A ten-year anti-drugs plan being unveiled by Boris Johnson today has already been dismissed as a “backwards step” by campaigners.
The Sun on Sunday says the new plan amounts to an “all-out war on drugs”, with middle-class, or “lifestyle”, users of Class A substances to lose their passports or driving licences.The police will also be handed powers to go through drug dealers’ phones and contact their customers with warnings about drug use.
The Guardian said the strategy has a “heavy focus on targeting users and suppliers, including gangs behind the so-called county lines phenomenon, which often sees young, vulnerable people turned into cross-country mules”.
The prime minister told The Sun on Sunday that “what I want to see is a world in which we have penalties for lifestyle drug users that will seriously interfere with their enjoyment of their own lifestyles”.
The planned measures also include the largest ever single increase in investment in treatment and recovery, which is expected to be made available to 50 local authorities.
But his proposals immediately came under fire. Niamh Eastwood, executive director of think-tank Release, said that while “increased funding for drug treatment is welcomed”, the “focus on more punitive sentences for people who supply drugs is a continuation of a tired tough-on-drugs narrative”.
She pointed to more progressive approaches overseas, such as the launch of drug consumption rooms in New York and the legalisation of cannabis in Germany. Yet while “over 30 countries have ended criminal sanctions for possession of drugs”, she said, “Britain is going backwards, embracing a Nixon-style ‘war on drugs’ approach”.
The crackdown is being announced just 24 hours after claims emerged about cocaine and other illegal substances being used in Parliament. According to The Sunday Times, “many sources have described casual cocaine use by a group of MPs and detection wipes found evidence of the class A drug in 11 out of 12 locations tested in the building”, including “in the lavatories nearest the private offices of Johnson and the home secretary”.
Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said he would investigate Westminster’s drug culture after the traces of cocaine were detected in places accessible only to people with parliamentary passes.
Freedom of information requests have previously revealed that two drug dealers were arrested and 13 people were detained for drugs possession on or around the parliamentary estate in the last year.
And “Commons officials received reports last month that cannabis could be smelt in the open space between Portcullis House and 1 Parliament Street”, said the newspaper, which suggested that sniffer dogs may be used to search for drugs in the “corridors of power” under a crackdown by the Commons authorities.