Drug plan could put people on streets, MPs warn

MPs have raised concerns that plans to seal ‘crack
houses’ could result in other problems, such as increased
homelessness, writes Clare Jerrom.

New powers are to be given to the police to close premises where
drugs are sold within 48 hours, and ‘seal’ them for up to six
months, under proposals outlined in the anti-social behaviour white
paper published earlier in March.

But Ann Widdecombe, who is a member of the home affairs select
committee, asked what the consequences would be for vulnerable
people who often find their premises taken over by people wanting
to deal drugs.

“It is going to be a problem, but nothing like the existence of
these places in the first place. Their existence can cause mayhem,”
said home office minister Bob Ainsworth, who stepped in to give
evidence to the committee after John Denham, who was due to appear,
resigned over the government’s policy on war with Iraq.

Ainsworth added that issues such as homelessness that may arise
from the measures would be picked up on, but insisted the benefits
far outweighed the problems.

It was confirmed that the anti-social behaviour bill will be
published later this week, just two weeks after the white paper was
published and four months since the bill was announced in the
Queen’s speech in November.

Committee chairperson Chris Mullin said several organisations
had complained about the lack of consultation. Ainsworth said he
was “sorry” that the government had not been able to consult
widely, and that the government would still listen to comments.

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