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Dr. Iddon: I am not sure whether Dr. John Marks, whom I know quite well, was struck off. I think that his practice in Widnes folded because the health services that were supplying him with patients stopped his funding. He was practising the British system of drug treatment, but that system became unpopular, so we are now using the American system.
Mr. Bellingham: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I can check the facts, but I know that the doctor is currently abroadI think that he is in New Zealand at the moment. The hon. Gentleman will agree that there is no disputing the fact that 42 patients in Widnes died over two years, which is horrific and appalling.
It is absurd that at a time when we have a serious shortage of GPs, such doctors are not allowed to go back into general practice, at least. It is one thing to strike them off and prevent them from earning their living for five years, but Dr. Garfoot is living in King's Lynn with his father, who is a well known Methodist minister. He is unable to earn a living, but there is a shortage of GPs in the area and practices are crying out for locum support. Such doctors should certainly be allowed back into general practice and be able to return to treating drug addicts in due course, because as I said earlier, there is a chronic shortage of GPs working with drug addicts in this country. I hope that the Minister will address that point in her winding-up speech. If she does not have time to cover the case of Dr. Garfoot, will she write to the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East and me about it? We feel strongly about the matter because an individual has suffered a gross injustice and there has been a huge loss of someone who was able to work with drug addicts, save lives and make a real difference and impact.
The Bill can make an impact. I support a lot of it, which is why I am glad that we will vote for it. However, it takes perhaps too narrow an approach. The Government can succeed in their drugs strategy, but not if they view the Bill in total isolation. They need to combine it with the wider measures that I cited. If they do that, we can continue to make progress on a non-partisan, cross-party basis.
Mr. John MacDougall (Central Fife) (Lab): I also welcome the Bill because my constituency of Central Fife has had numerous problems with drugs over the years that many of the Bill's measures attempt to tackle. Although many good points have been made today and we will have the opportunity to consider the Bill's measures in greater detail in Committee, we cannot underestimate the devastating impact of class A hard drugs on Central Fife and no doubt on other communities throughout the country.
Drugs do not have an impact on only the people who use them, but, as the Bill tries to point out, they have a wider impact by indirectly affecting the neighbours of users. I know from public consultations that people complain about finding needles in their back gardens. Unsuspecting children are under immediate threat
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because their parents cannot protect their well-being. We must find a way to try to minimise the likelihood of such events taking place, and I believe that the Bill addresses that threat.
The difference between drug use in a poorer community as against that in a wealthier community is that drugs in a wealthier community can be much more easily resourced whereas drug use in a poorer community leads to the accrual of money to fund that habit by illegal means. Therefore, the impact on a poorer community is all the greater. It would be no surprise to findit would be an interesting surveythat the impact on a poorer community is a higher increase in crime.
Jim Sheridan (West Renfrewshire) (Lab): My hon. Friend is right to identify areas of drug misuse, especially in deprived areas such as my constituency. Does he agree that the problems could be resolved if people, especially young people, were offered quality jobs and quality opportunities? Would he further agree that projects such as the new deal have particular applications for young people? If the new deal was not in place, there would be even further drug misuse.
Mr. MacDougall : I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. The ability to finance a drug habit would remove the need to steal, but I am sure that he would agree that the real issue is how to deal with the habit itself and how we encourage rehabilitation. Some of the more interesting points raised today have been about other countries and their approach to drugs. We can all learn from taking into account what does and does not work elsewhere. That is a sensible approach to a complex issue to which I believe there is no one answer.
Mrs. Gillan : I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman can help me on a point of clarification. I have read clause 24(6) and I understand that the significant majority of the Bill applies only to England and Wales and does not cover Scotland. Is that his understanding? As he was speaking, it seemed that he was suggesting that the Bill would affect his constituency in Scotland, and I do not believe that it would.
Mr. MacDougall: I thank the hon. Lady for raising that point. As I said at the offset, I wished to bring to the debate the experience of a community. I was not suggesting that the Bill will impact on that community, but I thought that it would be helpful to the House to learn from the experience that I wish to describe. It is extremely relevant to the content of the Bill.
Tragically, in Central FifeI am sure that there have been similar cases in other constituenciesa young man lost his life during the Christmas period. During that period, on two or three occasions when we should have been celebrating, there were headlines in the press and articles that were full of the family's bereavement. The sad feature is that the young man had just come out of prison, where he had been for using drugs. That highlights the point about the need to concentrate on rehabilitation where possible and to accept that not all people will be able to be rehabilitated.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) said that we cannot force rehabilitation. A horse can be taken to water but it cannot be made to
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drink. I accept that there will be people who cannot benefit from rehabilitation. I recognise, however, that excellent work is being done in my constituency through the use of drug treatment and testing orders. We are still waiting to see the outcome of the results, but, so far, they seem to be heading in the right direction. More time will be needed to assess whether there is an upward trend, a hopeful trend, or whether the approach is not as successful as we hoped that it would be.
Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend accept that if people relapse, they need extra support to go back on a programme? They should not be written off, as that extra support often makes the difference.
Mr. MacDougall: I agree. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East spoke about the need for rehabilitation centres, and cited Manchester as an example. We cannot have them everywhere, but that does not mean that we should not have them at all. If we do the obvious, we simply impose greater responsibilities on the courts, which are already overcrowded, and on the judicial system. That is not helpful to the country.
Drugs are a complex issue, and we have heard figures about the costs involved. A drug habit is distinct from other habits, as the need to feed it extends far beyond the user and impacts on many others in the community, including the immediate family and colleagues in the workplace. Also affected are schools but, although I agree that there is a problem, it is not as widespread as has been suggested. On several occasions, my constituents have expressed concern that drugs are being pushed in schools. We must consider to what extent that is the case, but we should not exacerbate people's fears, as that does not help us to tackle the problem.
Drugs have an impact on the health of the individual, and the health service is called on to assist people who have overdosed. Such incidents have implications for the NHS and for the family, who undergo a trauma, and may require medical support themselves. Different drugs have different effects. The difference between cocaine and heroin has been mentionedone is an upper and the other is a downerbut both bring out another side of someone's character. Some drugs make people aggressive, but others calm them down. Someone who takes a drug that makes them aggressive can be a threat to the community, and that must be tackled, with a cost to supporting services and the courts. The Bill provides us with an opportunity to look afresh at those difficulties that can arise in communities.
There is a need for strategic working, and local authorities, health services, Parliament and other nations that have experienced the problems of a drugs culture have a key role to play. I recently visited Holland. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East spoke about his experiences there, and I found out that Rotterdam had a very different policy from Groningen in the north. There were different geographical and cultural problemsone place was more rural, but the other was city-dominated, so they dealt with drugs differently. Reference has been made to a bold attempt in Rotterdam to remove drug users from the streets. A deliberate political decision was made, and
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they were banned from the city. However, that only pushed them into other areas, and did not solve the problem. Everything in Holland is not right, but many things there are worthy of examination. For example, the UK has, I believe, adopted its policy of ensuring that addicts have an opportunity to acquire clean needles, which are important in stopping the spread of disease. By taking a positive approach to tackling such problems we are supporting not the habit but an illness. We also prevent disease and avoid the need for further medical support. We can learn from these and other measures, such as the use of methadone, that have been adopted by other countries including Holland and Sweden, which have been highlighted today.
The Bill complements the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The Government have consistently moved in the same direction, with increasing momentum. The 2002 Act deals with a larger and more serious issue. We should not forget that the tragic events of September 11 were largely funded by the proceeds of drugs crime, which trickle down from such a major disaster to the small human disasters in our communities, such as that of one individual losing his life in Central Fife, which is a major disaster to his family. The entire drugs industry causes nothing but chaos and must be dealt with. Drugs are big business, which brings with it, sadly, big pain.
We rarely get an opportunity to watch TV, so I do not know how many other hon. Members watched a very good BBC television programme on cocaine the other evening. The programme highlighted the economic problems arising from the drugs culture and showed the poor farmers who farm the coca leaves. All they were interested in was earning a living by doing what they do bestgrowing coca leaves. The coca market collapsed, another buyer offered to buy the leaves from the farmers, and paid not much more than they were getting before, but it was their living so they sold their product, which was turned into cocaine for the market. The farmers had no option. That was their only opportunity to use the skills that they had. The problem was a system that allowed the cocaine dealers to go in and take advantage of people who were trying to earn a living. That economic problem must be tackled if we are to make a difference to the drugs culture.
I must compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann). Because of my interest in the subject through my constituency and through the substance abuse group, of which I am officer, I know that my hon. Friend has, throughout my time in Parliament, shown great stamina in addressing the issue. He has always articulated his case extremely well in the House. His positive contribution today and the warnings that he gave were equally impressive.
The Bill tackles a serious antisocial problem in our communities. If we do not act, people will accuse us of doing nothing to tackle a problem that impacts upon them in various ways, whether it affects a son or daughter, a distraught mother, a loved one or a colleague who is lost, or some youngster taking drugs at school and influencing other youngsters. The impact on one person affects an entire community, such as mine. I hope the experience that I outlined today illustrates why I believe the Bill should be supported. Without any disrespect to my hon. Friend the Minister, I hope that the Bill will return to the House in improved form, in the best interests of the House and, more importantly, of the people of Great Britain.
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