HC Deb 16 July 1970 vol 803 cc1805-49

Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question again proposed.

Mr. Paget

I had just got to the point in my argument when I was dealing with the case against cannabis. That case does not rest upon the evil results of cannabis, taken by itself or in moderate quantities. We have had the very elaborate examination of the use of this drug in 1893 by the Commission in India. We have had the Mayoralty Report in New York and the Wootton Commission here. All three gave cannabis a clean bill of health, moderately used. Like alcohol or any other stimulant excessive use can have bad results but on the whole not such bad results as alcohol.

But it is said that cannabis unlike alcohol and unlike tobacco can be a link leading to more serious drugs. It used to be said that people who took heroin began taking drugs through cannabis. That may or may not be so, but it is certainly the case that a vast number of people who have taken cannabis and who in other countries have used cannabis regularly all their lives, as their fathers did before them, have not found it necessary to move on to any other more serious drug, nor has anyone produced any medical reason suggesting that cannabis creates a weakness or a craving or anything of that sort which looks for a greater satisfaction.

Every one of the Commissions which examined this rejected it. It was suggested today that, even if that is not the case it leads to the taking of one of the hallucinants such as LSD. I find this an unconvincing argument because, used moderately and in the normal way as a social drug whereby a party gets some exhilaration and euphoria and finds that people's conversation seems more brilliant than it was before, cannabis has none of the elements of the hallucinant.

The hallucinant effect comes only when the drug is used in gross excess and the user is heavily inebriated. But it comes with highly unpleasant results, when he is sick, when he feels jolly ill. All I have understood from the literature is that the hallucinations of cannabis are very unpleasant, and I should have thought that that kind of experience did not really make hallucination more attractive—indeed, rather less so. A person on LSD or one of the hallucinants has the hallucination without the unpleasantnesses of inebriation. So it seems to me that that argument falls down.

The only link which I can find—I regard it as a dangerous link—between cannabis and the hard drugs is illegality. Making illegal the use of this drug which has become so common means that a person has to obtain it from illegal sources. He is made a customer of the pushers, and the pushers are pushing the more dangerous drugs, too. In contrast to what happens with tobacco, which one can obtain without being in any way connected with the people who sell dangerous drugs, illegality means that one can obtain cannabis only by being connected with pushers and all the dangers which that involves.

It seems to me that one has to weigh these two evils. On the one hand, with a drug as easy to obtain as cannabis, and in wide use, is there any reasonable prospect left of eliminating it or even much reducing it? If we cannot eliminate it or reduce it much, should we not be better advised to try control rather than prohibition? If we brought this drug under control, as we do with tobacco and alcohol, we could lay down standards, preventing the sort of difficulties referred to in an admirable speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). The trouble with cannabis is that one never quite knows what one is getting. What may be a moderate dose with one batch is a dangerous dose with another. One does not know the standards and strengths. A person stumbles into the bad effects which come with excessive use. Control could deal with that. We could look into it and see what was the least harmful method of supply and the strength to provide the least objectionable effects. We could exercise control.

Second, we could educate people more in distinguishing use from misuse. At present, by treating the use of cannabis as a crime, when that conflicts with the experience of so many people and so many people's friends who have found it, or who have seen it used, with no ill effects, with pleasant results, and without loss or deterioration of faculty, what we say lacks conviction. If, on the other hand, one could concentrate on educating people about what happens when it is used in excess, one could carry more conviction because the propaganda and education would be true.

Finally, we could tax. At present, "pot" offers much the cheapest way of getting "tight". The young who have not much money can get from "pot" the results which would be much more expensive to get from alcohol. This is something else which may be worth considering.

I am extremely glad that the Home Secretary introduced the matter in the way he did, saying that he would look at all aspects of these questions. I urge him to look carefully, among other matters, into the question of cannabis and see whether, in the light of all the experience, and at the point we have reached—a point probably beyond return as regards elimination—we should be more sensible to try control rather than prohibition.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)

The debate has been distinguished by some excellent, helpful and cogent maiden speeches. Those who have followed the maiden speakers have paid their individual tributes to them, but I feel that I should fail in my duty if I did not say how impressed I have been, as all hon. Members have been, by the maiden speeches we have heard today. If I may say so, without wishing to single anyone out, I found particularly helpful the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford) who showed with many facts the difficulties which face the general practitioner in medicine in dealing with the problem of drug addiction. This is not the first time that I have heard of these things from the mouth of a doctor. Anyone who consults his own medical practitioner in London, for instance, will learn that many doctors have been subjected to threats and have had their lives made difficult in many ways by people so inflamed by their addiction to drugs that they are willing to go to almost any lengths to satisfy their craving.

That, I submit, is one answer to the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) when he sought to make a case for legalising marijuana—"pot", cannabis, or whatever one calls it—one sort of drug under many headings. It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman, who makes his points with skill and persuasion, but I cannot accept the case which he sought to make for cannabis. From the point of view of its ill effects, it is still a comparatively new drug in this country, certainly on the scale at which it is being smoked now, and one need not throw oneself very far back in history to remember that the sect of the assassins buoyed themselves up by smoking hashish in order to carry out their crimes. I submit that there is no doubt that this is a powerful hallucinatory agent. We should require to be very strongly persuaded by medical evidence that cannabis was fit to be smoked before coming to any such concusion on legalisation.

For my part, I cannot accept a number of the statements made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, however persuasively, and I do not agree that the extent of cannabis taking in our community is not a grave social evil which we must do our best by every legal means to prevent.

That does not mean that we must stock at legal means. Of course not. The law is the last resort. We must, as many hon. Members have said, look to education. We must look to research. I am sure that the Home Office will do its utmost to reseach into the causes of the spread of drug taking, which I believe, is one of the most pernicious and dangerous happenings in our society today. For this reason, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on having reintroduce this Bill so soon. It is very important that the additional legal safeguards in the Bill should be passed into law as soon as possible.

I did not have the opportunity of addressing the House on the Second Reading of the original Bill. I am particularly happy to have that opportunity this evening because only this week I have had exemplified in a trial at which I was presiding the fact that a distinction should and can be drawn, and I suggest will with great advantage be drawn, between those who are merely takers of the drug cannabis, who are in possession of it to smoke it themselves, and those who are purveying it, pushing it, trading in it to enrich themselves. It is often said in the criminal law that without receivers there would be no theives. If there were no fences for the thieves to take their stolen loot to, they would have great difficuty in disposing of it. In a way, the same consideration applies here. I concede at once that there is a class of person who proselytises because he thinks it is a good thing to do, or he has friends who want the drug and he misguidely thinks that he is helping them. But if there were no evil people to supply the drug, very often to enrich themselves, we should not have the same problem. There are people in our community enriching themselves by this pernicious trade.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) that it is sometimes very difficult to determine whether someone is just in possession of the drug or is supplying it, selling or pushing it. In such a case in a court of law he will always get the benefit of the doubt, either in the jury's verdict or, if he has pleaded guilty to possessing it, in the decision of the judge as to sentence. But there will be cases where it is conclusively proved that a man is a supplier, living on this traffic just as people have lived and no doubt still live, for instance, on illegal abortions, though much less since the Abortion Act. It is at that traffic that the law and its penalties should primarily be aimed. Therefore, I con-congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary upon having drawn this distinction by way of penalty between two classes of act—on the one hand supplying drugs in the Schedules to the Act and on the other merely being in possession of them.

It is true that a case would have to be very serious to merit a penalty of 14 years imprisonment, but we do not have to look at the ultimate sentence to appreciate the value of such a distinction. Its value lies in the fact that Parliament has drawn a distinction between the gravity of pushing the drug and the relatively lesser gravity of possessing it for personal consumption.

I recognise, as I am sure all my hon. Friends will, that many of those in possession of it for their own consumption would evoke sympathy in all of us. Many of them stand in need of great help, and when they appear before the courts are much less often sentenced than they are helped by being put on probation or recommended for treatment, or dealt with in some other way. But in order that this pernicious evil shall be met, and society shall fight it, it is absolutely essential that those who are proved to have been suppliers, to be enriching themselves by this trade, should meet with the rigours of the law, much less to punish them than as an example to others.

I cannot accept what the hon. and learned Member for Northampton said, that this evil has come to stay and cannot be rooted out. If we can get at the suppliers and the sources of supply, and deal with them with the severity which their offences demand, we shall have gone a long way to rooting out this new evil in our midst. It is an evil about which any parent with children growing up in a world in which drug taking is flourishing must feel very deeply and very personally.

