Psychoactive Substances Bill [Lords]


The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Sir David Amess  , Mr George Howarth 

Brine, Steve (Winchester) (Con) 

Brown, Lyn (West Ham) (Lab) 

Burrowes, Mr David (Enfield, Southgate) (Con) 

Cleverly, James (Braintree) (Con) 

Day, Martyn (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP) 

Doyle-Price, Jackie (Thurrock) (Con) 

Gwynne, Andrew (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) 

Harris, Carolyn (Swansea East) (Lab) 

Morris, Grahame M. (Easington) (Lab) 

Penning, Mike (Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice)  

Pow, Rebecca (Taunton Deane) (Con) 

Stephenson, Andrew (Pendle) (Con) 

Sturdy, Julian (York Outer) (Con) 

Thompson, Owen (Midlothian) (SNP) 

White, Chris (Warwick and Leamington) (Con) 

Woodcock, John (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op) 

Ben Williams, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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Public Bill Committee 

Thursday 29 October 2015  

[Sir David Amess in the Chair] 

Psychoactive Substances Bill [Lords]

Clause 11 

Meaning of “prohibited activity” 

11.30 am 

Amendment made: 12, in clause 11, page 6, line 16, leave out “regulations under section 10.” and insert “section (Exceptions to offences).”—(Mike Penning.)  

This amendment is consequential on amendment 11 and NC3.

Clause 11, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clauses 12 to 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill .  

Clause 23 

Access prohibitions: reimbursement of costs 

Amendments made: 13, in clause 23, page 14, line 34, leave out from beginning to “except” in line 35 and insert 

“in a case where the prohibition order or the premises order imposing the access prohibition was made by a court in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, the court that made the order,” 

This amendment is consequential on amendment 14.

Amendment 14, in clause 23, page 14, line 42, at end insert— 

“() in a case where the prohibition order or the premises order imposing the access prohibition was made by a court in Scotland, the sheriff.”—(Mike Penning.)

Clause 23 enables a law enforcement agency to apply to the court for the reimbursement of costs incurred in relation to premises subject to an access prohibition. This amendment provides that, in Scotland, the relevant court is the sheriff.

Clause 23, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause s 24 to 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 27 

Variation and discharge on application 

Amendments made: 15, in clause 27, page 17, line 3, leave out paragraph (b) and insert— 

“(b) where—

(i) the order was made under section 18 on an appeal in relation to a person’s conviction or sentence for an offence, or

(ii) the order was made by a court under that section against a person committed or remitted to that court for sentencing for an offence,

the court by or before which the person was convicted (but see subsection (6A));”

This amendment provides that, where a prohibition order was made following conviction, an application to vary or discharge that order should be made to the court that convicted the offender rather than (if different) the court that sentenced the offender or heard the appeal against the conviction or sentence.

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Amendment 16, in clause 27, page 17, line 8, at end insert— 

“(6A) Where the person mentioned in subsection (6)(b)—

(a) was convicted by a youth court, but

(b) is aged 18 or over at the time of the application,

the reference in subsection (6)(b) to the court by or before which the person was convicted is to be read as a reference to a magistrates’ court or, in Northern Ireland, a court of summary jurisdiction.”—(Mike Penning.)

This amendment provides that, where a prohibition order was made in the youth court following conviction and the offender has turned 18, an application to vary or discharge that order should be made, in England and Wales, to a magistrates’ court or, in Northern Ireland, to a court of summary jurisdiction.

Clause 27, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause s 28 to 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 35 

Power to stop and search persons 

Amendments made: 17, in clause 35, page 22, line 5, leave out “8” and insert 

(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”. 

This amendment is consequential on NC2.

Amendment 18, in clause 35, page 22, line 21, leave out “8” and insert 

(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”.—(Mike Penning.) 

This amendment is consequential on NC2.

Clause 35, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause s 36 and 37 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 38 

Power to enter and search premises 

Amendment made: 19, in clause 38, page 24, leave out lines 1 to 4 and insert— 

‘( ) a warrant that relates only to premises specified in the warrant (a “specific-premises warrant”), or

( ) in the case of a warrant issued in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, a warrant that relates to any premises occupied or controlled by a person specified in the warrant (an “all-premises warrant”).’—(Mike Penning.)

The effect of this amendment is that it will not be possible to apply under clause 38 for an all-premises warrant in Scotland.

Clause 38, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 39 

Further provision about search warrants 

Amendments made: 20, in clause 39, page 24, line 23, at end insert— 

“( ) An application for a search warrant may be made without notice being given to persons who might be affected by the warrant.

( ) The application must be supported—

(a) in England and Wales, by an information in writing;

(b) in Scotland, by evidence on oath;

(c) in Northern Ireland, by a complaint on oath.

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( ) A person applying for a search warrant must answer on oath any question that the justice hearing the application asks the person.

In the case of an application made by a procurator fiscal, that requirement may be met by a relevant enforcement officer.”.

This amendment is consequential on amendment 21 and imports into clause 39 the provisions in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 which relate to applications for search warrants.

Amendment 21, in clause 39, page 24, line 32, leave out “search warrants.” and insert “— 

(a) applications for search warrants made in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, and

(b) search warrants issued in England and Wales or Northern Ireland.”

This amendment limits the application of Schedule 2, which makes provision about applications for and the execution of search warrants, to England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

Amendment 22, in clause 39, page 24, line 33, after “warrant” insert 

“issued in England and Wales or Northern Ireland”.—(Mike Penning.)  

This amendment is consequential on amendment 21 and limits the application of clause 39(5), which provides that an entry on or search of premises under a search warrant is unlawful unless it complies with the provisions of Part 2 of Schedule 2, to England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

Clause 39, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Schedule 2 

Search warrants 

Amendments made: 23, in schedule 2, page 39, line 25, at end insert— 

“Part A1 
Application of this Schedule 

This Schedule applies to—

(a) applications for search warrants made in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, and

(b) search warrants issued in England and Wales or Northern Ireland.”

This amendment is consequential on amendment 21.

Amendment 24, in schedule 2, page 39, line 29, leave out paragraph 1. 

This amendment is consequential on amendments 20 and 21.

Amendment 25, in schedule 2, page 42, line 27, leave out 

“issued in England and Wales or Northern Ireland”.—(Mike Penning.)  

This amendment is consequential on amendment 21.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.  

Clause s 40 and 41 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 42 

Powers of seizure, etc 

Amendment made: 26, in clause 42, page 26, line 9, leave out “8” and insert 

(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”.—(Mike Penning.)  

This amendment is consequential on NC2.

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Clause 42, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause s 43 to 46 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

 

Clause 47 

Offences in relation to enforcement officers 

Amendment made: 27, in clause 47, page 28, line 37, leave out subsection (5).—(Mike Penning.)  

This amendment omits clause 47(5), which enables proceedings for an offence under clause 47 to be taken in any part of the UK.

Clause 47, as amended, or dered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 49 

Power of police, etc to dispose of seized psychoactive substances 

Amendment made: 28, in clause 49, page 29, line 28, leave out “regulations under section 10” and insert “section (Exceptions to offences)”.—(Mike Penning.)  

This amendment is consequential on amendment 11 and NC3.

Clause 49, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 50 

Forfeiture of seized items by court on application 

Amendment made: 29, in clause 50, page 31, line 12, leave out “regulations under section 10” and insert “section (Exceptions to offences)”.—(Mike Penning.)  

This amendment is consequential on amendment 11 and NC3.

