HL Deb 30 January 1985 vol 459 cc651-88

3.2 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich rose to move to resolve, That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take more vigorous action to combat the rapid deeply damaging growth of trafficking in heroin and cocaine in the United Kingdom and to provide adequate resources both for the law enforcement services and for research, education, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation by statutory and voluntary bodies.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I believe that this country is now confronted with a menacing threat from the rapid increase in heroin and cocaine trafficking. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice has expressed his alarm—and I am sure that we are all glad that we are to hear from him later this afternoon—and so have the police, the medical profession, social workers and, indeed, many local authorities.

The statistics present a very disturbing picture. In 1983 there were over 10,000 addicts known to exist on the Home Office register. But there were probably between 50,000 and 60,000 further addicts about whose existence the Home Office was unaware. It is not just the number on the register that is disturbing: it is the trend in the number of new addicts that is particularly alarming. Between the end of 1982 and the end of 1983 the number of new addicts rose by no less than 50 per cent; and in the nine years between 1974 and 1983 the number of new addicts rose by 500 per cent.

Let me illustrate the gravity of the present situation by discussing the situation facing just one drug dependency clinic in an inner city area—that is, in the London Borough of Hackney. That clinic serves both the City of London and the London Boroughs of Hackney, Redbridge, Enfield and Waltham Forest, with a total population of rather over 900,000. In 1981 there were 52 new arrivals or people with drug problems going to that clinic; in 1982 there were 109; in 1983 there were 232; and in 1984 new arrivals were running at the rate of around 350.

I say "running at the rate of" for a particular reason. By the end of May last year the staff of the clinic were overwhelmed. They were operating in three tiny rooms at Hackney Hospital. They had by then a waiting list which, even for an initial assessment, meant a delay of between six and 10 weeks. The staff consisted of just four people: an associate specialist, who also has to look after the psychiatric day hospital; two social workers who are employed by the London Borough of Hackney; and a part-time receptionist. They decided that so serious was the situation with which they were confronted last May that they could not cope with it any longer. So they had to stop the flood of new arrivals. I am afraid they had been ignored by the DHSS, and so they said that they could take no new patients.

On 22nd May this particular issue was raised in this House during a prolonged series of questions on the heroin situation. It was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, with the noble Lord, Lord Elton. Their exchange appears at column 137 of the Official Report of that day. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, said: I am not aware, without notice, of the particular case". He added: I shall certainly have it read". I am sure that he did. But despite that, and a series of press reports concerning the matter, the Department of Health and Social Security did nothing. And so a long line of pathetic young men and women had to be turned away from the doors of that clinic at Hackney Hospital.

The doctor and his social workers are caring people. They were deeply distressed by the action that they were compelled to take and at the consequences which, of course, they knew would arise. But all that they could do was to give these poor wretched young people who had got into these serious problems a few words of advice; they took their names and addresses, and promised to write to them when the situation improved.

That situation continued from last May until Monday of last week. Then, belatedly stung into action by continued pressure both in the locality and from newspapers ranging from the Sunday Times to the Daily Mirror, the clinic was told that in February they could have a part-time clinical assistant who would be on a short-term contract, and possibly a nurse. So they were able to open their doors again, but with an immense backlog of cases and with the need, of course, to communicate with hundreds of others who, in acute distress, had heard that the clinic was no longer taking any cases and who, therefore, had simply lost all hope that anything could be done to assist them with the problem which they faced.

The clinic has now been told that as it operates in a densely-crowded metropolitan area it will be the basis of a regional drug problem team. That is admirable. But, of course, the establishment of such a team is set out in the report of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 1982, published by the DHSS. In paragraph 6.7 it said that the establishment of such a team should be a consultant psychiatrist; full-time junior psychiatric medical staff; social work staff, including community psychiatric nurses or health visitors; a clinical psychologist working on a sessional basis and adequate administrative staff. So even now this clinic is going to be chronically under-staffed.

The same problem exists at the St. Clements Clinic, which serves the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Havering and Barking; and I fear at a number of other similar clinics in inner city areas in this country. Yet it is in precisely these inner city areas that the problem is most acute. The problem in the past has been that of the isolated user. Now, as we know from the figures, groups of young people have become infected. Many are unemployed, and those who are not soon will be as a result of their addiction to heroin or cocaine.

