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13 Jan 2003 : Column 499—continued

9.18 pm

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): I have enjoyed listening to the debate. I was particularly struck by the speech of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann). Like many others, I knew of the inquiry he had conducted in his constituency. He demonstrated the importance of a practical knowledge of the issues, and how that could inform a speech in the House. I also thought it courageous of him to attack the professionals and their advice rather than attacking Ministers and other politicians—we are not supposed to do that in politics. That was brave, and not just in a XYes Minister" way.

I know that others want to speak, but let me say a brief word about Styal women's prison in my constituency. I want to refer to it partly because, apart from Holloway, it is the largest women's prison in the country—it is known as the Holloway of the north; I am not sure whether that is something of which it can be proud—and partly because I visited it just before Christmas, at about the time when a report on a full inspection of it was published by the chief inspector of prisons. I have to say that it was one of the most depressing and enlightening experiences that I have had as a Member of Parliament.

Styal women's prison has about 450 female prisoners. It has doubled in size in the last couple of years from a reasonably small local training prison to one of the major women's prisons in the country. There is a whole debate to be had, incidentally, about why the female prison population has risen so dramatically. When I spoke to the governor at Styal, what struck me was the endemic heroin abuse that takes place both in the prison and among those who come into it. The chief inspector of prisons estimated in her report that some 41 per cent. of prisoners in Styal were heroin addicts. The chief executive of the Prison Service thinks that that is a gross underestimate by the chief inspector, and the governor told me that probably more like 70 to 80 per cent. of her inmates at least came in as heroin users.

The sad thing about Styal is the total devastation of the lives of the people there. The governor has spent all her professional career in the Prison Service working in male prisons. Interestingly, she said that there were problems with law and order and with control and security in male prisons, but that in female prisons she had found that the individual prisoners were much less

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predictable and that they often came from much more difficult family circumstances. I was shocked to meet people who had been born in the mother and baby unit of the prison and were now back as inmates. I was physically shocked to meet people whose faces were almost skeletal through heroin use. I was also shocked to meet a lady who was about to be released the next day but did not want to be, because she knew that the following night she would be back on the streets of Manchester working as a prostitute, and that her food would be cold baked beans out of a tin in a bedsit somewhere. Indeed, she was asking the governor what she could do to stay in prison, saying, XWhat would happen if I attacked one of the warders?" The governor tried to discourage her from doing that.

Mr. Simmonds: Is my hon. Friend aware that it is not unusual for heroin addicts to ask for longer sentences to be passed, so that they can spend longer in prison, for the very reasons that the case in the prison in his constituency highlights?

Mr. Osborne: I am certainly aware of that now, after my visit to Styal. I have not had direct experience of heroin use, although I have had experience of other drug misuse in my family, and my visit to Styal was very striking.

My point is that I would have thought that prisons would be the place to start if we are going to have a national drugs strategy. I am not making a party political point, because I do not think that previous Conservative Governments have helped these people any more than the current Government are doing. I would have thought that we would have started with these people. They are some of the most desperate heroin users, who happen to be in the total care of the state for a period of time because they are in prison, but Styal has no drug detoxification programme—a point that I made in an intervention on the Minister. When the chief inspector came to the prison, she found that to be one of the most serious problems that the prison is facing.

The governor, Madeline Moulden, is doing a brilliant job, and the chief inspector praised the relationship between the governor and the staff, and between the staff and the prisoners. It is clear from going round the prison with the governor that she knows the names and histories of all the prisoners, but she is really fighting against the tide because she does not have the resources to provide a proper drug rehabilitation programme, despite that being the No. 1 problem in the prison. I want briefly to quote the chief inspector, who said that

in the report—

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I accept the Minister's comment that it is not necessarily a ministerial decision as to what resources are put into the prison, but Ministers set an overall framework. If it was expected within that overall framework that all prisons of a certain size should have a proper drug detoxification unit, that would of course have an impact on Styal. The director general of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, said in December when the inspector's report was published that it was fair and that he shared

It costs about #25,000 to keep a prisoner in Styal every year. Surely, as a society and across all political parties and divides, we must start considering how we are spending the money on tackling drugs misuse in this country. If some of that #25,000 were spent on proper drug rehabilitation, a real strategy to help those women in Styal to kick the heroin habit and, in particular, helping them after their release—not just weeks, but hours after they leave prison, which is another matter to which the inspector referred—we would go a lot further in dealing with at least some effects of heroin abuse.

I listened with interest to what others said about preventing people from using in the first place, but my speech is about dealing with those in our care in our Prison Service, particularly in women's prisons, where we can deal with such problems. We have good ideas for how to get them off their drug habit and we should implement them.

