PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Second Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

DRAFT MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT 1971 (MODIFICATION) ORDER 1995

Wednesday 21 June 1995

LONDON: HMSO

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Sir Michael Shersby

Abbott, Ms Diane (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Beith, Mr. A. J. (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Bermingham, Mr. Gerald (St. Helens, South)

Carttiss, Mr. Michael (Great Yarmouth)

Coombs, Mr. Anthony (Wyre Forest)

Corston, Ms Jean (Bristol, East)

Evennett, Mr. David (Erith and Crayford)

Fabricant, Mr. Michael (Mid-Staffordshire)

Fishburn, Mr. Dudley (Kensington)

Forsyth, Mr. Michael (Minister of State, Home Office)

Fowler, Sir Norman (Sutton Coldfield)

Fox, Dr. Liam (Woodspring)

Gale, Mr. Roger (Thanet, North)

Gardiner, Sir George (Reigate)

Gerrard, Mr. Neil (Walthamstow)

Grant, Mr. Bernie (Tottenham)

Howarth, Mr. George (Knowsley, North)

Tipping, Mr. Paddy (Sherwood)

Mr. F. A. Cranmer, Committee Clerk

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3 Second Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 21 June 1995

[SIR MICHAEL SHERSBY in the Chair]

Draft Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Modification) Order 1995

4.30 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Michael Forsyth): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Modification) Order 1995 If I may be permitted to stray slightly from the order, I should first like to congratulate you on your appearance in the Honours list on Saturday, Sir Michael. It is a great pleasure to have you presiding over our proceedings, which I hope will be brief.

4.31 pm

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North): May I associate the Opposition with the Minister's remarks? I am sure that all my hon. Friends would agree with me. I understand that the changes are fairly technical and I do not intend to divide the Committee, but perhaps the Minister could explain what is involved.

4.32 pm

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): With the words still ringing in my ears that the Government do not propose to remove any drugs from the controlled list, the Minister owes us an explanation as to why propylhexedrine should be so removed. I understand that its main use is as a nasal decongestent, which I might have found helpful as I tend to suffer from sinus troubles like many of us in this damp, overheated place. As far as I am aware, the drug has not been abused for a long time, so I am disposed to support the Minister's proposal.

4.33 pm

Mr. Michael Forsyth: I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman, but I am unable to take his party's position on decriminalising certain drugs, although on this occasion I can assist him. He is quite right that propylhexedrine is used in some countries as a nasal decongestent. Apparently it is also used to reduce appetite for the treatment of obesity. I should be surprised if it were of use to the right hon. Gentleman in either respect. In countries where it is used medicinally, which does not include this country, it is available without a doctor's prescription and is an over-the-counter medicine. The order will remove that substance from the control regime established by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It was necessary for it to be controlled under the Act because it was among those substances that were 4 listed in schedule IV to the 1971 United Nations convention on psychotropic substances to which the United Kingdom is a party. But in 1991, because there had been little misuse world wide for a number of years, a decision was taken by the United Nations commission on narcotic drugs to remove it from the convention, so it is no longer necessary for us to control it unless we have a particular domestic reason for doing so. If the order is approved, we will table an amendment which will also delete propylhexedrine from the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985. I commend the order to the Committee and I hope that the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed will not require propylhexedrine in the future, notwithstanding the temptations of parliamentary life.

4.34 pm

Mr. Beith: The Minister compels me to thank him for his kind words, but I must insist that my party would think it irresponsible to remove any drug from the controlled list without the most careful and expert consideration, which I assume the Minister has undertaken in respect of this drug that has not been abused, and certainly in respect of drugs that are subject to widespread abuse. That is why we believe that a royal commission should consider such issues. In this technical case, when no abuse seems to be occurring, I am sure that the course that the Minister suggests is reasonable.

4.35 pm

Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North): I do not intend to prolong our deliberations, but I took the trouble to go the science section of the House of Commons Library, where I discovered that propylhexedrine is subject to abuse. Fatalities due to heart failure or pulmonary hypertension have been reported, and psychosis may occur. I hope, before we take the drug off the list, that the Minister is satisfied that it is not being abused.

Mr. Michael Forsyth: I am satisfied on that. As my hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed imply, we would not act without taking the most careful advice. The advice to remove the substance from control follows consideration by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which is the Government's principal adviser on these matters. The Committee can feel reasonably confident about that advice. As with any substance, if at any stage there is evidence of misuse creating a social problem, we would not hesitate to act, but the decision by the United Nations and the advice from the advisory council should reassure the Committee.

Question put to and agreed.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the draft Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Modification) Order 1995.

Committee rose at twenty-five minutes to Five o'clock.

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THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Shersby, Sir Michael (Chairman)

Beith, Mr.

Coombs, Mr. Anthony

Evennett, Mr.

Fabricant, Mr.

Fishburn, Mr.

Forsyth, Mr. Michael

Fox, Dr. Liam

Gale, Mr.

Howarth, Mr. George

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