalty for this offence will not be used by the police—and I hope that there will be a directive issued by the Commissioner of Police to this effect—merely as another of those sort of vagrancy charges when it is convenient for someone to be brought in for questioning in an effort to find out something else. I hope that the fact that some pills have been found in someone's pocket will not be used as a device by the police when they want to question someone and when they might be tempted to use the threat of this penalty when what they really want is for someone to become a little more talkative.
If the subject before the police is a youthful addict or habitué different treatment should be accorded him. The first thing to be done is to deglamorise this thing altogether and kill the idea that to take these pills is something clever. This is the problem of every older generation. It does not understand that the young rebels can be driven into a position where they accept as honourable, defiant and creative the task of demolishing the tenets of the Establishment.
I thought that the noble Lord rather missed the point when I asked him to develop the distinction between habituation and addiction. I suggested that teenage habituation to these drugs led to addiction to other things that were much more terrible. I was not thinking of heroin, and the rest—I do not think that that is a very common danger, although it is a possible one. I was thinking primarily of such addictions as those to lying, stealing, and deceiving one's employers and parents which arise when the youth cannot get any more pills 640 except by becoming the victim of whoever can make him behave in a certain way. Unfortunately, the things that he is tempted to do are glamorous to him in that they are a rebellion against the culture of the elders.
We have to kill that idea. What we should do is to show that this not a crime, but a sickness—which it is. If we can indicate to these people that they are sick and need treatment, that they will be compelled to have treatment and will not have the satisfaction of going to prison and defying the whole of society, we may get a different atmosphere. Therefore, before the Bill reaches the Committee stage, I hope that the Home Secretary will take serious advice on this aspect.
I suggest that a person found in possession should first be detained for observation to see if he is habituated to the drug himself. If he is, I hope—and I do not know quite how these matters are formulated in law—that for a first offence the penalty will be a probation order, including compulsory medical treatment and "drying out".
I apologise if I am straying outside the immediate scope of the Bill, but I conceive it to be the duty of Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department that he should be the creative leader in all matters concerning the welfare of Her Majesty's subjects, and not concerned only with locking up those same sub jects. As a senior member of the Cabinet, it should be his duty to consult the Minister of Health, for instance, as to the extent to which treatment can be made available and, if it is not available, to make provision for a compulsory course of treatment at the nearest mental hospital clinic.
As I have said, this is a sickness. It is not, however, a sickness particularly brought about, in the circumstances we have been studying for the last year or so, by weaknesses of character or physique in individual people. Those who resist reforms by saying that we cannot change human nature cannot have it both ways. If the graphs show that behaviours have altered, and if human nature has not altered, something in the social environment has altered.
641 I have great sympathy with the head of a mental hospital who, keenly disappointed at not being able to get a sociologist to work on a project connected with the hospital, said, "What's the use of receiving patients for the most modern treatment of mental illness unless we know the social background that creates the strains that have caused these breakdowns?" I know of another mental hospital where they have psychiatric social workers to inquire into the conditions in the home—and who very often find that they have the wrong member of the family in bed in hospital; that the person in the hospital has suffered the nervous breakdown because of confused tyranny on the part of another member of the family.
That is what social medicine means. It does not mean giving consultations for free, or pills for free; it means studying the social causes and the geographical distribution of the ailments for which the pills are prescribed. It is perhaps right to get the doctor's advice about the sort of employment an asthmatic school leaver should take up. It is perhaps reasonable that one should seek the advice of a doctor before taking oneself and one's family to a job in a steaming jungle. But we do not need a doctor to tell us that 15-year-old children leaving school and going into the outside world will there find social conditions, created by us—or allowed to develop by us—which produce greater strains than they ever did in past generations.
Some hon. Members say that we do not do enough for our youth, and I am sure that others will say that we do too much, but we must recognise that the growth of society in great towns has taken away from growing children many of the opportunities for self-education, for taking risks—for learning to swim in this cold water bit by bit—which they could have had as recently as 50 years ago, or even 25 years ago. The tempo has changed so much that these children are put into conditions that they do not understand—much of which, indeed, we ourselves do not understand.
From time to time we discuss in this House the comparative problems of transport, or of housing, or of old people—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is travelling too wide on this Bill, which is, in fact, toPenalise the possession, and restrict the importation, of drugs…The hon. Member is going much further than that.
§ Mr. Parkin
I was discussing the remedies and the penalties, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. One Clause says that someone found in possession of a drug should be sent to prison for six months or fined £200 which, in its bleak printed terms is absolute nonsense, and if it meant what it said I would be speaking against it, with your concurrence. I have pointed out that it cannot possibly mean what it says; that it is a formula that is intended to apply to the trafficker in drugs, and should not, in any circumstances, apply to his victim.
I suggest that the Home Secretary should accept that this Bill will be nothing but a sweep-it-under-the-carpet Measure unless it is part of an understanding of the wider problem. Just as the Rachmanite episode, with all the crooks and rascals involved in it, floodlit a process that had been going on with a macabre inevitability for a century, so the bringing to light of this danger—which seems to have blown up so much in the last year or so and to which the Government now pay attention—flood-lights a process which is inevitable, in view of the present tempo of society. It is not industrial inefficiency but social inefficiency that is the great challenge of this day and generation.
If we took the Shakespearean concept of the seven ages of man, we would find that from one age to another the difficulties are intensified, and we get a special problem for each age group. We are now discussing one facet of that problem—something most tender, delicate, exposed, the snake that has just cast its skin, the butterfly that has just come out of the chrysalis, that needs protecting for a very short time. It should not be beyond our skill to extend that protection.
When I referred to the youth employment angle in a Parliamentary Question, the Ministry of Labour gave an entirely unhelpful reply by saying that at all times the Youth Employment Service was available for those who chose to seek its help- 643 How can we expect a 15-year-old boy to go to the labour exchange and say, "Please, I have lost my job because I took to not turning up on Mondays and I raided the petty cash to buy some more pills"? The employer who sacked the boy should be compelled to send the file to the Youth Employment Service and there should be some co-ordination between the education service, the parents and the employers, under the broad direction of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department. If that is how the right hon. Gentleman sees his job, and if the Bill is only part of a programme of that type, I welcome it unreservedly, but if it is not I am sorry to say that, although I hope it cuts off the drugs, I do not think that it will help the youngsters.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
The Motion has produced an interesting debate, at least until late this afternoon I find myself in agreement with most of the speeches made and particularly with that of my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) and that of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan), except only in their conclusions. I suppose that this is really a matter of balance and that, in the words of The Times leader, it is a question of whether we have yet reached a point where a Measure of this kind is justified. I find myself, not with great confidence but definitely of the opinion that we have not yet reached a point at which a Measure of this repressive character is justified.
Let us be clear what we are doing. As my noble Friend the Member for Hertford said, we are taking a great step. We are making the possession of drugs an offence whereas hitherto it has been, generally speaking, only the unlawful selling of them that has been an offence. It is true that the most dangerous kinds of drugs, which I believe are derivatives of the poppy, like morphine and opium, have been singled out for special attention and that it is an offence to possess them as well as sell them, but those are in a very restricted class.
I do not propose to make a fine distinction between addiction and habituation. It is enough to say that 644 they in drugs of the utmost seriousness n their effect on the human body, and they have been picked out for special attention. Where the Bill goes so far is that in the Schedule it adds to that class not the drugs next lower down in seriousness but drugs, as it has clearly emerged in the debate, which are of an extremely mild and trivial character.
What has made them serious as a social problem is the great doses in which they are taken, apparently up to 30, 40 or even 50 tablets. It should be remembered that if young men and women were to take 30 to 50 tablets of aspirin they would suffer considerable damage. I am no medical expert, but I am sure that they would suffer some kind of physical and possibly mental damage from such heavy and habitual doses of such a harmless drug as aspirin. The drugs in the Schedule, which are, in effect, benzedrines and amphetamines, are drugs of that degree of mildness.
The question for the House, therefore, is whether we are justified in making the mere possession of them without a doctor's prescription a criminal offence. It is a criminal offence already for a chemist or anybody else to sell or peddle them without appropriate authority. In some degree that answers the question which some hon. Members have asked about penalty. The penalty in the Bill is very heavy indeed, and we should remember that the penalty is directed against the person who is found in possession, because the person found selling is already covered by penalties in existing poisons legislation.
We are therefore thinking of the new ground covered by the Bill, which is the consumer, the taker of the drugs who is found in possession of them. I admit that one aspect of the Bill, which is the prohibition of importation, is important and that the penalties in the Bill are appropriate, but for the person who is merely found with some in his or her pocket a fine of £200 or six months' imprisonment is disproportionate.
This really is an enforcement Bill. Nobody could justify by the gravity of the drug which is being considered, benzedrine or amphetamine, a proposal 645 of this character. It is simply because the police are finding it difficult to get convictions.
§ Mr. Bell
I am glad that the hon. Member agrees with that sentiment, at any rate.
As the Home Secretary has said, the police when asked said that these powers would help. I do not want to be unkind to the police. They do not always answer the question in the affirmative. I have known past cases where the police have said that they did not particularly need powers which it was proposed to give them. The Public Order Act was such an occasion, but, on the whole, the police say that extra powers would be useful, and extra powers of this extremely wide kind are useful in the sense that they make it very easy to obtain convictions. But what are the consequences of this sort of legislation?
The drug benzedrine is very common. I must not claim any kind of expertise in natural science which I do not possess, but do not ordinary inhalants contain benzedrine? Is the possession of benzedrine in an inhalant, except on doctor's prescription, to be an offence exposing one to these extremely severe penalties? It seems to me a little odd that we should be taking such a measure.
Under Clause 5, the Home Secretary will have powers to add to the Schedule any drug he cares to add. I am using too restrictive a language. He can add any "substance" which he may think fit to add to it. When the Bill is having its Second Reading, people cast a glance at such a provision and say that it is very dangerous, but they make that remark only by way of reservation and they pass on and say that, of course, we must have the Bill. But the danger is only too clear. The hon. Member for Maryhill, in a part of his speech with which I did not agree, said that alcohol should be added to the Schedule in due course. Alcohol, of course, is a more dangerous substance and drug than the one we are talking about. My noble Friend the 646 Member for Hertford made that point. Both alcohol and nicotine are in their nature much more dangerous and deleterious than those named in the Schedule. They do greater social damage and greater physical damage. There is no doubt about that Already one hon. Member in the Second Reading debate has advocated the addition of one of them to the Schedule.
Can we really be sure that, if we pass the Bill, there will not be such additions to the Schedule? The Home Secretary will have power to make a Statutory Instrument, as soon as the Bill comes into force, to add a substance to the Schedule, and this will then be part of the law. All we shall have will be the ordinary right to pray against it within 40 days.
Have we, reached such a point in our affairs, because of all the Press talk and wireless talk about purple hearts, when legislation of this character must be put on the Statute Book? I am always disposed to cast a suspicious eye upon any Measure which severely restricts the freedom of the individual. Always I ask myself whether such a Measure is really unavoidable. I do not often have many allies in that, but on this occasion I seem to have the support of the Editor of The Times. I hope that that does not make my own attitude suspect. Nevertheless, I think that it was a fair comment to suggest that this was a piece of "hastily conceived restrictive legislation".
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
May I ask the lion. Gentleman one question, for my own information? Is it his understanding of the Bill that anyone who happens today to have a phial of benzedrine in his medicine cupboard becomes a criminal on the passing of the Bill unless he happens to have found it and disposed of it first?
§ Mr. Bell
The moment it does come into force, that would, I believe, be the effect. I imagine that that is the reason for the three months' delay, to allow people to get rid of these dangerous substances—I mean dangerous to them in their relationship with the law.
647 I do not wish to deal with what I might call Committee points in my speech, and I think that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has raised one such point. Unless I have misread the Bill, it appears that a person who under the existing poisons legislation is lawfully in possession of drugs will, or may, when the Bill comes into force, be in breach of Clause 1 because, under the existing poisons legislation, a person may acquire these drugs or poisons by leave of the Secretary of State, and, if he has not got the permission of the Secretary of State, he must have one of the other subordinate permissions, so to speak, a prescription from a medical practitioner or veterinary surgeon, or whatever it may be. But the need for those does not arise at all until he has not the permission of the Secretary of State, and it appears to me that, under the Bill, if he has the permission of the Secretary of State but has not a doctor's prescription, he commits an offence. A rather odd situation, which may indicate somewhat hasty drafting. However, it could, no doubt, be put right in Committee.
I was about to turn to the part of the debate which concerned itself with the underlying causes of the situation. While I agree with a great deal of what has been said, I invite the House to look at the matter in this way. It may be true that what young people are seeking to escape from by taking these pills is a sense of boredom, a sense of lack of excitement in society, to use the phrase most commonly adopted in various speeches, or, as I think someone said, they wish to escape from the society in which they live. But is it not true that what these young people are really trying to escape from is precisely the kind of thing which this sort of Bill brings into existence?
Why is modern society unexciting? It is, surely, because the State goes broody over its young people, looks after their welfare to a very great extent and insulates them from dangers, risks and perils to such an extent that there is no excitement left. If we take away personal responsibility from our young people, we give them a dull world. If we fence them off from all the dangers which might prey upon them, they seek other dangers.
648 The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stross) compared the taking of these pills with the riding of powerful motor cycles, quite a good comparison. It gives them the edge of danger which they want. I think that one will not find the same young people who ride dangerous motor cycles also taking "purple heart" pills. They want their danger in some way. They want to escape from the sense of claustrophobia which a too pervasive society gives them, and they seek their excitement by going to Clacton and knocking the place about by riding motor cycles too fast or by taking drugs.
I did not think that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, made a very fortunate comparison, however, when he said that if we spent more money, for instance, on running tracks, we might avoid this consequence. I am all in favour of spending money on running tracks, a very good thing indeed, but the hon. Gentleman went on to say that we had about 350 running tracks for 50 million people whereas Sweden had 8,000 for 3 million people. The rate of suicide and the rate of addiction to drugs of habituation in Sweden—alcohol, of course, will be one of the greatest of them—is not one which we should wish to have in this country.
It is just the opposite remedy which we should seek. We should leave young people exposed to danger, to the ordinary dangers which the vicissitudes of life bring to them, and, above all, to the danger of temptation, including the temptation of such drugs as these, which, I say again, are among the most trivial of drugs. I know that, taken in wild excess, they can cause damage, at least mental damage but it seems doubtful whether they can cause physical damage. If we fence young people or, for that matter, older people from such risks as these, what right have we to talk about their sense of a lack of excitement in life?
I feel, therefore, that a Bill such as this defeats itself. It will defeat its own object. The immediate gain, of course, is fairly obvious. The police will be better able to seek out these benzedrines and amphetamine drugs and bring more successful prosecutions perhaps stamping out for the time being this particular temptation to which young people are succumbing. But we shall do this by 649 a sacrifice of principal brought about by the Bill which I, for one, am not willing to accept.
The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) said that the Bill contained a principle which he regarded as dangerous but which he was willing, for this one occasion, to accept, the principle that the State is entitled to interfere with what people do in order to protect them from doing themselves harm. I regard this as about the most dangerous principle in politics. Of course, one should interfere with people to stop them doing others harm, but when one starts to interfere with them to stop doing themselves harm one begins to take the fun and adventure out of life.
I have never hesitated to speak in the House when I have considered that that principle was at stake. I do not think that I am one of those people who defend freedom in the belief that we can get freedom free. Freedom always imposes a very high price. One can usually measure the price of freedom. One can measure the immediate gain which results from sacrificing it. The advantage of freedom is much more intangible and much more difficult to assess, and for this reason it is quickly a casualty when something like this "purple heart" controversy blows up. People say, "Pass a Bill. Do something about it. Clean up this mess. Never mind about the abstract principles". Only too often is this kind of legislation thought up because of some passing need of the moment, and it remains on the Statute Book for ever and does not become less but grows as time goes on.
I venture the guess that if we pass this Bill, as, of course, we shall, the Schedule attached to it will grow steadily as the months and years pass. I am sure of that. I wish that I could take the contrary view. There is a power to remove as well as to add to the Schedule, but does any hon. Member really believe that it will shrink, or does he believe that once this power has been brought into existence the Schedule will steadily grow because it is convenient to those whose function it is to enforce the law?
That is why I think that a principle is involved today. I fully recognise the nature of the evil which the Bill is intended to eradicate, but I do not feel 650 that it yet justifies the extremity of the measures proposed in the Bill. Although I shall not have the opportunity to vote against it because not enough people will think as I do, I take the opportunity to say that I cannot support the Bill.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
I was pleased to hear the last comment of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) because I thought that his speech would be similar to that of the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) and that, after saying all the things which he did not like about the Bill, he would say that he proposed to support it. However, he has said that he was speaking against the Bill.
Of course, I profoundly disagree with practically everything that the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South said. He took up one of the main streams which has run through this debate. Quite a number of hon. Members have pointed to the fact that, as well as the problem of habituation or addiction, there are other problems in society and, therefore, why pick out this particular one? I reject this argument as being wholly unjustified because if we ever adopted it we should do nothing a bout anything. Until we had complete perfection we would not move.
I do not give the Home Secretary credit for very much in this House, but I give him credit here for trying to deal with an extremely difficult problem. I accept the contention of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South that there is a lot in the Bill that we might want to consider in Committee, but at least we have something on the stocks and something to consider. This is an honest attempt to deal with a problem which I believe to be very serious and about which every parent in this House must feel deeply.
I always object when I hear leaders of society pontificating about teenagers and the youth of this country. What they say is usually far removed from reality and is nauseating in that it is patronising to young people, who have distinctive personalities of their own. We have been spared that by hon. Members on both sides. What has distressed 651 me is that, while we have not pontificated, and while there has been on both sides of the House a definite attempt to try to understand and grasp what it is that makes our young people tick, the longer the debate has proceeded, the more it has been obvious that there is a huge gap between the generations and that we are still only fumbling about in the dark in trying to find out what it is that makes large numbers of young people sit in a dark cellar on Saturday nights while a terrific cacophony of sound goes through their ears, where the smoke gets denser and denser and where in order to keep awake, it is necessary for them to take "purple heart" tablets because otherwise they are not "with it".
To them, it means something, but the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South, especially in the last part of his speech, was rather like an analytical chemist, putting the teen-ager on a slab, looking through a microscope to see what it was and in the end rejecting the specimen although he wanted it to have liberty to go to hell in its own way if it so desired.
We have been trying to grasp the way in which by legislation we can form some protection around young people, who are driven by society, or whatever it is that drives them, whilst they grow up, from the pernicious profit-making which goes on when pushers, pedlars and unscrupulous people are able to play on the circumstances in which these youngsters find themselves in order to make a huge profit.
One of the points which has been made several times this afternoon is from where do these pills come? What is the source? We all welcome very much the fact that in the Bill there is provision for stopping the importation or reimportation of pills which were probably manufactured in and exported from this country in the first place. It would be interesting to know the National Health Service quantity involved. The last figure which I could obtain related to 1959 when 5½ million prescriptions were given for these amphetamines. This represented 2½ per cent. of the total prescribed under the National Health Service. It would be interesting to know what has happened 652 since 1959. If we cannot be brought up to date in that respect when the Minister replies to this debate, I hope that we will be informed of the position in Committee.
There has been considerable discussion about the problem of addiction or habituation. A number of hon. Members have, more or less, said, "As this is only a drug of habituation, it is not as bad as a drug of addiction". I cannot agree with some of my hon. Friends in making this distinction. If a thing is bad, it is bad, even though something else might be worse. I have some information from my local hospital on the general medical opinion of the results of this habituation. It gives feelings of well-being and confidence, increases alertness initially, and is followed by a state of fatigue, irritability and depression. Tolerance rapidly develops.
This is an important point. It means that if one starts taking five pills, one rapidly wants 10, then one rapidly wants 20 and then one rapidly wants 50. The dose must be increased to get any effect at all. "Purple heart" intoxication includes symptoms of agitation, restlessness, sleeplessness, profuse perspiration, flushing of the skin and occasionally a toxic psychosis with paranoid ideas and hallucinations. Whether or not this is as bad as addiction, it is still pretty bad and we must do something about it.
I differ on one point from my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stross) whose medical knowledge far surpasses that of the rest of us in the House. I rarely disagree with my hon. Friend, but I disagree with him on the short-term danger of "purple heart" pills, because they release the person who has taken them from fear for a limited period. For about two or three hours a person who is under the influence of "purple hearts" has no fear that the consequences of his act will catch up with him. This can be lethal in the case of a person driving a motor car and feeling on top of the world. He has no fear about whether he will be able to get through the gap between the bus and the kerb, because for two or three hours this fear is eliminated. It can have disastrous consequences. If a person has taken a "purple heart" pill 653 and then gets into a fight he has no fear of the consequences of what will happen if he hits the other fellow. He has no fear about whether the other fellow will take a jagged bottle and hit him back again. Therefore, this aspect, although it has nothing to do with addiction, makes the Home Secretary's action in introducing the Bill extremely necessary.
The point has been made that in drinamyl especially, the addition of the barbiturate means that there is an easy step towards going from habituation to addiction. The first step away from the "purple hearts" is marijuana, and the second step is heroin. There are many cases in which this has been shown by medical people, especially general practitioners, who deal with patients. If the Home Secretary is seeking evidence on this, I invite him to go to the College of General Practitioners, whose members have had considerable experience of dealing with patients outside hospitals and institutions, to ascertain some of the effects that this habituation has had.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Bill is the realisation that the availability of the drug leads to its extensive use and habituation. To give an example of addiction, which is another thing entirely, of the 359 addicts who were registered in 1957, 70 were doctors. This is not because doctors are more neurotic or are any different from anyone else in society, but merely because proximity and ease of access made it easy for them to become prey to the drugs concerned. An important feature of the Bill is the Home Secretary's desire to reduce availability and, therefore, the consequent danger from it.
The House has been a little divided concerning the penalties that are provided in Clause 1. I share very much the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) that when a youngster gets caught, the last thing anybody wants to do is to make a criminal of him. When all that happens is that a youngster has been up to town for kicks and has had two "purple hearts" in his pocket or has taken some, surely it is the intention neither of the Home Secretary nor of the Bill that he should find himself serving a sentence of six months' imprisonment. The intention of the Bill is to ensure that the pushers and the 654 pedlars who make a huge profit are not able to ride off by an insignificant term of imprisonment or a fine which merely means that they raise the price from 6d. to 1s. and from 1s. to 1s. 3d. to take care of the added risk which they take in peddling the pills.
