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Mrs. Taylor: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his generous comments to both Front-Bench spokesmen. I am not surprised that we have heard about Macclesfield today. He referred to the important issue of some young people spending up to £1,000 a week to fund their drug habit. Of course, it is rarely their own money: the victims of crime fund the habit, and that is one of the reasons why we must give the problem a high priority.

The hon. Gentleman asked about residential establishments, which are, of course, an integral part of the treatment provision that must be available, but they are not the only answer and we must remember that those who are successfully treated in them must still be prepared to go out and live in the real world again. One problem is that people often go back into their old communities and some of the work is undone. Residential establishments have a role to play, but so do many other types of development, because the problem is extremely complex.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): This morning, I visited the Mount prison in Hemel Hempstead, which detains two of my constituents. Like every other prison in the country, it is bedevilled by a sizeable drug problem, but I was pleased to note the attempts that the governor and prison officers are making to introduce mandatory and voluntary drug testing, to have drug-free wings and to prepare prisoners for release in a drug-free state.

I was concerned to see that there were only two staff provided by Druglink in support of that initiative in the prison. There needs also to be greater support for the

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probation service when prisoners come out of a prison drug free and return to the community, where they are again susceptible to drug dealers.

Mrs. Taylor: I do not know the prison to which my hon. Friend referred, but I am glad that he thinks that good work is being done there. Clearly, both mandatory and voluntary testing have a role to play. He mentioned Druglink staff and the probation service. A review is being conducted into how people can work together, and I assure him that when we were drafting the White Paper, the Prison Service staff, probation officers and link workers were all consulted, and they will be consulted on implementation in the future.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): Will the right hon. Lady confirm that central to all that must be securing convictions against drug barons? I see the Home Secretary in his place. Will the right hon. Lady tell us whether the Government are studying the rules of evidence, in particular the use of intercept evidence in trials and the present abuse whereby defence lawyers can demand to know the names of informers, even when their clients have been caught in possession? Surely the civil liberties of the accused cannot be allowed to override the desperate need of the wider community to tackle this evil.

Mrs. Taylor: I think that we would all like to be more successful with the drugs barons, who are clearly the evil people driving the trade and encouraging and tempting young people into drug misuse. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the rules of evidence; some of his points about disclosure have been covered. Intercept evidence is a complicated area, although I know from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that it is being looked into, along with other matters.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): May I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, in particular the part that dealt with the introduction of drugs education into the primary curriculum? However, does she agree that by the time children reach secondary school age, they are often more knowledgeable about and familiar with drugs than their parents? Will she ensure that drugs education and awareness are made available not only to children and teachers, but to parents, grandparents and other people who come into contact with young children?

Mrs. Taylor: My hon. Friend is right to say that parents need extra information. Schools have a part to play in that, but so does everyone else. We propose to issue a new leaflet to parents, prepared by the Health Education Authority. That will go out later this year. Also, conferences are proposed in different parts of the country, aimed at involving parents. As parents, we all have significant responsibilities. It is important that we understand the situation and, perhaps, become aware of it as soon as our children enter school. Some parents may be learning with their children, but, far too often, children know more than their parents.

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I welcome what my hon. Friend said about the primary curriculum and I hope that she will be pleased that the first port of call for the anti-drugs co-ordinator in the next phase of consultation about the White Paper will be Cambridge in the near future.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): The right hon. Lady has commended to the House the value of an integrated approach to the drug problem, and I agree. What will happen after devolution, particularly in the context of Scotland? As this is a multi-agency strategy, I assume that responsibility for health and the police and education authorities in Scotland will be the exclusive responsibility of the Secretary of State and then a Scottish Minister of a Scottish Parliament. How will the Government maintain an integrated approach to fighting drugs if responsibility in Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers, and the same applies in Wales and perhaps in Northern Ireland?

Mrs. Taylor: I do not see that there will be any difference after devolution. At the moment, there is a separate but related Scottish strategy. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has been working with the United Kingdom anti-drugs co-ordinator, and that co-operation will continue.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the statement, which is a step in the right direction. It would be remiss of us if we did not congratulate United Kingdom Customs officers on the way in which they have done their jobs and on the number of seizures that they have been getting. I remind my right hon. Friend that the number of Customs officers was halved by the previous Tory Government during the past few years. I heard what she said--she is reversing that trend. I hope that it is reversed and that Customs officers get back to full strength. If they do, we will see the number of drugs seizures double.

Mrs. Taylor: I thank my hon. Friend. Customs officers have an important role to play. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, into whose remit they fall, is on the Government Front Bench and will pass on the congratulations of the whole House.

My hon. Friend will be aware of initiatives for disaffected youth in Blyth Valley, mainly focusing on drug abuse, that have been included in a single regeneration budget grant. I hope that that will help him to fight the problem in his constituency.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East): I regret that there seems to be little evidence in Greater Manchester that the problem of misuse of drugs is stabilising. Indeed, there has been a frightening change of culture, as heroin prices have collapsed and young people have moved straight to heroin without experiencing soft drugs. That has happened in spite of many excellent projects and the work of the previous Government. I sincerely hope that the Government can get to grips with the problem. I know of their serious intent and welcome the statement. Misuse of drugs is the third largest industry in Britain. It makes £8 billion internationally, so spending £5 million is a drop in a large ocean.

Are the Government prepared to keep an open mind on misuse of drugs? The Police Foundation has held an excellent two-year inquiry and the House of Lords

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Science and Technology Committee is taking evidence on cannabis. My right hon. Friend said that there would be an annual report on the subject, which I welcome, but the Government must listen to all opinions so that together we can overcome a major problem.

Mrs. Taylor: The Government are always willing to listen to all opinions. I hope that my hon. Friend will listen to the opinion of the World Health Organisation, as its most recent report stated that cannabis has an adverse effect on human cognitive, motor skill and reproductive functions, that smoke from cannabis contains up to50 per cent. more carcinogens than tobacco smoke, that cannabis is a risk factor in schizophrenia, and that up to 50 per cent. of regular users develop dependence that they are unable to control. I hope that those who take a different line from that of the Government will bear all those factors in mind.

Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. To be helpful to the House, I should like to call all Members who are standing. Will they help me by making questions and answers very brisk?

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): When I was chairman of the all-party drugs misuse group, I welcomed the appointment of the drugs tsar, and I welcome the right hon. Lady's strong, clear announcement today, which is one in the eye for the Independent on Sunday and its irresponsible campaign on the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Will the right hon. Lady send a congratulatory message to Kennington Road primary school in my constituency which announced at the weekend that it would involve itself in getting the message across to primary school children on the dangers of drug and solvent abuse? There is an important job for the primary schools to do. Will she ensure that there is proper support for teachers, particularly in rural schools, which are not insulated from the drug problem? Will she ensure that all parents--not just targeted or high-risk parents--get information about what is being taught to their children, so that they, too, can get involved?

The right hon. Lady mentioned £5 million. Will she consider using all the assets of drug dealers for her campaign, as that would send a very clear message? Finally, may we debate in the House of Commons the drugs report that is to be issued every year, so that we can all have our say on how the problem is being tackled?


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