Two out of three new MPs favour drugs law review

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The Independent Online
TWO-THIRDS of new MPs are in favour of setting up a Royal Commission to look into Britain's existing drugs laws, according to a survey out today, writes Graham Ball.

The same study reveals that more than one in five of those elected to Westminster for the first time last May have used an illegal drug. In a further revelation from the new intake, Conservative MP, David Prior, the son of the former Northern Ireland Secretary James, now Lord Prior, has openly admitted to smoking cannabis.

Mr Prior, the MP for North Norfolk, writing exclusively for the Independent on Sunday, today says: "You can wear a pin-stripe suit, be utterly conventional and still roll a joint. And, yes, I did inhale. The present law is clearly no longer being consistently enforced and is widely ignored, reflecting a typically British dislike of hypocrisy, dishonesty and humbug."

According to the new figures, only 31 per cent of the 243 MPs who make up the new 1997 intake - average age 43 - were against a Royal Commission to review the current drugs laws, while 65 per cent said they were in favour.

The survey of MPs' attitudes towards drugs was carried out by London Weekend Television for the Jonathan Dimbleby programme, which is broadcasting a debate on Britain's drug laws at lunchtime today.

The MPs were told their responses to the survey could be kept anonymous to ensure that they were as frank as possible about personal drug use. Some, including Mr Prior, boldly opted to waive their anonymity.

In addition to the 22.5 per cent of the "class of 97" admitting to illicit personal drug use , 64 per cent confirmed that they have friends or associates who had used illegal drugs. On the question of the present cannabis laws, 51 per cent say they are too harsh and only 1 per cent said they were too soft.

Established Labour MP Paul Flynn, who is campaigning for a change in the law controlling cannabis, welcomed the survey. "This is splendid news and very surprising. In effect, it means that the current prohibitionist policies against cannabis in this country are doomed," he said.

t The 'Jonathan Dimbleby' programme is broadcast on ITV from 1.10pm today.

Campaign reports, page 18

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