Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Politics 
Mayor News 
Government Guide 
People in Parliament 
A-Z of Parliament 
Political Links 
Despatch Box 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
The BBC's Laura Trevelyan: "She has never made a secret of the fact she is a child of the Sixties"
 real 28k

Sunday, 16 January, 2000, 14:02 GMT
I smoked cannabis, admits Mowlam

Unlike Bill Clinton, Mo Mowlam inhaled her joint

Cabinet Office Minister Mo Mowlam - head of the government's anti-drugs campaign - has admitted she smoked cannabis as a student.

Ms Mowlam said she had tried the drug at university and had not enjoyed the experience.

I said I tried marijuana, didn't like it particularly and unlike President Clinton I did inhale.
Mo Mowlam
The former Northern Ireland Secretary, speaking to Sky News, explained in a reference to Bill Clinton that unlike the American President she had "inhaled" marijuana.

Her admission came as drugs czar Keith Hellawell used a television appearance to call for an end to witch hunts of politicians accused of experimenting with drugs before they entered public life.

He said honesty about drug taking was essential for the debate on drug use to take place on a higher level.

Keith Hellawell: Call for honesty over drug use
Ms Mowlam, 50, was pressed about a Sunday Telegraph story saying Tory MPs were calling on her to clarify her past involvement with drugs.

She said: "I haven't made any secret of being a child of the 60s, never have. I wasn't part of the drugs culture, but I have said in previous interviews this isn't a new news story.

"I said I tried marijuana, didn't like it particularly and unlike President Clinton I did inhale. But it wasn't part of my life then and that's what happened."

Ms Mowlam, a Durham University student in the 1960s and a postgraduate politics student at Iowa State University in America in the 1970s, said her experimentation had taken place in America.

She said she was determined to carry on leading the government's anti-drugs campaign.

"I will continue to say to young people, as I have done for the last two months in the job, that taking drugs is not within the law and is not a credible thing to do in your life," she added.

'Ridiculous' to resign

Drugs campaigner Janet Betts, whose teenage daughter Leah died after taking an Ecstasy tablet, said it would be "ridiculous" for Dr Mowlam to be forced to step down.

Janet Betts: Support for Mo Mowlam
"All this shows is that Mo Mowlam was a student and, like thousands of others in the 60s and 70s, she experimented with cannabis and in her case did not enjoy it," she said.

"It is ridiculous to say that she should be sacked. Indeed, some would say that it is a good thing she has first-hand experience of drugs if she is heading the Government's drugs campaign."

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Andrew Lansley said: "I appreciate that it is important for Mo Mowlam to answer questions about her past.

"But it remains true that the important thing is not her past experience but that she now continues - with us - to stress to young people in particular the dangers of experimentation with and use of drugs."

Witch hunts

Mr Hellawell said he would be "very surprised" if a proportion of the 659 MPs had not tried drugs.

But he said there needed to be an atmosphere where people in public life could be honest about drugs.

I think we've got to stop this idea of witch-hunts and pointing the finger. The debate needs to be at a much higher level than that
Keith Hellawell
"If there continues to be a denial, or if there continues to be a label on people - you know, `you are a bad person if you ever took drugs' - then we'll never move forward and there needs to be more of the openness," he told GMTV's The Sunday Programme.

"I think we've got to stop this idea of witch-hunts and pointing the finger. The debate needs to be at a much higher level than that," he added.

Mr Hellawell's anti-drugs unit is part of the Cabinet Office presided over by Ms Mowlam.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
10 Jan 00 |  UK
Drugs 'fill void for computer generation'
08 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Drug czar backs medical cannabis
25 May 99 |  UK
Heroin 'epidemic' in rural Britain
25 May 99 |  UK
From miner to czar: Keith Hellawell
02 Mar 99 |  UK
Drugs Csar battles to clean up Britain's streets
04 Jan 99 |  UK
Drugs Czar slams glitterati

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories