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Mr. David Shaw: My hon. Friend mentioned the music industry--we all applaud the fact that it is enormously successful and is a net earner to this country of approximately £1,000 million a year. However, will he join me in condemning the fact that some sections of the music industry are based on a drugs culture? Does he agree that we must send a clear message to the industry that we do not want its success to be based on a drugs culture?

Mr. Rathbone: I absolutely endorse my hon. Friend's comment and I believe that responsible sections of the industry would also endorse it, without any qualifications or qualms.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Sackville), who is here today, must also apply themselves to the question whether it is within the law for anybody--not only people such as Brian Harvey and Liam Gallagher--to advocate breaking the law. That is what they are doing when they say to young people, as Mr. Harvey said:

He should know that life is too short and that he is shortening the lives of many young people by advocating such behaviour. I hope that, even if he is unable to address that aspect of the problem that we are debating today, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can look into it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, South-West mentioned that he wished that the industry could have tackled the problem itself, without legislation being required. That is the proper attitude. Mention should be made of the London Drug Policy Forum's excellent initiative, "Dance 'Till Dawn Safely", which provides guidelines for the operation of clubs and a health and safety code of practice. The initiative was launched at the Ministry of Sound a few months ago and was warmly welcomed by the music industry. The House should give praise where praise is due and commend both the London Drug Policy Forum and the Corporation of London, which was the motivating force behind the initiative. The forum's chairman, Peter Rigby, deserves our particular thanks.

Sadly, such efforts have proved not to be sufficient, which prompted my hon. Friend to introduce the Bill. He was right to emphasise the description of the Bill as being applied to

I repeat, a serious problem.

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Any responsible club owner or operator should have no qualms about the Bill, as was confirmed to me last night, when I was lucky or unlucky enough to participate in "The Midnight Hour" television programme. A representative of the Ministry of Sound also appeared and he made it absolutely clear that he had no qualms about the Bill's effects in respect of his premises. However, he went on to say that he had been to innumerable clubs where he had seen dark figures skulking in a corner with a bagful of Ecstasy and selling it to anyone they could persuade to approach. They were taking such a businesslike attitude that, even in that gloom, they would hold up the £5, £10 or £20 note to whatever light there was, to see whether it was a forgery. There is a need for the Bill and, sadly, there are clubs to which it will apply.

Another element underlying the Bill, although not included in its provisions, is the way in which clubs police their environment. The Ministry of Sound has no difficulty with its doorkeepers and operators. They are usually referred to by that rather rude term, "bouncers", but they have an important function in running such clubs. The Ministry of Sound has no need for national or local training guidelines because it has its own security men, well trained and well directed. However, I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will keep an open mind as to the need for such guidelines, because if there is a widespread need for higher standards of policing at club doors and on club premises, there may be a need for better training of those club security forces.

Whatever popular stars say, drug misuse will put their and anyone else's abilities at risk and adversely affect their ability to achieve and to lead a healthy life. We all know--my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, South-West mentioned it--of the tragic deaths that can come about from drug misuse.

Moreover, drug misuse causes problems for the entire community, especially as a result of drug-related criminal activity and the strong fear that it engenders in many people. The Bill will have a beneficial effect, not only on the operation of the music environment and young people, but on everyone in every community, urban or rural, because it will help to stop young people being lured into drug misuse.

The Government's strategy, "Tackling Drugs Together", correctly accepted that there is no single reason why young people choose to experiment with drugs and that no single action will prevent them from trying them out. That is why there is a need, which is being met, for a co-ordinated range of preventive actions to tackle drug misuse. Inaction or bad action in any part of that spectrum of activity will undercut the efforts on all fronts and erode the considerable common purpose of the very many people, throughout our country, who are involved in tackling the problems of drug misuse and persuading people of the dangers of being lured into it.

I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, South-West for introducing the Bill, which I believe that the House should support.

10.12 am

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West): Methylenedioxymethyl amphetamine, MDA, Ecstasy, is a chemical product that should never be taken for recreational purposes. It marinates the brain in serotonin--it floods the brain with a substance that we

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should rarely have in the brain. Those who take it risk their mental health. I will yield to no one in my opposition to the use of chemical products in the way that Ecstasy and other substances have come to be used, but nowhere have we identified the risk involved and what the Bill's effects should be.

I am frequently accused of advocating the legalisation of drugs. I have never advocated the legalisation of any recreational drugs, and the next newspaper that says that I have will pay my election expenses. I do not take drugs. I have a ferocious objection to medicinal drugs, which we vastly overuse. I have never used an illegal drug and I have not smoked for about 30 years. I do take a drug, which is a drug of the House, a drug of my generation and our generation of Members of Parliament, because I take the occasional glass of beer and other alcohol.

Let us consider what is happening in the country. There is a huge gulf of misunderstanding between us--and our generation--and the generation we are trying to help. I know the agony of the Betts family. There is no worse bereavement than the loss of a child, unexpectedly, for no purpose, which they have suffered. We all, as parents, want to give them a consoling hug and to try to help them in the terrible torment that they have suffered, which is continuing. We understand their campaign, and the need to work out the process of grief. We all commend the work that they have done, so I do not say what I am about to say lightly. All those factors do not mean that we should switch off our critical faculties and refrain from asking about the value of the campaign of saying no.

Regrettably, the Bill is framed in the light of the well-intentioned but mistaken views of 10 or 20 years ago. We have moved far beyond them. We would say to our young people, "Say no to any chemical product; say no to those drugs," but have we forgotten what we felt when we were 15 or 18? All young people know that they are immortal--as did we when we were young. Others may die, but they will not. They are risk takers--that is part of being young. Saying no to them is often a perverse incentive for them to take such products.

Let us examine the serious drug risk. Introducing the Bill, the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Mr. Legg) did not quote one figure on Ecstasy deaths. I have asked many parliamentary questions to discover the extent of the risk and the reason for deaths. The hon. Gentleman quoted four deaths this year. There may turn out to be no deaths this year.

The death that received a great deal of publicity on the "Today" programme was the death of a young girl a fortnight after Leah Betts died. It was described as an Ecstasy death. At the inquest, it was found that the young girl had taken an unknown quantity of alcohol, one Ecstasy tablet and 30 coproxamol tablets. The coproxamol tablets were enough to kill her three times over. Do we have a Bill on that?

Two hundred and fifty deaths a year occur as a result of coproxamol. Government figures show that, over five years, 34 deaths occurred in which Ecstasy was the only drug involved and 53 occurred in which Ecstasy was one of the drugs involved. That is a very small proportion of the deaths in clubs. We could name the clubs.

I wish that the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West had heard the following when he spoke about a serious problem: in the period when there were 34 Ecstasy deaths, there were 650 deaths from alcoholic

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poisoning. That is not people choking on their vomit or walking under a bus, but people who have gone to a club and, because of the irresponsible behaviour of the club owners and bar staff--perhaps on an 18th birthday--taken a cocktail of alcohol containing a huge amount of vodka or gin and died, within hours, of alcoholic poisoning. We talk of 10 Ecstasy deaths a year.

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