HL Deb 16 April 1985 vol 462 cc601-4

2.51 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how big the problem of LSD is and whether adequate measures are being taken to control the supply.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the Government are satisfied that Her Majesty's Customs and Excise and the police are taking all possible steps to reduce illicit supplies of the drug to a minimum. The available statistics and other reports suggest that the misuse of LSD is less widespread than it was in the early 1970s. However, there has been some increase in the last four or five years, and the Government will be keeping a close watch on the problem.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that interesting reply. Will he not agree that, with there being so much emphasis on cocaine and heroin, we should not forget the dangers of other drugs, such as LSD, with its appalling flashbacks, and also the dangers of injecting amphetamines?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Baroness that one should not lose sight of other drugs, although, as she indicates, cocaine and heroin are perhaps the most serious. LSD is already a very tightly controlled drug. It is in Class A of Schedule 2 to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Traffickers can therefore be punished by a sentence of up to 14 years' imprisonment, and this will be increased to life imprisonment in the Bill being introduced, with Government support, in another place. I can assure the noble Baroness that every step is taken to ensure that LSD does not become more of a menace.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware that LSD can be very easily concealed in food, as it was in my dinner in 1962 by a lady who, alas!, subsequently jumped to her death from a sixth floor? Is my noble friend aware that perhaps the public should be better informed of the effects of LSD?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, although I am not aware of the particular case to which my noble friend refers—and it sounds a tragic case—I am aware that LSD can be induced and used in very small quantities, and that that is one of the features of this particular drug. As regards education, I can tell my noble friend that an information leaflet is already produced by the Department of Health and Social Security which highlights the sort of effect that this drug has. A general campaign of education and information is already being undertaken by the Government.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, apart from the general question of information and education, has the noble Lord the Minister anything to tell the House about the question of television programmes, and matters of that kind? I think the House would be most interested in that, because this was a controversial matter and some people were in favour and some were against. Have the Government made up their mind?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I can tell the noble Lord that the advice leaflets came first and were issued in February. It is proposed to advertise, particularly as regards heroin, using the television, starting in mid-May. These drug issues are very serious issues. It is a very real problem, and there will always be some discussion as to which is the right method of dealing with it. But the Government believe that the policy now being adopted is the right one and that it should have effect.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the supply of LSD in this country is largely or wholly imported, and, if so, from which countries, in the main? Can he say whether there is some processing or manufacture in this country?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, at the moment it appears mostly to come from within Europe, but there is some production of LSD in this country.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, with the reduced Customs and Excise force, are the Government sure that they have their priorities right in spending as much time and energy as is spent on pursuing cannabis and possibly not leaving enough officers over for more serious and heavy drugs? Do the Government have any figures on recent seizures of LSD?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I can give the noble Lord some figures on seizures. The most recent figures we have are for 1982, when there were 464 seizures: and in 1983 there were 518 seizures, but the actual amount that was seized was less in 1983 than in 1982. I believe that this bears out the point made by my noble friend just now, that it is very small quantities of this drug which are so dangerous.

Lady Saltoun

My Lords, do the Government have any plans to increase the number of dogs trained to sniff out drugs?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am not sure whether LSD specifically can be sniffed out, and, of course, the Question relates to LSD.

Lord Elystan-Morgan

My Lords, I should like to ask the Minister two questions. First, what is the best estimate currently held by the Government of the number of people in England and Wales now using LSD? Secondly, as regards the contention that the figures for addiction seem to compare well with a point in time about 10 years ago, do those figures take into account the fact that for thousands of people LSD appears to be a bridge between cannabis, heroin and cocaine and is used for perhaps half a dozen to 10 trips, and that addiction is not a particular feature of the use of this very dangerous drug?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I cannot give the figures. It would be unrealistic to make the sort of assessment for which the noble Lord asks. As regards the noble Lord's point about LSD being a bridge, it is very difficult to say that LSD is any more of a bridge than some other drugs in this particular case. The real worry is that it provides what are known as flashbacks after three or four months or so, when the person who has had LSD suffers a very nasty experience as a result of a previous trip.

Lord Rodney

My Lords, in view of the very considerable profits that are made from trafficking in LSD and other drugs, can my noble friend the Minister tell the House what progress has been made with legislation for the sequestration of assets of drug traffickers?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, with respect to my noble friend, I think that his question goes slightly wide of the Question on the Order Paper, which is particularly concerned with LSD and the measures to control it. I take my noble friend's point and the interest that he has in it, and I shall certainly deal with it, if I can, in written form rather than now as I believe that it goes rather wide of the original Question.

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