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John Mann: Does my hon. Friend agree that the actual figure is far greater than £24,000? The figure of £24,000 represents the cash value of the stolen goods, not their actual value. If someone steals a computer worth £2,000 and sells it for £10, the difference is £1,990.
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Mr. Clapham: My hon. Friend makes his point clearly, and I agree with him. The research shows that the cost of drugs in terms of crime in our communities is considerable. To tackle crime effectively, we must tackle the drugs problem. On a positive note, a growing body of evidence suggests that if offenders receive advice and treatment at various stages in the criminal justice process, their drug use and drug-related offending can be reduced substantially. That is the rationale behind the Bill.

In Barnsley, we have had a considerable heroin problem, which first became obvious in the early 1990s. A survey in 1997 by the drugs action team suggested that as many as 5,000 people in Barnsley regularly used heroin. However, that has changed since the Government's strategy began to come together in a more coherent framework. I shall refer to some of the results of the application in Barnsley of the Government's drug strategy.

In order to obtain a fuller understanding of the drugs problem, and in readiness for the latest CDRP audit across the borough, the drugs action team commissioned the Barnsley drugs market mapping exercise, which was carried out by Sheffield Hallam university. The survey was done in 2004 and has provided some useful information. I have been surprised that the debate so far has made little reference to much of the work that the CDRPs have done, especially some of the research that they are doing as we move into the third phase of the CDRP audit system.

The Barnsley survey made the point forcefully that drug misuse that is especially visible in disadvantaged areas is a significant problem in the area. We have several wards in the top 10 per cent. of deprived areas. Indeed, we have some of the most deprived areas in the country across the borough. However, the survey suggests that the drug misuse problem is not out of proportion to Barnsley's social and economic status. It also suggested that Barnsley has 1,500 problematic drug users. The term "problematic drug users" is not defined, but in 1997 Barnsley had 5,000 heroin users. I suggest that problematic drug users include those who regularly use heroin and are involved in acquisitive crime to pay for their habit. According to the survey, there were some 2,000 problematic drug users in 2000, but that has fallen to 1,500 in the latest survey.

The main drug used is heroin, with a small group of crack cocaine users. There is also a strongly embedded cannabis culture across the borough and a growing powdered cocaine culture, which reflects the increased affluence of the clubbing population. As I have said, Barnsley has some of the most deprived wards in the country, but a great effort has been made by the local authority, with Government support, to renew the economy. Significant changes have been made.

It is estimated that much of all crime is drug related, especially acquisitive crime such as domestic burglary, theft from vehicles and shoplifting. In common with research in other parts of the country, it appears that many problematic drug users acquire half of the income they use to pay for their drugs through low-level crime, including property crime, benefit fraud, drug dealing and prostitution. In fact, Barnsley does not have a significant sex trade, so that factor is different when making comparisons with the rest of the country; there are reasons for that, although I shall not go into them at the moment.
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The illegal drug economy of the town cannot be viewed in isolation. The research showed that a network links Barnsley and some other south Yorkshire towns to Sheffield, Leeds, Hull, Manchester, London, Liverpool and Nottingham. Heroin is established and widespread in Barnsley, although there is higher use in some communities; for example, the wards of Worsbrough, Athersley, Kendray, Thurnscoe and Goldthorpe all have higher heroin use and all are within the deprived 10 per cent. Most users go to a handful of regular dealers and most dealing appears to be small scale, although there is some evidence of established larger dealers who are usually paid in heroin.

The Government's drug strategy has had a positive impact in Barnsley, and I noted from the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw that the same was true in his area. The change in trends has been significant, which increases my confidence that the Government's strategy is working, so the Bill will be helpful in ensuring that we make that change even more comprehensive. In Barnsley, the drug user profile shows that drug users tend to be older, in their mid-20s, and that fewer young people are attracted to the scene. That suggests that we have reached a plateau, at least over the period when the research was being carried out, and that fewer and fewer young people are coming on to the heroin scene, which must be good.

More people are going through treatment programmes; for example, in 2003, 1,139 people went through treatment, while in the first three quarters of 2004, the number was 1,222, which suggests that when the report for the whole year is completed more than 1,600 people will have gone through such programmes.

Mrs. Gillan: The hon. Gentleman paints an optimistic picture of Barnsley, while admitting that there is still a significant drug problem in his constituency. Does he have statistics on how many of the people who went into treatment actually completed it and on the outcomes for those individuals?

