HC Deb 21 July 1989 vol 157 cc647-64

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Lightbown.]

9.39 am
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John Butcher)

It is unusual to be able to begin a debate with a statement that I believe every hon. Member will support: educating our young people to be alert to the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and to be able to resist them, is a necessary and important aspect of what our schools do today. But before addressing myself to the work schools are doing, and the way the Government are supporting them, I should like to take a moment to examine some of the reasons why good health education is so necessary.

That I can do so in no more than a few moments is because the facts speak for themselves. Here are just a few. It has been estimated that three quarters of a million people in the United Kingdom may have a serious drink problem. In 1987, there were more than 40,000 convictions for drunkenness; nearly a quarter of all road accidents in 1987 involved people whose blood alcohol level was above the legal limit; it is estimated that more than 100,000 people die each year as a result of smoking tobacco, and that between 75,000 and 150,000 people misused notifiable drugs in 1986—probably as many again were misusing other drugs—and in 1987, it was estimated that up to 10,000 injecting drug users were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus.

That information relates to people of all ages. Let us look for a moment at some facts about young people. A survey of more than 18,000 young people in 1987 indicated that around 70 per cent. of fifth-year pupils had drunk at least one alcoholic drink during the previous week. The same survey showed that around 13 per cent. of young people reported that they had been offered cannabis or other drugs during their teens.

I do not think that I need go on. That, in outline, is why we need good, effective health education, and why it is important that it should start in schools.

But first, we must be clear on one point—health education alone cannot solve the problem. Schools cannot be expected to put right the ills of society all by themselves. Schools are, after all, a part of society as a whole; they do not function in isolation. Our young people are sharp enough to spot any conflicts between what they are being taught explicitly in schools and the messages that are tacitly conveyed by the way in which we behave and the actions we condone or admire in others. I am saying clearly that the schools cannot do it all. They have a key role, but it is incumbent on all of us to support them. We are all involved—parents and communities.

Sir William Shelton (Streatham)

My hon. Friend mentioned the role of parents. Does he have plans to instruct parents on how they may best identify youngsters who are drinking or taking drugs?

Mr. Butcher

In a few moments I shall be talking about a 10-point plan, which I have put together with the help of officials and advisers from various groups. In the middle of that plan, there is a statement about getting more information to parents. I believe entirely—if I am understanding my hon. Friend correctly—that, when getting awareness of the problem to parents, we have to be very subtle and perceptive in how that is done. Getting information to parents is important and I hope that my hon. Friend will be encouraged by the fact that that is incorporated in the 10-point plan.

I make no apology for prefacing my account of what the Department, and the schools, are doing to equip children with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that they will need to lead healthy lives with a plea to parents and others in positions of influence. They have a responsibility, too. If that means exercising some self-discipline, they should remember that that is no more than they are expecting of our young people.

How can education help? Education can do a very great deal. Good, positive health education in schools can lay a firm foundation of knowledge, skills and attitudes which can help young people to lead healthier lives. I must stress that all three of those elements are crucial. Of course, young people need to know what the effects of drinking or taking drugs will be. But that is not enough. They also need the skills to enable them to act on that knowledge.

However much young people know about the way drinking or drug taking muddles their thinking and slows down their reactions, and the long-term damage that it will do, they can still find it very hard to resist a skilful sales pitch, or a free offer from someone who may pose as a "friend". They need to know how to stand up to that sort of pressure without losing face among their friends. Of course, they need, too, to see good health in a positive way, not simply as an aggregation of "thou shalt nots". If they understand that staying healthy is something to enjoy, something that can unlock doors to other enjoyable activities, they are much more likely to go for it than if it seems to be nothing more than a series of prohibitions.

So the emphasis in good health education is on the promotion of good health. Experience shows that it is very much more productive to stress activities that are beneficial and enjoyable than to issue doom-laden or scary warnings about forbidden ones. Indeed, that sort of approach in the classroom is a pretty effective way of making them that much more attractive.

That, then, put very briefly, is what schools are aiming to do in their programmes of health education. The Government have given, and continue to give, very high priority to providing support and encouragement of good-quality, effective health education.

I shall be looking in some detail at the role of the drug education co-ordinators, but I should also like to pay tribute to the many bodies throughout the country which are involved in that campaign. There are such organisations as the Life education centres, which have impressed many of us, and TACADE, which has given immense help to the co-ordinators and to those who are charged with making policy. I hope that, my having made contacts with those two organisations and, indeed, others, such as Re-Solv, they will continue to meet myself and others in the hope that we can continue with what I believe is a strongly developing consensus on the way in which we tackle the drug and alcohol abuse problem.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Those voluntary organisations are, of course, most useful, and there is an organisation funded by the Government called Alcohol Concern, which has also done enormously good work. However, is my hon. Friend aware that, at the end of July, it is still waiting to know what money it will get for this financial year?

Mr. Butcher

I thank my hon. Friend for putting forward a timely reminder. I can reassure him that Alcohol Concern will have a response shortly.

I shall turn now to the drug education co-ordinators and my Department's support for in-service training. We have, since 1986, provided through the education support grant arrangements funding for local education authorities' activities in relation to education about drugs. That has enabled local education authorities to put in place drugs education co-ordinators—usually seconded teachers—whose task it is to stimulate education about drugs in their areas, to help co-ordinate activities by the various local agencies involved, and to provide advice, training and updating for teachers and youth workers. To support that last activity, the Department has also given priority to providing grant support for in-service training about drugs.