That being so, what immediate action should be taken? I am sure that later this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will tell us what the Government have done. I am sure he will tell us of the existence of an interdepartmental ministerial team headed by his honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mr Mellor; and indeed of the additional funds which have been made available by the Government—a sum of £12 million over three years has been provided. Certainly all of us concerned with this problem welcome both these developments.

However, the question is a very different one. It is whether nearly enough is being done, and I do not believe that it is. First, although I do not doubt in any way that Ministers want more resources to be devoted to the attack on heroin and cocaine abuse, I am sceptical about the effectiveness of circulars from the DHSS at a time when, as we all know, the resources of the health service are stretched to breaking point. Medical administrators are involved in fierce struggles over the limited funds that are available. I can of course understand—as I am sure we all can—the attitude of doctors who, in reality, are forced to sentence patients to death because they do not have enough kidney dialysis machines, resenting what they regard as unreasonable pressure to give priority to drug dependence clinics.

That being so, I wonder whether all the funds made available to regional health authorities will indeed reach these clinics and the regional drug dependence teams. After our painful experience over regional secure units—and the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, will I suspect remember this from his days at the Home Office—when many regional health authorities simply ignored the clearly expressed views of Parliament, thus ensuring that mentally-ill inmates remained in prison, like many others, I am afraid that I do not have confidence that such resources as are being made available will all find their way to the right destination.

There is also the question of law enforcement. Only on Monday the Customs announced that the street value of heroin which they had seized last year had risen from £10 million in 1979 to nearly £48 million in 1984. Unhappily this does not necessarily mean that we are being any more successful at cutting off the supply at source; indeed, I suspect that all it does is to reflect the staggeringly swift growth of international trade in narcotics. Commenting on these figures only yesterday, the Daily Mail said: Unfortunately, record seizures are usually an indication of record sales". It is estimated that the United States Customs may intercept in the region of 10 per cent. of the heroin that is destined for the United States market. Even if we are three times more efficient than the American Customs, it still means that last year probably in the region of £150 million worth of herion flooded into the United Kingdom.

The Government's response to this has been to announce that they will increase the size of the investigation division of the Customs and Excise by around 250 men and women. I am sure that we all welcome that, but I wonder how they can possibly justify cutting the size of the uniformed strength of the Customs and Excise by over 1,100 men and women since they came into office. That is a cut of 25 per cent. in the uniformed strength of the Customs and Excise—our first line of defence against drug smugglers. As a result, the green channels at Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports and at the port of Dover—and that is where a great deal of this heroin and cocaine enters this country—are sometimes manned by only a handful of uniformed customs officers. Sometimes, as was the case on the last occasion I happened to pass through the green channel, they are manned by no one at all. It is as though in the middle of an immense forest fire it was decided to cut the size of the fire brigade by 25 per cent.

When pressed about this during our debate on the Civil Service the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, winding up for the Government, said that more vigorous action in the green channels, for which I had been pressing, would cause: a complete disruption of the present flow of people through our airports".—[Official Report, 5/12/84; col. 1405.] I think that that is a pretty lame defence. We all know perfectly well why the number of Customs officers has been cut. It is in order that the Chancellor of the Exchequer can make his own contribution to the cuts in the overall size of the home Civil Service. In the situation which we now face in this country, I am afraid that it is just a piece of doctrinaire foolishness, and I hope that at the end of the debate we shall hear from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that the Government are now reconsidering their position on this matter.

Lastly, I hope that the Government will provide additional help for the police. The police cannot possibly be asked to increase the size of bodies of specialists such as drug squads without being given additional resources to do the job. Of course, the role of the police is of crucial importance. For the consequences of a rapid growth of heroin and cocaine smuggling are already facing the police with a most serious situation. Many sophisticated criminals have moved into drug trafficking. It provides very easy pickings. As we know, many young addicts require more than £100 a day to finance their own purchases of drugs; they can obtain such money only by becoming pushers themselves or by burglary and robbery. That is precisely the pattern that we have seen in the United States, where it is estimated that in the region of 70 per cent. of the entire prison population is there because of drug-related offences.

I believe that it is vital to take every step to halt our own dangerous slide towards a situation in which the heroin and cocaine traffickers can do damage to a whole generation of young people and, indeed, to the whole quality of life on these islands. I hope that the Minister will indicate by his reply that the Government not only accept the gravity of the situation, which I am sure they do, but are prepared immediately to provide substantial new resources to equip both our law enforcement agencies and the National Health Service. If the noble Lord does so, we shall of course not press the Motion which I now move.

