|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea) : I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), but I will not follow him in his study of the American scene.
The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), who opened for the Opposition, spoke about tobacco--the one area of drugs that has been missed out of this debate and the one on which I wish to dwell. I agree with the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie that that drug abuse should not result in punishment. Often tobacco is not spoken of as a drug and all too often health education separates drugs and alcohol from smoking. Smoking should be considered part of the mainstream of drugs, because only then shall we take the problem seriously.
In some ways, the English language does not help. A discussion of drugs may be promising as some drug prescriptions can do one good. The drugs that we are talking about in this debate--and certainly tobacco--are not prescriptions to do anyone any good. Perhaps we need some new form of English to cover tobacco and such drugs. Reference has been made to young people who get into trouble. We often refer to young offenders in terms of drink-related and drug-related offences. When talking to and meeting young offenders I have found it interesting to discover how many of them also smoke. I wonder whether there is a connection that we have not yet identified. perhaps a symptom of their cries for assistance is their becoming dependent on the tobacco drug. Perhaps if we notice that connection earlier, we may be able to help them to overcome their problems and thus avoid a life of crime. I do not know the statistics on that-- perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister does--but from my observations at least, I believe that there is a connection. I must confess that I am a reformed smoker. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) confessed to having given up smoking, but to be eating more as an alternative. I have to confess, as many of my family and former colleagues will bear witness to, that I went through a much more painful process--to their discomfort as well as to my own. I went on a diet at the same time as giving up smoking, on the theory that the pain of one took away the pain of the other. The smoking bit worked because I have not taken up smoking again, but I cannot say that the three stones that I dropped have stayed off. However, that is perhaps a matter for another day.
Column 685My children played a part in my giving up smoking. They put pressure on me because they did not like it. Perhaps their involvement in the process of giving up was beneficial to them in some way because none of them has shown any sign of taking up smoking.
I do not raise this issue to gain any plaudits for having given up ; I raise it because I want to look back to see why I took it up in the first place. One looks first to one's family and then to one's peers at school, and so on. One of my early family memories is of presenting my grandfather with some spills for his pipe. I can also remember watching my father smoking his pipe and seeing strings of tobacco leaves drying in the garage. My mother also smoked, although she, too, gave up. One took up smoking at school because other people did so. It seemed an adult thing to do. It was an emulation of what seemed smart, chic and stylish. So often, that is why people start to smoke.
We must begin by looking at the toddler, who picks up a packet of cigarettes. When the toddler gets a little older and progresses from playing with the packet, he or she will often take the cigarettes out of the packet and crush a fistful. A little bit older still, and the young infant might put one in his mouth because he has seen adults do it. I am concerned about role models, hence my intervention earlier. Role models are important in children's lives and we must ask parents and teachers to set an example.
My hon. Friends will be pleased to know that I am not seeking to pillory adult smokers. They have free choice and smoking is their decision, provided that they are genuinely adult smokers. Perhaps we could persuade them to stop their habit through tax and other means. However, I am not concerned about that today. I am concerned about young people, young minds and young habit formers, for whom we in this House have a responsibility. We are in loco parentis in terms of education and in helping young people to avoid taking up wrong habits.
We have heard many statistics and I shall provide one or two more. Half the adults who smoke started before the age of 16 ; only 10 per cent. started after the age of 21. I very much welcome the Minister's statement about what he is doing about drugs. I welcome what the Government are doing to discourage smoking. I also welcome the law that, in theory at least, forbids the sale of tobacco products to those under 16. I hope that the House will forgive me if the only figures from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys that I have are for 1986. I do not know whether we have any later figures, but we should. Those figures show some encouragement in the numbers of young people smoking. Up to 1986, there was clearly a marked fall in the number of boys smoking cigarettes, decreasing from 13 per cent. in England and Wales, to 7 per cent. However among girls the figure was not anything like as good, decreasing only from 13 per cent. to 12 per cent. Nevertheless, those figures are encouraging and there is an encouraging rise in the proportion of pupils in all the countries of the United Kingdom who have never smoked at all. That is good news. Many of those who smoke once never do so again because they feel ill the first time. Being made ill is also a factor in stopping young people from smoking.
Statistics show that where while only 82 per cent. of girls in their first year at secondary school have never smoked, that figure has fallen to only 29 per cent. by the time they leave. Although that is an improvement on the past, there is still a steady decline in the health of our schoolchildren and an increase in the number who are
Column 686taking up smoking. The worst news is that 23 per cent. of schoolchildren aged under 16 smoke 10 cigarettes a day. That means that 880 million cigarettes a day are being smoked by children aged 11 to 15, at a cost of £66 million, which those children somehow find to pay for their habit. As those aged below 16 cannot legally purchase tobacco, it is incredible that 89 per cent. of young smokers obtain their cigarettes from shops, and 19 per cent. obtain cigarettes from vending machines outside shops.
We need to remind ourselves of the reasons for interfering in people's freedom of choice from an early age. We do so for the sake of our children's futures and their health. We want children leaving school to look forward to a healthy, enjoyable and active life, and not to one of ill health. That is what we shall condemn them to if we do not get it right when they are still at school. We want to encourage children to leave school without the burden of the cost to themselves and to their families of being hooked on tobacco, particularly as many of them can ill afford the luxury of smoking. We must consider also the cost to the economy of working days lost as a result of smoking-related diseases, which is a burden on smokers and non-smokers alike. There is also the cost to those of us who must pay it, of £500 million per year required for health-related care, part of which must be borne in future by young people when they leave school and start contributing to the cost of the Health Service. We must be aware also of the cost to our environment and of the importance of ensuring the cleanliness of the air that our children breathe in school and everywhere else. Our children should learn not only the old adage, "Your freedom ends where my nose begins", but, "Your exhalation of secondhand smoke ends when my nostrils start to twitch."
I do not know the latest statistics for deaths from drugs, but those for deaths from smoke-related diseases show that 35,000 people per year die from lung cancer and that 11,000 of them are aged below 65. It is known also that 100,000 people die per year from smoking-related diseases. That is equal to 300 people dying every day--the equivalent of half the membership of the House. That is the size of the problem.
We must encourage the good health message, as we do in respect of drink driving. The good news is that young people are better than their adult relatives at not drinking and driving, which has come about from young people's fear of driving with alcohol in their blood. We must emphasise that fear and deter children from smoking, as well as educating them about it.
My hon. Friend the Minister referred to the national curriculum, which will play a major part in health education. Many teachers would like to set an example, but they, too, need help to kick the habit. Not only are the teaching and non-teaching professions setting the wrong example to young minds, but they are polluting the air that young children breathe, causing all the problems associated with passive smoking. Teacher unions, teacher trainers and schools education services must be brought in to tackle the problem. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is interested in youth affairs. In addition to schools, youth services outside schools must be involved. As a president of the British Youth Council, I believe that the youth movement and youth organisations must also play a part in backing my hon. Friend the Minister in his campaign for a healthier society.
Column 687Education can go so far, but my hon. Friend must seek the support of his right hon. and hon. Friends on tobacco advertising. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) intervened in the comments of the hon. Member for Leeds, Central on advertising. My hon. Friend said that most advertising aimed to make people switch brands. That may be true for adult smokers but it is not true for non-smokers who are often young people. They are not brand switchers, but they can be influenced to take up smoking by advertising.
We must consider carefully where we permit tobacco to be advertised. It should not be permitted in areas frequented by young people, such as sports and arts venues, on public transport, in newspapers or on shop fronts. We must also be careful about allowing tobacco companies to sponsor sports events and other activities. My hon. Friend the Minister should talk to his right hon. and hon. Friends about the price of tobacco. We should take tobacco out of the retail prices index so that keeping down the price of tobacco is not part of the Government's counter-inflation policies. I believe that that would be acceptable to hon. Members on both sides of the House. There is evidence to suggest that a 1 per cent. increase in the price of tobacco leads to a reduction of about 1 per cent. in consumption. That may not last, but if it is a national impact, the impact on the young person's purse or wallet will be much greater. If my hon. Friend wants to help young people not to take up smoking he should price tobacco out of their range. He will then be supporting the Government's education policy in schools and in the youth world, which I support. My message to him is to keep at it and to keep on at the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : My hon. Friend the Minister made a valuable point when he said that schools had a leading, perhaps a central, part to play in educating future adults against drug taking, smoking and alcohol abuse. I have 23 years' experience of schools, including 12 as deputy headmaster of a boys' comprehensive at King's Cross and seven at a mixed school of 2,200 on the Bellingham estate in south-east London, and I know that it is amazingly difficult to do what hon. Members have suggested today. Everyone says that such matters as road safety and the dangers of drugs should be taught in schools, but many problems are involved. Any school that does its job knows that every lesson is, in a sense, a lesson in English, as so much depends on the way in which the teacher presents the information and on the pupils' ability to respond. In another sense, every lesson could be regarded as a lesson in health education, in that everything that a teacher says or does can imply an awareness of the problem of drugs, particularly crack. When the teacher sees an opportunity to put across such information, it should be possible. I think that, in the long term, that will be more effective than what could be seen as a rather heavy health education programme.
Fundamental to all education, and particularly to the future of society and that of any individual within it, must be the ability to exercise self- control. Present and future self-discipline will provide the best possible protection
Column 688against serious excesses of the kind that we have been discussing. How can schools achieve that for children? Teachers can influence children through good, sound personal relationships, and also through good counselling ; they should be able to pick up any difficulties relating to drugs or anything else which children may be experiencing, and do something about them at an early stage.
Basic to human nature is the fact that--as Shakespeare pointed out-- forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest. As my hon. Friend the Minister pointed out, to tell children that something is to be shunned is to inspire a great interest. That approach must therefore be relaxed, but it must be done subtly.
Nothing is achieved without money, and part of the problem is the amount that schoolchildren have at present. According to a YMCA survey of 400 London children--quite an efficient survey, covering four or five typical schools--teenage boys have more money to spend than girls, but girls go to the pub much more often. Teenage boys receive an average of £10.25 a week in pocket money, while girls receive an average of £8.61. That is quite a lot of money ; many pensioners cannot regard such sums as pocket money to be spent on extras and luxuries. For children of 17 or 18, the average sum is £16.66--and clearly they will start looking for ways of spending such an amount.
The same survey showed that, by the age of 15, more than half the 400 pupils had been to a pub, but girls are more regular pub drinkers. Three quarters of sixth-form girls go to a pub once a week, usually with an older male, and 54 per cent. of the sixth-form boys go to a pub at least once a week.
The survey shows that children start drinking early. It is the main way that many of them spend their money. They like going to the pub. They feel adult. They see other people drink and they want to join in. Gradually, some move on to heavier drinking, with serious results, and some become hard drinkers at an early age.
I shall mention some other facts discovered by the survey, as they are central to our debate. Girls, who tended not to be interested in pool or snooker, suddenly listed it as one of their main hobbies after the age of 15. However, I do not think that pool and snooker are always their central interests. Often, strong drink is available in pool and snooker clubs, and that may be what draws some girls into them. On the other hand, many girls go there quite innocently to look for a partner, and that is reasonable and normal.
The survey also found that 60 per cent. of young people go out on Friday night, compared with 82 per cent. on Saturday night. Boys listed sports as their favourite activity but girls listed dance classes as tops. Girls preferred to go to discos once a month, rather than once a week. Young people said they were more likely to go to mum than dad with a problem, but that they would turn to their father if they had trouble with money.
I spoke of the need to improve counselling in schools, but we tend to forget the central role of parents, particularly of mothers, in counselling children. Children go to their mums when they are in difficulty. That underlines the importance of backing up parents in their difficult task of bringing up children.
Dr. Godman : I thank the hon. Member for recounting to us the findings of this very interesting survey. Were the respondents asked whether they preferred to visit cafes
Column 689rather than pubs? In the west of Scotland there has recently been a proliferation in the number of cafes and many young people prefer to visit them instead of our rather grim pubs.
Mr. Greenway : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that informative point. There are not many cafes of the kind he describes in London, and those that exist are not as much fun or as comfortable. They do not have the same atmosphere as pubs. I understand why this survey applies mainly to pubs because that is where children most like to go.
When children go to their dads for cash, fathers have a responsibility to talk over with them what they will spend it on. They have to do that without being too heavy or they will lose their influence. A reasonable and proper control over children's pocket money must have a tremendous effect on how they spend it. When young children get into drugs such as crack a lot of money is involved. Therefore, it behoves parents in particular to keep a close eye on how much money school children are spending, and where it is going, but they need to be as subtle as they can.
The survey showed that 30 per cent. of youngsters under 14 attended places of worship. That figure dropped to only 10 per cent. after the age of 14. That underlines the failure of Churches--I am not castigating them, as they have a difficult task--to hold and secure a Christian, moral or religious education among young people. I mentioned the need for young people to be taught self-discipline. That can be done by teachers and parents, and above all religious and moral education can play an important part. It is imperative that, as a nation, we do something about religious education in Britain. Six years ago, the Religious Education Council revealed that in 66 per cent. of all primary schools religious education is confused and teachers do not know what they are seeking to teach. The same report pointed out that there is no religious or moral education whatever for three quarters of our children after the age of 14. We are throwing children into a dangerous vacuum with all the drugs and drink about. It is an extremely serious problem and we would do everyone a favour if we tackled the basic way in which children and adults think about their lives and what they seek to do in living them.
Youth clubs are not generally attractive to the young. They are simply not interested in playing ping-pong in a hall. Youth clubs have never had less influence. The survey discovered that 88 per cent. of sixth-form girls are likely to confide in a friend outside school or a youth club, or perhaps in their mum or dad. However, only 32 per cent. of boys are likely to do so. It is much more difficult to secure the deep confidence of boys than girls.
The effect of alcohol in schools can be extremely serious. I have seen girls at the age of 13 or 14 going off to pubs and coming back to schools. The effect of heavy drinking, much more on girls than on boys, has been to get them fighting viciously between themselves. I have seen nasty, horrid fisticuffs and scratching--really beastly behaviour. If the House has any doubt about the effects of alcohol on young people--we know that it affects many people, but we are discussing young people--it is clear in Iceland where there is a serious alcohol problem among eight, nine, 10 and 11-year olds who are often rolling round the streets drunk or fighting as early as 8 or 9 o'clock at night. That country has been worried about it for some time.
