HC Deb 27 April 1976 vol 910 cc174-6
7. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with progress towards the provision of detoxification centres and other services for alcoholics; and if he will make a statement.

Dr. Owen

It has taken longer to set up the first experimental detoxification centres than I would have wished, but I am reasonably satisfied with the progress which has been made recently. The objectives for these services have been set out in the recently published consultative document on priorities.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

How can my hon. Friend be satisfied when every year 3,000 drunks and alcoholics are sent to prison because of the inactivity of his Department? Is he aware that the Home Secretary has already enacted one section of the Criminal Justice Act and that it is now for his Department to provide facilities and resources to ensure that such people are treated and not imprisoned?

Dr. Owen

I agree with my hon. Friend, but the question is about progress. There has been progress. At the beginning of May a detoxification centre will open in Leeds and another will open in Manchester at the end of the year. We are making reasonably good progress with the proposals for a detoxification centre in central London. We always envisaged that nationally there would be three such centres.

Mrs. Chalker

What consultations has the Department had with the Home Office about the disturbing rise in the number of young alcoholics?

Dr. Owen

We are in fairly constant touch about the whole problem of juvenile deliquency. One of the most serious problems which the House has to consider is the rising number of alcoholics, particularly among juveniles. Private Members' legislation is being discussed at the moment and I hope that hon. Members will look seriously at the warnings of the Advisory Council on Alcoholism.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

As the Minister's Department sponsored one of the first major surveys undertaken by the Royal Maudsley Hospital, what effect has that report had on the policy of the Department?

Dr. Owen

I am familiar with the proposal, which underlines the general concern about the problem of alcoholism. I am not complacent and I share some of the anxieties about the number of places available in detoxification centres. The idea of such centres is to find out whether this method of treatment will be successful. But we are also discussing the proposal for Liverpool by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders.