Part 1 of Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs was published last February and provided this Government with detailed analytical insights into the complexities of the illicit drugs market. It highlighted the considerable scale of the challenge we face with an illicit drugs market in England and Wales worth £10bn a year and 3 million users of illicit drugs in the same population.
The drugs trade is also intrinsically linked to the crime experienced in our communities: 45% of all acquisitive crime is committed by people who regularly use heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine and nearly half of homicides are drug related. Increases in global production and supply have led to a violent and exploitative supply chain in which ruthless criminal gangs exploit children and vulnerable people in our communities. This cannot and will not continue.
This Government remains committed to tackling drugs and the harm they cause to individuals, families and communities. Since Part 1 of Dame Carol’s review was published, we have built a powerful set of policies in cooperation with police and operational partners to tackle drug supply, exploitative criminal gangs, and we have increased drug treatment funding for 2021/22. We are also piloting a more coordinated approach to treatment and recovery support in some high areas of need.
In January 2021, we announced £148 million of new money to cut crime and protect people from the harms caused by illegal drugs. This has delivered the largest increase in drug treatment funding for 15 years. The funding means that we are delivering more interventions to reduce the number of drug-related deaths and we are making sure that more drugs users in contact with the criminal justice system get the treatment they need to reduce the amount of offending associated with drug dependency. It also ensured £40 million of dedicated funding is invested in tackling drugs supply and county lines. This has allowed us to expand and build upon the successful results of our county lines programme. This has seen over 780 lines closed, 5,000 arrests and 1,220 safeguards since it was launched in November 2019.
It is my honour to announce that today Part 2 of Dame Carol’s review has been published, providing this Government with concrete evidence-based recommendations for how we can reduce the demand for illegal drugs, turn the tide on drug related deaths and get more people into higher quality services. It intelligently and clearly wraps up three years of research and investigation into the treatment and recovery system and I would like to thank Dame Carol for her dedication to this agenda and for this accomplished review.
As Part 2 highlights, many Departments of State need to redouble their efforts to tackle drug supply and also provide a stronger system of treatment and recovery support to people dependent on drugs, particularly those in contact with the criminal justice system. This is why I am pleased that today we can announce the establishment of a new Joint Combating Drugs Unit to coordinate and drive a genuinely whole-of-Government approach to drug policy, recognising that treatment alone is not enough and that housing and employment support is essential to aid recovery. This government is determined to address the challenges raised in the review and the new Unit will oversee the Government’s response to Dame Carol’s recommendations which apply to numerous departments across government.
I am pleased to announce that in the coming weeks my Right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I, along with the Minister for Crime and Policing, will publish an initial government response to the findings in Part One and Part Two of the independent review. This response will set out our clear cross-government commitment to this agenda and to taking effective action given the urgency of addressing these issues. Dame Carol has made a powerful case for a comprehensive drug treatment and recovery system coupled with the need for a more effective approach to enforcement. While many aspects of drug policy are devolved, we will continue to build partnership and collaboration with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments on significant UK-wide issues. The government response to Dame Carol’s reviews provide a fantastic opportunity to engage with our colleagues and partners on combating drug misuse.
A copy of part two of Dame Carol’s Review will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords