HC Deb 15 December 1999 vol 341 cc256-7
2. Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the anti-drugs strategy at local level. [101543]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Marjorie Mowlam)

There is clear evidence that drug action teams—ATs—in some areas are producing good results. In other areas there are more difficulties. We have many good examples of DATs working successfully with more than 300 voluntary organisations throughout the country on all aspects of Government policy, from rehabilitation centres to prevention work in schools. We need a fuller picture, so we have a comprehensive programme of research in place; by April, we will have a full regional breakdown of the statistics.

Mr. Blizzard

Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that it is difficult for a single drugs action co-ordinator to drive the fight against drugs throughout a large shire county? We in Suffolk have more localised drugs and alcohol forums, but they tend to consist of the usual busy people who receive little support in their locality. Will my right hon. Friend consider establishing more localised drugs action co-ordinators in the towns where the worst drugs problems are found, so that they can more effectively spearhead the fight against drugs and eradicate that menace from communities?

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. In some rural areas, such as Suffolk, implementing his suggestions might help. Some areas have already established such a co-ordinator by using some of the money made available by central Government, and we are in the process of consulting DATs so that we can learn from the best practice employed by those that have already done that. It is important both to share good practice and to build flexibility into the system, so that we do not dictate to big city areas, many of which already cope well on the drugs front. I assure my hon. Friend that we shall return in the new year with fresh proposals, if we believe that they will help.

Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton)

The Government have set ambitious targets for reducing drug abuse, especially among the young. Does the right hon. Lady agree that the most effective way to prevent young people from taking drugs is to stifle the supply entering the country and available on the streets? Although seizures have increased, availability has not declined—in fact, quite the opposite is true. Therefore, is she confident that, within the budgets available, sufficient resources are being devoted, through Customs and Excise and the police, to curtailing both supplies and the activities of dealers?

Marjorie Mowlam

The hon. Lady should remember the cuts that the Conservative Government made to Customs and Excise—[Interruption.] To answer her question, we have provided an extra £50 million to the Department of Health and £60 million for treatment. Those are only two examples of extra money being given, out of a total of £250 million across Departments.

Mrs. Winterton

What about supply?

Marjorie Mowlam

The issue of supply is crucial to solving the problem. The police and Customs and Excise are working hard and I commend the actions that are taking place. It is crucial that the work is done. The money that has come in from Customs and Excise will be recycled and used to fight the problem. That is extremely helpful.

In addition, we are addressing the question of how drugs come into the country and how to cut supply. That is crucial to making progress. Alongside that, we are trying to work at the underlying causes of drug addiction. We are working with the Prison Service so that when people leave prison they do not come out to nothing—they come out trained and have the chance of not reoffending. We are working with social services to ensure that when people come out of care the most vulnerable are not open to abuse.

We are dealing with the problem in many different areas. We hope that over 10 years, when we have the strategy set out—it is not a problem that can be solved overnight—we shall make the necessary progress.