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Lord McNair: My Lords, among his many achievements L. Ron Hubbard did not, in fact, found the Church of Scientology. What information ISDD may have about Narconon is probably very out of date. If the noble Lord would like to find out about Narconon I suggest that he goes to Narconon and sees the work it is doing.
Lord Russell of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. To do that I would need to go to the headquarters of the Church of Scientology in this country, which is located in East Grinstead. Perhaps my information is out of date but I am sure that I shall put in a suggestion to the ISDD that it gets more up-to-date information. I shall be interested to see what it has to say.
The second theme I want to talk about is the timescale. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, spoke in some detail about the philosophy underlying what the Green Paper says in recognising that trying to focus on supply without doing something about reducing demand is ultimately self-defeating. If there is one big idea that runs through the Green Paper it is that there is no single response to trying to deal with drugs. It is no use trying to skew it too far in demand reduction and it is no use trying to skew it too far the other way in trying to choke
While tobacco is not a perfect role model for what can be achieved, if one looks at what has happened over the past 25 years to the demand reduction for tobacco products, it serves as a kind of goal or model for what one might seek to achieve in trying to make more young people in particular realise that starting to experiment with drugs is a somewhat dangerous and stupid thing to do. The reason for the reduction in tobacco consumption is not that everyone has jumped up and down and said, "No, you should not do it"; it is that a great many people now recognise that there are some facts involved in tobacco consumption to do with the real harm it does as well as the anti-social side effects. Those facts have gradually permeated the consciousness of most young people. That is not to say they will not try it, but the figures show that a great many people who start experimenting with tobacco, like me, at the age of about 14, have actually given it up by the age of 25 or 26. If we can achieve that kind of success with some of the people who are dabbling in drugs, that is a good goal to aim for.
Above all, we are embarking on a very long haul. I am making an appeal to any politicians of any party who are looking at a drugs strategy, or any element of it, to recognise that to look for short-term achievements, two-year or five-year paybacks--unless one is being highly specific about individual programmes--will ultimately be self-defeating and extremely depressing. The problem is not something which responds quickly to treatment. It takes many years to permeate the consciousness. Any party that comes in and propagates a quick fix should be treated with due disrespect.
The last point I wish to concentrate on is training. The levels of ignorance shown by some of the so-called experts who have come before the all-party drugs misuse group are quite staggering. That ranges from ministerial level, through senior departmental officials, to some of the so-called experts out in the field. Quite understandably, drugs are a very distasteful subject to a great many people. Most people do not really wish to know about the problem and the few politicians in this and the other place who have concerned themselves with the question have often done so as a direct result of their own immediate family being tragically affected by exposure to drugs. It is not a subject which most of us tend to go looking for and that is perfectly understandable.
In trying to implement some of the programmes which the Government are recommending, there is a very real need for some very careful thought about training. The trainers need to be trained. Many departmental officials need to be trained. Certainly, the officials in Ofsted who are to be charged with deciding whether or not any individual school has an effective drug education programme need to be trained how to recognise a good scheme from a mediocre or bad one. The people involved in deciding how the GEST grant should be used for training teachers also need to know enough about the different kinds of training available to be able to give guidance on what is a sensible way to
I would like briefly to return to what I said at the beginning about the need for co-ordination. The overwhelming theme and success of the Green Paper comes from the level of co-ordination that went into its creation. If we forget that, and if each department which is charged with doing things in the Green Paper, or in the White Paper when it ultimately appears, goes off in an individual direction, they will all end up quite a considerable distance from one another and a great deal of the good that the Green Paper has created will be dissipated.
On balance, I believe that the Government have done remarkably well thus far. In proof, as I said, I have had recent truck with officials in the Department for Education. They are all in a mild state of shock because the draft circular on drug prevention in schools, which Mrs. Shephard announced a few weeks ago, has, to the astonishment of herself, her Ministers and officials, met with almost universal approbation, a very unusual experience for officials of that department. It was an experience which initially they found rather uncomfortable but which they are now beginning to quite enjoy. I believe that the Government have made quite a good start, but there is a very long way to go. Whether the work is carried on by this Government or another, I wish them well.