Column 690How should we influence pupils? We should do so through personal relationships between parents and children, teachers and children and others interested in them. Sport is a particular way in which to influence children. Teachers working and training school teams have an unparalleled opportunity to get to know children. Tragically, teachers' strikes over recent years have meant that fewer teachers take teams out for matches. That valuable influence has been lost, and has led to pupils being less fit. Any doctor knows that the child who starts to look for drugs is not the healthy, fit child but the unfit and seedy child, who does not experience the physical and mental restlessness of physical fitness.
If physical education is not taught in schools, children become less competitive. We are all competitive, particularly as children. If children do not have healthy bodies, they do not have healthy minds.
If I may make a political point, the Bristol headmistress who banned the egg-and-spoon race two or three years ago to please her Socialist masters because it induced undue competitiveness in children did those children a grave disservice. That stupidity has been repeated throughout the country. Competitive team games have been eliminated in many schools run by Labour- controlled authorities. Cricket is thought to be too middle class and competitive and has been eliminated in many schools. In some places, only one in eight primary schools teach cricket to boys, and sometimes to girls. That is one reason why, in future, we shall not win Test matches. We are losing what cricket and other team games bring to children's development of self-control and working in a controlled but competitive environment, which is fundamental to their saying no to drugs and alcohol.
Dr. Godman : The hon. Gentleman is speaking of the discouragement of sporting activities. Will he state plainly whether he means schools in London or England, because his remarks bear no resemblance to what happens in Scottish schools?
Mr. Greenway : I do not speak for Scotland. I can only speak from my experience of teaching in London for 23 years, but my remarks are true in other parts of the country.
If we do not do something to restore physical education and the teaching of games in schools, teachers will lose an opportunity to influence pupils for the good. Teachers should be paid extra for taking teams out on a Saturday morning. If they give up their time on a Saturday, it is only right that they should be paid for doing so. When I was a professional, I took children out every Saturday morning, but I was never paid for it. I was delighted to do so because I received such feedback from the pupils.
Health education in schools is in a mess. Too often, in the sixth form it is a subject alternative to an A-level. In the sixth form, health education covers everything from contraception to healthy child rearing. Like English language or English literature, health education should be part of the curriculum.
I support what the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) said in her admirable speech. Glue sniffing is a very serious problem and we must not ignore it when we consider the whole issue of drug abuse. In some schools 20 per cent. of children sniff glue, with children as young as five involved. I met a 19-year-old young man in prison the other day. His mind has been completely blown
Column 691as a result of sniffing glue. One person every day dies as a result of sniffing glue. Sometimes people take their own lives, but often they die unintentionally from the effects of glue sniffing. We must be aware of the size of the problem and we must do more than we have been doing so far.
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow) : I listened very carefully to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). He referred to sporting problems, but we have different problems with sporting activities in Scotland as was witnessed plainly in the reactions to the transfer recently of Mo Johnston to Glasgow Rangers instead of to Glasgow Celtic.
The hon. Member for Ealing, North also referred to the Churches. I am not sure that his comments would hold up in relation to Scotland. In my constituency, the Catholic Church, The Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church still have large attendances at their masses and services. Their youth clubs are also well attended.
However, I agree with the hon. Member for Ealing, North that there is an urgent need for teachers and others concerned with education to be aware of the serious problems associated with drug and alcohol misuse and abuse. I was interested in what the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) said about that most pernicious form of drug taking--cigarette smoking.
In my constituency we have problems of drug and alcohol abuse, but the latter is by far the more serious. In Greenock we have a drug line funded by the urban aid programme. In addition to her other duties, Annette Webb, the drug line worker, works closely with teachers in local schools. Part of her work is to educate children about drug and alcohol abuse, but she is also involved in training teachers. I listened very closely to the hon. Member for Ealing, North because I know that he has vast experience in that regard. Just as with problems of child abuse, teachers are in the front line and it is essential that they are briefed and educated in the need to detect signs of drug and alcohol misuse. Similarly, they need to be aware of some of the signs of child abuse and other forms of abuse. Youngsters must receive guidance and encouragement and I would include necessary guidance about the dangers of cigarette smoking in addition to other forms of drug misuse. I am relieved to be able to say that crack is not a very serious problem in the west of Scotland at the moment. Many youngsters in some of the more impoverished districts of Glasgow are addicted to or misusing opiates rather than crack or heroin.
Alcohol abuse is a very serious problem in Inverclyde. We have a much higher incidence of alcohol-related crime there than in any other comparable area in Strathclyde. I know that this is a matter of considerable concern to Sheriff Sir Stephen Young and Sheriff Irvine Smith and to Chief Superintendent George Douglas, divisional commander of X division of the Strathclyde police and his officers and all those who are worried about alcohol abuse and its relationship to crime. A particularly worrying form of this crime is that which involves domestic violence and robbery with violence. In terms of alcohol-related criminal acts, a local legal dignitary recently said :
"Glasgow is a paradise compared with Inverclyde".
Column 692I suspect that he was indulging in a touch of hyperbole, but his comment signifies the worries created by drug abuse.
The Inverclyde council on alcoholism plays an important educational and training role, in addition to the admirable work performed elewhere by its director and members. Much of that work takes place in local schools and colleges. We need a designated place in Inverclyde to assist not only youngsters but all those who suffer from alcohol abuse and misuse. I sincerely hope that the Scottish Office will respond sensibly and favourably to the application for financial support to set up such a designated place. It is desperately needed.
Similarly, the Scottish Office must give all the support possible to the expansion of the drug line service and the work of the Inverclyde council of alcoholism, especially in relation to its work in colleges and schools. I have argued before in the House that alcohol abuse in the west of Scotland and, I suspect, elsewhere in the United Kingdom is a much greater problem than drug abuse and misuse. It is essential that the Government, especially the Scottish Office, show much closer regard for the need to tackle the problems attendant upon alcohol abuse and misuse in addition to drug abuse and misuse.
Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, north) : We are discussing the future of our children, which means that we are discussing the future of our nation, and we are discussing matters of life and death--three dreadful cliche s in a row, and all of them true. Most of us are parents and, in that context, are also members of the public. I hope that I speak for every Back Bencher when I say how grateful I am as a parent for the attitude taken by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), for the level of agreement that has been reached and for the tremendous non-partisan approach that they have taken to a subject which matters a great deal to all of us.
The Home Affairs Select Committee, to which the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) referred and of which he is a member, as I am, is working on a report on drug trafficking and related serious crime. On Thursday next week, we shall publish an interim report on the crack menace that faces the United States and Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Mr. Wheeler), the Committee's Chairman, will at that time make a series of what I hope will be found to be extremely helpful recommendations. I do not propose to pre-empt those, so I will not refer to them. The ministerial steering group, chaired by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Home Department and of which my hon. Friend the Minister here today is a member, will be meeting on Wednesday. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North will allow me therefore, to draw on some of the experiences that I, in common with others on the Select Committee on Home Affairs, had when we were conducting part of our drug inquiry in America. That means, inevitably, that I will refer to the crack menace, as others have done today. We went first to Washington DC and we were well briefed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency. As part of our inquiry, we were invited to take part in a drugs bust. We went out with the Drug Enforcement Agency into an area where drug sellers were
Column 693known to be operating and we watched three arrests take place. We rode in the police cars and we saw armed policemen and women leap from the cars and arrest some fairly socially inadequate people at the bottom of the pile.
The youngest of them, thrown into the back of the police car with his hands handcuffed behind his back, was 12 years old. He already had two adults working for him. He was one of those who now give the drug away free in schools in the certain knowledge that after one, two or definitely three smokes, they will have yet another customer. While this young man was selling his wares on the streets of an uptown ghetto, two miles away in a hospital, a 14-year-old girl was giving birth to her first child. That child was addicted to cocaine at birth and was one of the 375,000 such babies born in America last year. Not only was that child an addict at birth, like the other 375, 000 ; he was also brain damaged. The effect of drug taking generally, and cocaine and crack in particular, on a pregnant woman is to cause contractions which strangle the foetus in the womb and choke the air supply to the unborn child. That is one illustration of the scale of the problem we face.
Crack is so dangerous because it is effective instantly. It takes roughly 10 seconds for the effects of the drug to travel from the mouth to the brain. The effects are often instantly irreversible. Unlike other drugs, crack dries out the brain cells that produce certain essential substances for the body. Once destroyed, those cells cannot be replaced and the person is semi-dependent on some form of additional stimulus for as long as he may be able to carry on living. The drug is incredibly cheap ; in America it sells at about $5 a shot.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) referred to a child's curiosity and sense of adventure. I know that she was not promoting that sense of adventure in this context and I would not wish to suggest that she was. However, anyone who believes that it is possible to have a sense of adventure or curiosity about crack is living in a dangerous world. However great one's sense of adventure and curiosity, one does not try crack once because once is once too often. The Americans are now having to mount a dramatic campaign on television because the drug has travelled from the ghettos into white, middle-class America. Suddenly, it is no longer a problem that "won't happen here" ; it is a problem that the Americans have to live with day by day.
From Washington, the members of the Select Committee travelled to El Paso, on the border between Mexico and Texas. As the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said, we watched the illegal immigrants walking across the Rio Grande. Not only that, we stopped our police car, got out, spoke to them and photographed them. They froze--like ostriches with their heads in the sand--and waited until the police car had driven away before carrying on their journey across the border taking with them whatever drugs they had. They literally sprinted to work in the United States, and they commute in that fashion daily.
The amount of drugs that the illegal immigrants carry is tiny compared with the quantities coming in by the container-load across the border, by light aircraft across the border from Mexico and in small craft from the West Indies.
For the most part, the drugs are grown in the Andes, the mountains of Peru and Bolivia. The valleys in which they are grown are out of Government control and the
Column 694prospect of reducing the size of the crops is virtually nil. The drugs travel to Colombia where the coca plant is purified into pure cocaine, which is then smuggled into north America. We were told somewhat cynically by a member of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency that the crop is part of the economy of Peru and Bolivia and that the Colombians
"have the best police force that money can buy."
The United States market for the drug appears to be virtually saturated and the Colombian drug dealers are therefore turning their attention seriously towards Europe. They are looking for routes, via the West Indies, into Spain and Italy, and inevitably, therefore, into the United Kingdom. We are told that they are ruthless and determined and that they
"make the Mafia look like choirboys."
A favourite technique for dealing with traitors is to murder their wife or child first as a warning to others before finally murdering them.
The belief has been expressed that it could not happen here. My hon. Friend the Minister told us earlier of marijuana on offer to schoolchildren. I have personal experience of children in my constituency leaving school during the lunch hour and travelling to a known drug pedlar's house to buy their daily drugs.
In Kent, we face the problems that any frontier county faces. We have a number of ports and we know that drugs come through them fairly regularly. In recent months, we have also discovered a number of amphetamine factories. It would be wrong to believe that the only threat comes from imported drugs. From the drug addict's point of view, we make some perfectly acceptable substances at home. The Kent police have done a tremendous job in recent months--and I pay tribute to them--in finding and busting amphetamine factories, but they believe, and I believe, that it is still only the tip of the iceberg. Add to that the other problems about which we have heard--solvent abuse, the abuse of adhesives and so on--and one realises that school children are under real threat.
My hon. Friends the Members for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) and for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) referred to the increasing threat that is posed by cigarette smoking. It is through cigarettes that both marijuana and crack are consumed. Again, we were told in America that the reason for the startling growth in female addiction is because, in the past, young ladies in particular, found it unacceptable to inject heroin. Because they already smoke, they find it easy to smoke substances other than tobacco.
I have a known and declared interest in a brewing company. I make that absolutely clear as a preface to what I am about to say about alcohol abuse. I am also a trained counsellor. I trained with ACCEPT in dealing with alcohol-related problems. In what time I have at home, I deal on a day -by-day basis with some of the problems that affect alcoholics. I have had personal experience of having to search hedgerows, lavatory cisterns and the stuffing of chairs to find concealed alcohol. I am aware of the problems that have been referred to, and I would not wish to make light of them.
The House should pay tribute to the responsible attitude that is being taken by major brewing companies and to the contribution that is being made by the Brewers Society to the provision of education packs and advertising to try to ensure that people, particularly young people, use and do not abuse alcohol. There is no mileage and no brownie points for brewers, landlords or tenants in
Column 695creating social problems. They continue to invest heavily in seeking to ensure that public houses are more sociable and more family-orientated places and that a good supply of non-alcoholic beers and wines are available. It is not a matter for my hon. Friend the Minister today--he might like to take it to his meeting on Wednesday--but landlords could help to control under-age drinking, especially by schoolchildren, if, at least on a voluntary basis, we introduced a national identity card. Such a card would be of more national value--I include north of the border of course--than a football identity card.
I shall add one solution to the problems that we have been discussing. I hope that you will not rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for mentioning quasi-religious cults. They, too, have a pervasive influence in and through schools, and some of them are drug-regulated. My noble Friend Lord Rodney, the chairman of the all-party group on cults, has a file of misery that has been caused by, and because of, young people becoming involved in organisations and matters that they do not understand until it is too late. There is an overall solution to those problems.
I was particularly pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Minister announce the increased funding that he intends to make available. I hope that my county of Kent will take advantage of that funding and note the lessons that we have learnt from my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes, as it appears that Sussex has taken a lead in the matter. The solution cannot be an over- dramatic, knee-jerk, television campaign reaction.
Every hon. Member who has spoken appears to agree that a shock-horror campaign would be much more likely to stimulate demand than to begin to solve the problem. The solution must be through a sustained long-term campaign of education through schools, youth clubs and every other available organisation. I ask my hon. Friend to pay attention to the work that is now being done by the Schools Outreach organisation in some schools and also by ACET, the AIDS care education and training organisation. I am not suggesting that either of those bodies is necessarily a suitable avenue for the funding that has been made available, but I believe that it is essential that we provide ourselves not only with a network of drug or health education co-ordinators, but with a network of trained counsellors serving literally every secondary school and, through them, every primary school in the country. That will cost money, and it will cost more money.
It was explained to us in America that, if the epidemic that it faces were to take hold here, so much of the money that is currently being spent on the National Health Service would have to be diverted into the treatment of drug-related illnesses that arguments about the future of the Health Service would become academic.
