On September 29th, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard presented a 10 Minute Rule bill in the House of Commons which, according to Sheppard, "aims to help tackle the drug crisis by decriminalising the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use and declaring a public health emergency".
In the Hansard record of the session, the bill is described as follows:
a Bill to require the Secretary of State to declare problem drug use a public health emergency; to require the Secretary of State to review the effects of welfare sanctions on people who use drugs; to make the Department for Health and Social Care the lead department for drugs policy; to require the Secretary of State to respond publicly to recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs; to amend the classification of drugs in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; to make provision for safe drug consumption facilities; to decriminalise the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use; to make provision about the stigmatisation of problem drug use; to amend the Equality Act 2010 to recognise drug dependence as a health condition; and for connected purposes.
However, in his further comments, I was unable to find an explanation of what the tangible effects of this step would be.
The Secretary of State referred to is the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, currently Matt Hancock MP. What is the meaning of the Secretary of State declaring something a public health emergency? Does this trigger extra funding, a requirement for a certain government response of some kind, or some other tangible effect, or is this more of a soft statement indicating that problem drug use should be treated as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue?