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Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston) rose in her place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put, butMr. Deputy Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

12.10 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Tom Sackville): Thank you for calling me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am pleased to welcome the Bill and I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Mr. Legg) on bringing it forward.

The Bill was foreshadowed in a speech by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary at Bournemouth, which has already been mentioned today. He said that clubs, which are places of entertainment and against which we have no objection in principle, are, unfortunately, magnets for drugs use and represent one of the aspects of the drug problem. While many clubs are well run, others are not and are tolerating the organised supply of drugs in and around their premises. The Bill

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gives police and local authorities better and more flexible powers to deal with the minority of clubs which have not addressed the problem in any other way. It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I express the Government's total backing for the Bill.

It is a sad fact that I stand here discussing a measure to do with drugs against a background of a frighteningly large and wide-ranging problem, not only in this country, but elsewhere throughout the western world and beyond. Too many young people are taking drugs and getting into trouble as a result. Many ruthless and unscrupulous people are making large sums of money out of drugs, intimidating people and criminalising and undermining society. In many parts of the world, such people are undermining the institutions of the societies in which they live through organised crime, in which, increasingly, drugs play a central role.

Against that background, 12 years ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) founded the all-party committee on drug misuse, of which he is chairman. He has been chairman of that group for several years, and I had the honour to serve as its secretary for several years. I was sufficiently alarmed, partly by what I had seen in this country and partly as a result of having lived in a large American city in the 1970s, to publish a volume entitled "Heroin: Threat to a Generation" which was published in 1985. In it I said--it was nothing new even then--that unless we could find a means of attacking the problem, it would have disastrous social and human consequences for a whole generation. That has happened, it is happening and the problem that we are discussing today is only one aspect of it.

The international background is not easy. Some areas of the world are pretty much out of control of their own Governments--for example, in parts of Latin America and south-west Asia, drugs are freely grown and form the foundation of an enormous enterprise and there are those who have a huge vested interest in keeping the trade going. In some areas, the growing of coca plants and opium poppies is protected by private armies run by those who process and distribute drugs to the rest of the world. It is an immense problem.

In this country, we are now perhaps 10 or 20 years behind America, where a vast market for drugs was created in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, with a problem of similar magnitude to that which I first witnessed 20 years ago in the United States. It is a business that is hard to stop. About 50 million passengers arrive in Great Britain every year, and millions of pieces of cargo. We have a huge traffic in marine vessels, from yachts to large cargo vessels. Drugs may be imported in a myriad of different ways.

I have been in parts of the world that are especially dangerous to us. I visited Colombia; the cocaine barons have a grip on large parts of that country. Unfortunately, in many other countries in that area--the Caribbean and beyond--drug barons have enormous power and it is very difficult for local police and customs to do anything about it.

Recently I visited Turkey, where there have been repeated scandals throughout the hierarchy of police and Government, where it is extremely difficult to control the drugs trade and where the political will is always in doubt.

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Turkey's problems begin with its geographic position, as do the problems of the Caribbean. An enormous problem is that we do not have the co-operation that we need from some key Governments worldwide. Our customs, police and intelligence services, in tackling those problems, are always in difficulties because of doubts about security of intelligence and the political will of some Governments.

On the receiving end is a generation of children and young people who are at risk not only from the physical and mental effects of drugs, such as the long-term effects of Ecstasy use, some of which my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes described. There are also the social effects of young people being criminalised, being rendered almost unemployable and being driven into crime by drugs, and there are the combined effects of drugs on society.

With nostalgia, I saw in the Gallery earlier a group of children from the school that my son attended some years ago, when he was five years old.

Mr. Flynn: Order. The Minister is hallucinating.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I hesitate to intervene on the Minister, but he should well know that he should not be referring to people in the Gallery.

Mr. Sackville: I accept your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Young children go through a period of innocence before their teens. They are in danger when they arrive at a certain age--we can debate what that age is--but it is becoming increasingly apparent that we must start telling children about drugs in primary school, as soon as they are old enough to get the message, because they are in extreme danger in today's society. I welcome the Bill, which--in a fairly draconian way--addresses one of the most serious aspects of drug use.

It is not going too far to say that many parents live in terror of their children becoming involved in drugs. Whereas some reservations have been expressed from some quarters about the Bill, most parents, grandparents and people who look after children will welcome the Bill as a forthright way to attack drug dealers and organised drug supplying.

I shall now comment briefly on what has been said during the debate so far. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes lamented the fact that clear messages are not being communicated to young people. He mentioned the issue of a famous pop star who was cautioned as a result of being found in possession of cocaine. I share his concern. In fact, when the news broke I spoke to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to express my concern. He gave me a number of assurances. What is more, the Home Secretary is looking into the whole question of cautioning following that case. I certainly do not underestimate the damage that such examples can do to the message that we need to give young people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes also suggested that remarks made by people in the public eye who perhaps have more fame than brain should constitute an offence when they appear to incite others to take drugs. Under section 19 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, it is indeed an offence for a person to incite another to commit an offence under the Act. So we could certainly look to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether such views may fall into that category.

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I am glad to say that the person involved in the most recent case--the member of East 17--issued a whole-hearted retraction afterwards. Whether he himself or others with influence over him were responsible for that I do not know, but I am glad that the full consequences of what he had said were brought home to him promptly. That is a step in the right direction, but it does not detract from the damage or absurdity of what he said 24 hours earlier.

My hon. Friend also discussed whether such clubs, playing that type of music and designed to allow people to dance all night through, can be completely clear of drugs. I believe that clubs certainly can ensure that there is no organised supply of drugs in or near the premises. I reinforce what he said about the Ministry of Sound. The measures that it has taken meet the approval of the police in that part of London and of many others who have inspected the arrangements. They include ensuring that those in charge of security staff do not come from the local area. The Ministry of Sound gets them from an agency in the midlands--

Sir Raymond Powell (Ogmore): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that this is an important Bill, and I seek your guidance. Those of us who have been listening to the debate this morning know how important it is to air all the related issues before the Bill is proceeded with. You are also aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of how that may curtail the opportunity to discuss other Bills on the Order Paper.

The next Bill is of great importance, especially to all the old-age pensioners in this country. I wonder whether all Members present in the Chamber and seeking to catch your eye will bear in mind the fact that, on another occasion, they may find themselves in the same position as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise), who is waiting to introduce a Bill that offers great advantages to all old people. I therefore seek your help and guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for the Chair; it is the hon. Gentleman's point of view. He has been here a long time and he knows the procedures of the House.

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