The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, what a debate we are having! It is certainly not what I was expecting. It has been absolutely riveting so far and we still have the speeches of the two noble Baronesses to come. We have had a lot of expertise, humour, innovative thought and some curiosity. I rise to speak mainly for myself although I speak from the Front Bench.
I have one duty to clear straightaway because I have been requested to do so by one particular noble Lord. I wish to clear the air as to where the Liberal Democrats actually stand as regards drugs because there seems to be some misunderstanding due, I believe, in some part to media excitement; namely, that the Liberal Democrat Party voted at their conference in September at Brighton not to legalise cannabis. That is quite inaccurate. What they voted for was the establishment of a Royal Commission to consider the potential decriminalisation--there is a nuance there--of cannabis along with other measures to combat both drug misuse and the crime which all too often goes with it. I have done my party duty.
I stand here as one who takes a great interest in the problems which we have been discussing today. I am a vice-chairman of the all-party group on alcohol misuse. It is one of the facts of parliamentary work--it goes further than that--that alcohol and drugs are treated separately in areas where they should be treated much more closely together. That has been referred to by one or two noble Lords today.
Although the Green Paper is admirable and worthy and a very good starting point, as noble Lords have said, the part which was referred to in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft; namely D.3 in Annex D at the back, lets the whole paper down. It is the most absurd and disgraceful piece of logical thinking that I have come across in any document which has the authority of government in the 11 years that I have been here. It would be a disgrace to a 10 year-old to come up with reason of that kind. I hope that the noble Baroness will look at it and comment on it. I hope that she will dissociate herself from it and that someone will get rapped over the knuckles for it. That is unlikely, but we can hope.
I return to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. It has been an unusual afternoon. In the 11 years I have been here I believe that he made the best--certainly Conservative--Back-Bench speech that I have heard in this House. It is probably the best Back-Bench speech that I have heard in this House on any subject. He spoke for about 28 minutes. One noble Baroness on the Front Bench was looking somewhat apprehensive, but she seemed to be cheered by the fact that we were all absolutely frozen in our seats with attention at what the noble Lord was saying. I felt as though I were a late 18th century MP in the House of Commons when Charles James Fox was speaking. He spoke for a great deal longer than the noble Lord. When Charles James Fox gave sign that he might be flagging after several hours, Members shouted "Hear him! Hear him!" in order to keep him speaking. I felt like emulating that great Whig orator.
I turn to alcohol for a moment. Without doubt alcohol is today the most dangerous drug in our society. It creates more death, more illness, more absenteeism and is responsible for more wife-battering, more child abuse and more traffic accidents. You name it, alcohol is responsible for it. I have been trying for many years to change the way in which alcohol is discussed in our society, but it is impossible. We all know why--it is because too many vested interests are involved. I should like alcohol to be discussed in the same dispassionate and objective way as we are attempting to discuss the drugs problem. That is not to say that I want drugs to be regarded in the same way as alcohol. I do not agree with those noble Lords who have said that drugs are not harmful in society. I think that drugs are extremely harmful. In fact, I object to the term "drug misuse". I should prefer to use the phrase "drug use" wherever the term "drug misuse" is used.
When people smoke cannabis or take heroin, opiates or any of the prescription drugs, they generally do not go out and behave rowdily on a Saturday night or assault women, although some of the drugs that are now available, particularly crack, have an association with sexual activity, but I shall not go into that.
I go along with the document's aims. There is nothing terribly original in it, but why should there be? It is meant to stimulate discussion, thought and suggestions before a White Paper comes out. Apart from the particular offending piece to which I have already referred, I am quite sure from the general tone of the Green Paper that we shall be able to get together with Government to improve our approach and to move closer to finding a solution to a lot of the problems. I direct anyone who doubts whether there is a problem to the figures that were quoted about the Scottish experience in yesterday's Guardian. Scotland's experience is not all that different from ours except that some drugs are more popular there than here. According to a recent in-depth survey of men aged between 20 and 24, 44 per cent. have taken or are taking drugs, and 33 per cent. of females between the ages of 16 and 19 are doing likewise. That in itself indicates that there is a serious problem.