Clause 50, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clauses 51 and 52 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 53 

Forfeiture by court following conviction 

Amendments made: 30, in clause 53, page 32, line 43, leave out “8” and insert 

“(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”. 

This amendment is consequential on NC2.

Amendment 31, in clause 53, page 33, line 2, leave out second “or” and insert 

“except where paragraph (b) or (c) applies;”. 

This amendment is consequential on amendment 32.

Amendment 32, in clause 53, page 33, line 4, at end insert— 

“(c) if the person is remitted to the High Court of Justiciary to be dealt with for that offence, the High Court of Justiciary.”.

Clause 53 provides for the relevant court to make a forfeiture order following the conviction of a person for an offence under any of clauses 4 to 8 and 25. Where, in Scotland, a case is remitted to the High Court of Justiciary for sentencing, this amendment provides for that court to make a forfeiture order.

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Amendment 33, in clause 53, page 33, line 26, leave out “8” and insert 

“(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”. 

This amendment is consequential on NC2.

Amendment 34, in clause 53, page 33, line 28, leave out “8” and insert 

“(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”. 

This amendment is consequential on NC2.

Amendment 35, in clause 53, page 33, line 30, leave out “8” and insert 

“(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”. 

This amendment is consequential on NC2.

Amendment 36, in clause 53, page 33, line 32, leave out “8” and insert 

“(Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)”.—(Mike Penning.)  

This amendment is consequential on NC2.

Clause 53, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 54 

Application of Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 

Amendment made: 37, in clause 54, page 34, line 9, leave out “regulations under section 10.” and insert “section (Exceptions to offences).”—(Mike Penning.)  

This amendment is consequential on amendment 11 and NC3.

Clause 54, as amended, o rdered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause s 55 and 56 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Schedule 3 agreed to.  

Clause 57 

Review 

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab):  I beg to move amendment 57, in clause 57, page 53, line 2, at end insert— 

“(2A) The report must inform Parliament on progress made in improving the reach and quality of education about new psychoactive substances.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to include a section on progress in NPS education in their statutory review.

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 4—New Psychoactive Substances—Prevention and Education 

‘(1) In section 84(3) of the Education Act 2002 (curriculum foundation subjects for the first, second and third key stages), after paragraph (g) there is inserted—

“(ga) personal, social and health education.”

(2) In section 85(4) of the Education Act 2002 (curriculum foundation subjects for the fourth key stage), at the end there is inserted “, and

(d) personal, social and health education.”

(3) In section 74(1) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which (when brought into force) will substitute a new section 85 in the Education Act 2002, in subsection (4) of that substituted section (foundation subjects for the fourth key stage), at the end there is inserted “, and

(d) personal, social and health education.”

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(4) Before section 86 of the Education Act 2002 there is inserted—

“85B Personal, social and health education

(1) For the purposes of this Part, personal, social and health education (“PSHE”) must include, but shall not be limited to—

(a) education about alcohol and tobacco; illegal recreational drugs and new psychoactive substances;

(b) education about emotional health and well-being and how this can be impacted by psychoactive substances;

(c) education about individual safety, including risk taking behaviour.

(2) The National Curriculum for England is not required to specify attainment targets or assessment arrangements for PSHE (and section 84(1) has effect accordingly).

(3) The Secretary of State for Education shall set out guidance to schools and colleges to ensure that a coherent approach to personal, social, health and economic education is developed, including between primary and secondary schools.

(4) It is the duty of the governing body and head teacher of any school in which PSHE is provided in pursuance of this Part to secure that guidance issued under subsection (3) is followed and principles set out in subsections (5) to (6) are complied with.

(5) The first principle is that information presented in the course of providing PSHE should be accurate and balanced.

(6) The second principle is that PSHE should be taught in a way that—

(a) is appropriate to the ages of the pupils concerned and to their religious and cultural backgrounds, and also

(b) reflects a reasonable range of religious, cultural and other perspectives.

(7) The third principle is that PSHE should be taught in a way that—

(a) endeavours to promote equality,

(b) encourages acceptance of diversity, and

(c) emphasises the importance of both rights and responsibilities.

(8) In the exercise of their functions under this Part so far as relating to PSHE, a local authority, governing body or head teacher shall have regard to any guidance issued from time to time by the Secretary of State.”’

This would amend the Education Act to make PHSE, with drugs education including on New Psychoactive Substances, a foundation subject in the national curriculum.

Lyn Brown:  It is terrifying. All these clauses have been going by and I have been thinking, “Should I say something?” 

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice (Mike Penning):  If you say no to anything now, Sir David will have to stand up again. 

Lyn Brown:  We are keeping our powder dry. 

On Second Reading, I made it clear that the blanket ban created by the Bill would only partially tackle the problem of new psychoactive substances. The measures in the Bill are an appropriate way to disrupt supply, but if we really want to protect public health, we must also work to reduce the demand for those dangerous drugs. I firmly believe that that requires a comprehensive drugs education and awareness strategy, which is why I have tabled amendment 57 and new clause 4. Amendment 57 would put a duty on the Secretary of State to update Parliament on the quality and reach of new psychoactive

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substances education in its statutory report. New clause 4 would amend the Education Act 2002 to make drugs education, including a focus on NPS, part of the personal, social, health and economic education foundation subject in the national curriculum. 

I will start by speaking about new clause 4 and comprehensive drug education in our schools. In 2010, the coalition Government launched a new drug strategy, which contained some really sensible approaches to reducing demand for drugs. The Government stated that they wanted to 

“provide good quality education and advice so that young people and their parents are provided with credible information to actively resist substance misuse” 

and to 

“intervene early with young people and young adults”. 

A preventive and proactive education policy based on information and resilience training is exactly the sort of approach that the Government ought to be taking. 

As we know, however, actions speak louder than words. The Government reversed Labour’s plans to make PSHE a statutory requirement, even though that was recommended by the Macdonald review. They also closed the Drug Education Forum, a source of expertise on drugs education in England that disseminated research on drugs and drugs education to teachers across the country, as part of a drastic 80% cut in drugs education spending. Figures from the Department of Health show that drugs education spending was reduced from £3.9 million in 2009-10 to £500,000 in 2010-2011. The Department for Education revealed that there was a 22% cut in spending on drug and alcohol services for young people between 2011 and 2014. 

Statistics provided by Mentor, the drug and alcohol charity, show how disastrous those decisions were. Only 15% of schools teach drugs and alcohol education for one hour or more a term, and 59% of young people say that they cannot even remember having a drugs education lesson in the last year. Media reports on the impact of cuts to drugs education included a 2011 survey of staff at 79 local education authorities. More than a quarter of the staff reported that there had been no specialist drugs education support in the past three months. Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Mentor, told The Guardian: 

“We are probably in the worst situation for drug education for decades”. 

It would appear that where there is drugs education in our schools, sadly it is often of poor quality, incomplete or totally irrelevant. 

Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab):  In my constituency, education on these substances is mainly taken up by the local high sheriff, who has had an excellent campaign to produce leaflets and posters, and to go into most secondary schools. The local police also have an excellent project, called “Weird Science”, and Sands Cymru offers training to teachers and parents within the local authority. However, this work should be included in a curriculum, rather than it being left to other bodies to take up the slack. It is vital that other organisations get involved in this work, but the education really needs to be built into the ban, so that schools are forced to act. The word “legal” is misleading for young people and that needs to be emphasised very strongly at the education level. 

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11.45 am 

Lyn Brown:  My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In Wales, which I will discuss next, some really excellent work is taking place and we might learn from it; it would be good if we did. 