I said that this week I had seen such a case. I shall not mention its name, because it might be subject to appeal and I would not wish to bring out all the facts in the House. But I presided at Northampton, where I am Recorder, at a trial where a man pleaded guilty to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. With respect, I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will not pursue this.

Mr. Grieve

I will not, Mr. Speaker. All I want to say is that there was brought to my notice a case in which once a man who was a source of supply had been removed from the scene in the town where he was operating the number of cases of persons in possession of cannabis fell dramatically. This illustrated the evil that the supplier can do, and that when he is removed there will often be a substantial improvement in the local situation with regard to drug-taking.

I found myself in some agreement with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Havers), to whose maiden speech I listened with great pleasure, when he suggested that Clause 25 might well be subject to amendment, and that the ordinary provisions should apply with regard to the prosecution of offences under the Bill.

Subject to that, and having wished to speak only briefly to make my point about the distinction between pushing the drug and taking it, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing the Bill once more before the House.

7.28 p.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

The subject which we have been discussing is rather unusual in that it draws both support and opposition and criticism right across normal party political lines in the House. I find myself in rather more support of what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve)—though not entirely—and of his general attitude and approach than of the comments of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), though they will probably be supported by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). The debate thus crosses over party lines.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My views are certainly not represented by those of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). He is most eloquent, persuasive, high-principled and everything else, but his views are certainly not mine, and I trust that if I catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, I shall be able to speak for myself in due course.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is better to do that than to intervene in another hon. Member's speech.

Mr. Ogden

I should be the last to try to speak for the hon. Member for Chelmsford. I was saying that to judge from his previous contribution he would be rather more in sympathy with some of the remarks of my hon. and learned Friend than with the comments of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull.

My contribution to the debate will be short, as I want to speak about the Bill and not the wider aspects of the drug scene in the United Kingdom, the United States or anywhere else. I have not the legal knowledge of the hon. and learned Member for Solihull or the esoteric knowledge about what is hallucinatory and what is not. As a politician, I should be the last to suggest what causes hallucinations and what does not.

We have had a series of notable maiden speeches from both sides of the House. The membership of the House has been enriched by those who have been able to bring to this debate knowledge and experience which will be useful in the days and years ahead. I do not know whether those who have made their maiden speeches today know the tradition that anyone taking part in a Second Reading debate is automatically offering himself for service on the Committee which considers the Bill. I hope that that is explained to new hon. Members somewhere along the line. However, they will be useful members of the Committee if they are appointed to it.

The debate has fallen into two parts, one about the Bill—and it is not many months ago that we debated an almost identical Bill—and the other about the general use or misuse of drugs. It must be repeated that this is a limited Bill which does not set out to solve all the problems of the misuse of drugs, but although it is limited, it is very useful. It is almost identical to the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) when he was Home Secretary. I spent about one-and-a-half hours wading through the old Bill and comparing it with the new before I found any alterations. It was not exactly a wasted exercise.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will not think me uncharitable if I say that the Government have been fortunate in having inherited from my right hon. Friends many useful Measures which they are able to bring before the House while spending some weeks, months and possibly years making up their minds about what kind of legislation to introduce in this Session and the next. No doubt when eventually introduced in the autumn that legislation will not have the same degree of all-party support.

I ought to declare my interest. I did so on the last occasion we debated the subject in the last Session, but some hon. Members may not know that I have the honour to be the parliamentary adviser to the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. It is a two-way exchange. I am not a pharmacist. The society advises me about pharmacy and I advise it about proceedings in Parliament. I learn from the society a great deal and it learns from me in some ways.

I must make it clear that the support which the pharmaceutical profession gave to my right hon. Friend's Bill will be repeated for this Bill. Its interest and support will be available to the new Home Secretary. Many enactments and regulations which will be made under the Bill will have a direct effect on pharmacists as well as on the medical profession and they are equally concerned to implement them. My further remarks are entirely mine and should not be attributed to the Pharmaceutical Society, or any member of it.

There are many matters which ought to be discussed in Committee. I have two comments to make and two questions to ask. The Home Secretary referred to the consultations which he will probably have with the General Medical Council in the coming months. We ought to have some idea about the kind of points which the right hon. Gentleman will be putting to the council. I hope that he will be able to tell us later more about the kind of things which the Government will seek from the G.M.C. It may be unfortunate that such consultation was not possible 12 months or 18 months ago, because the Bill is largely the result of the failure and shortcomings of some members of the General Medical Council and the medical profession.

As the last Bill proceeded through Committee, party divisions were almost non-existent and the Government of the day made a number of concessions on matters which were raised by back benchers. There were five or six meetings of the Committee, and the Government of the day accepted some Amendments, or at least said that they did not like the form of words and would introduce another form of words to cover what was proposed, having accepted a point of view supported by both sides of the Committee.

What are the new Government's intentions about such Amendments made at that time? The then Government's undertakings did not bind Parliament, of course, but there was a general understanding that some changes would be made. I had expected the new Bill to include those changes, but it does not do so. The Under-Secretary will know that his colleagues suggested many Amendments on behalf of the Opposition at that time. May we take those Amendments to be an indication of the Government Amendments which will be introduced later?

I now come to my comments. From time to time during this debate and even more during the Second Reading debate on the previous Bill and during its Committee stage, the American drug scene has been mentioned. I should be the first to say that we have much to learn from American experience, but American experience has differed within the boundaries of that country. The situation in Boston has been very different from that in California and that in California very different from that in Memphis, Tennessee. We have something to learn from American mistakes and experience—and the experiments have been mentioned—but there is a danger of believing that because something has been proved effective or ineffective in the United States, it will be good or bad in this country. Let us not carry the similarity too far, because the differences between our drug scene and the American are greater than the similarities.

The term "drug" is very emotive. If I wished to be difficult or awkward to the Under-Secretary, I should ask him to inquire of his advisers the definition of "drug". They might be able to tell him what a pharmaceutical product was, or to give him a list of scheduled drugs—I will spare the House that, although it may arise later. However, the word "drug" attracts six-inch headlines in the newspapers and there has already been a reference to "Swinging London" and so on.

There is a danger with the use of these newsworthy phrases which make a story or a scandal that we overlook that while many are affected or afflicted, while the misuse of drugs can cause damage, danger and death, the proper use of drugs is an effective and necessary part of the welfare and well-being of people and of life itself. The people with whom this limited Bill is concerned are a small proportion of the total number of young people and old people. While we may get the headlines by talking about drugs, let us try to keep a balance and to remember that the vast majority of people have not, are not and are never likely to use drugs. While we concern ourselves with these vital issues with which the Bill is concerned, let us keep a balance.

We are dealing with a limited Bill, although it will be very useful. In many ways, the powers in it are quite Draconian. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) referred to some and the Daily Telegraph dealt with the issue this morning. Quite extensive powers are being given to the Home Secretary. We shall have to consider them in Committee. However, the Bill deserves support. I hope that those who serve on the Committee which considers it will be able to get on with the work as soon as we return from the Summer Recess and I wish the Bill a speedy passage.

7.39 p.m.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

The only comment which I wish to make at this stage on the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) is that "drug" may be an emotive word, but, thank heavens, when we mean "drug", we do not have to talk about a "pharmaceutical product".

Mr. Ogden

I hesitate to try to teach the hon. Member how to suck eggs, but I did not use the words "pharmaceutical product"; I said, "medicinal product".

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not know that that makes much difference to my point. This is a case where a shorter word, as always, is to be preferred to a longer one.

I wish to join in the congratulations which have been given on behalf of the House to the numerous maiden speakers we have heard today. The great flood of eloquence makes one rather nervous. If this is what they do in the green wood, what will they do in the dry? I congratulate the maiden speakers whom I heard—the hon. Member for Waltham-stow, West (Mr. Deakins), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Havers), the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) and my hon. Friends the Members for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford) and Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler). I should particularly like to associate myself with the tribute paid by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon to his predecessor, Sir Cyril Black, whose courage and integrity in this House was an encouragement to many people while he sat here.

I wish that I could congratulate the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who is no longer present. I cannot do that because he behaved in what, I thought, was an unscrupulous manner. He was extremely offensive personally to me without having received any provocation of any kind. He referred to me as a television pundit. I cannot help it if the right hon. Gentleman is not invited to appear on television as many times as I am. He must address his complaints to the B.B.C. or to the Independent Television Authority but not come here and take out his spleen on me.

