Home Secretary Sajid Javid urged to sanction drug consumption rooms

Credit: Rick Findler/PA Wire.
Credit: Rick Findler/PA Wire.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has been urged by a group of cross-party MPs and peers to sanction drug consumption rooms.

Tory Crispin Blunt, Labour’s Jeff Smith and crossbench peer Baroness Meacher, along with seven Police and Crime Commissioners, have written to Mr Javid urging him to allow local authorities to proceed with pilot schemes.

Drug consumption rooms, also known as Overdose Prevention Centres (OPCs), provide addicts with a safer place to consume their drugs, with sterilised equipment, medical help and advice on hand.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, which is co-chaired by the three politicians, said in the letter that OPCs have been established in many countries with “good public health results” and an “absence of the feared negative consequences”.

“We and many of our colleagues have been assessing their value as part of local strategies to reduce drug-related deaths and infections (primarily HIV and hepatitis), as well as incidences of public disorder and needle litter,” they wrote.

“We are supportive of areas that wish to proceed with their implementation.

“We therefore call on the Government to allow the relevant local authorities the discretion to proceed with locally developed, closely evaluated pilots.”

The APPG said a refusal to sanction evidence-based interventions which would bring down drug-related deaths appears to be “complacent and dangerous”.

Last week, National Records of Scotland statistics showed that more than 1,100 people died from drugs in Scotland in 2018 – higher than the reported rate for any other EU country.

Scotland’s public health minister Joe FitzPatrick MSP has called on the Home Secretary to hold an urgent meeting on the figures.

Former minister Mr Blunt said: “The international evidence is clear – Overdose Prevention Centres save lives. We are facing a crisis of drug overdose deaths, and cannot afford to reject initiatives that will help bring the death rate down. Policymakers must urgently escape the simplicity of ‘drugs are bad, they are banned’ and engage in evidence-based policy and the complexities about how to reduce crime and save lives.”

Opposition whip Mr Smith added: “Instead of condemning and marginalising people who use drugs, we need to support and encourage them into treatment, and give them a chance to turn their lives around.”

Baroness Meacher said: “This week’s shocking figures from Scotland, showing a 27 per cent increase in deaths in just one year, prove that this is a public health crisis.”

The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, Liberal Democrat Tom Brake, the SNP’s Ronnie Cowan and several peers signed the letter.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Any death related to drug misuse is a tragedy.

“Our drug strategy is bringing together police, health, community and global partners to tackle the illicit drug trade, protect the most vulnerable and help those with a drug dependency to recover.”

He added: “The UK Government has been clear that there is no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption rooms and there are no plans to introduce them.”