Nick Clegg calls for royal commission on drugs reform


Mr Clegg said the government needed to be "open-minded", as Mark Easton reports

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is calling for a royal commission on drugs, just five days after the prime minister and the home secretary rejected the idea.

On Monday an all-party committee of MPs recommended there should be a fundamental review of Britain's drugs laws, but David Cameron said that was unnecessary.

Now Mr Clegg has said the worst thing people can do is close their mind to drug reforms.

Mr Clegg told the BBC he wanted to break what he called the "conspiracy of silence", where politicians while in government refuse to consider alternatives to the so-called war on drugs because it is "all too controversial".

US examples

By calling for a royal commission to be set up, the deputy prime minister is at complete odds with David Cameron who emphatically rejected the idea.

A royal commission is a public inquiry, established by the head of state, into a defined subject and overseen by a commissioner who has quasi-judicial powers.

"I don't see this as a thing between myself and the prime minister," Mr Clegg said. "It's what do we as a country believe is the right thing to do."

Start Quote

My view is that we've been waging the war on drugs for almost 40 years, and I don't think by any stretch of the imagination it has worked”

End Quote Nick Clegg Deputy Prime Minister

Asked if he was at risk of being soft on drugs, Mr Clegg said: "There's nothing hard about turning your back against the evidence."

He said he wanted the government to look at the system in Portugal where all drugs have been depenalised and also at the experience in the US states of Washington and Colorado where marijuana was recently legalised.

"If you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform. That is my view," he said.

At their party conference last year, the Liberal Democrats voted to establish a panel to consider decriminalising the use of all drugs. Reform of drug laws is an issue that has long been pursued by some in the party.

However, Mr Clegg has now set himself at odds with his Conservative coalition partners. He told the prime minister of his intention to support a royal commission, in defiance of Mr Cameron's publicly stated position, at a meeting in Downing Street.

"Both the prime minister and I are relaxed about the idea that this isn't an identikit government," Mr Clegg said.


"The home secretary and indeed the prime minister are perfectly entitled to say that they want the government's present approach to be given a chance to work and don't want the distraction of a royal commission.

"My view is that we've been waging the war on drugs for almost 40 years, and I don't think by any stretch of the imagination it has worked."

The Home Office and Downing Street both say there is no need to review Britain's drug laws, pointing out that drug use is falling while numbers in treatment are rising.

However, Mr Clegg has said the drugs minister at the Home Office, Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne, will be sent on a fact-finding mission to look at the experience in countries experimenting with decriminalisation and legalisation.

Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Turn On, Tune In, Completely ignore what the experts advise

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    What's the point ?

    This Government, the last one, the one before that, and so on and so on, have all asked for opinions and options from various experts on drugs.

    And what do they do ? Ignore every report and do what they want anyway,

    So what exactly is the point of asking anyone else about drugs when their mind is made up and they will not budge ? It's a total waste of time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Why not give it a try?
    The current lack lustre, half backed approach to Drug use clearly isn't addressing the problem.
    So either be severe with punishment, or legalise it.
    This way they could monitor usage, address addiction at source. Break the cycle with the dealers, reduce crime, less work for the Police.

    And also.... what every government loves...


  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    You don't have to be very bright to work out that decriminalising soft drugs will make them far easier to control. Unfortunately, as this government has repeatedly demonstrated, it is not very bright!

    I am no fan of Nick Clegg after the tuition fee fiasco, but credit where credit is due, this is a good policy, it is just a pity no one in real power will take any notice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    They should Consult somebody like David Nutt.

    Oh, wait, they did once. They didn't like what he had to say and got rid of the fella.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    A government must do something ,
    either have a zero policy and hand out the severest penalty's for any possession or use ,or change their attitude on how to treat this problem ,,,yes drug use is a problem and give this idea a good try

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    It's complete madness to legalize Cannabis. The medical evidence is conclusive that high potency Cannabis directly causes schizophrenia. If you don't believe this look up "Cannabis psychosis". There IS however an argument for limited use of Cannabis for pain relief and an Israeli company appears to have developed a form of the drug which does not contain the psychoactive substance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    And who precisely other than Mr Clegg is in anyway interested in what Mr Clegg is "calling for".
    If he is seeking to salvage his political reputation he might "call for" a reduction in the tuition fees which have led to a huge fall in applications for HE and the Tory legislation he has supported which has promoted the poverty which promotes drug use.
    I am "calling for" Mr Clegg to go!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Cheers Clegg, make yourself look 'radical' without a prayer of ever having to follow through on your supposed principles. As for the rest of the coalition, what did I expect? No party dares be honest about drug use, illegal or licensed. Too scared of the press. We won't cope with drug abuse until we remove arbitrary distinctions between legal and illegal drugs and actually look at which does harm

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I think this is long overdue. BUT the Royal Commission should also include the impact on families: my younger brother began smoking cannabis at 12, and was a heroin addict at 18. He had lots of rehab but could never totally kick it. He committed suicide in '09 - just 54. My two cousins also overdosed on drugs. So, a Royal Commission MUST consider genetic links to long term addiction.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Nothing will change. The Tories are only interested in passing laws that take away our rights and allow big business to walk all over us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    10. puss
    Experts have spoken again and again but governments in power ignore them because they are frightened of the Daily Mail. Am I wrong?
    Since its only read by about 8.7% of the adult population you probably are wrong..

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Experts have spoken again and again but governments in power ignore them because they are frightened of the Daily Mail. Am I wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    These enquiries always know what they are supposed to conclude before they start. They are told by the commissioner.

    We have seen one whitewash after another ... who do the politicians think they are fooling ?

    The whole thing is a joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Before any decision can be made, a proper fact-finding mission should be sent to those countries who have decriminalised class B drugs. Not some politician on a jolly, but medical professionals to assess the overall health effects, police to verify any change in crime patterns, the overall effect on society etc. Find the consequences, both positive and negative, then make an informed decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I don't know what there is to be scared of. An enquiry by definition is there to find out the FACTS and then present the facts to the people. At this point decisions can be made. If the facts say the war is working then the laws do not need to change. Im a little bit tired of this government sweeping things into a dark corner out of fear for their own political careers. Well done Mr Clegg.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    There's no point unless the government are prepared to put experts on the commission and actually listen to them for once.

    Even when the government get expert advice on drugs, they just ignore the findings because it doesn't suit their political agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The sooner cannabis is decriminalised the better. I smoke it 2 or 3 times a year. Don't drive under the influence and the only person I'm harming is myself. The fact it's illegal is absurd.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    prohibition doesnt work, the portugese model has been shown to reduce drug uptake, increase those seeking treatment, reduced health costs (from safer quality of drugs and from treatment being sought early enough), huge reduction in policing costs, huge reduction in the judiciary costs and an increase in taxable revenue as you take the money from the dealers (whose actions are still illegal)

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Has Mr Clegg twigged that rebels are now known as freedom fighters and may well receive governmental funding?


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