If I may say something in absentia to the right hon. Gentleman, the rights and position of the smallest he in this House are as important as the rights of the greatest he. We come here to take part in debate, not to be insulted.

I have had occasion to criticise the right hon. Gentleman in the past. He said that he would not put up with me in the future. That, however, rests not with him, but with Mr. Speaker, who decides who puts up with whom in this House and when. I have had occasion to criticise the right hon. Gentleman on the matter of drugs because of his unchivalrous and unfair behaviour towards the most distinguished lady, Lady Wootton, when she produced her Report. On this occasion, I had to put the right hon. Gentleman right on a different matter.

The sequence of events was this. The right hon. Gentleman misrepresented the views of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. When I rose to put right the misrepresentation, he then proceeded to misrepresent me by suggesting, quite gratuitously, that my views were different from those of my right hon. Friend. They are not. We are in complete agreement. What my right hon. Friend said, quoting another right hon. Friend of mine, the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), was the need to make the case for the Bill credible to young people—a most important and constructive point. The Home Secretary was misrepresented by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East as having said that the majority of young people were in favour of legalising cannabis. That is a quite different point.

It is unjust to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, it misrepresents his view and it is the kind of smear that is calculated to inhibit honest discussion of this problem in the House, because if One points to the realities of the situation and says that there are these difficulties, that some young people have a view and it is not always identical with that of the older generation, and one is then to be presented as being in some way in favour of legalising cannabis and being in favour of permissiveness, that destroys the whole basis of honest discussion of this extremely difficult problem. The former Home Secretary did a disservice to the House on this occasion. He fell below his own better standards and he certainly did not contribute to the rationality of our discussions. I am sorry that he is not present to hear my rebuke, but I would like him to know that I forgive him.

The Bill gives me a certain sense of déja vu since the last occasion when we debated this matter—I am sorry to sound like the Leader of the Opposition: I recall that it was on 25th March this year—the hon. Member for West Derby and I have become a kind of mirror image of each other, because he was on this side of the House and I was on the benches opposite; I spoke before him and he spoke after me. On this occasion, we have reversed the whole thing. I congratulate the hon. Member. I read part of his earlier speech while he was making his current speech. It was substantially different—not in principle, but in presentation—from his previous speech. I congratulate the hon. Member on his versatility.

The only difference has been that the sponsoring party has changed. That does not matter because, as the hon. Member for West Derby said, there is no great division in the House on party lines. When the Government were in opposition, we suggested improvements. I hope that they will not be abandoned merely because the Opposition have now become the Government. I was extremely encouraged by the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in this respect that he will take fully into account the previous debates and the points made in Committee on the previous Bill with a view to tabling Amendments to improve the Bill further. That is the right course to take. I congratulate him on his extremely sensitive and perceptive speech on this most difficult problem.

I welcome the Bill. On this fearful and emotional subject, one wants to be as rational as possible. It is not a question of choice between morality and immorality. It is not a choice between being permissive and restrictive. It is a choice which we have to make between having a sensible law or a silly law. The Bill represents a step towards a more rational position in the law and I therefore welcome it. The welcome must, however, be qualified because it is my considered view that this is only one chapter of the novel. It is not the end of the story.

The principles on which a good law on this subject should be based are threefold. First, drugs must be controlled; everyone is in agreement about that. They should be more or less strictly controlled according to their degree of danger; the reclassification in the Bill does that. Thirdly, a distinction should be drawn between different types of offences, and the Bill does that. Pushing is certainly one thing and possession is another. Clearly, pushing a drug should be punished much more severely than merely having possession of it.

I know that great difficulties will arise—I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary knows this—in making those distinctions work in practice, and one has to look at this from the practical as well as the theoretical point of view. Nevertheless, the distinction which the law is embodying is sound and we must ensure that the matter is thoroughly probed in Committee.

I turn to the question of cannabis which was made the principal theme of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) with which the hon. Member for West Derby unwisely suggested I would be in agreement, or at least more in agreement than with the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve). I did not find myself particularly in sympathy with the approach of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, but he voiced a point of view which is much more widespread than the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East allowed. It is much more widespread among young people than he allowed. The right hon. Gentleman, as is the habit of the elderly, pontificated about the habits of the young. That has been a fault of the elderly throughout the ages.

I have been in touch on this matter with members of the Young Conservative movement over a long period. Nobody would suggest that they are a set of revolutionaries wanting to undermine our moral fibre by drug peddling. It is interesting that there is a wide variety of views among Young Conservatives about how we should deal with this problem. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, who perhaps has more expert knowledge on this subject than any other Member, alluded to that spectrum of opinion when he said that it was necessary to make our arguments and laws credible.

Cannabis is at the forefront of discussion, but it is not necessarily the most important issue. Abuse of LSD is, in my opinion, a much more important matter than cannabis. I am sure the Home Secretary and others in the Home Office will look very carefully at this part of the problem. LSD has very useful psychiatric purposes. It can be used as an instrument of analysis, and it is a much cheaper means of analysis than a full Freudian analysis. But it is essential that it should be used under medical control and not for getting "kicks" or personal sensations. It is a much more dangerous drug than cannabis and we should be much more concerned about its spread.

With regard to legal sanctions on cannabis, the very distinguished Wootton Report, which should be read by everyone concerned about this subject, ended in an agnostic position. Curiously, I find myself in the same position for once. I agree with the Wootton Report that the law against cannabis should be maintained; but I also agree with the gloss which it puts on it, namely, for the time being.

The reason why we must retain the law against cannabis is twofold. First, we do not know what would be the effect of removing it, although we know that it would be very difficult to put it back again. Secondly, in the present state of knowledge on the vital question whether the taking of cannabis leads to the taking of hard drugs, it would be the height of irresponsibility for Parliament to remove the sanctions. Unless we can give a clear negative answer to that question, cannabis must remain on the list of banned and controlled drugs.

That brings me to a major point—the need for research. I hope that the Government will be generous in the provision of funds for this purpose and, not only that research will be undertaken by the Home Office, but that the Home Office will be generous in encouraging independent medical research organisations to carry out their work and will co-ordinate whatever research they may be doing with those other organisations.

I am also concerned about the liberties of the subject and of the medical profession; they are very much interconnected. There are two questions which hon. Members must examine very closely. First, there is the executive power which is to be taken to strike off the register or penalise doctors who over-prescribe or who have committed an offence. It is appalling to introduce that principle into the Bill. I very much agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. I am delighted that the Home Secretary is reopening discussions with the medical profession on this point.

It is a good Conservative principle and a principle of common sense—very often the two coincide—that the Government should do nothing for a profession which a profession can do for itself. One of the great safeguards of liberty in this country is self-governing, self-ordered professions. One should regard any inroad into that principle with high suspicion. I am not happy about the executive arrogating this power to itself, and I hope that there will be a sharing of disciplinary powers in the Bill in its final form.

I am concerned about the searching of premises and the powers of arrest. The distinguished Sub-Committee which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford headed was unable to agree on the question of powers of arrest, but it was able to agree on one very important paint which is incorporated in the Bill, namely, that the power of arrest without a warrant must be subject to the objective test of reasonableness. It is an important safeguard of individual liberty that there should be the test of the reasonable man to keep the activities of the police, as the arm of the Executive, in check. What is meant by "reasonableness" must be probed and discussed in Committee so that guidance can be given.

I come to my final point on which the Home Secretary, in welcome contrast to his predecessor, laid great emphasis—the need for education. The law has only a limited rôle to play in drugs. It may be a very important role, but it is limited. We need an intensive programme of education in the schools on the facts and dangers of drug taking. This has been recommended by the Magistrates' Association.

What is important is that instruction should be part of the ordinary school curriculum, given by resident teachers and not by specialist outsiders, coming on visits to the schools. It should be accepted as part of the ordinary instruction in schools. In that way we avoid the danger of sensationalising the issue and at the same time we impart the necessary information. This is a case where ignorance is very far from bliss. Magistrates also need courses in the whole question of drug taking and its effect if they are to discharge their duties imaginatively and helpfully. It is only if the law is supported by a moral con-census in the community, particularly among the younger section of the community, that it can become effective.

