HC Deb 21 January 1985 vol 71 cc718-9
5. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement concerning the increase in the use of heroin and other drugs in Wales.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

We are deeply concerned about the apparent increase in the misuse of drugs in certain parts of Wales, and that is why we have taken active measures, as part of the Government's campaign to combat the misuse of drugs throughout the United Kingdom. These include steps to ensure that local service providers are doing what is needed to develop coherent patterns of services, the offer of special funds to develop facilities to combat drug misuse and treat and rehabilitate those who misuse drugs, and the development of health education materials to help parents, professionals and young people.

Mr. Jones

The north Wales health authorities know of 1,000 cases, half of which involve heroin. It is argued that that represents only one tenth of the problem. Is the Minister aware that, of the distraught Clwyd parents I have interviewed, two have told me of the hell of seeing their two sons become heroin addicts? Is there not disquiet in Clwyd health authority, which wants to become a vanguard area, at the lack of additional funds specifically earmarked to cope with drug addition? What is the Department doing to inform the school population in Wales of the terrifying dangers of taking heroin?

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that there were about 1,000 drug-related offences in 1984, half of which related to heroin. That figure of 1,000 is considerably greater than the total increase between 1971 and 1981. We are fully aware of the misery caused by drug addiction. We are taking steps with regard to health education. There are at least three sources of finance—the psychiatric reserve of the National Health Service, joint finance and the urban programme.

Mr. Raffan

Which district health authorities have applied for special funding? Does my hon. Friend expect to be able to meet those applications in full? Can he assure the House that the money to be made available will be new money? As most of it is to be taken out of the Welsh Office psychiatric reserve, will he assure us that the reserve will be proportionately increased so that other NHS psychiatric developments do not suffer?

Mr. Roberts

We have received bids from South Glamorgan, West Glamorgan, Mid Glamorgan, Gwent and Gwynedd health authorities and we are awaiting a final formal bid from Clwyd district health authority. I remind my hon. Friend that we have increased the money available to the NHS by 12 per cent. We are now examining the bids. We hope to announce our allocations to the various bids in due course.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Minister aware of the anxiety of people in Gwynedd, especially in the port of Holyhead, about this matter? Will he confirm that community physicians who feel strongly on this or any other issue will be free to speak their minds, whatever the policy of the health authority that employs them? Will he also confirm and assure the House that if the British Medical Association makes complaints and approaches to the Department on the right of community physicians not to be gagged, the Minister will investigate those cases?

Mr. Roberts

I am aware of the concern, especially in the Holyhead area. We have received the advice of the advisory committee on the misuse of drugs, which has provided material to assist doctors in treating and rehabilitating drug addicts. Doctors in Wales are in receipt of that advice through the Welsh Office.