Since 1986, my Department has given grant on expenditure of more than £11.6 million under those schemes. We estimate that during that time training will have been provided for approaching 100,000 teachers, advisers and youth workers. An evaluation of the drugs education co-ordinators' work, which was undertaken for the Department by Southampton university, attests to their success in stimulating and supporting local activities and establishing effective local networks.

We are now ready to build on that success. We recognised some time ago that it is unrealistic to limit the drugs education co-ordinators' work to illicit drugs and solvents alone. I have already made it clear that effective health education has, as its starting point, the promotion of generally positive attitudes towards health. The message is the same, whether we are talking about drugs, alcohol, AIDS or whatever. What it boils down to is, "Stay healthy, stay in control."

We have therefore, decided that from next year we shall extend the coverage of both the education support grant and the LEA training grant scheme funding. In future, all aspects of health promotion activities within schools, colleges and the youth service will be eligible for grant. At the same time, we are increasing very substantially the amount of expenditure that can be supported. In 1990–91, we shall pay education support grant on £4 million of expenditure by LEAs, and a further £3 million of expenditure on in-service training can be supported by grant. That total of £7 million is fully £3.2 million higher—in cash terms—than the figure for the current year.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Will some of the funds be directed at teachers to help to wean them off their drug dependency, particularly in terms of smoking? If not, it will be difficult for them to act as role models for children in schools and to get the message across.

Mr. Butcher

I would not want to create the impression that the money is simply for supporting the activities of the co-ordinators, their salaries and associated costs or simply just for training. We have stated clearly that we must give more resources for the training of teachers. I shall not barge into the area into which my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) invites me about the job of teachers as role models. I do not believe that they need any lecturing about that. We should be extremely satisfied that 99.9 per cent. of our teachers take that part of their job seriously. I assure my hon. Friend that within the £7 million there will be room for spending on materials and on other support activities undertaken by the LEAs.

As we receive the bids from the LEAs in the coming months they may well want to do more than simply have a more intensive programme for the training of teachers and support from the ESG. They may want to adopt their own policy regarding the problems in their localities and they may have their own opinions about how their local programmes should proceed. Flexibility is therefore built in. I know that that is not the main point raised by my hon. Friend, but I believe that it meets the central issue behind his question.

I pay tribute to the drug education co-ordinators. I first came in contact with them just before Christmas and I immediately decided—I hope with their positive help and contentment—to chair workshops in which, together, we could examine the database and produce policy. I hope that the co-ordinators have been encouraged by the fact that the implementers of the measures outside are involved in the policy formation process. It is important that those who implement the measures and who seek to achieve the objectives day in, day out should feel that they can come to Whitehall and say directly to a Minister what they see going on outside and what they would like to see by way of policy initiatives.

I met those co-ordinators yesterday, but, unfortunately, I was unable to chair the full meeting because I had to be in the House in the afternoon. They made a number of suggestions, including the need to update some of the curriculum material with reference to particular substances. I readily accepted that suggestion. My officials will brief me at the end of this debate on the further outcomes of that meeting and, if need be, I can report back to the House on them.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

I understand that a report from the cross-curricula working party on health education will be published in the summer and will cover the matters that we are discussing. When is the report likely to be published and what is its relationship to this debate? The Minister may intend to mention that report and I apologise if that is the case.

Mr. Butcher

The hon. Gentleman is anticipating, and rightly so, another major aspect of this debate, which is what we say within the overt and hidden curriculum and across those curricula covering personal and social education. I shall deal with that point in a few moments.

The work of the drug education co-ordinators with schools, and of course the work of the teachers themselves, is at the heart of our strategy on health education, but we are underpinning their activities in a number of ways—the point raised by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). Right at the beginning of the Education Reform Act 1988—in section 1 of chapter 1 of part I—we have made it clear that the curriculum offered by schools must fulfil two basic requirements: it must promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and it must prepare those pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life". That means that all schools must make sure that, either through the foundation subjects of the national curriculum or, if they so choose, by other means, young people are given the knowledge, attitudes and skills they will need to lead healthy lives. The importance that we attach to this was reflected in my right hon. Friend's request to the National Curriculum Council to offer advice on the place of personal and social education, including health education, in the curriculum. In due course, the NCC will offer schools guidance on this. I shall try to answer the question from the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey about the timing of that proces later.

Of course, many of the requirements relating to the foundation subjects will also contribute towards those broad objectives. For example, under the science curriculum, which all schools will start to teach this autumn, young people will learn, as appropriate for their age and level of understanding, about the effects of drugs on their bodies and their minds.

The Department has also provided information and help for the schools in relation to particular topics. The booklet, "Drug Misuse and the Young", produced in 1985 as a guide to teachers and youth workers, has proved a valuable source of information and advice and we intend to update it shortly to take account of recent developments.

The resource pack, "Your Choice for Life",—I have an example available—which incorporated a video and handbook for schools to use in teaching 14 to 16-year-olds about AIDS, was distributed to all schools with students in that age range in December 1987. Its use in schools is currently being evaluated by Bristol polytechnic for the Department. In the light of that evaluation, we shall be considering whether there is further support and help that the Department might provide to help schools get across the important messages that everyone needs to understand about HIV and AIDS.

The Department has also supported the development of curriculum materials where a need has been identified. The substantial package tabled today of curriculum materials, entitled "Drugwise", was produced by TACADE and the Health Education Authority with funding from the Department and from the Scottish Health Education Group.