I hope that the Home Secretary who has an enlightened and reasonable approach to this and other problems will seek to co-ordinate any ideas or programmes the Home Office may have in mind with the Ministry of Education so that a combined approach can be made to this problem.

In his closing remarks the Home Secretary raised a profound philosophical question: how far should society interfere with the life of the individual and with freedom of choice? I would like to move that question down to a rather lower level of pragmatism and say how far can society interfere with individual lives and freedom of choice? I would say that it is only in so far as the law which is the agency of society's interference is supported by and accepted by public opinion. The law is an agency charged with a purpose which is beyond its power to accomplish. When considering legal matters we should always have that wider setting in mind.

Perhaps I may be allowed to quote the words of a distinguished philosopher and historian, not Walter Bagehot but Cardinal Newman, who in one of his essays made a profound observation about jurisprudence when he said "it is essential that public opinion should give the law to law." I am confident that the Home Secretary in discharging his most difficult tasks will see that the dictum of Cardinal Newman is realised in practice.

8.3 p.m.

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

While I support many of the views put forward by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), I find it somewhat amusing that it should have taken him nearly four hours of waiting to rebuke my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) for having administered the mildest of rebukes to him.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am hardly responsible for that. I have sat here for tour hours, but the right hon. Gentleman would not give way when I attempted to interrupt him. If the hon. Member wishes to censure anyone for waiting a long time, he should direct his censure towards the Chair.

Mr. Davis

I certainly will not at this stage of my parliamentary life seek to censure the Chair. I could see the hon. Member frothing over for four hours, but it was the mildest of rebukes. He was referred to as a television pundit, and I have always regarded him as the most distinguished of all television pundits. No doubt my right hon. Friend will rest easily in his bed tonight because he has been forgiven.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) referred to the Bill as a limited Bill. It is indeed that, and I have a fear that it might be taken to be the last word. I sincerely hope that the Home Secretary will not so regard it because the limitations are very serious. Unquestionably the problem of drug taking is a menacing one with tremendous difficulties. It is also right that hitherto the law has been confused and fragmented, full of difficulties and it is right that it should be consolidated. What this Bill fails to do is to make proper provision for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation which is all-essential in our consideration of drug addiction.

The whole emphasis here is really on penal sanctions. I am not sure that the penalties for taking cannabis are not already sufficiently adequate. What I am concerned about is the emphasis which the Bill gives to penal sanctions. I want to deal with the Bill and make some observations which I hope will be noted later. These remarks deal with matters which cause me grave concern, particularly over the matter of civil liberties and here I join with the observations of the hon. Member for Chelmsford.

Clause 8 of the Bill reads: A person commits an offence if, being the occupier or concerned in the management of any premises, he knowingly permits or suffers … certain activities to take place. This is in contrast to the provisions in Clauses 4, 5, 6 and 9 where there is no such requirement, where the word "knowing" is not imported into any of those Clauses. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at this later. If it is right to include the word "knowing" in Clause 8 it is equally right to include it in the other Clauses.

Clause 9 deals with the question of opium and the apparatus to be used in administering opium, but it has nothing to say, nor is there anything in the rest of the Bill as I understand it, to deal with devices such as syringes so frequently used in the administration of drugs which are more commonly used than opium.

Clause 10 deals with the prevention of the misuse of controlled drugs. I would have thought it appropriate within the terms of that Clause to have made some provision for programmes of education and research into the causes, treatment and prevention of drug addiction. There is nothing in the Clause about it. There is nothing in the Clause about facilities for treatment of drug addiction or rehabilitation or after-care of drug addicts. These are serious omissions which I hope will be remedied.

The main burden of my speech deals with civil liberties. I am a great believer in these, as is the hon. Member for Chelmsford. I believe that in our democratic society we must zealously guard our civil liberties, and I am rather worried that this Bill in its present form falls far short of doing that. Those who are aimed at in the Bill are those who are aften not really able to look after themselves when subject to arrest. Often they are depressed and confused, not really able to understand the Judges' Rules, sometimes unable to understand questions put by police officers. I am exceedingly worried that the power of search and arrest contained in Clause 23 goes far too wide. If we seek to preserve our civil liberties in this regard we shall also be assisting the police in their duties, not creating barriers for them, as the Home Office report seems to suggest. It would prevent irresponsible criticism from being charged against the police.

One of the points made about search and arrest when this was being debated was that there was an essential balance which needed to be struck in all law enforcement between police powers and individual rights, which must be preserved, and yet the majority, in the Home Office Report on "Powers of Arrest and Search in Relation to Drug Offences" upheld the powers of search and, on balance, thought that these powers should be retained, but made no attempt to define "reasonable grounds", the words which appear in Clause 23.

There was a minority view, which I personally adopt, and which embodied the criticisms of the Law Society, the National Council for Civil Liberties, and Release, and the majority view was savagely attacked in the New Law Journal of Thursday, 14th May of this year. It was proposed to the subcommittee that the power of arrest should be substituted for the stop-search power; in other words that police procedures in this sort of case, in suspected drug cases, should conform with police procedures in dealing with suspected offenders generally. These criticisms were not, I think, ever answered by the majority in the report.

What they did say was that there was a danger for the police of actions for wrongful arrest, which would frequently occur because the police are particularly vulnerable when searching a suspected drug offender. This seems to me to be a quite extraordinary argument, because it suggests that innocent people should be put in jeopardy but not the police.

I would support the minority view in this regard, a minority view which went into this question in very great detail. It suggested that "reasonable grounds" could be defined by exclusion: The following circumstances shall not be sufficient in themselves whether alone or in conjunction with each other to establish reasonable grounds of suspicion: first that the person searched appears to be the kind of person frequently found in possession of drugs; second, that he was in places locally commonly associated with possession of drugs; third, he was in a locality where drugs are possessed; fourth, he was found in a public place by night or in the early morning. It was argued that it was not impossible to define "reasonable grounds" and I would have thought that this would have met the criticisms suggested by the Law Society. I have a bit of an axe to grind as far as that is concerned, but I would have thought criticisms based on the practical experience of people who are advocates in Magistrates' courts, and who deal with this sort of problem day in and day out were worth considering.

The police argued that it would be time consuming, inconvenient and sometimes impracticable if another of the suggestions of the minority were adopted, and that was that there should be a third party present when someone is searched. This is an essential safeguard. When a young person under 17 is being questioned by the police it is essential that his parent or guardian should be present during the questioning, and it would be equally right, I suppose, if the police were found to argue that it would be time consuming, inconvenient and sometimes impracticable in those circumstances, but the fact remains that the law has imposed an obligation on the police, and I would have thought that the law equally owes a duty to those unfortunate people who may be suspected of being in possession of drugs and who may need this protection additionally.

I am very sensitive about the need for ensuring that civil liberties are observed, and I hope that when the Bill is debated in Committee the points I have made, perhaps inadequately, will be given some heed, because it is essential, when we are dealing with a matter as emotive as this, and where a great deal of hysteria can be so easily engendered, that we always have regard to the civil liberties of the minority of people who may be very adversely prejudiced if these rights are not established.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

The hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) said he hoped the points which he raised so forcefully and fluently would be taken up in Committee. If the Whips of his party have any sense at all he will be there in person in Committee to argue them himself, and I am sure he will argue them very forcefully indeed.

It is, of course, true, as he said, that this Bill will in some ways accentuate the clash between the forces of law and order and a substantial section of the population. We have heard many estimates this afternoon, and one can exaggerate the size of this problem, but we do not know how large is the problem. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), who knows more about this subject and brings more common sense to it than perhaps any other Member of the House, has reminded us that the Wootton Report estimated that there may be anything between 30,000 and 300,000 users of cannabis in this country at this moment, and he said that he would not be wholly surprised if the right number were a million. The fact of the matter is we do not know how large a section of the community are now in conflict with the law.

At the same time, one must clearly be torn in two directions in any discussion of this subject. The Bill itself is torn in two directions. On the one hand, one wants to see that all possible provision is made for bringing back into the community as a whole those who are misusing drugs; one does not want to condemn them out of hand. On the other hand, one wants to see that deterrents are there to deter the vast majority who do not use drugs from experimenting needlessly.

The hon. Member for Hackney, Central referred to Clause 9, perhaps the oddest Clause in the Bill, which seeks to outlaw the possession of opium pipes. I suspect that a permanent under-secretary when considering the problem of drugs in 1869 looked at a Clause produced by the clerks in the Home Office and said, "For heaven's sake bring this forward in 100 years' time." Such is the efficiency of the filing system in the Home Office that it was brought forward 100 years later, and we have this odd reference to a form of drug taking which, happily, is a problem no longer.