Mr. Clapham: No, not in the current statistics, but the Library research paper suggests that, largely, clients drop out because of the way the clinics work rather than because anything is wrong with the client, so we need to take on board through the Bill what has been said by organisations such as DrugScope and ensure that the available treatment is uniform across the piece, rather than showing the wide variations that my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw mentioned. We need to drive forward best practice, because that will avoid the current high drop-out rate.

Mrs. Gillan: The hon. Gentleman is most generous in giving way again.

I agree that best practice must guide our footsteps. I am not trying to catch him out in any way, but does he agree that it is important that we obtain verifiable statistics on the number of users who complete their treatment and follow them up even after that, the better to inform ourselves about which treatments are successful and which are the most positive outcomes? Sadly, at the moment either that information is being unwittingly concealed or no resources are available to
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obtain it. We would all benefit from such information and I shall be interested in the hon. Gentleman's comments.

Mr. Clapham: I agree with the hon. Lady that we need to know the drop-out rate, so that we can address it. Certainly, I would have thought that all the crime and disorder reduction partnerships knew the drop-out rate. I will make inquiries and obtain the drop-out rate in Barnsley. Indeed, I will let her know the figure.

More than 1,600 people had passed through treatment by the end of 2004. Importantly, acquisitive crime is down very significantly. Domestic burglary is down by 31 per cent. and thefts from vehicles by more than 20 per cent. As we put more people through treatment and as we deal with drug taking—in particular, heroin, which is a class A drug—we can see the benefits in the reduction in crime across Barnsley.

In September last year, the criminal justice intervention programme and the prolific offender scheme went live. The ultimate aim of those programmes is to ensure that more offenders get access to treatment and are retained in treatment—the point that the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) made. The programmes will build on the work that is already going on in Barnsley and further improve the situation.

We must all ask whether the Bill will assist—I believe that it will—but I said at the beginning of my contribution that I share some of the concerns of DrugScope and Turning Point. Moreover, there is some merit in the points that they make in their alternative Bill, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister has seen some of those points. It is clear that, as we increase the number of people who undertake treatment, we need to ensure that fewer people drop out—again, the point that the hon. Lady made—as well as providing ongoing support.

It is important that we can provide support in the community for people who have undertaken the treatment process. In that respect, I note that page 14 of the Library research paper states that there is evidence that those who are referred for treatment from the criminal justice system were 2.7 per cent more likely to drop out than those referred from other routes. It is important that we understand that point and that we better co-ordinate the pathways to treatment—again, something that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider to try to ensure that we have an improved treatment system that retains the people who are put into it.

The same research paper suggests that a successful treatment outcome was related to the clinic at which the client received treatment, rather than to anything that was wrong with the client—a point that I made earlier. We need to ensure that such variation is overcome. We need to drive best practice throughout the treatment system. The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse has agreed to that point, and it is considering how it can make the treatment more effective. We therefore need to concentrate our efforts to speed up the treatment.

It is essential that we get people into treatment as early as possible, which is why I support the Bill in its endeavour to ensure that people go from arrest and
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interview in custody suites to treatment. At the same time, we need to ensure that best practice is driven through the treatment centres in the system, and perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will say, when she comes to the Dispatch Box, whether there are plans to do so in co-operation with the Department of Health.

Last Friday, I visited Holden house, which is in my constituency. It is administered by the English Churches Housing Group and runs the supporting people programme, which was introduced in 2003. I am told that the programme had a budget of £1.8 billion when it started. However, the budget will be reduced over the next three years, which will threaten some of the short-term accommodation provided for young people, many of whom have mental health problems and have come through treatment to engage again with society. The programme is worth while and we should ensure that it is properly financed. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister finances the programme, so will the Minister make it aware that there are worries that cutting the programme might well result in vulnerable young people being out on the streets? The programme is cost-effective when one bears in mind the fact that a vulnerable person out on the street is likely to be attracted back to the drug scene, which will result in increased police and court time and costs and NHS costs. The programme must be continued with an adequate budget.

I support the Bill because it will contribute to the Government's drug strategy and help to make it more comprehensive. It will also help us to get more people into treatment. We need, however, to examine best practice and how we may speed up the process of getting people into treatment.

3.47 pm

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