The pack provides help for teachers in teaching about drugs, alcohol and other mood-altering substances. It includes learning materials, from which teachers can choose the most suitable approach for their pupils, and suggestions about tackling various issues connected with drugs; a curriculum guide to help those responsible for co-ordinating and organising curriculum content; and a training manual which can be used either in a workshop setting or by individuals. I am glad to be able to report that, since its publication at the end of 1986, more than 5,000 of these packs have been issued to secondary schools.

The Department has also taken other opportunities to raise the awareness of schools, and of young people themselves, to issues relating to drug and alcohol abuse. As an example, a conference in February, organised by the Department with the support of the Scotch Whisky Association, brought together students, parents and teachers from 29 secondary schools to examine some of the reasons for alcohol abuse by young people, and to consider what might be done to counteract it. I was very impressed by the thoughtfulness with which the young people who were there approached the topic; we took careful note of what they had to say, and we are lookinsz carefully at some of their suggestions.

So far, I have spoken generally about drug and alcohol misuse; and I have explained that we believe that the most effective line that schools can take is to approach these issues within the context of an overall programme of health education, emphasising the positive benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Drug-specific, shock-horror approaches in the classroom really do not seem to work. But I do not believe that it is possible to address this general topic at the moment without mentioning one specific drug in particular. As hon. Members may surmise, that drug is, of course, crack.

I do not need to tell this House how much of a problem crack is in the United States. We know all too well that it has spread in less than five years from being a little-used and little-known drug to one which is at the root of major problems in a substantial number of American cities. That must not happen here. We must learn all the lessons we can from the American experience and make sure, as much as we can, that it does not happen here.

The all-party committee on drug misuse has, I understand, received a copy of a paper which has become known as the "Stutman lecture". I understand that in his capacity as chairman of that all-party committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) may wish to make a few observations on that. I emphasise that the lecture was candid and probably off the cuff. It was delivered in London in a positive and helpful frame of mind, which seems typically American in wanting to help the United Kingdom to share the American knowledge of this matter.

Bearing in mind that it is not an academic paper—it is very much about the American experience—and that it is not an official document I feel that while others outside the House are discussing the document, we in the House should at least be able to refer to some of the observations made in it. Obviously, we have to stay close to our own advisers and produce our own policies. However, if only a fraction of what Mr. Stutman has said is applicable to this country, we should at least take the document seriously, as a part of the input to our policy formation process. I do not know whether hon. Members have seen the document, but if not, under the clear caveat I have given about it, I am perfectly happy to place a copy in the Library, if hon. Members feel that advisable.

I turn now to some of the points made in the Stutman lecture of which we should be aware. Some may not have had much publicity in the context of crack, but, bearing in mind what I said earlier, that what we say and do in the classroom must be non-drug specific, we as legislators, opinion—formers and policy—makers must have a clear perception of what we are dealing with if we are to help those in the classroom in the best way possible and if we are to help the co-ordinators and the voluntary bodies and to act on the advice that they are giving us about the English approach to the American experience.

Among other things, Mr. Stutman stated: Crack … is a drug that affects females as much as males. In the United States of America about 80 per cent. of our heroin addicts are males and it has traditionally been that way. We are now finding in the United States that of all the crack addicts we have seen, about 50 per cent. of them are female. Now what does that mean if you live in a big city. It means very simply the following—that at least in the United States most inner cities families are matriarchal in nature— they are run by women. These are the same women who here, before, had been fairly oblivious, not touched by the heroin epidemic. They are today becoming crack addicts. And, therefore, the last vestiges of family life in the inner city, certainly in New York and in most other major cities in the United States are beginning to disappear. Mr. Stutman then deals with child abuse and states: child abuse cases in New York City have gone in 1986 from 2,200 reported cases to 1988, 8,000 reported cases. It has almost gone up by 400 per cent., almost all of them are the children of cocaine-crack-using parents … in New York City all of the children who died because of battering, child abuse, where parents literally beat their kids to death … 73 per cent. were the children of cocaine-crack-using parents. It is a drug that produces violence … In a survey of 17,000 crack users in the United States the 'Cocaine Hotline' is going to point out that:—47 per cent. of those crack users had actually been involved, this is all under the influence of crack, in a physical fight: 35 per cent. had been involved in assaults with weapons, 12 per cent. had been involved in child abuse and 1 per cent. had actually been involved in murders. That is a drug that, unlike any other drug that we have ever seen, produces those kind of numbers. There is a considerable debate in the United States and in this country about the methodology of addiction to that substance. I appreciate that the debate is intense and I offer no view of my own at this stage about who is correct. I should simply like to report the view of Mr. Stutman, who is a drug enforcement agency officer. He stated: of all those people who try crack three times or more, 75 per cent. will become physically addicted at the end of the third time. It is pointed out now that in most treatment centres in New York City the average crack addict is addicted within five weeks of first use. More chillingly, the drug enforcement agency officer continues: Right now in the United States of America every major treatment centre will agree with the following statement and, in fact, the New York Times recently did a survey in which they talked to the head of every major treatment centre in the United States. Right now in the United States crack is considered a virtually incurable addiction. Statistically, there are no treatment centres that will show any long-term remission of any statistically significant number of crack addicts … So it is considered an incurable addiction in our country and yet it is a drug that of those people who try it three times, 75 per cent. become addicted. You don't have to be a mathematician to figure out you've a hell of a problem when you've got a drug like that. I now come to the point about the lessons for us. Mr. Stutman states: The New York City Police Department has 29,000 police officers, about the same as the Metropolitan Police of London. When crack first started, they had about 600 officers working full time on drugs. The New York City Police Department now has 2,700 full time drug officers, just in New York City. Last year the New York Police Department and DEA, in New York City … made 90,000 drug arrests. Last year in New York City our office, just the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York City seized 9,000 kilos of cocaine. … Now the next question is, did all of those seizures and all of those arrests make one bit of difference, and the answer is absolutely not. There is not one single corner in New York where you can't purchase crack or cocaine. Our mistake, in New York, was very simply the following. We didn't see the problem early enough and we didn't get a jump on it. So, with the generosity and candour that I referred to earlier, Mr. Stutman said to a British audience: The only thing I would ask you is the following: learn from our mistakes. We have screwed up enough times to write 10,000 books, but I would hope all of you don't have to go through the same thing that we went through. Don't be like the people in Kansas, in Texas and california who said, 'It can't happen here.' I will make a prediction and as you all know about predictions in this business, you have got to be crazy to make them. I will personally guarantee you that two years from now you will have a serious crack problem, because as the gentleman before me said, we are so saturated in the United States with cocaine, there ain't enough noses left to use the cocaine that's coming in … I repeat, the only thing I would ask you is the following, learn from our mistakes. I hope that we will do so. I look forward to hearing the remarks of my hon. Friends, and I believe that we still have an opportunity that the New Yorkers no longer have—an opportunity that may also have been lost in other parts of the United States that felt that they would never have a problem.

