10 July 2001

Q12 Alison Halford:

What discussions has the First Minister had with the Home Secretary with regard to the Crime Bill and its impact on Welsh police forces? (OAQ12473).

The First Minister:

I have not had any discussions myself. However, according to the Queen’s Speech, the Home Office intends to introduce four new pieces of legislation on law and order in this current 18 month Parliament, which will all impact on Welsh police forces. They are: the Police Reform Bill; the Criminal Justice Bill; the Proceeds of Crime Bill and the Football (Disorder) (Amendment) Bill, which is an interesting title. Welsh chief constables and the chairs of the police authorities for Wales, along with their English counterparts, will meet the Home Secretary on Thursday.

Alison Halford:

I understand and accept that you have not had discussions. However, in light of the enormous work devoted by police forces to cannabis, and the impact of treating cannabis as a criminal drug, if you had had discussions with the Home Secretary, what would your view be on decriminalising this substance in Wales?

The First Minister:

I do not have a view on that matter, as it is not a matter for this Assembly. It is not necessarily relevant for us to have views on every single issue, in particular Home Office responsibilities, which have not been devolved. They are a package that remains with Westminster for England and Wales and, in some cases, for the UK as a whole. That is how the devolution settlement was written, and sometimes one is not entirely ungrateful for that. I note the reference that has been made on the recommendation of, I believe, Keith Hellawell, the drugs tsar, for greater concentration on hard drugs, and less concentration on the so-called soft drugs, such as cannabis, especially on possession for personal use.

David Davies:

Two police officers were injured in Monmouth on Saturday night. I witnessed two more officers being injured in Abergavenny a few weeks ago. Is it not about time that we allowed the police to take the kid gloves off, and start treating the people who habitually commit acts of violent disorder against police officers appropriately? Will this new Crime Bill allow them to do that?

The First Minister:

That raises the interesting point of whether those incidents were alcohol related, which is the point made by those who are in favour of some sort of change in the status of cannabis for personal use. They argue that it is far more likely that a policeman will be assaulted by somebody who is under the influence of alcohol, which is legal, rather than cannabis, which is not. You go around the houses for years before you solve the problem of the relative perils of alcohol, cannabis and other soft drugs, tobacco smoking, and so on. I do not know the right answer. In the Assembly we can express views fairly freely knowing that we do not have the responsibility. I am not sure how much time we should spend on it.


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