Simon Heffer had a thought provoking column in The Telegraph yesterday entitled "Beer should be the lifeblood of any village". In it he argues that the drink driving limits should not be reduced any further and that the smoking ban has damaged local pubs especially in rural communities.
We fell, in one of the recesses, to discussing the drugs problem. "You know," he said, "a few years ago they had a serious drugs problem in China. So they rounded up 6,000 drugs dealers and shot them in the back of the head. Result: they don't have a drugs problem." He said this without a trace of humour, and without a trace of disapproval. It is a remark on which, in the intervening years, I have often pondered.
Drugs use is against the law because of its appalling social consequences. The law should be enforced in an exemplary way. If that means nice middle-class people – possibly like some of those in the shadow cabinet – going to jail, so much the better. It was scandalous, but typical, that Kate Moss was not punished for her recent promiscuous cocaine use, because it indicated that the trade is acceptable too, with heaven knows what results for those who idolise her. If drugs use is made more difficult, there will be fewer pushers. If there are fewer pushers then life will become harder for those further up the food chain.Punishing drugs users would also be likely to give the police more information about their suppliers. The prisons cannot be too full for such people, who are the most destructive in society. Can we not see this blindingly obvious truth? Of course, even if drugs use were eliminated, there would still be tarts, and there would still be people who kill tarts. There would probably, though, be gratifyingly fewer of both.
I make no apology for being so uncharitable towards the drugs culture, or for hectoring a government that refuses to deal seriously with it. It causes, on a conservative estimate, 70 per cent of the crime in our country. Mugging, burglary, prostitution and most other forms of vice are linked to it. It provokes violence and murder. Poverty, misery and broken families are its result. So, too, as this report shows, are numerous health problems, notably mental illness. The drain this puts on our public resources, whether in the NHS or the social security bill, runs into billions of pounds that could be spent on useful causes - education, care of the elderly, or more police and better hospitals. That toll of money and human misery is what our rulers choose to pay for the drugs menace in this country: or, rather, they choose to have us pay it.
The evil that drug dealers do cannot be adequately punished under our present law; I would take a leaf out of China's book, and have them taken out and shot in the back of the head.