The report from the Home Affairs Committee on Drugs: Breaking the Cyle is a serious contribution to the debate about tackling drug use. It deserves to be read and it certainly does not merit a knee-jerk response from Government. I particularly welcome the recommendation (para. 132) for a Royal Commission to examine the issue. As regular readers will know, I have previously argued the case for an evidence-based review of policy and for the creation of a Royal Commission or similar body.
Royal Commissions are often criticised as ways of kicking issues into the long grass. Harold Wilson once observed that they are bodies that take minutes but sit for years. However, on this occasion, I think one is merited in order to get to grips with the scale of the problem and to have the gravitas necessary to ensure recommendations are taken seriously. The Select Committee recommends that it be established immediately and report by 2015.
When I previously proposed such a step, one response was that there was no need to review the facts: all the facts that were needed were already available. The Select Committee takes a different view, noting that in some areas reliable data are not available. Having recently taken part in the evidence-taking sessions on ‘legal highs’, organised by the All-Party Group on Drugs Policy Reform, I realise the sheer scale and complexity of the problem. A thorough, full-scale review by a Royal Commission is well merited.