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The Psychoactive Substances Bill 2015-16: Report on Committee Stage

Published Friday, January 15, 2016

This briefing paper is produced prior to the Report Stage of the Psychoactive Substances Bill 2015-16.

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The Psychoactive Substances Bill 2015-16 was introduced in the House of Commons on 21 July 2015.  It received its Second Reading on 19 October 2015. 

The Bill was debated in Committee on 27 and 29 October 2015, there were three sittings. It is tabled for Report Stage on 20 January 2016. 

A background to the Bill, a summary of Lords consideration and an overview of the bill as introduced to the House of Commons is provided in the Commons Library briefing paper, Psychoactive Substances Bill 2015.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill intends to introduce a blanket ban on the production, supply, possession with the intent to supply, and import and export, of psychoactive substances. Simple possession is not an offence under the Bill. A number of substances will be explicitly exempted from the controls in the Bill and the Bill provides order-making powers for the Secretary of State to add substances to this list.  It includes a range of civil and criminal sanctions. 

The Bill was introduced in the Queen’s Speech in May 2015 after recommendations from the Home Office appointed expert panel report on new psychoactive substances.

Government amendments

Government amendments tabled at Committee Stage included:

  • To introduce a new offence of possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution;
  • To add exemptions to offences under the Bill for healthcare professionals acting in the course of their work, and for activity conducted in the course of approved scientific research;
  • To change the definition of medicinal product under the list of exempted substances to that in the Human medicines Regulations 2012;
  • To repeal the Intoxicating Substances Act 1985.These were all agreed and added to the Bill without division.
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Other amendments

Opposition and other amendments tabled at Committee Stage included:

  • To change the definition of psychoactive substances under the Bill;
  • To add Alkyl Nitrites to the list of exempted substances;
  • To exclude social supply of psychoactive substances from the controls under the Bill;
  • To add statutory aggravating factors to the offence of supply, or offer to supply:
    • To aggravate the offence if the person knew, or had reason to believe the substance would cause harm
    • To aggravate the offence if the supply was in the vicinity of a premises intended to accommodate vulnerable children;
  • To introduce a new clause to make personal, social and health education a foundation subject in the National Curriculum in England;
  • To add a requirement that the review of the implementation of the Bill include a report on progress made in improving the education about new psychoactive substances (NPS);
  • To give powers to police officers and local authority officers to require a premises to cease trading where a premises notice had been breached.

None of these amendments were added to the Bill, but it was indicated that a number may be tabled again at Report Stage.

This paper summarises the Committee debate, following a short summary of debate during Second Reading. It will also provide some information about the Home Affairs Committee Report on psychoactive substances that was published before Committee Stage. 

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7468

Authors: Sarah Barber; Robert Long; Jacqueline Beard

Topics: Crime, Criminal law, Drugs crimes, Medicine, Prisons

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