“'What's Labour's answer [to drug dealing] by the way? To decriminalise hard drugs apparently - to let the dealers off with a caution'”

Boris Johnson, Conservative party conference speech

October 6, 2021

Facts

Addressing Conservative Party Conference Boris Johnson said: “'What's Labour's answer [to drug dealing] by the way? To decriminalise hard drugs apparently - to let the dealers off with a caution'”

After the speech BBC Reality Check asked the Conservatives for the source of the Prime Minister's claim. They pointed to an interview in which Keir Starmer was asked about a scheme (supported by Scottish Labour) to give people caught with Class A drugs a police warning. 

Starmer said: "It is not unusual in any legal system for those caught with a small amount of cannabis not to be prosecuted... there is a world of difference between that and saying 'do you think the drugs laws should be scrapped?' - to which my answer is 'no'". 

Asked whether he welcomed Scotland's decision, which was about Class A drugs and not cannabis, he said it was "probably the right thing to do" but was an "independent decision". The BBC asked Labour whether the policy to decriminalise hard drugs was untrue, and reported that “The party has confirmed that it does not support this.”

Verdict

It is true that the Scottish government, supported by Scottish Labour, entertained a scheme to let people caught with Class A drugs off with a warning. However Johnson did not confine himself to saying this. He told Tory members that Labour wanted “to decriminalise hard drugs apparently.” This is untrue. Johnson’s knowing use of the weasel word “apparently” is not enough to get him off the hook. He was misleading his audience.

As usual we sent this analysis to Boris Johnson for comment. No response.

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