HC Deb 15 December 1999 vol 341 cc261-3
6. Charlotte Atkins (Staffordshire, Moorlands)

What progress is being made in implementing the Government's anti-drugs strategy. [101548]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Mr. Ian McCartney)

The Government are making good progress towards the tough targets set out in their strategy document, "Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain". In June 1999, the national treatment outcome research study found that, two years after treatment, former users' drug use and related offending is significantly reduced. The study supports the strategy's aim of getting offenders into treatment. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced details of how £20 million has been set aside for the expansion of arrest referral schemes, which are designed to get drug misusers into treatment. That is in addition to the extra £217 million allocated to anti-drugs work as part of the previous spending review.

Charlotte Atkins

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. What efforts are being made—particularly through the school system, in both urban and rural areas—to prevent young people from getting into drugs? I believe that it would be complacent to suggest that there is no drugs problem in rural areas.

Mr. McCartney

The Government are deeply committed to dealing with what is, in effect, a war that is killing our young people. One 12-year-old in 12, one in three 14-year-olds and nearly half all 16-year-olds have tried drugs at least once. More than half of young homeless people use drugs regularly and one in 10 has tested positive for crack after committing an offence. The Government have set out basic targets to assess young people to prevent them from getting involved in drugs and to assist those who have become involved—both with their life style and in treatment programmes—to stop them using drugs, to sustain their education and employment and to give them and their families the space and opportunity to achieve a better, healthier life style.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Although I welcome the successes that the Government have been achieving, how successful have they been in sequestrating funds from known drug runners and dealers? Has further thought been given to marshalling world financial centres to do away with known drugs-funded bank accounts?

Mr. McCartney

We are working internationally to prevent drugs from coming into this country and co-operating across international boundaries on security and intelligence issues. We are also working with developing countries to promote alternatives to growing the poppy in the killing fields. It must be made clear that the 10-year programme introduced by the Government—[Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members are listening because we are talking about the youth of this country: 3,000 have died in the past year alone and that could touch any one of us, so please listen. We must make it clear in the 10-year plan that no drug baron, no drug cartel and no drug dealer can feel safe in carrying on his evil activity in this country. That requires the assistance of everybody in the community working together: the people, local government, the health service, the police, Customs and Excise and, dare I say it, Members of the House.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Does the Minister agree that some of the saddest and most intractable examples of people with drug problems are those rough sleepers who are addicted to alcohol and other drugs? Are not the policies of the homelessness Tsarina a great encouragement and should not the House congratulate her on those new, pragmatic, practical and courageous policies?

Mr. McCartney

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be making further announcements about investing in the care and social needs of those who are on the street. That includes access not only to accommodation, but to health care, education and training and a range of other measures that will help to bring them back into a sustainable life style.

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury)

Given that about half of all drug treatment and testing orders are being breached and nearly a third have been revoked by the courts, what steps are the Government planning to take to make them more effective than they seem to be at present?

Mr. McCartney

Without that action there would be 100 per cent. failure: no young people would be diverted into treatment programmes; no young people would be diverted from drugs into education and training; and no young people would be directed from the street into protective environments. The programme has been successful and because of it children who would have died in the next few years will live. That should be commended by all Members of the House.

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