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Now PM slaps down Clegg over his call to relax drugs laws after he said Britain was losing on 'industrial scale'
Deputy Prime Minister urges David Cameron to show 'courage' and look again at narcotics lawsTory leader backed reclassification of ecstasy in 2002 but now insists government policy 'actually is working'
Home Affairs select committee urged government to examine Portugese 'depenalisation' strategy where drug users escape prosecution Campaigners warn over link between cannabis and mental illnessPoll shows 60% back a Clegg's call for Royal Commission to consider decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs
01:14 GMT, 15 December 2012
Nick Clegg was slapped down by David Cameron yesterday after saying Britain was ‘losing the war on drugs on an industrial scale’.
In an extraordinary intervention, Mr Clegg suggested the Prime Minister lacked the ‘courage’ to order a major review of drugs policy.
The Liberal Democrat leader threw his weight behind a controversial report by MPs which suggested decriminalising the possession of small quantities of drugs.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the war on drugs had failed, costing 2,000 lives a year and making billions for criminals
And he backed the report’s call for a Royal Commission on the issue to reconsider all aspects of drugs policy.
But he was given short shrift by the
Prime Minister, who rejected the report’s findings this week and
insisted drug policies were ‘working’.
Speaking in Brussels, Mr Cameron said
his deputy was ‘entitled’ to his views, but made it clear he would have
no influence on drugs policy this side of the election.
He said: ‘Of course the Deputy Prime
Minister is entirely entitled to take a view for the next election and
beyond for his manifesto, wanting to go further, wanting a Royal
Mr Clegg made his surprise intervention in the drugs debate while David Cameron is out of the country, attending an EU summit in Brussels
‘I am very happy to debate and discuss drug policy. I think the Coalition Government has taken a series of good steps.
CAMERON ON DRUGS: HOW THE TORY LEADER CHANGED HIS MIND
A member of the home affairs committee when it called for a
reclassification of ecstasy.
Cameron said at the time of the report: 'I hope that our report will
encourage fresh thinking and a new approach. We need to get away from
entrenched positions and try to reduce the harm that drugs do both to
users and society at large.'
‘I think that the right answer would be
for cannabis to be a class C drug, because it would send the right
message about the dangers of using the drug, but a separate offence will
be needed to deal with the specific problem of large-scale dealing,
with a different maximum sentence attached to it.’
Asked about downgrading ecstasy from Class A to B:
‘Yes. I think that is right, looking at the science.’
do not believe that we should legalise any drugs that are currently
criminal, but I do believe that drugs policy has been a failure over
‘I don’t support decriminalisation. We have a policy which actually is working in Britain.‘I don’t rule out taking more steps,
but I don’t personally think a Royal Commission is the answer and I
don’t support the decriminalisation of any drugs that are currently
As a backbench MP a decade ago, Mr
Cameron backed calls for the downgrading of both cannabis and ecstasy.
Yesterday he acknowledged he had said ‘all sorts of things about drugs
policy over the years’, but insisted he was now against
decriminalisation of any sort.
In a thinly veiled swipe at the Prime
Minister, Mr Clegg hit out at politicians who called for drugs reform in
opposition only to abandon the issue when they got into government for
fear of being painted as ‘soft’.
‘For too long people in politics have
worried that saying something differently can somehow look like you’re
being soft,’ he said.
‘It’s important now to pluck up the
courage to speak out.’
Mr Clegg, whose party first adopted a policy to
decriminalise cannabis possession a decade ago, added: ‘If you were
waging any other war where you have 2,000 fatalities a year, your
enemies are making billions in profit, constantly throwing new weapons
at you and targeting more young people, you’d have to say you are losing
and it’s time to do something different.
‘I’m anti-drugs – it’s for that reason I’m pro-reform.’
The Lib Dem leader has ordered Home
Office minister Jeremy Browne to compile a report on liberal approaches
to drugs across the world which have worked, including in Portugal,
Amsterdam, Latin America and several US states.
Challenged over taxpayers’ money
being spent on sending Mr Browne around the world to research changes to
drug policy opposed by the Prime Minister, a Downing Street spokesman
said: ‘It is the Government’s role to keep policies under review and to
ensure that they are meeting what is required, but the Prime Minister’s
view is that the policy is working.
‘It’s part and parcel of a minister’s job to make sure that they look at examples of policies in different countries.’
Legalise it: Some say a legalisation of drugs would prevent a black market and benefit Britain whilst anti-drugs charities say it will flood the country with drugs
Mr Clegg said former Mexico President Felipe Calderon told him last year how a brutal war against drug barons had failed. The two men are pictured meeting in London in 2009
DRUGS POLICY IS SIMPLY NOT WORKING: WHAT MPs SAID
Committee chairman Keith Vaz
The home affairs select committee
this week set out a series of controversial recommendations, insisting
government drugs policy is ‘simply not working’ and ministers should
chairman Keith Vaz (pictured) said: ‘Drugs cost thousands of lives and
the taxpayer billions of pounds each year. This is a critical, now or
never moment for serious reform.
'If we do not act now, future generations will be crippled by the social and financial burden of addiction.’
Key recommendations included:
A Royal Commission to look at how countries around the world deal with drugs, reporting by 2015More
random drugs tests in jails and mandatory tests when on arrival and
release, with a quarter of prisoners finding it easy to get Overhaul
rehabilitation to focus on recovery, using more live-in clinics and
buprenorphine as an alternative to methadone to treat heroin addictsMaking retailers responsible for harm caused by so-called ‘legal highs’
Tackle surge in addiction to prescription drugsA new minister for drugs policy, split between the Home Office and Department for Health