HC Deb 10 May 1995 vol 259 cc747-59 3.30 pm
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)

With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the Government's drugs strategy for England, set out in a White Paper presented jointly by myself, as chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Drugs, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Health and for Education, and my hon. Friend the Paymaster General. Copies are available in the Vote Office.

The White Paper follows the Green Paper published last October, to which more than 400 organisations and individuals, including the Opposition parties and the all-party committee on drugs, have responded. A list of all those who submitted written responses has been placed in the Library.

The consultation showed wide general support for the main lines of what was proposed. The White Paper therefore follows it closely, while making a number of modifications reflecting particular points raised in the consultation.

There are two main themes. The first, alongside a continuing commitment to legal deterrents and firm enforcement of the law by the police and Customs and Excise—and a reaffirmation that we do not intend to legalise any currently controlled drug—is a new emphasis on education and prevention. We need to educate our young people about the dangers of drugs, and develop their skills to resist. We need to convey clear messages against drugs to parents and to everyone in the community. We also need to ensure that people who do misuse drugs can get help through information, advice and treatment. The other theme is to establish key priorities, with clear programmes of action and indicators of performance in progress towards achieving them.

The priorities we propose are three. They are interdependent and of equal importance. The first is to increase the safety of communities from drug-related crime. To that end, my right hon. and learned friend the Home Secretary has already included a specific reference to drug-related criminality in the five key policing objectives for 1995–96.

All police forces, where they have not already done so, will now establish their own comprehensive drugs strategies, to be developed by April 1996. Those will cover not only the targeting of drug dealing and related crimes, but also, importantly, the wider role of the police—for example, in working with schools and in the community.

My right hon. and learned Friend will shortly also issue guidance to probation services about their work with drug-using offenders, including the necessary links between drug misusers and treatment services. He has already set out, in the prison service drug strategy published on 26 April, his plans for tackling the problem of drugs in prisons, for which more than £4.5 million will he made available this year.

HM Customs and Excise will of course fully maintain its effort in stopping drugs entering the country, dismantling trafficking networks and organisations, and working closely with the police to enforce the law.

A second priority is to reduce the availability and acceptability of drugs to young people. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education is today issuing guidance on that front, based on the draft issued for consultation last November. Nearly £6 million is being made available this year to support teacher training and new drug prevention projects. The effectiveness of drug prevention work will be included in school inspections.

But the problem is not for schools alone. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has renewed and extended the Home Office drug prevention initiative, under which local teams work with communities to develop effective ways of preventing drug misuse. We will also be co-ordinating new publicity campaigns, using a variety of expertise—in the private and voluntary sectors as well as in Government—to make the messages credible and effective.

For those young people who do experiment with drugs, whatever the messages they receive, we need to ensure that appropriate treatment services are available as soon as they need help. Pending the findings of the current review of the effectiveness of drugs services, which includes early intervention services for young people, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is providing an extra £1 million this year for the development of such services.

The third priority is to reduce health risks and other damage related to drug misuse, and in particular to ensure that individual drug misusers have access to cost-effective treatment. The findings of the task force conducting the effectiveness review to which I have just referred are expected early next year. In the light of them, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will issue new guidance.

Her Department will also ask health authorities to review the arrangements for sharing the care of drug misusers between specialist providers—including voluntary organisations—and the normal providers of primary care such as GPs. Those efforts will be backed up by improved access to information about drug misuse and the local treatment services that are available. A free and confidential national telephone help line, operating 24 hours a day, has been operational since 1 April.

Important though it is to have a clear strategy and objectives at national level, with the various Departments working together, such a strategy will work only if it is carried through at local level in similar partnership between the many statutory and voluntary agencies involved. The White Paper therefore proposes the establishment of new drug action teams throughout England.

To the membership of those teams suggested in the Green Paper—senior representatives of the police, probation and prison services, health authorities and local authorities, including the education services—we are, in the light of consultation, adding social services, and encouraging the teams to co-opt representation from the voluntary sector, which often plays a very valuable role in delivering advice and treatment services.