Moved to resolve, That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take more vigorous action to combat the rapid deeply damaging growth of trafficking in heroin and cocaine in the United Kingdom and to provide adequate resources both for the law enforcement services and for research, education, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation by statutory and voluntary bodies.—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)

3.17 p.m.

Lord Mancroft

My Lords, as the noble Lord the Chief Whip has told us, time is of the essence and although this is an extremely important debate, I shall confine myself to one point, and one point only. Since the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, who is to speak later in the debate, raised this matter some months ago, there has been a natural upsurge of interest in the horror that is concerned in the drug incidence. Great interest has been displayed by the media: by broadcasts and by letters in the press. All of that is welcome.

However, that has had one distressing aftermath: as far as I can see, there is now an immense amount of contradictory and confusing advice. The question which I ask the noble Lord who is to reply on behalf of Her Majesty's Government is whether, on behalf of his noble friends and his friends in another place, he would be prepared to sit back for a moment and look at the contradictions to see whether he can tidy matters up in order to help those people who wish to assist in this problem.

The reason for the confusion is perfectly clear. It is due to the dichotomy that exists in administration. Two government departments are principally concerned—namely, the DHSS and the Home Office—but three or four more are also involved. Nevertheless, I wish, in a slightly more strongly worded way than the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who moved this Motion, to thank the noble Lord and his colleagues for what they have done; I should particularly like to thank the noble Lord's colleague in another place, who has been most energetic. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who I know is deeply concerned about this matter.

Who are the principal victims of this confusion? They are, first, the families who are suddenly confronted with the horror of a drug addict in their midst. A victim is something which they do not understand and cannot possibly solve. Where do they turn for advice and help? They turn at once of course to their doctor, their GP. A little too often the GP says, "Look, I have 24 hours a day. I have two hands. I am looking after Mrs. Muggins who was run over by a bus," or "is dying of terminal cancer. I cannot bother with your friend who is suffering from a self-inflicted wound." That still happens. I hope the Government are doing everything they possibly can to stamp upon that. One understands it completely, but it is not very helpful.

In the second case they turn to their GP who is helpful, who says, "Yes, I am very worried about your colleague who is suffering from heroin addiction, but I know nothing about it. I learned about heroin when I was a student. I learned about leprosy. I can no more cure leprosy than I can cure heroin. Go somewhere else." Where does he go? Does he know? Are the Government doing everything they can—I am sure they are—to make certain that the medical profession know which hospitals can now deal with this matter? A large number of unofficial hospitals—very good, no doubt—have sprung up. There is confusion here. There is confusion as to where a patient should be sent. The local authorities, who can help a great deal, are confused. So are the citizens advice bureaux and so are the schools, which have a great deal to do in trying to help the young people from falling into this ghastly trap.

The confusion is also about treatment. I am deliberately not using the word "cure", because you must not use the word "cure" when talking about heroin. I am talking about treatment. People are confused as to whether the National Health Service, or BUPA, or its equivalent, can help them. Are Her Majesty's Government examining what is being done in other countries as conscientiously as they might to see what lessons we have to learn? Do they know about, for instance—I learnt of it only a week ago—the neuro electric therapy system, NET, invented by Dr. Margaret Patterson of Aberdeen University, which is widely thought of in America and hardly known of here? Are they sending people to discover what is being done in other countries?

I ask again whether they are examining the Minnesota Method which has been so successful in America—the Minnesota and Hazelden scheme, which is being copied in this country. I asked a Question about this the other day and got a very hoity-toity answer. It did not surprise me. I suppose if Christopher Columbus had come here and told Whitehall that the world was not flat, he would have been told that this was merely a tiresome answer from a tiresome foreigner, and would he please go away. I hope that the noble Lord will look again at what is happening in the successful Minnesota Method. That is the DHSS aspect.

I now turn to the Home Office, the policing side, where I think the Government have done extremely well. They have sent representatives to Amsterdam and to Karachi. They have done something to help those countries which base their livelihood upon the poppy growing industry. But some people turn round at the confusion here again and say, "Look, isn't this the same as appeasement amongst the Mafia? You pay £1,000 to a man not to break up your shop, not to kidnap your children". Incidentally, what other countries are helping in the countries which use poppy growing as a base for their entire industry?

Are we quite clear—another confusion—whether or not LSD or marijuana, the minor drugs, are really leading us down the primrose path to the everlasting bonfire? We get confusing advice about this. Two days ago an Alsatian dog was shot because it savaged two small children. Alsatian dogs are the one "weapon" for sniffing out drugs at airports, and we are told that we must not use them because public opinion is hostile to them. Well, I do not believe that. The Australians do it out on the tarmac, and they can use them perfectly satisfactorily.

