Theresa May attacked over claims Tories buried reports into drug abuse

Conservatives accused of wanting to look tough on drugs

Nigel Morris
Friday 10 October 2014 23:17
Theresa May face pressure over claims the Conservatives had “suppressed” two reports into drug abuse
Theresa May face pressure over claims the Conservatives had “suppressed” two reports into drug abuse

Theresa May is under mounting pressure night over claims by a Home Office minister that the Conservatives had “suppressed” two reports into drug abuse because they could prove politically embarrassing.

Charities joined Labour to challenge the Home Secretary to release reports produced by her department into drugs laws overseas and the growing popularity of so-called “legal highs”.

The critics included a woman whose daughter died after taking the substance GBL before it was outlawed.

Liberal Democrat Norman Baker, the drugs minister, told The Independent last week that the documents were gathering dust despite being ready for publication since July. There are concerns that the reports are being sat on because the department does not want to be seen to endorse less hardline drugs policies.

He blamed the Conservatives for blocking the reports and accused his Coalition partners of playing politics with addicts’ lives.

Labour said it planned to confront Mrs May over the claims when she appears before MPs in the Commons on Monday.

Maryon Stewart, who founded the charity the Angelus Foundation to highlight the risks of legal highs after her daughter’s death, said she shared Mr Baker’s frustrations.

“Weeks and months have been wasted when we could have been getting to grips with educating young people and stopping these dangerous substances being sold on the high street,” she said.

Ms Stewart added: “It is just not acceptable there should be political posturing with one eye on the general election when the issue is safeguarding young people. These harmful and unpredictable substances can rob them of their mental well-being and even end their lives.”

Niamh Eastwood, the executive director of the drugs advice charity Release, called on the Home Office to release the research on drugs overseas as quickly as possible.

She said: “The countries they visited included Portugal, Uruguay, Netherlands and Denmark which arguably have a more pragmatic response to drug use.

“It could make a difference to look at policy overseas that works. There are alternatives worth exploring which could have better outcomes.”

She said she was “baffled” by the failure to release the research on legal highs as the Home Office had asked expert groups to submit evidence on the issue.

Danny Kushlick, spokesman for the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said: “Both Tory and Labour governments have a long and shameful history of withholding drug policy analysis that contradicts the prohibitionist orthodoxy.

“Yet again they are playing power politics with the lives of ordinary people in order to maintain an illusion of safety and security. It is citizens’ right to see the evidence and it is the right of all of us to have policies that are genuinely effective, just and humane, and that provide health and security.”

The shadow Police Minister, Jack Dromey, said: “It is a shocking indication of Theresa May’s complacency towards drugs that she spends public money commissioning reports that she won’t allow to be published.”

He added: “Last year alone deaths caused by drug overdoses went up 21 per cent. Labour wants an honest and evidence-based debate about how we tackle the harms of drugs, but this is something the Home Secretary seems keen to avoid.”

A spokeswoman for Ms May declined to comment on accusations that the reports had been blocked.

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