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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I rise to put on record the first of what I hope will be a series of thanks to the Government for responding to points made at an earlier stage, particularly in regard to Amendment No. 1. We fully accept that there was a technical drafting deficiency in our amendment and we prefer the Government's amendment.

As regards Amendment No. 2—to which, no doubt, the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, will speak in a moment—we also welcome the fact that it reflects very fairly the request made by my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral in Committee on 30th June.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, as the Minister predicted, I rise to speak to Amendment No. 2. I thank her very warmly for her letter of explanation and for the amendments that she has accepted. She will, of course, understand that I am still rather disappointed that she has not been able to accept Amendment No. 11B, which sought to impose the absolute requirement, because she feels that,


So there will not be a requirement on police officers to record a person's property if they ask for that to be done.

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Can the Minister assure the House that any reasonable request from a person to have his or her property recorded will not be ignored? That is the real thrust of what I wanted to say and I hope that she can reassure me on that point.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, in rising to speak to Amendment No. 1, I hope that the Minister will forgive me for returning to some of the points that I made last Wednesday in the debate on the order. The noble Baroness, understandably, did not have time to address some of my concerns on that occasion.

I should like to ask four questions in regard to the amendment. First, on the advice of which expert body are the Government bringing forward the amendment? Is it the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs; the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee; or the Runciman committee? I do not believe that any of those bodies, having looked in detail at all the latest evidence about the use of cannabis, advised that in reclassifying cannabis as class C the power of arrest should be newly introduced for a drug in that class. If the Government have committed themselves to basing their drugs policy on expert advice and evidence, can the Minister say on what evidence this measure needs to be taken? If in the move from class B to class C cannabis is treated on the street in roughly the same way as it is treated now, what difference do the Government believe the reclassification will make?

Secondly, is the Minister satisfied that the ACPO guidelines on the presumption in favour of arrest treat all citizens equally? She will be aware from my speech on the order to reclassify in the debate last Wednesday of my concern about people with mental disabilities being treated differently from other adults and inappropriately in my opinion.

Can she say how that can possibly be in the interests of their welfare? Are not the guidelines contradictory in that respect? Can she also say how the under-18s would be treated under this new power, as she did not have time to answer my questions on that matter last Wednesday? Is she convinced that it is appropriate to arrest and take to the police station for questioning young or vulnerable people in the terms of the ACPO guidelines for the simple offence of personal possession of cannabis, without any other aggravating factors?

Thirdly, how will the police treat someone who has been discovered growing a few cannabis plants for their own use when there is no suggestion that any of the aggravating factors are present that appear in the ACPO guidelines and that would give a presumption in favour of arrest? Finally, how is it expected that the powers introduced by the amendment will cut the link between those who choose to smoke cannabis and the organised criminals who sell hard drugs and whose main objective is to lure cannabis users into using drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I shall deal with the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. I am relatively confident that, when

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considering the amendments that we have made to the Bill, reasonable requests made in relation to the retention of material will be honoured. I made it clear in resisting the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness that we saw an opportunity for a frivolous and vexatious use of those provisions. The other two amendments give ample scope for reasonable matters to be taken into account, not least because the police will be anxious to ensure that all proper evidence is before the court and to obviate a wrongful suggestion made by defendants that in some way they had been disadvantaged because of police behaviour. There will be nothing to prevent the defendant making the point that a request was made with propriety and not acceded to. In practical terms, I believe that will do.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked four questions. First, she asked upon whose advice we based the provisions, and listed four agencies that she believed might be the source. For the crafting of the advice, the Government considered the assessment of the public order needs based on the advice of the police and on what the Government believe to be the right and proper response. Noble Lords will know that government policy does not only rely on the advice of others, but derives from the analysis of what the Government themselves see as most pertinent and relevant.

The noble Baroness asked what difference the measure would make, and how under-18-year-olds would be treated. We would have to consider the underlying circumstances, which can be done only with regard to matters undertaken at the police station. We are sending out a clear message to young people under 18 that cannabis misuse remains illegal. Police enforcement will be consistent with the more structured framework for early juvenile offending, established under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, under which a young offender can receive a reprimand, a final warning or a charge, depending on the seriousness of the offence. Following one reprimand, any further offence will lead to a final warning or charge. Any further offence following a warning will normally result in a charge being brought. After a final warning, the young offender must be referred to the youth offending team to arrange a rehabilitation programme to prevent reoffending.

Those provisions are all within the framework in which we believe that young people should be dealt with. They are not being dealt with more strictly; they are likely to receive reprimands or warnings for a first offence of cannabis possession, but the process is more formal than for persons under 18. It is important that those cases should be dealt with at the police station so that any underlying problems with the young person can be identified. Young people under 18 who receive a final warning or who are reported to the court for possession of cannabis will be referred to the local youth offending team—YOT—and are likely to have their substance misuse assessed by the YOT drugs worker, who may arrange other support when it is needed.

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I have said those things on a number of occasions, although I may not have said them in direct response to the noble Baroness on the last occasion that I spoke. However, I pray in aid all that I have said before on innumerable occasions.

As for increasing class C penalties to 14 years, which will give a significant deterrent to class C dealing, I have tried to make it clear that there is a real distinction to be drawn from those who grow and/or distribute and seek to take adventitious advantage of the weakness in others by the use of cannabis. That distinction should be maintained. We have also said very clearly that we believe that a robust way of dealing with cannabis is important, because we accept that cannabis has pernicious side effects—something with which the noble Baroness may not entirely agree. We believe that our approach is a properly balanced one.

Growing cannabis is a dealing offence. Courts will have discretion in deciding what sentence to pass, depending on the circumstances. It would be quite improper for me to prescribe how the court within the framework would exercise that discretion. Of course, I take into account that mental disability is a real issue, and there are sufficient safeguards in the provisions to ensure that those who suffer from a mental disability are responded to in the most appropriate way.

I hope that I have answered the noble Baroness's questions.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 [Property of detained persons]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 2:


    Page 6, line 8, leave out subsection (2) and insert—


"(2) For subsection (2) of that section (record of arrested person to be made as part of custody record) there is substituted—
"(2) The custody officer may record or cause to be recorded all or any of the things which he ascertains under subsection (1).
(2A) In the case of an arrested person, any such record may be made as part of his custody record.""

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 33 [Defence disclosure]:

3.15 p.m.

Lord Ackner had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No.3:


    Leave out Clause 33.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have heard it often said that time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted. Having inquired of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Opposition, I understand there to be no support for my amendments, no doubt for good political reasons. Therefore, I do not propose to take up the time of the House and will not move the amendments.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Clause 34 [Notification of intention to call defence witnesses]:

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

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Clause 35 [Notification of names of experts instructed by defendant]:


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