Sir Lyndsay Hoyle is ready to call in police sniffer dogs to tackle the “deeply concerning” use of cocaine at the Palace of Westminster.
The Speaker said he will investigate after the Sunday Times found 11 out of 12 lavatory areas in Westminster – accessible only with parliamentary passes – were found to have traces of cocaine.
Hoyle’s intervention comes amid reports the government will take passports off illegal drug users as part of a 10-year plan to tackle drug crime, to be announced this week.
The House of Commons Commission – chaired by the Speaker and responsible for the running of parliament – is considering allowing the use of sniffer dogs to detect illegal drugs at the Palace of Westminster.
A “Westminster veteran” told the Sunday Times: “There is a cocaine culture in parliament. Some people are at it all the time and are totally blasé. Others dabble.
“Some are household names, some are ambitious young MPs and officials, but all of them risk throwing away their careers. They think they are untouchable, protected by their friends in the bubble. It’s shocking but also sad. Lots of them need help.”
‘One staffer walked in on MP doing a line at their desk’
Another source said: “I have seen an MP openly snorting cocaine at a party. There were journalists present and I warned them that what they were doing was extremely dangerous and they could be exposed but they seemed to get off on the power trip.”
A third source said “MPs tend to be more careful” than their aides and “will go back to their office” to use cocaine “rather than doing it in any of the public spaces”.
“But I have heard of one staffer who walked in on their MP doing a late-night line at their desk,” the anonymous source added.
Responding to the story, speaker Hoyle told the BBC the accounts “are deeply concerning” and he “will be raising them as a priority with the Metropolitan Police next week.
“I expect to see full and effective enforcement of the law, While Parliament provides extensive support services for any staff or Members who may need help with drug misuse – and I would encourage anyone struggling with such issues to take up such help – for those who choose to flout the law and bring the institution into disrepute the sanctions are serious,” said Hoyle.
10-year plan to combat drug crime
Penalties for drug dealers are to get even tougher with the government promising a crackdown as part of their 10-year plan to combat drug crime. The plan will include measures to take driving licences and passports off illegal drug users, tougher prison sentences for dealers and action to tackle County Lines drug gangs.
“We need to look at new ways of penalising them – things that will actually interfere with their lives,” Boris Johnson told the Sun
“So we will look at taking away their passports and driving licences. We’re keeping nothing off the table.”
“Record” funding – estimated to be £700 million – to treat addicts and people in recovery will also be announced, with extra money to be pledged for the 50 most blighted local authorities.
Crackdown is ‘bad news for Gove’
The UK’s illegal drugs market is estimated to be worth £9.4 billion a year, according to the Independent, which states the total cost of illegal drugs – including crime, health and societal impacts – is £19 billion a year.
Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs (part one of two), published in February 2020, estimated there were one million cocaine users and 300,000 crack or opiate users in England. Deaths from drug use (misuse and poisoning) have increased by 80% since 2012
Tories spooked by Lib Dem challenge in safe seat
Elsewhere, Conservatives are “jittery” by a Liberal Democrat challenge in the byelection called after Owen Paterson resigned in the wake of a Tory sleaze scandal.
“The Lib Dems are pouring more and more resources into their campaign,” reads an email sent to Conservative party supporters. “And the only way we can win is to match their spending pound for pound.”
As well as money, the Conservatives are pouring resources and personnel into the North Shropshire constituency on Friday (December 3), with Boris Johnson’s “surprise visit” on Friday reported by the Guardian as “an apparent sign of Tory jitters” about a serious Lib Dem challenge in December 16’s byelection.
A mask wearing Johnson watched the Tory candidate – doctor-turned-barrister-now-aspirant-MP – Neil Shastri-Hurst, give vaccination booster shots before getting the contender’s name wrong.
“I think we’ve got a fantastic candidate, Dr Neil Shastri-Hughes, who I’ve just been seen contributing already to the life of the community by vaccinating people,” said the PM, continuing: “He’s a doctor amongst his many other talents and what he’s also going to do is work very, very hard for the people of North Shropshire.”
Johnson later referred to the candidate as “Dr Neil” during his visit to Oswestry, a day after Thursday’s (December 2) Old Bexley and Sidcup byelection – which followed the death in October of MP James Brokenshire from cancer – that saw the Tories hold the seat with Louie French elected, despite a 10.3% swing to Labour.
‘Lib Dems are main threat to Blue Wall Tories’ says Davey
The Conservatives will hope for the same result in North Shropshire and remain favourites to retain the Brexit supporting seat – Paterson achieved a near 23,000 majority in 2019’s general election – but the Lib Dems have overtaken Labour and are eyeing a repeat of their historic Chesham and Amersham byelection win.
That result in June saw Sir Ed Davey’s party overturn a 16,000 Tory majority, with the leader proclaiming “the Lib Dems are the main threat to the Conservatives” in Blue Wall seats.
Support for both Labour and the Greens collapsed in that election with both parties standing back in campaigning with few big names turning out and lesser resources stumped up.
Although the opposition parties do not have a formal electoral pact, it is predicted similar tactics will be followed to gain the best chance of defeating Johnson’s Tories in a safe seat such as North Shropshire.