HC Deb 15 February 1984 vol 54 cc249-50
4. Mr. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what effect the new legislation is having in the control of the habit of glue sniffing.

Mr. John MacKay

The Solvent Abuse (Scotland) Act 1983, which makes solvent abuse a ground for referral of a child to the reporter to a children's panel came into effect on 13 July. Since then, more than 300 children have been referred to reporters.

Mr. Hill

I apologise to my Scottish colleagues for asking this question, but there is great interest in this legislation throughout the United Kingdom. Will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, in Cabinet, to emphasise the need for this legislation, or equivalent legislation, throughout the United Kingdom? Secondly, does my hon. Friend agree that centres are now needed in every area, not only to carry out research into this terrible problem, but to provide residential aid and advice centres where parents and, of course, the victims of this habit can go? Does he agree that not only juveniles, but all age groups are involved?

Mr. MacKay

I welcome my hon. Friend's congratulations on the Scottish legal system, but the children's panel system is unique to Scotland and therefore the road down which we have chosen to go is not entirely applicable to England. We, like our colleagues in the south, are conducting research into the problem and looking forward soon to a document from researchers explaining the prevalence of this serious problem and suggesting ways in which we might tackle it.

Mr. Janner

Is the Minister aware that English Opposition Members also congratulate Scotland on being far in advance of the rest of the United Kingdom? Has the Minister's Sassenach colleagues consulted him on how to bring the law of the rest of the United Kingdom into line with Scottish law, and in particular on how to bring to trial the evil and wicked people who push glue, who can be brought to trial in Scotland, but not in the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. MacKay

I should make it clear to the hon. and learned Gentleman that, in the case of the people who were selling glue, the court found that under Scottish common law it was criminal to engage in wilful and reckless conduct which caused real injury to a third party. A charge was brought successfully under Scottish common law. I hestitate to suggest it, but perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman should look to English common law in a similar way.

Mr. Fairbairn

If hon. Members of the United Kingdom Parliament do not understand the law of Scotland and wish to stop the appalling effects of glue sniffing, let them develop the common law of England as we have developed the common law of Scotland. Will my hon. Friend advise hon. Members that it is not only a case of people who push glue in England but, as demonstrated by a recent newspaper poll, the fact that in any store in England one can buy glue with great ease?

Mr. MacKay

I am sure that the House is grateful for that weighty and free legal opinion. I can tell my hon. and learned Friend that my right hon. Friends responsible for these matters in England and Wales are equally alive to the problems. I know that the Secretary of State for Social Services has had discussions with trade representatives about the matter to try to narrow the outlets through which children gain access to the substances about which we are talking.