Chief executives of health authorities are being asked to organise the teams, but on the basis that each team should decide for itself who should take the chair, according to what seems best locally. There will be similar flexibility over boundaries, as the boundaries of the various agencies concerned do not always coincide. But all parts of the country must be covered, and health authorities will therefore be required to report to central Government on the boundaries that are proposed.

To reflect the fundamental importance of wider community involvement, each drug action team will have an advisory drug reference group with a wide-ranging membership of relevant interests. The Government will provide some £8.8 million over the next three years to establish and support the new local arrangements.

The implementation of these proposals will be overseen by the Ministerial Committee on Drugs, supported by the central drugs co-ordination unit that was established some 18 months ago.

I believe that the White Paper sets out a clear, practical and comprehensive strategy, based on partnerships both national and local, which can make a real difference. I commend it to the House.

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

Opposition Members welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement. There is no doubt that the problems associated with drug misuse have reached new heights: nearly every community in Britain is affected, and every parent is worried about the impact of drug misuse on individuals and families. The effects of drug-related crime and a drug culture are undermining the potential of our young people, pervading every community and devastating some.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that, when research shows that nearly 50 per cent. of our 15 and 16-year-olds have been offered drugs, and two thirds of all thefts are drug-related, we are indeed facing a problem of record proportions that needs urgent action?

The Lord President is aware and has acknowledged that the Labour party has taken a positive approach to the Green Paper that preceded the report, and we are pleased that many of our points have been taken on board, especially about the need for a national strategy and co-ordinated action. I hope that he will confirm that today.

The Labour party is opposed to the legalisation of cannabis. Will the Lord President acknowledge that that is common ground between us: that, given the need to send a strong and clear anti-drugs message to young people, action to legalise cannabis would be wrong, and that the debate about that can serve only as a distraction from the real issue?

I regret, however, that the report does not deal with another problem that affects many young people: the consumption of cigarettes and tobacco products. It is time that the Government turned their mind to tobacco product advertising, which is not covered by the report.

Having generally welcomed the Lord President's approach, may I ask him several specific questions? First, how much of the £5.9 million, which will be available through the Department for Education's 1995–96 grants for education support and training budget to train teachers and support drug education projects, will be completely new money? Will he give an' assurance that that funding, which works out at just £240 per school, will be sustained, so that we do not see a repeat of what happened a few years ago, when a new budget for drug education co-ordinators was announced, but was rapidly followed by cuts that reduced their number from 135 to 75?

Secondly, as the Office for Standards in Education is rightly to be given the task of inspecting the quality and effectiveness of schools' policy on drug education, what will be done to ensure that the 9,000 school inspectors are trained in that specific area? What is to happen to schools that have already been inspected and will not be reassessed for four years or more?

Thirdly, why are the localised drug action teams—something that again we welcome in principle—to be set up by the chief executives of district health authorities? Would it not have been more appropriate for local authorities to be the co-ordinators? While on this point, does the Lord President envisage just local authority officials having a role in those teams, or does he envisage a role for elected councillors? On the funding of the teams, is the £8.8 million over three years for the development fund new money, and who will determine the allocation of that specific budget?

Has the Lord President read the report published today by Judge Tumim about the initiatives needed to deal with drug dealing in prison, not least because, in some prisons, up to 80 per cent. of prisoners are drug users? In view of the concern expressed today, which has been repeated on other occasions, surely his specific recommendations should have urgent consideration.

May I ask the Lord President about the impact of cuts in the number of Customs and Excise officers, who do so much, including at times risking their lives, to stop drug trafficking? Surely such Government cuts conflict with the task of fighting drug abuse, as expressed in the document.

Co-ordination across Departments has long been called for by Labour Members. We are glad that, for once, the Government have listened, and that is why we welcome today's announcement.

Mr. Newton

First, I express my gratitude to the hon. Lady for the general tone of her earlier remarks, the welcome she gave for my statement and her acknowledgement of the importance of the problem. I am also grateful for the positive and constructive response, which I am happy to endorse, of the Labour party, and, indeed—I say this to the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith)—of the Liberal Democrat party, to the Green Paper.

Just as I believe that a great deal will depend on the partnership between the Departments represented and between the different agencies on the ground, I also believe that the whole process will work better if it is also a political partnership similar to that displayed in these exchanges. I especially welcome the firm declaration by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) of her opposition to the legalisation of cannabis. I agree with the reasons that she gave for that.

I will not spend too much time on what the hon. Lady said about cigarettes and tobacco—she might also have included alcohol—as those are the subject of actions, programmes and targets that the Government have set under a different heading, the "Health of the Nation" strategy. It is not that those matters are not being tackled: they are being tackled in ways somewhat different from those set out in the White Paper.

The hon. Lady asked me about the GEST programme. The funding of programmes to train teachers in drug education and innovative projects is new money for those purposes. However, it was, of course, taken into account in planning for the whole of education expenditure during the negotiations last autumn, when we had already published the Green Paper and outlined the direction in which we wished to move.

The question of training for Ofsted inspectors is a matter for that body, which is independent. However, I have no doubt that it will take appropriate steps to ensure that any necessary training is given.

The reason we asked district health authorities, rather than anyone else, to take the lead in establishing the teams—although, as I said, not necessarily to chair them, as that will depend on local circumstances—is that, of all the bodies involved, they have a direct line of accountability to central Government. That in particular was a point to which we attached importance.

The hon. Lady asked about the involvement of local authorities on the drug action teams. It is certainly envisaged in the White Paper that that involvement would be at the level of director or assistant director in the various services involved, because the intention is that those bodies should take executive action. However, I hope that councillors in the authorities will be involved in informing the work of their officials on those bodies.

On the point about Judge Tumim's report, at this stage I can say only that it appears amply to justify and underline the need for the prisons drugs strategy that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and the Prison Service set out only a few weeks ago.

On the point about Customs and Excise, I simply say that intelligence activity in this area is being supplemented by some 50 posts redeployed from other locations. I see no reason to believe that a more effective use of Customs and Excise resources, which was what the fundamental expenditure review was about, will in any way detract from or diminish the increasingly successful efforts of Customs and Excise in this area.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

Will my right hon. Friend accept my welcome for his statement and, indeed, the welcome from both sides of the House—especially members of the all-party drug misuse group, which argued for a Government strategy on this subject for many years, in an awareness of the difficulty the Government have in accepting the need for a strategy on anything, most of all when it is interdepartmental?

Will my right hon. Friend also accept my thanks for his personal catalytic efforts, and for the way in which he and his colleagues have listened to the submissions made on the Green Paper, which was published last autumn? Will he extend to the central drugs co-ordination unit the thanks of the whole House for the job that it has done, while also accepting that we are worried, because the unit has been promised an extension only until the end of 1996, whereas the White Paper stretches into 1998? I hope that the unit will be given an extension until at least the end of the period covered by the White Paper.

The Lord President has touched on one or two—

Madam Speaker

Order. I must draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the fact that this is the time for hon. Members to ask questions following a statement, and the House has an important debate coming up. I hope that there will be brief questions and speedy answers. Otherwise, I shall not be able to call all the Members who wish to ask a question.

Mr. Rathbone

I was trying to suggest a way out of that dilemma, Madam Speaker, by expressing the hope that the Lord President will find time for a debate on the White Paper as soon as possible.

Madam Speaker

In that case, I may not have to call any other hon. Member.

Mr. Newton

First, I thank my hon. Friend for his generous remarks about the successful way in which the exercise has worked. Secondly, I warmly endorse what he said about the central drugs co-ordinating unit, led by Sue Street. It is only a small group, but it has done a fantastic amount of work with considerable success. It has support among those with whom it has spoken, and I well understand why my hon. Friend wishes to see the unit continue, and I shall bear that very much in mind.

So far as the question of a debate is concerned, my hon. Friend makes me put on my other hat and reply cautiously. I would be pleased if I, as Leader of the House, were able to find time for such a debate.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

We welcome the approach and direction of the White Paper, and the priority it gives to education and access to health services. Will the Leader of the House confirm that it does not provide resources for hard-pressed individual schools to make teaching time available for the vital work of drugs education?

