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UK Government 'not willing to consider' decriminalisation of drugs, says drug summit chair

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UK Government 'not willing to consider' decriminalisation of drugs, says drug summit chair

Ahead of a second drug summit in Glasgow, Kit Malthouse also said that safe consumption rooms are "a bit of a distraction"

The MP chairing the UK Government’s drug deaths summit in Glasgow has said that the UK Government is “not willing to consider” decriminalisation as a possible means for reducing harm caused by drugs. 

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the UK Government Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service Kit Malthouse said that more had to be done to expand treatment and crack down on drug distribution before the government “even contemplates something like (decriminalisation)”. 

Malthouse was responding to a question about the former Scottish Conservatives public health minister Annie Wells who said she was willing to consider decriminalisation of drugs as well as look into safe consumption rooms as part of an “evidence-based” approach to tackling Scotland’s drug deaths crisis. 

On safe drug consumption rooms, Malthouse said that drug consumption rooms are “a bit of a distraction” from other means of preventing drugs deaths. 

He said: “If you look around the world and look at the research, the numbers that are affected are quite small. Actually the bulk of people who are dying from drug consumption need treatment, they need education and help and support over a long period.”

Pressed by presenter Gary Robertson that safe consumption rooms may help prevent deaths in the immediate term, Malthouse said that he believes politicians tend to “reach for a simple solution” and that there is no “silver bullet” to stop drug deaths. 

He said: “It would take us some time to get them in place, they’re quite small scale and the scale of the problem, certainly in Scotland and elsewhere int the UK, demands a much more assertive approach.”

The UK Government drug deaths summit in Glasgow takes place one day after a similar event was held by the Scottish Government. 

The Scottish Government’s summit featured discussion of “bold” ideas such as decriminalisation and the introduction of safe consumption rooms. 

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken endorsed both ideas, saying “new approaches are necessary to target those most at risk".

Both changes would require the consent of the UK Government, however, as the area of drug law is reserved. 

Writing in the Daily Record, Malthouse said that harm reduction measures such as heroin-assisted treatment and the use of Naloxone, an anti-overdose injected drug, was important. 

But he said that cracking down harshly on criminal gangs and drug dealers was still an important part of the UK Governments approach. 

“I am passionate about tackling the ruthless, organised crime gangs who are supplying drugs to vulnerable people.

“These criminals do not care about the harm they do to individuals and communities – their actions drive greater drug use and related offending. 

“We must relentlessly pursue the organised criminals that are behind this evil trade.”

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