§ Order for Second Reading read.
Before the debate begins, may I announce that I have not selected the reasoned Amendment standing in the names of the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) and other hon. Members—That this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Misuse of Drugs Bill on the grounds that the Bill omits any reference to the most dangerous drug currently available, namely tobacco; notes the comment of Sir George Godber, the Ministry of Health's Chief Medical Officer, that some 75,000 deaths occur a year as a result of smoking; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to introduce, during the current parliamentary session, legislation which was outlined by the Minister of Health in reply to a Parliamentary Question to the honourable Member for Falmouth and Camborne on 23rd October 1967.This will not affect the debate at all. The points made in the Amendment, together with others for and against the Bill, may be made during the debate.
I have a considerable number of hon. Members who wish to speak. Reasonably brief speeches will help.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Drug-taking is a scourge. We know far too little of its causes or consequences. The law has a part to play—hence the Bill—but it is by no means the only agency, because law enforcement which attempts to control personal consumption is difficult. I emphasise at the outset that there is a need for a concerted effort in the legal, social and medical fields. The Bill on its own, although it would serve a useful purpose, would by no means deal with the problem, which is growing so fast today.
Compared with even three years ago, the pattern of misuse of drugs is much more complicated and more serious. Then, the main problem was a sharply increasing growth of heroin addiction coupled with a widened use of pep pills, cannabis and L.S.D. Drug-users, even that short while ago, tended to go for a single drug of their choice. Today, the increase in 1447 heroin addiction has tapered off, almost certainly because control by the treatment centres of supplies to addicts has reduced the amount available to potential new addicts in the black market. But there is a more sinister side. Some would say that because of this very control many addicts have resorted to substitute drugs.
Indeed, two years ago, in 1968, there was an epidemic of "fixing" by amphetamines which was largely fed by the activities and over-prescribing of no more than two doctors in London. It could be stopped only by a voluntary scheme for restricting supplies to hospital pharmacies. Many of the needle-users—a term to which I shall return later—then turned to methadone, a narcotic used by some treatment centres to wean addicts off heroin and made available for general practitioners to prescribe. They are free to prescribe it.
I want to give an indication of the measure of the problem, and the speed with which addiction can come upon us. There are now just over 2,000 registered addicts of heroin. Of these, 700 are under the age of 20. But as a result of the increase in the over-prescription of methadone in 1969 alone 337 cases of addiction to methadone first came to the notice of the Home Office. Methadone ampoules now command much the same black market price as heroin did before the 1968 restrictions. More recently—within the past 12 months—some addicts have taken to the highly dangerous and destructive practice of injecting themselves with barbiturates.
The use of cannabis and amphetamine tablets is also spreading widely through the country, and is probably more extensive than it was. I regret to say that recently there has been a revival of insterest in L.S.D. As the picture has unfolded, the dangers of particular drugs have become more significant. Amphetamines and L.S.D., for example, are now regarded as more dangerous than they were. The valuable Report of the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence, published earlier this week, shows this very clearly. I understand that one of the members of the Advisory Committee will be leading for the Opposition in this debate. The really new feature, however, as with the so-called "needle-users", is the wide range 1448 of substances taken by experimenters and more habitual users.
It therefore comes to this. We can draw comfort from the fact that heroin addiction appears to be less of a threat, and that convictions for drug offences in the first half of 1969 were no more than 10 per cent. higher than in the same period in 1968. Nevertheless, the possibilities of much more serious and new trouble are very real, first, because it is difficult to predict what the pattern of misuse will next be, and those exposed to it have become much more vulnerable.
Second, there are evil men who see a profit in exploiting misuse, and have greater resources and greater opportunities for doing so, whether by manufacturing new drugs for this market or by smuggling and trafficking. Third is the speed of change in fashion for drugs, which is so depressing; and fashions can be spread by such a handful of irresponsible medical practitioners.
This has meant that our defences are far too inflexible against these evils. The legislative scene is static, but the drug scene is constantly changing. There is a need for different treatment of different groups. The addicts of the hard drugs—those who are on heroin, or have been weaned from it and are on methadone or are injecting barbiturates—are very sick people, unable to face the problems of life, unable to come to terms with life or with their fellows. These people need help and understanding and treatment. At the other end of the scale are the youngsters who experiment for kicks. Most of them escape the worst consequences, but some are caught in the web at regular intervals.
I have already referred to the problems that are alleged to have been caused by the reduction in the pool of surplus heroin by the treatment centres with the consequence that attention has been diverted to other drugs. It follows that our success in dealing with this problem can be measured not in terms of individual drugs—it would be wrong to concentrate on heroin—but in treatment, and our success in handling the overall situation. The surplus in the pool of methadone could be reduced at once if no more than a dozen doctors would prescribe less liberally than they are prescribing today. The Bill will give me powers to ensure this.
1449 I am glad to say that there is little evidence of illicit, Mafia-type, black market heroin being available in this country. There has been a recent revival of interest in L.S.D. because it has become available in the form of coloured tablets which originate in the United States, where its manufacture is frequently financed by criminal interests. Clandestine laboratories are being found in this country. The profits are enormous. There have been arrests—the last arrest was as recently as September, 1969. But detection poses considerable difficulties for the police, though I assure the House that a strenuous effort has been mounted. There is close co-operation between the Metropolitan Police and the United States Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
There is some evidence, however, that London is for some drugs a staging post, and is used as a centre by those who are acquiring drugs in one country, using London, and then passing them on to a third country. It is, therefore, important that we should clean up this trade and this traffic, as the Bill will give us power to do.
There are close connections between this traffic and crime—indeed, the traffic itself is criminal—just as there have been close, but not such close, connections between gaming and crime. If we really are to get at crime by the roots and get down to its causes—I believe that an attempt is being made to ensure this through the various powers in the Bill—we must control the import, manufacture and supply of drugs, which is of the essence if we are to avoid the enormous profits which pan otherwise be made by criminal interests.
I have referred already to a serious development in the last 12 months in the problem of injection of barbiturates by addicts, who inject it directly into their veins. The injection of barbiturates in this way is an even greater hazard to health than is heroin or methadone. A further problem is the use of the needle for injection. It seems to some addicts almost as though the process of injection itself is as important a the drug they use—hence the term "needle-cult."
I have myself seen the consequences of the injection of barbiturates in the persons of patients who have practised this cult upon themselves. Anyone who is 1450 tempted to experiment, or who believes that we are taking this problem too lightly, could not see without feelings of shame and pity persons who have lost fingers as a result of injections of this sort; others with fingers twice the normal size, which become mere stumps; others with gangrenous limbs, and ulcerated hands and feet. I have seen this for myself.
I recently asked to meet a group of addicts. We sat down. They wanted to tell me about their problems, and obviously I let them do so, because many of them are very self-centred, lost souls, who can only be attracted to a new idea once they have been able to talk about themselves for some time. We had a conversation, and at a certain stage 1 said to them—and these were men sitting around me with the exact kind of deformities I have just described—"Will you look at it from the Home Secretary's point of view? If you were Home Secretary, what would you do if you had to legislate?"
I will tell the House what this group told me—and these were youngish men, except for one, using the worst kind of drugs—heroin or barbiturates or bath. They said to me: first, keep drugs away from children; second, punish the pushers with the utmost severity; and, third, do not legalise cannabis. To be entirely fair, one of them believed that if cannabis were legalised now he might be able to take himself off some other drugs, but I must say that no other member of the group believed it.
Nevertheless, although the use of cannabis is illegal, I fear that its use is growing. Its users are drawn from all sections of the community, and it is being supplied from the black market. There is a large amount of amateur and semiprofessional smuggling by British visitors to such countries as Morocco, Lebanon and Afghanistan. A number of British subjects have been arrested abroad very recently for drug offences.
The general situation here is not encouraging, and I do not pretend, as I have already made clear, that legislation will deal with the whole problem. I repeat: there is a need for co-ordination and co-operation between all agencies and individuals working in the field. The social, educational and medical 1451 approaches are as important as the legal approach.
The Bill authorises the development of other and different approaches as, for example, the setting up of the Advisory Committee itself, which will enable a broad view to be taken of these problems. Clause 32 gives power for the conduct of research in various manners, because the roots of the drug problem lie deep in the construction of our society, with its emphasis on material success, as well as in the personality deficiencies of the individual.
As for the law and the part it can play, our present Statutes have substantial weaknesses which I can summarise. Separate Acts deal each with only limited number of drugs. There is no power to control manufacture, supply or export of certain drugs. There is no control over the number of manufacturers of and dealers in certain drugs. If a new drug is scheduled under the 1964 Act, all those who already have authority to possess and are on the register for existing drugs automatically have their authority extended whether they need it or not. The law preserves an artificial distinction between narcotics and other drugs which is now outmoded, and the law is slow to operate. These are the deficiencies.
So the purposes of the Bill are, first, to establish a broadly based Advisory Council of informed people drawn from many spheres which will have the responsibility of constantly watching over the rapidly changing scene and of making recommendations to the Home Secretary.
Secondly, there will be a technical committee, called the Expert Committee, which will have the necessary expert knowledge to examine the restrictions needed to check abuse and ascertain how far they are necessary for medicinal or scientific purposes.
Thirdly, the Bill will give powers to act quickly, subject to Parliament's approval, after expert technical advice has been given.
Fourthly, subject to the appropriate precautions, the Bill will enable action to be taken against doctors who prescribe irresponsibly and who can be, and have been, the main source of supply of a new drug. By their actions they can 1452 create a cult in a matter of months. These provisions will also apply to pharmacists. There are up to 10 or 12 doctors in the country at present who could help to lessen the drug cult. It is almost impossible for us to deal with them until we get the Bill.
The Bill will strengthen powers to get information about drug taking so that we are not hampered in taking countervailing measures. It will lay down the conditions under which drugs may be held when required for medical purposes, and it provides for substantial penalties, especially, for the pushers and traffickers, on whom the penalties will be very severe.
The Advisory Council will replace the present non-statutory Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence, which has worked very energetically over the past three years under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Wayne and has produced important reports on a variety of drug problems. I wish to thank all those who have served on the committee. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) and the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), who will be speaking today for the Opposition, have served consistently. I, and I am sure the House too, thank them both for their continued work.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to say this, especially as the committee's latest report on amphetamines and L.S.D. has been published in time for our consideration of the Bill. The committee will no doubt be pleased to see that the Bill gives effect to a number of its proposals in the report and, indeed, to most of its suggestions generally for statutory changes.
To return to the new council, my colleagues and I propose that it should have a strategic planning rôle, working closely in conjunction with the Medicines Commission, the Poisons Board, the Research Councils and interested Departments on the problems of treatment, rehabilitation, education and research. We propose, moreover, that it should be directly concerned in the making of any regulations or orders prohibiting production and supply, in the classification of drugs, and in advising on questions arising on the international control of drugs. The Expert Committee will have an essentially tactical rôle: planning new controls and 1453 control procedures and monitoring existing controls. That is contained in Clause 1 and Schedule 1.
I want now to make a few comments about Clause 2 and Schedule 2. These establish a three-tier classification of drugs for the purposes of the penalties provided by Clause 25 and Schedule 4. The object here is to make, so far as possible, a more sensible differentiation between drugs. It will divide them according to their accepted dangers and harmfulness in the light of current knowledge and it will provide for changes to be made in classification in the light of new scientific knowledge.
Schedule 2 has been drawn up on the basis if the lists of drugs controlled by the 1965 and 1964 Acts in order, and no more than this, to provide for a smooth transition to the new system of control.
Class A contains all the internationally controlled narcotics except six which are less strictly controlled under the International Single Convention, cannabis and cannabis resin. It also includes nine hallucinogens regarded by the World Health Organisation Expert Committee as especially dangerous. Class B contains cannabis and cannabis resin, and the five most important central nervous stimulant drugs, about which the World Health Organisation Expert Committee has also expressed concern, which are controlled under the 1964 Act. Class C contains nine less potent central nervous stimulant drugs controlled under the 1964 Act.
We have taken those lists of drugs and attempted to put them into the Bill in the order in which we think they should be classified of harmfulness and danger. This classification can be changed if the Bill has parliamentary support, as I trust and believe it will.
The Poisons Board has been reviewing these lists in the light of the proposed lists in the Bill, and it may have some recommendations to make to me for changes. If it becomes necessary to add a new substance to the Schedule to the 1964 Act, it will be my intention to secure that it is also added to the list of drugs controlled by the Bill before it becomes law. There are times when one has to move as quickly as that.
1454 Schedule 2 does not include any of the barbiturates. Hon. Members may ask why this should be so, in view of my comments.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I hope that I have said sufficient to show that it is neither an oversight nor a sheer omission. First, as I have said, Schedule 2, as introduced, essentially aims at maintaining the present lists, although more realistically classified. Secondly, the wide use of barbiturates makes effective prevention of intravenous misuse very difficult to achieve. It is easier to achieve classification when there is little or no medical use for a drug. One can then get proper control easily and ensure that it is carried through.
But there are genuine and legitimate medical uses for barbiturates. Therefore, the question of misuse of barbiturates must be considered with some care. It has recently been referred to the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence by the Poisons Board. I have asked the committee to advise me as soon as possible whether certain barbiturates should be included in the Bill and what conditions, if any, should be laid down. I think that that is the answer to those who ask why they are not in the Bill now.
I am following the procedure that would be followed under the Bill by getting technical and expert advice from people who will be able to draw up the necessary classifications and the limitations. I shall then ask the House to act upon that advice. But until I receive that expert advice I do not propose to add these barbiturates. The advantage under the Bill will be that as soon as there is a recommendation in favour of inclusion I shall be able, under Schedule 2, to be able to add them immediately, subject to parliamentary assent. Indeed, if I receive a recommendation while the Bill is going through the House, I shall be able to add it by means of an Amendment to the Bill either here or in another place.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I am following the right hon. Gentleman's most persuasive argument with great interest. But as over half the suicides in this country take place through the taking of barbiturates, should not this 1455 matter have been gone into earlier so that some control of barbiturates could have been included in the Bill?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman appreciates the speed with which these fashions change. The problem of barbiturates has literally been brought to my notice only within the last few months. I do not believe that the fashion has existed on a major scale for more than 12 months. Some would argue probably less. The hon. Gentleman has demonstrated that there is a need for speed in these matters. But this is not a long-standing problem of any major proportions so far as I am aware. Therefore, because it happens so quickly it is important that we should be able to act quickly. The Bill will enable that to be achieved.
As I have said, the Poisons Board and the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence are currently considering the question. The House will not want to push me to come to a conclusion on a technical matter like this—indeed, I feel obliged to resist it—until I hear the committee's view on what should be included, how it should be included, under what conditions, and so on. This is the sensible way to proceed. I say to the hon. Member and to others that nobody knows what may happen next in that field, and what we shall be looking for in six months' time. This is the overriding case for the severe powers taken in the Bill.
There are three new offences aimed at the trafficker. Clause 4, subsections (2) and (3), create a new offence of being in any way concerned in unlawful supply or production of a controlled drug. The phrase "in any way concerned" is the important one.
Paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 8 for the first time make it an offence for occupiers or persons concerned in management of premises knowingly to permit unlawful production or supply to take place on their premises. Here the important word is "knowingly".
Clause 5(3) creates a new offence of possession with intent unlawfully to supply. This is a most important provision—"possession with intent unlawfully to supply." It has been a feature of American and Canadian law for some time, and, I am advised, has been found 1456 of considerable value to them in dealing with those found in possession of substantial quantities of illicit drugs.
Some would argue that there would be some attractions in framing this provision in more precise terms so as, for example, to set a maximum quantity and that if a person were found in possession of more than that maximum quantity he could be deemed to show intent to supply. But I have adopted the simple form of provision to allow the court itself to decide on the evidence in front of it, as to the quantity seized and other relevant facts, whether the accused had any intent to supply or not. The new penalties for trafficking should leave no room for doubt—those who deal for profit in this trade deserve very severe punishment. I know that most people take that view, both in this House and elsewhere, whatever their attitude to the drug taken.
For drugs under Part A of the Bill—that is opium, heroin, morphine, L.S.D., and so on, and for those in Part B—including cannabis and injectable amphetamines—the maximum penalty for trafficking will be 14 years, imprisonment. For most of these drugs the maximum penalty under existing legislation is 10 years and for some, such as L.S.D. and injectable amphetamines, there is no comparable offence at all. In addition to increasing penalties for the trafficker the Bill elaborates a definition of the offences and, in particular, it creates the new offence of possession with intent to supply, which itself will carry the higher penalties.
For unlawful possession, the maximum penalties have also been revised. Because we have tried to make a realistic schedule, some penalties have gone down and some have gone up. For drugs under Part A, the maximum penalty will be seven years, a reduction from 10 years in the case of some drugs like heroin, for the user not the trafficker, but an increase from two years to seven in the case of L.S.D.
For drugs under Part B the maximum penalty will be five years—this will apply to the cannabis taker for whom the maximum penalty has previously been 10 years—but there will be an increase from two years to five years in the case of injectable amphetamines. For the less dangerous drugs under Part C the maximum penalty will be two years.
1457 The main feature of the new offences and penalties is the clear distinction between offences of trafficking, carrying very severe penalties, and offences of possession which are still treated seriously but carry less severe penalties. Under previous legislation where both trafficking and possession was dealt with under the same penalty it was necessary to provide a wide margin to deal with traffickers who could rarely be caught in the act of supply and, therefore, had to be dealt with for the offence of possession.
With the new definitions and with the new offence of possession with intent to supply, it is no longer necessary to provide so wide a margin. But I emphasise that penalties for possession are still very substantial and are, in some cases, being increased because of new knowledge of dangers of certain drugs and the need to provide the strongest possible sanctions against large-scale traffickers. The maximum penalities for possession are higher than the courts have usually imposed in practice for possession.
The courts have usually gone well under it. I think that the reason is that they have regarded the top figure as more appropriate to those who were trafficking. I believe that those concerned in the courts will welcome the proposed range of penalties which should give them ample discretion to deal suitably with the first offender, the persistent offender and the trafficker who can be charged only with possession, but from the evidence in whose case the court may draw more serious inferences.
Now I come to the position of the doctors. The Bill is not intended to interfere with sound medical practice or the jurisdiction of the General Medical Council as regards "infamous conduct in a professional respect". But, as the Advisory Committee's report brings out—the report published on Monday—neither the General Medical Council nor its Disciplinary Committee are ready-made bodies suitable for enforcement of restrictions under the Bill.
For example, it would be difficult for them to deal with statutory notification of addicts or prohibition of supply of specified drugs to addicts without a licence or of those forms of irresponsible prescribing and supply of controlled drugs which do not amount to "infamous conduct". 1458 I mean, by irresponsible, careless or negligent prescribing or unduly liberal prescribing with bona fide intent, which may justify curtailing the doctor's authority in relation to controlled drugs in order to stop a supply for misuse, but not justify the drastic course of disqualifying him altogether.
How will such a doctor come to notice? By evidence of failures to notify addicts subsequently notified by other doctors, and of unlicensed supplies to such addicts, by routine inspection of records of prescriptions in pharmacies and of prescriptions received centrally under the National Health Service; by police reports and "grapevine" indication that he has attracted a clientele of "junkies".
The detailed safeguards for this position are contained in Schedule 3 providing for a whole panoply of panels, tribunals and advisory bodies. I shall not go into the details now, because they are set out clearly there. But the House, in considering this matter, will want to know that the British Medical Association has been fully consulted at all stages and agrees that the procedure contained in the Bill will not only meet the purposes of the Bill, but contain adequate safeguards for its members. I therefore commend that procedure to the House.
Another important element in the Bill, which I have emphasised time after time, is its flexible nature. I have emphasised how a new drug can be thrown up almost at a moment's notice. There was a new hallucinogen—the peace pill—which was reported last week in the United States. It is reputed—and I have not had time to see the detailed examinations—to be ten times more powerful than L.S.D. If that drug appears here the flexible nature of the Bill will enable such a drug to be added as soon as parliamentary procedure has been gone through and an expert report has been obtained on its medical character or the failure of it to have any medical necessity.
I shall be able to add a drug to the Schedule with relative ease, for the true dangers are not immediately apparent; amphetamines, for example, have been moving up the scale of danger for some time. Particular forms of misuse, for example, injection or mixing with other drugs, may make a relatively harmless drug a source of great danger. The Bill 1459 therefore provides for the drugs to be classified into three groups according to relative harm with the power to move drugs up and down the list or, indeed, out of the list.
Amphetamines appear in both Class A where they are injectable preparations and in Class B where they are not injectable. In recognition of the real dangers of amphetamines, and based to some extent on the very valuable report which was prepared for us by the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence, amphetamines have been up-graded, so to speak, from Class C. L.S.D. which is now scheduled at the Class C level under the 1964 Act will become a Class A drug under the Bill.
What does it all add up to? The Bill makes it possible for the first time to construct comprehensive codes of control, based on the advice of experts familiar with the United Kingdom problems, to restrict the availability of drugs and substances produced by the "underground" in whatever way is necessary to keep them out of the hands of those who have no lawful need for them, and these can include manufacturers, doctors, and research workers, or young people.
Clause 32 points the need for continuing research and authorises it. Research is now going on at many universities and other institutions, financed partly by the Home Office and sometimes not, and the Home Office itself is conducting direct research. It is true to say that there is a broadly-based effort divided into three main groups. There are the biochemical and pharmaceutical studies. Second, there are the clinical and treatment studies. Third, there are the social and psychological descriptive studies. I should be very ready to make available to any hon. Member interested a complete list of the studies going on in all these fields.
This is a machinery Bill, and to bring its provisions into force it will be necessary for me to fix different times as quickly as I can establish the requirements. It will be a complex task. I have already undertaken detailed consultations with the interests concerned, because of the wide-ranging nature of the powers. I have had a great deal of help from everyone who has been consulted on the preparation of the Bill. I 1460 look forward to further assistance during the Committee stage. We shall consider any Amendments put forward with a view to achieving the objects of the Bill in a sympathetic way, and there will be no attempt to resist them merely because they may come from any particular quarter.
