HL Deb 05 July 1967 vol 284 cc720-53

7.15 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Stonham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Lord OAKSHOTT in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Registration of dealers]:

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?


I rise to raise two matters on which I think I did not get entirely satisfactory answers at the Second Reading. One matter is, I think, for the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the other for that of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. This Bill is called the Dangerous Drugs Bill; but no drugs are specified by name in it. They are all scheduled in the principal Act, the Dangerous Drugs Act. But we know from what the Minister of Health said in Standing Committee G on April 20 (column 18) that he intends to specify heroin and cocaine, at any rate to start with, in the regulations that will be brought into force under the powers conferred by this Bill. We know there is a special case for starting with those particular drugs; but I think the impression has already been created, and is gaining ground in the Press and elsewhere, that other drugs contained in the Dangerous Drugs Act are, for this reason, somehow less dangerous.

There have been suggestions on radio and on television that cannabis, in particular, and its derivatives—marijuana, for example—are really quite all right, quite tolerable. My information is that this is not so. I mentioned this fact on Second Reading and I believe there is every reason to keep these drugs in the Schedule of the Dangerous Drugs Act and treat them as dangerous drugs. At Second Reading the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, kindly offered to have a private talk with me about this matter. There are few people in your Lordships' House with whom I should more enjoy a private talk; but that is not the point. The point is that I was asking the Government to make a public, authoritative statement now about this particular drug and other drugs which, although not covered by this Bill, are quite as dangerous from other points of view.

A Standing Advisory Council on Drugs Dependence does exist. It was described by Miss Bacon at Second Reading on April 6 in another place as being well-established under the new chairmanship of Sir Edward Wayne. Surely this is the time when the advice which is being tendered to the Government on matters like this should be made public. I think the passage of this Bill is the moment for Her Majesty's Government to make public some of the advice they are getting particularly on this point.

Now I will turn to the second matter. I do so with no apology that it is not dealt with in this particular clause, because it is to do with treatment centres, which also are not actually mentioned in the Bill, but, as the noble Lord explained when he introduced the Second Reading, the provision of treatment centres, their equipment and staff, is the linchpin of the whole scheme. Without treatment centres nothing can be done under the Bill and the regulations cannot be brought into force. It will be useless—indeed, fatal—to bring them into force before the treatment centres are available.

During the Second Reading debate on the 20th June last I said in my speech (column 1284) that my information was that the hospitals' response to H.M. (67) 16, the memorandum from the Minister asking for the provision of treatment centres, gave considerable cause for misgiving; and we ought to hear, before giving approval to the Bill, what progress has been made in this matter, and what are the prospects and what are the Government's plans for ensuring the provision of rehabilitation hostels to match the treatment centres. In her response, the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said (column 1316), that she thought your Lordships would not want to know. I think that was a misjudgment and, not unnaturally, she got into hot water with the Press for saying this. They described it as dodging the issue. I myself would not perhaps have used those words, but I have given the noble Lady notice that I was going to raise the issue to-day, and I hope that, before we go further with the Bill, she will give us further details on this subject.

Since then there have been articles, notably the one in last Sunday's Sunday Telegraph, reporting more fully some of the misgivings which I have heard expressed about this scheme; for instance, that in the opinion of the journalist concerned these treatment centres will be in operation for only two hours a week. That would be quite inadequate and not the slightest good. But if it is true, how could the Minister, in answer to a Question asked last Monday in another place, say: In-patient services for heroin addicts are available in all, and out-patient services in 12 regional hospital board areas…"[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 3/7/67; col. 1238.] It may be true: I hope that it is. But what exactly is meant by this statement? What do the services consist of? How many addicts are actually receiving regular treatment at the present time at the centres? When will the centres be able to cope with, say, the 650 heroin addicts said to be known to the Home Office in January of this year? What happens if a general practitioner rings up a hospital and asks that an addict be admitted? Can the addict be accepted straight away? What is the actual situation?

I wonder whether the noble Baroness realises—I feel sure that she does—just how critical will be the stage we shall enter, when this Bill becomes law, before the regulations are bought into force and the treatment centres are ready. At present, treatment is in the hands of a handful—or fewer than a handful—of dedicated general practitioners and others, who are doing their best to handle these very demanding patients in the course of their work. They believe, and they have reason to believe, that when the Bill is passed, and when, in due course, the treatment centres are ready, their right to prescribe for heroin and cocaine addicts will be taken away by the regulations which will be brought in under the provisions in the Bill. Their reason for believing this is the statement made by the Minister of Health in Standing Committee G on April 25 (column 53), that general practitioners will not be licensed under the regulations.

Is it really sensible to jettison by this legislation all the precious skill and experience which exist at present and have been built up? Such skill and experience are not readily available in the hospitals. The people who are doing the little work that is already going on there have little experience in handling these matters. Unless those people who are handling and treating addicts at the moment are given more consideration, there will be little incentive for them to carry on their good work and every reason why they should drop it straight away. All the more reason, then, not only for considering their point of view, to see whether it is possible to find some framework in which they could co-operate with the treatment centres, but also for getting on with the centres and for us to be informed at this stage of the proceedings on the Bill exactly what is being provided and what is the official attitude towards the provision of rehabilitation centres.

7.25 p.m.


I should like to support a great deal of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. Like him, I was disappointed at what the noble Baroness said when replying to the speeches made on Second Reading about the provision of the treatment centres. I do not know what number will be available. As I said in my speech on Second Reading, I know of two London teaching hospitals where there are facilities. I have been told that four more will be available very soon, but I have no idea whether that is true, or when the centres will start to operate. I think that is a point on which we should like a good deal more information from the noble Baroness. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has said, the treatment centres are the key to the whole matter, so I hope that we shall be able to get a little more information on that very important point.

There is one question that I should like to ask, and I think that this is the right time to do so. I did not give the noble Baroness notice of my intention to ask this question, and so I do not expect her to be able to reply now. It refers to the people who can carry out the treatment. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, referred to the general practitioners who, we think, will not be allowed to continue to give treatment. But suppose a patient is being treated by a consultant psychiatrist, will the psychiatrist be allowed to continue the treatment, or will the patient automatically be transferred to a treatment centre? If that is so, I think that we shall run into trouble. As I mentioned during the Second Reading debate, these drug addicts are rather difficult people to pin down, and they like a certain amount of continuity in their treatment. If there is a patient who is being successfully treated by a consultant psychiatrist now, I trust that the psychiatrist will still be able to carry on with the treatment when the Bill becomes law.


While I fully agree with everything that has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, I tend to the view that this problem is one of such extreme urgency that the emphasis must be laid first of all on control by means of notification. I would even accept that, once notification had been made compulsory, doctors and specialists who receive licences should be allowed to carry on with the treatment to which the addicts have become accustomed, even if it is no more than control. I therefore suggest that licences should be issued as liberally as possible, so that an appreciable number of general practitioners, who already have experience in the handling of these addicts, may receive licences from the recognised authority. It may be necessary to grant them on a temporary basis, to tide over the immediate phase, when, as I believe, the number of notifications may be so high that the specialists designated and licensed by the central authority may not be sufficient to cope with the flood of notifications.

There are two matters that I should like my noble friend to make clear. It was recommended by the Brain Committee that access to the list of notifications should be made available to doctors at all hours of the day and night. I hope that that recommendation will be observed and facilities made available to doctors who may be confronted with an emergency case. An addict may suddenly present himself to a doctor, and the doctor should have ready access to the list of notified addicts so that he can make sure that the addict is not already receiving treatment from another specified and licensed doctor.

The other point which I think it would be helpful if my noble friend would make clear is this. Is there to be a definite provision that the list of addicts notified will not be made available to any person other than a doctor? It seems to me that unless this is definitely specified it will be possible that knowledge that someone has been notified as an addict may leak out and be put to some improper use. There is a latent fear in the minds of many addicts that the fact that they have been notified may be taken advantage of by someone who ought not to be given access to that information.

At one time I thought that an addict could be notified not by name but by means of a number, parallel somewhat to the notification existing at present in the case of venereal disease. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that this is not a true parallel, because notification of venereal disease is a purely medical problem, whereas the notification of addicts may in some cases have possible criminal implications. So I should like my noble friend to make clear that the list of addicts notified to the central authority will not be made available to anyone who is not a fully qualified doctor.

7.22 p.m.


I am bound to point out that this is a Committee stage, and that we appear to be in grave danger of having a second Second Reading before we have even considered the first Amendment. I am sure that my noble friend and I are anxious to give the maximum possible information, but in 22 years of Parliamentary experience I have never known a Motion, That the clause stand part to give rise to a Second Reading debate of this kind. I shall do my best to answer the points raised, but I hope that we do not have a debate of this kind every time we have a Motion, That the clause stand part.

Although this Bill is my responsibility as representative of the Home Secretary, obviously there is a clear division of responsibility between the Department responsible for the enforcement of the Act and the Ministry of Health, which will be responsible for what I regard as treatment. Therefore I will answer some of the points raised and leave it to my noble friend Lady Phillips to answer the questions on treatment. I hope that your Lordships will not mind my reading a few words from Clause 1, which says: Without prejudice to the generality of section 11 of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1965 … the powers of the Secretary of State under that section (which authorises the making of regulations for preventing the improper use of drugs) shall include power to make regulations—". That is virtually what we are talking about, and the drugs referred to are given in Part I of the Schedule to the principal Act.

It will be within the recollection of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that in my Second Reading speech I made it clear that my right honourable friend proposes to make regulations in relation to the hard drugs, the drugs of addiction, heroin and cocaine. The noble Lord mentioned cannabis, which I am advised is not a drug of addiction, but I agree with him that the use of this drug is greatly increasing. Sir Joseph Simpson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, in his report to-day to the Home Secretary, refers to the rise in the use of drugs and in crimes of violence as being, unfortunately, the two noteworthy developments of the past year. Of course, the question of cannabis is a serious one, and I deprecate any Press suggestions to the contrary. But I want to make it clear that it is not the present intention to use this Bill, when it becomes an Act, to make any change as compared with the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964 in dealing with cannabis.

This drug, which is also known as Indian hemp, marijuana and "pot", is scheduled under the International Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961, to which Her Majesty's Government are party. Strict control is applied to the drug by Part I of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which reflects the requirements of this Convention, most of which have been a feature of dangerous drug law since this drug was placed under international control in 1928. I am advised that there is virtually no medical and scientific use for the drug in this country.

The law was strengthened in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1965, when it was made an offence to permit premises to be used for smoking cannabis and an offence intentionally to cultivate the cannabis plant. There is probably more traffic in and consumption of cannabis than of any other drug under international control, but in this country, as in other parts of Western Europe, cannabis smoking has become extensive only very recently. Before the war it was no problem. Yet last year there were over 900 convictions involving cannabis. We have no long or clear experience from which to judge the effect of this drug or its links, if any, with other forms of drug abuse. Expert opinion in this country, as elsewhere, seems to be somewhat divided about the danger of cannabis smoking. That may be partly due to our lack of experience, but it may also be due to the general lack of clear information about the experience elsewhere Cannabis indeed is a drug about which there is a considerable area of no knowledge.

On the other hand, the World Health Organisation, the International Narcotics Bureau and the United Nations Narcotics Commission all consider that the consumption of this drug is harmful to the individual and society, and that international control should be maintained. For this reason, cannabis is now banned in virtually every country in the world and could not be freed from that ban in one or two countries without consequences to all, as all are bound up in this.

Having regard to the circumstances which I have described, the Government are convinced that the first, the essential, starting point before action is a careful assessment of all that is known about this drug. Although there must be a fairly lengthy study, I am glad to be able to tell the noble Lord that his suggestion was adopted two months ago, and that an Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence, under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Wayne, has been studying for two months and is still studying the pharmacological, legal and social aspects of the cannabis question. Obviously their report will be of the greatest importance. But until the Committee have made their report and are able to offer comprehensive advice it is premature to consider whether any, and if so what, amendment in the law should be made. But the study that we have invited is evidence of our determination to ascertain the facts and to do whatever is necessary.

The other point with which I would deal is that raised by my noble friend Lord Segal with regard to anonymity in respect of drug addicts; that is, the addicts to the hard drugs who will be affected by this Bill. I would say at once what I said on Second Reading, that the opportunities of the fact of notification will be completely safeguarded by the Official Secrets Act, and there will be no disclosure except to a doctor who is attending on the addict and who seeks from the central authority confirmation whether or not he has been notified. It is at that stage that the central authority, after suitably satisfying itself that the inquiry is genuine, will put the inquiring doctor in touch with the doctor who made the notification, and will then leave the two doctors to exchange information in accordance with their professional ethics.

