HC Deb 12 July 2000 vol 353 cc857-9
5. Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire)

What assessment she has made of the work of life education centres in relation to the drug prevention programmes in primary schools; what funding proposals she has in relation to expanding their work; and if she will make a statement. [128649]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Graham Stringer)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment is very familiar with the work of life education centres, and officials in his Department remain in close contact with the organisation. The approach to drug education that life education centres offer is one of a number that schools may choose to adopt, but the decision must be made at a local level, in order to address the specific needs and circumstances of the pupils.

In support of the Government's 10-year anti-drug strategy, the Department for Education and Employment has, through the standards fund, made some £7.5 million available to local education authorities to support drug education in schools. Local education authorities may choose to use some of that money to provide life education centres in mobile classrooms.

Mr. Taylor

In underfunded education authorities such as Leicestershire, much drug prevention work in the primary sector depends on generous contributions from Rotary clubs and from parents and schools. Is my hon. Friend convinced that £7.5 million for 7.5 million children of school age is adequate support for this crucial work and for organisations such as life education centres? Will he ask my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to boost the core funding of this work so that we can ensure that children make healthy choices and continue to wage an unremitting war against drugs in our country?

Mr. Stringer

I agree with my hon. Friend's sentiments. That is why, at the last comprehensive spending review, the Government put more than £200 million extra into the fight against drugs. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has listened to my hon. Friend's case, and my hon. Friend should listen to what my right hon. Friend has to say next week in his spending review statement.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

Seven and a half million pounds is chicken feed compared with the £2 billion a year that the Government are spending on more government. In Lancashire we do rather well for life education centres, but they are supported by groups such as Rotary. I fear that other local authority areas may have no cover from organisations such as life education centres. What encouragement can the Minister give to other charitable groups to buy in life education centres for their areas, or to businesses to sponsor life education centres for primary schools?

Mr. Stringer

Some areas are not covered by life education centres because it is a matter for the school and the local education authority. Quite simply, the £7.5 million that is going into educating children and getting them to make the critical decision not to accept drugs is £7.5 million more than the previous Government were willing to give.

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre)

Will my hon. Friend visit some of the life education centres and see their work? Had he been with me at Bowerham county primary school in Lancaster, he would have witnessed an excellent programme which fully involves very young children and complements the work of that first-class school.

Mr. Stringer

My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office has already visited a number of the centres. I am sure that she and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will be delighted to visit a number of others to further the fight against drugs.