Labour MP recommends trialling ‘hard drug rooms’

Dame Diana Johnson
Dame Diana is encouraging 'a pilot of safe consumption facilities' across the UK - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Labour should look at introducing “safe consumption” rooms for drug users across the UK, one of the party’s most senior backbench MPs has suggested.

Dame Diana Johnson, the chair of the Commons home affairs committee, said pilot schemes should be set up to test whether the idea would work.

Her remarks came after Scotland, which has the highest death rate from addiction in Britain, approved the first such facility in the country on Wednesday.

The £2.3 million consumption room will be opened in east Glasgow as part of a new approach to tackle the blight of drug use in the city.

Under the scheme, users will be able to take substances like heroin and crack cocaine while under the supervision of healthcare professionals.

Dame Diana was asked whether she would pressure Sir Keir Starmer to approve the creation of such facilities in England if Labour wins the election.

She said that the home affairs committee, which is a cross-party group of MPs, had proposed that ministers should do so in a report last month.

“One of our recommendations to the Government was that there should be a pilot of safe consumption facilities,” she told the BBC.

“We set out very clearly … that this is something that would be good to establish an evidence base as to whether this would work in our country.

“This is already happening in Europe. What we need to see is will this actually provide … value for money for dealing with the problem of drug consumption.”

‘Not our policy at all’

In its report, the committee said the Government should support pilots “across the UK where there is deemed to be a need by local government and stakeholders”.

It added that ministers should “amend legislation and work with partners” to set up projects that would “provide an evidence base for their use in the UK as a whole”.

The Telegraph understands that Sir Keir will not allow the creation of safe consumption rooms in England if he becomes the next prime minister.

A source insisted the idea was “not our policy at all” and that Labour wouldn’t change the law to allow such facilities to be set up in England.

The facility in Scotland only got the green light after the country’s chief legal officer announced it would not be in the “public interest” to prosecute those who used it.

As a result of the decision by Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, the local NHS and council leaders took the decision to approve the project on Wednesday.

Organisers had been seeking advice from the police and lawyers that addicts would not be arrested while they were on their way to use the consumption room.

Susanne Millar, the chief officer of Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, said there were still significant “challenges” to overcome before the facility opens.

“The work that we now need to do is the ongoing work with our colleagues in Police Scotland, and they’re really key partners for us,” she said.

‘Would do untold damage’

Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, has attacked the plans and insisted the Government “will not be changing our policy on personal use of illegal drugs”.

At a meeting with the Scottish Government over the summer, she said that the SNP proposals were “irresponsible and would do untold damage to our neighbourhoods”.

“We’re focused on protecting people and preventing lives from being ruined, targeting gangs and preventing supply of drugs from overseas,” she said.

“We’ve absolutely no intention of decriminalising illegal drug use and I think the Scottish National Party should focus their efforts on what powers they do have, such as reforming health outcomes for the Scottish people.”

Scotland has the highest drug death rates per capita in Europe, with 1,051 people dying as a result of addiction and overdoses last year.