I add my word of praise to the Customs and police for the great success they have achieved. But every success they achieve only makes one think whether this is the tip of the iceberg. One great capture—and they have had many—makes one realise how much deeper is the iceberg below the water. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said about the green gate.

These are all the problems which are causing the confusion. I therefore ask the noble Lord whether he will do everything he possibly can with his colleagues to sit back and try to resolve some of these conflicts which have necessarily arisen. It will give great comfort to those who are anxious, and thoroughly anxious, about this dreadful problem; and what is much more important, it will give great comfort to me.

3.24 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, will express the official view of my party when it comes to the end of the debate. In the meanwhile I shall venture to express what I believe to be the strong feeling among all who sit on these Benches about this horror, this new found curse. It is relatively new. I would express also a sense of the total inadequacy of the efforts of the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, at times seemed to praise the Government and then at other moments he put some searching questions. I think he has added to the confusion he referred to. It was hard to know whether he was trying to assist the Government or give them stick. Whatever he said, it was very relevant, but I found myself closer to the point of view of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who gave us a strong lead in this matter.

It is some years since I was intimately connected with drug addicts. I used to share a lavatory with drug addicts who spent some of their time "fixing" there. I do not know whether many other noble Lords have shared lavatories with drug addicts. If they have not, I do not advise them to try the experiment. It is not pleasant. But I was closely associated with them in a centre which I helped to start some years ago.

Now most of the drug addicts in central London go to specialised agencies and the problem has meanwhile greatly increased. A young man who was co-ordinator of our centre years ago is now co-ordinator of Scoda, which is concerned entirely with drug addicts of one sort or another, and other noble Lords besides myself have drawn on his wisdom this afternoon. In that sense I am thoroughly up to date.

There is no doubt whatever—the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has given the facts and I do not propose to dwell on them—that it is a new curse which has taken the Government and perhaps all of us—even people such as myself, who knew it when it was incipient—by surprise by the extent and the rate at which it has increased. It is now really becoming a question of whether there is any new and urgent approach.

As the time is passing I must make sure before I am rung down that I make my point, which is a point widely held by most of those who sit with me here. I shall quote the Daily Mirror, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. Whether or not these remarks were dictated by my old friend Mr. Robert Maxwell—I have no reason to suggest they were—or wherever they came from, they are very good words: The drug menace has become the single biggest threat to the health of young people. It is the single biggest dread in the minds of their parents. Delay means death, and in the end it will be more expensive to do nothing. The Government knows it must act soon. Why doesn't it do now? I cannot agree at all with the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that the Government deserve any credit for their exertions in this matter. I do not think they have got round to it. I do not know—who am I to say?—whether any other Government would have got round to it faster. When one of these new curses suddenly appears on the horizon the Civil Service, the Minister, and all the rest are not organised to deal with it, and it takes some years. I hope this debate will force the Government. I hope there will be a Division. Whether or not there is, I hope that the Government will find themselves forced to do far more in the future than they are doing now.

I shall add only one word to make sure that I give everyone else plenty of time to make their points. It is possible to see this awful thing, this drug addiction, first as a sickness. But those closest to the scene do not regard it as a sickness exactly; and yet you cannot call it a crime, you cannot give it a general label. I would see it, though, as a matter of choice. The young people who start to play about with drugs have this choice. Then they go further into drugs, they become addicts, and it is hard for them to come off.

That does not excuse those of us in public life, and not only the Government, who have a responsibility for speaking up as we are trying to speak up today. That places a heavy responsibility on all of us for seeing that a whole generation is not ruined, degraded, corrupted and in many cases killed by the development of this disease. I was fairly close to the drug scene because the drug addicts used to come to our centre more than they do now. They now go to specialist places.

In one particular year 30 of the young men I knew were dead within a year of my first knowing them. That was the situation when there was a relatively small number. It does not become any easier or any happier when there are large numbers; it becomes many times worse.

I join with the noble Lord, Lord Harris, in expressing horror about the whole thing. It is not a party matter. Those who support the Government naturally want to be loyal to them and be more kind about them than some of us feel, but we are all completely non-party, hating drugs equally, and look to the Ministers to say that they hate the situation also and mean to do something about it.

