HC Deb 21 July 1989 vol 157 cc671-703

Question again proposed, That this House do now adjourn.

11.22 am
Sir Fergus Montgomery

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) in replying to the private notice question said that she felt very sorry for the people who had been cut off. I know exactly how they must feel. I was almost at the end of my speech. If the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) had not interrupted the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) on the pretext of making an intervention, when he actually made quite a long speech, I would have been finished by 11 am. Then I discovered that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey had tabled the private notice question, so he will understand why I am not particularly keen on him this morning.

Before I was interrupted, I was referring to the fact that in America money that is confiscated from drug barons is used in the fight against drugs. Why can we not follow the same line in this country? I have raised the question on many occasions, although I am not sure how much success I have had. However, I promise to persevere. If that can be done in the United States of America, why can it not be done here?

Last year the United States Drug Enforcement Agency urged the Metropolitan police in this country to apply for £32.5 million of drug assets that had been seized with the help of the Metropolitan police's special task force which had been investigating the Brink's-Mat bullion robbery. However, the United States authorities ruled against us. They said that there was no mutual assistance agreement with Britain. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary took prompt action at the time and agreement has now been reached. Did that £32.5 million go straight to the Treasury or was it used in the fight against drugs?

Earlier this year two drug barons went to prison and assets worth £4,300,000 were seized. If that money could be used in the fight against drugs—as I believe it should be—we could do a great deal to provide extra resources to bring home to school children the folly of drug taking. Drug education is a vital programme. All hon. Members would agree that any young person who succumbs to the drug pusher is on a very slippery slope. It is essential that we back the teachers in their fight against the evils of drug and alcohol abuse. I am very glad that there is such agreement between hon. Members on both sides of the House on this very important issue today.

11.24 am
Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Alcohol and drug misuse are major social problems which place a massive burden on the Health Service and cause accidents, ill health and death. They are also major contributors to problems of law and order, family breakdown and industrial inefficiency.

If we are considering education in connection with those problems we must consider alcohol and drug abuse as separate problems. There has been little research into the effects of alcohol education, but what research there has been suggests that, although education programmes may have had some success in increasing knowledge about alcohol and harmful drinking, there is little evidence that education has altered attitudes or behaviour. That does not mean that we should not continue a programme of alcohol education in schools.

It is necessary to cause young people to reflect on their attitudes towards drink. We should maintain a long-term campaign as part of the usual broad school curriculum. We should use English lessons to show the effects of drink on people's lives as described in novels. We should use health lessons to show the damage that alcohol does to the body. We should use modern studies to show alcohol's influence on the costs to industry, on advertising, the break-up of families, drink-related crime and violence. I strongly believe that we should use films of drunks to show how stupidly they behave and how foolish they look to other people. We should also target different messages in clear and simple language pointing out that it is not necessary to drink excessively to have fun.

We would be naive to expect too great short-term results from alcohol education in schools. The young are always adventurous and they experiment and seize on any oportunity to try something new and to imitate adults. The image that is often presented to young people by television and through their everyday living is that it is grown-up to drink.

Adults are part of children's education. Their image of society reflects strongly what they are taught in schools. If adults cannot maintain a higher standard of responsible drinking, the children's attitude will be that it is another case of, "Do as I say, not as I do." That message will be completely rejected.

I will not deal at length with other issues such as the need to educate adults and I will not explore too far the devastation caused by people drinking or the need to increase the price of drink. Some people believe that it is necessary to label bottles with units per measure so that people understand what they are drinking. There are also issues related to the lack of Government money for education. For example, according to the figures that I have seen, there was a tax yield of £200 a second from alcohol, but only 10p of that was spent on alcohol education.

I want to enter a plea for more and better facilities for 16 and 18-year-olds. That age group is most at risk from excessive and irresponsible drinking. If we provide more facilities for them, we would be better able to keep them out of pubs.

Some time ago I visited part of my constituency and met some young girls sitting on the pavement so I sat down with them. During our conversation I asked them why they were sitting there and they told me that they had nothing better to do. I said, "Yes, but why are you sitting here?" I was told that if they sat there the policeman would come and move them along. They would go to the other end of the village and sit by the health centre and remain there until the policeman came and moved them again. I said, "But you have a very good centre for young people in the village." They said, "We are over 16. We do not want to associate with kid's stuff. We want somewhere of our own." I said, "What would you like?" They said, " All we want is somewhere to go where we can talk to people and where we are not interfered with, pushed around or told to do this, that or the other. We want a place where we can just talk among ourselves, have some coffee or soft drinks, listen to music and just be on our own." I went to the youth centre and asked whether such a place could be provided. It agreed to look into the problem.

A month later, I went to another part of my constituency and met a gang of boys standing outside a shop which had an off-licence. They had been buying some drinks. Those boys had often caused a nuisance to the local people living nearby. I asked the boys why there were there. Their reply was the same: "We have nowhere else to go." I said, "Do you go into pubs?" they replied, "Oh, yes, but we are under 18 and have been thrown out of every pub in the area." I said, "What do you want?" They said, "We want somewhere to be on our own, a coffee bar, where we can talk with our friends in the warm and where no one will interfere with us." I asked the county authorities whether such a place could be provided under a new scheme that was being set up in my constituency. They replied, "We are making ample provision. There are football grounds and trampolining and flower arranging" and other such things. I thought that there was no way that I could see those lads arranging flowers. They consider themselves young adults, but we do not treat them as such. When we do not treat them in that way, we cause them to go into pubs, cause trouble and drink irresponsibly. I make a strong plea that we consider young people as young adults, not people to he slotted into categories in youth centres.

I turn to the difficulty of educating young people against the problem of drug abuse. Alcohol is a bigger problem than drugs because it is more easily acceptable and accessible. Education against drugs needs to strike a fine balance between warning and exciting young people's curiosity. It needs to consider what kinds of drugs are available in each part of the country. It is not possible to carry out a blanket campaign on drugs, as can be done with alcohol, because different parts of the country have different problems with different drugs.

A shock-horror campaign in the schools could turn away from drugs young people who were unlikely to have experimented with them anyway, but it could excite the interest of those young people who are most at risk and who have already experimented with drugs—those who, as they would say, "mess around" with drugs or solvents once or twice a month but do not see it as a problem. It is something they do out of curiosity and a sense of adventure.

Like many other people, I think that the answer must be a low-key approach, presenting facts, answering questions and saying, "This is what it does. This is how it affects your health and your family." Perhaps that could he done through an educational film that does not preach, by getting young people to talk about it as they watch and consider the problems for themselves in a quiet, responsible way—education by accepting, by saying, "Yes, drugs exist", but also by pointing out reasonably and calmly the dangers and destructive nature of drugs.

The evidence of the national anti-heroin campaign shows that it was unsuccessful in that the people on the posters looked so horrible that young people said, "My friends do not look like that", and could not relate to the warning. I am told that the posters have become collectors' items for young people. There is a need for young people to have someone in their school to whom they can talk, who would help without preaching and tell them about the local drug line and the national needle schemes, such as the one that we run in north Staffordshire. The health authorities there have pinpointed six pharmacies where a pack of five needles, syringes and three condoms can be given out together with advice leaflets. The object is to prevent infection and prevent the spread of AIDS. The youngsters are not asked to give their names but are issued a number on a card and are urged to return all the needles to the chemist for replacement. The campaign costs £15,000 a year—money that is exceedingly well spent. There is no evidence to show that making syringes and needles freely available increases drug use.

The "no names, no questions asked" policy ensures that the idea works because people feel free to make the exchange in safety. A logo in a chemist's window identifies where the scheme operates and prevents young people hanging around outside pharmacies afraid of being picked up by the police. The scheme will provide vital information on how many people use drugs while encouraging them to ring the druglink line for help and advice.

Above all, young people on drugs need help, and so do their families. I have heard of a family with five children one of whom started taking drugs about five years ago. He started with glue sniffing, went on to petrol sniffing and is now on lighter fuel. A few years ago, when glue sniffing was at its height, I went into a major store in my constituency and discovered a large display of glue and I also found a small shop that was selling glue and plastic bags to go with it. That was very irresponsible.

We as adults have much to answer for. The youngster who started in that way has caused his family great heartache. He is the quietest of the five children and is a very nice lad, but he gets a terrible urge to sniff those products. He takes money, buys lighter fuel, goes out into a field, where he will sleep rough for a number of days to be away from his family, and then returns to his home looking devastated. His mother is at her wits' end. She does not know how she can help him. If more young people realised what can happen so easily as a result of starting to sniff glue, fewer young people would be encouraged to experiment just once or twice a month.

There should be a national evaluation scheme that considers reports from all education agencies. We should devote much more time, effort and money to the well-being of our children. We should educate them in school for life, for the problems that they will face in the outside grown-up world and for the temptations that will face them. Above all, we should give them the strength of character and the knowledge to make the right choices.

11.37 am
Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

I welcome the debate. I do not believe that any other hon. Members have as yet said so specifically. This debate on an extremely important subject is taking place in Government time. No subject bearing on any aspect of life is more important than the prevention of alcohol and drug misuse.

I commend the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) on his support for the Government's activities and on his commendable restraint in not falling into the trap, into which we all fall from time to time, of asking indiscriminately for more Government cash. The hon. Gentleman made an important point when he said that alcohol misuse might now be less threatening among the young. I hope that he is right, but I feel from personal observation—which is not like a statistical base—that he may be over-optimistic.

It is certainly true that smoking is growing among the young. If we have a few contemporaries in for a few drinks or dinner at our home, there is hardly a stub in an ash tray, but if we have young people in for drinks and dinner, there is not an ash tray that is not chock-a-block.

Among the young, there is also the growing threat of drug misuse, which seems to be growing every day.