When the previous Bill was in Committee we did exactly what the hon. Member for Hackney, Central suggested and put down an Amendment which proposed that the possession of hypodermic syringes should be brought within the meaning of Clause 9. The then Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Health quite properly pointed out that if the number of syringes and hypodermics in circulation were restricted those who were on the needle already would be more likely to use needles which were contaminated, with the risk of spreading the illness and poisoning which come from the needle. There is a direct clash of interest between the welfare of those who are already addicted and a possible deterrent to those who might be tempted later to move on to this most dreadful of all addictions, the addiction to the needle. I hope that the Bill will move more in the direction of deterrence.

The Bill proposes substantial deterrents for pushers, those who sell drugs to others. I am sure that the whole House is united in its detestation of the Mafia type of pusher who blossoms in detective stories and films, but the sad fact is that the person who pushes harmful drugs to children of 14, the person we want to condemn out of hand, is usually a child of 15, and that the retail side of the distribution of drugs is largely in the hands of those whom we would regard as more sinned against than sinning. I would wish to see the penalties for those who are manufacturing or importing large quantities of drugs substantially increased, but the child pusher cannot be dealt with in this way.

I was taken by the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford that while we come down heavily on the individual who sells a small amount of drugs to a friend or neighbour, we have no special penalty for those in the van of spreading propaganda in favour of the drug culture. I have in the past been in favour of exemplary sentences and fines for film stars and pop stars who are apprehended. The fact that it is known that a famous pop star or film star is on drugs has a bad effect on impressionable adolescents, and there is a case for imposing substantial penalties on this small group. My feeling that those in public life should be given exemplary sentences if they break the drugs law is slightly blunted when I look through Schedule 2, Part II, Class B, and find that, quite unwittingly, on my dentist's instructions, while engaged on the business of the House of Commons, I exported a scheduled drug for my own use to ease a toothache and then imported it back into this country, without realising that I was infringing the law. As more and more complicated drugs come into use, the number of people who unwittingly infringe the law will grow.

I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) in hoping that substantially more money will be spent on research in the near future. We know that the amount of money which has been spent on research in the past, amounting to some £5,000 or £10,000 a year by no means presents the full picture, but we are faced with a potentially disastrous situation.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) said that there were many reasons why we should not follow the American drug scene completely in that our situation is not likely to get as bad as the situation in the United States at the moment. However, we can still miss the disastrous American experience by a very wide margin and have room for calamity in this country. It is a fact that the principal cause of death amongst adolescents in New York City at present is addiction to heroin. The situation here could get very much worse and still be a long way from that appalling situation.

There is, of course, room for much more knowledge and research on this subject. In my constituency we have in the Royal Bethlem Hospital one of the best drug centres in the country, where excellent treatment is administered and first-class research is carried out. But some of the value of that research is lost because when patients leave the hospital there is little idea whether they immediately go back on to drugs. The reason is that there are not enough trained social workers to keep in touch with them and to follow up their histories. Patients who go into the clinic often are disordered personalities even before they take drugs. A deficient personality is not necessarily cured during drug treatment. Once patients go out of the influence of the clinic it is difficult to keep in touch with them. Therefore, it is not known whether the treatment has had any lasting value. There is obviously room for much more of a follow-up in research. There is certainly room for more research on the clinical side and in educational matters.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford pleaded for integrated education on drugs in the normal school curriculum. This might be a recipe for total disaster because if the education is badly carried out it may advertise a form of behaviour which nobody wants to see carried on. I made some rather critical comments about education in drug use during the Committee stage of the previous Bill. One letter which I received came from a widow of a former chief of the fire service in one of the great cities of this country. She told me that her late husband had been plagued by an outbreak of false alarms caused by children. The fire service and the education authorities arranged for a number of lectures to schools to put over how wicked and dangerous it was to set off false fire alarms. I need hardly say that the number of false alarms shot up to quite incredible proportions but dropped immediately the lectures stopped. We need far more research into the whole subject of deterrent education.

I welcome the Bill as it stands. It would have been better if we had waited until after the summer, particularly since conversations are to take place with the General Medical Council on the responsibilities of the medical profession. I should have liked to see the Home Office thinking about the matter during the summer before presenting the House with a Bill, but on balance I believe that the Bill will considerably improve the situation. We have much to learn, but our discussions on the Bill should teach us a great deal.

8.35 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Cox (Wandsworth, Central)

Having listened to all the speeches made by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, it is obvious to me that this is a debate on a subject in which we find a great deal of agreement. Hon. Members on both sides have expressed their concern about the number of young people involved in the taking of drugs.

The reason why I wish to take a brief part in the debate is that I have served as chairman of a children's committee with special responsibilities for the administration of a boys' remand home and now serve on the board of a senior boys' detention centre, and I have long been appalled at the number of youngsters taken into custody as a result either of drug offences or of other offences while under the influence of drugs. Anything that can be done to lessen the problem is to be welcomed.

No one who has taken part in this debate can have any idea of the number of people taking drugs. There have been many different reports on the subject. I have read that, while there are some 3,000 registered addicts in the country, the number on hard drugs may be in the region of 35,000 and there are some 200,000 people on other forms of drugs. That is some indication of the problem that we face.

As the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) said, it is to be hoped that we shall at least start on the research which is so badly needed. Many people are quite unaware of the dangers resulting from taking drugs. I have often sat in juvenile courts and realised that youngsters appearing before the court and their parents are completely unaware of the dangers that they face. Obviously, we must concentrate on the education and research aspects of the Bill.

Often there is a great reluctance on the part of parents to acknowledge that their children may be involved in some form of drug taking, and it is not until it is too late that they become conscious that something is wrong and try to put it right. It is often the case, too, that in areas where there are drug problems there is a reluctance on the part of authority to admit it and to try to solve it.

I welcome the provisions in the Bill dealing with research. There is a reference to the sum of £10,000, and it is said that it is not expected to be more than £10,000 in the first year or two. I hope that the Government will not be rigid about the figure.

When it comes to education, we have to try to involve all the respective organisations in which young people are concerned, and my comments are directed principally at young people. Education authorities can play a valuable rôle, as can the youth organisations. I hope that it will be possible to get them together with a view to discussing the problem with them and seeking to point out the dangers that can arise from the consequences of drug taking. I should like to think, too, that the same could be done in our schools.

Clauses 12 and 13 relate to the over-prescription of drugs. However, it should be pointed out that only a very small percentage of the medical profession is involved. We should take whatever measures are necessary to try to put a stop to it. I should like to see this dealt with by the medical profession rather than by the reliance on prosecution.

Clause 25 relates to the new punishments. There has been an increase in the maximum penalty from 10 years to 14 years. I have no hesitation in saying that I agree with those who feel that anyone caught trafficking in drugs should be severely punished. But I wonder whether the increased sentence will be a deterrent to many. Only time will tell. I should like to see more drug traffickers caught.

This brings me to the attitude of the police towards the proposals in the Bill. The Metropolitan area is, unfortunately, short of police. I believe that this problem calls for police officers specially trained in drug investigation. I hope that we shall have the closest contact and co-operation with the police.

I have mentioned the increased penalties in the Bill. I have often been appalled at what I should term the relatively lenient sentences imposed by the courts. Without wishing to criticise magistrates as such, I think that it is farcical, when heavy penalties are laid down in statutes for serious offences like trafficking in drugs, to impose quite lenient sentences. Such sentences do not deter people. Therefore, I hope that the courts will take note of what has been said today. I hope that they will also take note of the increased penalties set out in the Bill.

It has rightly been pointed out that there must be a clear distinction between those who traffick in drugs and those who take or are in possession of them. This point is relevant. We should extend some degree of sympathy to many of those who unfortunately take drugs. I feel a certain degree of sympathy for such people. Earlier this week I visited Wandsworth Prison. It was pointed out to me that often people convicted of taking drugs are sent there who are not only a problem to themselves but also to the prison. I agree with the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) that more enlightenment should be given to magistrates before they sentence people charged with having taken drugs.

