David Cameron rules out major review into decriminalising drugs

Prime Minister rejects conclusion of inquiry that found current policy is not working

David Cameron today ruled out a fundamental review of the Government's approach to drugs, insisting its current strategy was “working”.

The Prime Minister dismissed calls from a cross-party group of MPs to hold a wide-ranging Royal Commission to consider alternative methods, including legalisation.

After a year-long inquiry, the Commons Home Affairs Committee said the Government's current policy was not working.

But, speaking during a visit to Cambridge today, Mr Cameron said: “I don't support decriminalisation. We have a policy which actually is working in Britain.

“Drugs use is coming down, the emphasis on treatment is absolutely right, and we need to continue with that to make sure we can really make a difference. Also, we need to do more to keep drugs out of our prisons.

“These are the Government's priorities and I think we should continue with that rather than have some very, very long-term Royal Commission.”

In a report, the influential Home Affairs Committee said ministers could learn from the experience of Portugal where drugs have been “depenalised” - with possession of small amounts not subject to criminal penalties, even though they remain illegal.

It also urged the Government to fund detailed studies of changes in Washington and Colorado in the United States - where cannabis is being legalised - and Uruguay where a state monopoly of cannabis production and sale is being proposed.

Ten years after its predecessor committee last looked at the issue, it said change was now urgent and that a Royal Commission should be set up immediately so it could report back by 2015, when the next general election is due to take place.

In other recommendations, the committee called for the prosecution of senior officials in banks responsible for laundering the profits of drugs gangs and for better drugs education in schools.

The committee said it was clear from the experience of countries around the world that the current approach was not working, and that alternative strategies - such as those developed in Portugal - should now be considered.

“We were impressed by what we saw of the Portuguese depenalised system. It had clearly reduced public concern about drug use in that country, and was supported by all political parties and the police,” it said.

“Although it is not certain that the Portuguese experience could be replicated in the UK, given societal differences, we believe this is a model that merits significantly closer consideration.”

Ministers should, it said, open discussions with the United Nations Commission on Drugs on new ways to tackle what it called the “global drugs dilemma” - including “the possibility of legalisation and regulation”.

At the same time, the committee was highly critical of the Government's failure to hit the profits of the drugs gangs, saying its approach to money laundering was “far too weak”.

It said ministers should legislate to extend the “personal, criminal liability” of the most senior office holders in the banks involved, and so that retailers who sell untested “legal highs” can be held liable for any harm the products cause .

The committee expressed concern that the creation of the recently elected police and crime commissioners could lead to significant local variations in the approach to drugs, resulting in a “geographical displacement” of the drugs trade within the UK.

It said more needed to be done to tackle the widespread availability of drugs in prisons - including mandatory searches of prisoners when they enter and leave jail - while successful treatments such as residential rehabilitation and the methadone substitute, buprenorphine, should be made more widely available.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said that action was now imperative and ministers could not afford to “kick this issue into the long grass”.

“There is no doubt that we have failed to deal with the dealers and we have not focused on the users. Only with this twin approach will we break the devastating cycle of drug addiction in society,” he 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.”

However, Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, expressed concern about the possible impact on cannabis use.

“If the report is to be responsible, it must take account of the specific damage that cannabis can do to the developing brain, not only as recent studies have shown inducing irreversible cognitive deterioration but in around 10% of cases triggering severe psychotic illness,” she said.

Liberal Democrat Home Office minister Jeremy Browne insisted today the Government was making significant progress on drugs but said it was “open to new ways of thinking”.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We are open-minded, we think it's a decent, thoughtful, balanced report. We will consider it carefully.”

Pressed on whether the Government would hold a Royal Commission as suggested, Mr Browne said: “The Home Secretary has said she doesn't think the Royal Commission is the answer at this time, but we are open to new ideas and evidence-based research to carry on reducing the harm caused by drugs in this country.”

PA

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sport LIVEFollow the latest news and scores from today's Premier League as Liverpool make a blistering start against Norwich
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLESir Cliff Richard has used a candid appearance on an Australian talk show to address long-running speculation about his sexuality

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit