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Dr. Iddon: The hon. Lady is trying to mix two different things. We all agree that drug abuse prevention and education are important. In fact, I would increase the amount of money spent on that. However, once a young person has embarked on trying cannabis and other drugs, perhaps experimentally to start with, they should surely know what harm they could cause themselves and how they could avoid it.
Angela Watkinson: The two policies are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they fit together. Indeed, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) made that very point. We have to get to young people much earlier and prevent them from becoming addicted in the first place. Harm reduction comes afterwards. We need more prevention built into the publications that are available and education programmes. I rarely see any comment that tells young people that drug taking is illegal and wrong, and that they should not do it. Drug literature seems to concentrate entirely on the provision of informationa description of drugs, how to take them, what will happen if they are mixed and what the social effects are. We should concentrate instead on abstinence and prevention.
Angela Watkinson: I am saying that, and it has been demonstrated that the current policy is not working either. Perhaps we should try both together. We should tell young people to say no first, but once they are addicted we clearly have to work on harm reduction.
John Mann: Has the hon. Lady seen the fascinating research that has been carried out by DARE in Nottinghamshire? It has shown that saying no to drugs is not the message that works. It has developed programmes to teach children how to say no to things that they do not want to do, including drugs. That has been incredibly effective with 11-year-olds and is now DARE's approach to drugs education.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am coming to the conclusion of my remarks. The tenor of what I was saying was that the chain of events that leads to dealers being attracted to schools, because there they have a ready supply of customers, relates to the style of drugs education in schools, which is, I believe, misguided and does not concentrate sufficiently on prevention.
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The hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) suggested in his speech that drugs might be categorised according to the harm they do. That would put the responsibility fair and square on the users, who are often portrayed as victims, entirely devoid of responsibility for taking drugs. If we give them information about how harmful drugs are, they must take responsibility for their decision to take drugs in the face of all that information. In this debate, drug addicts are being portrayed only as victims. As has been said, 80 per cent. of drug addicts also have mental health problems, but 20 per cent. do not. That 20 per cent., who take illegal drugs for recreational use, must take responsibility for that decision.
Until that responsibility is taken, we must introduce tough love in what we are doing. As the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East said, it is no good just feeling sorry for people. It is too late for that; we have to prevent them from becoming addicts in the first place. I will support the Bill, especially the strengthening of the law creating an aggravated offence in the vicinity of schools. I wish the Bill fair weather in Committee.
Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): Probably few words are used more and mean less than those that describe a particular debate as being of excellent quality and deep erudition, but I venture to suggest that this afternoon we have had such a debate. Certainly, it has been informed and the Members who have spoken have done so not just with the passion and commitment that we would expect, but from a well of deep knowledge.
Everyone has paid tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) and I certainly add my voice to those in praise of him. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Fife (Mr. MacDougall) spoke with the authentic voice of his community.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) has yet again educated us in such a way that makes many of us wish that we had been his pupils at Salford[Laughter.] My hon. Friend may not wish that I had been one of his pupils.
I want to make two points that are relevant to my hon. Friend's contribution. In a throwaway line when he was referring to the problem of drug distribution in Northern Ireland, he said that the IRA was responsible. In fact, hard drug use in Northern Ireland is confined solely to Ballymena, an area where the IRA's writ does not run. That organisation may have many faults but drug dealing is not one of them; we all know who is dealing the drugs.
My hon. Friend also referred to the need for there to be someone at the end of the phone line when there was a danger of relapse. I have done much work with Narcotics Anonymous, whose mentors are available when someone rings and we hope that we can respond. Often, we can do little other than offer sympathy and support, but the role of Narcotics Anonymous and its unpaid volunteers should be recognised.
I sometimes worry that I find myself agreeing with the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) rather more than is probably healthy. He painted a glorious
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vision of a narcotics supermarket on the high street where one could choose between varietiesa pick'n'mix narcotics bazaar.
Until recently, such bazaars existedone of them was called Harrods; one was called Whiteleys, and another, Dickens & Jones. Heroin and cocaine could be bought in Harrods. In about 1933, Lady Diana Cooper, the greatest beauty of her age, wrote very eloquently in her diary of spending a weekend with a friend, injecting themselves with heroin in Brighton. She referred to her anxiety of being, as she said, torn between desire and the deed before making the injection. In fact, they had bought the drug at a place called John Bell & Croydon in Wigmore streetso such places existed.