Will he explain the philosophy which lay behind the Department of Education's guidance to schools that they need not report to the police cases of possession of cannabis among school pupils, or suspend pupils in those cases? To those of us who believe that it would not be appropriate to legalise cannabis, is that a recognition that there are some complicated problems associated with the matter?

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that, while he has been deliberating, the Chief Inspector of Prisons has castigated the Prison Service for failing to deal with the scale of the drugs problem in prisons? Will he recognise that the drug action teams will have to listen to young people, people who deal with addiction and people in the health services, who often take a rather different view of the matter from politicians and civil servants?

Mr. Newton

There appeared to be some ambivalence in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about cannabis, just as there has been—to put it mildly—some ambivalence in his party's resolutions on cannabis. I will leave that subject to be explored on another occasion, rather than engage in acrimony today, against my natural nature.

As for the right hon. Gentleman's comments on the reporting of the discovery of illegal substances in schools, I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education—the right hon. Gentleman will observe that she is not far from me—that what he has said is just plain wrong. If schools find illegal substances, it is expected that they will report that to the police.

On the right hon. Gentleman's other point, one hopes that not just the drugs action teams but everybody involved in the field will make sure that they maintain their contacts with young people, because it is only by fully understanding the nature of the problems and how people feel that we can have effective action to deal with those problems.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

May I give a warm welcome to what my right hon. Friend has told the House, and particularly the initiative for local drug action teams? Will the teams be sufficiently flexible to build on the work that is being done in many rural communities to set up pavement projects which are related not just to drugs but to alcohol and solvent abuse, so that we avoid duplication and harness local support and funding, as well as the Government funding which my right hon. Friend has suggested this afternoon?

Mr. Newton

The answer is yes in every respect. The White Paper does not set out a rigid prescription of how the teams shall be set up, what areas they will cover and who should take the chair, because we are anxious that they maintain the flexibility to relate to local circumstances, and we do not want to suppress the very good activities which are taking place in many parts of the country.

Equally, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary's recent extension of the drug prevention initiative teams has led them to be covering much wider areas than before in many cases—including, I am glad to say, a new one covering the whole county of Essex. That means that they take in rural areas, as well as the urban ones which have often been the focus of activity in the past.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

A constituent of mine persuaded her heroin-addicted daughter to seek treatment from our local drugs team. Despite the fact that the daughter has a baby that was then being breast-fed, the response was that there was a waiting time of four months before she could receive help or treatment.

To tell a drug addict that she must wait for four months is effectively to say, "Go away—we're not bothered." My inquiries elicited the fact that it was because of a shortage of resources. Will the measures announced by the Lord President today ensure that sufficient resources will be available in my area to prevent such dreadful things from happening?

Mr. Newton

Although I understand why the hon. Lady raised that point, she will realise that I cannot comment here and now about a particular case. If she sends me details, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health or I will look into it. If we thought that there was no room for improvement in services, whether treatment or other, I would not be standing here now, nor would the Department of Health be conducting an effectiveness review. We shall seek to do everything we can to overcome any problems we discover.

Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

I welcome the White Paper, but may I concentrate my right hon. Friend's attention on public concern about drug-related crime committed to feed a drug habit? One of the key objectives in the White Paper is to ensure that the law is effectively enforced, especially against those involved in … supply and trafficking". What measures will the ministerial committee take to tackle the criminality of the drug user who creates the market?

Mr. Newton

I have already said that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has included drug-related crime in his key police objectives for the forthcoming year, which would embrace efforts to deal with the problem that my hon. Friend mentioned. More than 1,000 police officers throughout the country are principally concerned with drugs work, including more than 300 concerned specifically with that work with regional crime squads. If we find that more effort is required as the strategy develops, I am sure that it will be put in.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

May I say with great respect to the Lord President that Ministers are still not sufficiently seized of the extent of the problem of drug abuse around the country? Some 60 to 70 per cent. of everyone in prison is there, at some point, because of a drug-related offence, and it is easier to get drugs inside prison than outside.

