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DRUG CAMPAIGNER QUITS LABOUR PARTY

Oldham Chronicle
October 22, 2007


Barry Haslam

A STAUNCH Labour voter has quit the party because he is disillusioned about the treatment of tranquilliser addicts by the Government.

Uppermill campaigner Barry Haslam sent his Labour membership card to his local MP Phil Woolas - and in an accompanying letter he resigns because, he says, the Government has surrendered to the vested interests of major drug companies.

But the MP has refused to accept it and is hoping to persuade Mr Haslam to change his mind, because he says the campaign is making progress - but he described it as a marathon not a sprint.

However, Mr Haslam, who runs Oldham's Tranx self-help group for addicts of legally prescribed benzodiazepines and other drugs, said: "I have been a staunch Labour voter and for the past few years I have also been a party member. But I am just so disillusioned with the Labour Government."

Ten years ago he invited Mr Woolas, then the newly elected MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, to visit the Tranx group. Mr Haslam, a former Man of Oldham, also helped to set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in the Commons to look at tranquilliser addiction.

He successfully campaigned to set up the country's first treatment service for tranquilliser addicts in Oldham in 2005.

Today Mr Haslam said: "There is no sense of urgency by the party or Government. I haven't heard anything from the APPG in five months.

"Mr Woolas wrote to the then Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, asking her to look at Oldham's successful treatment service. Nothing has happened since."

But Mr Woolas said: "I am going to try to persuade him not to hand in his card on several grounds.

"We have made progress and we have allocated 160 million for new psychiatric and psychology services, and increased awareness of the dangers of benzodiazepines.

"And Home Office consultation on drugs includes prescription drugs and addicts of legally prescribed drugs.

"This does not take away from my admiration for him, but we carry on - this is a marathon, not a sprint."


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