It is interesting to see how, on the more serious side of addiction to narcotics in the United States, the American Act makes mandatory provisions. I am, of course, only making a parallel, because we are talking of habituation and addiction. Nevertheless, there is a similar kind of approach in America in seeking to get, not the addict, but the person who causes and creates the addict. I notice that in the 1956 American Act, for the first offence there is a mandatory minimum sentence of two years. For the second offence, there is a minimum sentence of five years with a maximum of up to 20 years, and for the third offence a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 40 years. That is really a deterrent.
I hope that in Committee we will be able to make a distinction so that instead of stipulating an overall fine of a certain amount or a certain period of imprisonment for anybody who is found in possession of the drugs, with the assistance of the legal experts who are at the Home Secretary's disposal it will be possible to elaborate the Clause to distinguish clearly between the addict and the pedlar. In those circumstances, I should be prepared to make the penalty for the addict much less and the penalty for the pedlar very much more.
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South suggested that one of the reasons for the Bill was that the police seek more powers. It is extremely difficult to get to grips with this problem in the teen-age world. I could give the Home Secretary, or anyone else, the names of three clubs not two miles from here where he could go on a Saturday night and see the youngsters lying down on the benches, provided round the walls where they are "out", under the influence. I could, in fact, give him the names of another 10 clubs. Unfortunately, however, the Home Secretary would not be admitted: neither would I. We are too old. The doorkeeper at the club would take one look at us and 655 merely say that it was full up. That is a masterpiece of understatement, because if one were to get in it would be found that the place was not merely full, but over-full, with room hardly even to stand, much less do anything else. One certainly could not jive, twist or do the "dog" or any of the other modern dances that go with the fashionable music.
But those are not the only places. I know of no more respectable dance-hall circuit than the Mecca dance hall circuit. It is well run and caters for thousands of teen-agers throughout the country. I guarantee, however, that if the Home Secretary likes to go to any Mecca dance hall, within five minutes I could put him in touch with someone who would sell him "purple hearts" at the current rate. It is this extent of the problem which has probably prompted the Home Secretary to bring forward the Bill, which, I hope, will find its way to the Statute Book without too much delay in its various stages, so that we shall be able to do something about this menace.
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South was quite right in saying that we must not cotton wool our young people. What we must do, surely, is to ensure that they are not simply live bait for the predatory sharks who inhabit their world at this time. At least, if we cannot protect the youngsters, we can do something about the sharks. I believe that the Bill, with all its imperfections, seeks to do something in that direction and for that reason I welcome it.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Holland (Acton)
My information about the effects of the drug drinamyl coincides so closely with the information given to the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) that my conclusions naturally coincide very much with his. That is hardly surprising, since the large general hospital in the hon. Member's constituency also serves my constituency, with information as well as medical care.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced the intention to introduce this legislation in a Written Answer to an Oral Question which I put down on 27th February, but which was not 656 reached, I am grateful to be able to speak on this occasion to express to him my gratitude for the reply which he then gave and also so that I may welcome the Bill on Second Reading. I express the hope that it will go through all its remaining stages with expedition.
My attention was first drawn to the seriousness of the drinamyl menace in my constituency of Acton by a letter which was sent to the local paper by the distracted mother of two teenage children, a boy and a girl, who had both become—if I may use the term in view of what has been said in this debate, because I believe it to be an addiction—addicted to drinamyl.
The letter was published in the Acton Gazette of 13th February, and I should like to quote an extract from it. It stated:I have a son and daughter who take them".That is, "purple heart" pills.I have found out by the way they have changed.This is significant.The girl has turned into a trollop, and the boy…gets into terrible rages.Those words indicate more graphically than any elaboration of the theme can do the heartbreak and despair that such adolescent folly brings in its train.
It is human nature for the weaker-minded youngsters who want to show off to try to do things that make them look big in the eyes of their friends. It is also true that a lack of self-confidence in the immature encourages them to seek artificial stimulants to help them face what are, for the rest of us, the everyday realities of life. Real vice comes into the picture when attempts are made to exploit those human failings purely for financial gain and with total disregard of the consequences in terms of human misery.
Nevertheless, once a youngster succumbs to the guile of the salesman, who, significantly again, is called the "pusher", his rate of intake rises until drinamyl ceases to satisfy and he turns to Indian hemp or marijuana, as it is officially called. The cafés and the coke bars peddling the one so often eventually provide a source of supply for the other. One such café in Acton was recently closed for extending its sidelines to the supply of Indian hemp. The proprietor 657 is now in gaol. I am told that the café is to reopen shortly under new management. I sincerely hope that, if the old clientele drifts back, the new proprietor will not be so misguided as to allow himself to be tempted to indulge in the same vicious trade.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right to impose reasonably severe penalties for possession, except in certain clearly defined circumstances, because, although the weak-minded may be the dupes of the vicious, it is rather difficult in law to distinguish between the purely weak-minded and the vicious, and it is better to make the dupe subject to a heavier penalty than might be necessary as a corrective than to allow the vicious, the corrupt, to get away too lightly.
On this point about getting away too lightly, I tend to agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots), in wanting to see rather stiffer prison sentences available for the vicious. Perhaps it is some small comfort to my hon. and learned Friend that I agree with him, because I am one of his constituents.
I hope that the Press will co-operate with my right hon. Friend by publicising the fact that under the Bill anybody caught in possession of either "purple hearts" or "black torpedoes", which I understand contain the same amphetamine and barbiturate drugs, will be liable to a fine of £200 and six months in gaol unless they have been properly prescribed by a doctor. I hope that magistrates will use the powers contained in the Bill to the full.
I am glad that under Clause 4 the importation of this substance is to be severely restricted, because I understand that a noticeable supply of these drugs is being imported by individuals. I am told that Malta is one source of supply for this type of unauthorised entry.
I am particularly pleased to note that under Clauses 5 and 6—here I differ from some of my hon. Friends—any other drug that may on some future occasion be misused can be quickly and effectively brought within the scope of the Bill by means of a Statutory Instrument. I should have thought that Clause 658 6 would provide a measure of safeguard to my hon. Friends who are a little perturbed about Clause 5, because there is at least the possibility of the House discussing the matter before it passes into law.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
That is surely not the case. There is a power to pray against it. This is the negative procedure. Can my hon. Friend tell me on how many occasions in the past few years a Statutory Instrument laid by the Government of the day has been annulled on a Prayer when it had the support of the Whips?
§ Mr. Holland
I am not sure whether it was my hon. Friend or another hon. Member who said that it would be better if this were by affirmative Resolution rather than by a Statutory Instrument lying upon the Table. Can my hon. Friend provide any better record as to the number of affirmative Resolutions brought forward by a Government which have not been passed? The fact remains that they are there to be discussed. They may be fully discussed by the House. If the feeling is strong enough, the Government take notice of the views made known on a Prayer. This is the measure of the safeguard. The negative procedure is just as positive as the affirmative procedure.
All Home Secretaries, by the very nature of their responsibilities, customarily receive far more brickbats than halfpence, and my right hon. Friend has been no exception in this case. On this problem he has moved promptly and effectively, as he has done on far more occasions in the past than he has ever been given credit for. I congratulate him most warmly on introducing the Bill and on bringing it forward so quickly. I also express the hope that the Bill will go through all its stages smoothly and swiftly, and that it will be well supported by the whole House.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
I support the Bill. I could not do otherwise, because about two months ago I put Questions to the Home Office asking for such a Measure. I am somewhat surprised that some hon. Members can regard the Bill as being an interference with the freedom of citizens. I do not want to stray outside the scope of the 659 Bill, but I believe I am entitled to say that some hon. Members should try to define the difference between freedom and licence. What has been going on in this country recently has been a licence for people to peddle these malicious drugs to young people, making good profit out of them and in the process prostituting young people.
