'Invasion of privacy' - Londoners react to Shaun Bailey's drug testing plans

24 August 2020, 14:53

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey's drug testing plans are "an invasion of privacy", Londoners have told LBC News.

Residents in the capital said Mr Bailey's proposal to make employers conduct random drug tests on their staff "infringes" on people's freedoms.

Earlier on Monday, former Dragon's Den star and serial entrepreneur Theo Paphitis dismissed the plan as a "crackpot idea" that would only punish businesses.

Speaking to LBC's Shelagh Fogarty later in the day, the London mayoral candidate responded saying Theo's argument was "weak" and "all over the place."

He said that for those people who enjoy "a swift line of coke on a Friday night", they should remember the violence and criminality it took to get the drugs there, with children being forced into county lines to circulate cocaine.

Mr Bailey said he wanted people to start regarding cocaine with the same disapproval as drink-driving in order to eventually stigmatise the behaviour.

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However, some Londoners were quick to criticise the proposal and how it would impact or overlap into people's non-professional lives.

One woman told LBC Senior Reporter Matthew Thompson: "That's not right. It's people's private lives."

"They can do what they want, if it's not in work time, it's not in work time. It's not their (the company's) problem to put it simply."

One man said: "It's a difficult question, it infringes people's freedom. I don't really know, I don't take drugs myself but the point is that some people do for numerous reasons and, as a result, you can't take away their freedom."

He added: "What's the difference between taking something that infringes your psychological status quo and is provided by the state and what is not?"

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Critics have hit out at Mr Bailey's plans to conduct random drug tests on their employees
Critics have hit out at Mr Bailey's plans to conduct random drug tests on their employees. Picture: PA

Another suggested people sign a waiver in a contract when they start a job in order for the plan to not breach their right to confidentiality.

He added: "You're not in work so really what is it to do with them?

"I don't think labelling someone that takes drugs as a miscreant or as someone who is linked to gang violence will help stop it."

The second man's friend echoed his argument, adding that he did not believe recreational drug use was "the main reason" behind gang violence in London.

He said: "I think it's an invasion of privacy. What I do at the weekend or at any other time of the week is my business and if I'm not at work, what's it to do with them?

"I know of companies that do drugs tests before you even start and that's up to the person who's applied for that but in my job I didn't need to do it and I'd probably be a bit unhappy if I had to do it.

"I don't think that's the main reason why there is gang violence around here (in London). I think there's a lot of issues."

Meanwhile, Downing Street has said there are "no plans" for random drug tests of cabinet ministers, with a spokesman telling reporters he had "not yet seen" Mr Bailey's plans.

He said: "We expect the highest levels of professionalism from everybody in government. That remains the case, but there are no plans for that."

Additional reporting from Matthew Thompson.