HC Deb 06 March 1969 vol 779 cc650-1
10. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate his Department is making of the growth of drug taking among schoolchildren and young people; and what consultations he proposes to initiate, with a view to combating this trend.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Denis Howell)

Because of uncertainties of diagnosis and variations of incidence in different parts of the country, no general estimates can be made. The number of heroin addicts known to the Home Office under school-leaving age in the successive years 1964 to 1967 were 1, 8, 18 and 3 respectively

The figures for youths in the same years were 39, 137, 311 and 392. My officers are in contact with local education authorities, the teachers unions and the specialist agencies about the importance of these matters.

Mr. Smith

While this problem should not be exaggerated, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware of the growing anxiety among parents about the development of this evil trend which was non-existent and unimaginable only 10 years ago? What special steps have been taken in senior schools to stamp it out?

Mr. Howell

A great deal of activity is going on, including the publication of a new document entitled Health Education. There are also continual conferences between our medical officers and others. One should not be too optimistic, but the hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that in the last year to which I referred the increase seemed to have been arrested.

Mr. Barnes

Can any advice be given to independent schools about this? Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the decision to expel five boys from St. Paul's School was a totally negative approach? Do not the parents of those boys have every right to expect something more constructive to be done?

Mr. Howell

I should not be called on to pronounce on a specific incident without having all the facts, and all the facts are not at my disposal.

Mr. John Hall

What consultation is the right hon. Gentleman having with the Minister of Health about the provision of treatment centres for these children? Is he aware that in my constituency, and certainly in Buckinghamshire, there appear to be no facilities for treating these cases, certainly in the early stages of their development?

Mr. Howell

I answered a debate on this matter some time ago. It was made clear at that time that no addicts who should have treatment were not getting it; but I will make inquiries to see whether the position has changed.