Voters in Switzerland today backed a change in health policy that would provide prescription heroin to addicts. Final results from the national referendum showed 68% of voters supported the plan.
The scheme, where addicts inject the drug under medical supervision at a clinic, began in Zurich 14 years ago before spreading across the country. This is great step forward is using health remedies rather than the failed policies of arrest and jail.
The policy already has had positive results - getting long-term addicts out of Switzerland's once notorious "needle parks" and reducing drug-related crime. Forgotten here is that this was our policy in the UK b before 1971. Heroin addicts had medical heroin prescribed to them from the NHS. It was clean, pure and a known strength. There was no need for addicts to resort to crime to get their fix.
It was very successful. There were fewer than a 1,000 addicts and virtually no drug deaths or drug crime. The convention that I am pressing Europe to adopt will included prescribed heroin as a practical ambition to cut drug harm.
One prohibitionist buffoon on Radio Five Live this morning attacked the Swiss ‘needle parks’. Where has he been? They disappeared years ago. All the Swiss anti-drug measures produce outcomes than ours in the UK.
We should follow the Swiss lead.
In 1988 Prime Minister Thatcher answered an oral question of mine on the floor of the Commons with a ‘no’ and a sting in the tale, ‘The Hon Gentleman is a socialist and therefore against choice.’ The choice I was opposing was the con that the Tories were foisting on an unsuspecting public. In the belief that Private is always better than Public, the Government was campaigning to persuade people to abandon their safe good value occupational pensions and jumped into the gamble of personal pensions.
Funded occupational pensions were – and still are – the best bet as final salary pensions. Personal pensions depend to a greater extent on the vagaries of the stock market. There was manic optimism in the eighties that the stock market values would always rise. Many pensioners with maturing policies are now doomed to pensions well below their expectations.
Many of these people were conned out of occupational schemes that are now paying far higher rates. The ‘choice’ the Tories promoted in the eighties is now impoverishing millions of today’s pensioners.
Perhaps they will say ‘sorry.’