Mr. Fatchett

I hope that I am not being over-optimistic. I realise that the figures are short term and may be contradicted as time goes on, but there is some evidence of an increase in the consumption of non-alcoholic drinks and good evidence that young people do not feel that it is wrong to consume non-alcoholic drinks in pubs. That is positive. On the down side—and the hon. Gentleman may refer to this later—there is a practice building up, in contradistinction, that young people go out to consume a great amount of beer and get drunk, and they may also get drunk on odd combinations of drink. That is worrying.

Mr. Rathbone

We are in accord on that. The consumption of non-alcoholic drinks is, thank goodness, so often tied to a better appreciation of the dangers of mixing any sort of drinking with driving.

The scale of the threat of the problem of drug misuse cannot be over-emphasised. My hon. Friend the Minister referred to the speech given recently by a member of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency at a meeting of the Association of Chief Police Oficers and he extracted some worrying comments and statistics from that speech. I want to refer to it, too, and make two additional comments to illustrate the extent of the threat from that horrible new cocaine derivative, crack. The Drug Enforcement Agency officer said that in the past three and a half years, crack has grown from a drug which was virtually unheard of to the main drug of abuse in the largest cities of the United States. However, it is not confined to the large cities, but affects all kinds of people—black, white, Hispanic, rich and poor. It has moved out of the ghetto and now affects suburban America. Those are the characteristics of the drug which could so easily be found here.

My hon. Friend the Minister quoted part of the speech and it was interesting that he stopped his quotation after making the emphatic point about the threat from cocaine. However, I want to pick up the speech from the end of my hon. Friend's quotation. He ended at the point where the officer said: 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. The officer went on: That leads to a very reasonable example of the difference between two cities near New York, Washington DC and Boston Massachusetts, they are both equal distance from New York, 200 miles, they both have large inner city populations, they both have big cocaine users. Three years ago, the Mayor of Boston came to my office. He said "I'm worried about crack." We talked about it, we went up, we trained their police officers, he increased the size of his drug unit, he set up task forces from which information came from the street to the top immediately. They did away with parochialism, they started drug education in school systems and they started community education across the city and today Boston has a very minor crack problem. They have a problem sure, but a very minor one. At the same time we talked to the people in Washington DC and there the answer was—`Don't bother us…we can't worry about this crack stuff.' We see illustrated vividly how if one takes steps and appreciates the threat early enough, one can intervene in the growth of the use that awful drug. That is a message we must take to heart. Another point to note from that short extract is that of all the actions that the officer identified in Boston, he did not mention any propaganda campaign. The city did not make a self-satisfied, self-gratifying public example of what it was doing. It was precise and targeted its efforts, and tackled the drug menace in that way.

However, we are not talking only about the problems of crack, although drug pushers who traditionally dealt only in marijuana are switching to coke and crack and, of course are still pushing heroin. There was an example in Wembley only yesterday. The drug ecstasy is a home-produced drug. The drugs squad raided a flat in Wembley and found a factory in the kitchen which had created 10,000 pills worth £300,000. In the Manchester Evening News earlier this week, there was a report of a young girl of 16 who died after taking ecstasy. The same threat comes from amphetamines, which have not been mentioned in the debate so far. There is not only a growing threat from crack, but an existing threat of hard drugs such as heroin, ecstasy and amphetamines.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) was the first in this debate to mention glue and the sniffing of solvents. I was talking to a nursery school teacher only last week and she explained that she had noticed that a half-dozen or so children in her nursery class had great blisters on their noses. She talked to the children and obtained their co-operation so that she could go home with them and talk to their parents. Believe it or not, not only could she not get co-operation from the parents, but she could not get them to admit that their children were sniffing glue. She was faced with the visible evidence of what was going on and, she went on to explain, it was peculiar to find half a dozen children in a nursery class zonked out because they had been sniffing glue. In 1987, the latest year for which we have statistics, 111 children died from solvent-related abuse. It is a widespread problem.

Drug abuse is an international problem. The last time we discussed the problem, I drew the House's attention to one aspect of its internationality, which is the job being done in the Council of Europe and in particular, through the Pompidou Group of Ministers. I remind the House and the Minister that the Social, Health and Family Affairs committee of the Council of Europe, of which I am pleased to be a member, requested the Committee of Ministers on 4 October 1988: to step up co-operation in prevention efforts between the Council of Europe, WHO and the European Community, in the framework of pilot projects aimed at health education in schools and the community, while keeping the Assembly duly informed on the progress of these projects". The Committee of Ministers adopted its reaction to the report in December 1988 and reported back to the Assembly on 3 April 1989. It said: The Committee of Ministers wishes to inform the Assembly … that an interim evaluation report has been established on the education for health pilot projects aimed at preventing dependence, which will continue in 1989. The interim report, which is very positive, shows that the model education for health project prepared by the European Health Committee … in 1984 is workable and is welcomed by schools and local authorities. The Committee is to be informed of the Assembly's interest in these projects and in the follow-up to them. I hope that, in drawing up his 10-point plan as an extension of what is already happening in this country the Minister has drawn on whatever wisdom there may be in that report from the Council of Europe.

Although drug and alcohol misuse are international problems, local activity is needed to come to grips with them. I propose to outline the way in which my local county council has tackled the problem. I shall do so with pride and because, having studied the matter extensively, I believe that its approach provides a good example of how to go about things in the right way. It may, therefore, help other hon. Members in discussing their own worries with their county councils.

In 1985, the East Sussex drugs advisory council was founded. It brought together representatives of health, education, social services, the Churches, the police and key voluntary agencies, and it provided a forum for the agreement on the education principles that should be adopted. That was an immensely important step.

The three principles are as follows: "(i) substance abuse education should not stand alone but form an integral part of personal, social and health educational programmes"— that was a thread that ran through the speeches made by my hon. Friend the Minister and the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme— "(ii) long-term effectiveness can only come from an encouragement—through this and other educational processes—of self-esteem, respect for self and others, responsible decision making; (iii)educational programmes must therefore be frank and factual, recognising the counter pressures in society and individuals Following the establishment of the ESDAC, in 1986 East Sussex was one of the first authorities to seek and obtain education support grant assistance for the post of a drugs education co-ordinator. It is always invidious to mention individuals by name when it is so much a group effort, but I must mention Jan Masters, who has been our drugs education co-ordinator for a considerable time and has done the most marvellous job. I am sure that in his meeting with drugs education co-ordinators, my hon. Friend the Minister will have been struck by her character and leadership, as all those in East Sussex have been struck by her qualities.

Following that appointment, the county council agreed a year later to appoint an advisory teacher to work in primary schools, and a third person to work in further education and youth matters. The three staff have worked closely together as a team and have delivered extensive programmes of in-service education for teachers across the whole education spectrum. The programmes have been followed up in schools and colleges by the advisory teacher.

The team has recognised that training programmes and methods need to be tailored to individual schools and colleges, but the consistent message remains that successful personal, social, health and substance abuse education can cross traditional subject boundaries and can enhance the quality of subject teaching. That highlights the need to continue to encourage the crossing of traditional subject boundaries. Some 120 primary schools in the county have enthusiastically revised their teaching programmes on health to incorporate consideration of substance abuse, and the demand from teachers to take part in training workshops cannot even be met. Those schools represent approximately 50 per cent. of primary schools in the county and I believe that that compares pretty well with performance elsewhere in the country.

A development that was welcomed by many secondary schools was the introduction into the early years of the secondary curriculum of the skills for adolescents programme of personal education with an emphasis on self-esteem and responsible decision-making. Every secondary school has taken part, with the financial assistance of Lions Club International—an extremely good example of the valuable interest of the voluntary sector in such activities.

All the county's further education colleges have now established health education programmes and are moving steadily towards making health education, including substance abuse education, part of the curriculum of every student. The team has welcomed its inevitable involvement in personal, social and health education generally rather than attempting to deal with substance abuse in isolation. Concern over AIDS and its links with drugs and the place of alcohol in irresponsible behaviour have also been included. Everyone wholeheartedly welcomes the emphasis that is now being given to personal, social and health education in the planning of the national curriculum.

It is interesting to note—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will be aware of it—that education has contributed to, as well as benefited from, the function. As one might expect, there was a key educational input into the development of the unique multidisciplinary training package on drugs. More than 300 East Sussex people—youth workers, GPs, nurses, social workers, teachers, probation officers, solicitors, midwives, police officers and many others—have already undertaken the two-day course. The education service has been able to integrate its approach to substance abuse to include alcohol. The pump-priming in relation to drugs, especially in health education, has been invaluable and a parallel agency is now being established to deal with alcohol. There has been wide support from the probation service, the police, the health authority and the county, borough and district councils, although the participants cannot bring the pump-priming spur to joint activity that was available when ESDAC was first set up. The need for new impetus in the training of teachers is ever-present. That is why I was delighted to hear the Minister's announcement of his 10-point plan and of the additional funds that are to be made available.

In my remarks about ESDAC I mentioned some voluntary organisations. I must also mention two other groups of people who have made a contribution. The first is the wine and spirits business. I am sure that I am not alone in having received earlier this week an announcement from International Distillers and Vintners Ltd. of a major initiative by British drink companies to promote the concept of responsible drinking and to help to prevent alcohol misuse. That sounds like a worthwhile initiative. A formal body is to be set up this autumn. Dr. John Rae a former headmaster of Westminster school, has been appointed its director and is taking up his position later this year. The aim of the new body will be: to work closely with the Government, local authorities, the police, and voluntary bodies to research the complex reasons behind alcohol abuse and to advise on practical measures to encourage sensible and responsible drinking. That is a worthwhile enterprise. The letter continues: As a precursor to the formal launch of the new body, we are also announcing a special training initiative for pub licensees and their staff aimed at helping them prevent irresponsible and inappropriate drinking and the problems associated with it, such as rowdy and violent behaviour, under age drinking and drink driving. That is a worthy initiative and a good illustration of how an industry can make a contribution.

