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13 Jan 2003 : Column 485—continued

John Mann: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, although drugs action teams should not consist

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exclusively of health professionals, at least half of the membership of their governing boards, rather than a small minority, should consist of health professionals?

Mr. Heath: I am less worried about that issue than the hon. Gentleman clearly is; I want the right package to be developed for the individual. I want that package to contain a very strong health component, and I want general practitioners to form a part, because they have something very important to say and to do. However, that is not to decry the efforts of others who are taking a sensible position on this issue, and who are able to provide support for the individual. Nevertheless, I do think that we need to establish a package that works for the individual concerned, and for the wider community, because the two are inseparable in this instance.

There is a further point about the young drug user. Let us not lose sight of the need to prevent a person who is taking drugs from becoming addicted. If we put all our eggs in one basket and adopt the one-club approach, I am not convinced that we will have the additional support for education, youth services and the alternative opportunities afforded to young people that will prevent them from becoming involved with this pernicious trade in the first place. That would worry me; it is right to have several stages in an effective drugs strategy, and prevention is just as important as cure.

I have a problem with the motion but not with the speech of the right hon. Member for West Dorset, which I found interesting. This debate is almost like a seminar; that is a good thing for this place because it does not happen often enough. It was spoiled by some of the barracking, but let us hope that this positive tone continues.

We must not focus all our attention on the young addict, however important that is. Let me say gently that I am not convinced that the sums add up when it comes to providing the level of support that the right hon. Gentleman wants. I want to see a more diverse approach for young people to ensure that, as far as possible, we prevent them from becoming addicts in the first place.

My basic motto in all matters to do with law and order is that the two most effective preventive measures regarding crime and the distribution and supply of drugs are the certainty of being caught—which, in turn, requires resources for policing, intelligence and other services—and the certainty of effective action, whether in sentencing, support or rehabilitation, for the people who emerge at the other end. I am not convinced that the right hon. Gentleman's formula achieves that, but it was a valuable contribution to the debate. I hope that continuing the debate in a similar tone and format will enable us to alight on the strategies that work. Not only will we spend our resources in the most effective way, we will ultimately move towards the position that we have heard about in the Netherlands and Sweden, where heroin and crack cocaine, instead of being cool, are identified as the killers they are.

8.28 pm

John Mann (Bassetlaw): I listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin). In the spirit of the good dialogue that is breaking out tonight, I shall be visiting the same places, and some others, that he visited in the Netherlands and

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Sweden. I shall be going with a couple of local general practitioners to see what evidence I can glean that could contribute towards our situation. I do not dismiss the proposals, although I believe that the Conservatives have fallen into the trap of looking for the simple solution to the drugs problem. There are no simple solutions.

Following a public inquiry into heroin, I recommended that more residential rehabilitation provision should be made available to people in my area. Some people in the drugs world immediately leapt on that and proposed having a residential rehabilitation centre in the middle of the drug-dealing area in my constituency. I have nothing against having everything in my constituency. Rationally, however, as the social services department which holds the budget confirms, my local social services would not refer local people living at home to a residential rehabilitation centre in the middle of the drug-dealing area in their own town. That is clearly nonsense, but it has been proposed and I am trying to unravel bids to the Government for up to #500,000. I and others in my inquiry have drawn the conclusion that money itself is not the biggest problem. The issue is how it is used. Simply targeting young offenders is a fundamental error.

My most important point relates to the figures. I have analysed drug and alcohol action team returns from Nottinghamshire, which contain interesting figures. I have challenged the way in which figures are quantified and the evidence base many times both in and out of the Chamber, and I shall do so again tonight.

The DAT returns from Nottinghamshire tell us that all 58 secondary schools—100 per cent.—are providing anti-drugs education. Yet I have visited the schools and met many pupils, without teachers or others being present, and most of them have told me that they have had no anti-drugs education at secondary school. Something is clearly not adding up. I have recommended that the national curriculum should be tightened, and I believe that dialogue is taking place on that at present. I hope that other hon. Members will contribute on what the national curriculum should contain. The principle is clear, however, that a key part of the curriculum for every age between 11 and 16 should be coherent anti-drugs education. My schools clearly do not include it at the moment.

