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

Savile: 'How could this be allowed to happen?'

Today's investigation into Jimmy Savile reveals how his criminal behaviour "was facilitated by ministers or civil servants".

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Nothing will change. All that's happening here is they are trying to make Glegg a tiny bit more popular. The conservatives know they won't win the next election so they're trying for another condem coalition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Will the government just legalise weed already so that I can no longer be called a 'criminal' and can go and buy my drugs safely and legally, without having to fund local gangs. Cannabis = paper, clothes (fibre), medicine, fuel and food. It is also taxable and thus profitable. And good for the environment as it can be regrown at a fast-rate (compared to chopping down trees) LEGALISE NOW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    I do wonder whether government opposition against the legalisation of dugs is political or for personal finance reasons.
    Honestly - are they against drugs or not?
    If they are they should be legalised so that drug use will fall. The only reason to carry on as failing as we are is because they're getting a cut.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Alcohol is a drug and has way more hazardous side-effects than cannabis if it is abused. Also I do not recall reading about any stabbings, vandalism or fights attributed to cannabis use...

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Not trying to stray off topic but you never see a lot mentioned about mental illness caused by alcohol consumption plus the rest of the extensive list of side effects it causes.The law is upside down in my opinion.I have seen so many people i have met in the past that have ended up on lifes scrap heap or even suicide through alcohol.I dont know one long term cannabis user that has had any problems

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    The legalisation of canabis is on the cards. . . . . . I think it is purely to create revenue with no thought for the 'consumer'. The revenue created by taxation will be phenomenal, which in turn will price people out of the canabis market and result in higher crime rates.

    Don't get me wrong, i have the odd smoke, I just think it needs a lot of thought in how it's to be done before it's legalised

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    All drugs remain illegal but set up drop in centres in each town whereby users can be administered their dose and recieve treatment at the same time. Get the scum dealers off the streets and stop junkies thieving.
    Costs are more than offset by the drop in crime. Zero tolerance on those who operate outside of this scheme with minimum sentences of say 10 years those who don't abide.
    Win win to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    while a drug is illegal it is uncontrolled. while it is illegal trade in it is in the hands of criminals and consumption is unaffected by law in the way it is with alcohol. whatever your moral view on drugs is this is not a good situation. legalisation is the only option which makes any sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Legalise and sell at licensed premises such as pharmacies, take the money out of the trade and you will dramatically reduce acquisitive crimes that are commited to pay for addictions, violent crimes in protecting territories.
    The money / time saved would allow police to do other things and pay for treatment centres to treat addictions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Society does not criminalise people over drugs, they criminalise themselves. They know it is unlawful to posess or to sell them but they still do it.
    If you are going to legalise an unlawful activity where do you stop? is Burgulary OK? If not why not?
    Washington State has only legalised drugs recently, but if you want a good example don't go there go to Amsterdam and see what leagalised drugs do

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    The argument of the link between recreational drug use and mental health issues is interesting. I am not aware of a conclusive link between recreational use of cannabis and schizophrenia. There are a number of reports demonstrating a link between criminalising young people for petty drug possession and ongoing criminal behaviour post prison. Which is more damaging is the question I guess?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    About time he found his back bone. Now lets see if he has the political skill to see this through.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    at last the weasel has a purpose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Didn't the last drugs advisor quit? Yes, yes he did because he realised that the government do not like the truth on this matter and consider it a vote loser. And of course, what is good for the country is irrelevant if someone is worried about losing power. Equally obvious is that the meaningless phrase 'War on drugs' is a shameless attempt at vote winning. Sigh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    If only Clegg was PM and not Cameron! Shame on all the people who voted in the tories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    We seem to be arriving at an interesting point in the electoral cycle. As the next election starts to come into view over the horizon, Clegg seems increasingly anxious to distance his party from its Coalition partner and to re-establish his ‘liberal credentials’. Let’s see if the Coalition can actually hold together until 2015: it’s starting to look increasingly unlikely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    We are the consumers in an illegal international drugs trade. The real victims of drug abuse are the producers, or rather the societies in which the producers operate.

    Tens of thousands are murdered every year due to the production & distribution of drugs for the decadent west.

    Clearly the way we run things currently does not work. The true cost of our poor system is measured in blood elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I love the way our Government spends loads of money on studies, then ignores it out of hand if the result isn't what they wanted. What an amazing way of wasting tax money.

    If they are going to spend our money on these reports, they can at least have the respect for us to listen to the results and make that expenditure of our money worthwhile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    "There's nothing hard about turning your back against the evidence."
    No truer words. Cameron’s answer is the spineless one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    @24 & 33..

    Don't forget, in the US two states legislature's have voted to legalize but it still remains a Federal Offense.


Page 46 of 49



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.