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Lord Bassam of Brighton: I was perhaps not clear because of the hour of the day and my slight tiredness. We believe that we have the resources in place fully to implement the scheme. So the resources are there, as the noble Lord would wish them to be.

Baroness Walmsley: I thank the Minister for that reply. I was shocked to hear him say early in his response that the clauses as drafted are perhaps the only way of ensuring that appropriate treatment is available; that if it is part of a sentence then it has got to be made available. I question whether there is sufficient availability of youth-focused drug treatment services across the country. If the Minister looks into the matter he will find that many agencies have been highly critical of the availability and quality of this kind of treatment.

The Minister referred to the link between crime and drug use. I am not arguing for one moment that there is no link—we know perfectly well that there is—but there are cases where a young person may test positive for a drug without having a regular and problematic habit which is linked to the offence. It is very

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important that a programme of treatment should be imposed only when it is quite clear that there is a definite problematic habit which is linked to the offence.

The Minister also referred to young people being expected voluntarily to seek treatment and that this would be made known to the court. It is asking an awful lot of a young person voluntarily to seek treatment, especially given the fact that the availability of such services is as I have described.

Most drug treatment agencies will tell you that it is usually more effective if a person undergoes treatment voluntarily and is willing to comply with the programme. These programmes are not easy to see through to the bitter end; it is a very difficult thing to kick a habit. Therefore, I stick to my guns as far as the need for the voluntary nature of these services is concerned. In the mean time, I will read carefully what the Minister has said and may return to these matters at a later stage in the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 214 to 218 not moved.]

Schedule 20 agreed to.

Clause 265 agreed to.

Schedule 21 [Summary offences no longer punishable with imprisonment]:

[Amendment No. 218A not moved.]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendments Nos. 218B to 219:


    Page 284, line 4, at end insert—

"Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (c. 43)

74A An offence under section 84(3) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (making of false statement as to means)." Page 284, line 12, leave out paragraph 77.


    Page 285, line 9, at end insert—

"Criminal Justice Act 1991 (c. 53)

87A An offence under section 20A of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (false statements as to financial circumstances)."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 21, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 22 [Increase in maximum term for certain summary offences]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendments Nos. 219A and 219B:


    Page 291, line 2, leave out paragraph 28.


    Page 291, line 7, at end insert—

"British Nationality Act 1981 (c. 61)

29A In section 46 of the British Nationality Act 1981 (offences and proceedings), in subsection (1) for "three months" there is substituted "51 weeks"."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 22, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 266 agreed to.

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Clause 267 [Increase in maximum term that may be imposed on summary conviction of offence triable either way]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendments Nos. 219C and 219D:


    Page 151, line 32, leave out from "exceeding" to end of line 41 and insert "12 months"


    Page 152, leave out lines 4 to 8 and insert "12 months"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 267, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 268 [Enabling powers: power to alter maximum penalties]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 219E:


    Page 152, leave out lines 32 to 36 and insert "to 12 months".

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 268, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 23 [Enabling powers: alteration of maximum penalties etc.]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendments Nos. 219F to 219J:


    Page 296, leave out lines 32 to 40 and insert "twelve months"


    Page 297, leave out lines 25 to 33 and insert "twelve months"


    Page 298, leave out lines 7 to 15 and insert "twelve months"


    Page 298, leave out lines 28 to 36 and insert "twelve months"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 23, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 269 [Increase in penalties for drug-related offences]:

On Question, Whether Clause 269 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Walmsley: I oppose the question that Clause 269 and Schedule 24 stand part of the Bill. They are all about changing the maximum sentences from five to 14 years for five Misuse of Drugs Act offences and two others. One is related to customs legislation and the other to ships used for illicit traffic.

We on these Benches have made our views on the issue very clear. Public policy should clearly differentiate between drugs in each of the three classes. Leaving aside the issue of whether it is appropriate to imprison people simply for possession of drugs for personal use, we should be careful not to give the same signals on penalties in relation to class C drugs as we give in relation to class A and B drugs.

I believe that at the root of this clause and schedule is the fact that the Government do not have the courage of their own convictions. On the one hand, they propose to reclassify cannabis as group C; on the other hand, they do not want to appear soft and are, therefore, increasing the penalties for the various offences almost threefold. The danger of the proposals is that there will be a very muddled policy, which will muddy the waters rather than give a straightforward message.

Clearly, dealing in class A drugs is an offence that should expect the harshest of treatment. Dealing in class B drugs is dangerous, but not quite as dangerous

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as it is with class A drugs. Class C drugs are still dangerous, but not nearly as dangerous as class B drugs. That is the basis of the classification system. If those are the messages that we want to give out to the general public, the maximum prison sentences should follow in graded severity. It is nonsense to increase the maximum prison sentence to what the statute book says could be the punishment for an offence so that it is comparable to a sentence for an offence relating to class A and B drugs. That makes a complete nonsense of the classification system.

