HC Deb 10 January 2000 vol 342 cc11-2W
Mr. Ben Chapman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what plans he has to reclassify gamma hydroxy butyrate as a drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; [103379]

(2) what steps he has taken to limit the availability of gamma hydroxy butyrate. [103375]

Mr. Charles Clarke

With regard to the question of the classification of gamma hydroxy butyrate (GHB) under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Benn) on 8 December 1999,Official Report, column 532W.

That reply mentioned the work of the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) to counter the illicit manufacture and sale of GHB, and it might be helpful to elaborate on this. In addition to investigating offences under the Medicines Act, the MCA has taken action on a number of fronts in recent months to reduce the supply of GHB. The Agency has issued an advertising alert to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and circulated briefing to all heads of police forces and all trading standards and environmental health offices. MCA officers have also targeted a number of sex shops and similar premises to educate owners on the law relating to the advertising and sale of GHB, and followed this up with regular compliance checks.

The National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) also has a key role to play. The NCIS Drugs Section works with the chemical industry, the Home Office and police forces to gather intelligence on the illicit manufacture of drugs. In the last year this intelligence led to the discovery of eight illicit drug laboratories producing amphetamine, ecstasy and GHB.

Mr. Ben Chapman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the use of gamma hydroxy butyrate as a date rape drug. [103376]

Mr. Charles Clarke

There is currently little evidence of gamma hydroxy butyrate (GHB) being used to facilitate rape. Forensic Science Service analysis since March of last year of samples taken from 100 victims of sexual assault and rape where the use of drugs is suspected has identified GHB in four cases.

While the analysis has provided no direct linkage between GHB and the sexual offence, rape is clearly an extremely serious offence and it is important for the Government to have a clear understanding of the extent of the drug rape problem. With this in mind, the Home Office sponsored a Metropolitan police research initiative into drug assisted rape, which is due to be concluded in April 2000. Ministers will consider the findings and recommendations of this study.

Separately, a Home Office led review was set up at the beginning of 1999 to review the law on sex offences in England and Wales. As part of its considerations, the review is considering the law relating to consent, and circumstances where consent is not present. It is also considering whether the current offence of administering drugs to obtain or facilitate intercourse (section 4 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956) is still appropriate. The review expects to report its recommendations to Ministers in the spring, and we plan to publish a consultation paper shortly after this.

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