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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, so far as it goes, we certainly welcome the order. The Minister will know from the hard work of my noble friend Lady Maddock both in this House and in another place that there are much wider ways in which energy efficiency could be addressed, were the Government to choose to pursue them. We welcome the order as perhaps an interim measure before the Government choose to address the issue in the comprehensive way often suggested with great eloquence by my noble friend Lady Maddock.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am well aware of the advocacy in this area of the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, the noble friend and colleague of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer.

All noble Lords accept that, with every benefit, it is difficult to ensure a 100 per cent take-up. Equally, all recognise the particular difficulty in creating the detailed paperwork required to cover eligibility as simple as possible. From a sedentary position the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said the word "smaller", but as I grow older I hope that the print will become larger while the number of questions to be answered will become fewer.

Suppliers are expected to target eligible groups through, for example, partnership schemes with local authorities. Advertising by suppliers of their schemes under the energy efficiency commitment will

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be encouraged. The size of the priority group will be increased by the amendments contained in the order. Currently the group numbers around 7.7 million people. The figure of 8.8 million mentioned in the consultation document was based on earlier figures which have since been revised. The addition of those on pension credit and new tax credit is likely to increase the priority group by a little over a further 1 million people.

I welcome the support that has been expressed for the order and note the comments that have been made. I commend the order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Modification) Order 2003

1.14 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 12th March be approved [15th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of the order is to bring under the control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 eight previously uncontrolled substances. As is required by provisions set out in Section 1 of the Act, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has been consulted and agrees with these proposals.

The order is needed to enable the United Kingdom to comply with a decision by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs to bring four of the substances under the control of the 1971 United Nations convention on psychotropic substances. The remaining four are anabolic steroids and are banned by the International Olympic Committee.

The order proposes that dihydroetorphine and remifentanil be added to the list of controlled drugs specified as Class A drugs in Schedule 2 to the 1971 Act; and that 4-hydroxy-n-butyric acid and Zolpidem be added to the list of substances specified as Class C drugs. 4-hydroxy-n-butyric acid is commonly known as GHB and is a widely recognised drug as a result of media reports about its possible use as a rape drug.

Four other substances are to be controlled, all of which are anabolic steroids: 4-androstene-3,17-dione, 19-nor-4-adrostene-3,17-dione, 5-androstene-3,17- diol and 19-nor-5-androstene-3,17. These are to be controlled as Class C drugs. All four have recently been added to the International Olympic Committee's list of prohibited substances.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has considered the misuse potential of all eight substances and has recommended that they should be brought under the controls of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its associated regulations. If the order is approved, we shall lay before the House an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 which will bring all eight drugs within their scope. The amendment regulations will impose a regime of controls for the legitimate medical and research use of the drugs.

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In accordance with usual practice, we have consulted the organisations which represent the medical professions and the pharmaceutical industry about the changes. No objections were raised to the proposals.

If the order is approved, we aim to bring it into effect, together with the relevant amendment regulations, on 1st July. The order, together with the amended regulations, will make it an offence to supply or possess these eight substances, except for legitimate medical or research purposes. I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 12th March be approved [15th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the purposes of the order. Of course it is right that we should add to the list of banned substances in both Classes A and C those new chemicals that come on to the market so that we may prevent their misuse. As the Minister made clear, there would be no problem if the drugs were being used only for medical or research purposes.

The Minister mentioned GHB—I am glad that I do not have to emulate his expert pronunciation of the full names of the chemicals—which has become a serious matter because it has been used as a date rape drug. In the past we have agreed to other substances such as Rohypnol being added to the list of prohibited drugs.

It is important for the Government to keep such legislation up to date and we fully support the order.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, noble Lords on these Benches believe this order to be entirely proper, but before it is approved, I have one or two questions to put to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham. First, however, it is clear that the noble Lord has been practising his pronunciation of pharmaceutical terms. I have no intention of trying to compete with him on that.

It is clear that these are dangerous substances and we would not want to do anything other than vigorously to discourage their use. Furthermore, it is right that whenever the relevant advisory body makes a recommendation for legislative change, it ought to be considered seriously. As the old saying goes, do not have a dog and bark yourself.

Given the current state of our obligations under UN conventions, we would not argue against the order. However, I want to ask about the consultation process. I see that it went to 100 trade organisations as well as to professional medical bodies, the police, government departments and agencies. I wonder why it was not also sent to athletics and body building organisations in the case of the anabolic steroids, and drug advisory groups and those who run night clubs in the case of the drugs that are sometimes used for leisure purposes. Such consultation could have gathered information about the extent of the problem of the misuse of these drugs. Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether such bodies were approached.

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I was interested to read Annex B of the consultation letter. Section 3 concerns options. It states:

    "Only one feasible option has been identified—the introduction of misuse of drugs controls on the substances".

It continues:

    "The UK is a party to the two Conventions and is obliged to control the substances under UK drugs law . . . Failure to implement the controls would result in the UK breaching its UN treaty obligations".

Section 4 identifies the benefits. It states:

    "The eight substances are currently subject to the provisions of the medicines legislation but are not currently subject to specific controls to combat their misuse. The misuse of drugs legislation will provide additional controls on the production, supply, possession, import and export of the eight substances in view of their potential for misuse. The measures should help to reduce the availability of these drugs on the illicit drugs market in the United Kingdom. This should in turn reduce the scope for their misuse. The consequent benefits are a reduction in the risks for individual misusers' health and also for public health".

I am tempted to say, "Oh really? A reduction in the same way as we have a reduction in the availability of heroin and cocaine on the streets, perhaps?" Everyone knows that simple prohibition is not working.

I am not suggesting for one moment that we break international law. However, we could go to the negotiations in Vienna, which are to be held later this month on the UN drugs conventions, with an open mind and a willingness to look at more than one option and to persuade others that the need for effective harm minimisation requires a change in the conventions.

Holland and Portugal have been forced to bend the rules almost to breaking point in their efforts to be much more creative and effective in reducing the use of illegal drugs. That is not the British way. But we are renowned for our diplomatic and negotiating skills. Why will the Government not learn from other countries that have opened their minds to alternatives to prohibition and work with them to amend the UN treaties so that they give countries more flexibility and options for working within their own communities to reduce the misuse of drugs?

If we are to succeed in cutting down drugs use we need to do much more than simply approve orders to add more to the banned list. For example, what education and information is to be made available to body-builders' organisations and club goers about the two groups of substances to which the order refers? Do the Government have any research information about how widely they are used?

The Government have said in another place that it is necessary to have a custodial sentence of 14 years available for possession of Class C drugs—not for individual users, but to catch the traffickers. What evidence is there that these eight drugs are trafficked?

I do not oppose the order but I do hope that the Minister will be able to answer some of the questions I have asked.

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