Mr. Simmonds: To my mind, the critical question is who goes to schools to educate children on the dangers of drug abuse. Students at secondary schools perceive teachers, police officers and others to be part of the establishment and will not listen to the advice that they give. Systems should be in place to allow rehabilitated drug addicts and members of their families to go to schools to explain to pupils exactly what it means to be an addict or part of a family that contains an addict.

John Mann: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. I am offering local schools something that arose fortuitously on the back of my constituency inquiry. A television company made a hard-hitting programme that began with the drug addicts themselves and their view of life. They did not provide a positive role model. It then moved on to the families, particularly the mothers,

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of those who have died from drug overdoses and those who have survived for a long time as heroin addicts. Their stories are powerful testimony, spoken by many local people.

We need to consider what works. On education, I would not rule any method out or any method in. One thing is clear, however: young people in my area do not believe that they are receiving anti-drugs education, and we can therefore say unequivocally that they are, by definition, not receiving it, no matter what DAT returns or anything else might say.

The DAT returns are even more interesting than that. For primary schools, the return says that 36 out of 36 schools are receiving anti-drugs education. I had to scratch my head when I read that because there are around 60 primary schools in my constituency alone. The statistics are becoming a little obscure.

More important even than schools is drug treatment. In 2001–02 in Nottinghamshire, we are told, there were 1,473 new clients and 2,297 people receiving treatment. If we add the previous year's figures, we find that the same number of people appear to be receiving treatment. Some people—but not many—will have been on the lists in previous years. The evidence shows that many people who drop out of treatment programmes subsequently re-present themselves. People who want treatment are thus likened to those who are being treated and the numbers add up. Approximately, 2,400 people have asked for treatment, but 2,297—only 110 fewer—are receiving it.

If we consider the average for waiting lists for all forms of treatment, we can discount the two most recent months, because those people will still be waiting, so again the figures add up. The statistics suggest that everyone who wants treatment is receiving it, yet in my constituency alone I have spoken to more than 150 heroin addicts and their families who tell me that they are not getting treatment. They do not say that they are not getting good or effective treatment or that they would prefer one form rather than another—although such information could be found out—but that they are not getting treatment at all.

Angela Watkinson (Upminster): When the hon. Gentleman refers to treatment, does he mean maintaining an addict's supply of clean needles and a safe form of the drug, or a programme of withdrawal and abstinence?

John Mann: I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. The DAT returns do not specify that point. That is one of my questions: what is the definition of treatment? In Nottinghamshire, it is clear: any relationship with the treatment services is defined as treatment. That is how we arrived at a figure of 118,000. That is not a criticism of the Government but of the professionals in the field—the drugs establishment—who create the statistics.

I shall elaborate on waiting times in Nottinghamshire. According to the current DAT annual returns, the longest time that anyone has waited for residential rehabilitation is 10 weeks. However, person A and their parents visited my surgery 14 months ago and I followed person A's progress monthly. Person A requested residential rehabilitation and I followed the dialogue.

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Person A's parents have visited me regularly. I encouraged that; indeed, in some ways, my office team and I have become part of the support mechanism for person A and their family. Person A went into a residential rehabilitation scheme only in late November, after I had raised their case in my inquiry. Perhaps it was a coincidence. Leaving that aside, however, person A had been asking for residential rehabilitation for 12 months.

Although person A is happy to be named, I do not think that it is appropriate or relevant to the further details that I shall give about the case. Person A is in a stable situation. During those 12 months, they were not involved in any crimes although they had been previously. Person A is living at home with their parents—previously they were not. The father has been buying drugs for person A to ensure a downward progression of intake before rehabilitation. That is known and the father has, rightly, not been arrested—an instance of appropriate policing. The father has been maintaining person A, stabilising them and preparing them for rehabilitation, precisely as the national treatment agency suggests.

I have two questions. First, why was person A not referred earlier, and secondly, why did the information given to the Government about waiting lists state that the longest waiting time was 10 weeks when person A had to wait 12 months?


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