I welcome the Bill because it will enable us to tackle some of the abuses that hon. Members on both sides are fully aware have been taking place. I should like to stress that we are dealing with people—often very young people—who need help, not punishment. Therefore, I hope that we shall concentrate on research into the problem of drug taking. As I said, there can often be a degree of sympathy for young people who take drugs, and we all know the tragic consequences that drug taking can lead to from what we read in the national Press. This is why I fully support the Bill.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)

This debate has been graced by the delivery of five maiden speeches, and I regard myself privileged indeed to have heard them. They were delivered with great fervour, and each showed ability and sparkle, and I am sure that the House looks forward to further contributions from each and every one of those Members.

I am glad that the Government have been so gracious as to adopt the Bill in toto. It means that the Front Bench on this side has no need, and indeed would in any event find it impossible, to make any substantial objections to the content of the Bill. If there is any truth whatsoever in the allegation that the Government came to power rather unexpectedly by a freak of fortune and found themselves without a fully thought-out programme, clearly a Bill such as this was a godsend. It was tailor-made to till such a gap.

In any event, the Government have paid the previous Administration the highest compliment they possibly could pay. It was the Romans who, when they overran a tribe, from time to time adopted the gods of those people. I do not think that the triumph of the Conservative Party will be so complete, but it is, nevertheless, a high tribute, and I give the undertaking on behalf of the Opposition that if the Government change before the Bill receives the Royal Assent it will be introduced again in its original form. Whatever rather brassy claims were made by the law-and-order brigade opposite about sweeping changes which might be necessary in the criminal law, it is obvious that with regard to the law on the misuse of drugs we on this side managed to get this right to the last syllable.

Although the Bill is largely a consolidating Measure, it is inevitable that certain substantial changes should be made. As the Home Secretary rightly said, the current law is fragmentary, inadequate and inflexible. It is fragmentary because much of the legislation consists of ad hoc Measures, and there has not been a dovetailing into a comprehensive pattern. In considering the powers which are available one has to sniff like a truffle hound from the Poisons Act, 1933, to the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964, to the Dangerous Drugs Acts of 1965 and 1967. The law is inadequate because in each of those Acts there are massive lacunae. The Poisons Act covers possession only. The 1965 Dangerous Drugs Act allows total prohibition of the supply of opium, but not other substances, such as heroin. The 1967 Act provides only for the control of over-subscribing and notification of addicts with regard to a limited range of drugs.

As we have heard, the Dangerous Drugs Acts of 1965 and 1967 dealt only with drugs which had been listed by the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, and it meant that if international authorities decided to schedule a drug under that Convention, under Section 12 of the 1965 Act Her Majesty's Government were obliged to incorporate that into United Kingdom law. It meant that all the authorities which were entitled to use that drug automatically had their authority extended, quite irrespective of whether there was the slightest necessity for them to use it.

The battle against drugs is a swiftly moving affair, and it therefore demands powers of quick reaction. It is exactly such powers that this Measure provides. The drug scene can change so rapidly as to make it necessary for a Home Secretary—if he is to save the situation from getting out of hand—to be able to act within a matter of weeks rather than months or years.

As others have pointed out, Clause 2, with its tripartite division of drugs, enables such swift changes of classification to be made. But it achieves more. It enables the threat, or potential threat, of any scheduled drug at any given time to be categorised. In its report on L.S.D. the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence said, in paragraph 7: … we recognise certain differences between particular drugs which make it desirable that they should not all be dealt with in the same way. In the first place there is a hierarchy of danger, and we think it important, both for the guidance of the courts and for the education of the public, that this should be taken into account in the relevant statutes. There are no established guidelines for classifying drugs according to their harmfulness, but any measure of a threat which a drug poses to the public involves judgment of its toxic effect, the prevalance or potential of misuse, and the danger to society from anti-social behaviour in relation to that drug.

I bear very much in mind the words of the Home Secretary when he reminded us that we were here dealing with an issue of human freedom—the question of a person's choice in relation to his consumption pattern. I believe that there are three types of challenge to which the new law will have to react. First, there is the pharmacologically potent drug, with a high risk to the user; secondly, there is the less potent drug, the misuse of which, if sufficiently widespread or endemic, may complicate drug misuse and produce other social problems; and, thirdly, there is what might be called the spree drugs, misuse of which will ebb and flow like an epidemic.

In the case of the first category the law must follow the pharmacology, but with the second and third categories the pharmacology may be subsidiary to the social situation at any given time. When an identical Bill was first published four months ago it was popularly referred to in the Press as a Bill which provided for harsher measures against traffickers, and tonight the Home Secretary gave that aspect pride of place in describing in general terms the contents of the Bill.

Although it is only one of the score of objectives that this legislation seeks to achieve, it is right that public opinion should regard this as a dominant theme, for the area of the pusher is the very area in which criminal sanctions can have their greatest effect. The weak, the inadequate, the dispirited—those who must place themselves outside the mores of society, those who have a lust for selfinjury—their cure does not lie in the threat of criminal punishment. Their therapy is a compassionate reintroduction into society.

But there are those whose acumen makes this traffic possible—as was said very clearly by the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve)—those who invest in the misery of their fellow humans. It is right and necessary that they should be exposed to the full harshness of the criminal law.

So many points have been made in the debate which will doubtless be repeated in Committee that it is not proper to refer to them at this stage, but I should make reference to a theme that has been recurring in the debate, as it did in the earlier debate on 26th March and the sixth session of the Committee that we had. That is the feeling of many hon. Members that the Bill revels in negative prohibitions and contains few positive steps to combat the problems of drugs. It is unnecessary to refer specifically to health education in the Bill. There is no need for special sanction for any money to be spent in that respect.

But the case goes further than that, maintaining that there should be reference here to positive measures in formal education. It is a fundamental question how well equipped our community is for such official action. The problems of using formal education as a weapon against drugs misuse are as complex as using the law to the same end. As the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) reminded us, we are singularly ill-prepared to educate the community about the misuse of drugs.

A major inquiry into the question of public attitudes towards drugs is being conducted at the moment by the Department of Social Services, at the request of the Government. I understand that this survey will soon produce a report; perhaps the Minister of State can give us some information on that. Such a study should be invaluable to us in deciding what is effective drug education and what is not. To rush into this without such a reconnaissance might lead to more dangers than we removed.

Clause 8 has been drafted to save a multitude of lengthy arguments in the courts. It reiterates the principle which appeared in the High Court decision in Sweet v. Parsley in January 1969. That principle, briefly, is that guilty knowledge should always be a necessary ingredient in a drugs offence involving the occupier of premises. The House will remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) undertook that there would be a review of the law in relation to absolute offences very soon after the case of Warner v. the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis in 1968.

Second, the Clause avoids a pitfall which exists on treatment in Section 5 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1965. That provision refers to premises being used for the purpose of smoking cannabis". As Lord Reid and others in Sweet v. Parsley pointed out, it involves a stretching of language to say that when a person lights a cannabis cigarette in a room with the knowledge of the occupier, that room is used for the purpose of cannabis smoking.

I welcome the fact that Clause 8 has found a wholesome formula for defining the offence by reference not to the premises but to the person himself, … who knowingly permits or suffers any of the following activities to take place on the premises … The clear statement that guilty knowledge is a condition precedent to conviction is a great safeguard against injustice. But it can be a road for the acquittal of the guilty.

I should like the Home Secretary to consider whether it is possible to draw a distinction between the occupiers of public premises where these prohibited activities take place and the occupiers of private premises in the same circumstances. It may well be that, after the police have gone to a café or a restaurant which is known to be frequented by such people, the floor littered, perhaps, with dozens of half-smoked reefers, the prosecution will still be unable to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the occupier had the guilty knowledge which is necessary under Clause 8.

Is there not a case, therefore, for having a different test for public premises? Is it not in the public interest that there should be a test whereby, once it has been shown that the activity has taken place on the premises, there is a presumption that it took place with the knowledge of the occupier? But that would lead to the creation of an absolute offence, which could be damnably unfair in many circumstances. Attached to that presumption, therefore, there could be the defence, a defence provable on a balance of probability, that the owner did not have that guilty knowledge. Then, as regards private premises, one could resort to the ordinary standard of criminal proof such as appears in Clause 8 now.

To my mind, such a distinction between public and private premises, with a different standard of proof, would achieve a balance between a determination to protect the innocent and, on the other hand, a desire to punish the guilty.