The Bill will prove to be an important new weapon in the fight against the spread of drugs, but I repeat what I said at the beginning. The Government's policy is based on the need for a concerted effort in the medical and social fields as well as in the field of new legislation. None of us can forecast what the next generation will make of drugs or drug taking. I have seen some rather frightening forecasts about that. But, at least, while we in this generation are searching for the causes of drug taking, let us not be responsible for any weakening in our attempts to stamp out what is at present a dreadful scourge. We know too little, even about the so-called benign drugs, to take any risks. As for the rest, their immediate and visible consequences are too dreadful to behold.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
The House is grateful for the exposition of the Bill which the Home Secretary has given, and particularly for his description of the scene which it is designed to meet. With almost everything the right hon. Gentleman said about it most of us will strongly agree, especially about the limits of the law, about our lack of knowledge—which I strongly endorse—and about the speed at which fashions in drug abuse change, this last being the factor which makes the Home Secretary's work so difficult. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will bear with me if, a little later on, I am disposed to speak rather more critically of the Bill itself.
Although there are, undoubtedly, some good things in the Bill—it is certainly flexible, for the Home Secretary is giving himself, perhaps rightly, very wide powers—my criticism in general terms is that the Bill dwells heavily on powers and penalties and too little, perhaps, on the people involved. As the right hon. Gentleman himself made clear—he is well aware of it—this is not simply a chemical problem but it is primarily a human problem. As the Bill stands—I 1461 know that it has been so interpreted outside the House—it goes a little short on positive ways in which to help people, especially young people.
Broadly, in my view, the Bill suffers from a certain dichotomy—whether to convey a social purpose, or whether to carry a political effect. I noticed last week that most of the headlines describing the Bill used the word "crackdown". In so far as the Bill purports to be a tightening up of penalties for trafficking, that should not be seen out of perspective. I myself should not be disposed to make too much of the difference between 10 and 14 years' imprisonment for traffickers. These are my preliminary reactions, and to justify them I shall do what the Home Secretary did and for a few moments take a rather wider conspectus of the drug scene and look at the Bill later in that light.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we have a disturbing and, I fear, deteriorating social problem here, perhaps more complex than many realise. In parenthesis, I think it reasonable to take up the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) seek to make and to put this in the context of other health hazards such as smoking and drinking. These matters must not be seen out of context. But it is not reasonable to declare that drugs are relatively unimportant in relation to those other abuses. Any suggestion that they are is calculated to mislead, or could easily mislead, the young.
I do not believe that the public anxiety on this matter is misplaced. Much of it is stimulated by the reports of the social havoc which drugs are causing in America. As far as my knowledge goes, most of these reports do not exaggerate. It is now reckoned—I shall not dwell on this—that half the secondary school children in America, about 71 million teenagers, are familiar with marijuana. We should not make too much of comparative statistics—for several reasons, they may be misleading—but there is one valid object lesson from America which causes me anxiety in relation to the Bill.
1462 America has had Draconian penalties for the misuse of dangerous drugs—heroin, marijuana, the lot—and she has tried hard to enforce them, yet abuse in America has spread like an oil fire in a timber shed, and more particularly during the last year or two.
In this connection, I echo what the Home Secretary himself said. What the law can do to cope with this epidemic is surprisingly limited. The law can do only so much. This Bill can do only so much. I absolutely support the right hon. Gentleman in saying that we had better start by recognising that.
I acknowledge the contribution which the Bill makes to the protection of the young, yet it seems to me that we shall need a more positive approach. We shall need a more positive social philosophy. This will not be easy, because we are so much in the dark. We have no major study, as, perhaps, we should, in the epidemiology to guide us. We can from time to time get only a little light on some of the corners. Moreover, we confuse and handicap ourselves by trying to treat the drugs problem as a whole.
In reality, we have not one but, I believe, three separate social problems here, each different, each calling for separate diagnosis and prognosis. I shall attempt to analyse these before looking at the Bill.
First, there is the massive licit prescribing of stimulants and depressants—emphetamines and barbiturates for adults. Second, there is the rapid spread of illicit hallucinogens, marijuana and L.S.D., with virtually no medical use. Third, we have the small but dangerous minority not simply on narcotics but, as the right hon. Gentleman said, "on the needle", injecting not only heroin but a wide variety of substances. These are separate problems although they impinge on one another.
The first, the licit prescribing of stimulants and depressants, is a main concern of the Bill. In my view, it is by no means the least disturbing aspect.
The figures speak for themselves. For amphetamines—that is, stimulants—there were nearly 4 million prescriptions under the National Health Service in 1968. The position on barbiturates is far more serious. The Secretary of State for Social Services earlier this month gave me an 1463 Answer indicating that there were about 15 million barbiturate prescriptions. The true figure is nearer 17 million. To this must be added 3 million prescriptions for phenobarbitone and 2½ million for Mandrax, the most widely abused drug. That is excluding hospitals and private practice. There are perhaps 2 million people in this country who need these drugs to support life or procure sleep. As Lord Brain recognised some years ago, that is serious enough.
But there are three other factors. First, these are drugs of dependence. To get somebody off barbiturates can be almost as difficult as getting him off narcotics. Secondly, the margin between a therapeutic and a fatal does is very small. The year before last the prescribing of barbiturates averaged 80 tablets a prescription—roughly four times the fatal dose. Thirdly, it is the overspill from this vast licit prescribing which provides the drugs which the young abuse and which, at the beginning of this epidemic, they were using most widely.
Secondly, there are the hallucenogens—marijuana and L.S.D. As the Secretary of State recognises, there is a deepening crisis in law enforcement concerning marijuana. It is difficult to exaggerate its gravity. Lady Wootton hazarded the guess that there are between 30,000 and 300,000 people on marijuana. We do not know. If somebody were to say that the figure was 1 million, I would not be disposed to argue. There is no question that very large quantities of marijuana are being smuggled in, and very profitably. I wish that I felt that the new maximum penalties would discourage this. They may do so. My own small sphere of work for the Home Office convinced me that distinguishing between possession and pushing of marijuana is sometimes very hard.
Marijuana can no longer be regarded as a wayward habit of young nonconformists, I say, unrejoicingly, that it has become a widely accepted social habit. I am left in no doubt about that. We may deplore it, but we must face the fact. Lady Wootton said that there was an element of protest. That is right. But, in my view, we have moved some little way beyond that. What disturbs me is the number of intelligent and other- 1464 wise law-abiding citizens I have met who have formed the conviction that prohibition is wrong and even damaging to our main purpose.
In my view, we have failed to make our case against cannabis credible. We have relied, as America relied with disastrous results, too much on the big stick. We need credibility as well as severity. The real question mark is the risk—perhaps the very big risk in social terms—of the long-range psychological effects of this drug. I am not seizing on the evidence that we have had this morning about the alleged contribution of drugs to Pinkville, although I know that drugs are now a number one problem in the United States armed forces. If substantiated, that could illustrate something which we know and of which the young do not take sufficient heed, namely, that this drug has variable effects on different personalities and in different contexts. That is one of its chief dangers. We urgently need more data on the long-term effects.
I welcome Clause 7, which I understand will make lawful experiment with cannabis under proper supervision. The sooner the research which we need into the long-term psychological consequences can be put in hand the better. It will take not less than five years to obtain the answers. Pending that, I wholeheartedly endorse the view of the Home Secretary and others that the risks to the health of society as a whole from habitual use by large numbers of people may be very high.
It is not simply a matter of private rights. The apparently innocent short-term consequences of this drug may be wholly misleading. Our message on this drug should be more credible than some of the messages which we have sent out. It should be quite simple: we do not know, and until we know we say "No" and stick to that.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)
I am following the right hon. Gentleman's argument carefully, but, for the sake of balance, he would be forced to agree, would he not, that on an examination of the long-term effects, which I agree should be made, it may well be proved that there is no long-term damaging effect?
§ Mr. Deedes
We do not know what the psychological long-term effects are. Until we know, we must make it clear to the 1465 young that we do not know and that we maintain prohibition.
Thirdly, there are the narcotics, to which the Home Secretary referred—now more accurately called the "needle cult". There is reference in Clause 9 to opium pipes. It would be more realistic to refer in the Bill to needles and syringes, though I am aware that probably they cannot be controlled.
The Home Secretary mentioned the decline in the number of narcotics addicts. I will not quarrel with the figures he may have or compare them with the figures which I have. My view is that we do not know how many people are using heroin. We do not know how many are illicitly using methadone, which is the substitute drug.
Our plans and methods were greatly disorganised by the methylamphetamine epidemic of 1967 and 1968 and now by the habit of injecting barbiturates. The figures for the injection of barbiturates are very worrying and they have to be added to the number of people who are on the needle cult. Much of it is not notifiable, and this worries me. I see nothing in the Bill which would make the use of the needle with drugs other than narcotics notifiable, and there should be something in it about it.
What troubles me is that our intelligence system is so deficient. We must get a better early warning system. We must know more of what is happening in schools and youth clubs. The trouble is that too many schools do not want to know. It is first said that there is no drugs problem. Then one day there is a charge and the next thing is that the school or the district knows that there is a drugs problem.
Those are the three main spheres. They are fundamentally different, and in a sense they call for different remedies. I turn to the Bill in the light of that analysis. The guts of it are the new penalties and powers for the doctor in Clause 10 and 17. It is a very unfortunate that the Bill can address itself only to amphetamines. I accept what the Home Secretary said about the need for expert advice. I am sorry that expert advice on barbiturates was not sought earlier. I know the reason for that, and it is no good crying over spilt milk. But the prescribing of amphetamines has been going down—doctors have seen the 1466 dangers of this—but, by contrast, the prescribing of barbiturates is going up alarmingly, despite the rapid increase in the use of non-barbiturate tranquilisers. However, the main feature is the Secretary of State's considerable powers over the medical profession's right to prescribe.
When the 1967 Act began that process with heroin, I foresaw that it was only the beginning, and I said so. I knew of the difficulties of the Ministry of Health in not being able to persuade the General Medical Council to accept responsibility. I predicted that doctors would live to regret the decision which was taken. That warning was followed by a deafening silence from the profession. The General Medical Council declares that over-prescribing cannot be dealt with under the infamous conduct provisions, although recently they have done just this in the case of one doctor. This is for the medical profession. Part of my creed is that professions, whenever possible, should discipline themselves.
I accept the need for this step, in the light of what the Home Secretary has said, and I also deplore it. The powers of surveillance over doctors and the sanctions which the Bill gives against them dismay me. Clauses 10 and 31 give the Secretary of State virtually carte blanche. But I decline to be plus royale que le roi. If this is what the doctors want, they must live with it. I hope that they may see the reason for persuading the G.M.C. to alter its procedures and take a rather bigger hand in these affairs. I accept that part of their difficulties and part of our difficulties is not only the one or two black sheep to whom the Home Secretary referred, but the existence of a number of grey sheep in this profession who, in this sphere, cause a good deal of difficulty.
As well as this, the Secretary of State assumes powers to monitor dispensing and prescribing in Clause 17. If we are to do that, we should pay very close attention to the Canadian system. It is on a smaller scale than ours, but it offers, with a very small staff, an early warning system over the whole field of dangerous drugs, and it is well worth examining in that light.
On the Bill's contribution to the second category, hallucenogens, there is a compromise on penalties between what the Wootton Committee proposed and what 1467 the Home Secretary has done. I make no comment on that. I stress the need for flexibility here, as he has done. The Americans had mandatory minimum sentences for those found guilty of possessing cannabis. They have now, under their new Act, given the courts complete discretion for a first offence, and I am sure that that is right. Our courts could make more use of discretion for a first offence if we had a wider range of facilities for those whom the court deems dependent on drugs. The lack of these facilities is one of the real weaknesses in law enforcement on dangerous drugs.
The Americans have another new provision, which I think attractive. For anyone over 18 caught pushing drugs to anyone under 18, and at least three years junior, the penalties are doubled. I do not say that we should go as far as that, but that approach, which carries with it the idea of protecting children, which, as the Home Secretary said, the addicts themselves stress, should be one of our main objectives.
This Bill is mainly about young children, or it should be, and the unnerving thing about this epidemic is the way, certainly in the United States, in which the age of infection creeps downwards. I do not want to see that happening here. At least we now have cannabis and L.S.D. in the right compartments. This lysergic acid, which is perilous stuff, shows how much in the dark we are. I have no idea how many people are using L.S.D. and I doubt whether the Secretary of State and his Department have much idea.
On narcotics, perhaps because of the 1967 Act, the Bill has nothing new to say. We must not mistake quiescence for progress. The figures are higher than the right hon. Gentleman believes. I know that we reduced the intake of pure heroin, which means nothing, unless we know how much of the substitute drug like methadone, is now being used.
The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), who shares responsibility with me on the committee, may say something later about the work of rehabilitation, which he knows more about than I do. Our social framework for rehabilitation leaves much to be desired. It is scanty to a degree. All the 1468 arrangements for those who appear before the courts having used narcotics urgently need revision. The chance is that these customers opt for 12 months' probation and then slither between an overworked probation service and an overworked treatment centre, This is not good enough. All my experience suggests that we must have one or two more hostels and halfway houses.
Money is a difficult subject, but perhaps we should consider very small selective aid to organisations and institutions which are also making a major contribution to this field. The Home Secretary will be attacked for his provisions for research. I know that this derisory figure of £10,000 is not the whole story. There are many other things going on, but if we take all the research which is in hand, it still, in my view, falls below the scale and the breadth we need.
We are hamstrung by ignorance and it is because of this ignorance that, in the eyes of the young—by no means all of them defiant young—we are losing credibility. This is a point to stress. This is the real urgency in getting more information. There is a crisis of confidence between us and the young people of this country. After all, we have the monopoly of the means for finding out. I do not think that we can go on unscientifically asking young people to take our word for it and, to some extent, letting the policemen take the can back. I am saying nothing about enforcement, for certain reasons, but they urgently need the reinforcements which more knowledge can bring.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Bill only touches a corner of what confronts us. I grant its flexibility, and it is useful, in that the Home Secretary has powers to do much as he pleases, but even this will not work unless he can find out soon what he needs to do and then apply action there quickly and perhaps more imaginatively.
He is served, as I have reason to know, by a band of devoted and able civil servants. What I now say is no disparagement to them, but it is questionable how far a Government Department is shaped to cope with a problem like this. I grow doubtful whether it can apply the positive action in many directions which we need.
1469 I have an open mind about anything resembling a National Drugs Commission. That would be a body not simply to stop things happening but to start making things happen. I hope that the Home Secretary will also keep an open mind about this. I stress again the diversity of this problem. No one can doubt that medical props for sleepless adults or hard-pressed housewives represent quite a different problem from that embodied in this cult for mood-changing, self-manifesting drugs, the hallucinogens.
On balance, it is this hallucinogenic field which troubles me most deeply. This is where the young are most deeply involved. I thought that Peter Townsend, leader of the "Who" pop group, came very close to this the other day in a letter to the Press, when he wrote:The very fact that a young person is willing to take the chance of using drugs indicates a fairly desperate state of mind. Perhaps more desperate than even the young person realises or cares to admit.This cult is not all mischief. It would be much simpler if it were. It owes something to the tyranny of peer groups, to protest, to a sense of injustice aroused by the attitudes of ourselves here, to what they think is an intolerable attitude from those of us who smoke and drink. There are also deep forces at work here, on which I will not enlarge now.
Suffice it to say that I do not think that they can be disposed of by moral indignation or even by a new schedule of penalties. This drugs problem is about human beings, and, with a Bill like this, it is necessary to remind ourselves of that over and over again. We have two main instruments—research and education. We must stop fumbling over education and begin better equipping those who hold positions of responsibility for young people. That is where it must begin.
In many places all over the country, people are groping towards some kind of community effort, some sort of structure which can make a contribution, perhaps the main contribution. I am in touch with some of them and I think that Government Departments are.
I wish that they were in touch with rather more, because ultimately, if we are to defeat this problem and stop too many young people from damaging themselves, 1470 there must be a bigger social effort. I do not think that the Government can organise that with youth counselling and so on, but they can encourage it and they must foster it. Somehow, we must get more of the young on our side. We cannot win this battle unless we get more on our side.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) is saying, but I beg him to believe that the young are on our side, that the overwhelming majority of young people are firmly opposed to the misuse and abuse of drugs.
§ Mr. Deedes
I am saying only that among those who are not miscreants there is still scepticism. I am anxious to overcome it and we will overcome it only with knowledge, which we must acquire.
The best service we can render in giving the Bill a Second Reading is to say with some humility to anxious parents and others that this Bill cannot solve all of the problem for them. We can only provide a framework for social action. We recognise our limitations. Only more knowledge, more understanding and a united effort will see us through and see our children through.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
I greatly welcome the way in which the debate has started this afternoon. On the whole, it has a more informed and better atmosphere than previous debates have had. We must all welcome that. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for the way in which he opened the debate and to the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) for his valuable contribution.
I particularly welcome the fact that no extreme claims are being made for the Bill. We start with the clear understanding that the field which the Bill can hope to cover is bound to be limited, that we cannot escape our own responsibilities in the situation facing the country just by passing new penal measures, however necessary they may be. The more we can do to emphasise the wider responsibility which we all have, as well as those particularly involved in the social and health problems, the better and the less 1471 disappointment we shall have about the future.
The three reports from the Advisory Committee have been of value in helping to improve the broad range of understanding of some of the problems, and I am sure that the further report on the particularly difficult issues of search and arrest and the powers required for those purposes will prove to be valuable in the later stages of the discussion of the Bill.
I confirm that in spite of the volume of material on the subject, the facts are not easy to establish. It is true that there has been an unfortunately small amount of effective and valuable research. We cannot complain about the position in this country, because the material for research has not been available until relatively recently, and it has not been practicable to undertake the detailed research which is clearly needed and which inevitably takes a considerable time.
It is right to keep emphasising that the situation changes rapidly. One of the great merits of the Bill is that it takes account of that. It is vital to see the drug problem as part of a much wider social problem. We shall not achieve success if we seek to deal with the drug issue in isolation from the wider social problem. This is well understood. It means that we have to develop our health and social services to deal with the problem among many others and not by itself.
We live in a society in which there are about 300,000 alcoholics of whom 70,000 are seriously affected. Others are endangering their health with tobacco. But I agree with those who say that that does not diminish the seriousness of the drug problem and we have always to recognise its existence and the need for further action. We have to recognise, too, that we are encouraged by the fact that today education is helping young people to make their own decisions and to criticise established attitudes. It is the right of young people to establish an independent view and to experiment and this is one of the elements of experiment and we have to face that, too.
The Bill can have only a limited effect and much is left for our welfare and information services, for our doctors and ourselves to undertake. I welcome the setting up of the two advisory bodies, 1472 because this will give some assurance that we shall have a continuing examination, a proper study of a continually changing problem, that it will be possible to bring forward fresh recommendations when required. There may be matters to discuss in Committee concerning the composition of those bodies, but I shall not mention them now.
I welcome the effort to stop some of the main sources of misuse. I am a little surprised that the right hon. Member for Ashford should have expressed deep anxiety about the measures of control for the medical and other professions, although I recognise that he accepted their necessity. The medical profession accepts the safeguards that are provided. After considerable examination of the problem, all of us are forced to recognise the necessity for these provisions if we are to make the headway we want.
I particularly welcome the provisions for temporary but speedy action under Clause 15, however difficult this may be. This is an essential element. Experience in other countries, for instance Denmark, has shown that something of this kind is needed. I hope that the opportunity will be taken to follow this up by getting a far quicker and more efficient check on prescribing beyond the prescription of what are now recognised as dangerous drugs. Almost every family today has a collection of drugs in its home. They are one of the subjects of normal conversation of adult society, let alone the young and the adolescent. It is not surprising, therefore, that there are some who are experimenting with drugs from their home, in the same way as young people used to experiment with tobacco. We need effective knowledge and understanding of what is happening in prescribing over the whole range, and I hope very much that the Bill will help us.
I welcome the opportunity for further research provided in Clause 32. But all of us who have had experience in the matter know how complicated and difficult it is to set up really reliable research that will provide the information needed. It takes a wearingly long period to get an area of research opened out, both medical and social research. We are particularly lacking in knowledge in many 1473 of the social matters which we find very easy to talk about but have little hard evidence to go on.
There may well be a good deal of argument about some of the penal provisions, but I welcome the attempt to distinguish between drugs and to provide for an effective system of review, because changes are bound to occur. I also welcome the effort to distinguish between possession and supply. How successful it will be, I do not know. It is easy to make it clear that we want to establish a distinction in the penalties imposed, but it will be very difficult to establish this in the courts from time to time. I well understand the problems that will face magistrates, but we must certainly try to distinguish.
I would still want to see some reconsideration of the proposed penalties on summary conviction for first offenders, particularly with regard to cannabis. The Wootton Report made clear the anxieties felt at one time about the frequency of sentences of imprisonment for first offences. This was a little while ago. I very much hope that these can be avoided in the future.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
Nothing has been said yet about the very real need for a method of treatment. Did the hon. Gentleman and the committee on which he served ever consider that the treatment could act as the deterrent, by the courts being compelled to sentence to a centre at which such treatment would be given? If not, why not?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
There has been a good deal of consideration of the question of compulsory treatment, and consideration is still being given to it. There is a brief reference to it in the report, but we felt it so important an issue as to require further and fairly detailed consideration. The matter was considered by the Brain Committee, which recommended against compulsory treatment. It is very doubtful whether the situation has so far changed as to make any alteration to that recommendation.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
That is a very interesting reply. In these rapidly changing circumstances the whole essence of the matter is that prison is no use, except perhaps for the pusher. Surely society 1474 demands that the addict shall be compulsorily treated to secure his reform, and therefore his rehabilitation into society?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Very few people will agree. There is a division of opinion. That is why it is necessary to look at the matter very coolly and carefully. The great bulk of advice tends to suggest that without the willing co-operation of the person being treated there is not likely to be any progress. We have the benefit of a great deal of experience in the United States, which does not encourage us very far towards compulsion. I do not attempt at this stage to come down on one side or the other. I say merely that opinion is very divided about its value, and that the matter is being studied again. If it proves possible to provide further advice, I am sure that it will be provided.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It is going much too far to say that prison is no use, because this is one place where provision is made for treatment, and although it is not directly compulsory a great deal of persuasion is applied in some cases.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I should leave this point now merely by saying that in the report on rehabilitation for which I have some responsibility we urged that there should be proper research into the results obtained under existing compulsory forms of treatment and voluntary forms. We very much hope that this can be undertaken. There are circumstances in which compulsory treatment can be provided under our Mental Health Acts. But they are not applicable in most cases.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies rose——
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I shall not give way, because I do not think that I can allow this matter to be carried any further, as it is under study.
Whatever penal provisions we make, we all recognise that they do not provide a cure. We are in a very much healthier position in this respect than many on the other side of the Atlantic who have, they freely acknowledge, been unfortunately placed in the past because they have so exclusively looked at the problem from the penal angle. They all appeal to us to take good note of their experience. So I am particularly concerned with the other action we can take 1475 which, together with the provisions of the Bill, can, I hope, make progress possible.
We want to help to prevent addiction occurring. It is bound to be a slow and unglamorous process. We can do it by a multitude of agencies already in existence that need to be supported. It means, for example, an extension of counselling and help and advice in our ordinary welfare centres, in areas where this is necessary, for parents and younger people. It must be skilled advice from people with experience and knowledge of the situation. It is perhaps one of the most urgent needs of all that people should be able to know where they can turn for advice and help, because the matter affects so many families up and down the country.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
The hon. Gentleman obviously speaks as an expert in the matter, and the whole House is looking for information. How many people on cannabis would feel that they wanted this help?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
There is plenty of evidence that parents as well as those taking one form of drug or another want advice. We have this evidence from those already approaching existing advice centres, some of which are not in a position to give any useful information. What I am stressing is that we want to use existing welfare agencies and add this provision to them, rather than necessarily thinking of setting up completely separate organisations. This needs to be part of our existing welfare organisation.
We must help those already involved by an extension of day centres of which there are some already in operation. We need to look at their work, and take advice based on the results emerging from them. Many of the centres have been established only recently, so that it may not yet be possible to judge their work fully. But more provision is needed.
We need, undoubtedly, to improve our existing in-patient and out-patient treatment facilities, which are yet by no means adequate. I quite understand the reason for its very often being difficult to persuade psychiatrists with knowledge of the problem, and psychiatric social workers, and others to take part in the work when they honestly feel that they 1476 are doing more valuable work in other directions where they believe that they can achieve more rapid results. Nevertheless, it is vitally important that these centres should be developed. Perhaps we should extend the range of their work.
We certainly need to give more attention than we have in the past to rehabilitation. I am glad that some hostels are being established in London, and I hope that more will follow and will cover the whole range of cases. Some of the hostels being established deal purely with the addict who has now withdrawn completely from drugs, but we also want hostels for those under forms of treatment. I know how difficult that can be, and how difficult it can be to get the good will and understanding of people in the areas affected—that means us. That is why I say that this is a public matter, and not one only for the experts.
We must learn how to live responsibly with the fact of drugs in our society. They can make an important contribution to our well-being, if properly used, medically, and it would be irresponsible and wrong for us to suggest a simple campaign against all forms of drugs without any understanding of the contribution they can make. There is no short-cut.
I welcome the Bill. Some of us may wish to suggest changes, but it keeps the road open. That may be a modest claim to make for it but, in the light of the experience of other countries, it is a valuable claim. It will enable us to make use of new experience that is coming to us each day, month and year. Because of that, as well as for the wider reasons I have given, I believe that this Measure will make a real contribution to the containment and, I hope, to the solution of the problems that worry us so much at present.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I congratulate the Home Secretary on the manner in which he introduced the Bill, but even more do I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). I thought that my right hon. Friend got nearer to the heart of the problem than did the Home Secretary, who seemed to me to be placing too much reliance on the law whereas my right hon. Friend was looking at the actual social situation which 1477 exists. He was right, and I wish to support him, in what he said about credibility. The law cannot be effectively enforced unless it is accepted as having credible backing, and it is precisely on this point that the law is weakest.
Having said that, I think that I can give the Bill a qualified welcome. It is as reasonable a Measure as one can expect in the present circumstances. The whole question of drugs is surrounded by emotions and fears, some of which are well based and some of which are not. In this situation, we must try to get a law which is as rational and helpful as possible. It is not so much a question of having a moral or an immoral law as of having a sensible or a silly law. The present Bill makes much more sense than does the present law.
The danger is that the whole issue will be debated as part of a blanket condemnation or approval of the permissive society. That has not, mercifully, happened here so far, but it may happen later in the debate, and it will almost certainly happen in the debate outside the House.
The truth is that the permissive society is a very complicated concept, and one cannot, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer did in a famous, or notorious, speech, equate the permissive society with the civilised society any more than with the totally uncivilised society. There are good aspects and bad aspects of this society. I approve of certain aspects—the abolition of capital punishment, the cessation of persecution of homosexuals and the ending of censorship of the theatre—but, as hon. Members know, I have some reservation about the abortion laws.
What our society requires is not either a permissive law on drugs or a restrictive law, but a sensible law. The sensible law should be based on three principles which on the whole, I think that the Bill observes. First of all, drugs should be controlled. Secondly, they should be controlled more or less strictly according to their degree of danger. Thirdly, distinction should be drawn between different types of offence: pushing is one thing; possession is another.
I should like, first, to deal with the principle of control. One drug for which a perfectly rational case can be made for 1478 the removal of restrictions is cannabis. One can say that without in any way, I hope, being described as a member of the pro-pot lobby. This, in a more oblique way was the point made by my right hon. Friend. There are thousands of people, many of them young people, but not all of them, who feel that the law should not interfere with the smoking of this substance.
This is the measure of the crisis, and it is something of which the Home Secretary did not seem to be aware. It is that here we, as Parliament, are passing a law, and the question we must ask ourselves is: is there a sufficient moral consensus in the community to support that law? If there is not, we shall end up, not by getting rid of cannabis as a drug, but by bringing the whole of the law into disrepute.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Member says that I was not aware of the question. Not only was I aware of it, but I answered it. The answer is that there is an overwhelming moral preponderance on the side of the controls which I am proposing.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I wish that I had the moral certainty of the right hon. Gentleman, and could speak ex cathedra in that manner. There are two points of view on this, and there is a section of the community whom we have to consider very carefully. It is the younger section of the community. The opinion of younger people may not be exactly the same as that of an older gentleman like the present Home Secretary.
Having said that, once again it is essential to qualify it. On this issue, unlike others, I tend to be agnostic. We do not know what would happen if restrictions were removed from cannabis. We do not know what the effect would be on the individual or on society. Given that that is the situation, a legislature would be acting irresponsibly if it attempted at this point to take off the restrictions. However, I do not think that it is the same to say that this House ought to let it be known that this is the end of the matter and that this Bill will dispose of the problem. That is an illusion.
We know with certainty that, once we take off the law, we cannot put it back on again, and that is the reason for proceeding with great caution. One can 1479 use research as a kind of incantation to avoid taking action or making up one's mind on a difficult issue. It is one subject where the need for research is very great, and I welcome the two bodies which are mentioned in the Bill, the Advisory Council and the Committee of Experts.
We need an answer to one important question. Does the taking of cannabis lead on to the taking of heroin? If it can be shown conclusively that it does, the case for banning cannabis is made out completely, and no reasonable person in this House would oppose such a law, including the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), staunch libertarian and staunch supporter of John Stuart Mill though he is. But we do not know the answer to that question. There is no evidence to show that many takers of heroin have started on cannabis. We want to know how many takers of cannabis do not go on to heroin, and we want to know the percentage of takers of cannabis who do——
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson rose——
§ Mr. Jackson
Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that a great many takers of cannabis also started on tobacco and alcohol?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I dare say that they did. They might also say that they started on milk or on water, depending on their social backgrounds.
I turn secondly to the classification of drugs, and here I think that the proposed re-classification will be accepted by nearly all hon. Members as reasonable. Cannabis may or may not be an addictive drug and it may or may not have bad effects, but it is far less dangerous a drug than heroin and therefore it is common sense not to pass a law on the assumption that they are the same when they are quite different.
I look back to Lady Wootton. She has not been mentioned in this context except very fleetingly and rather gallantly. However, the gallantry was not towards Lady Wootton but towards the Home Secretary, and it came from my 1480 right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. After all, these proposals for reclassification are based on those put forward by Lady Wootton. When she put forward these proposals, poor Lady Wootton was denounced as having been got at by the pot lobby. That was the reaction by the Home Secretary. One is obliged to ask him now who has got at whom, because Lady Wootton has been proved right and a tribute should be paid to her. Under a certain amount of provocation, she behaved with great dignity. Instead of going off in a huff and resigning, she stuck to her guns and ignored the provocative remarks made about her by the Home Secretary who, after all, appointed her and her committee.
Obviously L.S.D. is much more dangerous than cannabis, although I think that it is not as dangerous as heroin. But at any rate it is in the same class of dangerousness, and it is right that it should be re-classified in this way. I was surprised to hear the Home Secretary say that the use of L.S.D. was increasing in Britain. That comes as news to me. In other countries, amongst those who take drugs, the use of L.S.D. is declining. Certainly that is the case in the United States of America, where those most involved in the drug culture, precisely because they have learned of the harmful effects of L.S.D., have gone off it. I wonder whether more should not be done to make it known what a very dangerous drug it can be and whether there could not be more educational work done which could be a greater disincentive to taking L.S.D. than a penalty laid down by law.
When one has said that about L.S.D., one must also recognise that it can be a very valuable aid in psychiatry. The report on L.S.D. and the amphetamines which has just appeared under-estimates the good that it can do as a psychiatric agent. It says rather drably and patronisingly that it can only be used as a psychiatric agent to help in psychosexual disorders, as though they were a tiny part of the area in which psychiatrics are involved. The vast majority of people in need of help are those suffering from psycho-sexual disorders. With the great strain on the National Health Service, it is difficult to get any kind of full-scale Freudian analysis, because it is extremely expensive. The advantage of L.S.D. is that 1481 in many cases it can provide a short cut to certain spheres of the unconscious which it would otherwise take a long and very expensive process of treatment to reach. While one should stress the undoubted danger of the drug, if it is uncontrolled, one should balance that by stressing that it has a very important part to play in therapeutic medicine.
The third principle is the distinction between classes of offences, between pushing, trading and exploiting weakness, and possessing a drug. Obviously they are very different, and it is right in principle that a distinction should be made between them. However, I must emphasise the point made by my right hon. Friend that, while this is right in principle, it creates great difficulties in practice. I think that we are entitled to hear from the Government some further guidance as to how those who have to enforce the law are to distinguish between the two types of possession. Always, at the end, it comes down to the unfortunate policeman who has to enforce the law. How is he to distinguish between the two cases? I presume that it is desired that the law should be enforced very much more efficiently against those who push drugs than against those who merely possess them.
That brings me to the administration of the law. In all spheres where morals are concerned and there is, therefore, a degree of difference and uncertainty—different cases, and uncertainty about whether the law morally applies or should be applied—the administration of the law is as important as the substantive law itself. This is true of censorship, for example. One does not want to turn over the administration of the law to a lot of busybodies. Dr. Johnson, the great lexicographer, said the last word on all such busybodies, when a lady who came to congratulate him on his dictionary said, "What I admire about it, Dr. Johnson, is that you have inserted no improper words", to which Dr. Johnson replied, "What? You looked for them, madam?"
The same principle applies to the enforcement of the law here. Those who administer the law are entitled to ask some questions as to how the law is to be enforced. Is it sensible administration of the law to prosecute pop stars and other such persons who are prominent in 1482 the public eye and who, by that very form of prosecution, advertise their habits and commend them to other people? Is that a wise course for the law to follow? I put that as a question which those who are administering the law should answer.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)
I am not sure whether I am following the hon. Gentleman's point. Is he alleging that there is select, eclectic, prosecution, or does he say that pop stars should in some way be exempt from the general law?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I am raising a question about the administration of the law. It is surely common ground that the law is not being enforced on all those who take cannabis. That surely is a fact which everyone will accept. By the nature of things, the law can be enforced only on a certain number of people. I am asking, is it wise to select the people who are being selected for prosecution, when the principal effect is to advertise the use of the drug to people who admire pop starts and look upon them as idols to be followed or worshipped? This is a question that should be asked on the sensible administration of the law.
I am concerned also about the searching of premises and the liberty of the subject. It was a case, which I raised in the House, involving the search of the house of Lady Diana Cooper under a drugs warrant in totally unjustifiable circumstances, which led to a new set of regulations being issued by the Home Office about applications for warrants, and so on. I want to take this opportunity of entering a caveat on Clause 23 of the Bill, which says that a justice of the peace may issue a warrant if he is satisfied by information on oath that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence has taken place. May I stress that it is the will of Parliament that there should be reasonable ground for suspicion before anyone's home is entered on a search warrant. It is extremely important that drugs should be controlled, but it is equally important that the liberties of the subject should be protected.
My third point is about absolute offences. I deplore the creation of absolute offences. I think that every criminal offence should require mens rea. There was the case of Stephanie Sweet 1483 where the House of Lords at the last moment put the matter right. I welcome the provision in the Bill that those who are responsible for premises should not be responsible at law unless they knowingly permit the use of the premises for drug taking. That again is a very important provision protecting the rights and liberties of the subject.
That is practically my last word on this subject in this debate, but it is not the last word of this House or of the country on the matter. We would be deluding ourselves to think that the passage of the Bill into law will solve the problem; it will not. The Bill is a further contribution to the law. This discussion is a further contribution to the argument. I welcome the Bill, with all its limitations, because it consolidates the law and clarifies it. It introduces an element of rationality and an element of reasonableness into the law, but an element only, and for that reason I welcome the Bill and hope that it will receive a Second Reading.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) has given an honest and informed speech and proved himself once again the last libertarian on the benches opposite. He mentioned and tempted controversy about the permissive society. He knows more about it than I do, and I will leave the backlash which he forecast to his hon. Friends. He welcomed the Bill, and I think the whole tenor of the speeches has been to welcome the Bill. The only real difference between the two speeches from the Opposition and that of my right hon. Friend was a difference of emphasis rather than a disagreement. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary talked about the Bill and put it into the social situation. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) spoke of the social situation and the Bill. There was no real difference between the points they were making; they supplemented or complemented each other. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) put the Bill in a wider context.
One point which arose from the exchange between my hon. Friend the 1484 Member for South Shields and the hon. Gentleman who interrupted him is that the treatment of addicts to bring them back to what other people regard as normal health and normal practices should not be regarded as a penalty imposed upon them in the same way as people are penalised for breaking the law. It is desirable that people should be treated, by persuasion, information and education, but this should not be a penal imposition because they have taken drugs.
The Bill will give the Home Secretary effective and flexible powers of control over drugs and their misuse. It has been said that the Bill gives him speedy powers, but I do not believe that they will be so speedy as some people forecast, certainly not in the control of every drug. The Bill gives him control over many drugs and the possibility or probability of other drugs being brought within its orbit as and when necessary. It is a good Bill and I join with those who have supported it.
The Bill is widely based on the recommendations of the advisory committee, and from these benches I add my word of congratulation to the two hon. Members of this House who took part in the discussions of the advisory committee, the hon. Member for Ashtead and my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. Although many hon. Members have a wide background of experience, this experience is not always used effectively as it has been in this case. It might be a good precedent to set, other departments to use more of the expertise and advice that are available in the House, not necessarily in Select Committees, but on matters such as this.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The hon. Member seems to think that it is a new practice for hon. Members to serve on a committee. In the old days it was the reverse. Select Committees of this House preceded Royal Commissions. It might have been a good thing if Royal Commissions had never been set up and matters had been left to the House.
§ Mr. Ogden
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that interjection, but I was not suggesting that this was a new idea or that previous practices, of which my right hon. Friend is more knowledgeable than I, set the precedent. All I am 1485 saying is that here is one example of hon. Members being used in a wholly welcome and admirable way and that hon. Members should be used more in this way. I hope he will agree with me.
The word "drugs" is an emotive word which has been misused in newspaper headlines, the news flash and in T.V. inquiries. The word has been misused and debased in recent years, and we are, all to a degree, guilty of this misuse. There is nothing new about drugs or their misuse. What have changed are the techniques of the production, distribution and information about them, which have outstripped the knowledge we have of how to use them properly how to control them. The dangers of the use of drugs are not always recognised.
There are of course tremendous advantages flowing from the use of drugs. It would be almost impossible to find anybody in this House or outside it who has not benefited from the use of drugs at some time in his life. Indeed an enormous number of lives have been saved by the use of drugs in modern medicine. To put the matter in prospective, the proper use of drugs and medicines is right but it is misuse of drugs with which we are concerned today. Medicines and drugs must not be regarded simply as groceries or domestic hardware. Once we remember that fact we shall be in a better position.
The Bill, as can be seen from its title, helps in this matter. It is the Misuse of Drugs Bill, not the Drugs Bill. In 42 pages, 39 clauses and 6 schedules it is a complicated challenging and useful Bill. I have no doubt that it will be improved in many ways in Committee. In his reply my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State might be able to give an indication that, although he will not have power to accept every change, changes will be considered. It will be the duty and responsibility of those hon. Members who serve on that Standing Committee to examine the different aspects of the matter and this should be treated as a practical Bill, not as a Party political matter. The Home Secretary will have many powers under the Bill, and I hope that the main result of the Bill when it is passed will be to help to halt drug addiction and to reduce it to a minimum.
1486 I should like to say a few words about the Amendment which appears on the Order Paper but which was not called, though one is not precluded from speaking upon it. It is ingenious and makes its point. When one sees the diversity of hon. Members who are supporting it, they comprise an almost unique alliance in the House. I would support the broad aims of the Amendment. Certainly the labelling of drugs has supporters in the tobacco industry. There are those among tobacco manufacturers who would not resist this idea too hard if they had the opportunity. However, I do not think that it would make any difference to the consumption of tobacco or nicotine. There is a possibility that the Home Secretary, if he could be persuaded to do so, could include nicotine under Clause II and Schedule II of the Bill. It seems somewhat remarkable that my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) should seek to reject the Bill on Second Reading when it provides the opportunity which he seeks.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson
I should explain that I sought advice from the Table Office before I put down the Amendment. I was informed that an Amendment to be in order must include the wordsThat this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Misuse of Drugs Bill …I generally support the Bill with reservations.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Has it occurred to the House that the reason why some of my hon. Friends want to prevent us using tobacco is that they think it detrimental to our health. But when we look at some of them, fragile, infirm almost decrepit individuals, some of them vegetarians, and then compare them with people like myself, heavy smokers, we must consider the consequences.
§ Mr. Ogden
My right hon. Friend has made his point. I thought for a moment he was going to suggest that it had something to do with the Common Market.
To come back to the Bill, I would declare my interest in that last November I was asked to serve as Parliamentary 1487 Adviser to the Council of Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, and I accepted the position. It has been a useful two-way traffic of information and advice. I have learned a great deal from them. At that time there was a report from a Select Committee about Members' interests and that recommendation made confusion worse confounded. The best thing I could do was to circulate to hon. Members whom I thought should be informed of the interest through Mr. Speaker and the Whips. I confess that I cannot remember whether I told the Home Office. At any rate if I did not, I am now informing the House of this fact.
My right hon. Friend will be pleased, though not surprised, to know that the Bill is welcomed by the Pharmaceutical Society and by the 30,000 pharmacists in the country who one way or another will be affected by the provisions of the Bill, though they will probably have more work to do as a result of this Measure. The society receives a constant flow of information from its members about the supply of information on drugs either by prescription or across the counter. This information, particularly that relating to sudden twists and turns in the pattern of drug use and drug abuse, has convinced the society that the powers sought by my right hon. Friend are necessary and desirable and should be obtained as quickly as possible.
It is a fact that as the drug problem has developed over the past two or three years, pharmacists have found themselves in an increasingly difficult and invidious position. They are the people who see the signs of over-prescription in particular areas. As the evidence accumulates when a patient presents a succession of prescriptions, they are the first ones who see it since they dispense them. They have a duty to dispense those prescriptions; indeed they have a contractual obligation to dispense National Health Service prescriptions.
When they are convinced that prescriptions are being misused then they have to resolve that question. Their duty is to dispense a prescription lawfully presented to them, yet they have the wider ethical duty of deciding whether it is being done rightly and properly for the benefit of the patient. In a recent case a patient presented 1488 a pharmacist is one area with private prescriptions for Drynamil tablets, a mixture of amphetamine and barbiturate. Each prescription was for 50 tablets, one tablet to be taken twice a day. The prescription provided for a 25-day supply. Three days later the same patient came back with the same prescription for a further supply of 50 tablets. This matter was reported to the Pharmaceutical Society, then to the General Medical Council, and proceedings were taken for the removal of the doctor concerned from the medical register.
The Times on 13th March said that over-prescription on drugs by a small number of "rogue doctors" operating mainly in London has been responsible for much of the development of the British drugs problem. My information is that it is a very small number indeed. But these doctors are a threat not only to the patients they treat—perhaps I should say maltreat—but are also a danger to the partnership that exists between the medical and pharmaceutical professions.