I have a number of children and I have spent many years with my fingers crossed. So far I have been lucky, as far as I know. I am quite sure that my elder children have tried some drug or another at some time. They have all attended schools where there have been well-known scandals with drugs. Indeed, one attended the school of which the head was the aforesaid Dr. Rae before he joined the Portman Group. He would not deny that there was a problem there. Happily, when my son was at Westminster he was not involved in that. I sometimes think that because the school had such a bookish attitude towards sport, he rebelled against that and did a lot of athletic things in order to upset Dr. Rae and the masters. That did him no harm and he is a healthy, youngish man of 31 today.
On the subject of education, I have intervened on several occasions at my children's schools to complain bitterly about the quality of their drug and alcohol advice. The main problem is always that the wrong people are talking about it. They do not have either the respect or the interest of the children. A school that my daughter attended--unfortunately for a shortish period only because it closed due to lack of funds--had very good people coming in to talk about drugs. They were all ex-addicts who had a teaching gift. Wherever possible, people who have a gift for teaching and who have been through the harrowing experience of drug addiction or alcoholism should be encouraged to come into schools. Use should be made of them because many are extremely willing to help.
Nothing is more cheering than to see successful education. Along with a number of other noble Lords, I am a patron of an East End charity for the "re-education" of homeless people who have reached the end of the road. They have had appalling lives and have lost everything. That re-education, which is an expensive and long process, has had extraordinary results. It is most encouraging to see someone's life being turned round. It can be done, but it is expensive and painstaking and requires a lot of dedication. Exactly the same thing will have to happen in schools and universities as regards drugs.
Turning to the social aspect, many people who are lucky enough to have escaped any family problem or despair over drugs think that it is something that will never happen to them. That applies particularly to people in more affluent circumstances. I know of two men, both of whom were exceptional athletes, who became crack addicts. One was a multi-millionaire who made a large fortune in the 1970s. He lost everything as a result of his cocaine and crack habit. He is now undergoing treatment. As a matter of fact, he got into drugs through his addiction to sex. It was not a drug addiction originally. He had a problem with sex and went to prostitutes and call girls who introduced him to drugs. That is not an uncommon series of events when such fast-acting, extremely powerful and dangerous drugs are involved. If we are to teach about drugs, it is necessary to look at their range of ill effects throughout the whole of society. We should not be talking only about children and prisoners. Everybody is vulnerable for one reason or another. That is why we need to know more about it. We need to be more open and less confrontational in the way in which we discuss drugs.
On law enforcement, it is admitted in the United States that about 10 per cent. of the drugs coming on to the market are intercepted. But that leaves 90 per cent. unintercepted. The size of the problem is obvious. I have no reason to think that our enforcement or our success in terms of Customs and the police is any better. All praise to the police and Customs officers who had such a large cannabis haul recently. However, I must ask whether it will really make a great deal of difference if we have a number of such cannabis hauls. As many noble Lords have said, the police and Customs are fighting a losing battle.
I do not want to go on any longer. We have had a wonderful debate and I am still thinking about what the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said. All of us should read what he said carefully. He has brought a lot of expertise and experience to the subject, and has taken a fresh look at a lot of the things about which we may have made some wrong assumptions. I hope that the Government, too, will read his words.
I should like to say something about a matter that is not in the Green Paper. Indeed, perhaps it should not be there. What is the cause of the escalating drug use? I do not know the answer, but I suggest that one reason might be the shocking provision of housing in this country, the lack of a proper provision of education in deprived areas and the lack of something for young people to do. We all know what happens if we leave young people to their own devices. It happened to me
Our problems are not yet on the level of the French. There is absolutely no disagreement about the fact that the French have two major problems: one is unemployment and the other is AIDS. I will not go into AIDS because that is a subject of which I know very little, but I have been very interested to hear other noble Lords in this debate. Perhaps I may just say that it has been a wonderful debate. I have enjoyed it enormously. I have learnt a lot and I hope to learn even more in the two remaining speeches that we are going to hear. Like other noble Lords, I look forward to the White Paper.
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