A Home Office minister today pointed to the effect of strong cannabis on friends of his son as he defended the Government's policy on drugs.

Lord West of Spithead's comments followed the row over the sacking by Home Secretary Alan Johnson of the Government's chief drugs adviser Professor David Nutt.

Labour's Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, a former police chief superintendent, spoke at question time of the "increasing strength of cannabis particularly skunk".

Lord West told him: "Skunk is far, far more dangerous. I'm afraid I know from my own experience with my youngsters and their friends.

"My son has two friends both of whom have been severely affected by the use of this really, really strong drug. It is a nonsense to say it doesn't have appalling effects."

He added: "All of the chaps who seem to do this, and the women, seem also to drink and smoke ordinary cigarettes as well."