Is the pharmaceutical industry making a suitable contribution? It is an open-ended question, and I do not know the answer. If it is making a contribution, I should like to know more about it. If it is not, perhaps this debate will be a spur to it to do so.

Other organisations such as the Churches are playing a part and are co-operating in organising and operating drug advisory services through boards of social responsibility. I refer to the Jewish Social Workers Association and the Jewish and Christian youth movements. There is a special responsibility to instil traditional values in parents and children in such a way that young people do not feel alienated from society and seek satisfaction in the misuse of legal drugs such as alcohol or illegal drugs across the spectrum from crack to solvents. The Churches are playing a welcome part.

When hon. Members last applied themselves to the subject of drug abuse, I mentioned Life education centres. For the interest of hon. Members, the first Life education centre was established in Australia in 1979. They have more recently come to this country. Life education centres are operating throughout the small area of the Isle of Man, extensively in Essex, and in pilot projects elsewhere in the country. Life education centres offer preventive drug abuse programmes for children from the ages of five to 15. Life education is essentially prevention, not intervention. It is intended to complement existing health educaton in schools. The programme is aimed to educate children in the positive aspects of being alive. Effective drug education cannot be left until adolescence, as children's attitudes are formed long before then.

The programmes relate to all forms of drugs, legal and illegal, and provide children with an awareness of themselves through getting to know the incredible function of the human body, particularly how and why its delicate equilibrium is affected by substances and can quickly be put completely off the rails by them. Life education is a positive approach. Life education centres and others have found that horror tactics are unsuccessful and counterproductive. The Life education philosophy focuses on creating a sensitivity to values and behavour, which leads to an understanding and appreciation of human life. The programmes develop children's decision-making skills, build self-esteem, assist with values clarification, and develop a variety of skills necessary to the promotion of health education and the prevention of drug abuse.

Life education centres provide a progressively graded series of programmes for children from five to 15. Each programme deals with a different theme, the idea being that a trip to the Life education centre is an integral part of each school year, and the programmes work together as a structured series following a child's mental and social development. Life education involves pupils, teachers and parents in a positive approach to drug education at primary and secondary level. Most important and, perhaps, reassuringly for everybody is that the programmes are continually professionally evaluated, and each evaluation has shown exciting and positive results. The evaluations are available for hon. Members who are interested to see them. I will ask the Library staff whether they will store information on Life education centres so that hon. Members can use them as a point of reference.

As my hon. Friend the Minister appreciates, Life education centres can make a dramatic contribution to drug education programmes in this country and most particularly to the carefully targeted programmes that the Government are now planning to meet and counter the threat of crack.

I commend the Government's commitment to the fight against drug misuse, production and trafficking, and their efforts in encouraging prevention and improving treatment. I also commend the Minister's vigorous contribution to that fight in the important battlefield of the health education of our young. I welcome his 10-point plan and the extra moneys that he has announced today. I hope that he will take back to the interdepartmental ministerial meetings that he will attend—I believe that there is to be another meeting next week—the comments that have been made in this debate and the importance that the House attaches to education. Unless we win the battle and reduce and, eventually, eliminate demand for illicit drugs, the fabric of our society, our values, our relationships and even our freedoms will remain at risk. That is the true importance of the debate.

12.6 pm

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

My comments will directly follow those of the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone). I will talk mainly about crack and other illicit drugs, drawing heavily upon the experience of the Home Affairs Select Committee which recently visited Washington and El Paso to see the American experience, and highlighting the threat that we face.

There is no doubt that the battle against drugs can be won only through education. I am sure that the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) will also refer to this matter. Our visit to the Mexican border vividly illustrated to us what is happening in America. A strange tourist attraction is to see illegal immigrants crossing the border. It is an admission that there can be no containment. The Americans and the Mexicans have come to an informal agreement that a certain number of holes will be left in the border fence. If the Americans continue to seal the fence where the wire cutters have been, the maintenance costs would become too great. Whatever was in the illegal immigrants' lunch boxes was nothing compared with the container lorry loads parked just across the border. There is no mechanism for adequately checking what is in the containers.

The problem in America was illustrated to us also by the head of the United States coast guard which, to my amazement, is the twelfth largest navy in the world. We were told, "All we have is two four-hour planes. When those planes come down, the illicit planes fly in or drop boats. There is nothing that we can do. All we are about is containment-plus. We cannot stop the supply." Nothing adequate can be done in countries such as Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia. People talk about getting rid of the coca plant, but there are considerable problems in doing that. Many drug-growing areas are not under the control of Governments. We are talking about valleys the size of Wales producing coca.

There are enormous environmental problems about a herbicide war on the coca plant. Some economies learnt to depend on illicit drugs, and one simply cannot abolish those economies by diktat of the CIA. One must face up to the fact also that, even if the will is there, the law enforcement agencies do not have the techniques to get rid of the product of the coca plant. We saw a body which was trying to train the Colombians and the Peruvians in a criminal justice system. One section of the course was entitled "Creating alternatives to confession". There is no tradition of collecting evidence to bring people to trial.

In the United States a huge amount of the steam has gone out of supply-side solutions. The Americans, especially the police forces, are saying that the answer is not to have more police, but must be in demand reduction. They know that they are losing the battle. No matter what they do, the potential is there for the people controlling drugs to ensure that as much of a drug gets into the country as is demanded. We are deluding ourselves if we think that the situation is any different in this country. If the decision is made by those controlling the drugs that this country will receive drugs, this country will receive them. That can be stopped only if our people are educated enough and sensible enough in the widest sense not to create a demand and a price for the drugs.

The extent of the horror of the situation in the United States has been referred to by other hon. Members. The statistic that most appalled me was the fact that in the United States last year 375,000 babies were born addicted to drugs. It was difficult to get people to be specific about what that meant, but it basically meant that 375,000 children that year were born with long-term physical and mental defects. The cost of that to the state, apart from the humanitarian issues, is colossal.

Mr. Baldry

One can go to children's wards in hospitals in the United States, as the Select Committee did, and can find a whole ward that is full of children who have been born to drug-addicted parents and who have serious drug problems from birth.

Mr. Worthington

Absolutely, because the horrifying significance of crack is the extent to which a small majority of the users are women. While they are addicted to crack, as they will probably continue to be, there is no way in which they can look after their babies. So there is the phenomenon of what they call boarder babies—those who will have to be maintained by the state or private agencies for the foreseeable future.

There are changing attitudes in the United States about how to deal with that enormous problem. One of the major changes is that they used to be much softer on the user as against the pusher of drugs. The emphasis is now changing, because they are saying that the user is the motor of the system; the user is the one who creates the demand. Also, the ludicrous idea that drug-taking is a victimless crime has been abandoned. What one did with one's own body was a matter of civil liberties and one should not, for the sake of civil liberties, intervene in that. It is certainly not a victimless crime, and I shall return to that subject later.

All over the United States we were warned that a second front was to be opened up in Europe, because of the soft entry points into Europe, such as through Spain, Italy and Holland. The sums of money that can be used to promote the market are astronomical. United States customs officers talked in terms of literally hundreds of millions of dollars being moved around in Britain. We must defend our physical borders as well as possible, however many drugs the traffickers want-not just crack, but other drugs.

A striking menu of drugs is now available. One should not forget that other events are occurring. The conflicting events of peace in Afghanistan and war in Burma have increased the amount of opium being produced in the world. We should not, therefore, get obsessed with crack.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

It is a long haul from the coca-producing valleys in the central American republics to the Clyde. Is it not the case that, while all forms of drug abuse are serious, crack is not a serious problem in our constituencies and that a much more serious problem is that of alcohol abuse?

Mr. Worthington

I am sure that my hon. Friend will make that point at greater length later. I am not denying that an infinitely greater problem than crack in the areas that we both represent is alcohol abuse. One reason for my concern is that we are coping so appallingly at present with our current addictions that the last thing that we want is another major addiction in this country. We are rightly being warned to bear in mind that the capacity for crack to get into the country is almost limitless. We will not be able to stop it if there is a demand for it.

Of course, the problem is that drugs, such as alcohol, tobacco and especially cannabis, are gateway drugs. When people use mood-altering drugs of any kind, their receptiveness to other drugs is much greater. It is relatively rare for drug takers to be non-smokers or non-drinkers. There are boundaries there that have been broken down in terms of mood alteration, of which we should be aware.

I should mention our response to those people who become addicted. Here I would want to break the cross-party friendliness, which has so far characterised t he debate, because I believe that the Government are in danger of going down the wrong road in terms of their emphasis on punishment within the community. Reference has been made to the sheer difficulty of dealing with people who are addicted, whether it be to crack, to cocaine, or to alcohol. However, it is absolutely certain that the answer is not punishment. All research has shown that punishment for users is counter-productive. It intensifies their lack of self-esteem and even their self-woe.

One of the few encouraging signs in Washington was the second Genesis project, which has survived now for 20 years. We saw there some element of success in its work, which was essentially on the basis of trying to help people to realise that they were not victims of the world—they were not people who simply had things happen to them—and to help them to become favourable change agents. It helps them to realise that their lives and their actions can be worthwhile. We are not even at first base in the provision of such facilities. If the emphasis in our criminal justice system is simply on punishment, we are deluding ourselves if we think that that will deal with the victims of drugs.

Because of the failure of the supply-side mechanisms, we need to put the emphasis on education in the widest sense. It is not good enough for the Government to lock themselves into bureaucratic departmental categories when they say that they are doing something in the schools. Many of our schools, particularly large secondary schools, are not part of communities. The catchment areas for such schools are large and students go home to a completely different area. We must ensure that our education work continues in those areas rather than just in the schools.

As other hon. Members have said, education must not only be directed at particular drugs in our society, but must recognise that our society is drug-ridden. Many people are dependent upon sleeping pills, amphetamines and other means to obtain the illusion of contented life. Those drugs, as well as the more dramatic drugs, are part of the same phenomenon.

