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 482.

    IF legalised...

    The estimated drug revenue in tax = £5 billion+ per year.

    1. We could all have substantial tax cuts
    2. AND it would create thousands of jobs.
    3. AND the gangs would disappear.

    I'd vote for that!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    I'd say good on Clegg for actually having some independent thought and trying to address some of the problems with the drug laws rather than sweep them under the carpet.

    Id suggest anyone who is against cannabis to see... Wikipedia article on cannabis(or any unbiased source) and secondly a 1936 film called Refer Madness... open your eyes folks - Less harmful than tobacco and alcohol!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    It's all been done before, what a waste!

    Simply, some people are susceptible to more harm from drugs, in some cases chronic mental conditions.

    Others fuel crime, making them legal won't stop the crime, although making them cheaper might cut it to some extent, but then we would get far more people ill as a result.

    Like smoking, we simply need to get the right message out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    Your comments are getting negative votes because most people don't agree with you. Laws change as society changes. e.g. Homosexuality . Certain harmful drugs like alcohol & tobacco are legal but others aren't - this is clearly crazy. It's only a matter of time before drugs are decriminalised. The tide has already turned - it's just that some people haven't noticed yet...

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    Junk food, tobacco, alcohol, regulated legal businesses- yet they're all drugs that harm and kill people. They (generally) don't create crime to fund the 'habit'. Cannabis etc are owned and regulated by very bad criminals (think Mexico). They destroy and then kill people and society gets the bill. How do you stop or reduce it. Not by doing nothing. The Royal Commission is a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    More chance to waste Money, and pay a load of Politicians a lot of money, and for what?
    We know Drugs are bad (mostly)
    We know people (can) get addicted
    We know that they drive Crime
    We know there is a whole host of evidence from elsewhere already

    So what exactly will they investigate?

    Nothing, just have the debate, present the evidence and make the decision.

    Stop wasting our money!

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    I pay my Tax's,
    I dont kill people ,
    I dont rape people,
    I dont steal
    and i'm a nice person
    Now I like to have fat spliff after work as my daily reward
    so how now am I a criminal?
    I would like to go in a nice coffee shop and buy decent safe taxable weed than visit some ally dealer!
    I rather smoke weed saftley at home then be a menace to Socity on Alcohol

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    I smoked weed for years. I got to university and found it made my brain foggy and that I was getting paranoid, so I stopped. And got a PhD. On the other hand, I know lots of equally successful people who smoke weed every day and enjoy it. No big deal.
    The problem with the "illegal" label is that we can't have reasonable conversations about the different effects of drugs. Everyone's too polarised.

  • Comment number 474.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    Dealers would sell "products" below any government price, Tax Free.
    Those who thing there is no black market are on something else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    There seems to be a misconception that everybody will take drugs if they are legalised.

    The fact is, everybody who wants to take drugs already does so despite the law.

    There wouldn't be a massive increase in use and the NHS wouldn't be overrun. It would be exactly the same as now, except drugs would be safer, it will be more difficult for kids to get hold of them and tax revenue would be made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    Anyone who thinks that the threat of prosecution has any influence upon whether someone decides to use illegal drugs is deluded. Only a few ever come into contact with the legal system and those who do are reckless or just plain unlucky. A significant proportion though do run into problems that negatively affect their lives and these need the hand of help, not the threat of criminalisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    Legalise,monitor, educate and reap the taxes. Or keep it the same, promote ignorance and carry on fighting the losing battle whilst lining the dealers pockets. Our politicians will never make the logical change tough because they are too gutless

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    Yep they need to stop being so soft & liberal (Cleggy)
    Build a few camps on remote Islands ran by the army insted of filling up the prisons.

    What a fair and balanced approach you've suggested - if in fact you still live in 1940's Germany! I'd suggest you need a toke to chill out or an e to actually start to feel compansion for your fellow humans!

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    OK Mr Clegg, we have a royal commission to look into this, they say decrimialise lower class drugs, for only 3 to 4 years down the line for the problem to be even worse. What are you going to do then? go on you tube and and say sorry, i'm so sorry!. Drugs are harmful, and do damage to society, money needs to be given to the authorities to pursue the people at the top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    The real issues are the crime and health related issues caused by drug use. Let heroin addicts get safe and available drugs overseen by healthcare professionals and they no longer need to use crime to fuel their addiction. The use of 'legal' highs has only only come about due to the prohibition of recreational drugs such as ecstacy. Decriminalise, regulate and tax the lot. The war has been lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    Evidence shows that treating the issue as a health, social and education issue is far better at reducing drug use than prohibition. Fundamentally though it is a human rights issue – why is it police business what people do with their own bodies and minds? By the same thinking should tattoos and piercings be illegal too? Or extreme sports? War on Drugs is an insult to human dignity and choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    to all those people that say legalise it and tax it , if that was the case then every person in this country would then become dealers in both misey and despair . more people using drugs means more money has to be found to feed their addiction . more crime not less

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    We have had drug prohibition for decades. This has lead to criminals raking in a fortune, kids have access to drugs, users have to mix with criminals and the risk of the drug being mixed with more dangerous contaminants, countless deaths along the entire drug supply chain as criminals fight for domination, yet we still have people insisting we should continue down the same path. Madness!

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    the question is do we want a society that is :

    A- run on hate, fear, segregation,alienation , interferance and exhaustive cost, that increases crime and generally makes things worse under a delusion of puritanical idealism.

    B- a society based on compassion and caring that makes things better all round and is based in reality and accepting humanity for what we really are.


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