In 2012, Ofsted concluded that, 

“the quality of PSHE education is not yet good enough in a sizeable proportion of schools in England. These deficiencies in learning result in part from inadequacies in subject-specific training and support for PSHE education teachers, particularly in the teaching of sensitive and controversial issues.” 

And those are issues such as drugs. 

Ofsted also found that in 60% of schools PSHE training was not good enough and certainly needed to improve, and the evidence from the Government’s own inspectors suggests that the Government’s approach to PSHE just is not working. And all this is happening while the presence of NPS has begun to grow in our communities. 

Figures from Wales show us just what is possible with a different approach. The Labour Administration in Wales has put drugs education at the forefront of its drugs prevention policy, and there is now a core substance misuse education programme in 97% of Welsh primary and secondary schools, ensuring that almost all Welsh children receive accurate, consistent and credible information about the potential harms of drugs, rather than having to rely on myths, part-information and basic guesswork. 

That degree of comprehensive drugs education is possible in England but it is not happening at the moment, and I suggest that that is because of a lack of political leadership. That lack of political will is all the more unjustifiable given that parents want these sorts of issues discussed in schools. For example, a survey by Parentline Plus found that 97% of parents believe that drug and alcohol education should be delivered in schools. 

There are signs that the comprehensive approach to drug awareness in Wales is working. The school programme is complemented by the Welsh emerging drugs and identification of novel substances project, an NPS-specific information and harm reduction programme, as well as measures designed to help to educate parents. These are all part of a £50 million investment in reducing drug harms, which has coincided with a rapid reduction in drug deaths in Wales; they are down by 30% since 2010. By contrast, drug-related deaths have been creeping up here in England; there was a 17% increase in the last year and the Office for National Statistics says that drug deaths are now at the highest level since records began in 1993. And according to the national records of Scotland, drug-related deaths in Scotland went up by 16% and are also at a record high. 

Mike Penning:  I am sure that members of the Committee are aware of these worrying figures. Although this is not the whole answer, when we look at the figures, we see that we had an epidemic of heroin addicts of a certain generation, and that certain generation is coming to a certain age. If we look carefully—I am doing some analysis as chair of the interministerial group on drugs—we see that it seems that the increase has come from within that age profile. There was an increase in deaths, but that was particularly among a group that had no treatment at all. A lot more research is needed—I know that it is

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being done across the devolved Administrations—but we must look carefully at the figures to find out the reasons, instead of just taking a block figure, although I know the hon. Lady too well to think that she would do that. There are reasons for the increase, and we need to get to the bottom of them, but clearly part of that was the heroin epidemic of the 1980s. 

Lyn Brown:  I am grateful for that intervention, but we are considering this Bill because the number of NPS-related drugs deaths has been rising. I am desperately looking for the figure in Hansard, but I think it is three hundred and something in a year. Those are the deaths of people’s loved ones and children, many of whom would have been young people who had no idea that they were taking something harmful. I am thinking about preventing those deaths, as there will be empty seats at tables at Christmas time. 

Mike Penning:  I emphasise that that is absolutely why we are here. Those big figures for deaths will include people affected by the heroin epidemic that I mentioned as well as the people whom we are trying to save through the Bill. I said on Second Reading that the Bill is not a silver bullet, and we must work with other Departments to get out information, health provisions and treatment plans. 

Lyn Brown:  I totally agree with the Minister. The Bill is not a silver bullet, but we need a comprehensive education programme if we are to be as effective as possible. 

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con):  I apologise for being late to the Committee. You will appreciate the reason, Sir David, as I think you share my interest in the Westminster dog of the year competition. 

The Minister has mentioned the statistics, and we are moving on from the situation when people were using opiates—such people are older or, sadly, dying. However, the challenge that came out of a visit to a drugs clinic by the Home Affairs Committee was for treatment to go beyond the old substitute-based system towards a more holistic approach that is focused on the addict rather than just the substance. The challenge of NPS for specialist drug treatments, not just in hotspots but generally, relates to grappling with a new drug. 

Lyn Brown:  I agree with the hon. Gentleman. We need a holistic approach and education must be a part of that. We therefore need what the Welsh Government have: a 10-year plan. Theirs culminates in 2018. I know that it is too early for us to draw conclusions about what its outcomes will be, but the early signs are good, especially with regard to reducing drug harms. [ Interruption. ] I hope that the hon. Gentleman has not just received a note from his Whip suggesting he should shut up, because I have enjoyed his interventions in Committee. I have passed those notes, so I know that that happens. 

Mike Penning:  It would usually be a much bigger note. 

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Lyn Brown:  I would do it much more subtly, but the Government Whip is new. 

We should be in no doubt that the evidence suggests that a comprehensive and universal approach to education is the right one, provided that the delivery is right. Recent meta-analysis of the academic literature by Wolfgang Götz and Professor Heidrun Thaiss from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction concludes that universal drugs education works so long as it is not simply about providing information. They state that provision of information is not recommended as a stand-alone measure. 

Carolyn Harris:  The Angelus Foundation has done good work on the issue and recommended to the Welsh Assembly Government that an hour a term is the minimum standard for drugs education. It also argues for a return to the “Talk to Frank” campaign, which I am strongly in favour of, along with some kind of media campaign. 

We talk about good practice in Wales, and I am extremely proud of the work that has been done there, but my local accident and emergency department has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of young people whom you would not necessarily imagine becoming involved in drugs culture experimenting with NPS. In 2011, five young people presented at the only local A&E in my constituency, whereas between April and August this year, 76 young people presented. We need a wider education campaign. 

Lyn Brown:  I totally and utterly agree. 

It is clear that there is no evidence that increased knowledge leads to reduced drug use. The EMCDDA came to that conclusion in its 2006 report. Frankly, too much of the drugs education in our schools is focused on providing information. The Department for Education’s review of PHSE found that students find drug education “boring” because what they did in PHSE too closely mirrored what they learned in science lessons. The review found that staff thought that the issue should be addressed from a different direction in PHSE. That point was made to the Home Affairs Committee during its review of UK drug policy in 2012. Paul Tuohy of Mentor, which is a strong advocate of good-quality drug education, stated starkly: 

“We are spending the vast majority of the money we do spend on drug education on programmes that don’t work”. 

The Home Affairs Committee asked a number of local authorities to survey secondary schools in their area to ask whether they used the life skills programmes it learned about while gathering evidence for its report. None said that they used any of the programmes. 

A narrow focus on providing information to students is likely to be holding us back. Evidence suggests that to get drugs education right, information has to be taught alongside a focus on the life skills that empower young people to resist peer pressure and make informed decisions. When young people go into a head shop and see these lovely coloured sachets, it will be good for them to know that they contain illegal substances that are not safe—[ Interruption. ] The Minister says from a sedentary position— 

Mike Penning  rose—  

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Lyn Brown:  I will let the Minister make his point. 

Mike Penning:  I apologise for chuntering. Of course, the head shops will not be there. I accept that people may still try to sell these products, but instead of being legal highs, they will be illegal highs. The head shops as such will vanish, as has happened in Ireland. 

Lyn Brown:  I hope that the Minister is right. I fear that the head shops will transmogrify and change what they do. They will still exist, selling bath salts and other things, and it will be up to us and local authorities to prove that the substances they are selling—ostensibly to go into the bath or to feed fish—are in fact being used for nefarious purposes and are illegal highs. Although I genuinely hope that the Minister is right, I fear that these head shops will not necessarily go away. Irrespective, however, drug dealers and pushers are still going to exist, so we need to educate our children and make them resilient to the messages from such people. 

Life skills can be taught effectively only by helping children to think about the challenges and dangers that they face, including about how drugs are often followed by bullying, debt and exploitation. We need information, values and context to deliver quality drugs education, which is why that education should be part of a comprehensive personal and social education that can be provided only by PHSE. I have voted to make PHSE a statutory requirement—I am sure that I will do so again—because it is an important tool in our fight against psychoactive drugs and those who push them. 

As we know—many Members will be parents—every child is different, so universal drugs education must be complemented by specifically tailored messages and support for those who are most vulnerable to the messages of drugs and drug abuse. Universal drugs education makes it easier to identify those who need early intervention. Schools ask children at an early age to draw pictures of what they understand by common drugs terms. That enables educators to know which children are more familiar with substance abuse than one would expect of a child growing up in a safe environment. There is no trade-off between universal and targeted education; they naturally complement each other. 

12 noon 

It is important that drugs education starts early, which is why our amendment would make an age-appropriate drugs education a foundation subject at every key stage. Data from the EMCDDA show that the key period of drug experimentation for young people is between the ages of 11 and 15. In England, a child is 15 times more likely to have tried drugs at the age of 15 than they are at 11. If we leave drugs education to key stages 3 and 4, our schools will start talking about the problem of drugs only once pupils are already taking them. That simply cannot be a sensible approach to prevention; the horse will already have bolted. Of course we need age-appropriate education—no one is advocating that we teach toddlers about different drug types—but let us not pretend that we can leave drugs education until the teenage years. 

Research from Mentor suggests why age-appropriate drugs education is desirable, even at key stage 1. It analysed the outcomes of the “Good Behaviour Game”,

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which is targeted at children as young as six and ultimately aims to prevent substance abuse and risky behaviour. This evidence-based early intervention programme is designed to help children to learn how to manage social influence. An evaluation of the programme’s success in the United States suggests that it halves the probability of young men engaging in risky behaviour, including substance abuse. A two-year pilot of the programme is being conducted in England and I await the results with interest. It seems to me to be just the kind of preventative, life skills-based approach that we need more of in our schools. 

The Bill should be an opportunity to focus minds on the state of drugs education in this country. Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that education on psychoactive substances is particularly bad. Research by the Royal Society for Public Health found that a quarter of young people aged between 16 and 24 believed that so-called legal highs were safer than illegal drugs. As we know, that is a dangerous misunderstanding, because some of the new psychoactive substances have gone on to be controlled and designated as class A drugs, indicating that they were some of the most harmful drugs around before they were controlled. 

It is little wonder that people are confused when they are being bombarded with the kind of marketing tricks that are being employed. NPS pushers are telling people that they are offering safe and legal alternatives. Given the engrained and damaging myths around NPS, I find it astonishing that, according to what the Minister told the House in a written answer on 2 June, just £180,556 has been spent over three years on education programmes relating to these drugs. To put that figure into perspective, including pension and tax contributions, that is not enough to employ two specialist teachers for three years. 

A freedom of information request from the fabulous Angelus Foundation showed that the Department for Transport spent more than £1.92 million on a drug-driving campaign. I have no problem with that expenditure, but it raises the question of why Transport is willing to spend 10 times more on a major drug awareness campaign than the Home Office. I wonder whether it shows a difference in priorities between the two Departments. After all, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, education makes up just 0.1% of total drug-related expenditure by the Government. By contrast, 64.9% focuses on public order. The Government still seem to see education as an afterthought in the battle against drugs and NPS. I hope this morning to change their mind and their direction on that. 

The Home Office’s own review of its drugs strategy only mentions signposting to the “Talk to Frank” website as an approach to NPS. I find that and the paltry levels of expenditure wholly inadequate, given that the Government themselves recognise the particular threat posed by NPS. That is why we are here today. Will the Minister tell us why the Home Office has put so few resources behind NPS awareness to date? Does he intend to start properly backing attempts to tackle demand? 

We need the Government to stop talking about giving priority to education and awareness and start acting. If we get drugs education right, we can start to make a real dent in the demand for illicit drugs and empower our young people to make decisions that best look after

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their health, benefiting not only them but the public finances, through lower costs in healthcare and law enforcement. 

As Mentor told my rather wonderful predecessor in this role, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson): 

“Drug and alcohol education should not be disregarded as a trivial add-on. It should be fundamental to pupils’ education. The links between early drug and alcohol use and both short and long-term harms are clear, and there is compelling evidence showing longer-term public health impacts of evidence-based programmes. The cost-benefit ratios are significant, ranging from 1:8 to 1:12.” 

Mentor also told the Home Affairs Committee in 2012 that it would cost £500 per student to implement a preventive education programme for all students. That is a small cost compared with the overall cost of state-funded education per student of £71,000 or the estimated cost to society of a drug user over the course of their life, which is £820,000. Just imagine if we could spend 500 quid and then save £820,000 and avoid the angst and problems associated with drug use for our families and communities. It seems a no-brainer to me. 

I want to make it clear that education and awareness is not just about schools. That is why I tabled amendment 57, which would put a statutory duty on the Home Office to include an update 

“on progress made in improving the reach and quality of education” 

about NPS in its statutory review. The amendment would focus minds in the Home Office and compel it to put in place the most effective and comprehensive awareness campaign possible. We need to recognise that NPS, though most frequently used by young adults, is not just a health problem for the young. People who have grown up thinking of NPS as a safe legal high, with all the misinformation that pernicious term brings, may need to be reached by awareness campaigns more than any other group. 

I am particularly concerned that there will be confusion about the new legal status of NPS. It will still be legal to possess psychoactive substances for personal consumption, but users may mistakenly feel they can safely hand them out to their mates or purchase the drugs off any website they choose. We want to prevent people from taking NPS, not criminalise them for doing so, and that means we need a thorough, comprehensive adult education and awareness campaign to go alongside the Bill. 

The Welsh Assembly found that 57% of NPS users use the media as their main source of information about NPS. Public relations and advertising campaigns will therefore be central to the success of any awareness strategy. That is particularly true among adult groups, where the Government cannot act as a direct provider of education, as they can in schools. I note that the Angelus Foundation supports the effective use of social media to directly interact with the public about NPS. In England, the equivalent to the Welsh Government’s Dan 24/7 service is “Talk to Frank”. I urge the Minister to ensure that best practice is followed and learned from across the four nations of our United Kingdom. That is important, because the Angelus Foundation has argued that there is a strong case for overhauling “Talk to Frank” and making it more interactive. Release has described the information provided by “Talk to Frank” as “oblique.” We cannot have that. If someone is asking a simple question, they need to be able to understand

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the answer. “Oblique” is not good enough. We support “Talk to Frank”, but what does the Minister make of those criticisms? 

Will the Minister set out the Government’s NPS awareness strategy? Will it be introduced with the same rapid speed as this Bill? This legislative process has been so rapid that it has sometimes been difficult for me to keep up. I urge the Minister to accept amendment 57—that is not a big ask—and pledge to report to Parliament on progress in delivering the Government’s education strategy, which does not even come with a figure. 

The Minister will be aware that the prisons ombudsman’s report concluded that, in order to address the scourge of NPS in our prisons, an education programme is needed for both prison staff and prisoners. Given the problems of bullying, debt, mental health and, ultimately, death that such drugs bring to our custodial institutions, will he assure the Committee that the outcomes of these programmes will be evaluated in the Home Office’s statutory review? It has been three months since the ombudsman made his recommendations, so I am sure that the Ministry of Justice has already begun to act. 

