HC Deb 28 February 1984 vol 55 cc121-2
3. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans he has to improve services for drug addicts.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. John Patten)

I will shortly be asking regional health authorities to report within six months on plans for tackling drug misuse. A working group of medical practitioners has been appointed to prepare guidelines on good clinical practice and we will be asking professional bodies what action they are taking on training. Further information is available in my right hon. Friend's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) on 9 February.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Does the Under-Secretary of State accept that, although these new initiatives are welcome, they are inadequate, given that there are about 40,000 drug abusers, 20,000 of whom are regularly using narcotics, that their numbers are increasing and that whole areas are without medical services? As his Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has recommended a co-ordinated network of facilities for drug abusers, is it not time that Government funding was earmarked to provide facilities for drug abusers?

Mr. Patten

The advisory council recommended that attention to drug misuse should be firmly grounded within the local framework. We follow that advice. I am pleased that we have been able to follow it to the extent of, for example, providing five separate schemes on Merseyside.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

My hon. Friend referred to the local framework. When he is considering the proposals and guidelines, will he pay careful attention to the part that voluntary organisations, such as Inward House in my constituency, can play in this difficult area?

Mr. Patten

Voluntary organisation has a very important role to play.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Does the Under-Secretary of State accept that there is a correlation between drug taking and levels of unemployment? If so, what does he suggest that we do about it?

Mr. Patten

No, Sir.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Does my hon. Friend recognise that there is increasing worry among many parents about the threats posed by all sorts of narcotics? Will he continue to bring pressure to bear on the various other Departments to curtail this problem at source? Although the Departments are doing a pretty good job, a great deal more must be done.

Mr. Patten

My hon. Friend is right. The problem is worsening. That is why this Government are doing more than any previous Government to deal with the problem. We look forward especially to the report from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs concerning prevention, which is critical.

Miss Boothroyd

Does the Under-Secretary of State believe that there is a correlation between solvent misuse and drug misuse? If not, what facilities and resources are available through his Department for local authorities to improve the training, rehabilitation and treatment of solvent misusers?

Mr. Patten

Recently, my right hon. Friend and I announced a series of initiatives dealing with solvent abuse. There is no clear evidence of a link between the two, although I dare say that from time to time there is such a link.

Mr. Maxton

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that cuts in Customs and Excise services may be increasing the number of drugs coming into this country? What action will he take to ensure that the Treasury provides Customs and Excise officials at all ports on a 24-hour basis?

Mr. Patten

Characteristically, the hon. Gentleman is labouring under a misapprehension. There have been no such cuts. There is adequate provision for proper surveillance.