HC Deb 10 June 2002 vol 386 cc584-5
5. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton)

If he will make a statement about crime reduction in Devon and Cornwall in the last 12 months. [57051]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Wills)

In the most recently published recorded crime figures, in the 12 months to March 2001, crime in Devon and Cornwall fell by 7 per cent.

Linda Gilroy

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and welcome him to his new position. If he is not already aware of the role that crime and disorder partnerships have played in the drop in crime figures, I recommend that he investigates them. Does he share my concern that the advent of crack cocaine to the streets of Plymouth in the past year threatens to reverse all that good work? Will he pay early attention to the bid for a pilot project for a seamless health-based approach to tackling drug crime and give us his opinion sooner rather than later?

Mr. Wills

I thank my hon. Friend for her kind words of welcome. Crack cocaine is a problem in Plymouth and we share her concerns. We guaranteed funding of nearly £500,000 from the communities against drugs programme in 2002–03 to tackle drug-related crime. As she is aware, the Devon and Cornwall constabulary has initiated Operation Ovidian in response to the emerging crack cocaine problem in Plymouth and throughout the area covered by the force.

We are aware of the funding bids that have been submitted to the criminal justice reserve fund and the recovered assets fund. The Under-Secretary who has responsibility for drugs policy, my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), stated in his letter to Superintendent Isaac that Home Office officials have made an initial assessment of the bid, but no formal decision has yet been made. Bids are being considered by a Cabinet Committee and we expect to announce the successful bids shortly.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon)

Given the undoubted link between drugs and crime and the vital need for those who feed their heroin habit by committing crime to have access to treatment as soon as they wish, what does the Minister propose to do about the waiting time for access to detox and rehabilitation treatment in Plymouth, which is currently 65 weeks?

Mr. Wills

The hon. Gentleman makes some valid points. Until 15 months ago, no treatment was possible, but we now have a national treatment agency and waiting times are falling. He is right to say that we must take action to tackle the problem, and that is what we are doing. We must deal with the problem across the range and choke off the supply, which is what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is doing. He is liaising with the Jamaican authorities to make sure that we tackle the problem of crack cocaine.

The hon. Gentleman is right about the need to treat addicts, which we are doing. We must also educate our young people about these matters, which is why we have drugs education programmes in schools. Some 93 per cent. of secondary schools now have such programmes in place.

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