HC Deb 18 February 1982 vol 18 cc389-90
5. Mr. Greenway

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will set up an inquiry to examine whether there is a significant contribution to juvenile crime made by the effect of intoxicant glues and similar substances on juveniles who inhale them.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Patrick Mayhew)

We share my hon. Friend's concern about glue sniffing by young people, but we have no evidence to suggest that it makes a significant contribution to juvenile crime and my right hon. Friend has no plans to set up an inquiry.

Mr. Greenway

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. May I remind him that I sent more than one petition to his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary expressing the strong concern of hundreds of people in my constituency about the brain damage caused to young people who sniff glue and also the social violence and vandalism in which some older children indulge as a result of glue sniffing? Is he aware that I have seen a fence that was kicked in by a 15-year-old youth who sniffed glue? If my hon. and learned Friend is unable to set up an inquiry, will he consider imposing a ban on the sale of intoxicant glue to the under-16s? As an alternative, will he consider emulating United States' makers of glue, who add a property at production stage which makes glue sniffers violently sick?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Answers and questions have been extended this afternoon. Question Time is designed not for either side of the House to argue a case, but for hon. Members to ask a question and receive an answer.

Mr. Mayhew

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has been concerned with the welfare of the young for many years. I am told that literature on the subject does not reveal any contribution to juvenile crime, nor, strangely enough, that any lasting damage to health is caused. We are considering what can be done through advice to discourage this unattractive habit.

Mr. Allan Roberts

The Minister's answer is complacent. Glue sniffing is increasing, especially in areas such as Merseyside. I have presented petitions——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That may be so, but we want a question, not a declaration.

Mr. Roberts

Will the Minister treat the matter more seriously? Even if he does not introduce legislation, will he support legislation introduced by others to restrict the sale of certain glues and to allow additives to prevent sniffing?

Mr. Mayhew

We do not treat the matter other than seriously. Substances that can be sniffed for one sort of kick or another are found in a wide variety of common household goods. Even if it were possible to impose special statutory control on the sale of such items, that would cause an unacceptable degree of inconvenience for the majority of those who use such items for their proper purposes.