It is difficult to see how we could introduce anonymity into a procedure of this kind. Even if we had a series of numbers, we must somewhere relate the numbers to names and, so far as the doctors are concerned, the names to the persons, or perhaps the persons to the names. If my noble friend is concerned with anonymity during treatment, I will gladly consult my right honourable friend the Minister of Health to see to what extent this is possible. But there seem to be difficulties. One is that young, unstable addicts of the kind with whom we are dealing to-day tend to move from one area to another; and we must have a system of identification to prevent them from obtaining prescriptions from two centres at the same time, or even from a centre and a general practitioner.

Another difficulty is that if the addict who is being treated at an out-patient centre is to have the help in his social difficulties which may eventually lead him to seek cure by in-patient treatment, then the out-patient staff must feel encouraged to arrange for other local agencies, and indeed social workers, to take an interest in his case. My noble friend mentioned V.D. I think I should agree with him that in this respect the addict is not at all like the patient who seeks treatment for V.D. But social help will do no good if it is thrust on the addict. On the other hand, I am not sure that it would be wise for the treatment centre to leave the addict to ask for any help with his social activities or to approach the whole matter as though his addiction were a social stigma. For a minority perhaps addiction seems a stigma. But I should have thought that, for the majority, living rootless on the fringes of society, we should do better to show recognition that they have a problem in which we have an interest and a desire to help.

In other words, I think the answer to my noble friend is that we should preserve the confidentiality of central records, on the lines I have mentioned, but extend as widely as we possibly can the network of help available to addicts who can be persuaded to take advantage of it. I hope that, so far as those two points are concerned, I have done something to answer them, and I will now leave the rest of the field to my noble friend Lady Phillips.

7.45 p.m.


I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has asked this question, supplemented by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, because it provides me with an opportunity to make a personal apology in respect of what some seem to have regarded as evasion. I may say that I will never do this again, but there has quite frequently been free criticism of the length of speeches. And on the occasion of which I am speaking I had been on my feet for 40 minutes—I timed this in Hansard. Each stage of a Bill in your Lordships' House is carefully examined and, if I dare suggest it (I am a little recalcitrant), I think we sometimes do repeat ourselves, and it seemed to me that noble Lords in the House at that time would perhaps have preferred to go and have their tea. I am sorry to say that my simple action, which was that of courtesy, has been misconstrued into evasion and dodging the issue; and, apparently, I almost brought down the Government. I am sorry for this.

I would say that I have never evaded even the most difficult question with which I have been confronted personally, and the Government had no reason to. I am bound to say to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that, while I apologise humbly to him, to the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, and to those of your Lordships who were in the House at the time—and I recollect that it was not many more than about six—I do not feel myself under any compulsion to answer to the Press. The Press of this country have a complete freedom of expression, and they utilise it. I should not like to say that they are always completely accurate. They appear in this particular case to have been flying a few kites, and I do not find myself under any obligation to reply to the particularly pompous article referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford.

Having said that, I will now deal with the treatment centres, and if this reply seems a little lengthy, I can only say that it is because the matter is one on which your Lordships have asked for a lot of information. Perhaps before I do this I might say to both noble Lords that my noble friend Lord Stonham did make it clear on Second Reading that the existing machinery would be in being until new machinery was introduced. I think those were his actual words, which I repeated, and perhaps I can give your Lordships an assurance from the words of my right honourable friend in another place, who said: I am satisfied, and I have already made it clear, that we shall not bring in the regulations prohibiting prescription by general practitioners for addicts until we are satisfied that the hospital facilities are adequate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, col. 1239, 3/7/66.] I hope noble Lords will accept this.

As to the form hospital treatment centres will take, I have discussed this subject with my right honourable friend the Minister, and he has incorporated the advice of medical experts in a memorandum of guidance issued to hospital authorities in March. This recommends that in-patient treatment for the withdrawal of heroin be provided for small groups of patients, usually not more than 12, in mental illness hospitals or psychiatric units of general hospitals. Treatment in small groups is to be preferred, because patients and staff are better able to help each other, there is less likelihood of drugs being brought in to addicts, and there are more favourable conditions for research. It may be considered desirable to treat separately heroin addicts and patients addicted to other drugs or to alcohol, or to separate the younger heroin addicts from the older ones. Arrangements for treatment are a matter for clinical discretion and accommodation will need to take into account possible subdivisions of this kind.

For addicts who are unwilling for the moment to accept withdrawal treatment—and these are expected to be the majority—the Ministry's memorandum recommends the provision of out-patient services. The aim is to contain the spread of heroin addiction by continuing to supply this drug where necessary in the smallest quantities considered advisable by the hospital doctor, and to persuade addicts as far as possible to accept withdrawal treatment. The out-patient clinics will provide medical supervision including attention to those physical illnesses to which addicts are prone. Addicts will usually be separated from other patients by treating them either at different times or in different premises.

The treatment and supervision of addicts is demanding and time-consuming and it is important that the load should be shared among the hospitals, especially in London, where there are most addicts. The plan is for the psychiatric hospitals in and around London to provide most of the in-patient services, and for the London teaching hospitals and psychiatric departments to provide most of the outpatient services, although some hospitals will provide both. All out-patient clinics will, of course, be linked with in-patient services, either at the same or at another hospital. Noble Lords will be delighted to know that there are now in operation eleven out-patient clinics in London, and plans for four other centres are under urgent discussion.

I should now like to mention the results which the Ministry hope to see from these new arrangements. Authority to administer, prescribe and supply heroin will be confined to licensed doctors at a relatively small number of centres. Addicts will be identified and checked against the central records to ensure that they are not being treated at more than one centre. The Ministry do not, however, expect identification cards to be issued to addicts. Where a supply of drugs is authorised by a hospital doctor and it is appropriate for a retail chemist to do the dispensing, new precautions will be adopted to prevent a patient from misusing the prescription. The addict who is not willing for the time being to accept withdrawal treatment will usually be invited to enter hospital for a short period in which dosage may be accurately assessed. By these means, excessive prescribing should be reduced and perhaps eliminated, and the spread of addiction checked—a substantial gain. For those who are addicted, medical supervision at out-patient clinics by psychiatrists should lead to more addicts agreeing to accept withdrawal treatment; also to greater specialisation, and to opportunities for research, so that more effective methods of treatment can be developed.

I think we all recognise that withdrawal treatment is not in itself a cure. Physical dependence on a drug may be removed fairly easily, but psychological dependence is more persistent and carries with it the possibility of relapse, which is a characteristic of addiction. While there is clearly a need for some form of treatment after withdrawal in hospital, the form it should take is less certain. This stage is conveniently described as rehabilitation, but the problem of providing effective rehabilitation is a very difficult one. The Minister has arranged two conferences on the subject: the first with psychiatrists and the second with voluntary bodies and local authorities. There seems to be support for the idea that after completing withdrawal treatment in hospital addicts would benefit from staying in hostels in which they could receive social support and some continued medical supervision while going out to work. But it also seems, most unfortunately, that only a small minority of addicts who undertake withdrawal treatment can be expected to complete a period of rehabilitation. In view of this, it seems appropriate to make no initial large-scale provision of hostels for addicts, but instead to build on the experience of a few experimental hostels. Several of these have been started by voluntary bodies, as we know and as was discussed on Second Reading, and the Government welcome this initiative.

On the relationship and timing of events, the Government have it in mind to bring the notification regulations into operation in the autumn. Before then they hope to have set up a panel to advise doctors who are in doubt whether a patient is an addict, to have introduced in connection with the central records of addicts a special scheme for the identification of heroin addicts which will be used by the treatment centres, and to have introduced, also in the treatment centres, new precautions against the misuse of prescriptions. It is hoped to bring the prescribing regulations into operation early next year. Before then adequate treatment facilities must be provided, arrangements made for the transfer of addicts from general practitioners to hospitals, and for the licensing of doctors at treatment centres to administer, prescribe or supply restricted drugs. I hope I have given your Lordships an outline of the work of treatment centres and what they hope to achieve.

I believe that one further question was put by the noble Lord, Lord Segal, on the 24-hour service for doctors, and this appears to be related to the suggestion that there should be a 24-hour service in hospitals. My right honourable friend has been considering this, but he does not feel justified in making this a standard arrangement, although he would, of course, welcome a 24-hour service at any hospital which was able to provide it. It may be of interest to noble Lords to know that in Birmingham the hospital out-patient clinic is not open for 24 hours a day, and in at least one hospital in London a weekly clinic appears to provide a satisfactory service. I will endeavour, after I have studied Hansard, to obtain further answers to any points that have been missed, and I am sure we shall return to this matter at the next stage of the Bill.


I am sure we are most grateful to the noble Lady for adding that considerable amount of information on this question of treatment centres, but I assure her that we will pursue this matter at a later stage, because a great deal of what she said about treatment centres was no more than a précis of the Hospital Memorandum, No. 6716, to which I referred. What we are interested in is not what the Minister of Health's plans are, but how they are being carried out; and I am sure the noble Baroness will be the first to admit that we have not much extra information about that. Nevertheless, we are grateful for what we have had. We are also most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for his statement about cannabis, which I am sure all noble Lords will agree is very helpful at this stage.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Investigation of contraventions of regulations]:

7.57 p.m.


I beg to move Amendment No. 1. This is purely a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 17, after first ("or") insert ("referred").—(Lord Stonham.)


I appreciate that this is only a drafting Amendment, an Amendment to a paragraph only two lines long. I am sorry that the paragraph still will not be word perfect. It uses the expression "referred back to the tribunal". If "referred" means—


I am not sure of the line to which the noble Lord is referring.


I am referring to line 16, where the paragraph uses the expression "The case be referred back to the tribunal". If "referred" means "sent back", what does "referred back" mean? I suspect the intended meaning is "referred again", and I look forward to a Lib-Lab pact on the Report stage, at which we may make this very short paragraph word perfect.


I can hardly wait.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

LORD STONHAM moved, after Clause 3, to insert the following new clause:

Safe custody etc. of drugs

  1. " .—(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision—
    1. (a) for requiring precautions to be taken for the safe custody of drugs of any description specified in the regulations which are kept on premises of a description so specified;
    2. (b) for requiring the keeping of records of drugs in respect of which such precautions are required to be taken;
    3. (c) for the inspection of any precautions taken or records kept in pursuance of this section; and
    4. (d) as to the manner in which drugs are to be packed for sale by a person who, within the meaning of the regulations, is a manufacturer of drugs or a dealer in bulk in drugs.
  2. (2) Regulations under this section may provide that such of the requirements imposed by virtue of paragraph (a) above as may be specified in the regulations shall not apply to drugs kept on premises occupied for the purposes of his business by such a person as is mentioned in paragraph (d) above; but the Secretary of State may, by a notice in writing served on such a person in such manner as may be specified by regulations under this section, specify the precautions or further precautions to be taken for the safe custody of any drugs specified in the notice which are kept on premises so specified and occupied by him as aforesaid, and the precautions specified in such a notice shall be deemed to be required by regulations made in pursuance of the said paragraph (a).
  3. (3) Regulations under this section may also provide that where a person of a kind mentioned in section 1(2) of the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964 is convicted of an offence against the principal Act consisting of a contravention of regulations under this section the Secretary of State may, by a direction given in such manner and after such consultations (if any) as may be specified in the regulations, provide that the said section 1(2) shall not apply to that person while the direction remains in force.
  4. (4) Without prejudice to the provisions of section 5(2) of this Act, section 14 of the principal Act (which relates to the entry and search of premises to obtain evidence of offences) shall have effect as if the reference to Part III of that Act in subsection (1) included a reference to this section and as if references to Part I of the Schedule to that Act included references to the Schedule to the said Act of 1964; and section 16(2) of the principal Act (which among other things limits the penalty in respect of an offence relating to the keeping of books which was committed through inadvertence) shall have effect as if the reference to the keeping of books included a reference to the keeping of records in pursuance of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of this section.
  5. 736
  6. (5) Nothing in this section shall be construed as derogating from the provisions of any other enactment relating to matters in respect of which provision may be made under this section.
  7. (6) In this section 'drug' includes any drug to which Part I of the principal Act applies and any substance for the time being specified in the Schedule to the said Act of 1964".

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the new clause as printed on the Order Paper. Your Lordships will recall that, on Second Reading, I said: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has for some time felt concern about the inadequacy of present arrangements for the safekeeping of drugs in the premises of manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacists. When addiction is increasing, and abuse of soft drugs appears to be widespread, the need for effective security becomes vitally important".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20/6/67; col. 1280]; Before I comment further on the inadequacy of the present security powers, I should like to make it clear that, so far as hard drugs are concerned, the pharmaceutical industry has complied most responsibly with the strict requirements laid down by the Home Office, and there is no evidence—I should like to repeat that: there is no evidence—of diversion of hard drugs from trade channels.

To some extent the inadequacy of present powers is this. Broadly speaking, the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1965, gives the necessary powers by regulation and licensing to impose requirements for safe keeping and record keeping of hard drugs. The weakness is that the power to inspect to ensure compliance with the requirements does not extend to all premises where drugs may be kept.

The position with soft drugs, however, is altogether different. There are no provisions whatever in the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964—that otherwise so excellent Act—to require or enforce safe keeping by any of the persons authorised under that Act to have possession of soft drugs. Because of the terms of Section 12 of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1965, "soft" drugs cannot be scheduled under that Act. The only way in which safe keeping of "soft" drugs could be required would be by regulating their "storage" as listed poisons under the Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1933, and even then the powers of inspection would be very limited. I need not remind the House that penalties for offences against the 1965 Act, the 1964 Act and the 1933 Act are all different.

I shall be moving later on a new clause providing the police with powers of search on suspicion, and I shall hope to convince your Lordships that this is essential if the police are to make an effective effort against trafficking. That effort, however, would be frustrated if the standards of safe keeping of drugs by those who have legitimate possession are not tightened up. For some time, the police have been very concerned about pilfering of "soft" drugs. Last year, with the full co-operation of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the National Association of Pharmaceutical Distributors, the Home Office collected information about the security arrangements of all manufacturers and dealers registered under the 1964 Act. The Home Office Drugs Branch inspectors also visited selected premises to observe current practice. This survey showed that while security standards in a number of firms were high, safeguards against theft or pilfering of "soft" drugs in a number of others were ineffective or even nonexistent.

The police have also been worried about pharmacy-breaking. In 1966 there were at least 60 cases of pharmacy-breaking in London, 35 in Manchester, 25 in Lancashire and 14 in Liverpool. Well over half a million tablets were stolen. In some areas it has been quite clear that pharmacy-breaking has been a significant source of local drug abuse. Accordingly, the representative bodies of the pharmaceutical industry and the pharmacists have been consulted, and general agreement has been reached on the principles of the new clause which I am moving to-day. Its general purpose is to give the Secretary of State a comprehensive power to impose a unified code of requirements for safekeeping, record keeping and packaging of "hard" and "soft" drugs, and to empower the police and persons authorised by the Secretary of State to enter premises to see that the requirements are complied with. The new enabling powers will allow my right honourable friend opportunity to impose or modify controls as the situation develops.

The initial intention is to make regulations applying to the premises of retail pharmacists and to give appropriate notices to manufacturers and wholesalers who handle "soft" drugs in large quantities. The clause provides appropriately flexible powers. Under subsection (1), for example, it will be possible to make different regulations for different classes of premises and for different drugs and preparations, and to exclude particular drugs and preparations and classes of premises from control. The representative bodies have emphasised the need for new controls to take account of the variety of local circumstances which may be met within the thousands of retail pharmacies in this country, and of course in the premises of manufacturers and wholesalers.

It will be the Government's intention, as I made clear during my speech at Second Reading, to have the fullest consultations with the interested organisations before any new requirements are introduced. We have, of course, had consultations already and we have reached agreement in principle, but there will be full consultations about detail. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry is already preparing a Code of Practice which should be of great assistance in considering the question of the statutory notices. Our aim will be to hammer out really effective arrangements. This is not a "window dressing" exercise. We are not looking for controls for controls' sake. We mean business, and I am sure that the representative bodies, who have given such ready and full co-operation in reviewing present controls, understand this very clearly.

I ought perhaps, by way of clarification, to add a word about enforcement although, of course, we have no reason to think that the industry or pharmacists will not co-operate to the full in whatever controls are imposed. In the first place any breach of, or failure to comply with, a regulation will be an offence against the principal Act and liable to the penalties provided in the section. In other words, the sanctions for safekeeping of "soft" drugs will be brought up to the level of those already existing for "hard" drugs. But there will be another possible sanction namely, the withdrawal of a licence or registration, as the case may be, or removal of authority to possess "hard" or "soft" drugs. It is already the position under the principal Act and Regulation 22 of the Dangerous Drugs (No. 2) Regulations that the Secretary of State has power to withdraw authority to possess dangerous drugs if a person has been convicted of an offence against that Act. Subsection (3) of the Amendment makes provision allowing him in effect to withdraw from any person authority to possess "soft" drugs conferred by Section 1(2) of the 1964 Act.

I do not want to mislead your Lordships into thinking that the formulation of controls over either "soft" drugs or their safe keeping will be an easy matter. The number of tablets legitimately produced and prescribed is enormous. In the United States the law does not yet regulate the safekeeping of these drugs. We have a large problem to tackle, therefore, but with the help of the industry and other interested bodies we are confident that we can raise the present standards of security in a substantial way and so reduce the thefts which form a substantial source of supply for the traffickers. Above all, by taking these powers to integrate control over "hard" and "soft" drugs within the legitimate channels, the Government feel that it may be easier in the future to consider more diverse treatment of the social and medical problems presented by "hard" and "soft" drugs should the need for this arise. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 3, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Stonham.)


In self-defence, may I say that in 1964 it was not so apparent that this kind of legislation would be so urgent and necessary in 1967. But it is urgent and necessary. One might have had a little doubt about this clause if the noble Lord had not said that the pharmaceutical industry and the pharmacists were to be consulted. That being so, from this side of the Committee we most sincerely welcome this clause.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


With permission I will take Amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 6 together. Clause 4 enables regulations under the principal Act to provide that: (a) the contravention of particular regulations shall not constitute a criminal offence under Section 13 of that Act; and that (b) the provisions relating to tribunals and advisory bodies shall apply to any proposal by the Secretary of State to withdraw authority to prescribe, possess, supply or otherwise deal in drugs conferred by regulations made under that Act.

These Amendments are consequential on Amendments to page 4, lines 17 and 22. They provide that regulations for the purposes of Clause 4 should be made, not under the principal Act, but under the Bill. Regulations under the clause dealing with safe custody will relate, not only to 1965 Act drugs, but also to 1964 Act drugs, and it would be inappropriate to make these regulations under the former Act. Clause 4 as proposed to be amended would also relate to 1964 Act drugs, and it is appropriate therefore to provide that regulations under that clause are to be made under the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 7, leave out from beginning to ("provision") and insert ("The Secretary of State may by regulations make".)—(Baroness Phillips.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 9, leave out ("that") and insert ("the principal").—(Baroness Phillips.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

8.10 p.m.

LORD STONHAM moved, in paragraph (b)(i), after "State" to insert: to give a direction in pursuance of subsection (3) of section (Safe custody etc. of drugs) of this Act or". The noble Lord said: Subsection (3) of the new clause which your Lordships have just accepted enables regulations made by virtue of that clause to include provision that where a person of a kind mentioned in Section 1(2) of the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964 is convicted of contravention of such regulations the Secretary of State may, by a direction, provide that Section 1(2) of the 1964 Act shall not apply to that person while the direction remains in force; that is to say, may remove his authority to possess substances scheduled under that Act.

Clause 4, paragraph (b), enables regulations under the principal Act to apply the provisions relating to tribunals and advisory bodies (with such modifications as may be specified) for the purposes of regulations under the Act generally, and in particular to any proposal by the Secretary of State to withdraw authority to prescribe, possess, supply or otherwise deal in drugs conferred by regulations made under that Act. This Amendment extends the proposals to which, by regulations made by virtue of Clause 4, as amended by Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 (and as it will be amended by Amendment No. 6), the provision relating to tribunals and advisory bodies may be applied, so as to include any proposal by the Secretary of State to give a direction as provided by subsection (3) of the new clause.

Thus, it will be possible, if desired, to establish, by regulations, a common procedure for dealing, by means of the tribunal and advisory body machinery, with any proposal in effect to withdraw a practitioner's authority to prescribe, possess, supply or otherwise deal in drugs scheduled under the principal Act or, if he is made subject to regulations about safe custody of drugs and is convicted of contravening such regulations, to possess substances scheduled under the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964. This is the necessary provision, looking forward. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 17, after ("State") insert the said words.—(Lord Stonham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 6.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 22, leave out ("that") and insert ("the principal ").—(Lord Stonham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD STONHAM moved to insert after paragraph (b): (c) for the application of any of the provisions of this Act, the principal Act or regulations under either of those Acts to servants or agents of the Crown, subject to such exceptions, adaptations and modifications as may be so specified.

The noble Lord said: As your Lordships will be aware, in the absence of express provision the Crown is not bound by the principal Act. But the Government consider it desirable, for the effective organisation of the new arrangements proposed for notification of addicts and prescribing for addicts, that medical officers in special hospitals, the Prison Service and the Armed Forces should be under the same statutory obligations as other practitioners as regards these requirements. It is conceivable, however, that circumstances may arise in which it would be appropriate to apply other regulations or substantive provisions to these medical officers and to other persons employed in the service or acting on behalf of the Crown. Accordingly, this Amendment enables regulations made under the principal Act or the Bill to be applied to servants or agents of the Crown with adaptations.

As your Lordships will be aware—or at least Ministers and ex-Ministers will be aware—at a later stage of this Bill a noble friend who is a Privy Counsellor will state that he has it in command from Her Majesty to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Dangerous Drugs Bill, has consented to place her interest, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 22, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Stonham.)


I imagine that this is somewhat unusual; in fact I should think very unusual. I have never seen it happen before, but I think it is absolutely necessary.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is a paving Amendment to Amendment No. 10, the definition of "drug" in Clause 5. I beg to move.

Amendment moved.

Page 4, line 22, at end insert— ("( ) In this section 'drug' includes any drug to which Part I of the Principal Act applies.")—(Lord Stonham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

LORD STONHAM moved, after Clause 4, to insert the following new clause:

Further powers to search and to obtain evidence

" .—(1) If a constable has reasonable grounds to suspect that any person is in possession of a drug in contravention of the principal Act or regulations thereunder or in contravention of the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964, the constable may—

  1. (a) search that person, and detain him for the purpose of searching him;
  2. (b) search any vehicle in which the constable suspects that the drug may be found, and for that purpose require the person in control of the vehicle to stop it;
  3. (c) seize and detain, for the purposes of proceedings under either of the Acts aforesaid, anything found in the course of the search which appears to the constable to be evidence of an offence against either of those Acts.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall be construed as prejudicing any power of search or any power to seize or detain property which is exercisable by a constable apart from that subsection.

(3) In subsection (1) of this section 'drug' includes any drug to which Part I or Part II of the principal Act applies and any substance for the time being specified in the Schedule to the said Act of 1964.

(4) Section 14(2) of the principal Act and section 3(1) of the said Act of 1964 (which provide for the issue of a search warrant authorising any constable named in the warrant to enter and search premises in connection with suspected offences under those Acts) shall have effect, in their application to Northern Ireland, with the omission of the words 'named in the warrant' and, in their application otherwise than to Northern Ireland, with the substitution for those words of the words 'acting for the police area in which the premises are situated'; and at the end of section 15 of the principal Act (which provides for the arrest of a suspected offender who may abscond or whose name and address are not known) there shall be inserted the words 'or if he is not satisfied that a name and address furnished by that person as his name and address are true'".

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the new clause after Clause 4. Your Lordships will remember that on Second Reading I gave notice of intention to introduce this Amendment, and said that the Government were determined to look after the pedlars and pushers; we were not going to let them get away with it. This clause, which has four main purposes, is the fulfilment of that proposal. It gives the police power, where they have reasonable grounds to suspect that drugs, whether hard or soft, are unlawfully possessed, first, to search the person concerned and secondly, to search any vehicle in which the drugs are suspected of being. Thirdly, it will remove the requirement to name in a search warrant under the 1965 or 1964 Act the individual officers who will execute it, and fourthly, it will empower a constable to arrest a suspected offender if he is not satisfied that the name and address provided by him as his name and address are true.

It may be convenient if I dispose first of subsection (4) of the clause, which deals with the last two purposes I have just mentioned. The requirement to name police officers in drug search warrants first appeared in the Dangerous Drugs Poisons (Amendment) Act 1923. Home Office records do not disclose why. It may be, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, surmised a few minutes ago, that in 1923 it was not envisaged that search warrants would be used to authorise police raids of the kind or on the scale familiar to-day. Nowadays, when large numbers of police may have to be employed, it is a needless and unwelcome complication to have to decide in advance which officers will be taking part. If a further raid is to be made on the premises during the one-month validity of the warrant it is often difficult, because of changes in duty rotas, for the same officer to be available. A second raid therefore may have to be carried out by fewer officers or a second warrant obtained.

At Second Reading I referred to this requirement as an "anachronism". I should perhaps have said "anomaly", because this requirement is not common to search warrants generally. The Amendment will, in fact, bring the practice as regards drug warrants into line with other warrants. It will not have any prejudicial effect either upon the significance of warrants generally or upon the exercise of police powers there-under. I think, if your Lordships agree, that this anomaly should be removed. The concluding part of subsection (4) does no more than bring the restrictions imposed on powers of arrest by Section 15 of the principal Act into line with those imposed by Section 3 of the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964.