I welcome the Minister's programme and the funding that he has won for what I hope and believe will only be the start of a sustained programme. In an ideal world, much of the work and education about which we have been talking would be carried out by parents and by families. However, we do not live in an ideal world. We in the House must deal with the real world, which knows that far too many children have parents and families who do not provide the support that they need and, therefore, the
Column 696only support will be through the institutions that they attend, and, for most, those institutions will be their schools.
I hope that we will be able to deliver a threefold message to young people- -first, every action has a reaction and a consequence ; secondly, to take any drug once is once too many ; and, thirdly--I believe that this is the message that will most appeal to the young--the moment one becomes involved in drug taking, one is allowing someone else to tell one what to do. Young people do not like to be told what to do, so the message must be, "You decide what you are going to do ; you stay in control."
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : Like others, I welcome the debate. Some clear messages are being repeated by hon. Members on both sides of the House, which will allow the debate to fulfil two of the three functions that the Minister made plain are the functions of the Government and of hon. Members when we address such issues. The Minister made clear that our three functions are as legislators, opinion formers and policy makers. On this occasion we are not legislating, but we are seeking to develop policy and to form opinion. The debate is welcome because it helps to set those two objectives. It may be that legislation will follow later, but it does not appear at present that specific pieces of legislation are planned or necessarily contemplated.
I am happy to say that I believe that the implication of the key message, which the Minister, on advice, announced in the debate in May of "stay healthy, stay in control", is the right one. I want to divide what I say into a recapitulation of how urgent it is for us to address the subject, the justification for the approach that we have adopted and to ask a few questions about the Minister's responsibilities and the way in which education will address the specific agenda about how to deal with alcohol and drug abuse. The statistics--we can all quote many--are frightening for two reasons and the personal experience of hon. Members justifies the concern. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) said that educating people about alcohol, and in particular about drugs starts with advertising. I intervened to make a similar point. Evidence shows that, at the age of six, two out of five children can identify at least one alcoholic drink. By the age of 10, they are familiar with the names of many alcoholic drinks. It is after that age that they begin to drink. Between the ages of 10 and 14, only 2 per cent. of children have not tasted alcohol. By that age the vast majority of boys and girls will have begun to drink, often regularly. According to the Strathclyde university survey, the majority of boys and nearly the majority of girls will have had illegal drinks in pubs by the age of 14. By the age of 15 twice as many boys as girls will have begun to drink. It is generally accepted that girls are more addicted to tobacco than boys and that boys are more addicted to alcohol. By that age, drunkenness is also experienced by many children, normally outside the home. By the age of 16 only 12 per cent. of young people will not have tasted alcohol.
The important thing to recognise in the statistics is the underlying trend, which shows that the age at which people begin to smoke and to drink is becoming younger.
Column 697Although alcoholic consumption is at its heaviest in mid-teenage boys, the amount drunk by younger boys on a regular basis is increasing.
The latest figures from the official survey on young drinkers' trends shows that 37.5 per cent. of 11 and 12-year-old boys have some alcohol on one day of the week. The percentage rises as the boys get nearer the age of 16.
In April this year, at the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association conference in Torquay, there was a debate on young drinking. Many experts gave evidence to show the horrendous consequences in the school room of such drinking. A teacher from Borehamwood said that there was plenty of evidence to show that teenagers were now drinking alcohol to the detriment of their health, and he asked :
"How do you cope with 11-year-olds who have experimented with alcohol at home over lunch?"
Another teacher said that children were often absent or, if they were present, they were befuddled by drink.
There is an inter-relationship between drink, drugs and worse. Young people who later become involved in drug abuse have often earlier drunk alcohol. Often early drinking of alcohol increases early sexual activity and early sexual activity means casual sex, unwanted pregnancies and sometimes AIDS. Alcohol can lead to the severe harm of children.
In some cases the problem is horrendous. I was a youth worker before I came to this House. In our youth club in south London there were 14 and 15-year- old boys who would drink 15 pints a night regularly. At the end of such drinking they would not even be on the floor. One cannot drink 15 pints a night unless one has had a drinking habit for a considerable time. When that becomes acceptable behaviour for 15-year-olds, something is clearly wrong.
I agree with many hon. Members that education, especially of schoolchildren, is the single most important thing that we need to do to reduce drug abuse. Education gives young people and children the wherewithal to make their own decisions about drugs instead of simply following the strictures of others. We all know that the strictures of others appear as irrational to young children. If one says to a youngster,"Just say no to drugs", the obvious question will be, "Why?" Once a naturally inquisitive child asks why, that child will want to explore for himself why he has been told that he cannot do this or that. As my other hon. Members have said, being told not to do something is often the best excuse for trying it out at the first available opportunity. I guess that many of us did exactly that in our own youth. Therefore, one simply cannot say things like that. Later, and separately, in the education process, one can indeed say no, but at the beginning one must do something else. One has to persuade children that they should not abuse drugs. I agree with the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) that one does so by showing young people as clearly, factually, and accurately as possible the physiological, physical and mental effects of drugs on people--or possibly all three.
If, from the beginning at their time at school, children are taught that they are unique and special and that the health of their minds and bodies is essential to ensure that anything and everything that they do in their lives will happen as it should and that their bodies will be affected by taking in any drug, they will begin to understand the effect of the substances that become abused. They can then
Column 698begin to understand visually, not only what not to do to their bodies, but what they should do. Education about the foods that they should or should not eat and about the things that they should or should not drink is part and parcel of the same teaching which explains how fat leads to heart disease, how alcohol affects the bloodstream and brain, and the meaning of advertising agents' slogans such as, "Heroin screws you up".
I endorse entirely the comment of the hon. Member for Lewes that one of the most effective methods of doing that is the one pioneered in Australia by Rev. Ted Noffs, and which is now well-recognised in this country and is receiving funding. We know that the Prince of Wales has given his support to it and that certain parts of the country have endorsed it. The Life Education Programme is clearly effective in communicating those simple messages. The human body is presented visually to young people. Responses to certain addictions and intakes are described and the young people are allowed to see for themselves the effects of drug or alcohol abuse. In Australia the project has been successful with the most lost and hopeless of cases. Indeed, it started in Sydney and in other areas where the problem was at its worst.
I hope that such projects can be supported and endorsed here. The Minister was satisfied that it had been extremely helpful in formulating Government policy and that it had received their support. However, that type of project needs to be continually upheld as the way in which one should educate from an early age. Children should be allowed to know the reasons for their choice. We should underscore their ability to make such choices against the pressures of their peer group and of their friends, or sometimes of those who are not their friends, but who are seeking to make money out of the deal. One of the political arguments revolves around whether such topics should be the subject of compulsory education and how they should pass into the national curriculum. The general argument is that personal, social and health education is being considered by the inter- curricula working group, on whose timetable I trust the Minister will comment briefly when he winds up, which will recommend how such education can be embodied in a cross-core of foundation subjects, particularly science.
There is considerable discontent and uncertainty about whether the division of such teaching among several subjects is a responsible approach. We know of the existence of the drug education co-ordinators, who will be funded until next year, but there are doubts as to whether the provision for the teaching of separate subjects is the right way forward. Is the Minister and his advisers in a position to allow their working party, and the Department to allow itself, to consider whether there may be grounds for co-ordinated teaching rather than separating it under different departmental heads? There are strong arguments for putting such education together and for ensuring that every school provides it. The Minister announced his Department's 10-point plan and the money available on 10 May--not today, as some of his hon. Friends seem to think. Concern has been expressed as to the extent to which private sector organisations with an interest in certain topics should become involved in schools promotions. Point five of the plan concerns the greater involvement of the private sector in the sponsorship of drugs and alcohol abuse programmes. It is right to ask whether the Scotch Whisky Association is being totally selfless when it seeks to become
Column 699involved in the education of young people and to support the drug and alcohol abuse programme when the association's ultimate key objective, not surprisingly, is to promote whisky sales in this country and abroad. I choose that association as but one example. A matter of common concern not covered by the 10-point plan but which has been mentioned in the debate is solvent abuse. I am aware that Ministers both in the Department of Health and in the Department of Education and Science share that concern and are responding to it. I am not critical of them, but I hope that they will continue to flag up that many youngsters abuse solvents. It is more difficult to control sales outlets of solvents than it is to control those who are selling alcohol or prescribed drugs, because solvents are generally available without restriction in many ordinary shops.
The former Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), brought to that Department a high profile on health provision. I have no idea of her likely fate in the coming days, but I am concerned that whoever is in post at the Department of Health and at the Department of Education and Science should develop policy together, as they have done in the past, and give an extremely high profile to the argument that health promotion and education is the way to counter drug and alcohol abuse--best starting with the young.
The postscript is this. Health and Education Ministers and their officials must persuade their colleagues in other Departments to play the same game. As long as massive amounts of money are spent on tobacco and alcohol advertising--and there are no Government warnings required for the latter, although there are for the former--and as long as there is no general ban on such advertising, the Government's health education programme will compete with market pressures that make it difficult for any health campaigns to succeed. The Treasury must be persuaded that bad things should be taxed more than they have been. The Department of Trade and Industry and the Home Office, for example, which deal with broadcasting, the media, and the private corporate sector, must be taken on board. It is not sufficient for the Department of Health and the DES to argue for health promotion if other Departments do not assist them.
I welcome what the Minister has said and the action that he has taken. I am pleased that the Government have given us the opportunity to have this debate. We are all agreed that we must promote good health and encourage young people, as the Minister put it, to "Stay healthy, stay in control." I hope that that message will be twice as loud in the year ahead.