HL Deb 10 December 1985 vol 469 cc154-6

Viscount Davidson rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 6th November be approved. [1st Report from the Joint Committee.]

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Modification) Order 1985, a draft of which was laid before this House on 6th November, be approved. It has been considered by the joint committee, which did not feel that the special attention of the House should be drawn to it. The purpose of the order is to add a number of substances to the list of those controlled under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act and to remove one superfluous reference to a drug which is already covered elsewhere in the Act and will, of course, remain controlled. Section 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Act provides for amendments to be made in this way so that we can keep abreast of changing circumstances, and several such orders have come before the House since the passing of the Act. An explanatory memorandum has already been published describing the drugs concerned and how it is planned to control them; and I hope that those of your Lordships who have seen it have found this additional background information helpful.

Amendments to the list of controlled drugs come about in two ways. First, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, a statutory body set up under the 1971 Act to keep under continuous review the extent of drug misuse in the United Kingdom, may advise that certain drugs should be controlled. Secondly, the Government may decide to extend the controls in the Act to particular drugs in order to meet an international obligation. The order which we are dealing with today comes into the latter category. The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, on which the United Kingdom is represented, decides from time to time to control particular drugs either in accordance with the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 or the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971. We are already a party to the 1961 convention and, in line with our legal obligations, we currently control all substances covered by that convention.

We are not, at present, a party to the 1971 convention, under which the substances listed for consideration today are controlled, but it has nevertheless been the policy of successive governments to bring under our domestic controls the more harmful substances listed in that convention. In December 1983 the then Home Secretary announced that the United Kingdom intended to become a party to this convention and, in consequence, we have been working towards bringing the remaining 1971 convention substances within the scope of our Act and introducing new regulations under it which would provide the detailed regimes of control necessary for us to comply with the requirements of the convention.

It is our intention to ratify the 1971 convention early next year and this draft order and consequential regulations, which, when made, would be subject to the negative resolution procedure, will complete the process of bringing our Misuse of Drugs Act controls into line with our new obligations.

I do not think your Lordships will expect me to refer in detail to the specific drugs which are covered by this order, except to say that they each relate to one or other of the three classes of drugs with which the Misuse of Drugs Act is particularly concerned. I would, however, tell your Lordships that the group of 33 minor tranquillisers belonging to the benzodizepine family are to be made Class C because of reports of misuse in a number of countries, although there is little evidence yet of misuse in this country.

The proposed measures I have outlined today follow consultations with manufacturers and trade and professional organisations and fully accord with the subsequent recommendations of the advisory council. There are statutory procedures yet to be completed but, subject to these, those concerned with controlled drug manufacture, sale, prescription and dispensing will have the new controls explained to them to ensure that they are in a position to comply with them by the time of the proposed operative date of 1st April 1986.

None of the drugs named in this draft order poses a particularly grave or immediate threat in the United Kingdom, but we need to bring them within the range of our controls so that we can, in common with most other Western European countries and the United States of America, become a party to the 1971 convention and play an even fuller role in international efforts in fighting drug misuse. I therefore commend the changes proposed in the draft order to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 6th November be approved. [1st Report from the Joint Committee.]—(Viscount Davidson.)

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, the order was well laid, has been well explained by the noble Viscount, and deserves to be approved by your Lordships.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for his kind and warm support.

On Question, Motion agreed to.