I turn now to the major provisions in the clause. Most features of drug trafficking are well known. The evil has spread widely. It is not only around the cafés—or "caifs", as I think they are often called—clubs and dance halls of towns and cities. Coastal resorts, even camping areas, are visited by the pedlars and pushers, some of them sleeping rough, others delivering the goods well concealed in their vehicles. However loosely the supply is organised, the places where drugs can be obtained seem to be well known in most localities, and they are also well known to the police. It is a very large problem, complicated by the ease with which drugs can be concealed.

As the police have accumulated evidence of the extent of drug abuse and the increase in trafficking, they have become more and more concerned about their lack of powers to deal with it. Their difficulty is this. If they make an arrest they can, under Common Law, make a search. If they do not make an arrest, they can search a person or his property only with his consent or under a warrant. However, under Section 15 of the 1965 Act, or, as the case may be, Section 3 of the 1964 Act, a constable cannot make an arrest unless he has reasonable grounds for believing that that person will abscond unless arrested, or if the name and address of that person are unknown to him and cannot be ascertained by him. In other words, before the constable can make first his arrest and then a search, he has not only to have reasonable grounds to suspect that the pusher is in unauthorised possession of drugs, but must also have reasonable grounds for suspecting that he will abscond or has given false particulars of his name and address.

A number of chief constables have reported that experienced traffickers are very conversant with the limits of police powers and refuse voluntarily to satisfy the police that they are not in unauthorised possession. In this case they get away with it because the police are either placed under undesirable restraint, or tempted to take a chance in making an arrest. If they take a chance like that and they are wrong, it has severe consequences, and rightly so, for the police.

In a few areas—and London is a prime example—there are local Act powers which have enabled the police to get over this difficulty. For 128 years under the famous Section 66 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 the police have been empowered to: stop, search and detain any vessel, cart or carriage, in or upon which, there has been reason to suspect that anything stolen or unlawfully obtained may be found, and also any person who may be reasonably suspected of having or conveying in any manner anything stolen or unlawfully obtained". The Central Drugs Branch of the Metropolitan Police estimate that the majority of arrests they have made—they had nearly 3,000 drug cases last year—follow from the exercise of the power to stop and search under Section 66 and that the majority of searches made under this power result in an arrest. This indicates both the importance of the power to stop and search and the fact that it is used only when there is very good reason to use it.

The Association of Chief Police Officers have recently made a full review of the adequacy of police powers in relation to the drug problem. They feel strongly that to deter pushers and enforce restrictions on unauthorised possession of drugs the police everywhere should be given power to stop and search suspected persons and vehicles. The Government recognise fully that to extend police powers in this way is a serious matter, but we must balance the seriousness of the drugs problem against the potential for infringing individual liberty. I gave some truly alarming figures at Second Reading to show the trends in addiction, and in convictions under the 1964 and 1965 Acts. These trends are continuing, and are likely to do so unless we take action to check them.

I have recently seen suggestions that the drug problem is being exaggerated. I think that those come from some newspaper reports referred to by my noble friend Lady Phillips. Some people say that more harm than good will be done if police powers are strengthened. The idea seems to be that the new powers of search may bring the police into undesirable conflict with drug takers, some of whom have declared their habit to be neither damaging to themselves, nor to society. One aspect of that argument is, of course, important. We cannot hope to control abuse of drugs without having a proper recognition of the dangers of drugs and the case for control. There is another point which must be recognised: that the drug taker is not a man apart. He does not get his drugs like manna from Heaven. He depends on a pusher, a supplier, at consumer level. It would not be wise, therefore, or realistic to ignore the drug taker in looking for the pusher.

I must draw your Lordships' attention to an alarming trend—the age of the victims. Between 1960 and 1962 there were only two known heroin addicts under 19 years of age in this country. In 1965, five years later, 19 came to notice at the age of 17, 5 at 16, and 8 at 15. That was a total of 32 at aged 17, or under. Last year, in 1966, 68 came to notice aged 17, 26 aged 16, 17 aged 15 and one aged 14, a total of 112. There was one aged only 14—an addict to heroin.

Somewhere behind every one of these young people was a pusher and a supply. No one doubts that, as compared with heroin, a far greater number of young people have had experience of cannabis or amphetamines. The Government believe that there is a strong public demand that young people should be protected from the pushers and pedlars who exploit them. And we are convinced that the best way of affording that protection is to enable the police to play their part, by giving them the powers to stop and search, as provided in the Amendment.

All experience suggests that the most effective way of apprehending pushers—the pedlars' lieutenants—is by finding them in "possession". That is still the position. In fact pushers are hard to distinguish from their clients; they do not necessarily have large quantities of drugs in their possession at any one time. In addict circles the client is often the pusher as well. We cannot easily separate the two. They often get "hooked" and stay "hooked" together. The clients of to-day may well be the pushers of to-morrow, such are the rewards, the abominable, filthy rewards, of the drug traffic. But that is no argument for not pursuing the pusher.

The problem we have to realise, and towards which we must look ahead, we may get some idea of if we read the remarkable articles published last week in the Evening Standard about the half-world of the young "hippies" in California. The half-world!: it seems to me to be no world at all, and the difference appears to be as between us and the inhabitants of Mars. I think your Lordships will be as much concerned as I am that such a phenomenon should not arise here. That is not because those of us who were born in the reign of the Seventh Edward, or the Fifth George, do not want to understand young people. It is not because we do not admire them and have no affection for them, because we have. It certainly is not because we do not understand them. We want to do these things because they are the future; because in whatever difficulties they encounter we do sympathise with them and we want to help. That is our standpoint to-day with drugs.

The problem in Britain is already serious and it is growing. In balancing the seriousness of the problem against the slight possible risk of misuse of police powers there can surely be no question about the decision we must take. Your Lordships may remember earlier in the Session agreeing that it was reasonable to provide similar police powers of search for the protection of eggs of rare wild birds from egg thieves. I am confident you will agree that we should provide the same police powers to protect the lives of human beings, mostly young ones, from the attacks of the drug traffickers. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 4 insert the said new clause—(Lord Stonham.)

8.30 p.m.


I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for his speech, and I shall take only a minute or two to make a few comments. There have been criticisms, though not in your Lordships' House, that this new clause has nothing to do with the Bill; that it deals with police powers and not with the medical profession. Whether that is true or not, I believe that Her Majesty's Government are absolutely right to take the first opportunity of bringing this new clause into some Bill, and this seems to be a very good vehicle for it. As regards subsection (4), which does away with the naming of the constable in the warrant, the noble Lord referred to it as an anachronism or an anomaly. I would prefer to call it simply nonsense.

