HC Deb 06 February 1980 vol 978 cc486-8
12. Mr. David Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, in view of the recent large increase in the numbers of young people known to practise glue sniffing in the east end of Glasgow, if he will take steps designed to solve the problem.

Mr. Fairgrieve

The number of known new cases in that area of Glasgow fluctuates from month to month, but overall the number reported for the first time has declined in the past year. I remain of the view that the problem can be dealt with only by a comprehensive and continuing programme of community health education. In that regard, my Department has issued advice to directors of social work, directors of education, chief administrative medical officers and chief constables.

Mr. Marshall

Will the Minister accept that his answer is unbelievably complacent in view of recent events, which in some cases have involved serious damage to property and even loss of life? Will he assure us that, in spite of public expenditure cuts, more resources will be made available to help combat this serious and growing problem?

Mr. Fairgrieve

In no way are the Government complacent over the problem. Had that been so, we should not have taken the trouble to get in touch with the bodies that I mentioned. Our firm view is that legislation will be counter-productive.

Mr. Pollock

Does my hon. Friend accept that the problem extends far beyond the East End of Glasgow? In spite of his previous answer, is my hon. Friend prepared to undertake to the House that the Government will at least consider legislative measures in the new Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill?

Mr. Fairgrieve

There are other areas in Scotland besides Glasgow where the habit prevails, but it is more prevalent in Glasgow. Legislation has been considered, but all opinion is that it would be counter-productive.

Mr. Dempsey

Is the Minister aware of reports that the number attending clinics in the East End of Glasgow has risen from 600 to 900, which is a 50 per cent. increase? That is indicative of the seriousness of the problem. Is he further aware that in the other four areas no figures are kept? Will he consider a much more comprehensive plan of action, in addition to merely providing health education?

Mr. Fairgrieve

I can only repeat that we have been in touch with a number of bodies and individuals and that we are taking the problem seriously. There are 225 new cases in Glasgow out of a total of 46,000 schoolchildren. The Government give high priority to combating the habit. We shall do everything in our power to overcome the evil, but all the advice that we receive is that legislation would be counter-productive.