I illustrate this point by recalling that towards the end of 1968 in order to control the prescribing of methylamphetamine there was a voluntary agreement to supply the drug through hospitals only. Then we saw one of the twists and turns in the pattern of drug abuse. Some doctors, and I emphasise they were very few, circumvented the agreement by prescribing amphetamine sulphate powder. This was the first time this had been used in this form.
This practice was finally overcome by the pharmacists themselves issuing an edict that prescriptions for this powder would not be dispensed by pharmacists. This was the first time in its 128 years of history that this had happened in the Pharmaceutical Society. Later the British Medical Association took up the matter and decided that its members should not prescribe this powder. Some of these situations can be overcome and have been overcome. But in the main this large difference between the contractual obligations of the pharmacists to prescribe and the wider obligation involving ethics is still to be resolved.
There are other practical points which I could mention, but I feel that these will be covered during the Committee 1489 stage. Certainly the whole matter of the use and abuse of barbiturates should be given serious consideration. The Bill so far as it goes—and it goes a long way—will help to control the situation and will assist in making things better for those whom it is designed to help. The Bill will give the Home Secretary great powers and responsibilities. It has been given a wide welcome today, and I see no reason why it should not speedily go on the Statute Book.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)
I, too, give the Bill a general welcome. I have some sympathy with the Home Secretary for the speech which perforce he had to make. He was introducing a Bill dealing with the law on the subject of drugs. The rest of us can range rather wider and perhaps consider the social implications behind this problem. It has been a common and, I am sorry to say, growing practice of Governments to introduce Bills which can be stigmatised as enabling Bills so that a larger number of regulations can be mach under them. This Bill has that characteristic, but on this subject flexibility is a merit rather than a demerit.
We are all conscious that we face a growing problem. I was glad to hear the Home Secretary assure us that as yet there is no evidence that criminal forces are largely involved in the drug trade in this country. But if experience in America is anything to go by the situation may change We must watch the matter carefully. It is not, however, on that aspect that I wish to dwell. The social causes of drug taking are many. It is impossible to place one's finger on any particular reason. Often people take drugs because of the boredom of the suburbs. They come from no one class. They come from the well-to-do and from the working class. One cannot put a racial basis or even a regional basis on it, although inevitably the drug takers congregate in our great cities.
My plea is that we should consider very carefully the education that we are providing in this respect for the young and for their parents. I deal first with education for the parents. I have some sympathy with those who say that if parents take alcohol and smoke cigarettes, how can they reprimand a young boy 1490 who takes cannabis? I am not sure how far I go with that, but I accept that it is an argument. Far more important is this. Young people see their parents whenever they have a headache or the slightest thing wrong with them, resort to what is no more than the drug cabinet in the bathroom and take sleeping tablets and other aids to health, if they may be so called. They resort to drugs at every opportunity. When young people see this done as a family habit, they may well succumb to drugs when they meet pressures, as they will, later. Therefore, there should be education of parents in taking drugs which are innocuous or perhaps mildly innocuous.
Secondly, there should be education for the young because they may fall into the trap partly through ignorance, and they should be helped in school with massive educational programmes which point out to them the dangers of the road which they may take. Families send their children to London. I suppose that 20 years ago many of them were sent here without their having any sex education. Perhaps that situation is changing. We know how often provincial families send their young daughters and sons to London and other cities without having given them any warning of the dangers of drugs. They go to universities where they meet social pressures. A large section of those in university have no moral objection to taking drugs.
That is the atmosphere into which the young go and inevitably they may fall if they are susceptible. Because of ignorance, and in the face of social pressures to conform with others, they face a formidable challenge early in life. It is for us to ensure that they meet that challenge by using the knowledge drummed into them throughout their school years about the dangers which they face. Some people seem to think that if certain matters are not mentioned, if they are legislated under the carpet, the problem will disappear. It is absolutely certain that this problem will not disappear, and we might as well face that fact. I therefore ask for education for parents in example and for children as a warning.
We should also expand as rapidly as possible the voluntary means of help for those who seek it. If a parent, seeing the warning signs in his child, can 1491 persuade the child to go for help, he should be able to get it. Some of the most distressing cases concern parents who are driven to desperation by the fact that they see their child going downhill and therefore take the course of going to the magistrates' court and reporting him. I can admire their courage, but I wonder whether that is the right way in which they shoud deal with the problem. I believe that there should be adequate alternatives before they have to take that disrupting course for their own family. There should be centres to which they can go and get voluntary help, which will be the basis of preventing their falling further.
If the centres can be more widespread, I appeal to those who live near them not to attempt to drive them away. I have had experience of a centre in London. People living nearby were most resentful that addicts should get help in their neighbourhood. Without help, those addicts may disrupt society far more than if a few people's noses are put out of joint because they see them in difficulty late at night seeking desperately needed help. I hope that the Government will find the finance to provide the treatment which is so necessary and which should be available throughout the country. I make the plea that the rest of us should give all the assistance we can and not turn up our noses when socially beneficial centres are set up in our neighbourhood.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
We have had extremely informative and enlightened speeches, not least that of the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell). It is with some diffidence that I seek to strike a note somewhat different from that sounded by most speakers. It is not that I do not think there are good proposals in the Bill. There are good proposals for dealing with the worst type of offenders, and with those who are knowingly aware of activities in their premises. It is satisfactory that the relevant Clause has been introduced in time to save the proprietors of Buckingham Palace from prosecution Under the original Bill, they would presumably have been liable to prosecution if it were true that pot was smoked in the lavatories of Buckingham Palace. 1492 I am glad to see that that matter has been attended to. I am sure that that is what appealed to the monarchical instincts of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas).
§ Mr. Miscampbell
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would find that the case of the Queen v. the Queen might be difficult to get on its feet in a court.
§ Mr. Foot
It would have been extremely invidious if the question had been raised, as it could have been if the change had not been made.
So there are good measures in the Bill, but there are also aspects which deserved to be scrutinised and criticised much more severely than they have been so far. I approach the matter with some diffidence. Until quite recently I approached the whole question of drugs with an attitude of ignorant, ill-informed horror. I think that that is the mood of many people who are unaware of how drugs are used and have been spread, and the reasons why people may become addicted. I think that it is the attitude of many older people.
But an attitude of ill-informed horror is not a good one for legislating. The whole of my attitude towards at any rate a major aspect of the matter—the smoking of pot—was altered by reading the Wootton Report, one of the finest reports presented to Parliament over quite a number of years. Therefore, I was especially horrified by the immediate reception of that report by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, which was to seem to pour scorn upon it and dismiss it, although the report had argued its case with great care and responsibility. We have had tributes to other committees during the debate. It would have been gracious if the Home Secretary had taken the opportunity to withdraw the accusations which he made and paid a similar tribute to that Committee.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
In our debate in February last year, my right hon. Friend made it quite clear that he was most grateful to the distinguished people who served on that committee. But many of us were aware of the inadequacies of that study. The committee interviewed only 16 persons, who did not include a magistrate, social worker, or, I believe, a probation officer.
§ Mr. Foot
There may have been some inadequacies in the report, but that was not the way in which the Home Secretary dealt with the whole matter. I do not believe that it was proper for a member of the Government to dismiss in such a way the findings of those eminent people, who gave their time just as devotedly to preparing the report as those who prepared the other reports we have received.
Therefore, I wish to present to the House, since the Home Secretary did not, some of the findings and recommendations in the Wootton Report not dealt with adequately in the Bill. The Observer on Sunday, in a front page inquiry by its staff reporters, said:But pot smokers whom we have talked to take the new Bill as a broad hint to police and magistrates that they should do less to harass pot smokers and, instead, come down hard on those who smuggle and peddle hard drugs.No doubt the Bill does propose that the police should come down hard on those who smuggle and peddle hard drugs. I am all in favour of that, but it does not have the other implication, and the question is whether it should have included such ideas. My first ground for saying that is the statement by Sir Edward Wayne in his report to the Home Secretary in November, 1968, that:… there is a grave and urgent need for further expert study of all aspects of cannabis use and its consequences for the individual and society".We have had some further reports, but is it maintained by the Home Secretary that in the presentation of this Bill we have had the urgent complete inquiry which alters the findings of the Wootton Committee about cannabis? Is that the Government's claim? If so, the details should be presented to us. We should be told exactly what is the nature of the report and what the recommendations are which altered the general findings on cannabis in the Wootton Report. As far as I know, no such study has been made leading to entirely changed conclusions.
Pages 20 and 21 of the Wootton Report contained the statement:We believe that the association of cannabis in legislation with heroin and the other opiates is entirely inappropriate and that new and quite separate legislation to deal specially and separately with cannabis and its synhetic derivatives should be introduced as soon as possible.1494 There is some distinction in the Bill, but there is no entirely separate legislation. The report continued:We are also convinced that the present penalties for possession and supply are altogether too high.It is true that the top penalty for possession of cannabis is reduced in the Bill, but that top penalty has never been applied, and so it does not seem to me that in that regard the Government have carried out the Wootton Committee's recommendation. They have rejected it, and we want to know the reason. We were not given an adequate explanation by my right hon. Friend today.
It was one of the main conclusions of the report that there should be such a distinction between cannabis and the other drugs, because the committee was deeply concerned about the numbers of young offenders, found guilty only of having a small amount of the drug in their possession for their use, who were sent to prison as first offenders. One of the main reasons for its recommendations was to seek to overcome that. The committee said at page 29:For the foreseeable future, however, our objective is clear: to bring about a situation in which it is extremely unlikely that anyone will go to prison for an offence involving only possession for personal use or for supply on a very limited scale.That recommendation is not fulfilled in the Bill.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson
May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the far more categorical and unequivocal statement by the Chairman, not the Chairman of the Sub-Committee but the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, Sir Edward Wayne, that:The Committee is generally of the view that imprisonment is no longer an appropriate punishment for those who are unlawfully in possession of a small amount.
§ Mr. Foot
The two statements reinforce each other. My hon. Friend's intervention strengthens the point. Both recommendations have been rejected by the Government. It is all very well for them to talk about wanting expert advice on these matters. They have had such expert advice on cannabis as on the other matters, but have rejected it with regard to cannabis. In many respects the question of what they will do about cannabis is more important than any of the others.
§ Mr. Foot
I am not suggesting that we should always accept the experts' advice, but it is a question which requires research and on which we need to take as much medical evidence as possible. As I have said, the approach of ignorant horror to these matters is not the way in which to deal with them adequately, particularly if approaching the matter in that spirit means that innocent people, including innocent young people, shall find themselves in prison. It was precisely to prevent that happening that the Wootton Committee reached this conclusion. It was not an ignorant committee, it was not one that was not concerned with weighing all these matters in the balance and trying to stop drug addiction among young people. Therefore, my hon. Friend should pay some respect to what it said. If there is an argument against the committee, let it be produced, but it has not been produced in the presentation of the Bill.
§ Mr. Heffer
I certainly accept that the committee was high-powered. However, high powered committees in the past have not necessarily been correct in their ultimate decisions. I agree with the fundamental point that people should not go to prison for having cannabis in small amounts, but I think that my hon. Friend must accept that the use of cannabis can and does lead to the use of hard drugs in certain circumstances and that this is a most dangerous practice and one which surely everyone in the country should be deeply concerned about.
§ Mr. Foot
My hon. Friend must not think that he was original in making that proposition. All those matters were fully considered by the Wootton Committee as well, and the Committee made the recommendations that I have read to the House in the light of having considered all the factors that my hon. Friend has just mentioned. [Interruption.] It is conceivable that such people are wrong. I am not saying that all expert committees are right. I am saying that, particularly in a debate in which hon. Members on both sides have said that special regard must be paid to what is the detailed research on these matters, and when both sides of the House have been pleading for more research, it is not very logical for 1496 the same House of Commons to throw out of the window without consideration the recommendations of one of the expert committees which has conducted the research into precisely the question my hon. Friend has referred to.
It is very difficult for anyone to reach a certain conclusion on such a matter as that. As has been said, it is arguable that until we have more certain knowledge the country should maintain the ban on cannabis. I can well understand that argument, too. I say that the House should have proper arguments to weigh as to why the Government have rejected the major recommendation of the Committee that they themselves set up to look into the question.
One of the main reasons I am concerned about this—I hope I shall have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Walton on this—is that, as the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) indicated, there is a serious crisis in the administration of the law arising from the question of the smoking of pot and the regulations which are supposed to govern it and to prevent it.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the smoking of cannabis is now a widely accepted social habit and, as a result of that being so, there is a deepening crisis of law enforcement. I believe that that is one of the most serious aspects that the House must consider. One of my complaints about the Bill is that it does not deal with that. It does not deal at all with the criticisms which have been made arising from the administration of the 1967 Act.
One of the reasons I became interested in this matter was the extremely interesting reservation by Mr. Michael Schofield at page 39 of the Wootton Report:Parliament had been led to assume that the purpose of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1967 was to deal with drugs such as heroin, but large-scale searches for cannabis are now made under section 6 of this Act. This section was put in as a late amendment and accepted by an unwatchful House of Commons almost without discussion.It was improper that we should have allowed it to go through without real consideration, especially as, as the right hon. Member for Ashford properly emphasised, this is especially a question of a clash between the law and alleged young offenders. They are the principal 1497 people with whom the argument takes place. Such young offenders are particularly vulnerable. It is particularly difficult for them to defend themselves or to know what their rights are against improper police activity against them.
There is today a widespread feeling amongst large numbers of young people in certain areas—this does not mean to say the majority or anything like it—that police power is used against them improperly in these circumstances. The Wootton Report had plenty of evidence on this, so much so that it was largely on the committee's recommendation that the Deedes Committee, as it is called, was set up to examine the question of search and arrest and how it was operated, how the provision about reasonable suspicion was being applied.
I quote what the Wootton Committee said in paragraph 31 on this subject. This was two years ago. I do not think there has been any diminution of this feeling in the last two years—In the course of our enquiry, however, we have been made strongly aware both of concern about the effect of the exercise of these powers upon the relationship between the police and the public, and of the difficulties faced by enforcement authorities in recent years for which these wide powers of arrest and search have been thought to be essential.There are other diseases than the taking of drugs. I want to see the taking, spreading and sale of dangerous drugs stopped. I want to see the House applying itself intelligently and without hysteria to the question of pot smoking. This debate has done so to a greater extent than some of the previous debates.
I also want to guard against what is an even worse danger than drug taking—that is, a deepening antagonism between certain sections of young people and the police, or the erosion of confidence in the police. That is a more serious matter than drug taking. It can lead to innocent young people being put in prison, although they have done something which, according to their social outlook and that of most of their friends and associates, is not a crime. If a young person is put in prison on that basis—believed to be innocent by those with whom he has been brought up and with whom he associates—he may indeed become a real criminal afterwards. These 1498 are some of the dangers against which the House must guard as well.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State did not think this question sufficiently important to deal with it in his speech. He set up a committee to look into the matter. I do not believe that we should let the Bill go through until we have had the detailed report and until we have examined it fully. It is not sufficient for the Government to say, "We shall have it in time to consider it in the Committee stage". This is an essential part of how we are to sustain confidence in the law and in the police.
It is not a small question. It is not a question to be dealt with at the tail-end of a Session when we are trying to rush legislation through. We rushed it through before and, as a result, the law in many parts of the country has been brought into grave disrepute.
Although I do not propose to divide the House against the Bill tonight, I shall certainly seek, in Committee and elsewhere, to secure the protections for the individual—in particular the young individual—which have not been provided under these Acts previously and which certainly should be, provided if the House genuinely believes in individual liberty.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has made some critical remarks of the work done in the Committee which considered the Dangerous Drugs Bill. I was a member of that Committee, but I occupied a position in which I could take no active part. Perhaps that was no great hardship either to myself or to the rest of the Committee, because there was not very much that I could have contributed at that time which would have been of the slightest interest to the Committee.
Having had that experience, I thank the Members of the Committee for the education they gave me and the interest they inspired in me to inquire further into the way the Act, as it now is, has been working. I have had this opportunity, thanks to the assistance, which I gratefully acknowledge, of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and others.
1499 In my visits to some of these clinics certain things were borne in on me, so I decided to find out what we were hoping to achieve as a result of the Measure. I looked at the Second Reading speeches, and perhaps the best way of explaining what we then thought we were doing is to quote the words of the then Minister of Health. The right hon. Gentleman stated:We hope that when more addicts come to the new outpatient clinics, more will agree to accept withdrawal treatment, and that more will then be rehabilitated and restored to a normal life.Having now had some experience of the working of these clinics, I wonder whether the then Minister of Health would have expressed himself in quite those terms.
The clinics I visited were working extremely well and I express my thanks and approval to those working in them. Some problems feared by some people at one stage have not arisen. For instance, it was thought that some of the addicts coming to the clinics would be difficult or disturbed and would create problems. That has not happened to nearly the extent that was feared at one stage.
The clinics seem to be trying to reduce the dosage to a manageable level so that addicts become useful citizens. The most helpful aspect is that very few people are coming as new addicts. That may be the result of dosages being reduced so that there is a smaller quantity that can be sold. But treatment is limited by the necessity to arrange things so that the addict will come back. That seems to be the most important factor of all.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) that the rehabilitation service needs strengthening. One of the weakest parts of the organisation set up under the Act is that small numbers go for rehabilitation. I was most interested to hear the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) say, when asked about the possibility of compulsion, that compulsion was one of the matters under consideration but that few people would agree with it. He added that the Brain Report was against compulsion. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not now present, because I believe that the Brain Report took the exactly opposite view that compulsion was essential.
1500 My main reason for intervening is that I have come to the conclusion that compulsion is essential if we are to deal with the problem, and if no other reason were available I would find it in the remarks of the then Minister of Health on the same occasion to which I have already referred. The right hon. Gentleman said:A conference of psychiatrists has advised that from a given number of addicts very few will be willing to persevere through both withdrawal treatment and the subsequent period of rehabilitation. It would therefore be unreasonable to provide rehabilitation services initially for more than a small proportion of addicts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th April, 1967; Vol. 744, c. 534.]If only a small proportion are likely to go through the withdrawal treatment, and all that we can hope for from the present organisation is at least more or less to stabilise the present position, we must face the fact that the only way to make any real progress is the use of compulsion.
When I was in Hong Kong at the end of last year one of the things I looked into was how the authorities there were dealing with the narcotics. I am most grateful to those who gave me every possible facility and assistance. They showed me the extent of the problem and their methods of dealing with it, and took me to some of their centres. I spent some time with the Narcotics Bureau, and I visited rehabilitation centres.
One thing that emerges quite clearly is that in Hong Kong they look at anybody brought in for any offence. If someone comes up for stealing a bicycle, for example, and there is any possible background of drug addiction, investigations are made. Quite apart from any other offence, that person may be sent to a rehabilitation centre for a period of a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years. One-third of any period is remitted for good conduct, which means that the offender is at the centre for anything from four months to two years. The important part of that arrangement is the sentence is indeterminate: how soon he will get out depends on his progress. That is one reason why it has been found that people at rehabilitation centres try to make the best of their time there.
The whole object of their being at the centre is to programme their day so that 1501 they get into the habit of work. They are given work suitable to their then state of health. Some can only make baskets, while other make roads, or do other hard physical labour. Every effort is made to keep them in contact with their families. They can go home for funerals and weddings, and so on, and the way in which they behave at home and after they come back is a barometer of the success of their treatment.
When they leave the centre they remain under supervision for 12 months. It is made certain that they have a suitable job available. They are put in touch with a voluntary organisation to help them over the difficult period following their release, and for those who have no relations there are half-way houses where they can be taken care of.
At one of these centres I was shown 12 pictures, and was told that six were of prisoners at the beginning of their rehabilitation and the other six were of the same people on their leaving. I was asked to arrange them in pairs showing the same man, but I found it impossible. Not only did they look entirely different in health, but their features, the look in their eyes, and so on, were quite remarkably altered. These people are given the pictures to take out with them so that they have something to show that what was done for them was worth the effort.
The other vital aspect of their treatment is that they are never given any drugs for a period of more than 14 days. They are given methadone for 12 to 14 days, but after that no drugs at all are prescribed. I said that I had been told that if a drug addict was cut off from drugs in such a short period there would be some difficult symptoms to overcome. I was told that that view was entirely wrong. In one hospital I saw men, only recently admitted, who had just been cut off from drugs. These people are treated for whatever other physicial troubles they may have—stomach ulcers, headaches, or anything else—but they are given no drugs at all.
When I reported this to some of my friends here at home who deal with these problems, their reaction was to say that I was shown only the successful cases but that many died in great agony, and that I would not be told about these cases. 1502 I went to the trouble of inquiring whether there had been such people whom I had not seen.
The Annual Departmental Report of the Commissioner of Prisons in Hong Kong shows that of the 6,677 people in prison during the latest period of 12 months ending do March 1969, 51 died. There is a list of the various reasons for their deaths, none of which appear to me to be directly related to withdrawal symptoms from drugs.
During that 12-month period of supervision, again for the latest period, which is 1967, of the 420 released 261, or 62.14 per cent., were not convicted of any charge. Therefore, 62.14 per cent. were off drugs for at least one year after coming out of prison. It seems a significant success on which the people in Hong Kong might well pride themselves.
I have been told that in this country the people who go to prison are least likely to be rehabilitated because detention here appears to have a different effect. I cannot resolve that difficulty. However, I was most impressed by the work being done in Hong Kong, and I thought it relevant to the matters that we are discussing.
So far as the present Bill is concerned, Schedule 2 seems to have a completely meaningless distinction between Class A and Class B drugs. There have already been references to barbiturates not being covered by the Bill. I believe that many people concerned with these matters are bewildered by the way that the drugs have been set out in the Bill.
