Boris Johnson will today unveil a 10-year drugs strategy for England and Wales, and has said that the Government is “absolutely determined to fight” the problem.
Speaking on a visit to Merseyside this morning, he told reporters: “I take the view that it is a long time really since you heard a government say that drugs – Class A drugs – are bad and bad for society, bad for opportunity, bad for kids growing up in this country,” he told broadcasters in Merseyside.
“That’s my view, and I think it is something we can tackle, something we can deal with.”
The plan, due to be announced by policing minister Kit Malthouse in the Commons on Monday, will include what ministers say will be the biggest increase in investment and recovery in an attempt to end the cycle of addiction and repeat offending.
“You’ve got to be realistic,” Mr Johnson said.
“You’ve got to be humane, you’ve got to be compassionate, you’ve got to recognise that overwhelmingly the problem is caused by 300,000 people whose lives are simply chaotic, who are torn apart by their own addiction – you’ve got to help them, you’ve got to do rehab.”
There is also expected to be a police clampdown to cut off the supply of class A drugs by city-based crime rings to the surrounding county areas – known as county lines operations.
An aggressive campaign is set to be aimed at drug gangs, with a commitment to dismantle more than 2,000 county lines over the next three years, involving thousands more arrests.
Mr Johnson on Monday repeated the 2,000 figure, but the National Police Chiefs’ Council said in October that the number of county lines had reduced from 2,000 in 2018 to approximately 600 active lines at any one time.
The Home Office estimates that there are 300,000 heroin and crack addicts in England who are responsible for nearly half of acquisitive crime, including burglary and robbery, while drugs drive nearly half of all homicides.
This leaves a total cost to society of nearly £20 billion a year.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the drug problem had “got a lot worse” over the past decade and accused the Tories of taking “millions and millions” of pounds out of the systems for tackling drug use and drug-related crime.
“I want to see the strategy, I want the Prime Minister to take responsibility for the money that’s been taken out of criminal justice in the last 10 years that’s caused many of these problems,” said the former director of public prosecutions, who was speaking after receiving his Covid-19 booster jab