HC Deb 26 February 1986 vol 92 cc930-1
4. Mr. Ron Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about progress of Government measures to seek to counter drug addiction in Scotland.

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

We have introduced many positive measures with the aim of reducing both the supply of and the demand for drugs. Earlier this month I launched the second stage of the Scottish campaign against drug misuse; and I announced a substantial increase in the strength of the Scottish crime squad specifically to tackle drug-related crime.

Mr. Brown

Does the Minister not understand that this is a national emergency—an emergency compounded by the fact that many heroin users unfortunately now have AIDS? Will the Minister provide the resources for dealing with this problem, even if it means providing clean needles? More important, will he listen to Dr. Martin Plant and his colleagues, who have confirmed the link between unemployment and drug abuse? Will the Minister study their report and bear in mind that it was supported by the Scottish Home and Health Department?

Mr. MacKay

I understand the hon. Gentleman's reasons for suggesting that needles should be made available to drug addicts in order to prevent the spread of AIDS. I believe that it is a serious step to take, as it could be interpreted as encouraging heroin abuse and leading to its increase. However, I am deeply concerned both about heroin addiction and the spread of AIDS. My chief medical officer has set up a committee of experts to advise him and me of the spread of this virus. I shall take very seriously any advice made to me by the chief medical officer or by the committee.

Mr. Corrie

Will my hon. Friend accept that drug addiction is affecting children at a very early age? Will he have discussions with the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), so that lectures can be given in schools to give children some idea of the horrendous problems that drugs cause and which may lead to death?

Mr. MacKay

My hon. Friend is quite right. Some people have not approved of the advertising campaign conducted by my Department and by the Scottish Health Education Group. It is right that we should warn the public, especially youngsters, of the dangers of drug misuse, and not just heroin abuse. I can tell my hon. Friend that today my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) has announced the setting up of a working group to develop in-service training courses on drug misuse for community education workers.