Pubdate: Mon, 18 Oct 1999
Source: Daily Mail (UK)
Copyright: 1999 Associated Newspapers Ltd
Contact:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
Author: David Hughes, Political Editor

IS BLAIR'S INEFFECTIVE DRUG CZAR FACING AXE?

A question mark hangs over the future of 'drugs czar' Keith Hellawell
amid growing concerns in Government that his anti-drug strategy is
failing to deliver.

Ministers are rethinking their whole approach to the drug abuse
problem after conceding that Mr Hellawell has not made the expected
impact.

"We had to give it a try, but it has hardly been an unqualified
success," said one well-placed source.

Ministers are instead focusing on tough anti-drug measures in new
legislation to be published in next month's Queen's Speech.  They will
include automatic drug testing for anyone arrested and the refusal of
bail to anyone on hard drugs.

What Ministers describe as "remorseless crackdown" on nightclub
bouncers involved in drug dealing is also being planned.  "far from
curbing the problem, they are part of it," said one source.  "A lot of
them search people for drugs, confiscate them, and then sell them on. 
We are going to hit them hard."

The reassessment of the strategy is an embarrassment to Tony Blair,
who was personally responsible for appointing a powerful new
co-ordinator to spearhead the battle against drug abuse.  The idea
mimicked American anti-drug strategy, but Government insiders say it
has not had the desired effect here.

Mr Hellawell, former Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, is the highest
paid special adviser in the Government.  With a salary of over 106,000
pounds, he earns more than a Cabinet Minister and has a year left of
his three-year contract.  But now his critics in government say he has
not raised the profile of the battle against drugs in the way that was
expected.  The Prime Minister conceded as much during the Labour
conference last month.

"A very large proportion of the crimes committed in Britain are
drug-related," Mr Blair told the BBC at the time.  "And all
governments so far have not woken up to what we really need to do to
get this sorted.  We need it to be the centerpiece of the Queen's
Speech and we need to get on with it."

His obvious frustration does not bode well for 58-year-old Mr
Hellawell. He has been in the job for two years and reports directly
to the Prime Minister,  The fact that Mr Blair still believes the
Government has 'not woken up' to what is needed sounded like a death
knell for his 'drugs czar' policy.

When appointed, Mr Hellawell said he would try to reduce demand for
drugs and persuade young people to avoid them.  But a recent survey
revealed that teenagers in Britain are more likely to take so-called
'soft' and 'recreational' drugs than any of their European
counterparts. 

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