Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Conservative manifestos on drug policy, 2005 and 2010

Continuing with our coverage of election party manifesto commitments on drug policy (see Labour's here), today the new Conservative 2010 manifesto is published, titled 'Invitation to Join the Government of Britain'.

The first mention of drug policy actually comes in the first chapter titled 'change the economy' in a subsection called 'ensure the whole country shares in rising prosperity' under the subheading 'create a modern transport network':
"We will stop central government funding for new fixed speed cameras, and switch to more effective ways to make our roads safer, including authorising ‘drugalyser’ technology for use in testing for drug-driving. "
This is interesting reflection on evidence based policy making in as much as it proposes reigning in speed cameras, a proven technology, at the same time as rolling out an unproven one, 'drugalysers', in the same sentence.

The main drug policy content has to wait until the 'Change society' chapter, unsurprisingly perhaps, under the 'Fight back against crime' subsection (again there is nothing in the health sections) which explores the Tory themes of  mending 'Broken Britain', with the main focus on a crack down on binge drinking, and various calls for tougher alcohol regulation.
"A Conservative government will help to mend our broken society – by cracking down on drink- and drug-fuelled violence, tackling re-offending, and intervening early to stop young people getting onto the conveyor belt to crime – in order to reduce the causes of crime and anti-social behaviour."
The next direct mention of (illegal) drug policy comes in a familiar association of drugs with external threats to our borders, and foreign criminals (themes also evident in Labour's 2005 manifesto):

Extremists, serious criminals and others find our borders far too easy to penetrate. That is why we will create a dedicated Border Police Force, as part of a refocused Serious Organised Crime Agency, to enhance national security, improve immigration controls, and crack down on the trafficking of people, weapons and drugs. We will work with police forces to strengthen arrangements to deal with serious crime and other cross-boundary policing challenges, and extend collaboration between forces to deliver better value for money.

Some more detail on reoffending and rehabilitation is then offered at the end of this chapter:

At the moment, many prisoners leave jail and lapse back into a life of drink, drugs and re-offending. We will never bring our crime rate down or start to reduce the costs of crime until we properly rehabilitate ex-prisoners. So, with a Conservative government, when offenders leave prison, they will be trained and rehabilitated by private and voluntary sector providers, under supervision. We will use the same approach that lies behind our welfare reform plans – payment by results – to cut re-offending, with organisations paid using savings made in the criminal justice system from the resulting lower levels of crime.

Drug and alcohol addiction are behind many of the crimes that are committed on our streets, but the treatment that too many addicts receive just maintains their habits. We will give courts the power to use abstinence-based Drug Rehabilitation Orders to help offenders kick drugs once and for all. We will introduce a system of temporary bans on new ‘legal highs’ while health issues are considered by independent experts.

To reform our system of rehabilitation further, we will:

  • apply our payment by results reforms to the youth justice system;
  • engage with specialist organisations to provide education, mentoring and drug rehabilitation programmes to help young offenders go straight; and,
  • pilot a scheme to create Prison and Rehabilitation Trusts so that just one organisation is responsible for helping to stop a criminal re-offending.
There is obviously a bit more to consider than the Labour's paltry 55 word offering, but there are no surprises and, in reality very little to distinguish it from Labour's existing drug strategy. There are some minor (and largely unexplained) tweaks to the way services are to be funded and a bit of rhetorical window dressing. The irony presumably lost on the Conservatives, is that they demand 'payment by results' for those providing services to reduce offending, whilst failing to take the same medicine themselves by assessing the value for money of prohibition - which creates most the offending in the first place.

Again we will leave you to make your minds up on the merits or otherwise of what's on offer.

In contrast to Labour, the Conservative manifesto in 2005 had considerably less content on drug policy than in 2010, but the 2005 manifesto was generally more concise deploying lots of populist soundbites and almost no detail.

This was all they provided on drug policy:

We will break the link between drugs and crime by massively expanding treatment programmes, including 25,000 residential rehab places (compared with fewer than 2,500 places today), and by giving all young users of hard drugs a straight choice – effective treatment or appearing in court. We will stop sending mixed messages on drugs by reversing Labour’s reclassification of cannabis as a less serious drug, changing it from class ‘C’ back to class ‘B’.

We will support the social institutions – families, schools, voluntary bodies and youth clubs – that can prevent crime and drug dependency before it starts.

Along with this, in a box titled 'More Police' highlighting their key criminal justice policies:

More Police

• 5,000 extra police a year
• Less paperwork and political correctness
• More rehab places for addicts
• Tougher sentences for career criminals
• Prisoners to serve their sentences in full
The specific 2005 commitment to increase residential rehab 10 fold has now gone, although the emphasis on rehab remains (interestingly 'residential' rehab is not mentioned specifically, perhaps now the cost implications have sunk in), and we see the abstinence rhetoric, that Labour have also led with (two mentions of 'drug-fee lives' in 55 words), also appearing more explicitly. The only other real 2005 commitment, to reclassify cannabis back to B, has gone as that has obviously happened anyway.


Anonymous said...

Yet again, you mention the word illegal in reference to "drugs" that the conservatives say cross the border. WTF is the point of that?

Steve Rolles said...

Thats the language they use, and in this context I don't think the 'no such thing as an illegal drug' line is useful here. It has it's place, and you make it well, but - as we've discussed at length elsewhere - its not something we are running with in all discussions.

Jake said...

With their proposed "system of temporary bans on new ‘legal highs’", is this legal/allowed under the MDA?

Steve Rolles said...

I assume it will require new legislation.

Jake said...

So... more legislation in the wrong direction that would presumably be against the principles of the MDA? I hope the liberals don't baulk with their manifesto tomorrow RE: Drugs policies...

Dante Cymru said...

It is pleasing to note that the Conservatives are re-asserting old freedoms as well as promoting new ones in their 2010 election policies.

In the case of the former, we have

- the freedom for drug dealers not to pay tax

- the freedom for criminals to control drug markets

- the freedom for drug dealers to supply your children with adulterated substances of dubious or dangerous quality.

But the new freedoms are very welcome too...

- the freedom for adults not to take drugs that are safer than alcohol and tobacco

- the freedom to ignore inconvenient scientific evidence

- the freedom to support a failed drug policy

Vote PROHIBITION - you know it works!

Vote PROHIBITION - Dave does (nowadays)!

Vote PROHIBITION - Gordon does too!

To say that the UK is an insular backwater is clearly untrue. We have learnt from such stunning examples of drug war success in Mexico, Afghanistan and Guinea-Bissau. Why even in peaceful New Zealand, only 46% of the population 16+ have used marijuana thanks to constant police harassment.

We must remain alert however... Creeping pro-drug sentiment is legitimising drug use in the USA - SUPPORT FREEDOM AND INVADE NOW!

Dante Cymru

Anonymous said...


Re 'illegal drugs', you need to challenge the politicians, and remind people reading here, that we have controlled, not illegal, drugs. Maybe then more people will start asking questions like 'why aren't all drugs controlled?', or 'is there another way of controlling other than trying to ban?'

Transform should be pushing this message.


Steve Rolles said...

our message about the need for control and regulation is very clear, as is our position on alcohol and tobacco relative to drugs covered by the MDA.

We have written about the anomalies in the ways different drugs are dealt with at length.

Grub said...

Are you saying that Transform actually believes that alcohol and tobacco are not "drugs covered by the MDA"?
Any evidence?

Steve Rolles said...

Im not going over all this again. I understand what drugs are, and the law - I'm not going to write a phd on problems with the MDA and related public discourse, and publish a glossary every time I mention the drug laws, which by the nature of our work, is fairly often. Our literature is very clear. If you have a problem with blueprint, email me.

Grub said...

Blueprint doesn't mention whether or not Transform believes alcohol & tobacco are covered by the MDA.
Your 2006 submission to the Science & Tech committe referred to their "absurd exemption from the UN and MDA classification system".
The Home Office & ACMD believe they are not exempt from the MDA.
What is Transforms view now?

Steve Rolles said...

We think we need a new piece/pieces of legislation and a new govt body responsible for effective regulation of all drugs. We have highlighted the anomaly between alcohol/tobacco and other drugs endlessly. But regardless of the technicalities of the MDA and its misadministrati0on - the difference in the way alcohol/tobacco and other drugs are treated in reality is, in our opinion, the disjuncture that needs to be highlighted. Im not arguing with you or the DEA on this point, but we also have to think about how we engage in the public discourse, and make decisions about where and how we think we can achieve traction and change. Our message that we need proper regulation of all drugs is ultimately the important one.

Grub said...

But why a new bit of legislation & public body when Transform rightly argue for a gradual transition toward integrated regulation? That is exactly what Parliament intended with the MDA & ACMD. We don't need a revolution, just the intended evolution.
And Im still no wiser about if Transform accepts that alc/tob are covered by MDA. It is a crucial question.

Grub said...

But does Transform accept that alc/tob are covered by the MDA?
It is a crucial question - if no, then I see why you want new law to integrate all drugs; if yes, then there’s no need.
Perhaps this is a question you can ask the legal experts on May 13?

Steve Rolles said...


They should be covered but in practice, clearly aren't. Thast's the distinction between legal and illegal as we describe it and as is popularly understood - ridiculous and technically incorrect as it may be. I dont know what you want me to say here that I haven't said already several times.

Even if they were properly covered AS THEY OBVIOUSLY SHOULD BE IF THE MDA WAS APPLIED FAIRLY AND PROPERLY - we would still need new legislation, the MDA is nearly 40 years old and inadequate in multiple respects.

is that OK?

Grub said...

Thanks Steve for the clarification.
In what way do you think the MDA is inadequate and how could a new law be better?

Anonymous said...

you call your drugs policy controlling drugs?

by making it illegal your allowing drug dealers controll how strong the drugs are and what poisons they want to mix with them.

your allowing drug dealers to sell to children

your allowing drug dealers to offer harder drugs to people

and your also funding organized crime!

people will take drugs if they want to its in there nature

why not legalize and control that way your are getting the money through heavy taxation

your stopping crime

your ensuring cleaner safer drugs preventing deaths

and you can use money from that to help treat people with addiction, you will be putting police to work on better more important cases.

not to mention creating millions of jobs for uk residents

i would say thats more controll than what we have now!