§ 3. Mr. Congdon
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the response by the police and courts to those possessing and using drugs. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Tom Sackville)
All police forces have specific drugs strategies covering rigid enforcement, with co-operation on rehabilitation and the reduction in demand for drugs. The courts have a wide range of discretion, from fines to life imprisonment.
§ Mr. Congdon
Given the real dangers of drug taking, does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that the police and courts continue to take a tough line with people who take drugs? Is it not important to get across the message to all young people that taking drugs is wrong and will seriously damage their health?
§ Mr. Sackville
I can reassure my hon. Friend that this Government will have nothing to do with calls for going soft on drugs, legalisation, decriminalisation or anything else. My hon. Friend may be interested to know that the prison population of persons convicted of drug offences has increased from 3,500 to 5,500 in two years. He may be interested to know also that I recently spent a day and an evening with Amsterdam police, when I witnessed the full absurdity of drugs being delivered to the back of 704 so-called coffee shops illegally, then being supplied legally to customers inside. Because the socialists in the coalition that is in power in Holland have absurd policies, that country's police and customs have been undermined and Holland has been turned into the distribution centre for Europe of cocaine and heroin and the source of almost all the amphetamines and Ecstasy that comes into this country. We will not see such policies from this Government, but we would see them from the woolly liberals on the Labour Front Bench.
§ Mr. Ronnie Campbell
I congratulate the Northumberland police on their work on drug trafficking in our area. Is the Minister aware that my local authority in Blyth Valley has implemented a policy according to which anyone caught trafficking drugs from a council house will be evicted? I understand that the first case under that policy will go to the High Court.
§ Mr. Sackville
On the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, I visited his local authority, and I congratulated it on bringing that case. I commend this tough line on drug dealers in council estates to all other local authorities.
§ Mr. Allason
Is my hon. Friend aware that the eight years' sentence on a convicted drug dealer in Torquay has sent a chill through the illicit underworld in that town? Is he also aware that the police have welcomed this stiff sentencing? It is perfectly clear from events after the conviction of that woman that drug dealing has become very limited in Torbay, forcing drug dealers to go elsewhere.
§ Mr. Sackville
I congratulate the local police on what they have achieved. There is concern about sentencing drug offenders, which is why my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has introduced proposals under which all persistent drug dealers will go to prison for a very long time, and they know they will.