What Theresa May didn’t want you to see: Norman Baker reveals all on drugs report

Norman Baker has revealed that the report into effective ways of tackling drugs policy commissioned by Liberal Democrats in Governemnt had some of its conclusions removed by Theresa May, presumably for fear of upsetting the Daily Mail.

From the Guardian:

He said that drugs policy should be based “on evidence, not dogma” and that, although the Conservatives were opposed to liberalisation, they were losing the argument on the issue.

Under pressure from the Lib Dems, the Home Office commissioned a report looking at the international evidence on the impact of legislation on drug use. Theresa May, the home secretary, made no secret of the fact that she had no enthusiasm for the project, and when it was published in October, with Baker taking the lead in publicising it, Conservative ministers signalled that they would ignore it.

And those policy recommendations were:

But Baker revealed on Friday that the original draft had contained policy recommendations that, on May’s orders, had been removed prior to publication.

He highlighted three key recommendations proposed in the original draft:

• Promoting the use of cannabis-based medicines, by removing the barrier to their development and allowing them to be prescribed for a range of conditions.

• Piloting a system used in Portugal, where drug use has been decriminalised, which involves “dissuasion commissions” assessing drug users and diverting them from the criminal justice system and into treatment.

• Encouraging more long-term heroin addicts to seek treatment involving clinically supervised diamorphine injections.

Baker – who resigned as a minister shortly after the report was published, saying he could no longer work with May – said the government now, finally, had evidence showing “what works” in relation to drug addiction, but that the Tories were ignoring it.

“The truth is Britain’s drugs policies need radical reform,” he said. “The mask has slipped – treating users and addicts as criminals instead of people who need treatment has failed. The Tories can deny reality if they like, but the tide is turning on this issue. I believe drugs reform is just a matter of time.”

The snippy response of the Conservative press officer is brilliant in its irony.

Theresa May might try to ignore the evidence. The inescapable fact is that the evidence would not be there in the Home Office without the insistence of the Liberal Democrats. There’s a long way to go to get a more sensible drugs policy implemented, but no Home Secretary can ever say “but nobody told us”. Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats made sure of that.

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10 Comments

  • Tony Dawson 27th Dec '14 - 1:12pm

    Will it be the Daily Mail or The Sun which first runs this story as:

    “Theresa May’s Hidden Drugs Shame”?

    One holds not one’s breath.

  • For me, this shows our lack of influence in Government. We’ve found very few ways of turning Tory ‘no’s into ‘yes’s. (Much better at yes-> no) Are we really trumpeting a useful report as a great achievement?

    I don’t understand why we haven’t explicitly paired proposals (e.g. Only piloting landlords having to check immigrants eligibility to be here in exchange for piloting some of the above proposals) It would make coalition a much easier sell on the doorstep, would show we were no pushovers, and restore some of the radical promise of 2010.

    Not doubting Norman Baker, or that the report is useful, but let’s not pretend that it’s been anything other than a Tory ‘no’ and we’ve little to show on the ground.

  • stuart moran 27th Dec '14 - 7:36pm

    Mr McFadyen

    Please get over yourself…Official Secrets Act – the first defence of the rogues….and to see it being so freely proposed on an LD forum as well!

    Can you provide evidence for the blanket prohibition of drugs working? It seems to be soooo successful doesn’t it – the prohibition has clearly led to no drug problems and the drug gangs are in such penury at the moment!

  • Sensible policies but no surprise that the Tories would be against them.

    When I lived in North Aberdeenshire in the 1990’s I saw heroin abuse destroy communities. The reason was partly because drug policies in this country just didn’t and don’t fit the reality of the situation. Giving heroin to hardened addicts on prescription would surely reduce crime, get the problem under control, be a first step towards getting the addict treated and save the country money, treatment is a lot cheaper than prison.

    The reason I now refuse to vote for any mainstream party is they all play politics with drugs. And I know that if they are prepared to do this with an issue as important as this (1% of scottish people are heroin addicts and they are the single biggest source of crime) then nothing is so important that it won’t become part of the politico game. Voting for such parties and people is therefore stupid and moral wrong in my opinion.

    I like the guys ideas, but I don’t believe the lib dem parliamentary party are any different to the Tories, snp or labour on this issue I’m afraid. If you think I’m wrong about this then tell me, do you expect the lib dems to make drug laws reform part of a coalition agreement?

    Drug abuse tends to affect working class communities, therefore it can be a political game rather than an important issue that needs treated seriously.

  • Norman Baker was as sensible as could be when interviewed on this subject on Ch4 News last night.
    But is this a subject that’s grabbing the nation?
    It gets a lot of attention in LDV and there are more than one or two enthusiasts who will bang on about it at length.
    Meanwhile most young voters (if we are to believe this poll) seem more interested in jobs and mundane things like that.
    See —
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/dec/27/first-time-voters-eu-2015-election-farage-labour

    Young voters – voting intentions Green 19%, whereas Liberal Democrats are on 6%.

  • stuart moran 28th Dec '14 - 8:58am

    John

    I agree it is a subject that is not at the front of most people’s minds but that shouldn’t mean it is not important as drug abuse is still a drain and helps support criminals – whether it is too late on the latter front now as criminals have diversified is another point (prohibition in 20s USA is a good indicator for this)

    I do though think it is a question liberals should continually ask, even if only to prevent even more draconian laws being introduced, or to facilitate what improvements are possible

    The comment from Ian MacFadyen was not about ‘drug policy’ more that Norman Baker has broken the Official Secrets Act and upset the Tories – more and more this site is indicating a move towards a c/Conservative way of thinking amongst the membership.

    As Matthew Huntbatch forever reminds us – the number of left leaning posters on here from within the party is now very low indeed

  • Stuart. The liberal democrats are no longer a left leaning party, that is why there are so few left leaning posters here and why there are now a lot fewer left leaning lib dem voters than there used to be.

    I’d consider myself a left leaning voter, none of the mainstream parties are left leaning and I don’t

    vote for any of them but may vote green. I’ve considered snp, they are left of the lib/lab/con rump but not as left wing as people think and can be pretty authoritarian.

    Drugs isn’t one of those issues that people will tell pollsters are important to them. It’s a bit like gay rights 20 years ago. The discrimination against gay people back then was immoral, bigoted and wrong but people didn’t list gay rights as a high priority issue so the political mainstream really couldn’t care less and had pretty much the same attitude as we now see about drugs. Politicos don’t want the hassle of dealing with the issue but once people see it makes sense they won’t be able to get on the bandwagon quick enough.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Dec '14 - 2:35pm

    If Government ministers like Mrs May choose to pander to prejudice rather than accept evidence and formulate evidence based -policies, what can one do apart from get them out of office?

    Norman Baker did the right thing by getting out In the circumstances it was the only honourable action he could take, have nothing to do with them and let the voters know what is happening.
    .

  • Its rare Political class use fact based information on anything to make policy they prefer the emotion easier.
    Drug policy has failed so far driving people off soft drug to the hard drugs in many cases.
    Then again this change in drug policy means Politian’s have to acknowledge and apologise for the lies an half lies miss truths they been telling us about drugs for 50 years an no no Politian likes to say I lied to you hence the stubbornness in Mrs May. So Good on LibDems tackling this one

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