Page last updated at 20:25 GMT, Tuesday, 15 June 2010 21:25 UK

Drugs debate

The coalition government "will not abandon punishment or the criminal justice system" in its approach to drug abuse, justice minister and Liberal Democrat peers' leader Lord McNally has said.

Responding to cross-party calls for legalisation or decriminalisation during a Lords debate on 15 June 2010, he said: "Our approach will not abandon punishment or the criminal justice system, but it will afford priority to treatment and rehabilitation."

This would, he said, "offer better prospects for the individuals concerned, for communities and for society as a whole".

The minister told peers: "We have to carry public opinion with us, including the public opinion at the other end of this building (the House of Commons).

"And we must not lose sight of the impact this offending has on the victims and our wider communities. Offenders must be made to take responsibility for the harm they have caused."

Lord McNally said: "Drugs are a scourge in our society. We believe that legalisation takes no account of the consequences of the significant increase in use that might follow and the government has no intention of legalising the so-called recreational use of any currently controlled drugs."

He added: "There is also a terrible problem for the absolute innocent member of the community who may be burgled, may be mugged, may come across the need of the drug taker to feed their habit through crime.

"We have got to take them along with us if we are to get support for the kind of approach that has had such support around this House tonight."

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