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Junior Minister Newton's Speech- British Irish Council Meeting On Misuse Of Drugs 24th February 2010

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Mr Speaker, in compliance with the requirements of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 as amended by the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006, I wish to make the following report on the seventh British-Irish Council meeting in Misuse of Drugs Sectoral format which was held in the Tynwald Building, Isle of Man last Wednesday, 24 February 2010.  The Minister for Health Social Services and Public Safety was unable to attend, the Executive was therefore represented by myself and Minister Murphy, MP, MLA, Minister for Regional Development.  This report has been endorsed by Minister Murphy and he has agreed that I should make it on behalf of both of us.


Mr Adrian Earnshaw, MHK (Member of the House of Keys), the Isle of Man’s Minister for Home Affairs, hosted the seventh BIC Ministerial meeting in Misuse of Drugs Sectoral format in the Tynwald Buildings, the Isle of Man’s Government Buildings in Douglas, Isle of Man.  The meeting was chaired by Mr John Curran T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy in Ireland.  The meeting focused in particular on how to effectively manage the challenges associated with substance misuse in the Prison Setting.

The States of Guernsey was represented by Deputy Hunter Adam, Minister, Health and Social Services Department, and The States of Jersey by Deputy Anne Pryke, Minister for Health and Social Services.  

The British Government was represented by Mr. Matthew Bullard, Head of Drug Supply Reduction and Mandatory Drug Testing Strategy, National Offender Management Service and Mr. Dominic Flint, Senior Policy Advisor, Drug Strategy Unit, Home Office.  The Scottish Government was represented by Mr Alan Johnston, Deputy Director of Drugs and Community Safety, Scottish Government.    

The British-Irish Council was established under the Strand Three Provisions of the Good Friday Agreement as a forum for its Members to exchange information, discuss, consult and use best endeavours to reach agreement on co-operation on matters of mutual interest within the competence of relevant Member Administrations.  Ireland is the lead administration within the Council on the issue of Misuse of Drugs.  

The meeting provided a good opportunity for Ministers from each Member Administration to focus in detail on two key challenges related to this issue:
(i)    the need to counteract the availability and use of drugs in prisons; and
(ii)   the need to provide a range of treatment services in prisons, comparable to those available in communities generally, thus enabling prisoners to address their problem drug use.

During detailed discussions Ministers exchanged information on their experiences, and on best practices utilised across their jurisdictions.  Much of the exchanges focused on improvements to security procedures aimed at preventing drugs getting into prisons.  
At the same time, it was emphasised that such action could only really be effective when combined with the provision of drug treatment to prisoners.  

The importance of continuity of treatment for people following their release from prison was also emphasised.  Ministers envisage that if these key issues can be successfully addressed that will facilitate their respective Governments impacting positively on the lives of prisoners, resulting in a reduction in the levels of re-offending and will contribute to reducing problem drug use in society.

We as Ministers from each of the BIC Member Administration took the opportunity to utilise the BIC forum to exchange information on the issue of the sale and use of psychoactive substances (“legal highs”).  The Ministers discussed the various measures planned and implemented across jurisdictions, and the outcomes of these interventions.  Given the ongoing concerns around psychoactive substances, not only among the Administrations of the British-Irish Council but also across the EU and beyond, the Ministers directed that the BIC Sectoral Group on the Misuse of Drugs should retain the issue of psychoactive substance use as a standing item on their agendas for the foreseeable future.

The Ministers reviewed the successful work carried out by the Council in this sector during 2009 and focused on these important areas:  
    Guernsey Meeting: This focused on Youth Justice Initiatives.  
    In addition, Guernsey’s response to psychoactive substance use was presented and discussed.  
    Ireland Meeting:  This concentrated on Drugs-Related Deaths Indices.  A major part of the meeting focused on developing effective policy responses to drug deaths.
    Scotland Meeting: This dealt with Drug Prevention. The presentation and discussion centered on innovative approaches in Scotland around drugs information and advice initiatives and their Drugs Awareness Campaign on cocaine.  

The Ministers agreed that these meetings had provided a very useful forum for sharing, in a focused and practical manner, the detailed expertise and knowledge of those involved in the drugs area across the British-Irish Council region.  It was also noted that, in addition to exploring specific themes in depth, each meeting had facilitated the exchange of information on general developments and initiatives in relation to the misuse of drugs.  

The Ministers noted and agreed that work in 2010 will focus on the following areas:
    Ireland:  the policies of Administrations in tackling Alcohol Misuse;
    UK:  new directions for drug and alcohol policy - meeting new challenges; and
    Jersey:  Community Action in dealing with drugs, alcohol and anti-social disorder.
These meetings will also facilitate the strengthening and consolidation of the ongoing co-operation and the exchange of information, experience and best practice between Members.  
Finally, Mr Speaker, I can report that the next BIC meeting in Misuse of Drugs Sectoral format will be in the Spring of 2011.

Thank you.

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