9.26 pm

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East): This has been a good debate and I have enjoyed listening to it. It is interesting to consider how the spectrum of the drugs debate has moved. Due to my professional background, I have been interested in drugs, both illicit and licit, all my life. When I was elected to the House in 1997, there was a hard attitude to the misuse of illicit drugs by young and old alike on the streets. So hard was it that the focus seemed to lie strongly on the criminal justice aspects—lock them up and hope that the drugs problem goes away, but clearly it was not about to go away.

I praise the Government for the attention that they have given to the problem and the money that they have put into all the wide-ranging services that we need to deal with it. I have observed the debate since 1997 and it has slid towards the treatment end of the spectrum, which I very much welcome. We have not heard the statement much this evening, but #1 spent on treatment saves about #3 on the criminal justice system, so that must be money well spent. I have been a great advocate of treatment and I have argued for more of it since being elected to the House, so I was pleased when the national treatment agency was set up over 18 months ago and I am looking forward to it beginning to deliver in the next few years. Its establishment is a welcome development.

The right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) made some interesting remarks and touched on a theme that has not been developed in the debate. He hinted as to the fact that there is a connection between the misuse of drugs and mental illness, but nobody else picked that point up. Sadly, I have to tell the Minister that it is not picked up strongly by the recently published updated drug strategy either.

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The all-party drugs misuse group studied what is called dual diagnosis a few years ago, however, and that is what the right hon. Gentleman was referring to. About 40 to 50 per cent. of the people who are misusing drugs are also mentally ill, and the drug addiction cannot be treated without the mental illness being treated. One thing that we need is more and better-trained people who can recognise a dual or even a poly diagnosis when they see one and treat holistically people who are also misusing drugs, but have other serious problems. Some have benefits problems, some have housing problems and so on.

The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the differences between how the problem is being tackled in this country, the Netherlands and Sweden. We must also remind ourselves that in different countries there are different cultures. Culture and fashion, particularly the youth and dance culture—the mood in the dance clubs and the shifting from one fashionable drug to another—are incredibly important and differ from country to country.

One of my main concerns is the misuse of drugs in prisons—I am very concerned about what is going on in the Prison Service. More and more people are going to prison simply because they committed crimes to support a habit. I want to put on record a letter that I received on 6 September from one of my constituents, a father, who said:

My constituent wrote to me the next day, 6 September. He continued:

Social security continually refused to pay even for the clothing grant of which he was in great need. Nothing was done to help him. My constituent continued:

He went on to talk about his second son aged 31, a heroin addict for 15 years. He was bringing him down here until recently to be treated in a private clinic with naltrexone implants, which, the father believed, were helping him. One night, however, the son got stoned out of his mind on heroin and left the house in his mother's cardigan, so was obviously easily recognisable. He committed a crime and ended up in prison, where he tried to commit suicide.

That father almost lost two sons, not one, at the ages of 27 and 31, and wants me to bring to the attention of the House serious deficiencies in the criminal justice system, particularly in prisons, which has already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Minister. If there is one point that I want to get over this evening it is that we must improve treatment availability in all our prisons, or at least put prisoners with serious drug problems in the right prison, where they will be looked after and treated. Hopefully, when they are released, they will have not just the through-care to which my hon. Friend the Minister referred but, more importantly, after-care. If they have not been taking drugs while in prison, their tolerance level changes.

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If they come out of prison and take the same amount of heroin as they took before, they will overdose and probably die. A lot of young people do not understand the heroin tolerance problem.

I saw XNewsnight" on 2 December in which Mr. Hamer from Compass, an organisation which carries out CARAT—counselling, assessment, referral, advice and through-care—assessments in the Prison Service, admitted that an awful lot of assessments are carried out in prison, but are not matched by treatment programmes. Mike Trace, the deputy drugs tsar under Keith Hellawell, was also on XNewsnight" and was critical of the lack of monitoring of the spending of the #50 million allocated to the Prison Service for drug treatment. I raised in Health questions the problem of money not going where it is needed and, to be fair, the Department of Health believes that what was said on XNewsnight" was unfounded. Obviously, there is a dispute.

I know that other Members wish to contribute to our debate so I shall conclude. When we allocated money for cancer networks, people in the national health service complained that the money was not getting to cancer patients, so the Government have now agreed to audit it extremely carefully, as cancer treatment is one of our top priorities. My final plea to the Minister is, therefore, please can we set up audit trails? We have invested enormous sums in drug treatment and education, but we must ensure, for the benefit especially of younger people but also of older addicts, that the money hits the right targets and is used for what it was intended to be used for.

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