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Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow speakers of this calibre and to listen to a debate that is so well informed. We have all learned a great deal more about this vexed subject from each other this afternoon than we knew before. To summarise the purpose of the Bill, it is to tackle drug addiction and the harm that it causes to individuals and communities. That is wholly to be commended. I have heard some hon. Members taking a somewhat clinical approach to this matter, concentrating on how we should tackle addiction once it has occurred. I think we must start a little before that.
Perhaps this is confession time. My first experience of drug-taking was in the early 1950s, when I was an habitué of Wolverhampton and west midlands jazz clubs. To be honest, at that age most of us thought that grass was something you got out of the front garden, but people were smoking it surreptitiously, although there was very little evidence of heroin or cocaine use. We knew the famous American song with the line
It was in the context of my interest in the world of jazz that I was shocked to learn of the death of an icon of the modern jazz movement, Charlie Parker. Some Members may have seen the Clint Eastwood-directed film "Bird", which followed the track of that wonderful musician's life and his downfall through the use of drugs. It featured a scene showing the death of Charlie "Bird" Parker. His middle name, by the way, was Yardbird, which is how he came to be known as "Bird".
A doctor was called, rushed in and examined Charlie Parker, who was lying on the ground. He started to write a description: "Negro, 14 stone, 5 ft 9 in, aged approximately 70". Charlie's girl friend said "No, nohe is 35." The doctor replied "Well, what a life that guy led! Give me some of it." The truth is, though, that all that magical stuff ended in tragedy simply through addiction to drugs.
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Later in Wolverhampton there was a wonderful UK musician called Tubby Hayes. He was the bestbut he was mainlining at the age of 21, and dead at 28. That is what happens to people. At least they have produced wonderful music for other people, but it would have been much better had they not been using drugs. Musicians often say "But you play so much better when you've got that buzz." Charlie always said "I thought that, until it nearly killed me three or four times. You don't play better, you play worse. You just think you are playing better." What sad, tragic incidents there have been.
In the mid-1970s I was a voluntary worker for a youth organisation in Wolverhampton. At that time there were no more than half a dozen or so known heroin addicts who mainlined. Two of them died, tragicallythey were quite youngbut not before they had been through the horrendous experience of having terrible cysts on their legs and arms. We used to bathe them in an attempt to do something for them. It was the most awful sight that could be imagined: young people who had done that to themselves.
When I expressed bafflementwhy did those addicts put up with it?people explained to me that they were "addictive personalities". I am in no position to argue with that: it is probably true that some people have what are known as addictive personalities to a greater or lesser degree.
John Mann: My hon. Friend speaks of addictive personalities. It may surprise him to learn that the overwhelming majority of Bassetlaw's heroin addictsmore than 90 per cent.come from coalmining communities ravaged by unemployment, rather than from the middle-class or rural communities that happen to constitute half the population.
Mr. Purchase: Of course you may, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I accept your point entirely. I am trying to demonstrate, for the record, the horrors associated with the consequences of drug taking and with the worst drugs known to humankind. The Government are trying to tackle those horrors, and it is extremely important that such efforts be made. I of course ask for your forgiveness, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I intend to stick entirely to the point of the Bill, which is to deal with those consequences.
Sometimes, we know more of such matters from our personal experiences than even learned Members of this place can tell us about. The reputation of a Wolverhampton estate that I represent was totally ruined by the presence of drugs, and in just the ways to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) referred: through poverty, lack of opportunity and poor facilities, and above all through unemployment and slipping into illicit work patterns such as prostitution, drug pushing and petty crime. Those are the social consequences of having insufficient money to live decent lives.
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The Bill tries to address such problems when they occur, but we have to deal with them before they get to first base. We should not be prepared to tolerate unemployment in the 21st century. We certainly should not tolerate it to the point where whole families are unemployed, there is no culture of work, the work ethic means absolutely nothing and some believe that wealth comes from a giro cheque. Many Members will have been visited at their Saturday morning surgery by, say, a young woman with two or three children who says, "But how do they expect me to manage on this?" What are such people talking about? They mean a giro cheque. They do not know who "they" are. They have no understanding of wealth creation and no knowledge of caring for themselves through going to work. That is the problem that we must tackle. Being sympathetic later to the consequences of drug addiction is hardly a help at all.
I apologise to those of my hon. Friends who know this subject wellincluding the technical and clinical aspectsbut I must point out what I see, which is absolutely horrendous. The entire population of an estate in my constituency, consisting of 1,200 houses, is now ashamed to say where they live. The situation is improving bit by bit and we are clawing our way up the ladder. Much of the problem is caused by factors such as gangsterism. Wherever there is poverty, we can be sure that a gangster is there who is willing to wind the situation up a bit more, to crush and screw people, and to ensure that part of whatever they do have belongs to the gang or to somebody's minder. We see young womenperhaps not even turned 16tarted up in the most appalling manner, and we know that they are touting for trade. Allowing such things to happen destroys and demeans us all. Sympathy is fine, but when people are off their heads on drugs and do not know what they are doing, it is too late. We have to deal with the underlying social causes that bring these situations about.
Throughout the 1950s, doctors conducted a series of clinical trials under laboratory conditions, through which they administered LSD to people suffering, in their opinion, from mental problems. As the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) mentioned earlier, the link between drugs and mental illness is quite well established. These doctors, particularly the one in the west midlands, decided to conduct a series of clinical trials that would determine whether lysergic acid could help to improve mental conditions. The upshotnot just in the west midlands but throughout the nationwas that more than 1,000 people were left, as a result of a closely controlled clinical trial with LSD, with the most severe sort of mental illnesses and disturbances
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imaginable. It took eight years finally to get a case to court and, in the end, there was a minor pay-out on the grounds that the duty of care had not been fully exercised.
We all express considerable sympathy and talk about access to treatment, saying that this and that must be done. Even under those near perfect laboratory conditions, however, the application of those unstable substances had unpredictable outcomes on different personalities. Clearly, even under those conditions, we did more damage than good.
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