Young people usually get their first experience with drugs through introduction by another member of their family. In the east end of London, abuse of drugs, particularly crack cocaine, is rampant. Is the Minister prepared to come to the Newham drug awareness project to find out for himself just how extensive the problem is?

I know that this is unacceptable to those on both Front Benches but, unless this country is prepared seriously to consider the legalisation of certain categories of drugs—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—we shall never deal with the problem any better than the United States has.

Mr. Newton

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's last point has already been given by hon. Members on both Front Benches, and I shall not add to that. The answer to his question of whether I am prepared to visit the project in Newham is: yes, although I cannot give an exact time. Nor can I guarantee to give the same response if I have a stream of similar requests, although I shall do my best.

On the first point, I refer again to what my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has already set out in the prison drugs strategy, which recognises the problem to which the hon. Gentleman refers. A range of measures to tackle it involve additional resources, including the introduction of mandatory drugs testing.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, but will he give maximum priority to preventing 14 and 15-year-olds from becoming addicted to heroin and so leading a life of crime, as is happening in Bolton?

Mr. Newton

I certainly acknowledge that, if that is happening, as it may be in other places as well, it is a serious problem, which I want to see tackled in any possible way. I hope that the measures that I have set out this afternoon will help.

Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)

Does the Leader of the House recall that the Scottish Office published a consultation document at about the same time as he published his? Is it not therefore a disgrace that the White Paper does not apply to Scotland? Does he agree that it may prove futile to introduce more Customs and Excise controls in England but not in Scotland and Wales?

Mr. Newton

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Scottish Office, in another place will shortly set out further plans for the development of the strategy that he has already described, following the findings of a working party that he chaired in Scotland.

I do not think that it is ridiculous that there are distinct, although closely related, approaches in the four component parts of the United Kingdom. They do have their differences, including, in Scotland, the fact that the organisation of social services and probation services, and the relationship between them, is different. It is sensible to take account of those differences, but it is also sensible to do what we are doing, which is to have a strategy in every part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

My right hon. Friend's statement will be well welcomed by parents throughout the country, and I think that they will also welcome the apparent cross-party support in the House. However, does he agree that, in my constituency, which has a Liberal Democrat-controlled council, there will be problems in local implementation in view of the fact that, at its most recent conference, the grass roots of the Liberal party voted to legalise cannabis?

Mr. Newton

I have already made some reference to that matter, and I do not want to become involved, even at the behest of my hon. Friend, in the internecine warfare in the Liberal party, but I am sure that all Members of the House—and I think that that would include those on the Liberal Democrat Bench—would, whatever their opinions on that matter, want all local authorities to co-operate to the full in implementing that strategy.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Does the Leader of the House accept that communities such as Hackney are desperate for a real war against drugs, because of the crime, the gangs and the gun use increasingly associated with the drugs trade in the inner city?

Although his White Paper is fine as far as it goes, should not the Government pay more attention to choking off supply, considering the resources available to the customs and, on a wider front, looking to our relationship with those third-world countries that act as drug producers and drugs transshipment points?

A great deal can be done to give resources to some of those countries to increase the strength of their own customs and coastguard, and we need to ensure that, on the wider trade front, we are not pursuing trade policies that force agriculturists in South America and the Caribbean into drug production.

Mr. Newton

I agree with most of what the hon. Lady says. This country does have a good record as a major contributor, for example, to United Nations programmes in that regard and to collaborative international action to try to tackle that problem. On customs, and enforcement generally, I draw attention to the fact that about half of the £500 million that is spent each year in this country in that respect is spent on police and customs enforcement, including more than £100 million this year on customs enforcement, and that seizure values doubled from about £250 million in 1990 to well in excess of £500 million in 1994. A great deal of effort is being made.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he and his ministerial colleagues are to be congratulated on the serious and comprehensive way in which they have approached that difficult problem?

