Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): I wanted to welcome any liberalising measure from the Home Office, following a series of illiberal measures, but I fear that the Home Secretary‘s proposals may land us with the worst of all possible worlds. Surely steps effectively to depenalise the use or possession of cannabis at the same time as retaining or reinforcing the penalties for its supply will do nothing to reduce demand for cannabis while continuing to drive soft drug users into the arms of hard drug providers. What does he propose to do to break the link between the supply of cannabis and that of heroin and cocaine?
    Mr. Blunkett: I respect the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has been interested in and committed to such issues for some time. I am disappointed, therefore, to hear what many of his hon. Friends have to say. They claim that a differential rate for trafficking and dealing would lead to people receiving a lesser penalty for dealing in cannabis?they would get away with it and encourage people to get involved in class A drugs. We now hear the reverse argument: that by having a similar penalty, we make it more likely that people will turn to class A drugs. We cannot have it both ways. It has to be one or the other. [Interruption.] We have used the word “confusion” a great deal this afternoon. I will examine Hansard and the public statements to ensure that we are clear about where the confusion has arisen.
    I understand the right hon. Gentleman‘s point on traffickers. We said that we will target the middle-market dealers. The assets recovery agency will assist with that when the Proceeds of Crime Bill completes its stages?tomorrow, I hope, if it is not blocked in the House of Lords. We also intend to use the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies more effectively, as we have been doing, to work in combination to break the trafficking route, but that is the biggest challenge of all.
    10 Jul 2002 : Column 896-7