I hope that this debate will join with the growing national consensus on our methods of ensuring that our young people do not go through misery.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

I thank my hon. Friend for reporting so fully on first-hand experience, but his remarks perhaps do not sufficiently illuminate one important aspect. Much of America's crack problem originated in New York's black community, from the West Indies, and so on. We should acknowledge that not all communities are from the start equally vulnerable. Perhaps people in Kansas and Texas, and in other states, were lulled into the belief that crack was a problem of the inner cities only. Therefore, we must ensure that the most vulnerable of our communities are those best prepared to deal with the problem at the earliest possible moment. That will involve us all in difficult work. We must ensure that it is not thought that because the crack problem is tackled in black communities, they are the cause of it.

Mr. Butcher

Earlier, I remarked that we must be cautious in interpreting and examining the American experience. Almost any generalisation is dangerous, and we should not debate the question in terms of particular sections of the community. As the Americans so openly comment, one may start with the belief that it is an inner-city problem, but in truth it rapidly affects the whole cross-section of society. I shall refer shortly to the means by which we shall stay true to our approach in the schools—the non-drug specific, stay healthy, stay in control approach. However, for the past three weeks I have been talking about the intensification of messages that we know work as the kind of defence mechanisms that our young people need.

The work already under way in our schools will provide a firm foundation for the further efforts we must make to keep crack at bay. We shall build on that foundation to ensure that schools are fully aware of the threat and are fully prepared to equip young people with the skills that they need to resist the lure of crack.

I stress that I am not advocating a different approach to crack. I am convinced that if one were to launch a specific anti-crack campaign in the classroom, one could simply be doing the pushers' job for them. Rather, we must intensify all our existing messages in the areas where young people are at risk, and ensure that schools play their part in the efforts of the community as a whole to stop crack gaining a foothold in this country.

Having briefly summarised the Government's action so far in stimulating, encouraging and supporting the development of effective drug and alcohol education in our schools, I turn to the future.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to intervene before he leaves that point. It may have been just his delivery, but I detected in his remarks an accent on the word "classroom", in relation to there not being crack-specific campaigns. I hope that he accepts that there should not be crack-specific campaigns of any sort in the classroom or elsewhere.

Mr. Butcher

Yes, I do accept that. My hon. Friend was right to interpret my remarks as emphasising the work done in the classroom in particular, but when dealing with the attitudes of young people, one must bear in mind also the youth and community service—which is, in my view, a very underestimated resource. Many of our advisers and others dealing with drug policy acknowledge that one cannot reach some people through the classroom or even through the youth and community service. Those who are not visible in that way may be members of the groups most at risk. However, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that we are talking about a non-drug specific message, whatever the nature of the young or youngish group of people involved.

There is reason for us to be proud of our achievements. Of course there will always be exceptions, and they hit the headlines. Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that the majority of young people take a sensible and responsible attitude to alcohol and drugs. In my preliminary remarks to outline the scale of the problem, I quoted figures suggesting that perhaps 13 per cent. of young people are offered illicit drugs at some time during their teens. The good news is that the majority of that 13 per cent. are able to turn down that offer. I am convinced that that encouraging fact owes greatly to the work that is now under way in our schools.

I repeat that 100,000 practitioners of one form or another have received awareness or training programmes and know more or less what they are doing. However, we must not be complacent. They need more assistance, and we must learn from new data as they arrive. But that is not a bad record for a western European country to have achieved.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Can the Minister give an assurance that data will be kept up to date? Earlier this week, in our debate on teacher shortages it was accepted by his Department that until very recently, data on that issue were lagging considerably behind. Given the frequently changing pattern of drug use and abuse, it is vital that up-to-date data are available to make social policy judgments. How can other Departments help to ensure that such information is kept as up to date as possible?

Mr. Butcher

We have various sources of information. My colleagues at the Department of Health sponsor a major survey of the attitudes of school children that is undertaken through the Health Education Authority and Mr. John Balding in Exeter, covering about 17,000 young people a year. It monitors their changing attitudes on an annual basis, and therefore represents a very large and useful database for spotting trends and developments. As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, the situation can change very rapidly.

The hon. Gentleman implies that we should make available as much information as possible to the House. We all have our own sources of information, but, given that we are all united in the objective and that the only question remaining is how it can be achieved, the availability of that up-to-date database to right hon. and hon. Members is also important. I give the hon. Gentleman an undertaking that I shall do my best to ensure that it is made available.

As many hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate, I shall briefly report to the House the existence of a 10-point plan that the Department devised. I commented that we must maintain the momentum and do everything we can to equip our young people with a mature understanding of the importance of taking a responsible approach to their own health and well-being. Therefore, our future work will be just as important as the action that we have already taken. Our 10-point plan will serve as the framework for the Department's activities over the coming year.

We shall examine, with a number of interested organisations, the possibility of providing information for parents, with the aim of engaging their interest in and support for the work undertaken by schools.

We want to look closely at the effectiveness of health education, to see whether the right messages are getting across.

We shall ensure that appropriate health education messages are integrated into the national curriculum.

We shall look closely at what has happened in other countries and see what lessons we can learn from others' successes and, indeed, their failures.

We shall look into the possibility of mobilising the private sector in support of our efforts.

We shall consider means of incorporating health education issues in courses of initial teacher training.

We shall consider whether teachers need further curriculum materials.

We shall consider how to get better information on the health-related behaviour of young people.

We shall consider, with the Department of Health, whether we can define clearer messages for young people, taking account of their varying levels of risk. For example, a different approach may be necessary for those who are known already to drink alcohol to excess.

The final point is the one on which I would like to end, although I hope to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We owe it to our young people to make sure that they understand both the why and the how of a positive, healthy outlook on life. We must all do everything that we can and take every opportunity to get across to young people the vital message that if they are to get the most out of life, they must stay healthy and stay in control.

10.21 am
Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

I thank the Government for providing time for this important debate on an issue that clearly unites the House. We have had two education debates this week and we have sharp ideological differences on several issues. There has been substantial criticism of the way in which the Government have handled a range of problems, but, as the Minister rightly said, on this issue we have a common objective. There are limited differences between us about the means of achieving that objective, but we all want to see the problems dealt with effectively.

As the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister have acknowledged, there are serious difficulties in collecting and interpreting statistics in this area. Some of them are raw, sharp and unpleasant, and others are more difficult to interpret.

The Minister referred to the work of Mr. John Balding of Exeter university today, anti in an Adjournment debate on 4 May. It may be worthwhile quoting his speech to show the extent of the problem. The 1987 figures, based on a survey of more than 18,000 youngsters, revealed that over 74 per cent. of fifth-year boys and 65 per cent. of fifth-year girls had consumed alcohol in the past week, with over 10 per cent. of the boys consuming the equivalent of more than 10 pints of beer. The same surveys revealed that up to 12 per cent. of fifth-year boys and 14 per cent. of girls had been offered cannabis or other more harmful drugs at some time during their teens."—[Official Report, 4 May 1989; Vol. 152, c. 453.] The Minister picked up the important point that the figures show the extent to which youngsters are offered drugs, but not the substantial extent to which they have the courage and common sense to turn down the offer.

It is difficult to interpret the figures on alcohol. Last Christmas I had the rare experience of taking part in a Radio 1 programme called "Rhythm and Booze". It was a serious attempt to discuss alcohol problems among young people, but it was a classic piece of BBC misorganisation. Perhaps I should not have said that because I might never again be invited to take part in a BBC programme. The programme was to be recorded one Friday night in a night club in Manchester. We arrived about one and a half hours before the disc jockey who was to chair the discussion. One of the wonderful features of disc jockeys is that they have a Peter Pan youth which makes us all appear younger. He arrived late and the BBC provided free drinks for our young audience. By the time that the programme was recorded, I suspect that one or two people may have taken advantage of the BBC's generosity, and some of the comments were made out of bravado. The programme showed clearly some of the risks involved.

What was encouraging in the discussion and is shown in the data is that many youngsters are now more likely to drink non-alcholic drinks and to be responsible about consuming alcohol and driving. There is a difference between generations here. Youngsters are much more likely to be sensible and socially mature than many older people.

The Minister concentrated mainly on drugs. He made a powerful contribution about the American experience with crack. However, it is worth reminding ourselves that alcohol abuse counts for 10 times as many deaths among young people as drug abuse. That is not to say that one is not a problem, but simply that there is a difference of scale. Both are serious.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of data, does he agree that one of the more alarming pieces of information revealed by the survey was that about 20 per cent. of 13-year-olds have experienced a hangover?

Mr. Fatchett

To go a stage further, another fact which should worry all of us who are parents and which shows us our responsibilities is that the major initial source of alcohol for youngsters is the parents. While the initial source of drugs is usually somebody whose is motivated by profit, youngsters are usually introduced to alcohol by parents, who are not maliciously motivated. That is a lesson for us all.

I shall concentrate on alcohol abuse, which illustrates a broad point about the role of schools in fighting drug and alcohol abuse. The Minister rightly said that schools are a reflection of society. We cannot expect schools to heal the problems of society, nor do we blame schools for causing them.

