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Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the liabilities of the sites transfer with the sites to English Partnerships which will be responsible for dealing with them in the best way it can. The noble Lord asks whether it will be sufficiently funded. As it is, English Partnerships is funded to the tune of £209 million per year in grant in aid. It is up to English Partnerships to use that money in a way that ensures that the coalfield sites are properly cleared.

Drugs Misuse: Co-ordination of Response

3.10 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, co-ordination between departments is effected by a sub-committee of the Cabinet on the misuse of drugs which is chaired by my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council. He is supported by officials in the Central Drugs Co-ordination Unit whose function is to co-ordinate the work of departments involved in the strategy. That strategy tackles the problem not only at a national and

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international level; it translates into 105 local action teams across the country, producing co-ordinated and practical programmes. Similar arrangements are in place for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Does she agree that as a source of human misery drugs are probably unrivalled, and that when it comes to the absorption of resources they are pretty well unequalled? Is my noble friend satisfied that this co-ordination goes far enough, and that argument, in a field where there are many differences of opinion, does not get in the way of effective action? Perhaps the Government would give at least some thought to the need to appoint a Minister with special concern and exclusive responsibility for drugs?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that drugs are the scourge of the age and cause a great deal of human misery. In terms of resources applied to this issue, we spend over £500 million a year tackling drug abuse. In response to my noble friend's request for a Minister, perhaps I may say that my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council is the titular head of the committee. He is responsible for co-ordination across Whitehall departments, but at the end of the day the only way this problem will be tackled, first at international and national level, and down on the ground, in the communities, is with all aspects of the community playing their part--parents, teachers, hospitals, police, probation officers and prison officers. It is a question of coming together in a partnership to tackle this dreadful problem.

Lord Howell: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that under the Medicines Act 1968 the appropriate licensing authority, which is advised by the Committee on the Safety of Medicines, has a duty to consider the safety, efficiency and quality of medicines, but not apparently the cost effects, particularly of the introduction of new drugs relative to the old drugs they might be replacing? Will the Minister tell us who looks at the costing, apart from the other criteria I mentioned?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, both in terms of looking at the quality and cost effectiveness of the drugs, my understanding--my noble friend is sitting alongside me--is that it is the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs which would advise Ministers. The Health Department of course has sophisticated systems for looking at both aspects of the introduction of new drugs and the use of existing drugs.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, will my noble friend help me on this matter? What percentage of crime is related directly to drugs? If, as I believe, it is extremely high, are we certain that criminalisation is the right thing? It does not seem effectively to have stopped the drug menace increasing with its attendant crime figures.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, perhaps I can take my noble friend's second point first. We believe that it should be criminalised. We have no plans whatever for

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decriminalising the taking of illegal substances. The first point my noble friend makes is right. A large proportion of crime is drug-related. We believe that it is about 15 per cent., but even that figure is probably not accurate because many crimes are treated as violent or serious in themselves and often, when one looks into them further, one finds that drugs have had some part to play somewhere along the line.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I instinctively shrink from the kind of agreement across the Chamber that we heard on the previous Question, but does the Minister accept that the co-ordination arrangements that she described seem eminently reasonable? We hope that they are successful. Do they not raise great problems of assigning a reasonable budget across so many departments?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point. One of the reasons for a co-ordination committee at government level is to ensure that all departments sign up to the strategy and play their part. For example, it is important that money can be recognised through the education budgets, the health budgets, and across the different departments. The whole point of keeping this body going is to ensure that those departments sign up to the strategy and that it works down the line. The idea of the action committees at local level is that they will feed back from the community level as to the effectiveness and application of those programmes. I cannot deny that there will always be tension about money, but we all know that people working together corporately with one aim in mind--to reduce the amount of drug abuse in this country--is more effective than people acting independently.

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, in terms of the need to achieve a balance among the policing, health and educational aspects of drug abuse, my noble friend referred to the fact that the British Government spend £500 million on it. Does that include the amounts we spend via the EU programmes and the Council of Europe Pompidou Programme?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, no, it does not include that. That is how much Her Majesty's Government spend on these matters. We spend £5.6 billion through the community care programmes, of which some is included in the £500 million and will be identified for tackling drug abuse.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that many people take to using hard drugs while in prison? Has that fact been taken into consideration in her department's policy of greatly increasing the prison population?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is taken very seriously by the prisons. The elimination of drug misuse is an aim of the Prison Service. It aims, in the first instance, to reduce the incidence of drug taking. Mandatory drug testing is working in all establishments now. The

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outcome is still being analysed. Measures include review of search procedures and increased use of security measures, such as CCTV, particularly in visiting areas. We have pilot treatment programmes in nearly all places, involving the expenditure of £5.1 million. In the coming year there will be ring-fenced funds of £6.09 million to ensure that there is continuity. Collaborative work is being undertaken by the Prison and Probation Services and the Department of Health to develop effective ways of ensuring that misusers have access to treatment services while in prison and indeed on release.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, it would be very helpful were my noble friend to make some attempt to estimate the total amount of resources absorbed year by year in respect of the whole problem of drugs. She referred to the £500 million spent on drug abuse, but that is only a fraction of the whole.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. The amount of resources is important, but what is even more important is the effectiveness of the programmes.

Gibraltar Airport Agreement

3.18 p.m.

Lord Merrivale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the 1987 Gibraltar Airport Agreement has been updated; and what steps they are taking for a single market to apply in aviation to Gibraltar.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, the 1987 Joint Declaration concerning the Gibraltar Airport Agreement has not been updated. We are prepared to listen to any ideas from the Government of Gibraltar concerning the development of the airport. Any practicable solution which all parties could agree would be welcome. This would open the way for EC aviation liberalisation measures to apply to Gibraltar.

Lord Merrivale: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer which seemed fairly satisfactory. Will he confirm that Spain is still insisting upon joint control under the airport agreement, thereby not accepting joint use with consultation on working arrangements? With no updating, is there to be no open access to the air routes within the EU for Gibraltar? If that is so, is it not time that termination of the agreement be considered seriously.


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