Cannabis has once again reared its ugly head, and that, I believe, for the third time in the House within 14 or 15 months. No doubt, a great deal will be said about it at later stages. At this point, I make three observations. First, I reiterate what my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East said. It is clear on the latest market researches that nine out of every 10 young people utterly condemn the use of cannabis. I realise full well what the right hon. Member for Ashford and the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) are saying in this connection, that there is a fundamental feeling of incredulity and cynicism among young people towards the older generation and towards the law enforcement authorities on this matter. If they accept those market researches as correct, their case cannot stand. If there is a general condemnation of cannabis among young people, as I believe there to be, just as in all other age groups in society, the cynicism is not as widespread as they make out.

Second, it was put to us forcefully, in an eloquent speech by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), that cannabis had by now passed the point of no return, that we had to accept the inevitable. Every expert who testifies on this subject qualifies his observations by saying that the number of people addicted to cannabis, or who take cannabis with any frequency at all, simply cannot be gauged. Lady Wootton put it fairly and said that it might be anywhere between 30,000 and 300,000. Professor Paton, professor of pharmacology at Oxford, in a publication about 18 months ago, said that it might be about 0.005 per cent. of the population. The right hon. Member for Ashford does not know whether it is tens or hundreds of thousands or a million. How then can my hon. and learned Friend say with any certainty that we have passed any point at this stage?

Third, as to the case with regard to the possible liberalisation of the law on cannabis, if we were starting from scratch, if there had never been any prohibition against cannabis, the onus of proof would be upon those who make out that it is harmful, who say that there may be a causal connection between the taking of cannabis and moving on to hard drugs. But that is not the case. The prohibition, the condemnation, has existed for a very long time. A League of Nations resolution of 1925, which was subscribed to by about two dozen countries, clearly condemned cannabis, and our law has condemned it for a considerable time. The question now is whether we should go back. The onus of proof is upon those who wish to change the law, and with the greatest respect to them all, they have never been able, and are not able with the present state of knowledge, to discharge that heavy onus of proof.

When my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East introduced his Bill on 25th March this year he made it clear that he made no extreme claims on behalf of that Measure. I am glad that no one who has taken part in the excellent debate today has made any such claims. No country has ever succeeded in ridding itself of drug abuse by criminal prohibitions alone. There is more to promoting good health than fighting the bacillus of disease. The Bill is a skeletal structure of restrictions, prohibitions, disciplines and sanctions. Into the dry bones and the cold clay of that structure there must breathe the spirit of compassion and understanding, willingness to learn and eagerness to assist.

By itself, the letter of the criminal law is of very limited power in this connection. Far more does the long-term success or failure of this legislation lie with the social worker, the youth leader, the police officer running a juvenile liaison scheme, the doctor in his surgery, the teacher in his classroom, and above all the conscientious and intelligent parent who is concerned with the conditions in which his children live.

It is my fervent hope that the Bill will be seen by all people, especially young people, not as a magisterial rebuke delivered by an older generation but as a challenge and inspiration to the determination of society to combat one of the most dreadful maladies of modern life.

9.8 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Richard Sharples)

The debate has throughout been thoughtful and constructive, and that theme was continued by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elysian Morgan). The House will wish to pay tribute to him for the great deal of work he did whilst in office in the preparation of the Bill. We are very glad that he was able to take part in the debate this evening.

The hon. Gentleman asked me one or two specific questions to which perhaps I might refer right at the outset. One was about the report of the Social Survey. I understand that it is now not expected until some time later this year.

The hon. Gentleman also referred specifically to Clause 8. I am sure that he will not expect me to comment on what he said at this stage, but my right hon. Friend will of course take careful note of his suggestion.

I said in opening that this had been a thoughtful and constructive debate. We were particularly fortunate to have five maiden speeches, every one of which was of outstanding quality. We were also fortunate in having contributions from three members of the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence, who have done a great deal of work in this field. I refer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) and my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison). I shall refer later to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, but I should like now particularly to endorse his tribute to the work and knowledge of the police in this difficult matter. In many respects, it is a new problem for the police and they are tackling it in a way which is both humane and effective, and I sincerely join my right hon. Friend in his tribute to them.

I was sorry that I was not able to hear the whole of the excellent and thoughtful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford). He brings to the House the experience of a general practitioner who has had to deal with this problem practically, and I am sure that the clearly wide knowledge of medical matters which he brings to the House will be of great value to us in future.

I was sorry to miss the speech of the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins), but I had a full report of what he said. As other hon. Members did, he rightly stressed the need for education in this matter. I know that he supported the Bill while having certain reservations about it. I hope that he will be able to take part in our further discussions. With his pleasant manner, he will always be heard with interest by the House.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Havers) is an eminent lawyer who will bring to the House his legal experience and knowledge, which should be especially useful in our consideration of matters of this kind.

The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy), whose speech I heard in full, spoke of the importance of community and family relationships in dealing with problems of this kind. He put the problem into perspective. His was a thoughtful speech and I look forward to hearing him again.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler) spoke, as one would expect, with great knowledge and stressed the difficult rôle of the police. I should like to look carefully into his suggestion for regional drug squads. There are difficulties and complications, but I assure him that it is a matter which we shall study carefully.

The Government clearly carefully considered the whole question of whether to introduce the Bill in the form of the original Bill, or to incorporate some of the Amendments suggested in Committee on the original and to take into account events since that time. The arguments on either side were balanced, but I think that we were right to bring forward the Bill for Second Reading at this stage, for that makes it clear that the Government accept the broad principles of the original Bill.

We shall now have the whole of the summer months before the Committee stage starts to consider carefully and at length the Amendments which have been suggested and the debates, both in the House and in Committee. We shall be able to consider the reports of the advisory committees and the bodies outside the official arena, such as the valuable report produced by the Bow Group.

Between now and Committee stage we shall be able to consider all these things. Perhaps the most encouraging development which has taken place in the last day or so is the approach which my right hon. Friend has received from Lord Cohen. I very much hope that as a result of that approach it will be possible for the General Medical Council to take a larger part in the enforcement of the disciplines inside the profession. Everyone would like to see a move in that direction and this was stressed particularly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. No one pretends that the General Medical Council could do all of the job. That would be impractical, but the greater the part of the job of enforcement of the disciplines which passes over to it, the better it will be for the profession and the community as a whole.

A number of hon. Members including my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) and the hon. Member for South Shields have spoken about the need for another look at the question of treatment and after-care. I have looked at the very valuable report of the Committee on LSD on which the hon. Gentleman served. Some of the recommendations, I am sure he would agree, fall outside the scope of the Bill but they are obviously matters at which we shall want to look carefully.

I can tell the House that good progress has been made in establishing hostels for addicts who have withdrawn from drugs. In addition to several, run and financed entirely by voluntary bodies there are two, Featherstone Lodge at Forest Hill operated by the Community Drug Project at Camberwell and Suffolk House, Iver, Bucks., which receive financial support from local authority sources and are associated with hospitals specialising in the treatment of drug addiction. These hostels have accommodation for over 30 residents. At present the number in residence is only six. It may be that these hostels will prove sufficient for the number of addicts withdrawn from drugs requiring hostel accommodation.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I know something of these projects. There is anxiety as to whether our present form of treatment of some of the heroin cases gives sufficient encouragement to people to move out into centres of this sort. We need to look at what is going on in our treatment centres.

Mr. Sharples

I agree. This is one of the matters referred to in the report on LSD and is something with which we are all concerned. There is a particular problem, and this is part of it, over accommodation for the addict who is still receiving drugs as part of his treatment. This is something at present being discussed between the Department of Health and Social Security, the hospital treatment centres and the London Boroughs Association.

Much has been said by hon. Members, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) about research. The Home Office Drugs Branch has compiled a register of research and researchers in the United Kingdom. This includes research done by the Medical Research Council and shows that 105 projects have been or are in progress. What is needed now is perhaps more co-ordination of this effort. This is one of the things at which we shall be looking. Discussions will shortly be held on the question of co-ordination and we shall be announcing future Government policy in due course, as well as the level of expenditure which will be needed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury referred particularly to the question of barbiturates. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced, the Sub-Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Wayne has started work on this very difficult subject. I do not think anybody would under-estimate the difficulties and complexities of this problem. One great difficulty is the very large number of National Health prescriptions given for barbiturates in the normal course of treatment. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford referred particularly to the number of tablets given on prescription. We will want to consider this matter. The Sub-Committee had its first meeting a month ago, I think, and I cannot say at this stage when it will report, but I doubt, from the information which I have, whether it will report before we start the Committee stage of the Bill. It appreciates the urgency of the problem and will try to get out its report as soon as it can.

