Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Home Office splits...Home Office keeps drugs. Doh!

In January there was talk of the Home Office splitting into a Ministry of justice and a Ministry of public protection, or something like that. The Transform blog speculated over the scuffle that would ensue over who didn't get to keep the poisoned chalice of doomed drugs enforcement. It was a jokey piece, partly because it all seemed like a Government bluff to make it look like the doing something to make the struggling department 'fit for purpose' after the various crises and series of high profile debacles. Turns out they were serious.

Cut along the dotted line. (© TDPF 2006)

Tony Blair announced in his speech on the matter that:

The Home Office will retain its other existing responsibilities, including for policing, anti-social behaviour, drugs, overall crime reduction, immigration, asylum and identity, in addition to its responsibilities for security and counter terrorism.

The Ministry of Justice will be responsible for policy on the overall criminal, civil, family and administrative justice system, including sentencing policy, as well as the courts, tribunals, legal aid and constitutional reform. It will help to bring together management of the criminal justice system, meaning that once a suspect has been charged their journey through the courts, and if necessary prison and probation, can be managed seamlessly.

I don't really get it, but anyway drugs will stay in the Home Office after all: I can hear the whoops of joy from here. One suspects it wont make the slightest bit of difference for drug policy, and gives the strong impression of being just another 'process' achievement as a proxy for those still-elusive 'policy outcome' achievements (see the SOCA blog for more discussion of this phenomenon). But it does at least demonstrate that there is some flexibility - especially in response to failure. Bear in mind that drugs has already moved once during the ten year strategy (from the Cabinet Office), so, with the drug strategy review about to get underway, and given the disastrous outcomes of the Home Office's time in charge, maybe there is a window of opportunity for a rethink.....

For the record: Transform have been suggesting for years that the drugs brief, being a health issue, be moved to a more appropriate department, like Health for example (as recently happened in Spain). The recent RSA drugs report also suggested that the drugs brief be taken away from the Home Office, although they suggested it move the Department of Communities and Local Government, rather than Health where alcohol and tobacco policy are overseen.

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