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Mrs. Taylor: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks and am happy to send my congratulations to Kennington Road primary school. It is important that we provide information to help schools to present these problems to children, but that they should have the independence to judge what is most appropriate in each case. He is right that other problems should be considered, such as solvent abuse, which is a real problem in many areas.

The hon. Gentleman asked for support for teachers.I said that it will be provided. He made the valid point that rural areas, like urban areas, need advice, information and support. He is also right that all parents need information. No parent can complacently ignore the problem.

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The seized asset figure that I gave was the figure for seizures. What might be available will depend on what can be seized. We are serious about trying to ensure that as much money as possible is recycled into treatment provision. As I resist so many calls for debates from other hon. Members, I must be wary of his request for a debate each year, but I shall bear it mind from time to time.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): My right hon. Friend's statement will be welcome in my constituency, where the police and the community have to deal with more cases of heroin abuse than cannabis abuse. Does she accept the message given to me over many years by the pupils whom I taught in several high schools, that education about the dangers of drugs needs to start much earlier, before children come to high school? It must start in primary schools. Does she agree that all the education in the world will not be effective unless it is backed up by adequate enforcement, and that enforcement requires adequate resources, but that ultimately there will be a return on those resources through fewer burglaries and fewer neighbours from hell who terrorise neighbourhoods because of drugs?

Mrs. Taylor: My hon. Friend is right that all those aspects must go together. We need education, not only for secondary children but for primary school children. Of course, that must be done in the context of strict enforcement. He is also right that many people become victims when drugs take hold of an area. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already made statements about anti-social behaviour, and we are very conscious that whole communities can suffer when young people in an area start taking drugs. That is why we have a responsibility not only to young people but to the community in which they live.

Mr. Donald Gorrie (Edinburgh, West): Will the Government consider extending their drugs programme to include the misuse of alcohol? Under-age and excessive drinking causes as great--if not greater--social problems, as do drugs in terms of domestic violence, violence in the street, social breakdown and so on. The misuse of alcohol would fit well with the educational and social aspects of the Government's programme.

Mrs. Taylor: My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department chairs a ministerial group on alcohol misuse. We are very conscious that there are many problems. Many of the youngsters who abuse alcohol are the same ones who abuse drugs and who are truanting or excluded from school. That is why we cannot look at these problems in isolation and why we are trying to ensure better co-ordination to tackle the problems together.

Mr. Syd Rapson (Portsmouth, North): Should not we all embrace this statement with great enthusiasm, as it will be embraced in my constituency, not least because my wife is chair of the crime prevention committee? I live on a council estate where the evidence of youth involvement in drug crimes becomes greater every day. We should welcome it unreservedly and not be churlish or seek to water it down.

Mrs. Taylor: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support. From his personal experience, he understands the

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extent of the problem in Portsmouth, which is to receive nearly £3 million over seven years from the single regeneration budget. Part of that project is aimed at diverting disaffected young people from crime to education and employment. That reinforces the need not only to tell young people that they should not take drugs but to be able to offer them a positive alternative. We need to be firm in our message that young people should not take drugs, and firm in respect of what we have to offer young people by way of better opportunities.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): As a result of today's statement, what extra resources are being made available to the Prison Service to enable judges to impose more and longer deterrent sentences on drug pushers?

Mrs. Taylor: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already increased resources for this year. The answer to drug problems does not only involve sending appropriate people to prison. Many other options are often more appropriate. We must ensure that we have sufficient flexibility. If we can divert people from prison and criminal behaviour by providing effective treatment, that is one of the options which should always be considered. There are no hard and fast rules about what works in any individual case. The hon. Gentleman is wrong if he thinks that there are simplistic answers to the problem.

Mr. David Hanson (Delyn): May I broadly welcome my right hon. Friend's proposals? Will she confirm that they cover solvent abuse, which involves the widespread abuse of products that are legally available and results in the deaths of more than 100 young people, mostly under the age of 16, every year?

Mrs. Taylor: I know that my hon. Friend has a long-term interest in the problem and has raised the issue on other occasions. He is right that we should not simplistically separate the different strands of this problem. As I said earlier, the young people who take drugs are often those who have taken alcohol or been involved in solvent abuse. In some places, drug action teams take a more comprehensive approach, but we have left it to those teams to decide the most productive approach and the best way to co-ordinate locally.

Mr. Colin Breed (South-East Cornwall): The right hon. Lady rightly emphasised the need for clear and consistent messages. Is she aware that governing bodies with a policy of excluding any pupil found with drugs on school premises find it difficult when local police then only give a caution? The penalty visited on the pupil by the governing body is often seen to be greater than that under the law of the land, and governors find it difficult when they confront the parents of the children involved. There a need for a clear and consistent approach both at governor and school level and at local police level.

Mrs. Taylor: I am sure that there is a need for clear and consistent approaches. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the responsibilities of governing bodies. At the end of the day, provision must be found for any child who is excluded temporarily or permanently. We must try to ensure that the various agencies work together so that

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fewer children are excluded, not least because excluded children are more likely to get deeper into drug taking and criminal activity. That is one of the prime reasons why we must have as much co-operation as possible.

Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the most important strategies for stopping drug misuse is preventing people from bringing drugs into ports? Will she join me in congratulating the Customs at Harwich International port on its great results in detecting drugs and preventing them from entering the country? Will the strategy for education include the use of professionals such as Customs officers in schools close to ports to help educate young people, as happens in Harwich?

Mrs. Taylor: I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Customs officers in his area. They play a critical role in all this, and their work should be recognised, along with that of many other agencies, including the police, the Prison Service and probation offers. Many people are already involved in the fight against crime. Much co-operation is taking place, and we have to build on that.

My hon. Friend asked about education and whether it was possible for Customs officers to go into schools as part of the drugs education programme. In some areas, Customs officers do that; in others, police officers and others involved in the fight against drugs participate in that co-operative way. We should look at what works in any particular area and always be ready to build on that, learn from best practice and ensure that best practice is spread throughout the country.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North): I also warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, especially the proposals to tackle drugs-related crime, which makes life hell for many decent people in parts of my constituency. Does she agree that an important part of tackling the problem is what goes on in our prisons? Does she welcome what is being done by officers and nurses inHM prison Risley in my constituency, who have put forward proposals to set up a drugs detoxification unit? Will she aim to ensure that the Prison Service gives priority to similar proposals throughout the service, given that someone who goes into prison addicted to drugs and comes out addicted is highly likely to commit further crimes?


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