A number of right hon. and hon. Members have referred to the Report of the Committee on cannabis which was debated in the House on 27th January, 1969. The House came to the very firm conclusion that the law should be enforced. None of us should be under any illusion about the extent to which the traffic in cannabis could grow unless the law were enforced effectively.

I listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I did not agree with what he said and I did not accept by any means the premise on which he based his argument. We simply do not know the extent of the problem. I do not believe that the problem here bears any relation to the problem in the United States, particularly in California. I do not accept—and I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will take this in the right way—the defeatist attitude that this battle is lost. It certainly is not lost among the vast majority of young people.

Mr. Paget

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that he can eradicate cannabis smoking?

Mr. Sharples

I believe that we can keep it under control. I agree with the hon. Member for Cardigan. If we were starting from scratch it might be different, but if we were to take steps to legalise cannabis I believe that it would have grave effects indeed.

I do not think that there has been any dispute in this debate or in the debates which preceded it about the general rightness of the policy of trying to restrict and control the spread of cannabis.

Mr. Paget

I think that probably all of us would say that if we could eradicate tobacco smoking we would be a little better for it. Probably most of us would say that if we could eradicate alcohol we would be better for it. But since we cannot we have to control it. Does the hon. Gentleman think that we can eradicate cannabis? Has not the smoking of it gone too far?

Mr. Sharples

I do not accept that it has gone too far. I still believe that it is confined to a small proportion of the population. When I was at Berkeley University, in the United States, I asked one of the members of the faculty the extent of smoking marijuana at the university. I was told that in that university 60 per cent. of the faculty were smoking marijuana. We have reached nothing approaching that level and I am very glad that we have not done so. I shall do all in my power to try to prevent that situation arising.

Where there has been argument, during this debate and outside the House, is not in the main about the rightness of the policy but about the methods of enforcement and the penalties available to the courts. On penalties, which were not discussed in Committee on the previous Bill, it would be helpful if we were to have the views of hon. Members, on both sides, at some stage. My feeling is that there is not much point in introducing maximum penalties which are never likely to be enforced in the courts. That does not give credence to the law. This is a matter which we shall want to consider at a future stage.

I believe, as other hon. Members have said, that the real problem, particuarly with cannabis and to a lesser extent with other drugs, is to convince the small minority of young people—I accept that it is a small minority—of the logic of the case against the use of drugs of this kind. This is where I parted company strongly with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton.

I do not believe that the vast majority of young people need convincing, but I do believe that we must recognise that there is a minority who need such convincing. It is here where I accept that we have not yet succeeded as we should have clone. This is a matter which we shall have to look at very carefully indeed in the future.

A number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury, have referred to the powers of search and arrest. Since the Bill was published, we now have the Report of the Advisory Committee on Powers of Search and Arrest, of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford was a member. I am sure that the House will wish to study carefully that report, including the minority report, as we shall ourselves, before reaching an absolutely firm decision on this difficult matter. The arguments both for and against statutory powers of search are clearly set out in the report.

The problem—and this is an argument in favour of those special powers—is the ease with which drugs can be concealed, not only by the person who is concealing them for his own use but, because of their size, by the trafficker as well. That is the real problem. I would not pretend that this is at all an easy matter or that the arguments are all on one side. As my right hon. Friend has said, this is a matter which we shall want to look at carefully before the Bill goes into Committee.

We do not want to exaggerate the problem but, as I have already said, one of the great difficulties in this whole question is that we simply do not know the size of the problem.

I should like to echo what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford when he spoke on the Bill originally introduced, when he said that what the law can do to cope with the problem is severely limited: The law can do only so much. This Bill can do only so much."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1970; Vol. 798, c. 1462.] I entirely agree that the Bill has, perhaps, a certain punitive image which could be misunderstood. Inevitably a Bill to restrict the availability of drugs is bound to have a penal form. We will certainly look at possible and sensible ways of redressing certain provisions in the Bill so as to give stronger impetus to such matters as treatment, rehabilitation, education, publicity, counselling, community effort, research and all the other matters which have been raised in the debate. Perhaps the most important point is to make certain that the terms of reference of the new Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs are right, so that we can stimulate the Departments, the local authorities, the professions, the services and agencies which have a part to play. Whether we can go further than this in the Bill may be doubtful, but what I can assure the House is that we will review the whole field of social and community effort in the light of the suggestions which have been made today and in the light of the reports of the Advisory Committees.

Whatever we may do to the Bill in Committee, whatever changes may be made to the Bill in Committee, I believe that it does represent a major advance. It introduces a new element of flexibility, and in this field, where the climate is changing so frequently, where the problems change so frequently, flexibility is all-important in combating these dangers. It does integrate and in certain respects does reinforce the law, and it is important that the law should be integrated so that people know what the law is and so that the law is set out as clearly as it possibly can be in this most complex field. I believe myself that while there may be criticism in detail of the Bill it has the support of the vast majority of those whose concern with this problem is very real, and I commend the Bill to the House.

9.32 p.m.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman and to the House for speaking very briefly now, when I have not been able to be present during the whole of the debate and, therefore, may possibly repeat some remarks which may already have been made—though, I think, not by many hon. Members who are at present in the House.

I liked very much the stress on flexibility towards the end of the hon. Gentleman's speech, because, as he said, attitudes are changing and conditions are changing. On the whole, I think I agree with what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said to the House: I think it is extremely important to separate cannabis from the harder drugs, and I do not accept the familiar "escalation" argument, in itself. In my view, the escalation occurs largely because the same pushers push both cannabis and heroin and are naturally anxious to get their clients on to the more addictive and lucrative drug.

I think also—I repeat the word "think", because I agree that there is need for more research, as well as more treatment of those who are addicted to the harder drugs—I think from what I know, from observing the considerable number of young people who do smoke cannabis from time to time, that it is not addictive. It may be to some extent habit forming, which is not quite the same thing as being addictive. I also believe, on such medical evidence as is available, that it is less harmful than alcohol and nicotine potentially are.

I remember the quite plausible argument advanced in the debate in the previous Parliament by the then right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone, who has once more left us for the other place, that since we have two socially acceptable drugs, nicotine and alcohol, why should we add a third one? I can understand that argument, but I am not sure that it is completely acceptable or logical. If, as seems to be the case, the users of cannabis do not take, or take very little, strong alcoholic drink, it is perhaps rather less likely that they will die of cirrhosis of the liver. Similarly, with the smoking of cigarettes: the Department of Health and Social Security has spent a lot of public money, quite rightly, in propaganda and advertising against cigarette-smoking. I think that there is no evidence that cannabis gives anyone cancer of the lung. I do not say that every cigarette-smoker gets that, but there is a proved causal relationship between cigarette-smoking and lung cancer.

Mr. Deedes rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. Interventions prolong speeches. We have wound up this debate once.

Mr. Deedes

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that smoking more than a certain amount of cannabis may cause serious organic damage?

Mr. Driberg

I do not know whether or not that is so, and I carefully used the word "think" rather than "know" a few sentences ago, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. I respect the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) for his speeches in the previous Parliament on this subject, and I do not presume to be dogmatic about this. I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, if you think that we should not prolong the debate until ten o'clock, which is the normal time for finishing the debate.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not criticise the hon. Gentleman for prolonging the debate, but usually the debate is wound up by the Front Bench. This procedure is unusual but not irregular.

Mr. Driberg

I was aware of that, since I have been in the House for even longer than you have, with great respect; and I do not intend to prolong the debate for more than a minute of two. [Interruption.] If there were too much interruption of any kind, Mr. Speaker would be justified in reminding us that interventions tend to prolong speeches; so let us be quiet.

A fairly large number of people, mainly young people, use cannabis. The right hon. Member for Ashford may be right about the excessive use of it, but I regard as of the greatest importance the separation of this relatively harmless drug from those which are undoubtedly the most harmful, and killing, drugs, such as heroin.

I should have thought that this was at least an arguable point, but it is not easy to know how, statutorily, one can separate these drugs. I am sure, together with the research and the treatment that is going on, that the experts who advise the right hon. Gentleman should be addressing their attention to how to separate them. Even if cannabis is kept strictly illegal for a certain transitional period, at least I suggest that attention should be paid to ways and means of separating it from the more harmful drugs.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).