17:18 Tuesday 20th March 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, fresh from being voted MP of the Month, will join a panel debate for sixth form students tonight, to give his views on the War on Drugs. It’s the annual Cambridge University VIth Form Law Conference, aimed at attracting people from wide range of backgrounds. Panel members will debate: The War on Drugs has failed. This House believes it’s time for a new approach. Julian Huppert is a Member of the Home Affairs Select Committee of course which is conducting a major inquiry into drugs policy. He recently returned from a trip to Colombia, where he saw first hand the work taking place to tackle the drug cartels, and he joined me earlier. (TAPE)
JULIAN HUPPERT: I think it very much has failed. And if you just compare us to other European countries, we spend more on our drug strategy than anywhere else in Europe, a huge amount of money. And we have the highest number of people who are actually taking hard drugs. It simply isn’t working.
CHRIS MANN: So what’s the answer?
JULIAN HUPPERT: Well that’s really what our inquiry is trying to find out. It’s quite clear that trying to control supply doesn’t work. We went to Colombia recently and Miami to look at where cocaine’s coming from, how it’s getting through. What we heard from police, from the military, from all sorts of people, is you simply can’t effectively control supply. All you do is push the prices up. So what we need to do is to focus on demand. How do we educate people not to take drugs, the way that has worked relatively well with tobacco. And how do we provide rehabilitation so the people who are addicted can stop more easily.
CHRIS MANN: Your party of course was famous at one time for having quite a lot of right-on members who would decriminalise cannabis and other drugs. Is that one of the answers?
JULIAN HUPPERT: Well I think it’s certainly one of the options that we ought to be looking at. But I think it’s not quite as simple. The Portuguese model where they’ve removed the criminal element but had ways of forcing people to have education, health programmes, seems to have been really effective in reducing both usage and the harms that come from usage of illegal drugs.
CHRIS MANN: Given that you’re talking to young people tonight who are themselves at a formative time in their life, will you be asking them how many of them have taken drugs?
JULIAN HUPPERT: I don’t think it would be appropriate to ask them, certainly not with their peers around. But the facts are, if you look at every survey, millions of Britons have used drugs. Those are the facts. We are the highest in Europe for young people using cocaine, for example. We have to accept that. The approach that we’ve been trying simply hasn’t worked, and we need something better that will actually reduce harm.
CHRIS MANN: A lot of people in your party in the Coalition will say what’s needed is short sharp shocks, tougher sentences, jail sentences and tougher action by the police. More action by the police.
JULIAN HUPPERT: But the fact is that across the world that simply hasn’t worked. And people have been trying that in all sorts of different areas, and it just has not reduced the harm from drugs. And everything we’ve been hearing so far, particularly in our trips to the US and Colombia, was that it’s simply ineffective. What you need to do is to actually start to control people wanting drugs. And that’s about education, and about rehabilitation.
CHRIS MANN: You’ll be travelling out of the new Kings Cross later of course, on your way to the debate. What do you think of it?
JULIAN HUPPERT: It looks beautiful. I haven’t had a chance to stop and look at all the shops. It really does look stunning. Much much nicer.
CHRIS MANN: I don’t know whether you’ll be on your bike when you get to Cambridge, but your efforts on the issue of cycling safety have won you MP of the Month, quite a coveted award, so congratulations for that.
JULIAN HUPPERT: Well thank you very much.
CHRIS MANN: And of course cycling is a big issue. We’re talking later on the programme about the numbers of people now cycling in Cambridge and around the county, which are up massively thanks to lots of effort by different people. Sadly there was another casualty on the roads today, a cyclist involved in an accident. How do we make it safer?
JULIAN HUPPERT: Well I think there’s a lot to do. It’s very good that more people are cycling, because one thing which we know is the more people cycle, the safer it gets, because other road users understand what’s going on. But there’s still a lot we can do about infrastructure, about education, about making sure that cyclists behave themselves sensibly. And I hope we will be able to do that, not just in Cambridge where it’s going well, but across the whole country. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Julian Huppert MP.