I definitely support the Home Secretary. I ask the House to pay some attention to one of the observations he made. He is probably the only Member of the House who has seen the effects of these drugs at first hand. I tried to, but I could not. My escort was not available, or I should have done exactly the same. I have no doubt that the experience would have disturbed me, because I am given to understand by those who have made a study of this that these young people when stimulated are really very dangerous.
I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden. West (Mr. Pavitt) in the observations he made, so thoughtfully, about these young people. I ask hon. Members to think of the effect on society when these young people, stimulated by these drugs, take charge of a motor bicycle or a motor car. Then there is the effect when the reaction sets in. I have been given to understand that then these people are truly pitiable creatures. Consequently, if anything, this is a very necessary Measure, if somewhat belated.
Some hon. Members have said that some young people are taking these drugs because in some way society has let them down. I ask the House to be careful. I believe that, on balance, youngsters today get a rather better living than youngsters in my time. I am not asking for any sympathy from the House, but I was a member of a bunch of teenage lads who worked for eight, nine or ten hours a day in a coalmine. We never sought any of these fads to get some excitement in life. We played rugby and soccer. I believe that such sports, pastimes and pursuits should be encouraged again.
Although I agree that society could possibly do more, I do not think we should allow the impression to get abroad that the House has gone on record as saying that it is possible that these youngsters have taken to these 660 drugs because of the defects of society. I am not prepared to subscribe to that view. Youngsters today have just as good an opportunity to lead a good life as ever youngsters had. I believe that this should be emphasised.
I repeat that I support the Bill. I firmly believe that there are occasions when matters of pure political partisanship should fall, and this to me is one such occasion. I am quite ready, as far as I am able, to give the Bill all the support I can, but I must ask the Home Secretary why it is necessary to wait for three months after the Bill becomes an Act before its provisions are put into effect. Is not the right hon. Gentleman prepared to believe that, even from this moment onwards, the pushers, who have no regard for these youngsters and even less for society, will be harvesting as many of these dreadful drugs as possible and will not be able to be caught by the law? Does not he reach the conclusion that the sooner this Measure is on the Statute Book and the sooner its provisions are put into effect the better? This Bill will be one of the additional safeguards which we can give to the younger generation, and the House should endorse it with all possible speed.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
The Home Secretary must be gratified by the general approval given to the Bill, and I would not wish to dissent from it. But, nevertheless, it has been an approval on balance because there is no doubt that the Bill represents a considerable extension of police powers by imposing penalties for posession and granting new powers of search and, as such, represents a substantial decrease of civil liberties. That is the conclusion to which most hon. Members have turned their attention.
Most of them came down in support of the Bill. One exception was the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) who made a passionate speech in defence of liberty and libertarian issues and reminded the House of the number of occasions on which he has stood for libertarian issues of this kind. It occurs to me that perhaps his libertarianism is a little selective because, as I recall, when I introduced a Private Member's Motion early in this Parliament approving Part II of the Wolfenden 661 Committee's recommendations, the hon. Member voted against me. Yet that issue always struck me as being essentially one of libertarianism.
Most hon. Members who have taken part in the debate have testified to their experience that amphetamine addiction has become very widespread, particularly in the London area. In my constituency there have been a number of court cases and there have been more in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin). I do not think that our constituencies are untypical in that respect.
Differing views have been expressed as to how dangerous amphetamine addiction is. I use the word "addiction" but the hon. Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) tried to draw a clear distinction between addiction and habituation, as did one or two other hon. Members. I felt, however, that he got into rather deep water over it. For my part, I would rather not try to draw a sharp distinction of this kind. I regard habituation and addiction as perhaps two parts of the same continuum, representing perhaps, a difference of degree and not of kind.
If one must attempt to draw a distinction it may lie solely in the one factor that the withdrawal symptoms in a strongly addictive drug are very different and very much more unpleasant than the withdrawal symptoms in a drug of the amphetamine type.
Nevertheless, this has become a serious social problem. No doubt we have all done our researches. I have made inquiries in my locality. Last night two or three members of a youth club in my constituency came to see me at their own request in order to tell me their own experiences concerning friends who had been members of the club from time to time and who were "purple heart" addicts.
First, they made it clear that this kind of addiction leads, if not to crime, at any rate to violence because these young men came into the club, completely disrupted it and damaged it seriously on more than one occasion. I think that this ties up with what my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) said about amphetamine temporarily eliminating fear.
662 These young people told me that drinamyl tablets were taken by teenagers from the age of 15. They were taken mostly by boys, but a few girls also took them, so they claimed. They said that the girls were very largely responsible for the boys taking them, that they encouraged them and dared them to do so. I gather that the motives are mixed. Probably the most important one was that most frequently mentioned in the debate—the desire to keep awake all night. There is no doubt that the drinamyl tablet is effective in doing that. It is a practice which no doubt seems more attractive to teenagers than to hon. Members who are faced with it willy nilly on occasion.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's argument, but there is a weakness in it. If the girls encourage the boys to stay awake all night, how is it that they themselves stay awake all night without these tablets? There must be another explanation.
§ Mr. Robinson
I am not suggesting that this is a logical process. I was going on to say that another reason is to provide a bogus self assurance for young men, and perhaps young girls, who are immature and timid by nature. There is also the factor of imitation. Young people in gangs see the gang leader, or some dominant personality, taking the drug and feel that they must keep up with the teen-age "Joneses" and take them also. Obviously, this a fatuous, expensive and demoralising habit, at best. At worst it may be seriously dangerous, and I am sorry that some hon. Members have tried to play down the dangerous aspect. It can lead to serious mental disorder and it is certainly in some cases a stepping stone to really serious addiction which, I imagine, would incur the disapproval of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South—morphine and heroin addiction.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
I hope that I did not say anything to imply that even this mild form of addiction had my approval. The question is whether we should proceed in this way against it by law.
§ Mr. Robinson
I agree that that is what the hon. Gentleman said, but he did play down the seriousness of the thing in trying to draw up his equation. 663 The fact is that these things are being distributed in large quantities. I asked the youngsters who came to see me where they got them. They said that they could be obtained in West End clubs and coffee bars, but they also mentioned a café much nearer my constituency than that, and nearer to the right hon. Gentleman's constituency,
This was a café of which I had heard before. They said "We all know they got them there". I imagine that the police must know of the café, but nothing has been done. It may be that the police claim that, under existing legislation, they do not have necessary powers. But certainly the name of the café was known to the Evening Standard reporter who did the series of articles on this topic. Indeed, it is difficult to find someone who does not know this café from which one can acquire supplies of "purple hearts."
I suppose that a great number of these pills are stolen and a certain number obtained on forged prescriptions, but there must be either illegal manufacture in this country or imports on quite a considerable scale. I believe that some of the difficulties faced by the Home Office and the police could have been minimised at least if the manufacturers had complied with the recommendation—I do not know to what extent the right hon. Gentleman was in touch with them—that they should make the pill a little less attractive and distinctive in appearance. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), I am very sorry indeed that they did not see their way to comply with that request.
§ Mr. Holland
Does the hon. Gentleman really feel that a change in the shape or colour would deglamorise these pills. There are such things as "black torpedoes" which are used equally but which do not strike the newspaper headlines because they have not quite the same glamour, and teen-agers still take them.
§ Mr. Robinson
So far as I know, they do not take them in anything like the quantity that they take "purple hearts". My own impression was that this would do something to deglamorise them, and this was certainly the view of the 664 Pharmaceutical Society which first put the proposal forward. I understood that at one time the manufacturers were going to do this, but, according to my information, they have not done so. Perhaps, the Joint Under-Secretary could tell us what is the position and whether the Minister has brought any persuasion to bear on the firm in question.
I am sorry that nothing has been done about this problem before. I have a feeling that there has been a certain measure of complacency on the question of amphetamine addiction for some time. Indeed, I have had occasion previously to suggest that, on the whole, the Home Office is a little complacent about drug addiction generally. I think that to some extent this attitude is generated by the official figures which the right hon. Gentleman puts out from time to time, and which, I think, no one believes except the Home Office. These are the statistics of official drug addicts and I am quite sure that they bear little resemblance to the real social problem in this country. I know that they are viewed sceptically by other countries which produce statistics of a very different nature.
Even so, I understand that even the official figures for 1962 show a very disturbing increase. I think that I heard mentioned the figure of a 30 per cent. increase on the previous year and a far higher increase in drug addiction among the younger age groups with which this Bill is particularly concerned. Possibly the Minister can confirm that when he replies.
There are also, I think, some grounds for past complacency about amphetamime in the Report of the Brain Committee on drug addiction which was published in 1961. Amphetamines were discussed by this very distinguished committee, and in paragraph 60 it said:An analysis of some 214 million National Health Service prescriptions in 1959 indicated that some 5,600,000, or approximately 2½ per cent., were for preparations of the amphetamimes and phenmetrazine. Since the indications for the use of these substances are not clear cut, it may be that such prescribing is excessive, though hardly to an extent that could give rise to concern. We have formed the impression that, while serious cases of addiction arise from time to time, such abuse is not widespread.I think that it was pretty widespread then, and it has certainly become more 665 widespread since. The Brain Committee went on, in the last of its recommendations to the Government, to state:There has been a substantial increase in the use of drugs affecting the central nervous system, which are potentially habit forming. While the position requires careful watching, no further statutory control, beyond that recommended in our Interim Report, is needed at present.I suppose that would be the right hon. Gentleman's excuse for not having brought a Measure of this kind before the House earlier.
In July, 1961, shortly after the appearance of this Report, I asked the Minister of Health what research was being carried out into this question of amphetamine addiction. I understood that the problem had been placed in the lap of yet another advisory committee, but with what result I do not think we have been told.
I come to the Bill itself. I should like to protest that we have here yet another ad hoc drugs Measure. It seems to me that piecemeal legislation has been common form for a very long time in the matter of drugs and medicines. We are constantly getting relatively minor Bills to meet this or that gap in existing legislation. I am sure that the House will recall the schoolboy definition of a net—a lot of holes tied together with pieces of string. That seems to be a fair description of our drugs and medicines legislation in its existing state. New holes are constantly appearing and new pieces of string, like this Bill, have to be produced to tie them up again.
I should like to call the attention of the Home Secretary once again to this failure to amend, bring up to date and codify the whole of our law on drugs and medicines into a single Statute, and, I would hope, under a single Minister, but in that case I do not think that it would be the right hon. Gentleman. Certainly this operation is long overdue. A working party sat on it, I think, not under the right hon. Gentleman's Department but the Ministry of Health, or it may have been a joint one, which reported two years ago and we have still no action. There is plenty of Parliamentary time between now and October and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might get in touch with the Minister of Health and bring in this long-awaited Measure.
666 The need for this Bill, as various hon. Members have said, is because we lack a halfway house between the rather mild control of the poisons legislation and the very stringent control of the Dangerous Drugs Act. I can quite understand that it has not thought that penalties up to 10 years and £1,000 for each offence provided for in the Dangerous Drugs Act would be appropriate for the offences of the kind dealt with in this Measure. Some kind of intermediate legislation was clearly necessary. I would have thought that, on the whole, the penalties in this Bill were about right.
The Bill has been criticised in principle really on two grounds. One that it is unnecesary or, in the words of The Times, premature. That is a value judgment, but for my part I happen to disagree with it. The second criticism about which we have heard rather less in this debate is that it is altogether misconceived. The argument goes that it is psychologically wrong to make possession of drugs of this kind an offence, that it gives a kind of added spice of danger, an extra kick, which these perhaps rather pathetically inadequate characters who are addicted would find an added attraction.
This is a dangerous argument which could be carried far wider and into the criminal law generally. The people who take this view say that what these addicts need is not a spell in prison or a fine, but psychiatric treatment. They go on to say that psychiatric treatment is not something about which the young teenager would be likely to boast. With that I must agree, but I should have thought that it was first necessary to create the offence of possessing these drugs in order to be able to bring the addict to court.
Having got the addict in court, I am sure that the court would be able, if it had medical evidence that psychiatric treatment was needed, to deal with the case by making a hospital order. It could also deal with the matter by placing the offender on probation conditional on having some kind of medical treatment. It is certainly possible under the Mental Health Act to make a hospital order to ensure that such offenders get treatment in a mental hospital, or in a unit dealing with drug addiction. I 667 should have thought that this was a far more appropriate way of dealing with these offenders than sending them to prison merely for possession, although I entirely agree that we want prison sentences for the pushers who, we are told by the police, cannot be caught under existing legislation. I am speaking for my hon. Friends when I say that we do not support these objections in principle. We regard this as an experimental Bill, but certainly one worth trying and we shall watch carefully to see how it works.
I have some criticisms of detail, most of which can be left to the Committee stage, but I will mention two now. The Bill seems to fail to exercise control at the level of distribution, both wholesale and retail, in the way that the dangerous drugs legislation exercises control. I should have thought that this was a very dangerous gap to leave open. It is surely at one of these points, or between the two in transit, that thefts must occur. One would have thought that some kind of control such as is comprised in Section 14 of the Dangerous Drugs Act might be worth considering.
My second criticism has been mentioned by several hon. Members. I entirely agree that, as drafted, Clause 5 is far too wide. I am sure that it is not the intention of the House to give the right hon. Gentleman power, nor do I think that it was his intention to seek power, which might enable him to add bread, beer, or even alcohol, to a Schedule which at the moment consists of the amphetamine group of drugs. The drafting must be tightened and I think this is probably a case for the affirmative rather than the negative procedure which is set out in the Bill.
With those reservations, we on this side of the House welcome the Bill and agree that it, or something very like it, is necessary to meet this problem.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. C. M. Woodhouse)
It has been quite clear from this very instructive debate that, on the whole, the House is sympathetically inclined towards the Bill; but a number of criticisms have been made and a number of questions asked with which I should like to deal as briefly as the 668 very complex nature of the subject allows. The criticisms have been directed partly to questions of timing and partly to the detailed contents of the Bill.
I agree that, in cases of this kind, the Government are bound to find themselves between two fires. There will be those on the one hand who consider that the Government should have acted sooner, perhaps even before there had been time for proper consultation with the legitimate interests affected by the legislation, and those on the other hand who consider that before the Government take any action they should pause to collect every kind of statistic and information until the case has been established beyond all conceivable doubt. This is a dilemma with which any government is familiar, and the Government have to decide what is the proper time to act. In the estimation of the Government, the proper time to act to curb the misuse of these drugs is now, and I am very glad to have had the support of most hon. Members who have spoken in that decision.
For reasons which have been amply elaborated in the debate, it is clear that the misuse of these drugs has given rise to a serious social problem and that the problem is being daily intensified. Having reached the decision that action should be postponed no further, the Government have taken steps to get the Bill drafted as quickly as is compatible with proper consultations with the various interests who will be affected by the legislation and concerned in its administration. Having played some part myself in the drafting process—not in any expert way, but in the way that Ministers do—I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) that this is certainly not a Bill which has been hastily or casually prepared.
The question of timing is related to the more fundamental question of whether the necessity for the Bill has been proved. This line of criticism was trenchantly pursued by The Times and has been mentioned with both agreement and disagreement by hon. Members. The essence of the criticism resolves itself into questions. What evidence is there that hooliganism is due to taking pep pills? What evidence is there that legislation like this will have any effect on hooliganism? What other evidence 669 is there of the extent of the problem? These are questions which could not be completely answered without a full-scale sociological study, although I am bound to say that many of the contributions to the debate today have provided a good substitute for such a study. I think that I can make some points about it now.
The first is on the connection, both alleged and denied, between the taking of pep pills and what is known as the Clacton type of hooliganism. In that episode alone there is no more than slight evidence in one or two cases. For instance, the police report that a 16-year old youth, who was arrested and charged in Clacton, had on him five "purple hearts" and admitted that he had been taking them. Another 16-year old, who was arrested for driving under the influence of drink or drugs, told the doctor that he had been taking "purple heart" pills, although in fact he had none on him. That is the extent of the evidence in that case. But in others there is ample evidence that the same people have been both guilty of hooliganism and habituated to pep pills. I am not asserting any causal connection, but this conjunction is a fact. It is hardly surprising in view of some of the symptoms which my right hon. Friend and other hon. Members have described. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South that this is certainly a far more serious conjunction of symptoms than arises for instance from the taking of a large number of aspirins.
This leads me to the second part of my answer, which is that my right hon. Friend did not present hooliganism as the determining reason for introducing the Bill. This is not a Bill against hooliganism, which can be left to be dealt with under the ordinary criminal law. But there is clear evidence, both of ill-effects on individuals from repeated over-dosage with amphetamines and of the increasing spread of their misuse. In parentheses, I can confirm to the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) that there is an undoubted increase of drug addiction in the true sense in recent years, though I think that this lies a little outside the scope of the Bill.
To go further than this would entail more elaborate sociological research, but if we were to wait for that—and this 670 was very well put by the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt)—by the time we had the results of the research, the evil might have got seriously out of control. I should like to tell my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) that the information I have from the Chief Constable and Senior Proctor about undergraduates in my constituency is that the stories are greatly exaggerated, and probably greatly exaggerated by the undergraduates themselves.
I should also like to correct what I believe to be a misunderstanding of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). The Bill will not make it an offence to be an addict, because it will still be permissible to obtain these drugs legitimately on a prescription, just as it is with drugs controlled under the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1951, which is what most addicts do in the case of such drugs as have a therapeutic value of any kind.
The Bill, though admittedly it entrenches on the freedom of the subject to a certain degree, is perhaps not so repressive in its effect as some hon. Members fear. The libertarian critics, if I might so bracket together the editor of The Times and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South, have also said that rather than legislate we ought to operate through doctors and pharmacists and seek their cooperation. We regard that as right, and that is what we have done.
Last August the Home Office wrote to the Pharmaceutical Society and to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry asking for their assistance in ensuring that amphetamines and similar drugs should not be misused. The Home Office letter has been brought to the notice of all members of the Association, and the Pharmaceutical Society had already issued warnings to its members about the serious consequences of selling these drugs without restrictions and warned them to keep a sharp watch for forged prescriptions. The Society has continued to impress the importance of these matters on its members, and we, through the Ministry of Health, have taken steps to bring to the notice of doctors the importance of acting responsibly in relation to patients.
671 I think it is right to add at this stage that there is no evidence to justify the suggestion that, in general, doctors, or pharmacists, or manufacturers, or wholesalers, in this country have treated their task lightly or irresponsibly. I agree with what has been said by several hon. Members on this point and I should like to add in answer to the criticism which has been made of the manufacturers of "purple heart" pills that that firm is still considering the possibility of changing the shape and colour of these pills. It is not unto-operative in this respect.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
I do not think that it is fair to say that it is slow, because, as has been recognised, there can be arguments on both sides in this matter, but I shall not go into them in detail now. The firm has consulted the British Medical Association, and it is expected that in the course of the next month the B.M.A.'s views will be known to it.
Another line of criticism pursued by several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North, the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan), is that we have not dealt with this problem on a sufficiently wide front. The allegation of ignoring social and medical aspects, which was voiced in some periodicals, was answered by my right hon. Friend in his opening speech. To that I would only add that it is true that the Bill does not do anything positive to ensure that people dependent on these drugs receive medical or sociological treatment, for the very good reason that legislation is not appropriate to the purpose.
Effective treatment must depend on a good relationship between the doctor and the patient, or between the social worker and the person needing help, and such an association needs to be voluntary. The facilities of the National Health Service and social services are available for this purpose, and we have been anxious—and we took the decision deliberately for this purpose—not to embarrass those services by introducing an element of compulsion here, but I shall touch on this point again when 672 I come to the question of penalties, which was raised by several hon. Members.
There is also the question why we have singled out one problem for special treatment. The suggestion is that if the Government were going to act they should have done so with comprehensive legislation for the control of drugs over the whole field. But I think that that misses the real issue. What we are concerned with here is the limited and abnormal use of drugs, which has nothing to do with the much wider question of the use of drugs as medicines. My right hon. Friends the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, with their interest in the medical use of drugs, have recognised that the present fragmented legislation is unsatisfactory and possibly inadequate, and there is no question of complacency on this subject.
They are at present at work on a review of the statutory control of drugs as medicines. This, inevitably, is a long and complicated task which cannot be dealt with properly in a short time. In the meantime, what the Bill does is to deal with the quite different problem of the misuse of amphetamine-like drugs. As my right hon. Friend said in introducing the Bill, it is not concerned with the legitimate use of drugs for therapeutic purposes. Its purpose is to give additional powers to deal with misuse, and we see no objection to dealing with this limited question in a separate Bill.
I should like now to deal briefly with the whole series of practical, technical, and legal questions which have been put to me. The first question is why the dangerous drugs legislation itself cannot be used in this context. As the hon. Member for Islington, East adumbrated in his speech, this is because the term has a specialised meaning corresponding to the term "narcotic drugs" used in international conventions. The distinctive feature of narcotic drugs, from which these are different, is that they are liable to produce addiction of a particularly dangerous kind. That is why there are international agreements for strict control over them. These agreements do not extend to drugs of this type.
The question of bringing amphetamines and barbiturates under such international conventions has been examined on more than one occasion by the United 673 Nations Narcotics Commission, but it has invariably recommended against doing that. It has preferred that it should be left to national legislation. Moreover, whereas narcotic drugs are used only in limited quantities for therapeutic purposes, drugs of the type with which we are concerned are prescribed in much larger quantities. The hon. Member for Willesden, West gave figures which I have no reason to question. They show the large scale of legitimate use for these drugs.
Under the Dangerous Drugs Act, a much stricter kind of control is necessary. Manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and others are required to keep precise and detailed records. I do not think that such an elaborate and restrictive system could effectively be applied to these drugs which are used in such large quantities.
They are, of course, listed in the Fourth Schedule to the Poisons Rules, which means that they can be sold only upon prescription, and they are listed in Part I of the Poisons List, which means that they can be sold only by an authorised seller of poisons on premises registered under Part I of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, and the sale must be effected by, or under the supervision of, a registered pharmacist. But these requirements apply only to retail sale. The only offence is a sale which does not comply with those requirements, and there is no restriction on importation.
Those provisions clearly have substantial loopholes in them, and several hon. Members have asked what is the nature and extent of the loopholes which we are seeking to plug. There are many, and I do not think that they can be put in any particular order of priority. The order would probably vary from time to time. There are thefts from wholesalers, retailers and manufacturers. There is the sale of drugs by a few unscrupulous pharmacists, without a prescription. There is the alteration and forgery of prescriptions. There are patients who pass on to others drugs prescribed for themselves by doctors, and in some cases patients may obtain drugs from more than one doctor at the same time, or use a false name. There are also, as I have said, imports from abroad on which there is no restriction. It seems to us that the only simple way 674 of plugging all these loopholes is by making unauthorised possession or importation an offence.