Members have talked about the relationship between NPS and the exploitation of children. The connection between NPS and grooming has been established by Parents against Child Sexual Exploitation, and the connection appears in several media reports. Given the issue’s seriousness, it would be appropriate for the Government’s education strategy and review to focus on building the resilience and knowledge of people living in supported accommodation. We should be doing all we can to ensure that NPS do not lead to yet more grooming tragedies. 

Although I have focused on education, we also know that demand reduction strategies have to consider treatment, and I am especially concerned about the treatment of problematic users when head shops are closed and supply routes may be cut off. We know that such transitions can force people into crisis, and they are good opportunities to help people to access help and quit drug use. What is being done to make those transitions easier? 

On Second Reading, I praised Maryon Stewart, founder of the Angelus Foundation, for her extraordinary work in raising awareness of NPS. In May, the Home Office press release announcing the legislation quoted her as saying: 

“No law can offer the perfect solution to protect people from drugs; it is equally vital we all concentrate our efforts on making the public, young people in particular, more aware of the harms of these substances in schools, at university and during festivals.” 

I could not agree more. The Bill may be an adequate way of addressing the supply of NPS—we will find out—but we also need to reduce demand. I am convinced that will require a comprehensive education and awareness programme across our country, so that all people in all walks of life have the knowledge and resilience necessary to say no to these dangerous drugs. 

Amendment 57 would focus minds at the Home Office on the issue by compelling the Secretary of State to report back to Parliament on progress in improving the reach and quality of drugs education. New clause 4 would make drugs education a foundation subject in

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the national curriculum, so that we can be sure that all schools are offering good quality drugs education from which every child can benefit. I hope that the Minister will make my day. 

12.15 pm 

Owen Thompson (Midlothian) (SNP):  I shall be relatively brief and speak largely about the principles of the provisions—particularly amendment 57. I will not pass any comment on new clause 4, which relates to education in England, given that such matters are entirely devolved to the Scottish Parliament. 

My one question on amendment 57 would be about how best to accommodate the devolved Administrations of the four nations—how to make sure that the input happens. On Second Reading, I commented on the importance of education. Prevention is far better than any cure that can be come up with—in this context as in many others. We need education processes to ensure that people who consider taking the substances in question have all the information available to them. Whether or not head shops exist, we need such a knowledge base in society. 

On 26 September Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, held an event with the Scottish Youth Parliament, with a discussion about the best way to establish a suitable education programme. The Youth Parliament is now preparing a report to Ministers. It is useful, given that we want to target information to young people, to gather younger people’s views about the best way they can equip themselves with that knowledge. 

I am confident that the Scottish Government and Education Scotland are already considering how best to equip young people with the knowledge that they need to defend themselves and prevent themselves from coming to harm. The Bill takes account more widely of head shops and illegality of purchase, but we cannot hide from the need to emphasise education, so I support the principles behind amendment 57. 

I cannot let the occasion pass without mentioning the welcome fact that only this week the City of Edinburgh Council was the first in Scotland to secure a forfeiture order. Already eight outlets in the city have voluntarily given up supplies of psychoactive substances. We can see that when the processes in question are carried out, head shops are quick to react. I hope that is a marker for the effect that the Bill will have on head shops. 

We need to ensure that knowledge is available to young people and more widely in society, so that whether or not there are head shops we can be equipped as well as possible to tackle head-on the supply and use of psychoactive substances. 

Mike Penning:  One thing that I can say about the hon. Member for West Ham is that when she is passionate, she is passionate—and she is, like all of us, passionate about the subject that we are dealing with. I will discuss the amendment and new clause from the point of view of England, and I pay tribute to the work that has been done in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

I am particularly pleased about events in Edinburgh. That process has not yet gone all the way, but progress is being made. What has happened proves that action

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could have been taken before, even before there was legislation, as it was in Belfast and Lincoln, both of which I have visited. 

As we have said since day one, legislation is only part of what we need. It is not a silver bullet. We need to educate young people, but also others, including, perhaps, much older people who have used illegal drugs such as cocaine and moved on to synthetic cocaine. We need to give those people help. 

Addiction to NPS is a difficult area, where much of the third sector and health service have been trying desperately to catch up, not least because the drugs change so fast. We may ban one, and another will arrive that is almost exactly the same but with its own problems. 

The shadow Minister alluded to the £180,000 and how many people that money might employ, but it was a specifically targeted communications campaign that was part of £341 million that was spent overall on drugs prevention, including early intervention, family support and schools work. I am not saying that that is enough, or that it is not enough, but at the end of the day we are in a difficult financial situation. 

Since I have had the responsibility, I have been pulling together the other Departments and working with the devolved Administrations to ensure that we have the best possible picture out there as we bring the legislation forward. That includes working bilaterally next week with the Schools Minister on this specific subject and my chairing of the inter-ministerial group yesterday, where Health, the Cabinet Office and Justice were all represented and saying, “We’re doing this,” and I now need to pull that together. 

There are a lot of campaigns, and probably the best thing for me to do is to write to members of the Committee with the full list of work that we are doing as we develop it. There is a resource pack for front-line professionals. We had a campaign over the summer where Ministers wrote to the 50 largest music festivals. Public Health England has launched its online campaign for building resilience. Mentor is still massively part of things, and I pay tribute to it and the Angelus Foundation. Among many others, Angelus is clearly one of the leading charities. 

I put my hands up: “Talk to Frank” is not perfect. We will work with everybody to try to ensure that “Talk to Frank” improves. The hon. Lady is right that the way in which it is feeding information is perhaps not as open or as direct as possible. Let us sort that now. That is not about money; it is just bad communication and we need to ensure that that is put right. That is vital as we develop the communications strategy with other Ministers. 

The Department for Education is already committed to reporting to the Education Committee, and it must do so by the end of this year. That commitment is already sitting there. On amendment 57, we deliberately put in the review and made it as open as possible. That will ensure that when the review takes place, we will gather as much information as possible, because we need to get things right. If we are getting things wrong at review time, we can sort that. If we need to tweak things in the run-up, that is fine. The legislation specifically allows those powers to move things around. 

I am not going to make the hon. Lady’s day today by supporting her new clause and amendment. 

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Mr Burrowes:  Although the Minister will not make the hon. Lady’s day, may I just press him on resource allocation? Plainly, a whole lot of resource and attention is going on the Bill’s implementation and on proving psychoactivity in the lab and getting the right test in place with the ACMD and all the scientists. Is that same attention also being seen within the education sphere to ensure that prevention is up to speed, as well as the proveability? 

Mike Penning:  That is exactly what is No. 1 on the agenda with the Schools Minister next week. We need to share information. As the scientists and the ACMD develop the knowledge base, we need to share that knowledge base. It is not something we want to hold in, and that is why we have made the review as open as possible. If we do not share that knowledge, we will have people out there trying generally to help people, but probably not sending the message out and doing the work that needs to be done. 

If I not only write to everyone on the Committee but develop extensively what we are going to do based on what I have said today—admittedly, most of this particular area is devolved—I hope the hon. Lady will withdraw her amendment. If I update everyone as we develop that, she can see what we are doing as we move forward and we can give her as much help as possible, as we have all the way through the Bill. However, if she does press the proposals to a vote, I will sadly oppose both the new clause and the amendment. 

Lyn Brown:  I really am grateful to the Minister for outlining what is going on. It is clear that some activity is happening. Bilaterals with the Schools Minister and action across all Departments are to be welcomed. I also welcome the Minister’s suggestion that he write to us about all the education programmes that are happening, about to happen, or being considered. I am sure that would be really useful to us all. 

However, given that the Education Committee will receive a report on the education about these substances and the issues involved in reducing demand for them, it would not be a huge step to include that report within the review and to accept amendment 57. In fact, amendment 57 is very gentle. It is not really asking for very much more than that Parliament be kept informed of the way forward regarding our reducing the demand for these drugs. If the Education Committee can be kept informed, I cannot see why Parliament cannot be. 

I ask the Minister to think again and consider accepting amendment 57 if he cannot go all the way and accept new clause 4, although it would also be a great pity if he cannot accept new clause 4. I am sure that the Department for Education would actually thank him for accepting new clause 4, which would alter its curriculum, because the DFE possibly needs a bit of a jolt, and the impact of new clause 4 on PSHE would be to give it an amazing boost to its arm. 

The Minister does not look as if he is rising right now to assure me that he will accept new clause 4, so I ask him to spend the weekend and maybe next week—I know he will not have an awful lot on now that consideration of this Bill is coming to a close—thinking about amendment 57 and new clause 4, and perhaps on Report he will make my day. Then I can buy that bottle of champagne for us all to share. 

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Mike Penning:  Guinness, please. 

Lyn Brown:  Guinness is not a problem. 

I will probably come back to this issue on Report, but today I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Clause 57 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 58 

Interpretation 

Amendment made: 38, in clause 58, page 36, line 23, after “Court” insert 

“, other than the reference in section 30(1) in relation to a prohibition order made under section 18,”—(Mike Penning.)  

This amendment disapplies the transitional provision in clause 58(5) in relation to appeals under clause 30(1) about variation and discharge in relation to prohibition orders made under clause 18.

Clause 58, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 59 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Schedule 4 

Consequential Amendments 

Amendment proposed: 39, in schedule 4, page 48, line 16, at end insert— 

“Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985

(1) The Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 is repealed.

(2) In consequence of the repeal made by sub-paragraph (1), in Schedules 3 and 6 to the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008, omit the entry relating to the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985.”—(Mike Penning.)

This amendment repeals the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985.

Lyn Brown:  I will be brief. The amendment repeals the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985, which bans the sale of solvents to children if there is reason to believe the substances will be misused. 

The Government have explained that they are repealing the 1985 Act because they think it is good legal practice not to have “overlapping criminal offences” covered in separate legislation; I understand that. They say that the offences under the 1985 Act are all covered by this Bill, so the 1985 Act is redundant. I agree with the principle of not having overlapping criminal offences, but I must admit that I was a bit surprised to see this amendment. 

The Government’s belief that selling solvents to children is covered by this Bill implies that, in certain circumstances, selling solvents to adults will now be considered a crime. Is that the case? If it is, presumably shopkeepers would need to know that selling solvents to adults is “reckless” and that the solvent will be consumed for a psychoactive effect. That seems to be a bit of a stretch when it comes to adults. Many of us would purchase such solvents for legitimate purposes and I do not understand how a shopkeeper could understand that I was taking the solvent away to sniff, if I may put it in such crude terms, because sniffing is obviously something I know about, being of that age—not that I did it. Let me be very clear about that. 

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Mike Penning:  Stop now. 

12.30 pm 

Lyn Brown:  This is my era; I kind of get it. 

Even if the issue with selling solvents to adults is resolved, the issue of sentencing remains. The 1985 Act does not provide for sentences longer than six months; as we know, the maximum tariff in the Bill is seven years. Selling to a child is an aggravated offence, so is more likely to lead to harsher penalties. There is an enormous gulf in the sentences provided for in the two pieces of legislation. I wonder whether it is sensible for the Bill to try to control the specific offence of selling solvents to children. 

Are we confident that solvents are captured by the definition of psychoactive substances? We do not want to repeal the 1985 Act if it in any way weakens the law. Are we satisfied that it is appropriate to extend the 1985 Act’s provisions on sales to under-18s to everyone? If it is, why has it not been done already? I can imagine there might be unintended consequences. My anxiety is over how, when I walk in tomorrow and buy a solvent, my local newsagent is going to know whether I am going to use it for sniffing. One would assume that someone of my age was not, but that is not necessarily the case. 

The change seems to be a significant one to make in an amendment: there is a significant extension of the punishment. Does the Minister think that is justified? There have been very few recent prosecutions under the 1985 Act for the sale of solvents to children. I do not know why the Government expect to enforce the offence more with this Bill than it has been enforced under the 1985 Act. I would be grateful for some help from the Minister. 

Mike Penning:  I can understand the shadow Minister’s concerns—I come from that era as well. The interesting thing is that the existing legislation was targeted at a specific age profile and worked. We keep talking about children, but the Bill is not specifically targeted at them. When the 1985 Act was introduced, the same argument was made about how individual shopkeepers would know, but we have proven that it can work. 

Lyn Brown:  Yes, but there are few prosecutions now. 

Mike Penning:  Fortunately, there are now few prosecutions because people know. That is the principle behind the Bill. The maximum penalty will be seven years, but we would expect the job to be done by trading standards in a non-legislative way, so we would not be penalising anyone. I have obviously taken all the legal advice on this matter, and we feel that the change is needed and that this is the right way to do it. I repeat that we are not trying to protect children only; we are also trying to protect adults, some of whom are also very vulnerable. 

Lyn Brown:  I am still concerned by the issue of sentencing, because the punishment will be extended significantly. I do not know whether the Minister thinks that is justified. Also, there have been so few prosecutions under the 1985 Act. Lastly, I genuinely do not understand how a shopkeeper would know if the Minister or I were

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walking in to buy our solvent of choice to sniff away tonight in front of the TV. When young children went into a shop to purchase solvents it was often quite obvious that they had in mind some activity other than that for which the solvent was designed, for which they probably would not have had a purpose. 

Mike Penning:  I do not want to detain the Committee any further, but the change has not come as a particular shock to the British Retail Consortium or the Association of Convenience Stores, because we have been working with them. It is designed not to penalise small shopkeepers, but to ensure that they are confident, and we will work with them as the Bill proceeds. We will have considerable time, even after Royal Assent, but I am already working with the relevant bodies, which represent a significant part of the industry. 

Amendment 39 agreed to.  

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.  

Clause s 60 to 62 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

New Clause 2 

Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution 

‘(1) A person commits an offence if—

(a) the person is in possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution,

(b) the person knows or suspects that the substance is a psychoactive substance, and

(c) the person intends to consume the psychoactive substance for its psychoactive effects.

(2) In this section “custodial institution” has the same meaning as in section 6.

(3) This section is subject to section (Exceptions to offences) (exceptions to offences).’.—(Mike Penning.)

This new clause provides for a new offence of possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.  

New Clause 3 

Exceptions to offences 

‘(1) It is not an offence under this Act for a person to carry on any activity listed in subsection (3) if, in the circumstances in which it is carried on by that person, the activity is an exempted activity.

(2) In this section “exempted activity” means an activity listed in Schedule (Exempted activities).

(3) The activities referred to in subsection (1) are—

(a) producing a psychoactive substance;

(b) supplying such a substance;

(c) offering to supply such a substance;

(d) possessing such a substance with intent to supply it;

(e) importing or exporting such a substance;

(f) possessing such a substance in a custodial institution (within the meaning of section (Possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution)).

(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend Schedule (Exempted activities) in order to—

(a) add or vary any description of activity;

(b) remove any description of activity added under paragraph (a).

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(5) Before making any regulations under this section the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, and

(b) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(6) The power to make regulations under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.

(7) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.’.—(Mike Penning.)

The new clause inserted by this amendment (which will replace clause 10) provides that it is not an offence under clauses 4 to 8, or the offence under the new clause inserted by NC2, for a person to carry on an “exempted activity” listed in the new Schedule inserted by NS1. The new clause also provides a power to add or vary any description of activity specified in the new Schedule.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.  

New Clause 1 

Breach of a premises notice 

‘(1) A senior officer or a local authority may issue a notice requiring a premise to cease trading if conditions A, B and C are met.

(2) Condition A is that the premise has been issued a premises notice under section 13 of this Act.

(3) Condition B is that in the view of the senior officer or a local authority that issued the premises notice, the terms of that notice are not being complied with.

(4) Condition C is that the senior officer or local authority has made an application to an appropriate court for a premises order under section 19 of this Act.

(5) A notice issued to a premise under subsection 1 shall cease to have effect when a court has considered an application for a premises order in respect of that premise.

(6) In a case where a court has decided not to issue a premises order to a premise that has been subject to a notice under this section, the court may order the local authority or the senior officer’s organisation to pay compensation to the owner of the premises in respect of income lost due to the suspension in trading.

(7) For the meaning of “senior officer”, see section 12(7).’.—(Lyn Brown.)

This new clause’s intention is to allow a senior officer or local authority to comply a premises to stop trading while it applies for a premises order.

Brought up, and read the First time.  

Lyn Brown:  I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time. 

The new clause was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness, who has a long-standing interest in the issue. Unfortunately, he is unable to be here today, as he is at a funeral, so I am moving the new clause on his behalf. I make it clear that the broad thrust of the Bill is welcome; the new clause is intended to add to, rather than contradict, its provisions. 

I want briefly to set out the context in which the new clause sits. My hon. Friend has been campaigning on legal highs for several years following a series of incidents in his constituency involving such drugs. He is, understandably, especially concerned about the drugs’ damaging effects, especially on young people, and the police’s inability to take swift action to deal with the suppliers and distributors of legal highs. He has also

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been a strong supporter of the successful “Ban Them Now” campaign against legal highs in Cumbria that has been run by the North-West Evening Mail , a fabulous campaigning newspaper that has done a huge amount to raise awareness of the issue in the region. 

Mike Penning:  Is that the press release? 

Lyn Brown:  I am not sure that I am going to get any votes there. 

The new clause, which is supported by the Local Government Association, is intended to address the potential delay between the point at which the police believe a premises order has been breached and the point at which a court authorises a closure order. During such a delay, there is a worry that a premises may be able to continue to trade prohibited substances without the police being able to take appropriate action. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has found nefarious tactics when that happens, including NPS sales. Pushers may offer offer two-for-one deals, which encourage binging and stockpiling. 

Premises that are found to be trading illicit substances can be dealt with under part 4, chapter 3 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The closure orders contained within the Act do not apply specifically to psychoactive substances—they are more of a catch-all—but they have nevertheless been used to take action against shops that trade in legal highs. Under the existing power, a court is obligated to hear a case for a closure order within 48 hours of the application being made by the police. That is not necessarily a guarantee of no delays, as the police are advised in the legislation to delay applications to court until they believe that the case can be heard within the 48-hour limit. Nevertheless, that limit provides some assurance that cases will be heard swiftly and that the police will be able to act accordingly. 

In the absence of a similar provision in the Bill, there is a concern that delays may occur at that point in the process. In fact, the Bill imposes no time limit between a notice and a court order. We know that our courts are facing mounting pressures due to their case loads, which heightens the fear that the provisions in the Bill will cause further delays. 

New clause 1 is a modest proposal that would allow senior police or local authority officers to obtain an order to require a premise to cease trading, provided that certain conditions are met. That action would be taken only when a premises order had already been made; when, in the opinion of the officer, the business was in breach of the order; and when the application to a court had already been made. There is also provision for compensation to be paid to businesses if the power is ever used in error. 

Of course, we would hope that the power would have to be used only sparingly. The new clause would be a safeguard to ensure that no offenders slipped through the gaps and to give the police the powers they need to take action as soon as possible. I hope that the Minister agrees that the new clause is limited, proportional and considered. It is very much in the spirit of the Bill, and I hope it will command broad support. 

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Mike Penning:  I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness—he is my hon. Friend really, although he probably would not like to admit that to some of his colleagues—for his campaigning. Many members of the Committee have been campaigning for many years on this subject. 

Of course, the police and the courts are the end of the process for most cases. We know that powers are already there for local authorities and trading standards, which have been doing a lot of this work, so a problem arises only when there is a breach of a notice. Significantly, the new clause would give local authorities and senior officers the power to require specific premises to cease trading while an application is made. I have seen no evidence from the police that they feel that is necessary. Actually, new clause 1 could weaken judicial oversight, which none of us wants. This is a specific issue for England, of course. I think I am right about that, but it could be England and Wales—[ Interruption. ] I have got it wrong then; when I get things wrong, I always say so as soon as I can. 

I fully understand where the hon. Gentleman is coming from in tabling the new clause, but I do not feel that he needs to have such concerns. The measure would be used right at the very end of the process. We would hope, as the hon. Member for West Ham said, that it would be used in very few cases, not least because of the number of civil sanctions in the Bill. 

I am absolutely confident—I have been assured by the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney-General—that we will not have a problem, but the matter will be part of the review, so we can keep our eyes open to see exactly what is going on. Even though I fully understand and respect the reasons why the new clause was tabled. I am afraid I do not see the need for it and I am concerned that it might weaken judicial oversight. Sadly, towards the end of our time in Committee, I must disagree with the hon. Lady. 

Lyn Brown:  Do you know, Sir David, this Minister is just not giving me satisfaction? 

Given that we sprung the new clause on the Minister in the last knockings of this Bill Committee, will he take it away and have a quick look at it? Perhaps after talking to the LGA and his fabulous civil servants, he might find that there is a need for it. We love humility, so if he comes back to us on Report and tells us that he has thought again, we will applaud him to the rafters, rather than making any political capital. 

Mike Penning:  Assuming that the new clause is not pressed to a Division, I will take a long look at it, as if I take a quick look at it, I will be criticised for not taking a long look at it. I will seek advice from not only my Department, but the other relevant Departments, as well as my excellent Bill team. We will probably discuss this on Report but, at present, I cannot support the new clause. 

12.45 pm 

Lyn Brown:  I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion. 

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.  

Column number: 92 

New Schedule 1 

“Exempted activities 

Healthcare-related activities

1 Any activity carried on by a person who is a health care professional and is acting in the course of his or her profession.

In this paragraph “health care professional” has the same meaning as in the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (S.I. 2012/1916) (see regulation 8 of those Regulations).

2 Any activity carried on for the purpose of, or in connection with—

(a) the supply to, or the consumption by, any person of a substance prescribed for that person by a health care professional acting in the course of his or her profession, or

(b) the supply to, or the consumption by, any person of a substance in accordance with the directions of a health care professional acting in the course of his or her profession.

3 Any activity carried on in respect of an active substance by a person who—

(a) is registered in accordance with regulation 45N of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, or

(b) is exempt from any requirement to be so registered by virtue of regulation 45M(2) or (3) of those Regulations.