One thing which would have a greater effect than anything else would be if the Home Secretary could ensure that drugs which can be used in these ways are kept in greater security. The number of cases of people who have obtained drugs by breaking into warehouses or chemist shops is too high. I commend to the Home Secretary the possibility of considering better security measures for dealing with dangerous drugs. This could make an important contribution to reducing the problem.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Oakes (Bolton, West)
I was most interested in the description given by the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine) of what happens in Hong Kong. However, I think that he will agree, and that the House would 1503 hold to the view, that there should be separate responsibility for the health of an addict and for the punishment of drug offences. That has always been the basis of our legislation.
In his closing remarks, the hon. Gentleman dealt with security. This is an important matter, which is dealt with in Clause 11. A great source of trouble in my constituency—no doubt the hon. Gentleman has found it in his—over the last 12 months to two years has been that chemists' shops have been broken into and have had drugs stolen from them by young people in particular.
Throughout the debate hon. Members on both sides of the House—particularly the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot)—have suggested that young people in this country are supporters of drug taking. This is a myth. The vast majority of young people deplore the use of drugs and the ruin they bring to young lives. They want nothing to do with drugs. They would applaud this Measure just as much as older citizens. One difficulty is that if influential people repeatedly say that young people are supporters of drug taking or are tolerant of drug takers—they may be more tolerant of drug takers than older people—they will begin to think that they are missing out. They will believe that the fashion is to take drugs or to be interested in drugs and, being young people, they tend to go along the line of fashion. Therefore, it is a myth, certainly so far as the North of England is concerned, that young people are somehow or other so strongly pro-drug that if the police exercise their powers under the Bill young people as a body will find themselves in direct conflict with them. That is what my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale seemed to imply in his speech.
§ Mr. Deedes
The point that I was trying to make was that a number of young people were sceptical of our reasons for prohibiting marijuana. That is not the same as saying that they support drug taking.
§ Mr. Oakes
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's point. I shall refer to marijuana later.
1504 Another criticism has been that the Bill does not deal with education. It cannot. No legislation can deal with how the parent treats the child he finds turning to drugs or how the teacher educates his class on the dangers of drugs.
The Bill does not deal with treatment. It is primarily designed to prevent the spread of drug taking, and it does so as comprehensively as could possibly be done in any one Measure.
The law, as my right hon. Friend rightly said, is highly inflexible. Because it is inflexible and because fashions in drug taking change so rapidly, it is almost impossible for the Home Office or for the police to catch up with what is happening in the drug world. It is also very fragmentary, being scattered among a number of Acts of Parliament, and it is inadequate, as the Bill clearly shows.
The Bill attempts to look at the various sources from which drugs come—whether imported, whether the result of over-prescribing by doctors, whether the result of lack of security in works or in chemists shops and, finally, the supplier.
The majority of drugs in this country are imported—certainly heroin and cannabis. On 16th March, I asked my hon. Friend the Minister of State Treasury, about the number of offences of illegally bringing drugs into this country and the weight of drugs confiscated. The figures show a dramatic rise. In 1967 there were 58 people prosecuted and 434 lb. of drugs confiscated. In 1968 there were 102 people prosecuted and 2,196 lb. of drugs confiscated. In 1969 there were 184 people prosecuted and 807 lb. of drugs confiscated. That is an increase of 350 per cent. in the number of prosecutions over the last three years for illegally importing drugs. We know that that can only be scratching the surface, because drugs can be imported so easily in many ways by travellers from abroad with increasing travel facilities, by the increase in sailing, and by ships coming in and out where the coastguards and Customs cannot check.
In Clauses 3 and 26 my right hon. Friend seeks to do the only thing that can be done in such circumstances. A detailed search of every person cannot be carried out. Indeed, it would be wrong for every person coming in to be subjected to 1505 a detailed search. What my right hon. Friend can do and has done in the Bill is to increase the penalties to such an extent that it is not worth a person's while to be caught smuggling drugs into this country.
The very severest penalties ought to be handed out by the courts to anybody who imports any drugs referred to in the Bill in any quantity. When I say severe penalties, I mean that it should be the rule and not the exception that any such person goes to prison because people who smuggle drugs in in any way cannot be regarded with any sympathy whatever. They are doing it for considerable profit and may he ruining the lives of tens or hundreds of people in this country by such profit seeking activities.
The hon. Member for Rye referred to another aspect of sources of supply—chemists' shops. In another question I asked how many offences there had been in which premises, excluding houses, had been broken into and drugs stolen. The figure for the first six months of 1969 was 210, so I imagine that there were more than 500 such offences taking 1969 as a whole. The difficulty and the danger of these offences is that the people who break into chemists' shops steal drugs and do not know exactly what the drugs are. If they take them themselves they may well kill themselves. Worse still, they may scatter them around or abandon them and children may pick them up. There has been a case of this kind in my constituency.
The greatest possible security ought to be enforced in all chemists' shops, and by Government Departments. Exactly 12 months ago—Easter 1969—there was a surplus sale of Ministry of Health and Social Security goods and drums were bought by a manufacturer in East Anglia just for their worth as containers, but they were found to contain a drug which is on List A. Those drums were sold as surplus, showing a shocking lack of security in the Ministry. There must certainly be a considerable tightening up as we know how dangerous these drugs may be.
On the question of supply, I am glad that the Bill refers not to supply for reward but merely to "supply". Here we come to the end of the chain. If a person supplies a drug to another person—whether for money or not—the dis- 1506 service done to that other person is enormous. The supplier should be punished for it. If a person is lonely or depressed or desperate and someone else supplies him with a drug the severest penalties ought to be meted out to that other person. This should apply particularly—as the right hon. Member for Ashford said—if the person given that drug is a young person or a child. It is a disgraceful thing to do and in such circumstances the court should impose particularly heavy penalties.
I was intrigued, as was my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, by the argument of the hon. Member for Chelmsford about pop stars. I could not follow whether the hon. Member was saying that pop stars should lead a charmed life and not be prosecuted because of the publicity which would ensue or whether he was claiming that pop stars receive too much attention from the police because they are pop stars. If someone is a leader of opinion—whether it is political opinion or religious opinion—or is, as a pop star is, an idol of young people and commits an offence the police must prosecute. What I and a lot of people outside find astonishing is that some pop stars—the Rolling Stones in particular—have many times appeared before the court and on appeal have been fined—I agree heavily fined—whereas if a little girl in Bolton finds herself in trouble over drugs she ends up in Borstal. There is a feeling outside the House that too great a protection is given to pop stars in this direction.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson
Would my hon. Friend not agree that a conclusion, other than the one which he has drawn, can be drawn from the examples he is now giving—namely, the one which points to the deficiencies in the present system of legal aid, because whereas pop stars have the economic wherewithal to secure adequate legal representation, the little girl in Bolton will often appear without such representation?
§ Mr. Oakes
As a solicitor, I agree with any extension of legal aid, but this matter does not just involve the quality of the legal representation obtained. I think that the courts are in some way frightened of making martyrs of pop stars by sending them to prison. If they are leaders of public opinion, or of other people, and by their actions they induce 1507 young people to take drugs, that ought to be a factor taken into account by the court when it considers their penalty and treatment just as we as members of Parliament would expect to be far more severely treated if we committed an offence than would, very often, people outside.
On the question of cannabis, the hon. Member for Chelmsford and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale said that we have not made out a sufficient case against the Wootton Report, that we have not convinced people outside of the dangers of cannabis. The hon. Member for Chelmsford said that we do not have any particulars of the extent to which taking cannabis leads on to the harder drugs. This is believed, but there are no figures and there is no expert evidence on it. I refer to an article in the Daily Express today which deals specifically with this point and the person interviewed is no less than the President of the New York State Council on Drug Addiction. He is an expert on drugs, and in New York he has a problem on his hands that makes our drugs problem look absolutely minimal. He says:Any teenager who smokes 'pot' more than ten times runs a one-in-five risk of getting hooked on more dangerous drugs.A one-in-five risk if he smokes more than ten times. He goes on:Surveys in the United States allow us to assess the direct connection between marijuana and other drugs.One survey in particular among students showed conclusively that of those who smoked pot once a month, 22 per cent. went on L.S.D. and other drugs.Of those who smoked once a week, 49 per cent. went on to stronger drugs.The worst drug inheritance was among those who smoked pot every day-82 per cent.That 82 per cent. went on to some harder drug.
These are the sort of figures which prove my right hon. Friend was absolutely right to reject the well meaning and considered advice given by the Wootton Report as regards any legalising of cannabis. There is a tremendous drugs problem in the United States and this is an expert from the United States speaking. He knows the problem at first hand from direct experience and my 1508 right hon. Friend was absolutely right to take the course that he did.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson
I am sure that the House is very grateful for the quotation which my hon. Friend has just given. But nevertheless I think he would agree that some of the evidence radically conflicts with that which he has quoted and I should briefly like to——
§ Mr. Jackson
I do not intend to make a speech, but I want to draw attention to paragraph 29 of the Wootton Report which cites the most comprehensive survey which, as I understand it, has been undertaken into the relation of cannabis and hard drugs, was undertaken in New York, and suggests that there is no such relationship as my hon. Friend suggests.
§ Mr. Oakes
The Wootton Report says one thing. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has said that experts can be wrong. That may well be so. But here is an expert, a very distinguished expert, who counters that opinion, and he is a man who ought to know, being President of the New York Council on Drug Addiction.
Little attention has been paid to clause 32. So far as I know, it is a completely new provision that the Home Office may spend money on research. I hope that a lot of money is spent on research into the drug problem. I hope that it is spent not only on the medical side, not only on treatment, but on the social side. As the Advisory Committee said in paragraph 33 of its latest report:Effective understanding of the social and personal factors involved in the drug scene will require investigations in depth on a much more extensive scale than have yet been undertaken".We need that research. We need to find out why people, and young people in particular, find themselves in the mesh of drug taking. We need to know whether it is loneliness, whether it is fashion, whether it is desperation. What causes young men or women to throw away their lives by taking drugs so that their minds and bodies are gnawed by these dreadful substances? Yesterday, a young man was 1509 reported in the Press as making the terrible statement that he was 23 years of age but he did not expect to live to be 26.
I remind the House that I shall be able to call all hon. Members who wish to speak if speeches are reasonably brief.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)
I speak as one of the few Members—I know that there are others—who have had practical professional experience of dealing with the problems of drug addiction and the treatment of it, and with the control of patients and their relatives, and so on. I am gratified that there are rather more than a dozen hon. Members present to benefit from my observations, if I may so put it, though I regret that neither Front Bench spokesman who is to wind up happens to be in the Chamber now, so that I may not hear answers or comment on what I say.
I go straight to the point which the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes) made about cannabis, and I take up, also, the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who spoke at length on this aspect of the matter. I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that the Wootton Committee in general, and its chairman in particular, have been rather shabbily treated. In fairness to the Home Secretary, I think it right to add that much of the difficulty was created not by the nature of the report itself but by what the Press had to say about it.
The Wootton Report as published was, in my view, a balanced assessment of the situation and the degree of risk. It gave a clear account of what was known and what was not known. But it was immediately interpreted, with the sort of instant wisdom which we have from commentators in the Press, as a plea for permissiveness towards drug taking. In fact, it was nothing of the kind, but, since it was interpreted in that way, the Home Secretary was put in a difficult position in that he had somehow to correct a false impression in the public mind. None the less, I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that it might, perhaps, have been appropriate now to acknowledge that we owe a great debt to Baroness Wootton and that committee 1510 for giving us some carefully collected valuable information.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said, we know nothing like enough about cannabis. It is not right, therefore, either for me—who, perhaps, knows more than some—or for others to pontificate one way or another on this question. I entirely agree that we need study, and we must reserve our opinion until we have the result. But it is important that, in being careful about what we say now, we do not damage our credibility in the minds of those who consider our words. We have precisely the same problem in regard to smoking. It is no good giving the impression that anyone who takes one puff of a cigarette will drop dead before one's eyes with cancer. That would be known to be nonsense. None the less, the facts about smoking are known. One in 10 of heavy cigarette smokers ultimately develops lung cancer. But this means, equally, that nine out of 10 do not, and, with characteristic optimism, people hope that they will be among the nine.
In talking about cannabis, we must be careful not to confuse what may be a satistical relationship with a causal relationship. The hon. Member for Bolton, West drew attention to the number of people who were cannabis takers or smokers and who had become heroin or hard drug addicts. That is an important piece of information, but he must not read too much into it. It is not true that the one automatically follows from the other, although there is a clear statistical relationship.
I shall explain what I mean by illustration. If hon. Members were to go to Soho and visit any of the strip shows there—I do not say that they would—they would probably find that the front rows were occupied exclusively, or almost exclusively, by elderly men with bald heads. That is a statistical relationship. To say that there was a causal relationship would be asserting that observing scantily clad chorus girls at close range made one's hair fall out—which is not true.
I ask the hon. Gentleman, who, I know, spoke with great sincerity, and others who have spoken with equal sincerity, not to make that mistake. I do not say, as some do, that there is no relationship. I say that I do not know At the moment, 1511 there is a statistical relationship, but we do not know that it is a causal relationship. However, as a word of warning, I can tell the House that there is a close similarity between the molecular structure of the basic alkaloid in cannabis and the molecular structure of morphine, the main alkaloid in the opiates. That is an important point and it may well be that, after proper study, we shall find that there are real dangers here. At present, we do not know, and the important need is to preserve our credibility. If we go about making statements which the people involved—who, with respect, know a great deal more than we do from a practical point of view—recognise to be manifestly untrue, they will tend to disbelieve us on the things which we clearly do know.
I say no more about that except that I believe that when the history of drug addiction is written it will be seen that it was methyl amphetamine and the amphetamine drugs generally, and not cannabis, which provided the fatal link between the soft and the hard drug scenes.
We should now be relating our concern about the misuse of cannabis much more to the drug itself and to the sub-cultural groups in which it is used than to its alleged role as a step towards heroin addiction. If we make too many assumptions now and make statements which are known by teenagers and young people, from their own experience, to be untrue, we shall destroy our credibility on some very important questions.
I have been conscious, as other hon. Members have, that we have moved a little since we debated this subject in 1967 on the Dangerous Drugs Bill. I recall that at the end of my speech then I said that in passing that Bill we were dealing in the main with symptoms, and I hoped that we should follow on by dealing with the underlying disease. The present Bill, although it has many faults, which I shall wish to discuss in more detail on another occasion, is at least beginning to attack the disease. One cannot ignore that the principal cause of drug addiction is the existence and the availability of drugs of addiction. Anyone who wants to get rid of drug addiction must do something about reducing the number of drugs and 1512 reducing their availability. We are beginning to attack the problem in that way.
If the medical profession should resent some of the steps which are being taken, it only has itself to blame. It is five years since the Brain Committee demonstrated clearly the very close association between over-prescribing of drugs and the development of addiction. Yet, during this five years, the medical profession has done almost nothing effective to cope with the problems of over-prescribing.
I was interested in a leading article in the British Medical Journal this week. Referring to the hearing by the Disciplinary Committee of the General Medical Council in the case of Dr. Wood, it says:Despite the cases of Drs. Petro and Swann, and despite the fact that Doctor Wood had been named two years ago in an article in the News of the World on doctors over-prescribing hard drugs, Doctor Wood had gone on supplying addicts month after month and the police had been powerless to stop him.It is clear that the G.M.C. did not see that it had any great role to pursue. Its president said, according to the article:This Council is not required to act as, if I may so put it, a police authority for the medical profession.So I say, with this article in the Journal, that the profession… should not be surprised that the Misuse of Drugs Bill contains provisions giving the Home Secretary power to suspend a doctor's right to prescribe certain classes of drugs.But I should have preferred the profession to put its own house in order. I am a little concerned about the extent to which, in various spheres of activity, we keep putting power into the hands of tribunals outside the courts. We are doing it again here. I would rather see the proceedings go through the courts, or, if not, remain in the hands of the profession. I agree again with that article when it says:Only if the profession's own court is seen to function well can it oppose the proliferation of other non-judicial bodies to carry out tasks which are properly its own.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
Perhaps I have not followed the hon. Gentleman, but, if he is arguing that he would not like these powers put into the hands of tribunals, but rather going 1513 through the courts, would I be wrong in thinking that the provisions of the Bill will enable the Home Secretary ultimately to pursue any offenders in the courts, whereas, if what the hon. Gentleman was advocating prevailed, it would be the General Medical Council, which is exactly the kind of tribunal which he would be doubtful about giving too much power to?
§ Dr. Winstanley
I am not sure that I follow that argument. There is room for the courts here, but if we want to deal effectively with the problem of over-prescribing effective steps must be taken by the medical profession. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman accepts this. We must accept that we cannot do away with all the drugs which are potentially addictive. We cannot do away with all the drugs which might have various side effects and dangers. We must accept that, if a drug has powerful therapeutic effects, it is almost certain to have powerful side-effects. One of those side-effects could be its potential for creating addiction.
Let us remember that we are dealing with a very large and complex field. There are about 5,000 different drugs in normal therapeutic use. Of these, about 1,500 are effectively different therapeutic substances. The other 3,500 are mixtures or different doses in different quantities. Of those 1,500, about 400 are substances acting on the central nervous system. It is these with which we are concerned.
We are concerned in particular with drugs which fall into three main groups. The first are what I would call the response-reducers, like phenobarbitone—and also alcohol, incidentally, which diminishes the responses. The second I would call the response-enhancers, like amphetamine, for which I believe there is now, on increasing evidence, no real therapeutic necessity. This is a drug which we can get rid of, whereas we could not get rid of the barbiturates without causing great suffering in the therapeutic sphere. The third group are what I would call the experience-exchangers—L.S.D. and so on, the hallucinogens. In this field also, fall the hard drugs like heroin and the opiates.
Let us remember also that there are roughly two million people in this country 1514 dependent on regular medication by a non-specific kind of therapeutic agent. These factors should be calculated. I am not talking about the people with diabetes, who need insulin, or anyone with a chronic disease needing certain kinds of treatment, but about the two million people who appear to be dependent on some form of regular medication—be it phenobarbitone to quieten them down, amphetamines to wake them up or a tonic.
This does two things. First, it shows the extent of the danger in the amount of drugs circulating. Second, it points to the inadequacy of humanity at present in coping with its environment—or it may point to the inadequacies in the environment, which make it virtually intolerable to large numbers of people. These are things which we must clearly bear in mind. We must remember too—I am glad that we have done this today—to stop looking just at the drugs. We must look beyond their therapeutic action and properties at the nature of the individual who becomes addicted and the nature of his environment. All three things must be considered if we are to do the real job.
In the long run, while legislation of this kind is necessary and will help by reducing the pool of drugs which are available, the only ultimate security which can be obtained by any of us on behalf of our children is to see to it in some way that they live in a kind of environment which does not subject them to the pressures under which they succumb to these temptations, or, alternatively, to see that they grow up the kind of individuals who can withstand temptations.
We must think also of the kind of environment in which they live and the influence of the group. We must think of the effects upon teenagers of what becomes necessary and popular and a mode of group behaviour. We must think carefully of what we say about their activities and the possibility of what we say being counter-productive, when doing the opposite becomes almost a demonstration of maturity. No one in this House should go away with the idea that introducing efficient and effective legislation about the availability of drugs and then enforcing it, however vigorously, 1515 will answer this problem, because it will not.
I am naturally concerned about treatment and I am also involved in it. While there may be a marginal rôle for compulsion in certain cases, it would be absolute folly to assume that one can deal with this whole problem by some kind of compulsory treatment. There may be scope among a small number of hard drug addicts, for some element of compulsion at some stage, but compulsion is not the way to deal with the whole problem. In our attitude to treatment, we must begin to be a little more flexible.
I am particularly concerned about a case brought to me by another hon. Member, the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), who asked me to deal with the case of a constituent of his. Dr. Eugenie Cheesmond, a psychiarist at the Parkside Hospital, Macclesfield. I have investigated the case along with the hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. Will Griffiths). I discovered—I have had letters from many people, including people of great distinction and reliability in university life and so on. showing clearly—that Dr. Cheesmond, by a very interesting and unusual approach, has been able to cure a large number of hard-drug addicts by a scheme of treatment which seems almost revolutionary by taking them into her home, treating them charitably, humanely and with great understanding, but without any form of substitution therapy, with the use of no drugs at all. She did this at Macclesfield and the hospital was about to build her a purpose-built clinic to house those young people. Because of delay in making that purpose-built accommodation available, she took the young people into her house.
Objections were raised, I understand, by people who did not fully understand what she was doing. It has been suggested that even the police raised objections that a number of young drug addicts were assembled in that way and that this lady was harbouring them. She was treating them, and successfully. As the Minister and other hon. Members know, she was later suspended from duty. There was a disciplinary hearing to decide whether, because of Press reports, she had brought the local hospital into disrepute. In the end she was exonerated 1516 of the charge and reinstated in her post. Having been reinstated, however, she has not been allowed to continue her work in treating drug addicts.
I have a letter from the Joint Under-Secretary of State which ends by saying:I only hope that she may find some opportunity to be of service to drug addicts elsewhere.I hope so, too. I hope that the Minister will find a way of enabling this lady, who has done such excellent work in curing drug addicts, to carry on with that work instead of being thwarted by, I believe, professional and, perhaps, other kinds of suspicion merely because her methods were unorthodox.
I should like to say a word about the reasoned Amendment, which bears my name, concerning tobacco. This is in relation to our credibility. I would never suggest that this House could pass legislation to ban smoking. This House should aim to keep its legislation in accordance with public opinion at the time. We should try to lead public opinion and to establish the right climate. But we cannot ban smoking, at least while we have our present attitude to it. We must start to show that smoking is an extraordinary habit which we have all developed, grown up with and become accustomed to and which we now regard as quite normal. It is that kind of attitude which destroys our credibility in the eyes of young people, who cannot differentiate between smoking tobacco and smoking pot.
Therefore, by putting down the Amendment, we merely seek to indicate that we in this House are aware that tobacco kills 75,000 people in this country every year, that it is, therefore, on the whole a very undesirable thing to consume and that we hope that presently the public will learn to accept this.