As the noble Lord said, we must do our best to stop this traffic if we can. When I say "stop", I am not talking about dealing with addicts; I am talking in particular about stopping the "pushers" getting new clients. At the moment the police have not the powers to do what they ought to do. A great deal of "pushing", particularly in the early stages, is done on the street corner. The policeman may be watching, but he may not be close enough to see what is being passed. He knows very well what is going on, but there are difficulties about arrest and search. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to stop this "pushing". The numbers of "pushers" are growing very fast, and it is essential that the police should have these powers. I seldom think that anything which is done by this Government is ever right, but because of this new clause I forgive them nearly all their sins.


Before we pass beyond this clause, I should like at the outset to make it quite clear that I am wholly in support of the Government in adding these provisions. I think that everything possible ought to be done to strengthen the hand of the police in every way to stamp out this traffic. Having said that, I should like to ask my noble friend about paragraph (a) of subsection (1). That says: search that person, and detain him for the purpose of searching him". I confess that I am a little uneasy that, as the wording stands at present, it gives full power to the police to search a person in the open street; and the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has just mentioned that a great deal of the traffic in these drugs takes place on street corners. It is somewhat undesirable that a police constable should have the power to search, or insist on searching a person in the open street, if he so judges it necessary. Equally, I am a little uneasy whether a person would be committing an offence under this clause if he were to refuse to be searched in the open street, and whether he should not always be given the alternative of saying that he would rather accompany a police constable to the police station, and in that way not be considered in any way interfering with the duties of the police. I do not want to dwell on this matter too much, but there is no parallel with the right of search in the case of the eggs of rare wild birds. Birds' eggs of that species are not usually found in crowded streets.

I should like my noble friend to make it clear that anyone who objects to being searched by a police constable in the open street should be quite free to say, "I would rather accompany you to a police station and put myself fully at your disposal", and by such action should not be guilty of committing an offence. There is the possibility that on his way to the police station he may by some means or other divest himself of some drugs which are concealed on his person; but I think that a police constable ought to be well on the look out for that; and even if he is not, if he eludes the police constable or throws away some of the drugs, or gets rid of them somehow, I think that it is a risk worth taking rather than that people should be subjected unnecessarily to interference in an open street.


Before the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, answers, may I say that I have had a little experience of these matters—not experience of having been searched myself, but experience gained during my time at the Home Office. One of the main points to be borne in mind is that the person concerned may have two or three pills of some kind in his pocket which you cannot prevent his throwing away unless you search him. The process of searching in the street sounds rather like a case of standing in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. But when the police are going to search someone they do not search a person in the middle of the street; it is often carried out in a doorway. I think they must have this power of immediate search, otherwise there would be no evidence against a man and the drug would be disposed of.


The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has given part of the answer, and we must leave to the police the carrying out of the powers which we give them. I cannot see that the power of search which your Lordships have discussed over the last two years in respect of valuable eggs of rare wild birds is any more an infringement of liberty than the power to search for dangerous drugs. I refuse to accept that difference. Nor is a power of search any greater if it is carried out at the foot of a fir tree in a Highland in Scotland than if it is done at the foot of Eros in the middle of Piccadilly. It is the same thing. I would remind my noble friend that in Metropolitan London we have had this power, in effect, for 128 years, and the police have exercised this power.

It is not only a matter of a physical search, but the request, "May I see what is in your bag?". If the person concerned says, "No, but I will accompany you to the police station", or if he refuses, the police officer in London will then invite the person to accompany him to a police station. Many respectable people who have nothing wrong in their bag go to the police station and open it, or again, if they are perfectly respectable and have nothing to conceal, they do not mind opening the bag in public. That is how this is done now. The police do not want to create a disturbance in this matter, but if a police officer is as certain as he can be that he has had a "pusher" under observation and has seen what he thinks may well be drugs pass, he will only be doing his duty under the Bill, if it becomes an Act, if he stops that person and asks him to show what is in his pockets or in his bag.


While I fully accept my noble friend's explanation—and I do not wish to press this matter—may I say that the reason I raised it was because I was a witness in a provincial town of a young girl who was stopped by the police with a request to produce cigarettes which she happened to have on her. This took place in a crowded street, and my impression was that it was a highly undesirable incident. I think that the girl in question would have been only too willing to accompany the police constable to the station, where the same search could have been conducted more thoroughly and under conditions rather more conducive to secrecy, and in the absence of unnecessary publicity. I am wholly in sympathy with the object of this clause, but we ought to try to avoid—and I am sure the police themselves would fully co-operate in this—sometimes unpleasant incidents which need not necessarily occur.


I am wholly in favour of this new clause, but I should like to ask the noble Lord how the constable is to be able to tell whether the pills that he finds, which may be only two or three in number, are dangerous drugs or merely medicinal pills which any person may carry on him.


Of course that is a risk but, as I explained to the noble Lord, when this Bill becomes an Act it will cover both 1964 and 1965 drugs—hard and soft drugs. That is a very wide range, and it will certainly cover what I broadly referred to as the amphetamines. A policeman may actually see them passed, or he may overhear one of these descriptions. The fraternity have various names for these drugs; some names are more powerful than the drugs. But the police know these things, too, and if they hear that kind of conversation and see things passed there is a reasonable assumption that that is what they are. After all, the police have been doing these things for a long time. A few years ago, before the new Act, you might have asked, "How is it that the police always know that the pieces of paper which they saw passed from one man to another were betting slips?" But they did know, and when they took them along to the station so they proved to be. They are very experienced people.

I agree entirely with what my noble friend Lord Segal said. I am quite sure that these duties will be carried out properly. I was puzzled by the example my noble friend gave of a girl, because there are so few places in the country, apart from Metropolitan London, where powers similar to the Metropolitan Act exist. While I cannot possibly comment on a single case which he saw, I would take leave to suggest that it would be most unusual as well as undesirable, on my noble friend's description.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5 [Interpretation, etc.]:

8.43 p.m.


This Amendment alters the definition of "drug", so as to omit the application of the definition to Clause 4. The Amendment is consequential on the inclusion of further definitions of "drug" in the new clause about safe custody and also about search. But it is really a consequential Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 27, leave out from ("Act") to end of line 29.—(Lord Stonham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses and Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported, with Amendments.

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