The argument is not about whether there should be no prospective penal response but about the level of that response. Clearly, there are certain categories of people to whom society should give a discipline, such as a general practitioner who misuses his or her ability to prescribe, or to someone who not only turns a blind eye but becomes an aider and abetter of the use of drugs when running a hostel. However, there is a danger that people dealing in cannabis, benzodiazepine or anabolic steroids will prospectively be in the same league in terms of sentencing as those who deal in crack cocaine or heroin, which are much more dangerous drugs.

We on these Benches believe that it would be much better to remove Clause 269 and Schedule 24 and replace the schedule with a provision setting a maximum of perhaps four years, or a similar sentence. There is nothing cut and dried about that, but it would be a relatively appropriate maximum tariff given that the maximum sentence for trafficking in class A drugs is 14 years.

We are concerned that the penalty appears a disproportionate response to those using class C drugs. Class C drugs are thought to be the least serious category, so why should there be an almost threefold increase in the maximum punishment? We believe that the Government are saying one thing on the one hand then doing another, to be seen to be tough on drugs. That is quite illogical and sends out mixed messages.

12.45 a.m.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Of course, I understand the anxiety expressed by the noble Baroness, but we do not believe that there is a mixed message. Those who use and abuse class C drugs and consume them themselves are treated firmly but with a deal of charity, understanding and therapy, and those who deal in drugs and are the purveyors of class C drugs fall into a different category. That is the distinction that is being made—if people traffic in drugs, we will treat them robustly. If people use and abuse drugs, they will fall into a different category.

The noble Baroness will know that what we must fight in this country is the scourge of those who peddle drugs outside our schools and our public places to increasingly younger children. We do not hesitate to make the distinction. In the case of young people of tender years who use and/or abuse class C drugs, there is a whole raft of things that we must do. We must educate them, help them, or restrain them. But for the purveyors of drugs, who wish to feed on the weakness

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and susceptibility of others, we send them a clear and different message. It is not a confused message, but a clear one. It involves saying, "For you we apply a very different strata".

The Government believe that a 14-year penalty for all class C drugs is needed, first, to deal with the small number of cannabis trafficking cases each year which attract sentences of 10 years or more. Those still exist. I am sure the noble Baroness will be aware of massive trafficking where people earn colossal amounts of money from purveying this drug which, as the noble Baroness rightly said, is still regarded as dangerous. In view of this, there is a strong argument for retaining the maximum penalty for trafficking cannabis at its current level of 14 years' imprisonment, post reclassification, so that the courts can continue to impose substantial sentences in those cases.

Secondly, although serious dealing offences in existing class C drugs—that is, anabolic steroids and the benzodiazepines—are exceptional, nevertheless the provision needs to apply to those class C drugs as well as cannabis because we need to send a clear message that trafficking in any illegal drug will be taken very seriously whatever its classification. Reducing the prevalence of drugs on our streets means that we must tackle the supply at all levels, including by legislative means. I know that the noble Baroness cares passionately about these issues and of the effort that she and a number of other noble Lords put in to try to deal with the needs of children who become subjected to this class and other classes of drugs. We share that passion.

Looking ahead, Schedule 24 will also help the United Kingdom to meet anticipated obligations to comply with measures currently set out in a draft European Union Council framework decision to harmonise drug trafficking penalties and to have maximum penalties of at least 10 years' imprisonment for serious drug trafficking involving any controlled drug where organised crime is involved. Since United Kingdom law does not differentiate between trafficking offences involving organised crime and those which do not—the courts take account of these factors in deciding the level of sentence—in order to satisfy our EU obligations we would need to increase the maximum penalty for trafficking in a class C drug at least to 10 years' imprisonment. Thank goodness we are getting much better at working together with our European and other partners and achieving a higher rate of interdiction than we had previously. It is pleasing to see the success that we have had in recouping substantial assets. We are demonstrating to these offenders that they will not profit from these offences.

I appreciate what the noble Baroness says about other offences but I remind her that if we look at the record for this year it is clear that significant cases have arisen. For instance, this very year a person was sentenced to five years and had to pay a confiscation order of #6,844. There is a bracket of traffickers at the lower end. That does not mean that the court cannot impose an appropriate sentence at the lower end.

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As the noble Baroness knows, there is a big difference between someone who supplies a drug quite improperly to a series of friends and others who import drugs and are part of a serious gang. Those are very different categories. We must have an ambit of punishment within which the courts can make that differentiation and say to the international drug trafficker who seeks to take advantage of the weakness of others, "No, we shall not let you do that, and here is the punishment commensurate with your crime". We understand the concept of forgiving the sinner but we still do not like the sin.


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