We are asking for the legislation, which was promised to control advertising, and to control promotional activities like coupons—not to regulate the labelling of packets; that was included in a later Measure by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), but certainly I would welcome that, too.
Of course, we will not vote against the Bill, but I hope that in tabling the reasoned Amendment we have at least drawn attention to the inconsistency of the existing position.
1517 When we look at the magnitude of the problem, not simply in this country, but the world over, we have from time to time to pause and begin to wonder whether the human experiment has been an outstanding success. We have to wonder how, in some way, we have created a kind of environment in which more and more people find it almost impossible to exist without some kind of artificial prop or support.
I believe that we will only solve this immense problem by looking at the basic causes, by looking more clearly at the individual and his environment and at the kind of stresses and strains which exist. I hope that in the meantime, in dealing with the availability of drugs, we will at least continue to look at the whole problem with compassion, humanity and understanding. If we merely look at it as something that we can deal with by means of penal legislation, as certain as night follows day we will fail.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
We are discussing this evening one of the more disturbing manifestations of what is called the permissive society. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), in a most thoughtful speech, which I enjoyed and with most of which I agreed, said that he would not deal with that at this point in time. Surely, however, those of us who are interested as legislators and representatives of people in our constituencies are deeply concerned in this House not only with the technical out-fall, as it were, of drug-taking, but also of the moral consequences which lie behind it.
In several speeches which I have been privileged to hear by other hon. Members, on both sides, one has been asked not to get hysterical about this. I would be the last person to get hysterical about most things, but I want to be rational about it. If this House means anything at all in the life of the nation, it should be a sounding board for at least a pronouncement on the moral aspects of questions like this.
At the beginning of this century, the great German philosopher, Spengler, wrote a book called "The Decline of the West", which, no doubt, many of my colleagues have read. He dealt with many of the factors which, in his opinion, were 1518 undermining the whole basis of Western civilisation, of which we have been proud since the days of the Renaissance.
I was considerably influenced by that book because although it was a gloomy and introspective book, it at least proclaimed that once men had lost faith in the old moralities, faith perhaps in conventional religious institutions, faith in conventional leadership, which had been the picture of previous generations, and faith in democratic institutions; when they lost that basic faith and loyalty, some central loyalty to the society in which they lived, either loyalty to their country, to their Church, if they were religious-minded people, or even to their party if they had political views; once the basis of their central loyalty to something collapsed, the basis of authority on which rested any moral behaviour also collapsed. Speaking from memory, that is a fair summary, as roughly as I can put it, of those ideas.
Probably Spengler never anticipated that 50 years later the world would he facing another manifestation of the decline of Western civilisation—the resort to drugs—which one does not wish to magnify or exaggerate. It is not so bad, perhaps, in Western Europe as it is in the North American continent, judging by what we read and the sources available to us. Nevertheless, it is a very disturbing phenomenon.
In my opinion, if I dare to say something undogmatic and, perhaps, exploratory as my own outlook on these matters, that phenomenon is at least a symptom of the fact that large numbers of young people in particular, who are likely to be the worst victims of drug addiction if they take to it early in life and ruin their lives—it may be a symptom that the kind of society that we have created for ourselves, the technological society with speed, wealth and affluence even and in which we have all wished to increase the standard of living and wish to increase it still further; if we have created a society which provides no ultimate satisfactions to mankind in terms of security for the future, where mankind is exposed to the constant threat of extermination by all the diabolical weapons of mass destruction which the world has invented in the atomic age, this would instil in mankind, particularly in the young, who are mostly intelligent and think deeply 1519 of these things, for which we do not give them enough credit, the thought that we have little future in this sort of world, in this kind of rat race, which offers rich prizes to those who are lucky in the rat race, and perhaps, an all-pervading anonymity on those who are not so successful, the sort of society in which life does not hold any real values of worth-while moral objectives for those who happen to have been born in the present generation. May not this background account for this atavistic, nihilistic behaviour?
I apologise for developing this theme for longer than I had intended, but I believe that this lies at the root of the evil. I believe that young people, particularly in the universities, are finding a certain environment where the avant-garde is more likely to be found than in the more humble walks of life.
§ Mr. Price
I have been addressing the House for less than five minutes, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that many hon. Members wish to speak, and I am merely briefly outlining what I regard as the background to this Second Reading.
I hope that hon. Members will join me in giving every support to the Home Secretary to maintain some kind of legislative control over the kind of drug addiction which is becoming such a social evil in this country. But while we do everything legislatively to alleviate the difficulties and to arrest the progress of those young people who are on the downward path, I do not delude myself with the belief that people can be made virtuous by legislation. We have our differences across the Floor of the House about many subjects, although not about this, but we all agree that we cannot legislate for virtue.
1520 The onward march of mankind to a higher concept of what life is about, the life of beauty, truth and goodness of which Plato spoke more than 2,000 years ago, the objectives which inspired the early Socialists and other radical thinkers are not for those who take drugs. Those who need confirmation of what happens to drug addicts need only read a book famous in English letters and written 100 years ago by Thomas De Quincey—"The Opium Eaters". It was written in my native Lancashire, in Greenheys just behind what is now Manchester University. It shows the disintegration of a human being, of a human personality, as a result of the impact of hard drug taking—opiates in those days before anybody had thought of pot. Anybody who now thinks of taking pot should read that book.
The hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) is now the only hon. Member present who is a practising member of the British Medical Association. He has reminded us of the new drugs which have been invented and which are now filling the chests of thousands of doctors throughout the country. We have been reminded by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) of the startling fact that the number of barbiturates legitimately dispensed by doctors all over the country runs into 25 million to 26 million a year—I included the other figures which he mentioned. This is to meet the administrative convenience of doctors who do not want to prescribe too frequently, but who over-prescribe every day of the week. It is this reservoir of over-prescribing which forms much the basis on which much of the drug traffic rests.
I am advised that the so-called soft drugs, cannabis, pot, or marijuana, have no therapeutic use in medicine. They are clearly being imported in large quantities by all kinds of devices—concealed in motor cars or in the holds of ships. We require our Customs officers to take resolute action to prevent the smuggling of drugs, the most venal dirty traffic in the world and only partially controlled by the International Drug Control Commission which has operated from Geneva for at least 40 years.
Now we have a great rash of the traffic all over the world because of the fantastic rewards to be gained by the awful 1521 people who sell the stuff in all the ports of Europe. Some hon. Members are a little soft-hearted. An example is the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) who has now left the Chamber. He imagines that it is possible to sustain the libertarian argument, that if people are prosecuted under the existing law or under the strengthened law of the Bill, we interfere with human liberty. I completely reject that thesis. I am as staunch a supporter of human liberty as any hon. Member here, but I distinguish clearly between the abstract ethical argument about human liberty and the bogus libertarian argument which is often foisted upon us in defence of things that cannot be defended.
I welcome what the Home Secretary is doing in the Bill, limited though it is. I wish him every success in his effort and I hope that he will not weaken in face of the kind of avant-garde representations which may be put to him by the Wootton Committee or anybody else.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) feels very deeply about this subject, as do all hon. Members. There are many things that disturb me, many social problems confronting the country which disturb me. We are all disturbed by the great increase in organised crime, by the increased violence at political or quasi-political demonstrations, by the increasing signs that freedom of speech, even at universities, is interfered with by a minority. All these social problems concern us all deeply.
But the social problem which causes me a genuine and chilling fear is the increase of drug addiction. Cold fear is struck into my heart when I see what is happening. What is needed is not a raising of the temperature, but a deepening of concern. All the resources of the State, of the medical profession, the teachers and others, must be mobilised to tackle the problem.
I do not think that I shall be accused of using exaggerated language, especially in view of the situation in America. A plethora of material about the American situation is available. Some facets have already been mentioned. When I was doing some research for my speech. I was struck by certain facts. For example, in New York alone on average three 1522 heroin addicts die every day—one of them a teenager. According to Dr. Dupont, head of the Narcotics Treatment Agency, there are in Washington alone no fewer than 15,000 heroin addicts, of whom at least half are juveniles. In a recent survey conducted in a Washington prison, no less than 45 per cent. of those coming in were found to be heroin addicts, and their average age was 19. It is estimated that half of what we would call indictable crime in New York has a connection with drugs. Those are very alarming figures. We must strive to see that the same sort of situation does not occur here.
Even more worrying than the bare statistics I have just mentioned are the facts given in a recent article in The Times, entitled,The Teenage Heroin Epidemic That Has Alarmed the United States".It said that teachers in the United States arefrightened of the addict and terrified of the pusher".One teacher was quoted as saying,You don't tangle with a suspected pusher. It is dangerously big business.That is a terrifying situation. I was marginally reassured, but no more, by what the Home Secretary said about the absence of Mafia-type influence in the whole drug set-up in this country. This does not mean that we must for a moment relax our vigilance over the possibility of a Mafia-type control of the whole ghastly drug trade. The situation in America must not be allowed to develop here.
The increased penalties in the Bill for trafficking in drugs do not make any substantial contribution to combatting the problem, save to mark society's determination to see that those convicted of the murderous offence of pushing hard drugs will meet condign punishment when they are caught. Even this will have very limited effect if steps are not taken at the same time to strengthen the police, and particularly the Drug Squad. I hope that we shall hear something at later stages of the Bill about such steps.
I think that most hon. Members agree that the Bill is right to divide the drugs involved into three categories and provide differing punishments for offences relating to each. However, I remain very surprised and disappointed that it has still been thought right to exclude the barbiturates from the categories set out 1523 in the Schedules. I recognise that they have a very wide and valuable medical use, but why should it not be perfectly appropriate to make it an offence to deal in them outside the legitimate medical framework, and perhaps to be in possession of them if they have not been properly prescribed?
The Home Secretary said that it was only recently that the problem of the barbiturates had been brought to his attention. I find that very surprising. In the very valuable Penguin Special on drugs by Mr. Peter Laurie there is a reference to an editorial in the Lancet in 1954, which said that the barbiturates weretrue drugs of addictioncausing a risk that wasthe least appreciated and most sinisterIt is surprising and disappointing that the Home Secretary should only have heard of these difficulties only recently. I realise that there have been additional complications to the matter, and that it is made more desperately urgent because of the use of these drugs by injection rather than in other ways. But the problem has been with us for a long time and in his book, published in 1967, Peter Laurie points out that in many ways addiction to barbiturates is more pernicious than heroin.
§ Mr. Ogden
The hon. Gentleman criticises my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for not taking action sooner, but as he made his criticism so strongly I am entitled to ask him why a succession of Conservative Home Secretaries did not take action between 1954 and 1964. That is a much longer period than that for which my right hon. Friend has had responsibility for the matter.
§ Mr. Buck
The hon. Gentleman may well be right. I do not say that everything done by a past Home Secretary was absolutely right. It might well have been appropriate to act way back then. I am making no party point, though if I were seeking to do so I could make it more strongly against the present Home Secretary than Home Secretaries some years ago before the problem was so great. I was expressing my disappointment that it has not been thought proper to include barbiturates in the provisions of the Bill. Even if I am wrong about that, it is legitimate criticism of the present Home 1524 Secretary, and possibly past Home Secretaries, that it was not thought appropriate to refer the matter to a committee of the Wootton type.
We had the original report on cannabis a little while ago. Since then we have had a report on amphetamines and L.S.D. Why has not the problem of barbiturates, which advisers in the Home Office must have known was increasing, been referred to a committee, especially as it is a particularly pernicious form of addiction?
The effects of addiction to barbiturates are horrific. The withdrawal symptoms are even more "catastrophic"—the word Mr. Laurie uses—than the symptoms of withdrawal from heroin. Mr. Laurie describes withdrawal as follows:During the first sixteen hours the patient appears to improve, becomes more coherent and behaves better. Then he becomes apprehensive and progressively weaker so that he can hardly stand; his hands and face begin to shake, and if his forehead is tapped above the bridge of the nose, his eyelids flutter uncontrollably …After the next stage psychoses begin. The patient may seelittle people, giants, absent relatives, animals, insects, birds, snakes, fish and so on;The withdrawal symptoms of those being weaned from this type of addiction certainly sound quite as horrific as those in the case of heroin, if not more so.
Taking barbiturates is the most popular form of attempting suicide, and it is second to coal gas as the most successful form. So in Committee I hope that we shall hear a lot more about why it has not been thought appropriate to deal with barbiturates and also why it was decided not to refer the matter much earlier to close investigation. I am disappointed that the Bill does not deal with this aspect. One of the earlier committees on this problem estimated that enough of the drug was distributed each year to provide 20 tablets per head for the population. There is wide distribution and a bad addiction.
I approve of the idea of division into various categories of drugs. Similarly, I am in sympathy with the division of offences into trafficking and possession. But the House should not delude itself into thinking that this change will have a very marked effect. In dealing wth possession of drugs up to now, the courts have 1525 taken into consideration such a distinction. Sentencing has been very much on that sort of basis. A person who has only had a small quantity of, say, cannabis on him has rarely gone to prison, whereas a person with a large quantity on him—enough, say, to make 500 reefer cigarettes—has generally received a substantial sentence because the judge will have investigated whether trafficking has been going on. The sentence will have been on the basis of trafficking if the person has been found with a substantial quantity on him. Even given substantial terms of imprisonment, however, I do not think that the categorisation in the Bill will make much difference, and in Committee we shall want to study closely the wording of these provisions because of certain difficulties which could arise and which might even assist the trafficker in drugs. In principle, however, to emphasise the difference between mere possession and trafficking is right.
Another aspect which disappoints me a little is that we have heard so little about what it is proposed to do about the appropriate provisions dealing with research. It is disappointing to find that the Preamble to the Bill states that it is proposed, at least ab initio, to spend only about £10,000 on research. The whole theme of the debate, perhaps more than any other, has been emphasis towards the need for additional research and knowledge. When one discovers that only about £10,000 is to be spent on research, one wonders whether even now great urgency is being shown by the Government towards the problem, which is, or is likely to be, of awful dimensions if we do not take considerable steps of a fundamental character to tackle it so that we can prevent arising in this country the terrible situation which exists in the United States.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on his speech. It was very humane. He took a broad and sympathetic view of a serious problem, and throughout the debate, from both sides, great concern and compassion have been shown for those who become hooked on drugs, hard or soft.
The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) spoke with some knowledge of the 1526 position in the United States. Fortunately, our situation is not as serious as that. Nevertheless, one does not wish to become complacent. On the other hand, one does not want to panic, either. One has to steer a difficult course between the two extremes. In the United States, as the hon. Gentleman said, drug trafficking has reached a highly lucrative situation, particularly in some of the large cities. What horrifies me absolutely is the addiction among school children in the United States. For example, it has been stated that from five to 100 children in every New York high school are on heroin—this is apart from those on other kinds of drugs—and that 224 teenagers die each year from heroin in New York. That is an appalling situation and we cannot be complacent about what happens here. It is becoming one of our most disturbing social problems and is growing considerably.
I have taken a considerable interest in the problem of drug addiction since 1965. In August, 1966, I raised the matter on an Adjournment debate, and have been looking up the figures I quoted then. The number of addicts known to the Home Office in 1959 was 454; the figure for 1965 was 927—roughly double. The 1970 figure is likely to be 2,782 registered addicts and this means that there has been a threefold increase since 1965, which is a very much more rapid rate of increase than formerly. What is even more horrifying is that there are likely to be 764 addicts under the age of 20—a fivefold increase over the 1965 figure. Of this number, 709 are on heroin. This is a measure of the seriousness of the rate of increase of this appalling social problem. That is what concerns me most of all.
I know that hon. Members are concerned about smoking and alcohol addiction, but drug addiction is something which affects young people. Three of the things that one can say about drug addicts in Britain are that practically all of them are white, that all of them are British-born and that all of them are under 25. One can say those things with certainty. Most of the alcohol addicts are middle- aged or elderly. [An HON. MEMBER: "Careful."] I had better not say anything about hon. Members. I am not so much concerned about middle-aged men as I am about young people, school 1527 children, who are hooked on hard drugs. I know that this causes my right hon. Friend as much concern as it causes me.
I support the increased powers which my right hon. Friend proposes. One of the most important aspects is that which deals with over-prescribing by doctors. There are two sources of supply of drugs for the black market, apart from the traffickers who bring drugs into the country—these are over-prescribing by doctors and burglary or breaking into chemists' and manufacturers' premises.
My right hon. Friend has had a great deal of patience with the medical profession and I support entirely in the measures he now feels it necessary to take. The hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), the only doctor who has spoken in the debate, when he quoted from a professional article, told the House what the position is. He said that it is up to the medical profession to put its house in order. But it has shown a singular lack of interest and alacrity in taking steps to deal with the problem, and my right hon. Friend is entirely justified in what he proposes to do about it. In view of the Swann and Petro cases, it is abominable that other members of an honoured and honourable profession should follow this dreadful path and should not have ceased over-prescribing, which has supplied enormous quantities of hard and soft drugs to the black market. No one will quarrel with what my right hon. Friend proposes to do about doctors who over-prescribe.
I also support what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary wants to do to ensure that the safeguards are not used unwisely or irresponsibly. Although one worries about the plethora of advisory committees and tribunals of all kinds which are constituted, we should support the committee which he proposes to set up, because it will provide a safeguard against the unwise use of the Bill.
Another point concerns the security of premises. I raised this matter five years ago and I was assured that regulations were being drawn up to cover this problem. Whenever one reads the annual reports of chief constables, one finds that a considerable number of cases of breaking and entering chemists' shops, for example, are brought to light. The Chief Constable for the West Midlands reported 1528 that last year there were 13 such cases and that in the main the drugs which are stolen are amphetamines. This indicates that the link with the young person who dillies and dallies with drugs—first as an experimental kick and then going on to hard drugs—is stolen amphetamines. This is a lucrative source of supply. I am pleased to say that in the West Midlands last year 12 cases were detected and action was taken.
I support up to the hilt the increased penalties which my right hon. Friend proposes for the pushers of drugs. No only increased fines but tough prison sentences should be the lot of people who are caught putting other people on drugs. This is a most dreadful and heinous thing to do, particularly with children at school. There are undoubtedly pushers who are supplying drugs to school children. They are not necessarily other young people or school children. It will be difficult for my right hon. Friend to identify people who are doing the pushing and for whom prison sentences are necessary and indeed essential.
I support hon. Members on both sides of the House who have spoken about the rather curious omission of barbiturates from the Schedule to the Bill. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) mentioned the enormous number of prescriptions for barbiturates. I understand that about 17 million prescriptions for barbiturates, are dispensed every year and that is about 7 per cent. of all National Health Service prescriptions. About 3,000 people die in this country every year from drug poisoning, and 2,000 of them die from barbiturate poisoning.
I should have thought that it was fairly well proved that there is a good deal of knowledge about barbiturates and that it is not a new problem. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that what is new is the latest development of mainlining barbiturates which have been dissolved in water or boiled milk and which are often used with heroin mainlining, which is absolutely horrifying. The over-prescribing and over-consumption of and death from barbiturates are known factors, and they put a considerable burden on the National Health Service, because about 2 per cent. of all the people admitted to hospital each year are admitted for barbiturate poisoning. I hope that my right hon. Friend will act 1529 quickly in putting babiturates in the Schedule.
I understand that one of the most horrifying experiences of doctors and nurses in hospital casualty departments occurs when patients are brought in suffering from the enhanced and potentiated effect of barbiturates used with heroin and other drugs. It is difficult to deal with these cases. It is clear that there are the same sources of supply of drugs under this heading as of other hard drugs. They are obtained only by doctor's prescription or by breaking into the premises where they are stored, and I do not exclude hospital pharmacies from that. A considerable responsibility rests on the medical profession, and my right hon. Friend is reinforced in the action which he has taken.
What I do not understand in connection with the over-prescribing of drugs is why my right hon. Friend did not act on the proposal of the chemists' organisation, the Pharmaceutical Society, which, I understand, recommended to him that a central record should be kept of all prescriptions for drugs liable to misuse. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State would say why my right hon. Friend rejected that advice by experts who know all that there is to know about the handling and mishandling of drugs. After all, this body represents most of the pharmacist—about 30,000 of them—who have to deal with the hazards of their profession and job vis-à-vis those who are out to get drugs illegally and who are closely concerned with the way in which the medical profession is using and misusing drugs. They see the prescription forms. Such a record would be kept of doctors working under the National Health Service and doctors prescribing privately where there is obviously an enormous amount of over-prescribing. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend to give thought to this matter.
In the area with which I am particularly concerned, the West Midlands, most of the arrests for the possession of drugs brought to the notice of the police in 1969 concerned cannabis. There were 98 arrests, compared with 67 arrests in 1968. Of those, 83 were for unlawfully possessing cannabis and only two for supplying it. It appears that the use of cannabis in the West Midlands, 1530 as in the London area, is increasing, although I do not say that my right hon. Friend should have gone further in removing the use of cannabis from all control. There is much that one does not know about the effect of cannabis on areas of the brain and on the deterioration of the personality. A great deal more research is needed into the effect of cannabis, as indeed more research is needed on many other drugs.
I am concerned about the way in which we treat young people who are found in possession of hard and soft drugs. Three years ago my Sub-Committee of the Estimates Committee did an extensive investigation into prisons, borstals and detention centres, and two years ago our report was debate in the House. During the investigation we visited many prisons, borstals and detention centres in England and Scotland. It was brought home most powerfully to us that prison is not the place in which to put drug addicts, and that detention centres are not places to which to send young people who are arrested for the possession of drugs. The people who take drugs are, almost without exception, all highly disturbed people. They are not normal people, otherwise they would not take drugs. I cannot emphasise too strongly that highly disturbed youngsters should not be sent to detention centres, and I hope that the advice which has been given to my right hon. Friend by the Advisory Committee will not be followed.
