Ex-Care Minister calls for end to breathtaking hypocrisy over drug policy reform

A former health minister in the coalition government has called for an end to the “breathtaking hypocrisy” in the debate over drug policy reform.

Lib Dem health spokesman Sir Norman Lamb (pictured) contrasted the treatment of contenders in the Tory leadership contest over past drug use with other people who he argued had seen their careers blighted.

His comments came as MPs debated and approved a statutory instrument amending the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Responding, Home Office minister Nick Hurd said the Government’s policy on legalising cannabis and drug consumption rooms was “set”, but added things could change.

He said: “(MPs) will also be aware that a new prime minister is a new administration, a new government and an opportunity to reopen debate where necessary.”

Speaking in the debate, Sir Norman (North Norfolk) said: “The hypocrisy in this debate is breathtaking, when aspirants to become our prime minister from the Conservative Cabinet make embarrassing admissions about misdemeanours from their past, when others have been convicted of doing the same thing and have had their careers blighted.

“Let’s end this hypocrisy, let’s follow the evidence, let’s regulate the market, take the criminals out of the market and protect our young people more effectively.”

MPs heard amending the act would alter the “generic definition” of some drugs currently subject to controls.

Mr Hurd said: “This is not in any way a relaxation of controls, this is simply a response to representations made by the scientific community about the need to revisit these regulations because of some unintended consequences.”

He said the number of compounds unintentionally subject to controls would be reduced, while controls on “harmful” compounds would be retained.

Mr Hurd said: “This will mean those compounds unintentionally captured will no longer require a Home Office licence for the conduct of research as they will no longer be controlled.”

SNP Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) said the Act was in need of “widespread reform, review and updating”, adding that it “gets in the way of treatment and recovery”.

SNP MP Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) added: “I hope we can all agree that those with chronic health conditions, sometimes causing unimaginable pain and suffering, should not be denied the potential fruits of research into cannabinoids because, put simply, legislation hasn’t kept pace with the scientific progress we need.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Lauren Hurley / PA Wire.