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Drug banning should remain member state decision: Lords

12 November 2013

The power to ban and regulate new psychoactive substances should remain with EU member states and not transfer to the European Commission, the House of Lords agreed yesterday.

As recommended by the Lords EU Committee, a "reasoned opinion" is being sent to the Commission against the Commission's proposal for a regulation and directive to transfer powers over so-called “legal highs” from member states.

Although the committee agreed with the Commission’s concerns about the risk that these substances pose and supports the EU’s work around definitions, data sharing and tackling drug trafficking, it considered that the proposals do not comply with the principle of subsidiarity, which means that decisions should be made at the lowest appropriate level.

During the debate, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, chair of the Home Affairs, Health & Education EU Subcommittee, said: “The proliferation of new psychoactive substances is influenced by regional, national and international forces. These manifest themselves quite differently in different member states, depending on the speed at which the substances become available and the severity of their impact on public health.

"In any case, member states have different systems for dealing with harmful drugs in general, and for addressing new psychoactive substances. They require flexibility to respond rapidly to local situations. Therefore, member states are best placed to decide how to respond to the proliferation of these substances in the manner that best fits the circumstances in their jurisdictions.

“The question that comes up under subsidiarity is: will action at the European Union level add value and be more effective? That is where these proposals fall down: we do not have a perfect system, but the one that is proposed could lead to quite difficult issues arising if, for example, great harm were found in the UK from one of these substances – if people died from it – and we were not able to take action. That would be damaging both to us in Britain and to the European Union.”

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