Leading Article: At last, a sensible debate about drugs

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ESTELLE MORRIS, the School Standards Minister, will be pilloried for her view that not all pupils who are found with drugs should be expelled. The deluge has already begun in the tabloid press.

But the Minister is talking manifest sense. As numbers of expulsions and exclusions rise in the scramble by schools to get to the top of exam tables, someone in authority has to show the mettle to resist excluding children. The Minister's refusal to close off all options means she has spoken to the electorate about real issues, and real choices, whatever the rights and wrongs of each particular case.

Given the condemnatory attitude adopted by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, the Minister's frankness is a breath of fresh air. For one thing, realistic drugs education, which did not pretend that all illegal drugs were deadly when children know that they are not, would be welcome.

It is not often that ministers speak in a way that shows they live in the real world; but Ms Morris has shown her courage is in suggesting remedies that might be tried, rather than pandering to the ignorance of headline- writers. Perhaps now we will also witness a more sensible debate about the wider issues of drug use in this country.