In this paragraph “active substance” has the same meaning as in the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (see regulation 8 of those Regulations).

Research

4 Any activity carried on in the course of, or in connection with, approved scientific research.

In this paragraph—

“approved scientific research” means scientific research carried out by a person who has approval from a relevant ethics review body to carry out that research;

“relevant ethics review body” means—

(a) a research ethics committee recognised or established by the Health Research Authority under Chapter 2 of Part 3 of the Care Act 2014, or

(b) a body appointed by any of the following for the purpose of assessing the ethics of research involving individuals—

(i) the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers, or a Northern Ireland department;

(ii) a relevant NHS body;

(iii) a body that is a Research Council for the purposes of the Science and Technology Act 1965;

(iv) an institution that is a research institution for the purposes of Chapter 4A of Part 7 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (see section 457 of that Act);

(v) a charity which has as its charitable purpose (or one of its charitable purposes) the advancement of health or the saving of lives;

“charity” means—

(a) a charity as defined by section 1(1) of the Charities Act 2011,

(b) a body entered in the Scottish Charity Register, or

(c) a charity as defined by section 1(1) of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008;

“relevant NHS body” means—

(a) an NHS trust or NHS foundation trust in England,

(b) an NHS trust or Local Health Board in Wales,

(c) a Health Board or Special Health Board constituted under section 2 of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978,

(d) the Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service, or

(e) any of the health and social care bodies in Northern Ireland, as defined by section 1(5) of the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (Northern Ireland) 2009.”—(Mike Penning.)

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The new Schedule inserted by this amendment lists exempted activities for the purpose of the Bill. These include activities carried out by health care professionals acting in that capacity and approved research activities.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.  

The Chair:  As a number of new colleagues are serving on a Bill Committee for the first time, let me say that we traditionally end our proceedings with some very brief remarks. 

Lyn Brown:  On a point of order, Sir David. I want thank a number of people for the conduct of our proceedings during the Bill’s scrutiny. This has been a massive learning curve for me, not only because of the Bill’s subject, but as this is the first time that I have served on a Committee in such a role for the Opposition. I thank all concerned for the support, generosity of spirit and kindness shown to me. 

My learning started in a surprising way when, at a team meeting with my shadow colleagues, I was briefed by a Member of the other place on exactly what the Bill entails. He talked about poppers—I had never heard of them. The shadow team, including the noble Lord, laughed and suggested that I go home and watch several series of “Breaking Bad” in order to educate myself. They also thought that I should talk to the little boy on a bike who apparently cycles between my house and Plaistow station offering substances to people, including members of my staff team, although he has never stopped to offer me anything. It was not like that at all in my student days but, with a modicum of help from a number of agencies and others, I was able to get up to speed—[ Interruption. ] Yes, that was around when I was young. 

I want to thank the Minister for his welcome and commend him for encouraging and facilitating the sense of consensus that has been a real feature of our deliberations. I thank him for his positive responses on the issues that Opposition Members have flagged up as needing review. I hope he agrees that this has been a really good Bill Committee and that our deliberations have made the Bill better and stronger. 

I thank the people who have supported me. My wonderful Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Easington, is normally a garrulous fellow, but he has been amazingly quiet and a strong man who has guided me through the terrors of the Committee with great skill. I thank you, Sir David, and your fellow Chair, Mr Howarth, for your excellent and effective oversight of our proceedings and ensuring that I have not gone astray. I am particularly grateful for the advice and support of the Clerk, Mr Williams, who has been very generous with his time and sensitive to the fact that this was my first time in such a role. We have not over-troubled the Doorkeepers by requiring them to go into the corridors and shout loudly, but it is always a comfort to know they are there, passing me notes and fizzy water. I thank Hansard for its reporting. I, for one, will be grateful to have some time off from having regularly to articulate the words “psychoactive substances”, which is quite a mouthful when we are going at full tilt. 

I thank my Opposition colleagues, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East, who has given her insights into what is going on in Wales, and

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my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish, who could not be present today because of a funeral, but has spoken elegantly on the public health aspects of the Bill. I also valued the contributions of our Scottish National party colleagues, who made this a genuinely consensual matter. I thank all Committee members for their laughter, for picking up on my little jokes and for their pursuit of consensus as we consider matters of such fundamental concern for public health. I look forward to our consideration on Report. 

Owen Thompson:  On a point of order, Sir David. I very much associate myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk with the comments made by the shadow Minister. This has certainly been an experience for us as well, as it has been our first Bill Committee. The approach that the Committee has taken highlights the importance of the Bill and its potential to help to deliver safer communities. Our resounding agreement on the destination we are trying to reach, if not the specifics of any amendments that we have debated, has been encouraging and shows that the direction of travel is certainly right. Although we might have minor disagreements along the way, what is ultimately delivered will be particularly useful. 

I thank you, Sir David, and Mr Howarth for being so gentle with us newer Members. I look forward to the Bill’s next stage in the Chamber. 

Mike Penning:  On a point of order, Sir David. I congratulate you on your lung capacity today and your ability to expedite amendments, most of which were technical and consequential. 

It is a shame that the public and the rest of the House cannot see how the Committee has conducted itself and the way in which we have come together, even though at times we have disagreed. I enjoyed a lot of the conversations that took place outside the Committee to make our proceedings work better. I cannot promise the shadow Minister that that will be on every Minister’s agenda; my particular way of working is not shared by everyone, which I fully understand. I remember making some mistakes, to say the least, when I was an Opposition Front Bencher, when I was absolutely crucified by the Minister and the Whip. The shadow Minister said that she was subtle when she was a Whip, which is probably why she no longer holds that post. Subtlety in Whips is a dangerous thing. 

I congratulate all Members who have taken part in debating this important Bill. I understand that some Members had to be in other places today. Sadly, I, too, am going to a funeral on Monday. I know how important they are to our constituents and others. In my case, I will be in Merseyside at the funeral of the police officer who was murdered on duty in early October. 

I thank my not-so-subtle Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock, and the hon. Member for Easington, the Opposition Whip. This has been a fantastic Committee—probably the best that I have sat on as Minister, a shadow Minister or a Back Bencher. We have reached where we need to be, which is protecting people—not just young people, although we are talking about predominantly young people—from the perception that if something is legal, that means it is safe. These substances are killing people and destroying people’s

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lives. If we have done nothing else today, we have had that success. We have been successful because I have such a fantastic Bill team and brilliant Parliamentary Private Secretary. 

The Chair:  Mr Howarth and I have found the Committee an absolute pleasure to chair. It has been a model Committee and Members have acquitted themselves extremely well in scrutinising the Bill. We would like to

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thank the Doorkeeper for his diligence, the Hansard reporters and, in particular, the Committee Clerk, whose wise counsel has prevailed at all times. 

Bill, as amended, to be reported.  

12.54 pm 

Committee rose.  

Column number: 97 
Written evidence reported to the House

PSB 20 Release and Transform 

PSB 20A Release and Transform: Appendix A 

PSB 20B Release and Transform: Appendix B 

PSB 21 Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) 

PSB 22A Rt Hon Mike Penning MP, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, Home Office—further submission 

Column number: 98 

PSB 22B Rt Hon Mike Penning MP, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, Home Office—further submission 

PSB 22C Rt Hon Mike Penning MP, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, Home Office—further submission 

PSB 22D Rt Hon Mike Penning MP, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, Home Office—further submission 

PSB 23 Royal Society for Public Health 

PSB 24 Addaction 

PSB 25 The Beckley Foundation 

Prepared 30th October 2015