43. The Committee has been offered varying opinions
on the success of government policy since 1998, as measured by
self-imposed targets and other indicators. Mr Keith Hellawell
told the Committee that the Government's work "is a strategy
which is laudable, will take time to work and it is working".
In fact many witnesses have paid tribute to the success of the
strategy in bringing together the disparate professions and fields
of expertise working on different aspects of drug-related problems
in an effective management structure. Mr Mike Trace, former Deputy
UK Anti Drugs Co-ordinator, cited the National Strategy as an
example to the international community: "The structure and
approach of the UK strategy has been seen as a model by the international
community which has been emulated since by many countries (eg
[Republic of Ireland], Portugal, Czech Republic)".
44. Witnesses have been less impressed, however,
with outcomes. Mr Trace told the Committee in evidence that neither
the target on young people nor that on availability was likely
to be achieved. Others
have expressed similarly negative views:
"If we judge whether the existing drugs
policy is working by measurable reductions in the number of people
who use drugs, the number who die or suffer harm as a result,
the supply of drugs, the amount of crime committed to get money
to buy drugs and the organised criminality involved in transporting
and supplying drugs, then we have to say that the results are
not coming through" (The Association of Chief Police Officers).
"The strategy had four main outcome objectives
in 1998 and all four of those have moved in the opposite direction
to the one the strategy said it would over the succeeding four
years. There was not a single year in the 1990s when one could
be hopeful about the progress of the drugs problem in this country.
I see absolutely no rational basis for thinking that might be
different in the next three years" (Mr Francis Wilkinson,
recently retired Chief Constable of Gwent).
45. While there has been a degree of consensus
that the desired results have not yet transpired from the strategy,
evidence has been divided on the reasons for this. Mr Conor McNicholas,
editor of Musik magazine, told us that "the changes
that Keith Hellawell made in policy really were moving deckchairs
on the Titanic, the whole system is not working at all and what
he was doing was just tweaking".
Those who agree with this see the only way of improving strategy
is complete overhaul. Mr Danny Kushlick of Transform told us:
"Given we know a prohibition-based, a criminal justice-orientated
drugs policy is doomed to failure, what is the point of continuing
with it, when it contributes to death, misery, crime, the funding
of the international mafia, the destruction of developing countries?".
46. Others disagree, seeing failure in implementation
not principle, and therefore seeing the way forward in the redoubling
of efforts and remaking of commitments. The National Drug Prevention
Alliance told us:
"Does existing drugs policy work? Yes, as
an adequate definition of goals and the means to achieve them.
It suffers in the delivery, both by lack of commitment in some
aspects as well as by assault from those who prefer a more libertarian
approach...The alternative to law relaxation is to do the job
properly...Effectiveness is being undercut by ideology and 'turf'
disputes. Sort this and you will sort most of it".