However, in the interests of taking quick, effective action to tackle what is probably the most serious social problem confronting advanced countries, especially among young people, will my right hon. Friend give a high priority to the existing efforts that are taking place, quite successfully, in my constituency and elsewhere, of voluntary organisations such as the youth awareness programme, which has already been tangentially mentioned, and the community drug help line in my constituency, which are doing sterling work very cost-effectively?

Mr. Newton

I can give my hon. Friend an unequivocal yes to that. As I said in my statement, one of the changes we have made since the publication of the Green Paper is to urge the co-option of representatives of the voluntary sector on to the drug action teams, and the drug reference groups, the advisory bodies, will certainly include representatives of groups such as those that my hon. Friend mentioned.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

It is extremely welcome that the Government are now encouraging police forces to target serious drug trafficking. May I ask the Leader of the House, however, how much new money will go into that, and how many new resources will be available to police forces to enable them to carry out that very important work?

Mr. Newton

The resources available to police forces were only recently set out by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on a considerable scale, together with a range of measures designed to ensure that those resources are used to full effect. We would expect that, as the police develop the force-wide strategies to which I have referred, those efforts will become yet more effective.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

The report refers to the dangers of Temazepam, but it appears that no steps have been taken to subject its issue to more control. Would my right hon. Friend be prepared to comment on that?

Mr. Newton

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Health are taking immediate steps to reduce the misuse of Temazepam. That will be done by imposing safe custody controls on manufacturers and wholesalers under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and by immediately starting consultations, which is legally required in this case, on banning the prescription of gel-filled capsules by general practitioners under the General Medical Services Regulations 1992. In addition, we are carefully considering the recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to reschedule Temazepam under the 1971 Act. I hope that what I have said will encourage my hon. Friend.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

The Leader of the House has chaired a committee that has presented a White Paper with some good things in it, but I warn him that one action upon which the Home Secretary and the Government are embarking could destroy all that good. People used to describe the prison system as the university of crime, but it is not just Stephen Tumim who recognises that today's prisons are centres for gangs, the drug culture and the dissemination of gang culture and of drugs. Should the Home Secretary introduce boot camps, they will be the worst way of spreading gangs and the drug culture. They will do more damage to this country's drugs policy than any other single act.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will have noted that my right hon. and learned Friend is sitting next to me, and his whispered comments about the hon. Gentleman's remarks were not entirely complimentary. I will simply fall back on the very point that I have made two or three times—within the past three weeks, my right hon. and learned Friend has demonstrated his clear determination to adopt new measures on drug abuse in prisons, both to prevent it and to ensure proper treatment and rehabilitation for those who are already drug misusers.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement is particularly welcome, and that the cross-party support he has received is significant? Can he say any more about the wider role of the police, particularly their work with schools, which is such an important part of the operation to get the drug problem under control?

Mr. Newton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As I have said, part of developing police force strategies is related to their wider role, as described by my hon. Friend. I know from my conversations with Chief Constable Hellawell, of West Yorkshire, who is the chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers committee on the subject, that the police are receptive to the need to do more on that part of their work. I am glad to say that work with schools is a marked feature of police work in Essex.

Mr. George Mudie (Leeds, East)

I welcome the Lord President's decision on the legalisation of cannabis; to have acted otherwise would have sent the wrong signal at this stage in the war against drugs. As a strong supporter of the strategy, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the membership of the drug action teams.

The decision not to appoint a local authority member to them instead of a senior local government officer is a tactical mistake. It is more representative of Government thinking in the 1980s rather than the new partnership that is supposed to exist in the 1990s. If the Lord President wants dynamic, co-ordinated local authority action, it is tactically wrong to appoint senior local government officers and to have no elected representation.

Mr. Newton

I cannot add to what I have already said, but, just as we looked carefully at the results of consultation on the Green Paper, so obviously, with an initiative of this kind, we will look at experience as it develops. If it reveals the need to modify the existing approach or to adopt a different approach, I, at any rate, and I am sure my right hon. Friends, will always be willing to consider that.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

May I give a warm welcome to the White Paper? What focus has my right hon. Friend given to solvent abuse, given that half a million children in this country experiment with solvents, of whom a proportion, sadly, go on to use soft drugs?

