Gay sex drug ban will ‘help prevent deaths’, says MP

MP Mike Penning
MP Mike Penning
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Mike Penning has spoken of his pride after new powers to ban drugs such as poppers, often used by gay men when having sex, cleared the Commons.

The Hemel MP, who is a junior minister in the Home Office, stressed that the government was offering a compromise, as poppers will be banned but a review will consider whether they can be made exempt.

Mr Penning said: “I will be very proud when this statute goes through with my name over it.

“It will save hundreds of lives, not just in my constituency, but across the country.

“These substances are taken - not just by young people - and people think, one, they are legal and, two, they are safe. They are neither.

“Poppers are banned. There have been 20 deaths in the UK because of them. But there will be medical research to decide if they can be exempt. I think the gay community in particular are in support of that.”

Critics of the plan include Crispin Blunt, a Tory former minister, who warned he and many gay men were ‘astonished’ by the plans to ban alkyl nitrites, which is the formal name for poppers.

And shadow home office minister Lyn Brown has said poppers should be on the exemptionsions list because the ban will place users, particularly men who have gay sex, ‘at greater risk of greater harm’.

But Mr Penning thinks the blanket ban, which makes all psychoactive substances illegal, is ‘enormously important’.

The bill, which received an unopposed third reading last week, bars the production, distribution, sale and supply of legal highs.

Mr Penning said: “I know this is going to be difficult for some individuals, and I fully respect their views, but I hope that everybody in the House respects that I am trying to do the right thing to protect people.”

Peers are now examining amendments made by MPs before the bill can become law.