HC Deb 28 June 1995 vol 262 cc878-9
8. Mr. Watson

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the resources available in Scotland to deal with drug abuse and its effects. [29377]

Mr. Lang

Responding to drug misuse consumes a substantial amount of resources across a range of services—health, the police, social work, education, the prison service and other statutory and non-statutory agencies. Public expenditure exceeds £40 million every year.

Mr. Watson

The Secretary of State did not say whether he thought that that expenditure was effective. The catalogue of deaths of young people through drug misuse continues to increase, which suggests that it is not.

In an Adjournment debate last week, the Under-Secretary of State told me about operation Eagle, undertaken by Strathclyde police to counter drug abuse, but he did not say that that operation does not represent extra resources for that police force, as it is funded from existing resources.

I accept what the Minister said about the need for a multi-agency approach, but does he accept that young people in Scotland need to be offered some hope? In many cases those involved with drug abuse are those without hope. We do not hear of many trainee chartered accountants or student lawyers dying from drug abuse; rather it is largely those who have nothing to lose. That is the tragedy of Scotland. What hope can the Secretary of State give those young people to get them out of the drug culture?

Mr. Lang

One of the lessons of the extensive studies on those matters carried out by the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, the drug task force and others is that a simplistic analysis of any kind is probably misleading and dangerous. We all agree that the need for a strategic framework and the interrelation of a range of agencies, using substantial resources, such as I have suggested, and working in a sensible and co-operative way, offer the best way forward. I believe that we have made considerable progress in our approach to these difficult issues, and I hope that we can continue to do so on the basis of agreement across the House.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that resources in that respect should be targeted towards education? Does he agree with the Scottish Select Committee, which said that solvent education should start at primary school, as leaving it until secondary school is often too late?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That was one of the important recommendations and progress is being made on it. Drug education packages for use in primary and secondary schools to complement the Drugwise 2 materials have been commissioned and will be available shortly.

Mr. McMaster

The Secretary of State will recall that I met his noble friend the Minister of State several weeks ago to urge him to reschedule the drug Temazepam so that it would be a custodial offence to be found in possession of it without a prescription and so that there would be import and export controls on it. Since then, we have heard rumour after rumour, promise after promise, that something will be done to act on that. When will something be done?

Mr. Lang

The misuse of Temazepam is a matter of deep concern to the Government and my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council set out in May the immediate steps being taken to reduce its misuse. That is being done by the imposition of safe custody controls on manufacturers and wholesalers under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and by a proposal to ban the prescription of gel-filled capsules by GPs in the national health service. My right hon. Friend has also confirmed that we are carefully considering the recommendation of the advisory council to reschedule Temazepam under the 1971 Act.

Mrs. Fyfe

Has the Secretary of State looked at the survey reported by Greater Glasgow health board last week, which showed that nearly half of fourth-year pupils in Glasgow had tried drugs? Will he take that into consideration, together with the figures given by the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), in the debate recently with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson), when he referred to £24 million given to all the health boards in Scotland for drug-related work and £1.4 million given to the urban programme in Glasgow? Does the Secretary of State agree that, although £1.4 million sounds substantial, it is actually only £2 for every man, woman and child in Glasgow, which is not a lot when we consider the huge amount of work that needs to be done and the worry that exists in so many communities about the scale of the problem?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Lady is right about the £24 million content of the health board budgets in the context of drugs, but I mentioned a figure of £40 million in my original answer as being the resources available throughout a range of programmes. Glasgow has a substantial share of those resources.

The hon. Lady mentioned the urban programme, which has no fewer than 11 specific projects in hand. There is also the Glasgow drug problem service, which is busily engaged in efforts to transfer the activities of injectors to oral substitutes. A great deal of work is going on throughout the range of approaches in Glasgow, and I acknowledge that that is an aspect on which we must continue to focus our attention.