The hon. Member for Islington, East suggested that there should be a total prohibition on importation. In the case of the Dangerous Drugs Act there is no statutory prohibition on importation, though in the case we do not licence the importation of drugs which are manufactured in this country. But, for reasons which I have already stated, it is not appropriate to apply exactly the same restrictions to amphetamines which are used on a vastly larger scale than dangerous drugs. There is a considerable international trade in non-narcotic drugs not subject to international agreement, and to prohibit this would disrupt the international trade and adversely affect the export trade of our pharmaceutical industry. There is a large legitimate demand for these drugs, which must be met, and cannot in all cases be met exclusively from our own industry. Nonetheless, it would be possible to limit the quantities of drugs which could be imported under licence should that prove desirable.
I turn finally to some technical and legal points about the proposed controls which hon. Members have put forward. The hon. Member for Islington, East asked about the policy that would be pursued in the registration of manufacturers and wholesalers. Our intention is to register all existing bona fide manufacturers and wholesalers, and in order to establish their bona fides we would make inquiries, as in the case of a licence under the Dangerous Drugs Act, through the police and the Board of Trade.
Some questions were asked about the difficult subject of penalties. The question here is whether it is right and practicable to have the same penalties for those who are dependent on amphetamines and those who are traffickers in amphetamines. In the first place, the penalties described in the Bill are maxima and they do not fetter the discretion of the courts. In a suitable case a court could make use of other powers—for instance, the powers contained in Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948—and put the offender on probation, with the condition that he had medical or psychiatric treatment This is the kind of procedure which I 675 hope my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) would regard as proper in the case of a new offender, as distinct from the hardened trafficker.
The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North asked whether it would be possible to make an order under the Mental Health Act. This would be possible, provided a doctor certified the need for mental treatment in a particular case.
These are the alternatives which are open in the case of the relatively less serious offender, but hon. Members generally have in mind the question of the proper way to deal with the hardened trafficker.
§ Mr. Parkin
Several of us have tried to make a distinction between the money-making trafficker and the innocent new habitué, but the fact is that the most dangerous trafficker—the person on whom the large scale trader depends—is a proselyte, a lad who will get further supplies for himself only when he needs his 50 or more tablets, and will sell others in sleazy cafes. There is in him the very difficult combination of criminality and sickness which needs something a little more vigorous than a gentle recommendation that he should see a doctor about it.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
The hon. Member has put his finger right on the difficulty with which we are faced—the difficulty of drawing an absolutely clear and distinct line between cases. His own suggestion was that there should be compulsory committal to suitable institutions for psychiatric or similar treatment. This suggestion was considered by the Brain Committee on Drug Addiction, to which the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North referred. If the hon. Member for Paddington, North would study the report he would find Paragraph 28 instructive although not very encouraging on this point. Perhaps I can give one brief quotation from it. It says:We are not convinced that compulsory committal to such institutions is desirable. Good results are more likely to be obtained with co-operative rather than with coerced patients. At a time when the compulsory treatment of the mentally sick is being steadily diminished we see no grounds for seeking new powers of compulsion for the treatment of drug addicts.676 I wish to do no more than to draw the hon. Member's attention to the fact that there is a real difficulty here, in establishing who is the truly hardened trafficker, as distinct from the mere user. As my right hon. Friend said, it is difficult to obtain evidence that a person is a trafficker. He himself is generally the only person who is in a position to give the necessary evidence. It has been found in other countries—and this is not a very cheering observation—that the only way of making this distinction is to place upon the accused the onus of proving that he is not in possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking. This is contrary to the usual presumption of innocence which is a standard principle of our law, and I would hesitate to recommend its adoption in this case, although it is a matter that we could consider further in Committee.
The hon. Member for Islington, East and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. D. Jones) raised questions about the timing of the operation of the Measure. It would not be possible to require manufacturers and wholesalers to register before the Bill becomes law or to require importers to be so licensed. Since we cannot take this action until after the Bill becomes law a reasonable time has to be allowed for them to go through the necessary processes and for us to accommodate the necessary processes, and our feeling is that three months is the least that could be fairly allowed for this purpose.
My noble Friend the Member for Hertford touched upon the distinction between addiction and habituation. I have the material here for a lengthy lecture on this subject, but I shall not make use of it. I just want to tell the House that the World Health Organisation has recently adopted changed definitions of these terms, and has recommended them to national Governments. The new definitions do not preserve this distinction so clearly, and the Government are considering what they should do about the proposed new definitions.
My noble Friend also raised the question whether yeast is included in paragraph 3 of the Schedule. Touching on the Schedule, I should say, as I said on a similar occasion earlier, that I wish I could say that all these names were Greek to me. Unfortunately, they are 677 not. I shall therefore not attempt to refer to any of these substances by their official names. There is some doubt whether the present wording might apply to amino-acids, which are present in many foodstuffs, and in tonic or other tablets in which yeast happens to be one of the ingredients. It may be necessary to move an Amendment later to paragraph 3 to deal with this. We will consider this in Committee.
Another difficult substance was benzedrine. Benzedrine inhalers were at one time exempt from the Poisons Rules, but they had to be withdrawn from exemption because we found that they were being abused, in that their contents were being extractcd. It is not now possible to obtain inhalers containing benzedrine.
The debate has ranged over a wide field, and I have done my best to cover all the relevant questions.
§ Mr. Dance
My hon. Friend has not referred to the question of security. The whole point is that we are talking about trafficking in these drugs. Where does the bulk come from? If it is imported, are we going to clamp down on the imports? If it comes from illicit factories, are we going to clamp down on them? These drugs are being manufactured. I realise that the question of their distribution is important, but the vital thing is to see that they are not available to the public in bulk.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
I agree with my hon. Friend on this question. I did not go into it in detail because I listed the various loopholes which are known to exist and I indicated that it is our belief that the provisions contained in the Bill will serve to block up those loopholes. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that in the case of virtually all the people of whom we have been talking—the reputable drug firms, pharmacists, doctors and so on—there is no question of deliberate trafficking in these drugs. It occurs only in a small minority of cases.
Deliberate trafficking takes place on a very small but a very dangerous scale, and it is this that we are seeking to block out. It is our belief that the simplest and most direct, as well as the most comprehensive, approach to this problem is by law to limit the supply of 678 drugs to those who legitimately need them. That, quite simply, is the purpose of the Bill. I hope I have shown that there are real difficulties in the present situation. There is a real problem to be met and a real need for the Bill which is the most effective way to meet it.
§ Mr. K. Robinson
The hon. Gentleman has dealt faithfully with almost every point which was raised. But there was one other point raised by a number of hon. Members, relating to the blanket nature of the powers given to the Secretary of State under the present wording of Clause 5, and also the use of the negative procedure.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
I apologise for omitting that. I turned over some of my notes in rather a hurry.
Clause 5 provides that the Secretary of State can make additions to the Schedule only after consultation with the Poisons Board. The Board is a very responsible body, and I can assure the House that it is not likely to seek to add frivolous or futile items to the Schedule. It was suggested that alcohol or cigarettes might, or indeed ought, to be added to the Schedule. The House should recognise that before one could even contemplate doing so, one would first have to put them on the same footing as amphetamines and other poisons under the Poisons Rules. In other words, one would have to make it impossible to buy them except on prescription from a pharmacist—something which, clearly, the House would not contemplate. As to the point about the necessary procedure for adding to or subtracting from the Schedule, I think that some interesting points were made about it in the exchanges between my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and one of his hon. Friends regarding the relative merits of procedure. I undertake that we shall look at that point again before the next stage of the Bill.
§ Question out and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).