We must face up to the illusion that drug-taking is a victimless crime. The user, or abuser, through his demand for the drug, is the motor and the cause of a drug trafficking system. The demand for drugs acts as a stimulant for organised crime on a scale that we simply cannot comprehend. The Select Committee on Home Affairs is extremely worried about the extent to which drug money has got into the orthodox banking system and has not been stopped.

The cost of enforcing the drug laws is considerable. The link between drugs and AIDS is becoming ever more clear. We have already heard about the cost of the health care of children born addicted to drugs. There is evidence to suggest that when drugs get into a community child abuse escalates. We must appreciate the scale of the problem, and we must appreciate that the attitude of the user is the cause of that problem. If people are taking drugs, we must avoid simple punitive measures, and we must encourage methods by which they can recover.

Much more emphasis must be put on long-term, community development work. I have no doubt that the areas in which drugs become entrenched are those where the people feel rootless and do not feel accountable for each other's actions. My hon Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) has already referred to ineffective youth work. She spoke of the basic demand to provide simple accommodation where young people could rest and meet rather than being treated as nuisances and asked to move on. In recent years there has been far too little emphasis on the need for good community development and good youth work. In Strathclyde areas have managed to pull themselves up by their boot straps because of such community work. The work was not described as "anti-drug"; to highlight the issue in such a way is often counter-productive. A byproduct of stimulating the tenants' organisations, good youth work and ensuring that support is given to single parents is that the people in those areas feel valued and involved rather than distanced from mainstream life. Those areas, therefore, have been able to defend themselves against the incursion of drugs.

I accept that the work done in schools is valued and valuable, but I appeal to the Minister to stress the importance of long-term, intensive community development work in his dealings with the interdepartmental unit on drugs, chaired, I believe, by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. Such work should not be headlined as "anti-drug". It should be about accepting that many of our communities and their people have become rootless. In such areas people feel that they do not have a contribution to make.

In Washington one appreciated that for many of the young blacks the choice was between working for $3 an hour as a burger boy or becoming a small-scale pusher. The material rewards of such work dwarf what is available in the orthodox system. In too many areas of Britain it is difficult to convince young people that there is an orthodox, legal, licit way to obtain satisfaction from life. They do not believe that because of their poor living conditions and lack of job opportunities. We must, therefore, put the emphasis not just on school-based work, but on community-based work. I hope that the Minister will take that on board.

12.26 pm
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), but I will not follow him in his study of the American scene.

The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), who opened for the Opposition, spoke about tobacco—the one area of drugs that has been missed out of this debate and the one on which I wish to dwell. I agree with the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie that that drug abuse should not result in punishment. Often tobacco is not spoken of as a drug and all too often health education separates drugs and alcohol from smoking. Smoking should be considered part of the mainstream of drugs, because only then shall we take the problem seriously.

In some ways, the English language does not help. A discussion of drugs may be promising as some drug prescriptions can do one good. The drugs that we are talking about in this debate—and certainly tobacco—are not prescriptions to do anyone any good. Perhaps we need some new form of English to cover tobacco and such drugs.

Reference has been made to young people who get into trouble. We often refer to young offenders in terms of drink-related and drug-related offences. When talking to and meeting young offenders I have found it interesting to discover how many of them also smoke. I wonder whether there is a connection that we have not yet identified. perhaps a symptom of their cries for assistance is their becoming dependent on the tobacco drug. Perhaps if we notice that connection earlier, we may be able to help them to overcome their problems and thus avoid a life of crime. I do not know the statistics on that—perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister does—but from my observations at least, I believe that there is a connection.

I must confess that I am a reformed smoker. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) confessed to having given up smoking, but to be eating more as an alternative. I have to confess, as many of my family and former colleagues will bear witness to, that I went through a much more painful process—to their discomfort as well as to my own. I went on a diet at the same time as giving up smoking, on the theory that the pain of one took away the pain of the other. The smoking bit worked because I have not taken up smoking again, but I cannot say that the three stones that I dropped have stayed off. However, that is perhaps a matter for another day.

My children played a part in my giving up smoking. They put pressure on me because they did not like it. Perhaps their involvement in the process of giving up was beneficial to them in some way because none of them has shown any sign of taking up smoking.

I do not raise this issue to gain any plaudits for having given up; I raise it because I want to look back to see why I took it up in the first place. One looks first to one's family and then to one's peers at school, and so on. One of my early family memories is of presenting my grandfather with some spills for his pipe. I can also remember watching my father smoking his pipe and seeing strings of tobacco leaves drying in the garage. My mother also smoked, although she, too, gave up. One took up smoking at school because other people did so. It seemed an adult thing to do. It was an emulation of what seemed smart, chic and stylish. So often, that is why people start to smoke.

We must begin by looking at the toddler, who picks up a packet of cigarettes. When the toddler gets a little older and progresses from playing with the packet, he or she will often take the cigarettes out of the packet and crush a fistful. A little bit older still, and the young infant might put one in his mouth because he has seen adults do it. I am concerned about role models, hence my intervention earlier. Role models are important in children's lives and we must ask parents and teachers to set an example.

My hon. Friends will be pleased to know that I am not seeking to pillory adult smokers. They have free choice and smoking is their decision, provided that they are genuinely adult smokers. Perhaps we could persuade them to stop their habit through tax and other means. However, I am not concerned about that today. I am concerned about young people, young minds and young habit formers, for whom we in this House have a responsibility. We are in loco parentis in terms of education and in helping young people to avoid taking up wrong habits.

We have heard many statistics and I shall provide one or two more. Half the adults who smoke started before the age of 16; only 10 per cent. started after the age of 21. I very much welcome the Minister's statement about what he is doing about drugs. I welcome what the Government are doing to discourage smoking. I also welcome the law that, in theory at least, forbids the sale of tobacco products to those under 16. I hope that the House will forgive me if the only figures from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys that I have are for 1986. I do not know whether we have any later figures, but we should. Those figures show some encouragement in the numbers of young people smoking. Up to 1986, there was clearly a marked fall in the number of boys smoking cigarettes, decreasing from 13 per cent. in England and Wales, to 7 per cent. However among girls the figure was not anything like as good, decreasing only from 13 per cent. to 12 per cent. Nevertheless, those figures are encouraging and there is an encouraging rise in the proportion of pupils in all the countries of the United Kingdom who have never smoked at all. That is good news. Many of those who smoke once never do so again because they feel ill the first time. Being made ill is also a factor in stopping young people from smoking.

Statistics show that where while only 82 per cent. of girls in their first year at secondary school have never smoked, that figure has fallen to only 29 per cent. by the time they leave. Although that is an improvement on the past, there is still a steady decline in the health of our schoolchildren and an increase in the number who are taking up smoking. The worst news is that 23 per cent. of schoolchildren aged under 16 smoke 10 cigarettes a day. That means that 880 million cigarettes a day are being smoked by children aged 11 to 15, at a cost of £66 million, which those children somehow find to pay for their habit. As those aged below 16 cannot legally purchase tobacco, it is incredible that 89 per cent. of young smokers obtain their cigarettes from shops, and 19 per cent. obtain cigarettes from vending machines outside shops.

We need to remind ourselves of the reasons for interfering in people's freedom of choice from an early age. We do so for the sake of our children's futures and their health. We want children leaving school to look forward to a healthy, enjoyable and active life, and not to one of ill health. That is what we shall condemn them to if we do not get it right when they are still at school. We want to encourage children to leave school without the burden of the cost to themselves and to their families of being hooked on tobacco, particularly as many of them can ill afford the luxury of smoking.

We must consider also the cost to the economy of working days lost as a result of smoking-related diseases, which is a burden on smokers and non-smokers alike. There is also the cost to those of us who must pay it, of £500 million per year required for health-related care, part of which must be borne in future by young people when they leave school and start contributing to the cost of the Health Service. We must be aware also of the cost to our environment and of the importance of ensuring the cleanliness of the air that our children breathe in school and everywhere else. Our children should learn not only the old adage, "Your freedom ends where my nose begins", but, "Your exhalation of secondhand smoke ends when my nostrils start to twitch."

I do not know the latest statistics for deaths from drags, but those for deaths from smoke-related diseases show that 35,000 people per year die from lung cancer and that 11,000 of them are aged below 65. It is known also that 100,000 people die per year from smoking-related diseases. That is equal to 300 people dying every day—the equivalent of half the membership of the House. That is the size of the problem.

We must encourage the good health message, as we do in respect of drink driving. The good news is that young people are better than their adult relatives at not drinking and driving, which has come about from young people's fear of driving with alcohol in their blood. We must emphasise that fear and deter children from smoking, as well as educating them about it.

My hon. Friend the Minister referred to the national curriculum, which will play a major part in health education. Many teachers would like to set an example, but they, too, need help to kick the habit. Not only are the teaching and non-teaching professions setting the wrong example to young minds, but they are polluting the air that young children breathe, causing all the problems associated with passive smoking. Teacher unions, teacher trainers and schools education services must be brought in to tackle the problem.

I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is interested in youth affairs. In addition to schools, youth services outside schools must be involved. As a president of the British Youth Council, I believe that the youth movement and youth organisations must also play a part in backing my hon. Friend the Minister in his campaign for a healthier society.

Education can go so far, but my hon. Friend must seek the support of his right hon. and hon. Friends on tobacco advertising. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) intervened in the comments of the hon. Member for Leeds, Central on advertising. My hon. Friend said that most advertising aimed to make people switch brands. That may be true for adult smokers but it is not true for non-smokers who are often young people. They are not brand switchers, but they can be influenced to take up smoking by advertising.

We must consider carefully where we permit tobacco to be advertised. It should not be permitted in areas frequented by young people, such as sports and arts venues, on public transport, in newspapers or on shop fronts. We must also be careful about allowing tobacco companies to sponsor sports events and other activities.

My hon. Friend the Minister should talk to his right hon. and hon. Friends about the price of tobacco. We should take tobacco out of the retail prices index so that keeping down the price of tobacco is not part of the Government's counter-inflation policies. I believe that that would be acceptable to hon. Members on both sides of the House.

There is evidence to suggest that a 1 per cent. increase in the price of tobacco leads to a reduction of about 1 per cent. in consumption. That may not last, but if it is a national impact, the impact on the young person's purse or wallet will be much greater. If my hon. Friend wants to help young people not to take up smoking he should price tobacco out of their range. He will then be supporting the Government's education policy in schools and in the youth world, which I support. My message to him is to keep at it and to keep on at the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

12.43 pm
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

My hon. Friend the Minister made a valuable point when he said that schools had a leading, perhaps a central, part to play in educating future adults against drug taking, smoking and alcohol abuse. I have 23 years' experience of schools, including 12 as deputy headmaster of a boys' comprehensive at King's Cross and seven at a mixed school of 2,200 on the Bellingham estate in south-east London, and I know that it is amazingly difficult to do what hon. Members have suggested today. Everyone says that such matters as road safety and the dangers of drugs should be taught in schools, but many problems are involved.

Any school that does its job knows that every lesson is, in a sense, a lesson in English, as so much depends on the way in which the teacher presents the information and on the pupils' ability to respond. In another sense, every lesson could be regarded as a lesson in health education, in that everything that a teacher says or does can imply an awareness of the problem of drugs, particularly crack. When the teacher sees an opportunity to put across such information, it should be possible. I think that, in the long term, that will be more effective than what could be seen as a rather heavy health education programme.

Fundamental to all education, and particularly to the future of society and that of any individual within it, must be the ability to exercise self-control. Present and future self-discipline will provide the best possible protection against serious excesses of the kind that we have been discussing. How can schools achieve that for children? Teachers can influence children through good, sound personal relationships, and also through good counselling; they should be able to pick up any difficulties relating to drugs or anything else which children may be experiencing, and do something about them at an early stage.

Basic to human nature is the fact that—as Shakespeare pointed out—forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest. As my hon. Friend the Minister pointed out, to tell children that something is to be shunned is to inspire a great interest. That approach must therefore be relaxed, but it must be done subtly.

Nothing is achieved without money, and part of the problem is the amount that schoolchildren have at present. According to a YMCA survey of 400 London children—quite an efficient survey, covering four or five typical schools—teenage boys have more money to spend than girls, but girls go to the pub much more often. Teenage boys receive an average of £10.25 a week in pocket money, while girls receive an average of £8.61. That is quite a lot of money; many pensioners cannot regard such sums as pocket money to be spent on extras and luxuries. For children of 17 or 18, the average sum is £16.66—and clearly they will start looking for ways of spending such an amount.

The same survey showed that, by the age of 15, more than half the 400 pupils had been to a pub, but girls are more regular pub drinkers. Three quarters of sixth-form girls go to a pub once a week, usually with an older male, and 54 per cent. of the sixth-form boys go to a pub at least once a week.

The survey shows that children start drinking early. It is the main way that many of them spend their money. They like going to the pub. They feel adult. They see other people drink and they want to join in. Gradually, some move on to heavier drinking, with serious results, and some become hard drinkers at an early age.

I shall mention some other facts discovered by the survey, as they are central to our debate. Girls, who tended not to be interested in pool or snooker, suddenly listed it as one of their main hobbies after the age of 15. However, I do not think that pool and snooker are always their central interests. Often, strong drink is available in pool and snooker clubs, and that may be what draws some girls into them. On the other hand, many girls go there quite innocently to look for a partner, and that is reasonable and normal.

The survey also found that 60 per cent. of young people go out on Friday night, compared with 82 per cent. on Saturday night. Boys listed sports as their favourite activity but girls listed dance classes as tops. Girls preferred to go to discos once a month, rather than once a week. Young people said they were more likely to go to mum than dad with a problem, but that they would turn to their father if they had trouble with money.

I spoke of the need to improve counselling in schools, but we tend to forget the central role of parents, particularly of mothers, in counselling children. Children go to their mums when they are in difficulty. That underlines the importance of backing up parents in their difficult task of bringing up children.

Dr. Godman

I thank the hon. Member for recounting to us the findings of this very interesting survey. Were the respondents asked whether they preferred to visit cafes rather than pubs? In the west of Scotland there has recently been a proliferation in the number of cafes and many young people prefer to visit them instead of our rather grim pubs.

Mr. Greenway

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that informative point. There are not many cafes of the kind he describes in London, and those that exist are not as much fun or as comfortable. They do not have the same atmosphere as pubs. I understand why this survey applies mainly to pubs because that is where children most like to go.

When children go to their dads for cash, fathers have a responsibility to talk over with them what they will spend it on. They have to do that without being too heavy or they will lose their influence. A reasonable and proper control over children's pocket money must have a tremendous effect on how they spend it. When young children get into drugs such as crack a lot of money is involved. Therefore, it behoves parents in particular to keep a close eye on how much money school children are spending, and where it is going, but they need to be as subtle as they can.

The survey showed that 30 per cent. of youngsters under 14 attended places of worship. That figure dropped to only 10 per cent. after the age of 14. That underlines the failure of Churches—I am not castigating them, as they have a difficult task—to hold and secure a Christian, moral or religious education among young people.

I mentioned the need for young people to be taught self-discipline. That can be done by teachers and parents, and above all religious and moral education can play an important part. It is imperative that, as a nation, we do something about religious education in Britain. Six years ago, the Religious Education Council revealed that in 66 per cent. of all primary schools religious education is confused and teachers do not know what they are seeking to teach. The same report pointed out that there is no religious or moral education whatever for three quarters of our children after the age of 14. We are throwing children into a dangerous vacuum with all the drugs and drink about. It is an extremely serious problem and we would do everyone a favour if we tackled the basic way in which children and adults think about their lives and what they seek to do in living them.

Youth clubs are not generally attractive to the young. They are simply not interested in playing ping-pong in a hall. Youth clubs have never had less influence. The survey discovered that 88 per cent. of sixth-form girls are likely to confide in a friend outside school or a youth club, or perhaps in their mum or dad. However, only 32 per cent. of boys are likely to do so. It is much more difficult to secure the deep confidence of boys than girls.

The effect of alcohol in schools can be extremely serious. I have seen girls at the age of 13 or 14 going off to pubs and coming back to schools. The effect of heavy drinking, much more on girls than on boys, has been to get them fighting viciously between themselves. I have seen nasty, horrid fisticuffs and scratching—really beastly behaviour. If the House has any doubt about the effects of alcohol on young people—we know that it affects many people, but we are discussing young people—it is clear in Iceland where there is a serious alcohol problem among eight, nine, 10 and 11-year olds who are often rolling round the streets drunk or fighting as early as 8 or 9 o'clock at night. That country has been worried about it for some time.

How should we influence pupils? We should do so through personal relationships between parents and children, teachers and children and others interested in them. Sport is a particular way in which to influence children. Teachers working and training school teams have an unparalleled opportunity to get to know children. Tragically, teachers' strikes over recent years have meant that fewer teachers take teams out for matches. That valuable influence has been lost, and has led to pupils being less fit. Any doctor knows that the child who starts to look for drugs is not the healthy, fit child but the unfit and seedy child, who does not experience the physical and mental restlessness of physical fitness.

If physical education is not taught in schools, children become less competitive. We are all competitive, particularly as children. If children do not have healthy bodies, they do not have healthy minds.

If I may make a political point, the Bristol headmistress who banned the egg-and-spoon race two or three years ago to please her Socialist masters because it induced undue competitiveness in children did those children a grave disservice. That stupidity has been repeated throughout the country. Competitive team games have been eliminated in many schools run by Labour-controlled authorities. Cricket is thought to be too middle class and competitive and has been eliminated in many schools. In some places, only one in eight primary schools teach cricket to boys, and sometimes to girls. That is one reason why, in future, we shall not win Test matches. We are losing what cricket and other team games bring to children's development of self-control and working in a controlled but competitive environment, which is fundamental to their saying no to drugs and alcohol.

Dr. Godman

The hon. Gentleman is speaking of the discouragement of sporting activities. Will he state plainly whether he means schools in London or England, because his remarks bear no resemblance to what happens in Scottish schools?

Mr. Greenway

I do not speak for Scotland. I can only speak from my experience of teaching in London for 23 years, but my remarks are true in other parts of the country.

If we do not do something to restore physical education and the teaching of games in schools, teachers will lose an opportunity to influence pupils for the good. Teachers should be paid extra for taking teams out on a Saturday morning. If they give up their time on a Saturday, it is only right that they should be paid for doing so. When I was a professional, I took children out every Saturday morning, but I was never paid for it. I was delighted to do so because I received such feedback from the pupils.

Health education in schools is in a mess. Too often, in the sixth form it is a subject alternative to an A-level. In the sixth form, health education covers everything from contraception to healthy child rearing. Like English language or English literature, health education should be part of the curriculum.

I support what the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) said in her admirable speech. Glue sniffing is a very serious problem and we must not ignore it when we consider the whole issue of drug abuse. In some schools 20 per cent. of children sniff glue, with children as young as five involved. I met a 19-year-old young man in prison the other day. His mind has been completely blown as a result of sniffing glue. One person every day dies as a result of sniffing glue. Sometimes people take their own lives, but often they die unintentionally from the effects of glue sniffing. We must be aware of the size of the problem and we must do more than we have been doing so far.

