Today (Wednesday 22 November) I challenged the Prime Minister to reform our failing, outdated drugs laws and urged her to watch the new BBC One documentary Drugsland, filmed in Bristol West, which shows the devastating impact of drugs on our city.
Following last night’s airing of the first episode of the hard-hitting documentary, I kicked off Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons by asking:
“Mr Speaker, the BBC are currently broadcasting Drugsland, a documentary series shot in my constituency of Bristol West, showing the catastrophic impact of drugs and drugs laws, not just on users but on the police and innocent bystanders. So will the Prime Minister commit to watching Drugsland and to a Royal Commission on our drugs laws which are plainly failing?”
Theresa May replied: “I’m pleased to say the Home Office under my honourable friend the Home Secretary launched the government’s drugs strategy only a matter of weeks ago. We recognise the importance of this issue: drugs significantly affect people’s lives and sadly we also see people dying as a result of taking drugs but also the criminal activity that takes place around drugs. We take this very seriously; that’s why we’ve launched our strategy.”
I’ve already highlighted some of the deficiencies in the government’s long-overdue drugs strategy in my speech during the debate on 18 July 2017. So I’m glad Crispin Blunt, Conservative MP for Reigate, picked up my question again, half an hour later, and urged the Prime Minister to look again at our drugs laws in the light of changes globally.
But sadly Theresa May’s responses, both to me and her own MP, indicate she has no intention of altering UK drugs policy.
Over the past year I’ve taken part in the filming of the BBC documentary Drugsland. The four-part series focuses on the world of drugs, as seen through of the eyes of professionals, users and dealers in Bristol.
During this process, I analysed the ways drugs affect everyone – not just those using drugs, or their families and friends, but all of us. I met drug treatment specialists and people on drug treatment programmes. I was briefed by leading researchers and by clinicians developing testing facilities so that people can find out exactly what’s in the substance they intend to take. I discussed drugs with people on the doorstep around Bristol West and with policy makers in the council and at Westminster.
I feature in Episode 4, which looks at the politics, policy and legislation. In it, I suggests that our out-of-date drug laws don’t protect people from harm and an evidence-based reform of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is long overdue. I believe it’s failing everyone: users, their family and friends, the police and the wider community. And I think there’s good evidence that prohibition is now part of the problem, not the solution.
Episode 4 will be broadcast on BBC One at 10:45pm on Tuesday 19 December 2017, but will be available on iPlayer on Tuesday 5 December.
You can watch the exchange in the House of Commons below: