The Liberal Democrats’ bid to weaken drugs laws has been heavily criticised in the House of Lords.
During a debate on the Government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill, Lib Dem Peer Brian Paddick told the House of Lords that “education rather than criminalisation” is more likely to result in children avoiding drugs.
But Conservative Peer Lord Blencathra said claims that drug use had risen were “profoundly wrong” and “out of date”.
He pointed to a review by an EU sub-committee showing that enforcement has worked very well for all the main hard drugs in the UK.
“Drug use of heroin, crack cocaine and other such drugs has dropped dramatically”, he added.
“Enforcement has worked exceptionally well in driving down the use of heroin, crack cocaine and other serious drugs.”
He continued: “Enforcement works, provided we have effectively drafted legislation.”
Lord Paddick tabled amendments to the Government’s Bill to decriminalise the possession of all drugs for personal use, legalise medical cannabis and delay moves to ban legal highs.
His first amendment, calling for a review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, was defeated by 316 votes to 98. Several other amendments were not put to a vote.
The House of Lords will continue debating further amendments to the Psychoactive Substances Bill on 30 June.
Ahead of the debate Kathy Gyngell, of the Centre for Policy Studies, said the Lib Dems’ latest calls for weaker drugs laws are “bewildering”.
“The evidence of Brian Paddick’s own disastrous experiment in Brixton shows just how dangerous and irresponsible this approach is”, she commented.
When Lord Paddick was a senior police officer in the early 2000s, he instructed officers not to arrest or charge people found with small amounts of cannabis in Brixton.
But the experiment was heavily criticised by community leaders and residents, and a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that it led to a dramatic rise in the numbers of men admitted to hospital because of their use of harder drugs.