I hope that, if one thing has marked the excellence and seriousness of the debate, it is that we have perhaps moved on from the possibility of saying that utter prohibition is the answer to anything and that, to paraphrase a statement made earlier, it is possible to win the war on drugs. Few communities in the world do not have a drug problem. I understand that the Inuit were once drug free, but now have a drug problem. We must all face the problem.
I welcome the Bill because this is a jigsaw that must be brought together, as the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) said. The Bill contains sound, sensible provisions. It may veer more towards the stick than the carrot, but that is the nature of the Bill. I was worried about the prohibition on sale around schools when I first looked at it, but the reality is that people will search out new markets given that cocaine is on a price level with a cappuccino. One of the reasons the debate is both timely and necessary is that, as the prices fall, the need to expand the customer base will become even stronger and, yes, we will see drug dealers around the high schools. That may sound like a cliché from a horror comic, but sadly, it is the reality.
Khat has been mentioned. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for her concern about that subjectshe has spoken to me about it and has done a lot of research on itbut not everyone in the Chamber, if I may be presumptuous, understands how corrosive, vicious and pernicious the problem of khat chewing is, certainly in my part of the world, west London. Every morning, a plane disgorges its load of khat, which is then taken to Western international market and sold. Large numbers of people in west London chew khat all night long, becoming increasingly aggressive.
I am sure that most hon. Members know that khat contains a naturally occurring alkaloid, with amphetamine affects. It is masticated and ingested, entering the bloodstream through the gums. People become very voluble and aggressive. They stay out all night, come home in the morning, beat up the wife and try to sleep through the day. We must address that problem, and if other hon. Members are aware of it, I hope that they, too, will bring it to the Minister's attention and possibly that of the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee.
I know little of magic mushrooms. To be honest, I thought that they were a cartoon invention; I did not realise that there were such things as what my teenage
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son calls "shrooms", although he claims no personal knowledge, or rather he denies all personal knowledge. I know about khat, however, and in parts of Hanwell, Northolt and Greenford, people can see the green leavesthe detritusof a night spent chewing khat scattered around the streets in the morning.
The extremely efficient and cost-effective London borough of Ealing council obviously sweeps up those leaves at the earliest opportunity, but that vile narcotic spore is there for all to see, and I hope that it is something that we will consider. If we are to bring magic mushrooms within the ambit of the law, let us consider khat because it is a problem that will grow. One reason it will grow is the fact that the drugs trade moves as different drugs become available. MDMA did not exist 20 to 25 years ago, but it is probably one of the most widely taken drugs in urban society today.
In making perhaps my point of greatest significance, I pick up something that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East mentioned when he referred to the British method. That expression was recognised throughout the world until about 1968. It meant that we treated drug addiction as an illness. We had a system whereby people who were addicted to narcoticsthey did not have to be registered addictscould get prescriptions from GPs that could be cashed at Boots or any other chemist. The prescriptions were made out for maintenance doses, and despite what people think about 1960s, this country had a low level of hard drug use.
What went wrong? A couple of individual doctors, Drs. Swann and Petro, who are no longer with us, absurdly over-prescribed. We ended up with a ridiculous situation in the Criterion buildings in Piccadilly circus, and Dr. Petro famously once wrote a prescription for one-sixth grain tablets of heroinI am not even sure that one can get them nowadayson the back of a cigarette packet. The situation got out of control and the response was to throw out all the good of the British method of maintenance and bring in the American method.
I have spoken to many drug addicts during my life and I always ask them why they take drugs and what stops them giving up. It seems to me that the effect of taking hard drugs is that of hitting oneself on the back of the head with a ball-peen hammer. They move people to a state of near unconsciousness, although admittedly one in which they do not feel painit is like being wrapped in cotton wool. Drug addicts say to me, "I take it so it doesn't hurt any more," so in other words they take drugs to stop the cravings and pain.
We must disaggregate the problem of drugs. We must not think of drugs as cannabis, ecstasy and all the other different drugs. We must think of the individual problems of khat, the foul, pernicious and murderous crack cocaineI do not have time to talk about thatand heroin. We must consider substitute prescribing and maintenance. We in this country must not think of reinventing the wheel, but perhaps look again at the British system, which worked.
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