1.5 pm

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

I listened very carefully to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). He referred to sporting problems, but we have different problems with sporting activities in Scotland as was witnessed plainly in the reactions to the transfer recently of Mo Johnston to Glasgow Rangers instead of to Glasgow Celtic.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North also referred to the Churches. I am not sure that his comments would hold up in relation to Scotland. In my constituency, the Catholic Church, The Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church still have large attendances at their masses and services. Their youth clubs are also well attended.

However, I agree with the hon. Member for Ealing, North that there is an urgent need for teachers and others concerned with education to be aware of the serious problems associated with drug and alcohol misuse and abuse. I was interested in what the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) said about that most pernicious form of drug taking—cigarette smoking.

In my constituency we have problems of drug and alcohol abuse, but the latter is by far the more serious. In Greenock we have a drug line funded by the urban aid programme. In addition to her other duties, Annette Webb, the drug line worker, works closely with teachers in local schools. Part of her work is to educate children about drug and alcohol abuse, but she is also involved in training teachers. I listened very closely to the hon. Member for Ealing, North because I know that he has vast experience in that regard. Just as with problems of child abuse, teachers are in the front line and it is essential that they are briefed and educated in the need to detect signs of drug and alcohol misuse. Similarly, they need to be aware of some of the signs of child abuse and other forms of abuse.

Youngsters must receive guidance and encouragement and I would include necessary guidance about the dangers of cigarette smoking in addition to other forms of drug misuse. I am relieved to be able to say that crack is not a very serious problem in the west of Scotland at the moment. Many youngsters in some of the more impoverished districts of Glasgow are addicted to or misusing opiates rather than crack or heroin.

Alcohol abuse is a very serious problem in Inverclyde. We have a much higher incidence of alcohol-related crime there than in any other comparable area in Strathclyde. I know that this is a matter of considerable concern to Sheriff Sir Stephen Young and Sheriff Irvine Smith and to Chief Superintendent George Douglas, divisional commander of X division of the Strathclyde police and his officers and all those who are worried about alcohol abuse and its relationship to crime. A particularly worrying form of this crime is that which involves domestic violence and robbery with violence. In terms of alcohol-related criminal acts, a local legal dignitary recently said: Glasgow is a paradise compared with Inverclyde". I suspect that he was indulging in a touch of hyperbole, but his comment signifies the worries created by drug abuse.

The Inverclyde council on alcoholism plays an important educational and training role, in addition to the admirable work performed elewhere by its director and members. Much of that work takes place in local schools and colleges. We need a designated place in Inverclyde to assist not only youngsters but all those who suffer from alcohol abuse and misuse. I sincerely hope that the Scottish Office will respond sensibly and favourably to the application for financial support to set up such a designated place. It is desperately needed.

Similarly, the Scottish Office must give all the support possible to the expansion of the drug line service and the work of the Inverclyde council of alcoholism, especially in relation to its work in colleges and schools. I have argued before in the House that alcohol abuse in the west of Scotland and, I suspect, elsewhere in the United Kingdom is a much greater problem than drug abuse and misuse. It is essential that the Government, especially the Scottish Office, show much closer regard for the need to tackle the problems attendant upon alcohol abuse and misuse in addition to drug abuse and misuse.

1.12 pm
Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, north)

We are discussing the future of our children, which means that we are discussing the future of our nation, and we are discussing matters of life and death—three dreadful clichés in a row, and all of them true. Most of us are parents and, in that context, are also members of the public. I hope that I speak for every Back Bencher when I say how grateful I am as a parent for the attitude taken by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), for the level of agreement that has been reached and for the tremendous non-partisan approach that they have taken to a subject which matters a great deal to all of us.

The Home Affairs Select Committee, to which the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) referred and of which he is a member, as I am, is working on a report on drug trafficking and related serious crime. On Thursday next week, we shall publish an interim report on the crack menace that faces the United States and Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Mr. Wheeler), the Committee's Chairman, will at that time make a series of what I hope will be found to be extremely helpful recommendations. I do not propose to pre-empt those, so I will not refer to them.

The ministerial steering group, chaired by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Home Department and of which my hon. Friend the Minister here today is a member, will be meeting on Wednesday. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North will allow me therefore, to draw on some of the experiences that I, in common with others on the Select Committee on Home Affairs, had when we were conducting part of our drug inquiry in America.

That means, inevitably, that I will refer to the crack menace, as others have done today. We went first to Washington DC and we were well briefed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency. As part of our inquiry, we were invited to take part in a drugs bust. We went out with the Drug Enforcement Agency into an area where drug sellers were known to be operating and we watched three arrests take place. We rode in the police cars and we saw armed policemen and women leap from the cars and arrest some fairly socially inadequate people at the bottom of the pile.

The youngest of them, thrown into the back of the police car with his hands handcuffed behind his back, was 12 years old. He already had two adults working for him. He was one of those who now give the drug away free in schools in the certain knowledge that after one, two or definitely three smokes, they will have yet another customer. While this young man was selling his wares on the streets of an uptown ghetto, two miles away in a hospital, a 14-year-old girl was giving birth to her first child. That child was addicted to cocaine at birth and was one of the 375,000 such babies born in America last year. Not only was that child an addict at birth, like the other 375,000; he was also brain damaged. The effect of drug taking generally, and cocaine and crack in particular, on a pregnant woman is to cause contractions which strangle the foetus in the womb and choke the air supply to the unborn child. That is one illustration of the scale of the problem we face.

Crack is so dangerous because it is effective instantly. It takes roughly 10 seconds for the effects of the drug to travel from the mouth to the brain. The effects are often instantly irreversible. Unlike other drugs, crack dries out the brain cells that produce certain essential substances for the body. Once destroyed, those cells cannot be replaced and the person is semi-dependent on some form of additional stimulus for as long as he may be able to carry on living. The drug is incredibly cheap; in America it sells at about $5 a shot.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) referred to a child's curiosity and sense of adventure. I know that she was not promoting that sense of adventure in this context and I would not wish to suggest that she was. However, anyone who believes that it is possible to have a sense of adventure or curiosity about crack is living in a dangerous world. However great one's sense of adventure and curiosity, one does not try crack once because once is once too often. The Americans are now having to mount a dramatic campaign on television because the drug has travelled from the ghettos into white, middle-class America. Suddenly, it is no longer a problem that "won't happen here"; it is a problem that the Americans have to live with day by day.

From Washington, the members of the Select Committee travelled to El Paso, on the border between Mexico and Texas. As the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said, we watched the illegal immigrants walking across the Rio Grande. Not only that, we stopped our police car, got out, spoke to them and photographed them. They froze—like ostriches with their heads in the sand—and waited until the police car had driven away before carrying on their journey across the border taking with them whatever drugs they had. They literally sprinted to work in the United States, and they commute in that fashion daily.

The amount of drugs that the illegal immigrants carry is tiny compared with the quantities coming in by the container-load across the border, by light aircraft across the border from Mexico and in small craft from the West Indies.

For the most part, the drugs are grown in the Andes, the mountains of Peru and Bolivia. The valleys in which they are grown are out of Government control and the prospect of reducing the size of the crops is virtually nil. The drugs travel to Colombia where the coca plant is purified into pure cocaine, which is then smuggled into north America. We were told somewhat cynically by a member of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency that the crop is part of the economy of Peru and Bolivia and that the Colombians have the best police force that money can buy. The United States market for the drug appears to be virtually saturated and the Colombian drug dealers are therefore turning their attention seriously towards Europe. They are looking for routes, via the West Indies, into Spain and Italy, and inevitably, therefore, into the United Kingdom. We are told that they are ruthless and determined and that they make the Mafia look like choirboys. A favourite technique for dealing with traitors is to murder their wife or child first as a warning to others before finally murdering them.

The belief has been expressed that it could not happen here. My hon. Friend the Minister told us earlier of marijuana on offer to schoolchildren. I have personal experience of children in my constituency leaving school during the lunch hour and travelling to a known drug pedlar's house to buy their daily drugs.

In Kent, we face the problems that any frontier county faces. We have a number of ports and we know that drugs come through them fairly regularly. In recent months, we have also discovered a number of amphetamine factories. It would be wrong to believe that the only threat comes from imported drugs. From the drug addict's point of view, we make some perfectly acceptable substances at home. The Kent police have done a tremendous job in recent months—and I pay tribute to them—in finding and busting amphetamine factories, but they believe, and I believe, that it is still only the tip of the iceberg. Add to that the other problems about which we have heard—solvent abuse, the abuse of adhesives and so on—and one realises that school children are under real threat.

My hon. Friends the Members for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) and for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) referred to the increasing threat that is posed by cigarette smoking. It is through cigarettes that both marijuana and crack are consumed. Again, we were told in America that the reason for the startling growth in female addiction is because, in the past, young ladies in particular, found it unacceptable to inject heroin. Because they already smoke, they find it easy to smoke substances other than tobacco.

I have a known and declared interest in a brewing company. I make that absolutely clear as a preface to what I am about to say about alcohol abuse. I am also a trained counsellor. I trained with ACCEPT in dealing with alcohol-related problems. In what time I have at home, I deal on a day-by-day basis with some of the problems that affect alcoholics. I have had personal experience of having to search hedgerows, lavatory cisterns and the stuffing of chairs to find concealed alcohol. I am aware of the problems that have been referred to, and I would not wish to make light of them.

The House should pay tribute to the responsible attitude that is being taken by major brewing companies and to the contribution that is being made by the Brewers Society to the provision of education packs and advertising to try to ensure that people, particularly young people, use and do not abuse alcohol. There is no mileage and no brownie points for brewers, landlords or tenants in creating social problems. They continue to invest heavily in seeking to ensure that public houses are more sociable and more family-orientated places and that a good supply of non-alcoholic beers and wines are available. It is not a matter for my hon. Friend the Minister today—he might like to take it to his meeting on Wednesday—but landlords could help to control under-age drinking, especially by schoolchildren, if, at least on a voluntary basis, we introduced a national identity card. Such a card would be of more national value—I include north of the border of course—than a football identity card.

