Lords amendment: No. 1, in line 3, after "trafficking" insert
to make provision about the supply of articles which may be used or adapted for use in the administration of controlled drugs or used to prepare a controlled drug for administration".
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Mellor)
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
With this Et will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 154 and 184.
§ Mr. Mellor
In introducing this stage of the Bill, I should like to express my appreciation to the other place for its careful consideration of this measure and the all-party spirit it showed, because very few Scotsmen were involved in consideration of the Bill.
It might be for the convenience of the House if I say that the opportunity was taken during consideration of the Bill in the other place to make certain technical changes to clarify some of its points and to improve its drafting. It might also be convenient if I move those amendments formally. Obviously, if an hon. Member wants to raise points, they could be dealt with. Some substantive changes are worthy of a sentence or two, and I know that some of my colleagues might want to comment on them. This group of amendments is certainly one of those.
The amendment makes it an offence to supply or to offer to supply articles which may be used in the administration of a controlled drug or to prepare a controlled drug for administration. The prosecution will, however, have to prove that the supplier believed that the article he sold would be used in connection with the unlawful administration of a controlled drug, and that will ensure that shopkeepers who innocently sell everyday items which are then used for drug taking have nothing to fear from the new offence. It is on that basis that, I am glad to say, the Retail Consortium supports this measure.
I should point out also, because of the legitimate concern about this aspect, that this new offence specifically excludes the sale of hypodermic syringes or needles because of the increased risks of AIDS and hepatitis, which would result from the re-use of those items.
The new offence will apply to Scotland—the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), can prick up what he pleases to call his ears—and Northern Ireland as well as to England and Wales.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)
I reaffirm and remind the Under-Secretary of State—I am sure that I do not have to—that this is one of these rare occasions on which the Bill has gone through not simply with all-party support but with enthusiastic all-party support, because we are wholly with the Government on the need to deal heavily wth the drug traffickers.
We specifically welcome these amendments which are in a narrow sense designed to deal with the problem of cocaine kits. The Under-Secretary of State needs no 1131 reminding from me that probably one of the most important aspects of the campaign which we must wage against drug traffic abuse is that we must try to stop young people starting. These amendments are part of that process. There is no need for us to hound shopkeepers who innocently sell the individual items which go together to make up the kits but, at the same time, it does no harm, in fact it is probably good, to try to recruit them to our side in our national effort to try to get on top of this menace which literally threatens a generation of our young people.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
I congratulate the Minister on the way in which he has ensured that the Bill has had a fair passage through the other place. Not only has it had a fair passage but it has come through the other place much improved, particularly by the groups of amendments we are considering now. The problem which can sometimes arise in dealing with drugs is that as we tackle the issues, even though we sometimes tackle them very quickly, as has happened here, we still find ourselves one step behind those wicked people who are determined to peddle dangerous drugs to the young.
I hope that the Minister will assure the House—I am sure that he will, because I know that his interest in this problem is deep and genuine—that the Government will lose no opportunity to tighten up the law to catch drug peddlers. I hope that he will confirm that these provisions are capable of dealing with people who might try to sell kits which would enable people to use crack, a heroin substitute, as I understand it, which has become rife in the United States and has now reached these shores and that he will continue to keep under review any further substitutes which become known to be prevalent in the streets of our towns and cities.
I share the view of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) that the Bill has been improved in the other place and that there will be no need for any controversy tonight in dealing with these or any other amendments.
§ Mr. Mellor
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), who speak for the official Opposition and the Liberal party, for what they have said and the consistent help they have given. The hon. Member for Erdington, in his work on the Select Committee and now as Front Bench spokesman for the Opposition, has been a tower of strength on this and other aspects of the drug problem and at several stages I have appreciated the legal expertise and prowess of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery.
I can say to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that crack is a form of cocaine which is stronger than normal cocaine and is heated up and abused in that way. Any kit that facilitated that would be caught because we decided not to restrict the amendment to cocaine kits as such but to include any means of facilitating the unlawful use of controlled drugs. We thought that that was better and would help to avoid the point that the hon. and learned Gentleman rightly made, that we always seem to be one step behind. Perhaps in this case we are putting ourselves one step ahead.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.