HC Deb 30 April 1986 vol 96 cc917-8
2. Mr. McKelvey

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is being done in Scotland to control the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John MacKay)

In the blood transfusion service we are screening all blood donations and are heat treating blood products needed by haemophiliacs. We are supporting epidemiological research, providing testing facilities, promoting a press publication campaign to advise people about the disease and what can be done to avoid infection.

Mr. McKelvey

Nevertheless, the Minister must be seriously worried about the spread of the AIDS virus among heroin addicts, especially in Edinburgh, and more recently, in Dundee. The habit of intravenous injections is creating the problem. Will the Minister seriously consider making brand new needles more readily available in the rest of Scotland so that we may stem the flow of AIDS?

Mr. MacKay

I am afraid that there is no guarantee that making needles available to drug abusers would prevent drug misusers from sharing the needles in an even wider circle. There is evidence from some drug misusers that they would do that. My Department's chief medical officer has appointed a committee of experts to advise on this aspect and on other methods of controlling the spread of infection among drug misusers. However, the message is simple and clear: do not misuse drugs.

Mr. Henderson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the best way to control drugs and the spread of AIDS would be to encourage more self-discipline and higher moral standards among the population at large? Is he surprised that he has not heard more from the Churches on this subject?

Mr. MacKay

My hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. AIDS is a totally self-inflicted illness, and it is so much more morally reprehensible when it is inflicted on children. It is wrong that some people are inflicting AIDS on their unborn children—[Interruption.] I agree with hon. Members that this is serious. It is a moral question, which comes down to people reviewing their living habits.

Mr. Maxton

That is a most remarkable statement and a major condemnation of large numbers of people who just happen to have a life style different from that of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. Will he ensure that the committee of investigation reconsiders the use of clean needles by drug users? If the Minister is so sure, will he say today that he will provide the Greater Glasgow health board with sufficient funds to ensure that there is no threat whatever to the Ruchill laboratory, which does the testing for the disease?

Mr. MacKay

I made it quite clear in my initial answer that the committee of experts is considering the matter. I shall take advice from it. I find it quite amazing that the hon. Member has just condemned me for condemning certain life styles. Does that mean that he condones drug abuse?