I shall add one solution to the problems that we have been discussing. I hope that you will not rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for mentioning quasi-religious cults. They, too, have a pervasive influence in and through schools, and some of them are drug-regulated. My noble Friend Lord Rodney, the chairman of the all-party group on cults, has a file of misery that has been caused by, and because of, young people becoming involved in organisations and matters that they do not understand until it is too late. There is an overall solution to those problems.

I was particularly pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Minister announce the increased funding that he intends to make available. I hope that my county of Kent will take advantage of that funding and note the lessons that we have learnt from my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes, as it appears that Sussex has taken a lead in the matter. The solution cannot be an over-dramatic, knee-jerk, television campaign reaction.

Every hon. Member who has spoken appears to agree that a shock-horror campaign would be much more likely to stimulate demand than to begin to solve the problem. The solution must be through a sustained long-term campaign of education through schools, youth clubs and every other available organisation. I ask my hon. Friend to pay attention to the work that is now being done by the Schools Outreach organisation in some schools and also by ACET, the AIDS care education and training organisation. I am not suggesting that either of those bodies is necessarily a suitable avenue for the funding that has been made available, but I believe that it is essential that we provide ourselves not only with a network of drug or health education co-ordinators, but with a network of trained counsellors serving literally every secondary school and, through them, every primary school in the country. That will cost money, and it will cost more money.

It was explained to us in America that, if the epidemic that it faces were to take hold here, so much of the money that is currently being spent on the National Health Service would have to be diverted into the treatment of drug-related illnesses that arguments about the future of the Health Service would become academic.

I welcome the Minister's programme and the funding that he has won for what I hope and believe will only be the start of a sustained programme. In an ideal world, much of the work and education about which we have been talking would be carried out by parents and by families. However, we do not live in an ideal world. We in the House must deal with the real world, which knows that far too many children have parents and families who do not provide the support that they need and, therefore, the only support will be through the institutions that they attend, and, for most, those institutions will be their schools.

I hope that we will be able to deliver a threefold message to young people—first, every action has a reaction and a consequence; secondly, to take any drug once is once too many; and, thirdly—I believe that this is the message that will most appeal to the young—the moment one becomes involved in drug taking, one is allowing someone else to tell one what to do. Young people do not like to be told what to do, so the message must be, "You decide what you are going to do; you stay in control."

1.32 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Like others, I welcome the debate. Some clear messages are being repeated by hon. Members on both sides of the House, which will allow the debate to fulfil two of the three functions that the Minister made plain are the functions of the Government and of hon. Members when we address such issues. The Minister made clear that our three functions are as legislators, opinion formers and policy makers. On this occasion we are not legislating, but we are seeking to develop policy and to form opinion. The debate is welcome because it helps to set those two objectives. It may be that legislation will follow later, but it does not appear at present that specific pieces of legislation are planned or necessarily contemplated.

I am happy to say that I believe that the implication of the key message, which the Minister, on advice, announced in the debate in May of "stay healthy, stay in control", is the right one. I want to divide what I say into a recapitulation of how urgent it is for us to address the subject, the justification for the approach that we have adopted and to ask a few questions about the Minister's responsibilities and the way in which education will address the specific agenda about how to deal with alcohol and drug abuse.

The statistics—we can all quote many—are frightening for two reasons and the personal experience of hon. Members justifies the concern. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) said that educating people about alcohol, and in particular about drugs starts with advertising. I intervened to make a similar point. Evidence shows that, at the age of six, two out of five children can identify at least one alcoholic drink. By the age of 10, they are familiar with the names of many alcoholic drinks. It is after that age that they begin to drink. Between the ages of 10 and 14, only 2 per cent. of children have not tasted alcohol. By that age the vast majority of boys and girls will have begun to drink, often regularly. According to the Strathclyde university survey, the majority of boys and nearly the majority of girls will have had illegal drinks in pubs by the age of 14. By the age of 15 twice as many boys as girls will have begun to drink. It is generally accepted that girls are more addicted to tobacco than boys and that boys are more addicted to alcohol. By that age, drunkenness is also experienced by many children, normally outside the home. By the age of 16 only 12 per cent. of young people will not have tasted alcohol.

The important thing to recognise in the statistics is the underlying trend, which shows that the age at which people begin to smoke and to drink is becoming younger. Although alcoholic consumption is at its heaviest in mid-teenage boys, the amount drunk by younger boys on a regular basis is increasing.

The latest figures from the official survey on young drinkers' trends shows that 37.5 per cent. of 11 and 12-year-old boys have some alcohol on one day of the week. The percentage rises as the boys get nearer the age of 16.

In April this year, at the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association conference in Torquay, there was a debate on young drinking. Many experts gave evidence to show the horrendous consequences in the school room of such drinking. A teacher from Borehamwood said that there was plenty of evidence to show that teenagers were now drinking alcohol to the detriment of their health, and he asked: How do you cope with 1l-year-olds who have experimented with alcohol at home over lunch? Another teacher said that children were often absent or, if they were present, they were befuddled by drink.

There is an inter-relationship between drink, drugs and worse. Young people who later become involved in drug abuse have often earlier drunk alcohol. Often early drinking of alcohol increases early sexual activity and early sexual activity means casual sex, unwanted pregnancies and sometimes AIDS. Alcohol can lead to the severe harm of children.

In some cases the problem is horrendous. I was a youth worker before I came to this House. In our youth club in south London there were 14 and 15-year-old boys who would drink 15 pints a night regularly. At the end of such drinking they would not even be on the floor. One cannot drink 15 pints a night unless one has had a drinking habit for a considerable time. When that becomes acceptable behaviour for 15-year-olds, something is clearly wrong.

I agree with many hon. Members that education, especially of schoolchildren, is the single most important thing that we need to do to reduce drug abuse. Education gives young people and children the wherewithal to make their own decisions about drugs instead of simply following the strictures of others. We all know that the strictures of others appear as irrational to young children. If one says to a youngster, "Just say no to drugs", the obvious question will be, "Why?" Once a naturally inquisitive child asks why, that child will want to explore for himself why he has been told that he cannot do this or that. As my other hon. Members have said, being told not to do something is often the best excuse for trying it out at the first available opportunity. I guess that many of us did exactly that in our own youth. Therefore, one simply cannot say things like that.

Later, and separately, in the education process, one can indeed say no, but at the beginning one must do something else. One has to persuade children that they should not abuse drugs. I agree with the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) that one does so by showing young people as clearly, factually, and accurately as possible the physiological, physical and mental effects of drugs on people—or possibly all three.

If, from the beginning at their time at school, children are taught that they are unique and special and that the health of their minds and bodies is essential to ensure that anything and everything that they do in their lives will happen as it should and that their bodies will be affected by taking in any drug, they will begin to understand the effect of the substances that become abused. They can then begin to understand visually, not only what not to d o to their bodies, but what they should do. Education about the foods that they should or should not eat and about the things that they should or should not drink is part and parcel of the same teaching which explains how fat leads to heart disease, how alcohol affects the bloodstream and brain, and the meaning of advertising agents' slogans such as, "Heroin screws you up".

I endorse entirely the comment of the hon. Member for Lewes that one of the most effective methods of doing that is the one pioneered in Australia by Rev. Ted Noffs, and which is now well-recognised in this country and is receiving funding. We know that the Prince of Wales has given his support to it and that certain parts of the country have endorsed it. The Life Education Programme is clearly effective in communicating those simple messages. The human body is presented visually to young people. Responses to certain addictions and intakes are described and the young people are allowed to see for themselves the effects of drug or alcohol abuse. In Australia the project has been successful with the most lost and hopeless of cases. Indeed, it started in Sydney and in other areas where the problem was at its worst.

I hope that such projects can be supported and endorsed here. The Minister was satisfied that it had been extremely helpful in formulating Government policy and that it had received their support. However, that type of project needs to be continually upheld as the way in which one should educate from an early age. Children should he allowed to know the reasons for their choice. We should underscore their ability to make such choices against the pressures of their peer group and of their friends, or sometimes of those who are not their friends, but who are seeking to make money out of the deal.

One of the political arguments revolves around whether such topics should be the subject of compulsory education and how they should pass into the national curriculum. The general argument is that personal, social and health education is being considered by the inter-curricula working group, on whose timetable I trust the Minister will comment briefly when he winds up, which will recommend how such education can be embodied in a cross-core of foundation subjects, particularly science.

There is considerable discontent and uncertainty about whether the division of such teaching among several subjects is a responsible approach. We know of the existence of the drug education co-ordinators, who will be funded until next year, but there are doubts as to whether the provision for the teaching of separate subjects is the right way forward. Is the Minister and his advisers in a position to allow their working party, and the Department to allow itself, to consider whether there may be grounds for co-ordinated teaching rather than separating it under different departmental heads? There are strong arguments for putting such education together and for ensuring that every school provides it.

The Minister announced his Department's 10-point plan and the money available on 10 May—not today, as some of his hon. Friends seem to think. Concern has been expressed as to the extent to which private sector organisations with an interest in certain topics should become involved in schools promotions. Point five of the plan concerns the greater involvement of the private sector in the sponsorship of drugs and alcohol abuse programmes. It is right to ask whether the Scotch Whisky Association is being totally selfless when it seeks to become involved in the education of young people and to support the drug and alcohol abuse programme when the association's ultimate key objective, not surprisingly, is to promote whisky sales in this country and abroad. I choose that association as but one example.

A matter of common concern not covered by the 10-point plan but which has been mentioned in the debate is solvent abuse. I am aware that Ministers both in the Department of Health and in the Department of Education and Science share that concern and are responding to it. I am not critical of them, but I hope that they will continue to flag up that many youngsters abuse solvents. It is more difficult to control sales outlets of solvents than it is to control those who are selling alcohol or prescribed drugs, because solvents are generally available without restriction in many ordinary shops.