For many years I have been worried about the image of alcohol that is portrayed and the problems that that causes for young people. The positive image creates expectations in and temptations for young people. One has only to turn on the television or look at the newspapers to see that advertising projects a positive image of the use of alcohol and suggests certain social attributes. It often creates the impression that young men who drink are more likely to be successful with young women and that alcohol increases sexual activity. It is suggested that people need to drink to score and achieve. That damaging and dangerous image tempts many youngsters to drink alcohol.

The working group on young people and alcohol has said that advertising is undoubtedly influential in shaping attitudes, and made serious recommendations about the need to change the images and restrict the breadth of advertising.

A report in The Guardian at the end of last year showed that young people can recognise alcohol advertising at an early age. They know the brands, and can identify with the images that are created. All that creates potential difficulties.

We are told that the Brewers Society does not consider the extent of alcohol advertising a serious problem, viewing advertising as being aimed at product differentiation rather than at increasing overall alcohol consumption. In its evidence to the working group, the society said: there is no evidence that alcohol advertising increases the consumption of alcohol". As an outsider in the advertising world, I regard that statement with scepticism and with some contempt. If the brewers are prepared to spend so much on advertising, they must want to sell more of their product and hence increase consumption. At some stage the House and the Government must recognise the need to control alcohol advertising, as it is clear that the voluntary code for brewers and advertisers does not work. The harmful images remain the same.

Mr. Rathbone

This may be going off at a tangent, but, having spent most of my working life in advertising, I feel that I cannot let what the hon. Gentleman has said go unchallenged. The statement that he quoted is absolutely correct. Alcohol consumption cannot be tied to the amount of advertising, for advertising is not tuned to increased consumption: it is a battle between the brands. That is true of almost any well-branded, well-established market. It is just as true of alcohol as it is of cigarettes, cars and cereals.

Mr. Fatchett

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. May I put an alternative hypothesis to him? I appreciate his interest in such issues, and I am not making a personal criticism. Is it not possible, however, that alcohol advertising, while it may not increase the level of consumption, makes it difficult to lower that level, as it runs counter to the other messages to which the Minister has referred—the "keep healthy" messages? I think that it would be better for our television screens to show that well-known young international athletes, for instance, do not use alcohol as part of the preparation for their feats, for obvious reasons. If some of the time used by the brewers to sell their products were used to get that message across, the positive image of health would be much more effective.

Mr. Simon Hughes

This is, I think, an important part of our debate. I speak as the son and grandson of a brewer, but also as a former youth worker. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is a problem with the simple analysis that alcohol advertising is a battle of the brands? The reality is that it produces a greater cumulative effect which marks up alcohol as desirable. The amount of investment in alcohol consumption is in no way comparable.

The Government's legislation on broadcasting poses the danger that we shall have a much freer market next year, with more and more competition on radio and television as well as in the press. None of the competitors will want to make their products less socially desirable. There is no guarantee that the Government—for it will have to be the Government—will put up equal amounts to transmit the alternative message, which the hon. Gentleman and others may regard as the most effective solution. Unless that alternative message is broadcast—that people do not need to drink or smoke to be healthy—the competition is not fair and advertising is harmful rather than beneficial.

Mr. Fatchett

The hon. Gentleman has made a good point. I, too, have a confession: my parents were pub landlords, so I have seen the business from the other side of the counter. I will not say that my almost first-hand experience turned me against alcohol, but it confirmed my view that the images presented by the brewers are positive and are deeply ingrained in the minds of young people, who retain them throughout adolescence and into adult life.

Living in a public house, I saw young people who had been badly affected by alcohol. The images that they in turn create are not very positive, and in their more sober moments they would not necessarily wish to convey them to their peers. The hon. Gentleman is right. I do not decry for a moment the £7 million that the Minister has said will be made available in education support grant for 1990 and 1991, but the difference between the scale of expenditure on alcohol advertising and the amount spent on health promotion is such that it is hard to get the positive, healthy images across. I hope that the Minister will talk to the brewers and the advertisers about the persuasive impact of advertising.

Mr. Butcher

General promotion of health images is the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health. Let me assure the hon. Gentleman, however, that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and I talk regularly about the need to ensure that any programmes that the Department launches in the future will be dovetailed with the health education programmes for schools. We shall aim for consistency in advertising directed at both the general public and the classroom.

Mr. Fatchett

I welcome what the Minister has said, and hope that he will refer to his colleagues some of the comments made today about alcohol advertising. I have laboured the point somewhat to show that the role of society in general is crucial to the way in which schools perform their task of education.

I welcome the Minister's comments about involving the drug education co-ordinators in policy making. Perhaps that involves a broader principle that Ministers could apply in other contexts. Without wishing to make any criticism, I nevertheless consider it essential that those with first-hand knowledge are brought into the policy-making process, and I was glad that the Minister mentioned that.

There is always an opportunity for Oppositions to say that they would like more money to be spent, but I think that it would be foolish and premature to say that in response to the news that £7 million is to be spent in 1990–91. There is a danger of money being wasted because we do not yet fully understand the scale and the nature of the problems, and how best to tackle them. I see the £7 million, and the previous expenditure, very much as a pump-priming mechanism, and I have no doubt that the Government will make more money available if research and experience show directly that it is needed. I am sure that the Minister will not hesitate to give that commitment.

There is also a danger, if we talk about substantial amounts of money being spent, that we shall become alarmist about the statistic and the problems. I think that the Minister stressed that it would be foolish and counterproductive to be alarmist. There are serious problems that have to be tackled, but if one tackles them in an alarmist fashion it becomes difficult to define the targets and to deal effectively with them. The Government's approach has so far allowed a cool appraisal of the difficulties.

The Minister emphasised that to tackle the problem we must not use the shock horror approach and images that were used in the early days. We must use images that present a positive message about health and say no to certain forms of temptation. I think that that is the correct approach.

I was pleased that the Minister said that there would not be a specific anti-crack campaign in schools or more broadly but that the message is to be about the ability to say no, and promoting a positive, healthy image. Health education has to get that message across to young people.

From our experience, as the Minister quite rightly said, we know that the alarmist message is likely to attract youngsters towards particular drugs and practices rather than to deter them. There is always a great temptation to go for an alarmist message. It seems to be a quick way to frighten people off, but it does not work. It is better to have a slow, sure process which will have long-lasting effects. That is the best method and the one that the Minister underlined in his speech.

The Minister also said that we have to give young people hope for the future. Defining hope is always difficult. It does not always depend on material things, although housing in the inner cities and the availability of leisure facilities and of decent employment and education are clearly material. One thinks about young people who are homeless and sleeping rough in our inner cities. The Government's policies must be directed towards such matters. They are extremely relevant when dealing with the problems of drug and alcohol abuse, although the Minister did not mention them. We have to create hope and the expectation that life has something worthwhile to offer young people. Then drugs and alcohol are less of a temptation.

The problem is not always material. Drug and alcohol abuse are not limited to one class or to one income bracket. We need to offer hope in personal terms. We must create a positive image. It would have been helpful to the debate if the Minister had talked about some of these broader issues because they have a bearing upon the way in which society helps young people to achieve their full potential and to develop.

The Minister referred to the development of personal and social education, to the role of sthe drug education co-ordinators and to the impact on the national curriculum. He is right to remind us that the Education Reform Act 1988 imposes certain duties and defines the national curriculum, but he must know that there is concern among drug education co-ordinators, in schools and at local authority level, that the development of the national curriculum will squeeze out the important work that has started in these areas. That is not an argument against the national curriculum, but I think that there must be a balance that allows personal and social education work and the work of the drug education co-ordinators to develop as part of the curriculum in schools.

In his response to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), the Minister referred to the working party. He said that later in the debate he would update us on its timetable. I emphasise to the Minister that we are dealing with important cross-curricula themes, and it is crucial that they are not lost from the national curriculum. There is no reason why that should happen. All we need from Ministers is a commitment to ensure that cross-curricula themes do not disappear from the timetable. If that happens, the money that has been spent on them so far will have been wasted. The Minister will understand our fears about this.

In the Southampton university report on the work of the drug eduation co-ordinators, the theory is expressed that, because of falling rolls, competition may force heads to drop drug education programmes as they may be perceived to be an admission that the school has a drug problem. I hope that the developments in the Education Reform Act 1988, some of which we opposed, do not work in that way. It is important that the Minister should stress that the work of the drug education co-ordinators and the broader work of personal and social education should be an activity in all schools and that it is not an indication of a drug problem but shows that the school wants to present its youngsters with a positive health image. That is a natural part of the curriculum for any school.

There are one or two more items that should have been on the agenda and in the Minister's opening speech. I was disappointed that he made no reference to tobacco and cigarette smoking. All the evidence shows that that is still a significant cause of death, of poor health and of people being unable to perform physically and mentally to their full capacity. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that later, but I hope that the work of the drug education units and that personal and social education in schools will place some emphasis on the detrimental effect of tobacco. We know that tobacco is an addictive drug and its cost to the National Health Service and to many thousands of people throughout the country. I hope that the Minister will make some reference to that in his winding-up speech.

The Minister did not refer—I am not surprised—to a problem that is beginning to develop and may well be an opportunity for alcohol abuse and drug peddling and trafficking. In the Adjournment debate on 4 May, when the Minister replied to the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson), there was a reference to the development of amusement and gaming arcades. I have held the view for some time—there is evidence to support it—that the proliferation of arcades in inner cities has enticed many youngsters into truancy, drinking and drug taking. It does not happen to all youngsters, but it happens to a percentage of them. The Home Office has dismissed the evidence. I think that the case that has been presented in a fairly systematic way by several newspapers and brought together by other researchers shows that there is a real problem and a risk associated with arcades.

Mr. David Lightbown (Lord Commissioner to the Treasury)

Not those that are properly run.

Mr. Fatchett

There is a problem, and I will come back to it later. It is unfair to allow Government Whips to open their mouths. Usually they have a much more sophisticated job which involves the use of silence and pressure. Perhaps the intellectual demands are such that it becomes difficult to open one's mouth after such a long period of silence.

Local authorities do not necessarily have the ability to stop the proliferation of gaming and amusement arcades. The regulations in terms of licensing are such that local authorities have little power and their planning controls are limited. It is possible that a local authority, with a wide range of community support, will feel that additional gaming and amusement arcades are not necessary, but it would have little or no power to stop their development.

The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-East (Mr. Lightbown) said that there is no difficulty if such places are well managed. The industry has said that it would support self-management and self-regulation. I find that unconvincing in practice. The evidence shows that even if there is a code of self-management and self-regulation and the management says that youngsters under the age of 16 will not be admitted, one can usually find such youngsters in virtually all the large amusement arcades.

The House has a clear responsibility not to leave control to the industry. We have not left the control of alcohol, drugs or betting to their respective industries. We must protect our young people. If we do not, they will be exposed to truancy, alcohol and drugs. That may involve only a small number of young people but their lives are being wasted.

I realise that other hon. Members wish to participate in the debate, so I shall conclude. It is important to recognise the scale of the problem. We should not over-estimate it, but we must not become complacent. If we understand the scale of the problem, we can have a cool analysis that will lead towards effective action. We share a common concern and objective to reduce the level of alcohol and drug abuse and to reduce the dependence on tobacco.

The Minister talked about the evil of crack. It would be a foolish person in the House or any other part of the community who did not recognise the problems and the evil they create. We have to stop youngsters wasting their lives and opportunities because of drugs and alcohol. The Government have started to deal with the problem and we will give them our support, as these issues transcend party politics and go deep into the lives and well-being of individuals. From time to time we shall encourage the Government to do more, but so far the approach is right and the expenditure is in the right direction.

The message of a healthy positive image is one that we support and the Government have got it right. On this occasion I can tell the Minister that we wish the Government well and hope that they are successful. That success is one in which our society will share.

10.53 am
Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

I understand that there is a private notice question at 11 o'clock and that I shall have to sit down then and resume my speech afterwards.

It is good that there is a degree of unanimity between both sides of the House on this problem. It is a worrying problem and all hon. Members agree that there is a desperate need for action. Statistics have been quoted by my hon. Friend the Minister and by the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett). I find it worrying to read a survey that suggests that 70 per cent. of 15 and 16-year-olds have at least one alcoholic drink every week. On 20 June 1989 The Guardian stated that one person in two starts on alcohol before the age of 18. Another survey said that one in seven 15 and 16-year-olds has been offered cannabis or another drug at some time. In 1986 a survey showed that one in 10 secondary school children smoked regularly and another showed that one in 20 smoked occasionally.

I have to admit that when I was at school I also smoked because it was regarded as rather daring. Some other people in the class smoked and I smoked along with them as I wanted to be one of the boys. It shows how old I am that in those days one could buy five Woodbine cigarettes for two old pence. Having invested that money we sat in an air raid shelter and puffed away contentedly feeling grown up and sophisticated. However, when I was in the sixth form I was caught smoking by my mother. She said that if I wanted to smoke, I should do so in the house and not sneak round corners. At that time I made 20 cigarettes last for a full week. Because I persevered I gradually increased my intake until I was smoking 20 cigarettes a day. However, I have good news for my hon. Friend the Minister. In 1978 I saw the warning signals and stopped smoking. The withdrawal symptoms were hard to endure and one of the terrible consequences of giving up smoking was that I piled on weight. Instead of having a cigarette I started to eat all sorts of things which may not have done much for my figure but at least I had stopped using nicotine, which must have improved my health.

It is important that in our schools there should be an emphasis on the maintenance of good health promotion. The curriculum can be used to emphasise the dangers of drug use. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Minister has beside him the great package which contains the valuable "Drugwise" curriculum guide. The pack contains certain drug themes that could be used in the curriculum. It is suggested that in English lessons pupils should be asked to read and comprehend various pieces of information on organisations concerned with tobacco, drug and alcohol misuse. They would then be asked to write an appeal letter saying which of the organisations should be the beneficiary of fund-raising events and why. That would satisfy the requirements of an English lesson in terms of comprehension and writing and it would provide information about the help available for drug users. By the pupils' choice of organisation, questions whould be raised about attitudes to drug users.

The same theme could be applied to a history lesson. Pupils could discuss drug use in times of stress and lives and conditions in the trenches during the two world wars. In geography lessons pupils could learn of the way in which drugs affect the economy and of the international trade in legal and illegal drugs. For some Third world countries exports of plant-derived drugs to the West are one of the main ways of generating foreign exchange. Similarly, the West exports alcohol and cigarettes to Third world countries. By using those themes teachers could provide interesting lessons and put across the message of how important it is that children at school do not get hooked on drugs.

I realise the importance of the drugs education co-ordinators referred to by my hon. Friend the Minister. I am glad to say that they are now to be found in every English local education authority. I agree with my hon. Friend that they are doing an excellent job in persuading young people to reject drugs. There is a clear relationship between drugs, alcohol and AIDS and that can be used in a co-ordinated health education programme.

As the hon. Member for Leeds, Central said, my hon. Friend the Minister announced in an Adjournment debate on 4 May a £7 million programme for the years 1990–91. A total of £4 million will be used to support a new broadened remit for drugs education co-ordinators who will be responsible for giving information and advice to schools on alcoholism, AIDS and drugs. The other £3 million will go to the local education authority training grants scheme to fund in-service training of teachers. It will cover the same key areas of health education. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Minister talked about further expansion along those lines. I believe that that is a positive step in the right direction. It is all praiseworthy work and I pay tribute to it, but we could do a little more.

For the past four years I have campaigned for the money confiscated from drug barons to be given over entirely to the fight against drugs. When I raised the subject in an Adjournment debate a few months ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) supported me in that aim. He is one of the most knowledgeable people in the House on the issue. My suggestion is carried out with great effect in the United States. Surely it is justice that the money that has been made from that foul trade should be used in the fight against it. If we confiscate the funds——

It being Eleven o'clock, MR. SPEAKER interrupted the proceedings, pursuant to Standing Order No. 11 ( Friday sittings).