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Paul Flynn: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

David Davis: Not for a moment. I have only a limited voice left. The drugs that I am taking are legal, but they do not save it from wearing out quickly with this flu. [Interruption.] Magic mushrooms will not help either. [Hon. Members: "How do you know?"] I am sure that I take the Home Secretary's advice.

By the time a drug user gets to hard drugs, it is often too late. Breaking a heroin habit is harder than breaking a cannabis habit. It is not surprising that drug use has gone up. Drug prices have fallen because supply has increased—it is as simple as that. Our porous borders have made it all too easy to smuggle drugs. It is estimated that seizures account for only about 10 per cent. of the drugs coming into the country, and I note that class A seizures went down a couple of years ago for the first time in memory.

The Government have failed in their international responsibility to deal with Afghan opium production. Last October's bumper crop will flood our streets with heroin. With so many drugs available, it is no wonder that heroin has more than halved in price since 1995. Crack can be bought for a tenner in some parts of the country and ecstasy for a pound. At £1.95, a line of coke costs little more than a bottle of coke. Cocaine was once a so-called society drug that was available only to the rich, but now it can be bought with pocket money. Occasional users turn into regular users—users who demand a fix whatever the price.

All too often, the cost of such dependency is crime, which is one respect in which I agree with the hon. Members for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) and for Newport, West (Paul Flynn). Drug-related offences
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have risen by a quarter in the past three years alone. A heroin or crack addiction can be expensive, and it is estimated that a regular user spends nearly £450 a month on his habit. The Government admit that 70 per cent. of acquisitive crime is drug-related. About three quarters of hard drug users commit crime to obtain drugs, and persistent drug misusing offenders commit almost 10 times as many crimes as people who do not use drugs at all. It was reported last week that a £20,000 kilo of heroin would lead to 220 burglaries by addicts who need to pay for their fix. As of the end of last year, one acquisitive crime—shoplifting—has become punishable by fixed penalty notice. For a regular shoplifter, an £80 fine is less of a deterrent than an occupational expense.

Unfortunately, drug crime is not only shoplifting but high-level organised crime that is often violent and gun-toting. With the drugs trade come drug gangs, drug barons, drug territories and drug wars. The lure of easy money can be too hard to resist. The gross margin from production to retail on a single gram of crack cocaine is nearly £50, so is it any surprise that burglars and other criminals are abandoning their old trade to sell drugs in the dark street corners of our cities and towns?

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): My right hon. Friend has already stated that some class A drugs are cheaper than a cup of coffee from Starbucks, which is clearly wrong. Does he believe that the Bill is deficient on the specific matter of sentencing and that those who deal in class A drugs should face stiffer penalties, as provided for by my private Member's Bill?

David Davis: My hon. Friend will get a roll of honour later in my speech.

The Bill provides for the supply of drugs to children near a school to be considered as an aggravating factor for sentencing. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) made an intervention on the Home Secretary about that point. One is tempted to ask why that provision should be limited to schools rather than including youth clubs, skate parks, arcades and bowling alleys. Why should the provision not be extended to supplying children—full stop? We need to make it clear that dealing to children, wherever they may be, is an evil that will not be tolerated by this Government or any other Government of this country.

Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way—he can rest his voice for a moment. The Home Office "Frank" website gives the following advice on cannabis:


Does he think that that advice will encourage or deter cannabis use?
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David Davis: The prospect of finding hidden depths in daytime television would terrify me, but my hon. Friend raises a significant point. There is a danger that the approach on harm reduction might encourage the use of drugs, or at least give out a neutral message. I—like the Home Secretary, to be fair to him—believe that drugs are unmitigably harmful and thus should not be encouraged in any way.

I return to my point about penalties and supply to children. The Bill refers to cash payment for drugs that are sold to and couriered by children. I understand that youngsters in some cities are paid up to £30 a day to deliver drugs to users, but the Home Secretary should know that cash is no longer the only commodity traded for drugs. DVDs, CDs, computer games, trainers and mobile phones are today's traded goods for drugs, so people do not receive only the bankers drafts, cheques, notes and coins to which the Bill refers. I hope that we can pick up on that in Committee and ensure that the Bill's wording does not provide a loophole so that an expensive lawyer can get a drug dealer off.

Mr. Bercow: My right hon. Friend's position on drugs is much clearer than that of the late Congressman Schwegel, the representative of Iowa, on whisky. When asked about that subject, he said:

Hon. Members: More!

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman would have been better to quote Robert Burns as saying:

David Davis: If I may say so, Mr. Speaker, you are the last person I would have expected to quote that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) has published a private Member's Bill—

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves whisky—

David Davis: No. The Bill is not about whisky. I may mention whisky later and give the hon. Gentleman another chance, but I will not give way now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley has published a private Member's Bill that will ensure that anyone who is caught dealing in drugs with children will receive a custodial sentence. His Bill will also set a mandatory sentence for repeat dealers. Will the Government support it? I am sure that he would not
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mind if they adopted his measures in their Bill. Will the Government, while they are at it, consider encouraging schools to follow the Abbey school example and begin random testing for drugs at schools?

The Home Secretary, when he was Secretary of State for Education and Skills, I believe, started the enabling of that process, but it was a very cautious enabling. Reading the guidance almost made me afraid of the proposal. Will the Government provide the resources and support to make random testing at schools happen? It is clear that many parents are concerned about drugs—

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