Boys who are admitted to Borstal for various offences need much more diagnosis. As has been said, in Hong Kong even youngsters who are charged with stealing bicycles are automatically tested for drugs. This has been done here in a pilot scheme, and it was found that as many as 30 per cent, of a borstal intake had experience of drugs. This shows that young people brought into borstals should automatically have a urine test to find out whether they have been on drugs.
Once it is shown that there is a history of drug addiction, the next thing is treatment. To prison system is not able to treat addicts who go into prison or borstals, or women going into Holloway. There are not enough psychiatrists to give the constant care and attention which drug addicts need for any kind of treatment. There are not enough doctors 1531 in the prison medical service. After discharge from prison, there are not enough probation officers and after-care facilities. Above all, there are not enough hostels in which young people who have had cures effected within the prison system can have continuation of care, treatment and supervision before finally going back into ordinary life. On discharge from prison or borstal people often go back to the place where they were previously able to get their supplies of drugs, so that the treatment carried out within the prison system is a waste of time and scarce, skilled, trained staff.
There is an enormous need for much more preventive and curative work to be done within the prison system, but this means spending much more money. My right hon. Friend may not be very popular if he asks the House for money for prisons and prisoners. Some people would regard that as a wicked waste of money, when there are so many other causes on which the money could be spent. But we are concerned with rescuing the young from drug addiction, and most reasonable and sensible people feel that this is money which should be spent and which would be well spent.
We do not have enough establishments like Feltham. The doctors working there are enthusiastic and dedicated, but they are also frustrated. Of more than 300 boys who needed psychiatric guidance and supervision, it was possible to provide only for less than one-third of them and they were unable even to give sufficient guidance to that one-third. We need to take a complete new look at the way the medical service is deployed within the prison system as a whole, the psychiatrists, the medical psychologists and the social workers, to see whether we are using the limited resources we have to the best effect in the right area.
My right hon. Friend should be courageous about asking for money for his service. He should attempt to be generous in helping voluntary organisations which have set up hospitals and advisory centres like the very good addiction advisory service, the Association for Prevention of Addiction, that is providing help and guidance to many young people and their parents who go in need of it. If we can provide more hostels 1532 under skilled direction, this is one way of helping to rescue young people who are not in a position to get that sort of help today.
Therefore, I support what my hon. Friend said in his speech and support the Bill, with the reservations that I have made. If I have the opportunity to sit on the Committee that considers the Bill there are one or two areas in which I should like to see Amendments made, but certainly the Bill will provide great help to many young people in need of it.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) was brave to examine the possible repercussions of this Bill on the penal system. I had not intended to dwell on that aspect. I want to suggest that the House should look at the Bill from two points of view and it would be fair to mention first the one on which, it would seem to me, the verdict of the House would be most complementary.
The Bill is timely and valuable in one particular respect. I am sure that the Mafia is moving in. I thought that the Home Secretary was over-complacent about that, though I hope that I am being over-pessimistic. But the Mafia is being harried in the United States and is looking for new fields. It has had a setback in its plans for profiting from the gambling industry in this country and is ready and waiting to switch to the drug traffic. Therefore, the Bill, in making penalties more severe, is helpful and good. But it is no use just writing penalties into Bills. Everything will depend on the police and the way in which the provisions of the Bill are enforced and the degree to which it is possible for the police to develop the special kinds of skill and experience necessary to deal with the kind of people who are behind the big international drug traffic. I hope the Bill will be fully exploited by the police in that respect.
Apart from that aspect, the Bill—and I do not mean this unkindly to the Home Secretary—is comparatively useless and irrelevant. It is as useless as applying face powder to the pustules in a case of smallpox. It is purely cosmetic, purely negative and useless in comparison with the only kind of treatment which will 1533 cure the underlying ill which is the occasion of this Bill, and that is vaccinatory treatment. That is a much deeper process than any purely penal matter can possibly be. It is that metaphor involving the difference between cosmetics and vaccine which is at the heart of the whole secret of success or failure of this House and any Government in influencing the health of society.
What we are concerned with in the Bill—and we are only touching the outer fringe of it—is the greatest single social and moral change that has ever affected any civilised society. The phenomenon of the pot and drug cult will affect the future of every single person under the age of 25, more than any other single factor that has ever affected any generation in history. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) was right in saying that this Bill, and the problem which gives rise to it, is essentially about young children and their future.
In trying to form a proper judgment on the Bill and how far it can help us, there are three things to consider. We need to know more. We are desperately ignorant about this whole subject. We need to be more vigilant. And we need to be more effective, in a way in which the Bill cannot possibly presume to claim to be effective.
We need to know more about the long-term psychological effects of cannabis and the degree to which it affects different people, bearing in mind that it affects people in different ways in different circumstances. We need to know more about the state of mind, the attitude and the psychic difficulties of those to whom the pot cult is a new way, a new hope of assuaging their suicidal despair. The Journal of Social Psychiatry, in its autumn, 1968, edition had an extremely penetrating and well-informed article on the motives which made young people take to pot. We need to know more of the kind of reality which that article was exploring.
We need to know to what extent drugs, and what drugs, are truly different in kind from the age-old narcotics with which mankind has always sought to palliate his neuroses and psychoses. My right hon. Friend was very wise when he said that, unless the whole attitude of the Legislature and the Government to drugs 1534 in general and pot in particular can be made credible, we can only discredit the House and the whole of society in the attitude that we take to them.
We need to know more. The only crime is indifference. Prejudice is greatly preferable to indifference, better than nothing. We have plenty of prejudice. My own prejudice is that cannabis leads to heroin. I think that even the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) will allow me that prejudice.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson
The hon. Gentleman may indeed claim that prejudice. I go further and say that it was my own until I looked at the evidence.
§ Mr. Iremonger
One may find that one's prejudice is mistaken. But we do not know and, until we know, we are not really able to cope with the underlying difficulty that this Bill faces.
The only possible basis on which we can legislate is that of knowledge conscientiously gained and dispassionately assessed. We do not have that knowledge. I hope that in one respect, as I will indicate a little later, the Bill will be positively helpful to us in our efforts to know a little more.
I say that we must be more vigilant. My right hon. Friend said that we must know more about what is happening in schools and youth clubs. He then implied that, to a large extent, we do not want to know. At the moment, I am engaged in an exercise in connection with the Bill which exemplifies the dangerous kind of complacency which prevails. I am sending a circular letter to the heads of all the secondary schools in my constituency, to the leaders of all the youth organisations and to other appropriate people, such as the head of the technical college, the president of the students' union and so on, asking for comments on both the background and the details of the Bill. I am hoping to gather those comments not only from those to whom I have addressed the circular but also, if it is possible to ascertain them, from the staff and pupils in the schools.
The origin of my attempt to make this contact is a talk which I gave only a short time ago to a first-class youth organisation in my constituency at a meeting attended by about 30 young 1535 people of the Voluntary Service Overseas type, in the course of which I opened my mind to them and tried to gain their reactions to matters of common concern.
They were aggressively confident that Parliament was irrelevant to the problems of the day and that they were not consulted in matters which had a direct bearing on them. I said, "Let us consider how far Parliament is irrelevant to the situation of people under 25". I mentioned abortion, divorce and drugs, three subjects absolutely at the centre of the life, individually and collectively, of the generation coming to maturity now.
They conceded that the matter of drugs was important. I said, "This is as much your responsibility as mine. What do you think about it?" I am, therefore, trying to gain, from the people most directly concerned in my constituency, knowledge of their reaction to the proposals in the Bill. My initiative has so far had a somewhat mixed reception. To some extent it has been welcomed, but I hope that it will be welcomed generally.
Doubts have been expressed whether this is a good thing to do. Some say, "There is no problem of drugs among the youth of Ilford. We need not be concerned about this. It is a pity to put ideas into people's minds. Let us keep the party clean". I thought this confidence touching, but I fear that it is the confidence of the ostrich.
This complacency, particularly by some parents, is widespread and can become dangerous. The beginning of the vigilance in this matter is to invite active participation—I think that is the fashionable word—in assessing and solving the problem from the generation most directly affected by it with most experience of it. That is the first prerequisite of success.
Concern of this kind by hon. Members will not always be welcomed. Indeed, it may be resented. I suggested to the head of a school that I should discuss merely constitutional problems with senior pupils. I was told that my visit would be unwelcome and that, when the presence of a "politician" was required, I would be informed. Hon. Members 1536 are used to being insulted by experts and that sort of thing does not cause us personal distress. It indicates, however, that attempts to establish contact with those most affected by the problems which the Bill is designed to cope with will not always we well received. In that respect the Bill cannot help, though the Home Secretary cannot be blamed for that.
What are we to do? How are we to be effective, and to what extent can the Bill help us with the fundamental difficulties? My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) put his finger on it when he used the dread word "education". Most problems usually result in those who are trying to solve them using that word. It is sometimes a facile recipe. Indeed, I have come to the conclusion that nobody can be educated. I am profoundly convinced, however, that people can, and frequently do, educate themselves. It is possible to give some slight encouragement to people to educate themselves; and in the end they will be educated, so we need not put too fine a point upon it.
In this respect, Clause 32 is most seminal, hopeful and constructive. This is the Clause which will allow for research. The proper vaccine, as opposed to cosmetic, approach consists in education, but I have little confidence that we have any idea of how such education should be achieved, and we need research to find out. I hope that one of the first objectives of the research and experiment to be conducted will be to evolve a technique of education which will help to solve the problem which has caused this phenomenon of the pot cult. How are people educated so as to form values, standards and inner convictions.
I am not, myself, by any means certain how to educate people in this respect. But I am absolutely certain how not to educate them, with any hope of success, in this respect. The way not to do it is for an authority figure to go down and say, "Do not take pot. Do not go on the needle". The result of that sort of technique will be that those who are not going to take pot or go on the needle will not do so, and those who might do so certainly will.
There probably has to be a more subtle, more Socratic, more therapeutic community type of approach. It would 1537 not be appropriate to elaborate such concepts on Second Reading. I hope that the Home Secretary will examine possible methods, that the Secretary of State for Education and Science will concern himself with it too, and that this will be made the proper concern of the teacher training colleges. I should like to hope that the Select Committee, or at any rate its Sub-Committee on Teacher Training, will concern itself about it and make submissions to the House as to how the most effective educational process to save people from the pot way can be evolved and imparted to teachers under training.
Here the Bill can help, for this surely should be a prime function, under Clause 32, of the Advisory Council to be set up under Clause 1. The Home Secretary said that one of the functions of the Advisory Council would be to concern itself with education. I hope that this is the kind of education, the kind of concept it will develop and the kind of difficulty it will try to assess and solve.
That search for education to help the lost to find themselves is the only creative, constructive and radical approach to the problem of the pot society and the mystery of the sick yearning of the soul of which it surely must be a symptom.
Penalties in that sort of context—in that sort of perspective—are obviously only tinkering and trifling with the problem. We need only consider the experience of the United States. I was in the United States looking at American prisons, both in the States and federally, in 1965. The prisons there were full of drug offenders. I always reckon that what prevails in the United States will prevail here in anything from five to 15 years. One could see what was coming here. Now the drug problem is an all-pervading cancer in the United States; and there is no lack of laws and no lack of penalties there.
Therefore, though the penalties may be of some use if they can be enforced against professional peddlers, I do not think that they will go to the root of the problem of the disease. It is to the Bill's credit that Clauses 1 and 32 provide for experiment and research. It will be the duty of the House to be vigilant and zealous in ensuring that these opportunities are fully exploited.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) on his initiative in mailing copies of the Bill to headmasters, youth club leaders, and other people who are in contact with the younger generation. I like to think that other hon. Members will take a similar initiative in respect of what is undoubtedly a generational problem. In conversation, I find the permissive attitude to drugs which, in a sense, I do not share, is generational.
With my congratulations of the hon. Member I would couple a criticism of the Bill. It was published only on 11th March, so we have had a surprisingly short period of time in which to study it. I hope therefore that the Committee stage will be delayed in order to give the many interested parties an opportunity to study the terms of the Bill.
The Motion standing in my name and the names of other hon. Members draws attention to another scourge which I feel to be of far greater importance than that with which the Bill seeks to deal. I refer to tobacco smoking, with which I link alcoholism. It is outrageous that a form of drug addition, and that is how I regard tobacco smoking, which kills annually, according to the estimate of Sir George Godber, some 75,000 people, should not be dealt with more seriously by this Government.
I know that many hon. Members have said that we cannot legislate against smoking—I am realistic about that—but we can take steps to prevent people from starting the habit. I very much welcomed the initiative that was taken by the then Minister of Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), in his discussions with the tobacco industry, when he sought a voluntary agreement to restrict the level of tobacco advertising and other promotional activities. I also welcomed the decision taken by the Government in 1965 to ban the television advertising of cigarettes.
That being my attitude, I was glad to see the reply given to my hon. Friend who is now Joint Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security on 23rd October, 1967—and I underline 1539 that date. The then Minister of Health stated:After more than a year of negotiations, it is now clear that no further progress is possible by voluntary agreement. As hon. Members know, cigarette smoking is a serious danger to health and a major cause of preventable deaths. In view of this, the Government have decided to introduce legislation in due course to take powers to ban coupon gift schemes in relation to cigarettes, to control or ban other promotional schemes, to forbid or limit certain forms of cigarette advertising, and to limit expenditure on advertising of cigarettes".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1967; Vol. 751, c. 1328/]Since then several Parliamentary Questions have been put down to ask what progress is being made in this respect. The last Question on the subject was replied to on 3rd November, 1969, when the Minister responsible said that he had no intention of introducing legislation during the current Session.
I regard that reply as outrageous. Any Government should get its priorities right, and this is a matter which should be given a high priority. In conversations with Ministers responsible, the argument put forward has been that there is just a plain lack of parliamentary time. The necessary Bill is already drafted, and I am informed that if any hon. Member wished to have it as a Private Members Bill he would get Government assistance. The Government are not prepared to give time for a Measure to deal with a form of addiction that could have very considerable consequences on the health and well-being of the nation, whereas they are prepared to give parliamentary time for this present Measure, necessary though it may be. It is proper to have on record the concern felt by many hon. Members that the Government have not given proper priority to this Measure.
I want briefly to deal with the question of cannabis. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has stated the argument clearly. Like him, when I first thought about it I had a feeling of black horror. I could not understand the taking of drugs, particularly intravenously. I found it completely repellent. I regard any form of escapism as something to abominate—be it through alcohol or smoking.
I was extremely critical of those who approached me with a request to sign the advertisement which appeared in 1540 The Times on 24th July, 1967, which, among other things, called for the smoking of cannabis on private premises. Having looked at the Wootton Report and read other pieces of research on the problem I am not sure—I ask the House to note that I am not sure—I would come to the same conclusion to which I came when I was approached and asked to sign that advertisement.
I hope that hon. Members will make up their minds on the evidence. It is, therefore, proper to look at the evidence.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes) quoted the opinion of a drug administrator in New York. I should like to counter that by drawing attention to what I understand is a major study that was undertaken in the United States in 1944. Talking of cannabis, it concludes:It was not a significant addiction-producer itself, nor a serious channel to other addictions.This view is endorsed by work undertaken in this country, which is quoted in the Wootton Report, by Mr. Bender in his paper on drug addiction in adolescence. He writes that cannabisonly occasionally is followed by heroin usage, probably in those who would become heroin addicts as readily without marijuana.I gather that the effects of these two drugs are very different—the former is hallucinogenic and euphoriant, whereas heroin is a depressant.
If my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) were here, I would draw his attention to the research which has been undertaken, which I know has influenced his attitude to the smoking of cannabis, in which there does not appear to be evidence to suggest that the addiction or the practice—I gather there is no such thing as marijuana addiction—does not escalate. If there was the causal relationship which my hon. Friend asserted, one would find a more even distribution of registered heroin addicts. I am sure that the Home Secretary will confirm that three-quarters of the registered heroin addicts on the Home Office list live in London. No one would assert that three-quarters of those who consume cannabis live in London. Therefore, that figure is significant.
Similarly, one would not expect to find that under 3 per cent. of those on the Home Office list originate from Pakistan 1541 or the West Indies, because the smoking of pot in those countries is institutionalised. The practice of pot smoking is more common among the immigrant groups from Pakistan and the West Indies than the figure would appear to indicate. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Wootton Committee, in paragraph 51, concluded:It can clearly be argued on the world picture that cannabis use does not lead to heroin addiction.There are other passages, which have not been quoted today, to which I think I should draw attention. First, paragraph 29:Having reviewed all the material available to us we find ourselves in agreement with the conclusion reached by the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission appointed by the Government of India (1893–1894) and the New York Mayor's Committee on Marihuana (1944), that the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects.It concludes in paragraph 32:There is no evidence that in Western society serious physical dangers are directly associated with the smoking of cannabis.
§ Mr. Jackson
This is a powerful argument and one which I am certainly prepared to consider. On the strength of the evidence at present available—and I would readily accept that it is not as satisfactory as one would want—the evidence suggests that whereas tobacco smoking is harmful and alcohol in excess is harmful, pot smoking is not.
I quote now from paragraph 70 of the Wootton Report:But we think it is also clear that, in terms of physical harmfulness, cannabis is very much less dangerous than the opiates, amphetamimes and barbiturates, and also less dangerous than alcohol.What are my right hon. Friend and the Government doing about the problems of alcoholism? Precious little I suggest. It is estimated that there are about 125,000 alcoholics and something under a quarter of a million additional persons who take alcohol in excess.
I quote a passage from the accompanying letter written by Sir Edward Wayne.
1542 The question of penalties has been touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, but I think that it is appropriate to refer to it again. Sir Edward said:The Committee is generally of the view that imprisonment is no longer an appropriate punishment for those who are unlawfully in possession of a small amount—of cannabis. I think that the Committee was correct in coming to that conclusion and, given the evidence at present available—I admit that it is perhaps not as satisfactory as it might be—I would have thought and hoped that the Home Secretary would have accepted it.
§ Mr. Jackson
The views of Sir Edward Wayne that a prison sentence is not the appropriate penalty for the possession of a small amount of cannabis.
I remind my right hon. Friend of the attitude taken in the seventeenth century and the eighteenth century to tobacco smoking, and I think it would be interesting to read the opinion of a person then in authority—namely James I—in his "Counterblaste to Tobacco"—Tobacco, that outlandish weed,It spends the brain and spoils the seedIt dulls the sprite, it dims the sightIt robs a woman of her right.I do not know that there is any evidence to demonstrate that, but I put it to my right hon. Friend—I am not merely being facetious—that if there were any association between the smoking of cannabis and robbing a woman of her right, he would find that there would be a very little problem of cannabis smoking.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Does it not follow from the great attack which my hon. Friend has made on the evils of tobacco smoking that if James I had tried to get the same Bill through Parliament—if he believed in Parliament—about tobacco smoking as I am doing about drugs, he might not now be making his observations about the number of deaths caused by tobacco smoking?
§ Mr. Jackson
I take the point. All I would say in counter to it is that on the evidence at present available——
§ Mr. Callaghan
Yes, that is it.
present available does not suggest that cannabis is in any way injurious.
§ Mr. Jackson
Yes, the evidence at 1543 I should have liked to develop the libertarian argument, but I do not have time. I should like to have suggested that it would perhaps be more appropriate to deal with cannabis smoking in the same way as the excess consumption of alcohol and that if a person became aggressive or a nuisance steps should be taken to restrain him.
In conclusion, I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to an argument which has been canvassed by the National Council for Civil Liberties, which has published a couple of excellent reports on this matter, suggesting that studies of the situation in the United States show that where there has been a clamp-down on the supply of cannabis the result has been an increase in the consumption of heroin.
It has not been said so far in the debate that attitudes in this country are changing, and people are becoming more liberal-minded. This has certainly happened in Canada, and I imagine that what I am about to say may cause my right hon. Friend some alarm. A news report appearing in the Sheffield Morning Telegraph in January this year said that Mr. Pierre Trudeau had stated that the Canadian Government intended to legalise marijuana, and that there was to be a moratorium on further prosecutions. I do not necessarily rely on newspaper reports, so I asked the Library to check that story. It is able to confirm that the story is in substance correct, and the Canadian Government are awaiting a report from a committee, the Le Dain Commission.
Opinion is not only changing in this country. It is changing throughout the world. I hope that my right hon. Friend will, therefore, consider adopting a somewhat more flexible view than he has shown so far in placing cannabis resin in Schedule 2, Class B.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)
It is some time since the House had a major debate on the drug question, and I am glad that hon. Members on both sides have taken the opportunity presented by the Second Reading of this Bill to have a wide-ranging discussion. It has been wide-ranging, ending up with the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) showing himself to be a secret cavalier, rather to my surprise.
1544 It is sometimes said that we pay too much attention to this problem. One of the merits of the debate has been to underline the numerically small size of the problem. I emphasise the word "numerically". Different speakers have given different figures for the size of different aspects of the problem. The Home Secretary spoke of 2,000 heroin addicts, which surprised me, for I thought that the figure was higher than that. But, whatever it is, the number is small in absolute terms, and, as the hon. Member for The High Peak reminded us, it is much smaller than the numbers involved in either the chronic alcoholism problem or the smoking problem. I hasten to add that I do not wish to involve myself in the internecine warfare on the benches opposite between those who believe that smoking is the passport to a long life and those who follow the cavalier point of view.
What must concern us, however, is the exceedingly rapid growth of the drug problem in recent years, by which I mean the last decade. It was the 1960s which showed a completely different approach and attitude, and an explosive growth of the problem. The hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) was right to point this out. The growth has not been explosive in this country alone. It is in no sense a British problem.
As the hon. Member for The High Peak pointed out, if the drug problem were to reach the scale of the chronic alcoholism problem it would be more serious than alcoholism is now. Because of the explosive growth in numbers, we must look at our policies and legislation with a very special care. Therefore, I am glad that although this is the last day before the Recess we have had such a full debate. It is not easy for the House to give policies and legislation of this kind the care they deserve because most of us are largely ignorant of the problem. We are not brought up with it; there is no folk wisdom to guide us. In that respect the problem is quite different from nearly every other problem we discuss here. Most of us are very much at sea in the matter.
Worse than that, there is an absolute lack of knowledge about much of the drug question, as my hon. Friend the 1545 Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) forcefully pointed out. This is largely because intensive research has started only recently. Because of the recent growth of the problem, the material for research has only recently been available, so it is inevitable that there should still be a great shortage of knowledge.
With all respect to the hon. Members for The High Peak and Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), that is also true of cannabis. Millions of words have been expended on the controversy, and these have been echoed in today's debate. On cannabis, as on other subjects connected with drugs, our conclusions can only be very tentative. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) was right to point this out.
A number of problems are involved. For example, I do not know how the Canadian Government would get over the problem of legal supply. Leaving these questions aside, I do not see how any responsible society could conceivably legalise cannabis in the present state of uncertainty about its effects. The Wootton Report has been quoted, but it is not the only document concerning cannabis.
§ Mr. Worsley
I did not wish to give that impression, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing that out.
The Wootton Report was softer on cannabis than many other reports, some of which have come out subsequently. I should like to refer the House to some of the recent statements by international organisations. This is an international problem, and it can only be solved internationally. I detect an increasing concern about the effects of cannabis, first, about its direct medical effects, particularly on the liver, and second, about its relationship to the use of other drugs. This is not just a question of whether it leads on to the use of heroin, which was always thought to be a problem. There is also the question of its reactivating effect, for instance, on L.S.D. In other words, there is a relationship between cannabis and other drugs that we have by no means got to the bottom of. I agree with many hon. Members, on both sides, 1546 who say that the essential thing is that we should learn as much as possible about this drug and other drugs as quickly as we can. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) said, this is not the end of the matter. The debate will continue.
In that context, I hope that when the Joint Under-Secretary of State replies to the debate he can say a little more about the progress of research in this country. The £10,000 figure has often been mentioned; I know that that is rather a token. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can say a little more about the international aspect of research. I understand that the Narcotics Commission is taking the initiative for an international programme of research. I should like very much to know whether we are taking part in it and, if so, what part we are taking. It is only if countries pool their resources and knowledge effectively that we can get very far.
I stress the research aspect because it seems to me that this is the nub of the matter. Indeed, the debate has reflected this. The contents of the Bill are about penalties and penal law, but in this, as in any other matter, the law can be effective only if it has the weight of public opinion behind it and if it is thought to have the force of reason behind it also. This was emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale in approaching the matter from rather different sides.
Compared with the totality of the drug problem, the Bill, as the Secretary of State admitted in opening the debate, is really peripheral stuff. It will be ineffective or even, conceivably, deleterious unless it is part of a much broader strategy. I shall return to that theme presently.
Meanwhile, I should like to make a few comments on the Bill. I am sure that the Government are right—and I think that the House has accepted this—to bring some selectivity into the Bill. To introduce selectivity by having different penalties for different things does not, of course, imply condonation of a lesser offence, any more than we condone burglary by making the penalty for it less than that for murder. It shows, however, a scale of values, and this is valuable. What I am not so sure about is whether 1547 the Government have got this part of the Bill quite right. There are many points that we can follow up in Committee.
I understand that the Government's objective is to indicate by the permitted scale of penalties, first, that trafficking is more serious than possession and, secondly, that some drugs, for instance heroin, are more serious than others, for instance cannabis. The Bill, however, increases the penalty for permitting cannabis to be smoked on premises from 10 to 14 years; it leaves the same maximum penalty as for the same offence with heroin. It does not seem to me that this quite fits in with what I understand to be the objective of the Bill. I wonder whether the Government have got this quite right in terms of their own objective.
Many hon. Members, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) among them, have said a great deal about leaving out barbiturates. I understood the Secretary of State to say that he had asked his Advisory Committee to give him a report on this. As the problem of barbiturates has been known for some time, I cannot help regretting that the question of barbiturates was not referred to the Advisory Committee at the same time as it was asked to deal with the question of amphetamines. This would have seemed a logical grouping, rather than putting L.S.D. into this group.
I should like to know the time scale. I have been looking up the two previous reports—the one I have just mentioned and the one on cannabis—and I see that, from the beginning of the sub-committee to the publication of the report was in each case 18 months. I should be grateful to know on what date this was sent to the committee and therefore on what date we can expect a report. In view of its obvious concern about this issue, the House will appreciate the piece of information.
The physical bulk of the Bill relates not to the penalties but to the control of doctors and other professions, including pharmacists, and also to the handling of drugs. Perhaps in that context we can hear something about the regulations for the handling of drugs for which the Government have had powers for some 1548 years. Have there been such regulations? If not, are they expected soon?
On the general question of these controls, I agree with the Secretary of State that we must have a more flexible system. But the price of a flexible system is to give the Government and the Home Secretary of the day more power. The Bill indeed represents a dramatic increase in Ministerial power. Flipping through it when I first got it, after seeing some of these powers, I was rather appalled by the title of Clause 22, "Further powers to make regulations". In Committee, we shall have to go through these powers with a toothcomb to see whether they are really needed and whether they need to be so widely expressed.
We need to watch this Government very carefully in these matters. With all respect to the Minister I regard this Government as addicted to the taking of increased powers in several fields. We shall lock at this with great care, not only from the general political point of view, but also from the very important point of view of the way in which we gaily increase the responsibilities of the police in terms of offences, without always fully appreciating what a strain that places on their reserves of manpower. So we shall look at these powers with great care.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to sit on the fence if he wishes now, saying on the one hand that he recognises that there is a need for powers and, on the other, that he wants to scrutinise them, but I hope that, on Third Reading, he will say whether he regards the powers which are taken as essential or not, and that he will not try to get away with a general political comment that he does not trust this Government in these powers. In other words, I hope that he will promise me that he will make up his mind.
§ Mr. Worsley
That is a fair question; I will certainly give that promise.
One aspect of this which is relevant is the powers taken over the medical profession. I echo something said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. It is something I have said in previous debates, and which I still feel. I still believe that at least some of these powers—this is relevant to the right hon. Gentleman's intervention—would be 1549 better exercised within the normal disciplinary procedures of the profession.
It is characteristic—I understand that the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), whose speech I did not hear, said this—of a profession to have a responsibility for disciplining its own members. It is a guarantee of independence and with medicine it is also a guarantee of clinical freedom.
For this reason, in Committee we should look at these powers, particularly as in recent months the General Medical Council has for the first time taken proceedings against certain doctors in this connection. My prejudice here is for putting the maximum responsibility on the profession rather than to exercise Ministerial powers.
I do not see in the Bill nor in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman that much is being done by the Government about the necessary overall approach to the problem. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about a concerted effort, but not enough effort is yet being made. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) spoke about the need for education and the spread of knowledge in schools to pupils and teachers and parents. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North also spoke about this subject.
What are the Government doing about it? What is their advice? What do they regard as the right approach? How is knowledge best spread in the schools? Is it best to talk to teachers and pupils together? Should that be done by a qualified police officer, or someone within the school who has been instructed? One would like a lead. Unless we make much more progress in this respect and unless we entirely accept that it is only by knowledge of the subject that we shall make progress, we shall not get very far.
What about the social problems thrown up by drug addiction? The hon. Member for The High Peak mentioned comparable cases and I have instanced the chronic alcoholic and layabouts generally. These are probably the most neglected of the social problems in the community. We do little about them. We talk a great deal, and I am glad that we do, about the disabled and the old, but we are all too 1550 willing to allow this group in the community to be forgotten because it consists of people who tuck themselves away out of sight. I appreciate that they are hard and expensive to deal with, but we have to tackle the problem.
I doubt whether the problems of the drug addict are very different in character from, for instance, those of the chronic alcoholic. I suspect that they need social support in much the same way if they are to have a chance. As the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) said, they need advice and counselling. I have boundless admiration for those who engage in this work. In my constituency there is an institution of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford and I have the honour to be vice-presidents—CURE—which seeks to bring addicts back into the community, and it often succeeds. Hon. Members may have seen a recent television film which put over what it does marvellously well. It is tough work and often disheartening. There is a need for more help and more understanding from both local government and the Government, including—and one must face this—maremoney.
I agree with my right hon. Friend, however, that a little money would go a long way. It would give a sense of encouragement where there is now too little. It is, of course, like every one of these decisions, a matter of priorities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester said, this problem must have high priority and, with the facts he and others have given about the United States and the lessons about what could happen here, it must have priority. It is also true that, very often, a little money spent in the right way will save money in the long run. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North said, there is also the difficult problem of housing. These people are not necessarily welcome neighbours.
All this is part of the overall approach which the Government must have, although it is by no means all of it and perhaps not even the most important part of the responsibility which the Home Secretary has at present. The fact is that this problem bears on every Department of State. For that reason there is, as the right hon. Gentleman said, need for a concerted effort, and I should like 1551 to see more signs of that concerted effort in the Departments of State.
I want to finish by telling the House what the word CURE, the title of that institution in my constituency, stands for. It is care, understanding, research and education. That is not a bad summary of the other side of the problem, the side of the problem which this Bill does not attempt to tackle.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)
We have had a constructive debate. Every right hon. and hon. Member who has spoken has to some degree shown approbation for the main provisions of the Bill. Even the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley), despite one or two rather petulant political barbs, was generous in his supporting comments for the Bill in general. Other hon. Members have shown clearly how seriously the House views the problem of drugs—a problem which has become progressively more acute over the last ten years.
Drugs do not constitute any new human vice, but the conditions of modern life have given the problem almost illimitable prospects of escalation. This was the point made in a powerful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price). Not only have drugs an escapist and perhaps masochistic attractiveness in themselves, but they have a tendency to compound in a disastrous way current diseases in society and its culture. Drugs very often fuse with personal inadequacies, with adolescent frustrations, with the horror of anonymity, with the allurement of experimentation. It is obvious to all of us that drugs very often fulfil a rôle as a method whereby one generation shows contempt for what it regards as the complacency, humbug and miserable materialism of an older generation.
The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) asked an important question about research. The Home Office is awaiting advice from the Medical Research Council. The Council has three working parties whose reports together with give the Home Office a schedule of priorities with regard to research projects. I understand that their reports will be to hand some time later this year.
1552 Last year the Home Office made a survey of research projects throughout the length and breadth of Britain and found that there were no fewer than 47 projects on drugs being undertaken. I am glad to inform the House that the Home Office Research Unit has recently been reinforced to deal with research on drugs.
The right hon. Member for Ashford also asked about hostels. The Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence recommended in its report, entitled The Rehabilitation of Drug Addicts, which was published last year, that four special hostels for patients withdrawn from drugs should be established in the London area. I am glad to be able to tell the House that good progress has been made with establishing such hostels. Several voluntary organisations have projects in hand, and two of them, in particular—Feather-stone Lodge at Forest Hill, promoted by the Community Drug Project at Camberwell, and the Helping Hand at Iver in Buckinghamshire—are proceeding with the support of the local health authorities concerned. There is some danger that more places will be provided than there are withdrawn addicts to fill them.
A more difficult need to meet is that of hostel-type accommodation for addicts still under treatment. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has asked his officials to discuss with representatives of the hospital authorities and the local health authorities in the London area how this need can be met.
The right hon. Member for Ashford raised the question of barbiturates. The Advisory Committee's terms of reference give it a semi-independent role. The Committee chose to consider cannabis, amphetamines and L.S.D. Implicitly it has not thought from 1967 until the present time that the issue or the misuse of barbiturates was so important as to give that group of drugs precedence over the others which it has examined.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary did not say that the question of barbiturates had just been brought to his attention. What he said was that the problem of injecting barbiturates was about three months old and that it could not possibly be more than 12 months old. The Advisory Committee was invited some weeks ago to look at the problem of barbiturates. As my right hon. Friend 1553 the Home Secretary said, it will be asked to tender its advice at the earliest possible moment.
The hon. Members for Chelsea and Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) said that in the past regulation-making powers have been included in legislation which otherwise had the general guise of being consolidating legislation and that this Government were more prone to fall into that temptation than other Governments. I can set the minds of the hon. Gentlemen at rest. The main novelty of the Bill is not in new regulation-making powers. The Bill contains the basic restrictions against import, export, production, supply and possession and the substantive provisions for withdrawing the authority of a practitioner after conviction for a drug offence whereas the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1965, one of the pieces of legislation which will be subsumed in the Bill, leaves most of these matters entirely to regulations. In other words, we are doing the exact opposite. We are spelling out in the body of the Measure powers which in previous legislation had been left largely to regulations.
The hon. Member for Chelsea raised the question of international research. The United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs in Geneva has a laboratory which acts as a focus for research, mainly into opium and opiates, but increasingly of late in relation to cannabis. A scheme of corresponding scientists has been set up in recent years, and five or six United Kingdom scientists are conjoined in a series of studies of the chemical aspects of cannabis. As the House probably appreciates, social research is rather outside the United Nations group at present, and that is why we are waiting for the Medical Research Council advice.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) raised the question of the possible compulsory treatment of persons who are addicted to drugs. He will probably remember that the second Brain Committee in its report recommended that there should be power to retain a voluntary patient for a brief period when going through the crisis of withdrawal. I am informed that Lord Brain himself, after the report was published, agreed with the then Minister of Health that the Government were right not to introduce this provision into the Act of 1967. Medical opinion is divided 1554 on this matter, and the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence is studying the matter at the moment.
The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) confessed to certain nagging doubts about each and every part of the Bill. He asked how the distinction between the simple possession of drugs and possession for the purpose of supply could be made. A court seized of this matter would have to look at all the circumstances of the case. Very often the sheer quantity of drug involved will give the magistrates or the jury a good clue as to whether it was intended for mere possession or for supplying to another person. In any event, it will be possible to charge a person either with alternative summonses or with alternative counts in the indictment. The hon. Member for Chelmsford raised a serious point when he said that he had no confidence whatsoever in the present drugs law in relation to cannabis being administered evenly and fairly. He went so far as to suggest that certain persons were selected for prosecution. There is no evidence whatsoever of such selectivity as is alleged. There is no question of discrimination against any persons or groups of persons. Where information is obtained by the police, the police act upon that information. It is ironic that the very case which the hon. Member for Chelmsford quoted of Lady Diana Cooper, although it was in a mistaken situation, clearly shows that such discrimination does not exist.
The cannabis issue was debated by the House fairly fully in January of last year. This point was raised by the right hon. Member for Ashford, the hon. Member for Chelmsford, the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) and, in the most powerful way, by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). It has been suggested by a number of speakers that we have not yet made out the case against cannabis. I ask whether such an assertion is correct. Is it not a fact that international bodies have been making out such a case as this for a very long time?
In 1925 cannabis was condemned by a League of Nations Committee consisting of Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, 1555 Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. All those countries except three reported in favour of complete prohibition, the exceptions being the delegates of Britain, the Netherlands and Canada. This was because it was uncertain at that time whether there was a potential though not actual medical value in cannabis resin.
The point has been raised, as it was raised in the debate in January last year, that there may possibly be a causal connection between the taking of cannabis and later heroin addiction. As the House is aware, an article was published 18 months ago by Professor Paton, Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford. There are three points in that article to which I wish to direct attention.
Professor Paton first makes the point that the age at which most persons come to cannabis is somewhere around the age of 16 to 17, whereas the age at which people come to heroin tends to be a year or two later, at 18, 19 or possibly 20. Secondly, Professor Paton produces a graph showing two lines, one setting out the convictions for cannabis offences and the second the reported number of heroin addicts as reported to the Home Office. The graph is shown over a period of two years and those two lines are almost exactly parallel.
The third point the Professor makes, which has been raised by a number of speakers in this debate, is that there is very great danger in maintaining that between 80 and 100 per cent. of heroin addicts at one time or another took cannabis. He pointed out that such a statement is completely meaningless because a high percentage of such people must at some time have drunk water or milk, or worn brown shoes or whatever it may be. The difference between such a comparison and the comparison between heroin addiction and cannabis is that both in the case of cannabis-taking and heroin addiction, one is dealing not with a universal pattern but with a restricted practice. Professor Paton makes his own estimate of one in every 2,000 of the population being a cannabis taker—in other words, .005 per cent. of the population.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
If my hon. Friend is making so much play with the evidence 1556 of Professor Paton, it is only fair to say that his view is challenged vigorously by other eminent scientists.
§ Mr. Morgan
That is certainly so. I am not maintaining that this should be regarded as the authoritative declaration and as the last word in this connection. I am saying that those three points made by Professor Paton raise very grave doubts whether there is this causal connection between cannabis-taking and heroin addiction.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson rose——
§ Mr. Morgan
I am sorry, I will not give way. I have not very much more time. The point was made by the hon. Member for Chelmsford that although on the one hand if it was established that there was this causal connection clearly cannabis should be dealt with severely, if on the other hand such a case should not be made out the person would be completely guiltless. But this is not the case. There is a substantial case, over and above any question of casual connection between cannabis and heroin, to be made out against cannabis. It is a hallucinogen, as is L.S.D., and as are the synthetic preparations from cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinols. These and other drugs are all in Part A of Schedule 2, that is, they are listed alongside heroin.
It has been said that we did not have a mandate with regard to cannabis, because it was essentially a young people's activity and the vast majority of young people felt either neutral about it or in favour of legalising it. Not only is there no evidence in support of such a contention, but I am absolutely certain, from everything I have seen, that the vast majority of young people completely abjure and condemn cannabis. In so doing, they are completely in line with the mores of society——
§ Mr. Deedes
I have said this once and must say it again. My point was that so many young people were sceptical of our reasons for prohibiting marijuana. That is what I said.
§ Mr. Morgan
I accept the correction. It is not exactly as I put it, but in the end it comes to exactly the same thing. The right hon. Gentleman asserts that, if one took a poll of young people in Britain today, one would find that they 1557 were sceptical about the taking of cannabis being regarded as a criminal offence. This is the point which I absolutely challenge, with the greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale asked what happened to the Wootton Report recommendation that there should be substantial research into cannabis. The report was submitted to the Home Office in December, 1968. Even if the whole scientific world had been waiting with bated breath to take up research on cannabis, the results could not possibly have been available by today. But there have been several difficulties. First, Section 5 of the 1965 Act absolutely prevents the use of premises for the smoking of cannabis, whether for research or any other purpose. The Bill overcomes this, and Clause 22 will allow it.
Second, the Wootton Committee listed in paragraph 74 a wide range of matters related to the dangers of cannabis on which research was needed, and added in paragraph 75:The present legal position is unhelpful to research.Third, setting up relevant research requires a proper co-ordination which is why the Government have been awaiting the advice of the Medical Research Council on priorities.
My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) raised several interesting questions which I am afraid I cannot follow now. He laid it at the door of the Home Office that we were completely callous and indifferent to the problem of alcoholism. In fact, the Home Office has a study of this matter at the moment and we expect a report before long. He then said that, after the clamping down on cannabis in the United States, it was found that the number of heroin addicts rose sharply. There are two points here. First, if he maintains that this was anything other than a coincidence, he is saying that cannabis is addictive, something which has not yet been accepted by medical authorities, so far as I know. Second, if it is anything but a coincidence, there must be some causal connection between cannabis and heroin. That is the very factor which has been denied by my hon. Friend 1558 and those who support him in supporting cannabis.
The right hon. Member for Ashford raised the question of notification for drugs other than narcotics. This is the case under the Bill. There is power in Clause 10(2)(g) which would be available for any controlled drug. The question is whether the clinical signs of addiction to any controlled drug, for example, amphetamines, are such as make it possible and reasonable to impose an obligation on the medical profession.
Some hon. Members have maintained that it is not necessary to give the Home Secretary the substantial powers which it is proposed to confer on him by Clauses 13 and 15 in relation to restrictions on doctors. The powers to withdraw a practitioner's authority to prescribe proscribed or controlled drugs are an elaboration, accepted without reservation by the professional bodies concerned, of the provisions of the 1962 Regulations.
I maintain that this is necessary because although in respect of doctors the General Medical Council has a long established responsibility for dealing with cases of infamous conduct in any professional respect, the Bill seeks to deal not with conduct that is infamous in the accepted sense.
I am confident that the Bill, which deals widely and comprehensively with the subject, will remain a viable piece of legislation for a very long time. Without plunging to the gloomiest pessimism, most hon. Members will agree that, as in the case of nearly every other country, we are more likely to err on the side of underestimating than of over estimating the magnitude of the danger with which we are confronted.
In 1961 the Interdepartmental Committee on Drug Addiction, chaired by that very eminent neurologist Lord Brain, produced a report which concluded that the incidence of addiction to hard drugs was not a serious problem and was unlikely to increase. The report recommended against the proposal which was before it to register addicts and to limit the discretion of prescribing doctors. I suggest no censure on the Members of that committee, because they came to conclusions founded on the best evidence then available to them. Its estimates, as we now know with the benefit of hindsight, were 1559 grossly inaccurate. By 1964, when the Brain Committee was reconvened, considerable damage had been done. There were far more recruits to the taking of dangerous drugs, the bulk of the new recruits being young people.
The vast majority of citizens will not regard the Bill and the increased penalties contained in it as being unduly harsh, against the background of the grave problems which we face in this sphere. I am sure that public opinion accords with our own; that the heaviest weight of the law should be reserved to those who commit the offence of possession with intent to supply. Society cannot be squeamish in dealing with those who traffic in, and profit from, human misery, degradation and death.
The Bill manifests the Government's consciousness of the gravity of the potential peril and their absolute determination that the people of this country, and especially the young, are entitled to live their 1560 lives as free from the shadow of this threat as the efforts of Parliament can safeguard.
§ 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).