Mr. Newton

I have made it clear that, in some cases, the drug action teams may wish to embrace other aspects of substance misuse, including misuse of solvents. We do not wish to prevent or discourage that exercise. I hope that my hon. Friend was encouraged by the publication on 20 April of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report about solvent abuse. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is now taking action with regard to one very important recommendation, and is establishing an industry-led forum to consider ways in which producers can ensure that their products are less liable to be misused.

Ms Ann Coffey (Stockport)

I am a little concerned about the resourcing of the drugs strategy. The Leader of the House has already said that no new money will be available for the police, although he is asking the police to do a considerable amount of work with the community, which will have an associated cost in police time. The Leader of the House mentioned that £8.8 million will be available in the next three years to support local action on drugs. That amounts to about £2.9 million per year, which does not seem very much.

We already have a drug action team in Stockport, but we do not have the resources to back it up. How will the money be allocated? Will there be bids for it as part of a "drug challenge"—an analogy of city challenge—or will the money be allocated according to need? If it is to be allocated by the latter method, I think that the Leader of the House will discover that the money is not sufficient to meet need in the community.

Mr. Newton

As far as resources in Scotland are concerned, the hon. Lady must obviously direct her questions to the Secretary of State. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not Scotland."] I misheard the hon. Lady; she may disregard that comment.

As to resources for England, I have already said that the Government are spending more than £500 million in the drugs area each year. In today's statement, I announced a total additional resource of slightly more than £13 million—that is £5.9 million for education, £1 million for health and £4.6 million for prisons, which makes a total of £11.5 million.

To that sum is added just under £2 million from the £8.8 million that I announced over three years for the drug action teams. The £8.8 million is directed at establishing and supporting—particularly administratively—the drug action teams. They in turn will be concerned with many projects that relate to other flows of funding out of the £500 million to which I referred.

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as 60 per cent. of all crime is said to be drug-related, the measures that he has proposed today will reduce crime substantially, particularly among the young? Does he also agree that the need to restrain the importation of drugs makes it all the more necessary to maintain our border controls, whatever anyone else in Europe may demand of us?

Mr. Newton

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend. He will know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said clearly on many occasions that we stand firm on the question of border controls.

I hope that the measures that we have announced today will contribute to a reduction in drug-related crime. That is what they are intended to do, and I remind my hon. and learned Friend that the first of the equal priorities to which I referred was ensuring that communities are safe from drug-related crime.

Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North)

Will the Leader of the House confirm that the amount of money that the Government are offering under the drugs strategy equates with the profit from perhaps one good drugs haul? How will the Warwickshire police implement that strategy when the size of its force has been cut by 50 police officers this year?

I agree that we need a clear policy in this area, and that we must monitor it closely. However, the Government have failed to implement Judge Tumim's recommendations concerning drug dealers and gangs in prison—in fact, he has criticised the Government on that issue in the last day or so. How can we be confident that the Government will implement this policy?

Mr. Newton

We are going over slightly old ground. I have already referred to the increase in general police resources that my right hon. and learned Friend announced at the time of the public expenditure round late last year. I will not try to add to those comments.

So far as Judge Tumim's report is concerned, I think that the hon. Member is straining a little. My right hon. and learned Friend has clearly acted in advance of Judge Tumim's report to tackle the problems to which it refers.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

Will the Leader of the House recognise that if we are concerned about the link between drug use and crime, the very high price of highly addictive drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine are more important than the arguments about cannabis, unpalatable though that may be to hon. Members of both sides of the House?

In particular, the right hon. Gentleman should seriously consider those examples where the link between money and purchasing of drugs has been broken by prescribing drugs such as heroin, perfectly acceptably, under the national health service. Will he take that as an example of how to deal with heroin addicts in a way in which they are prepared to be dealt rather than through exhortations, which will not work?

Mr. Newton

I have referred several times to the review of the effectiveness of treatment services, which include a number of pilot projects that deal with, for example, methadone substitution. I do not think that any of us can be certain that we know all the answers in this field. The White Paper takes us forward. I hope that the effectiveness review will take us forward on that front as well.