The former Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), brought to that Department a high profile on health provision. I have no idea of her likely fate in the coming days, but I am concerned that whoever is in post at the Department of Health and at the Department of Education and Science should develop policy together, as they have done in the past, and give an extremely high profile to the argument that health promotion and education is the way to counter drug and alcohol abuse—best starting with the young.

The postscript is this. Health and Education Ministers and their officials must persuade their colleagues in other Departments to play the same game. As long as massive amounts of money are spent on tobacco and alcohol advertising—and there are no Government warnings required for the latter, although there are for the former—and as long as there is no general ban on such advertising, the Government's health education programme will compete with market pressures that make it difficult for any health campaigns to succeed. The Treasury must be persuaded that bad things should be taxed more than they have been. The Department of Trade and Industry and the Home Office, for example, which deal with broadcasting, the media, and the private corporate sector, must be taken on board. It is not sufficient for the Department of Health and the DES to argue for health promotion if other Departments do not assist them.

I welcome what the Minister has said and the action that he has taken. I am pleased that the Government have given us the opportunity to have this debate. We are all agreed that we must promote good health and encourage young people, as the Minister put it, to "Stay healthy, stay in control." I hope that that message will be twice as loud in the year ahead.

1.50 pm
Mr. Butcher

I am grateful to have the leave of the House to respond to the many powerful points made during the debate. It is almost customary for Ministers to begin their reply with the words "We have had an interesting and informative debate." Those words would not properly describe this debate because—I choose my words advisedly—it has been remarkable and possibly historic.

We began by agreeing on our objectives. I listened carefully to every contribution. I set out in the hope that there would be broad agreement about our tactical position and I believe that we have agreed on the tactics to fulfil our objectives. The House has endorsed the framework of the 10-point plan. There is all-party agreement that the plan is the correct way to bring about a reduction in demand and to take forward the education programmes in our schools, youth services and community services.

I speak about consensus carefully because some hon. Members raised their fears about alcohol companies being involved in marketing campaigns against abuse, and I shall take that into consideration. Some hon. Members rightly emphasised the problems of alcohol and of smoking. Few of the matters that they raised could not be accommodated in the framework of the 10-point plan.

I warmly thank the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) for his comments. Incidentally, I, too, was involved in the "Rhythm and Booze" campaign. My experience was slightly different from his. I found it a powerful combination of broadcasting and "narrow-casting". The responses to the broadcasts were dealt with on a one-to-one basis, using workshops and phone-ins where individual inquiries could be dealt with. I commend that effective methodology which has also been used in other programmes.

Some hon. Members raised the question of money. The £7 million now available is, to use a jargon of the City, highly leveraged. It can buy the awareness of hundreds of thousands of people, if it is used correctly. We shall be training the trainers, they will be training more trainers and trained people will be going into the classrooms. Already some 100,000 are aware of part, if not all, of the story. We have more than 400,000 teachers and tens of thousands of youth workers. I believe that we can get the message to nearly everyone if we spend the money appropriately, and bring in the organisations—some of them voluntary—that have been mentioned today.

The hon. Member for Leeds, Central rightly said that we should distinguish between campaigning with a capital C—which can occasionally be counter-productive—and delivering the message in a localised, personalised, specific, sophisticated and subtle way. The necessary judgments and assessments must be made by the workers in the community: if we laid down what they should be saying and in what circumstances, it could not work.

I am delighted that the House has endorsed the umbrella message—many others underlie it—which can be expressed as, "Stay healthy, stay in control." Having analysed all the comments made to me over the past few months, I squeezed the message into as few words as possible.

The hon. Member for Leeds, Central hoped that personal and social education, and health education generally, would not be squeezed out of the curriculum by the coming reforms, and others have expressed the same hope. The hon. Gentleman will know that the science curriculum already contains health messages: we accept the idea of cross-curricular messages.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) made some telling points about the hidden curriculum. A certain ethos will emerge from any lesson: that hidden curriculum is part of teachers' daily professional lives. We need not tell teachers that they should be serious about health education; all that they need are the necessary skills and materials. Many are already delivering the necessary messages in different ways, and my hon. Friend is right to commend their professionalism in that regard.

Let me reassure the hon. Member for Leeds, West and my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) that nicotine and tobacco are very much part of the work of the drug education co-ordinators. In the not-too-distant future, they are to become known as health education co-ordinators. About three months ago I broadened their remit to include AIDS, alcohol, tobacco and solvent abuse. After all, a chain of activities can start with an experiment with soft drugs at a party and then—in a small proportion of cases—proceed to hard drugs and intravenous injection, and thence to AIDS. I wanted to reflect the interrelationship of a variety of health and substance abuse problems.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The change of title will be helpful. Will the Minister tell us two things? For how long is that funding guaranteed? Originally, it was until 1990. Will it be seci.red beyond that? Secondly, is thought being given to the fact that, as prevention of drug and alcohol abuse is not a part of the national curriculum, its importance may be reduced in the eyes of pupils? We may need to put it back into the curriculum to give it that importance.

Mr. Butcher

There is no danger of the importance of this message not being put across in schools, and that is what matters. How formally we include it in the curriculum is less important than commitment to it, and we are close to getting an agreement that the message must be got through. It can be got across within existing subjects, such as science, that are formally written into the curriculum. There could be separate lessons, but I am not entirely sure that that is the best way, although that already happens in personal and social education. There is room outside the core curriculum if schools want to use that time, but I think that this combination of options will give the teaching profession the flexibility it requires and, more important, the tools to get the message across. I have here on the Table a box of information on drug abuse such as is available to teachers.

This is not a crash programme, but a long, drawn-out operation. It is almost an underground, continuous guerrilla war as opposed to a frontal war. For that reason, I have secured funding for three years, starting in 1990. That is my signal to the co-ordinators that they are in a long-term effort. I hope that that has encouraged them to think that there is no danger of their contracts being terminated by local education authorities after one year. I am now telling local education authorities that we are giving support for three years. Funding will obviously be reviewed on a rolling basis, but our signal to the world at large is, "This is not a short-term campaign"—it is much more than that.

Mr. Fatchett

I go along with the notion that the issue should be discussed on a cross-curricula basis. that is the most positive and effective way in which to deal with it. If the issues are taken separately, there is a danger of glamorising them and of the message not getting across.

I was not objecting to the cross-curricula approach. I wanted to make sure that it was embedded in the development of the national curriculum. That is important and is the most effective way of dealing with the problems.

Mr. Butcher

There is no difference between us on that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) was not able to stay for the winding-up speech for reasons I entirely understand, so I record my intention to write to him about the confiscation of drug barons' money. I am sure that my colleagues at the Home Office will be advised of his comments. Drug pushers and drug barons are vermin, in the strict meaning of the word. They are the lowest of the low. I do not think that anyone in the country would stand in the way of a Government who came down heavily on those people and used the panoply of measures available to the state and to this Chamber to deal with them. Certainly no teacher would disagree with that statement.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) is absolutely right that alcohol is a greater danger as a substance of abuse, by a factor of 10 to 1. During the past few years, we have all looked at the problem of what was dubbed the lager lout and the yob mentality. I agree with the hon. Lady—I, too, am worried about the way in which excessive drinking seems to exacerbate the yob mentality. The statistics on convictions for drunkenness are frightening. In 1987, more than 35,000 people were convicted of aggravated drunkenness, which essentially means being drunk and disorderly, and 6,500 were convicted of drunkenness. In addition some 40,000 people were much the worse for drink and received cautions. That comes to over 80,000 cases of public intoxication. What sort of example does that set our young people? Schools try, through personal and social education to inculcate into young people important values about respect for others and responsibility for one's own actions. They are not helped by that sort of behaviour from so-called adults or media coverage of such behaviour. Schools cannot do it all. I agree with the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme that we need localised campaigns and a personal approach with experts on the spot. They should be given the freedom to pursue the problems with the appropriate backing from the Government.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) made a broad variety of perceptive points. As he is the chairman of the all-party group, we would expect no less from him. He has helped many of us by bringing forward ideas for the future.

Now that we have had this debate and have agreed on our objectives and the tactics to be used, we are legitimately entitled to take the initiative in Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes mentioned various European bodies with which we can deal. In terms of demand reduction we have a number of ideas that we could fruitfully share with our European colleagues through the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. I am happy to initiate that process by making our paperwork available to the European network and inviting fellow Ministers within the European Community who are dealing with similar programmes to send their policy documents back to me. My hon. Friend has hit on an important point. If he is looking for a powerful response to what he said, I can tell him that I will take that initiative. Let us hope that it bears fruit.

I pay tribute yet again to the drug education co-ordinators who are soon to be known as health education co-ordinators. I should also like to pay tribute to the Life education centres. They have impressed many hon. Members and I welcomed the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes about the work of those centres. I met representatives from the organisation recently and I am sure that they have an important part to play in promoting healthy attitudes among young people. I know that they work closely with schools and the drug education co-ordinators. They have been successful in persuading the private sector to devote resources to their work. Local education authorities will, if they choose, be able to spend part of the £7 million that they will be receiving next year to make use of the centres in their schools.

I shall look carefully at the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) about Schools Outreach and ACET. His account of his experiences in the United States was fascinating and terrifying. We should be constructively terrified—if that is the correct use of the term—about what could happen under worse circumstances if we do nothing. We should use that constructive tension in the House and in Whitehall to positive good effect. I detect the correct atmosphere in which to release that tension in positive, helpful and perceptive policies.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) also endorsed the Life education centres. I hope that I have satisfied him on the question of the curriculum. I shall write to him about the timetable. He kept asking me about that and all I can say is that it will be dealt with as soon as possible.

I thank all hon. Members for their observations. The use of the word "historic" may in this case not be an exaggeration.

Mr. Tom Sackville (Bolton, West)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

  1. BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE 153 words