Psychoactive Substances Bill

Third Reading, House of Commons, 20 January 2016

Key messages

  • The LGA strongly supports the move by the Government to ban the distribution, sale and supply of new psychoactive substances (NPS) in the UK with the Psychoactive Substances Bill.
  • 'Legal highs', or NPS, are untested and unpredictable and can often be more potent than the illegal drugs they are designed to mimic.
  • Local government sees first-hand the impact of use of NPS in their communities, in terms of causing anti-social behaviour, prompting hospital admissions and the associated impact on health services, and, in the worst cases, fatalities.
  • However, existing legislation designed for other purposes is not adequate to protect the public from the potentially devastating consequences of legal highs, with council trading standards teams reporting it is not fit for purpose.
  • This Bill will tackle the availability of NPS, address the ‘chemical arms race' between legislative responses and the evolution of the NPS market, and make enforcement easier.
  • As currently drafted, the legislation provides a clear, simple approach and outlines a range of powers that will enable the police, supported by councils, to take proportionate but decisive action to prevent the production and sale of NPS.
  • We support the wide definition of ‘psychoactive substance' in clause 2 of the Bill. This will ensure that, as new substances are developed with different chemical compounds, they will continue to be caught by the legislation.
  • However, if the definition of psychoactive substances in the Bill could capture unintended materials, like incense, then consideration should be given to adding those substances to the list of exemptions in Schedule 1 of the Bill.
  • Once the legislation is in place, we would encourage continued monitoring of the impact of the ban, both in the UK and Ireland, to ensure a solid evidence base is readily available for future reviews of the legislation.
  • Local authorities, which have overall responsibility for public health, spend around 25 per cent (£760 million) of their existing health budget on drug and alcohol misuse.
  • The introduction of the ban should reduce this expenditure, allowing councils to use the funds to tackle other public health priorities. This is particularly important given the 2015 Spending Review announcement of reductions to public health funding over the next five years.
  • Councils recognise the important need for education programmes designed to reduce misuse of all drugs, not just NPS. Further, there has been particular concern in local government about the use of NPS by younger people, particularly teenagers, who in some cases have a mistaken perception that NPS are safe to use.
  • The LGA supports new clause 2, in the name of Lyn Brown MP, Andy Burnham MP, Andrew Gwynne MP, Sue Hayman MP and John Woodcock MP, which provides for a senior officer or local authority to comply a premises to stop trading while it applies for a premises order. These powers are comparable to closure powers for premises serving alcohol under the Licensing Act 2003, and provide a helpful interim power where a premises notice has been ignored.

Download the full LGA briefing:
Psychoactive Substances Bill, House of Commons Third Reading (PDF)

Second Reading, House of Commons, 19 October, 2015

Key messages

  • The LGA strongly supports the move by the Government to ban the distribution, sale and supply of new psychoactive substances (NPS) in the UK with the Psychoactive Substances Bill.
  • ‘Legal highs', or NPS, are untested and unpredictable and can often be more potent than the illegal drugs they are designed to mimic.
  • Local government sees first-hand the impact of use of NPS in their communities, in terms of causing anti-social behaviour; prompting hospital admissions and the associated impact on health services, and, in the worst cases, fatalities.
  • However, existing legislation designed for other purposes is not adequate to protect the public from the potentially devastating consequences of legal highs, with council trading standards teams reporting it is not fit for purpose.
  • This Bill will tackle the availability of NPS, address the ‘chemical arms race' between legislative responses and the evolution of the NPS market, and make enforcement easier.
  • As currently drafted, the legislation provides a clear, simple approach and outlines a range of powers that will enable the police, supported by councils, to take proportionate but decisive action to prevent the production and sale of NPS.
  • We support the wide definition of ‘psychoactive substance' in clause 2 of the Bill. This will ensure that, as new substances are developed with different chemical compounds, they will continue to be caught by the legislation.
  • However, if the definition of psychoactive substances in the Bill could capture unintended materials, like incense, then consideration should be given to adding those substances to the list of exemptions in Schedule 1 of the Bill.
  • Once the legislation is in place, we would encourage continued monitoring of the impact of the ban, both in the UK and Ireland, to ensure a solid evidence base is readily available for future reviews of the legislation.
  • Local authorities, which have overall responsibility for public health, spend around 25 per cent (£760 million) of their health budget on drug and alcohol misuse. The introduction of the ban should reduce this expenditure, allowing councils to use the funds to tackle other public health priorities.
  • Councils recognise the important need for education programmes designed to reduce misuse of all drugs, not just NPS. Further, there has been particular concern in local government about the use of NPS by younger people, particularly teenagers, who in some cases have a mistaken perception that NPS are safe to use.

Download the full LGA briefing:
Psychoactive Substances Bill, House of Commons Second Reading (PDF, 3 pages, 180KB)


Committee Stage, House of Lords, 23 June, 2015

Key messages

  • The LGA strongly supports the introduction of legislation banning the distribution, sale and supply of new psychoactive substances (NPS). This Bill will tackle the availability of NPS, address the ‘chemical arms race' between legislative responses and the evolution of the NPS market, and make enforcement easier.
  • We support the wide definition of ‘psychoactive substance' in clause 2 of the Bill. This will ensure that, as new substances are developed with different chemical compounds, they will continue to be caught by the legislation.
  • However, if the definition of psychoactive substances in the Bill could capture unintended materials, like incense, then consideration should be given to adding those substances to the list of exemptions in Schedule 1 of the Bill.
  • Legal highs', or new psychoactive substances (NPS), are untested and unpredictable and, in the worst cases, can cause death. Often, they can be more potent than the illegal drugs they are designed to mimic.
  • The LGA has argued that existing legislation is not sufficient to protect the public from the potentially devastating consequences of legal highs, with council trading standards teams reporting it is not fit for purpose.
  • Once the Bill is in place, we would encourage continued monitoring of the impact of the ban, both in the UK and Ireland, to ensure a solid evidence base is readily available for future reviews of the legislation.
  • Local authorities, which have overall responsibility for public health, spend around 25 per cent (£760 million) of their health budget on drug and alcohol misuse. The introduction of the ban should reduce this expenditure, allowing councils to use the funds to tackle other public health priorities.

Download the full LGA briefing:
Amendments briefing, Psychoactive Substances Bill (PDF, 2 pages, 148KB)


Second Reading, House of Lords, 9 June 2015

Key messages

  • The LGA welcomes the move by the Government to ban the production, distribution, sale and supply of psychoactive substances in the UK with the Psychoactive Substances Bill. ‘Legal highs', or new psychoactive substances (NPS), are untested and unpredictable and, in the worst cases, can cause death. Often, they can be more potent than the illegal drugs they are designed to mimic.
  • The LGA has long argued that existing legislation is not sufficient to protect the public from the potentially devastating consequences of legal highs, with council trading standards teams reporting it is not fit for purpose.
  • We support the wide definition of ‘psychoactive substance' in clause 2 of the Bill. This will ensure that, as new substances are developed with different chemical compounds, they will continue to be caught by the legislation.
  • The Republic of Ireland, which introduced a ban in 2010, has seen a decline in hospital admissions related to the use of legal highs and near elimination of ‘head shops' which sell them.
  • Local authorities, which have overall responsibility for public health, spend around 30 per cent (£830 million) of their health budget on drug and alcohol misuse. The introduction of the ban should reduce this expenditure, allowing councils to use the funds to tackle other public health priorities.

Download the full LGA briefing:

Psychoactive Substances Bill (PDF, 2 pages, 101KB)

6 January 2017