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

'Don't give up on us,' police tell ministers

A typical day in a typical force has been calculated - and an increasing amount of time is being spent on public safety and welfare work.

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 462.

    Dont we have more important issues to face in this country than a few social inadequates who dont have sufficient willpower and self control to avoid adiction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.


    @367 fuzzy

    "...and does me no harm."

    As far as you
    I don't get your point? Banning drugs or not - either is equally likely do me no harm, or do me harm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    I was never so alone that i did drugs on my own. I was part of a large fraternity that exists and evolves. All decent people, all able to function properly in society.
    So what if they can be dangerous, so can alcohol and cigarettes as you've alluded to in your previous comment - should we make them both illegal too and push them underground?

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Honest opinion, but that's not the case in countries that have legalised. Do the research, then have a balanced opinion ;)

  • Comment number 458.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.


    Well, there are those that believe that the C.I.A. and MI5 control most of the worlds drugs trade. Just a theory...but none the makes sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Not being funny but who listens to Nick Clegg?

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Decrim will allow people to grow their own cannabis or cook their own high purity heroin - thus reducing harm to the user (higher CBD weed, unadulterated smack) and will deprive gangs of funding which will make communities safer. As for more people taking it... The most exciting thing about weed is that it's illegal. Nothing crazy happens when someone gets stoned. Oh yeah and medical users can use

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    We all know the big pharmaceutical companies will never allow legalisation of free useful weeds that grow wild... there is simply no profits to be made for them! Mind you... they may just bung you a few sweet incentives to help dissuade you from your chosen thought path... or is that the real agenda? You earn trust with 'actions' not words Nick!

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    From a political POV it is interesting to see peoples assumptions.

    A conservative view is for less state intervention in our lives generally, a left wing view is for more state control, as a rule.

    However it seems that the permissive view of drugs tends towards the left, and the restrictive view to the right, judging by HYS at least.

    Which would appear to be the wrong way round politically.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    If cannabis causes pyschosis then there should be approx 1-2 million psycho's running around the UK..... there isn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    As usual in here we see parroting of the tabloid 'all drugs are evil' line. Some drugs are harmless while others are deadly. It is time to acknowledge this and legislate appropriately. Cannabis is not heroin just as caffeine is not tobacco. The idea that drug use automatically fuels crime is simplistic lazy thinking. I doubt there is a single commentator in here who has never taken any drugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    Good on Nick Clegg for not shying away from this issue. As someone who has been personally affected by misuse of class A drugs, decriminalisation would ensure people get treatment they need and reduce associated crime significantly. People will take drugs whether its legal or not - why wouldn't we regulate it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    16. Tchernobog

    Aren't you contradicting yourself when you say an Israeli company has removed the "harmful" component in the substance? Regardless of the law, people will use the drug; wouldn't it be safer to remove it from the streets and have it clinically improved to remove any other toxins?

    All reports state that cannabis is vastly safer that tobacco and alcohol.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    Is even debating this a good use of government time? Given the economic state, why should they really care if someone's having a sneaky joint?

    Legalize the lot, rake in the tax, and it'll help offset the deficit, as well as making drugs less dangerous, and putting real criminals high up the supply chain out of business.

    Priorities please, gentlemen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    It's been obvious for decades that current drug control policy does not work & to ignore that then carry on regardless is idiotic! Education without propaganda & taking away the percieved rebelliousness of using drugs simply because they're illegal would go much further towards reducing abuse than anything tried so far.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    It is wrong to lock people up for what is an health issue for them, addiction needs understanding and treatment that is far reaching and long ranging the policy of jailing users is not only expensive to the UK taxpayer but it is also inhumane, we have the RSPCA why not one for humans?

    Government policy is cruel its unjust and lacks any scientific credibility, most drug users are non problematic

  • Comment number 445.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    OMG. Is this a member of parliment with some common sense possibly, just an ounce? Mr Clegg I applaud you for recognising what the majority of people want to see, a different viewpoint and way in which to takle drugs. The legalisation of Cannabis needs to happen, there are no real arguments against it, while Booze and Fags are still legal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    The current system favours criminals increasing their income + criminalises those choosing cannabis over alcohol. It forces pain sufferers to take prescribed opiates instead of cannabis. It costs us cash in policing and the NHS. Young people are in trouble trying out 'legal' highs. LSD isn't being researched for mental health. This government favours criminals + the big pharmaceuticals.


Page 26 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.