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Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): My constituents in Oxford welcome such provisions, which I thank the Home Secretary for including. Will he comment on the rumour about a provision to deal with economic sabotage, apart from the harassment provisions? It is feared that the latter will not be enough in themselves to preserve the vital, life-saving work of biomedical science in many of our leading institutions. Further provisions are needed.
Mr. Blunkett: We take the hon. Gentleman's point. Of course, he is close to the subject because of his constituency interest. I am about to lumber the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) with something. I do not set a precedent, but I would be happy for my hon. Friend to discuss with the hon. Gentleman the difficulties and the way in which we might proceed. I say that in the spirit of my earlier comments: we are genuinely trying to reach a consensus and widen the debate on these issues.
Organised crime obviously touches on drugs. No one could be unaware of the problems that lie behind the misery that is brought to our streets. Getting a grip of drug trafficking and ensuring that we reduce it and the quantity of drugs that enter the country are key targets of the new agency. People trafficking will also be a key target. However, we also believe that we need to strengthen the law on the issue of how we operate at neighbourhood and local level in relation to drugs, so we undertook a consultation with the police, and the measures that they have suggested are incorporated in the consultation that we initiated last Thursday in relation to the proposed drugs Bill.
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We have already strengthened arrest referral, bail restrictions and the developmentnow to take place in 98 separate areasof the drugs intervention programme. We have increased the number of people in treatment by more than 50 per cent. and we will have doubled by next year, from 2002, the resources going into treatment services, but there are obvious areas that the police have raised with us that require action, such as testing on arrest rather than on charge, dealers being picked up who previously pretended to be users, and people who swallow, to evade a dangerous and horrible process. We will legislate to allow the other end of the horrible process to take its course.
Mr. Garnier: Will the Home Secretary tell me how his proposals on drug dealers affect the state of the law? Currently, if a person is arrested with a large amount of drugs he is presumed to be dealing, rather than having the drugs for personal use. How will that be affected by the proposed change in the law?
Mr. Blunkett: The police will be able to designate a very small amount of the substancepreviously, they picked up individuals who claimed to be users, not dealersand to deal with the offenders as part of the development of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which we will also be strengthening at the same time.
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the measures that he is introducing to attack the problem of drug dealing and to attack those who sell drugs. Will he pay at least as much attention to the benefits of drug education programmes, such as the drug abuse resistance education, or DARE, programme in Nottinghamshire, to try at least to inoculate a number of youngsters who would otherwise perhaps fall into the clutches of drug dealers?
Mr. Blunkett: I do, and when I was in Nottingham I indicated my support for that and similar effective programmes. We are pleased to say that the rise in class A drug use among under-25s has been halted and is beginning to be reversed. That is an extremely welcome trend. There is a thirst among young people for information. The Frank campaign has received 3.5 million hits on the website and 600,000 phone calls. There has never been a Government campaign of any nature that has received such interest and commitment, which shows that we canif we work togetherturn the corner.
Improving drug treatment is not confined to the community. In 1997, there were nine prisons with full treatment and rehabilitation programmes. There are now 136. The development through the correctional services legislation, which is also in the Queen's Speech, of the offender management servicethis links prison and probation and encourages probation to draw in
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other services at local level for a comprehensive, holistic approach to the needs of those who have been involved with the criminal justice systemwill allow us to be able to join up what happens in prison, whether on drug treatment, education or work programmes, with what should happen when those individuals are being rehabilitated in the community, and our prolific offenders policy. It is really important that we get this right.
We are also introducing as part of that the statutory ombudsman, which will be widely welcomed in terms of being able to follow through complaints and deal with the issues raised by the independent inspectorate. We will be extending the availability and the powers necessary for electronic tracking, including for young people, which will also be part of the draft youth justice Bill, which will be published during this Parliament.
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): The Home Secretary has rightly referred to education and rehabilitation. Does one or other of the forthcoming Bills seek in any way to address the ongoing problem of the churn in prisons as a whole, and young offenders institutions in particular, whereby people who are put on courses, or given the chance to acquire training, are then shunted out of the institution before they have the important opportunity to complete that course, acquire that qualification or finish that training?
Mr. Blunkett: Certainly, there is a big problem, and the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins), is aware of the way in which people are moved, often at a crucial moment. I accept entirely that that is a challenge for the service, including the Youth Justice Board. When detention orders have been issued and youngsters have perhaps been in secure training centres, we need to consider imaginatively how electronic tracking can allow us to release them under very strict supervision to follow those courses. At the Youth Justice Board conference, at which I chose not to speak but to have a dialogue with the young people on the platform, it was remarkable how those young people who have been through the system felt that being there long enough, and having that security long enough, was an absolutely key element in their future well-being. That took me aback, and the hon. Gentleman's contribution is therefore apposite.
We are not confining the proposals in the Queen's Speech to personal protection or the normal criminal justice law. As we have spelled out alreadyI want to make it clear that we will do this by Christmaswe will introduce the draft Bill for scrutiny on corporate manslaughter. That is a cross that I have learned to bear in terms of finding my way through the labyrinth of getting agreement on such an extraordinarily complex area. I am therefore looking forward to Father Christmas delivering it in time, and I hope that it will at least satisfy some people, even if it does not satisfy everyone.
One Bill brings a joy to me, because it is not about enforcement, security or organised crimeit is about the way in which we can encourage people to give of themselves, their time and their service and to join together in voluntary and community organisations. That is the charities Bill. Making a difference to people's
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lives is what all of us in the House, of every party, are here for. Providing service and making a difference to people's lives is part of civil renewal and civil society. We need a new relationship between the political democracy that we hold dear, and the civil democracy, in which people participate in their communities, in their neighbourhoods, and in the lives and well-being of their families and others, to give support and to give their time, backed, not run, by Government. The charities Bill is intended to modernise and reform the outdated laws that we have.
Taken together, the Queen's Speech is about the citizen, identity, protection, organised crime and protecting us from new ills and new threats, as well as dealing with old ones. Above all, it is about examining the vision of the future, and being prepared and strong enough to take on that future, and to take the right measures now to secure our nation.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): In view of the way in which the Home Secretary presented his speech, emphasising agreement, I will at least start by welcoming some of the proposals in the Queen's Speech.
The Opposition welcome three proposals in particular. First, we welcome the plan to establish the new Serious Organised Crime AgencySOCA. It would be impossible for us not to welcome itafter all, it was first suggested, I think, by my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin). As we have previously debated SOCA in the House, the Home Secretary is aware that we have detailed concerns about the make-up of the agency, which we will raise on Second Reading. In general, however, we believe that SOCA will be a valuable weapon in the fight against serious crime.
Secondly, we welcome the proposed clampdown on animal rights extremists, although it is not clear whether that can be carried out without changes in primary legislation. Within that same Bill, I note that there are plans to overhaul police powers, extend powers to community support officers, reform arrangements for the recovery of criminal assets, introduce an offence of incitement to religious hatred, amend witness protection procedures and extend antisocial behaviour measures. So I can tell the right hon. Gentleman now that, while we support major elements of the Bill, all six parts, 155 clauses and 16 schedules will be scrutinised very carefully by us.
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