Newsnight: Matthew Perry, Peter Hitchens Have Classic Row About Drugs

Newsnight delivered another memorable clash on Monday night, as Friends star Matthew Perry took on right-wing columnist Peter Hitchens.

The battleground was drugs policy, and Perry's call for 'drug courts' - where addicts are offered treatment as an alternative to prison.

Unsurprisingly, Hitchens dismissed the idea as a "fantasy", with the two trading some feisty comments.

Making the case for drug courts, Perry said: "People who go through it have a 55% less chance of ever seeing handcuffs ever again".

'Well, Santa...'

Hitchens said the evidence was "scanty", and said the best option was a "stern and effective criminal justice system".

Announcing he "didn't come here to have to listen to ludicrous things like that," Perry said he was a drug addict himself, because he could not stop boozing after one drink.

Drug addiction was an "obsession of the mind, and an allergy of the body", he said, with fellow panellist Baroness Meacher agreeing it was a medical, rather than a criminal issue.

For Hitchens, though, it was all about will power.

Hitchens said a tough criminal justice system was the answer

"People constantly stop" he said, saying he was allergic to aspirin but chose not to take it.

"Not that your aspirin point wasn't ingenious", Perry replied, "but you don't know what you're talking about".

He wasn't done, asking host Jeremy Paxman: "Can I just give him one quick put-down?

"You're making a point that's as ludicrous as saying Peter Pan is real."

"How is it people ever cease to addicts if what you say is true?" Hitchens asked him.

"Well, Santa," began Perry.

"That's terribly clever", snapped Hitchens.

"This is a very serious subject and you treat it with enormous levity."

After Meacher, who chairs the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, said research showed he was wrong, Perry rounded things off by telling the Mail man: "Read something other than your book."