The MP for Hemel Hempstead, who was responsible for guiding the ban through the Commons, has spoken about his ‘pride’ in the new legislation.
The Psychoactive Substances Bill, which is soon to become an Act of Parliament, bans the sale of alkyl nitrites or ‘poppers’ which are used by some gay men during anal sex.
Speaking to Hemel Today, his constituency’s paper, 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.”
The ban means that the illegal sale of alkyl nitrites can carry a punishment of up to seven years in prison.
During a debate in the House of Commons calling on the Home Office to exclude poppers from the new law, Mr Penning assured MPs that he had reached a compromise.
He told Hemel Today: “There will be medical research to decide if they can be exempt. I think the gay community in particular are in support of that.”
Those arguing against Mr Penning’s ‘compromise’ included MP Norman Lamb, who described banning poppers before the medical research had even started as “an act of total madness.” Conservative MP Crispin Blunt expressed his concern that members of the gay community might turn to illegal and possibly “unsafe sources” because of the ban.
Shortly after the amendment to exclude poppers from the ban failed, Labour MP Catherine West wrote to the Home Secretary to express her concerns, commenting: “It will in effect criminalise large sections of the LGBT community and risk encouraging users to begin obtaining these compounds illegally, leading to increased likelihood of Class A and Class B drug use.”
Karen Bradley MP, the Minister appointed by the Government to oversee the independent review into poppers, is due to meet activists and other MPs in the coming weeks.