3.30 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has outlined the tragic situation which faces us today in the field of drug addiction. That is of some interest to me and my fellow workers in the diocese of Chelmsford because Hackney is the only place to which we can send people. It looks as though that will be cut back and will not be able to take anybody from the county of Essex, which is a large county as many well know.

In 1982 the Government took immense pains to publish a report on treatment and rehabilitation by their own advisory council on drugs, a copy of which I have. In it the council took a long hard look at the fact that neither local authorities nor regional health authorities would be likely or even able to provide long-term treatment, and for at least five years there would need to be solid funding by central government. It says in this document: because of the difficulties in achieving local funding, there is increasing pressure for greater central government involvement in the provision of treatment and rehabilitation services for problem drugtakers, either through increased grants, by direct central government funding or, in the extreme, by the assumption by central government of full responsibility for such services". In other words, if the Government rely on the hope that other bodies, voluntary and otherwise, will be able to take over responsibility, the whole edifice of drug treatment will eventually collapse like a pack of cards.

I do not rely on my own experience exclusively for these words. In my diocese of Chelmsford there is a general practitioner who has made this his major work and who was a member of the working party for the guidelines which have been written. He is desperate. I have had to leave certain matters out of my speech, as others have, but I should like to stress the number of people who can give treatment. This doctor in Chelmsford has six other doctors in his practice but he is the only one who is allowed to treat addicts. All the others are overworked, and he therefore has placed upon him the entire responsibility for those who come to him.

It seems that the Government have chosen to ignore the sound advice of this document from their own counsellors and have announced a generous gift of £6 million to be spread over three years, not five. This money was to go on entirely new projects, and was not to be used to back up existing hospital clinics or long-established voluntary work. After three years' short-term pump-priming funding the project would be taken over by local councils, charities or health authorities.

In those days, looking at the drugs field, £6 million sounded a lot of money, and the Government's desire to spend money on badly needed research and training projects was altogether commendable, but was not enough. What the country is liable to forget is that this funding, and ad hoc grants announced since, bringing the total to £12 million, is not only short-term but short-sighted, says my doctor. First, the new projects are likely to founder in three years because of lack of support. Secondly, long-established voluntary work is now becoming overloaded. We have one or two voluntary set-ups in Chelmsford and Essex and 14 drug dispensing units, DDUs, set up in the early 1960s to cope with about 5,000 addicts. Now the figure is 50,000 addicts. The University College Hospital clinic for drug dependency has had a 600 per cent. increase in its workload, with no matching increase in resources.

I conclude by stressing once again the importance of having doctors trained for this work. My doctor is particularly vituperative about this. Not only are so few doctors trained to do this work, but there is nobody to train them, so he tells me. We are left with a situation which is constantly retreating from us.

In a recent television appearance which I saw last week a junior Minister for Health and Social Security, Mr. Patten, put the blame for the paucity of Government funding on the shoulders of the medical and allied professions. He said that no-one knows what is the best way of treating drug addiction. If only someone would come up with a method of curing three addicts out of three who are treated, he said, the Government would be able to throw more money at the problem. This entirely ignores the sterling work being done already by self-sacrificing people. If Mr. Patten had used those words about cancer treatment 20 years ago we should be nowhere on cancer treatment now, whereas we are well advanced.

I have here one more document—

Noble Lords

No, no!

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford

I see, my Lords. My case stands.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I should remind your Lordships with the greatest courtesy that one has had five minutes when the number "5" comes on the screen, not when "6" does.

3.37 p.m.

Lord Lane

My Lords, there are two aspects to this problem, are there not? First, there is the aspect of the death and degradation which are the sequel to the trafficker in this type of drug, and as to those one needs no emphasis. No doubt your Lordships have received letters such as I have received frequently from distraught parents asking whether anything is being done to prevent other children from dying in the same way as their own children have died. That is bad enough.

The other aspect is that already touched upon: the effect of the necessity to buy drugs on the part of the addicts. Let me take even the lowest figure of 10,000 addicts in the country. It requires, at the lowest, £20 a day per addict to feed their addiction. That is £7,000 a year per addict. If one multiplies that by 10,000, that totals £70 million. Those figures can probably be multiplied by four.

But whether it is £70 million or £280 million, that money has to come from crime; it cannot be legitimately earned. It comes from crime of all sorts. It comes from peddling to other people, thereby creating yet more addicts; it comes from burglary, robbery and so on. All this means a further burden on already overstretched police forces, on courts and on judges—a burden which we can ill afford to bear.

It is a problem which affects us all. It is not perhaps entirely hopeless. There is no use in throwing up one's hands and saying that there is nothing we can do about it. First of all, if one has a pipe leaking in a large number of places, one goes and turns the water off at the source. One wonders how much is being done at the source; and the source for 80 per cent. of heroin is Pakistan. How much effort is being put into persuasion and advice to the Pakistanis as to how to cut down the growing of the poppy, the refining of the poppy and the exporting of the heroin?

The next problem is this. How much is being done by way of research into why youngsters become addicts? Having discovered the answer to that, one hopes, is enough being done to try to educate potential addicts away from it? We have seen a successful campaign against the use of tobacco. Is it beyond the wit of man to devise a similar programme to wean possible addicts away from heroin and cocaine? The question of increased manpower has already been touched upon; and not only in regard to the police. I understand that there has been no possibility of increasing the Metropolitan Police drug squad since 1978. Is enough being done to increase the intelligence services upon which so much rests? Is enough being done, as already has been indicated, to man the channels at Heathrow, Gatwick and other places where this drug mostly enters the country?

Finally, there is the question of punishment. It is not enough simply to impose long terms of imprisonment upon people discovered trafficking in and importing these drugs. It is clear now that the big-time villain has moved away from the High Street bank. He finds it a great deal safer and a good deal more profitable to import and distribute heroin. It is not enough simply to imprison him. What should be done, surely, is to make sure he is divested of every single penny of profit which he has made out of this terrible trade. Unfortunately, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was reluctantly interpreted by the appellate jurisdiction of your Lordships' House not to cover this stripping of the importer's or manufacturer's profits. Is it not time that some such legislation was introduced as a matter of urgency to make sure that the profits are stripped from these men? They are very wicked men and they do not deserve very much sympathy, if any. Is it not a case where the burden should be put upon the convicted drug trafficker to show that any assets which he may be seen to have did not arise from trafficking in drugs? That would be described as draconian. I do not generally approve of the principles of Draco being applied to sentencing but, so far as drugs are concerned, there is a good deal to be said for them.

3.43 p.m.

Lord Ferrier

My Lords, I wonder whether the large number of speakers in this debate is indicative of the general acceptance of the importance of this subject which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has so wisely raised or whether—and I hope that this is not the case—there are many more Peers than I know who have been associated with this problem in a personal capacity. Arising out of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, said about research, the gradual process from anorexia nervosa leading to dependence upon narcotics is one of the first problems which I think might be tackled. It is unfortunate that today the time factor means a severe limitation on the depth of the debate and it may be that the usual channels might find that the matter requires another run with a longer debate with more depth. In the light of my experience and that of our closely-knit family, I have more to contribute to your Lordships' considerations than can be covered in a few minutes, so I shall make only one or two salient points.

The noble Lord's Motion is in two parts. He has very vividly dealt with the first part. I turn to the second part because that is the one to which my own experience can apply. It reads: to provide adequate resources…for research, education, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation seriatim. As to research, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, has said, it is open to a great deal more time, care and expense than has yet been given to it. There is more to be done, and I have reason to believe that the medical authorities are working hard at it. Is there any link between a tendency to addiction and the medical history, even from the surgical point of view? Is the process of childbirth connected with any tendency to addiction? Has the production of twins anything to do with the problem?

As for education, is there enough emphasis placed on impressing upon the young that so much as starting an experiment with narcotics is not wise? As Virgil said, "Facilis est descensus Averno". To turn to prevention, there is the ruthless, relentless pursuit of the mischievous, as well as the pursuit to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, referred—the relentless pursuit of the mischievous or corrupting influence of individuals who are obvious purveyors of evil. Treatment and rehabilitation perhaps go hand in hand. Should there not be more development of facilities to cope with these? The noble Lord, Lord Harris, turned to that. Take Scotland, for instance. The only rehabilitation facilities are provided by voluntary organisations, such as the Church of Scotland. In England there are organisations such as Broadway Lodge and so on, and a great deal of study, I believe, is being given to the care that is being taken in the USA.

It so happens that the state hospital at Carstairs offers outstanding expertise more especially in its influence on delinquents incarcerated on remand. This was a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I have reason to say that the capacity of this side of the hospital's work in Carstairs is capable of rapid development, and I have enormous respect for it. The Carstairs experiment has proved its worth over a number of years over and over again in many directions.

The next thing is to be wary of "sin-swapping therapy", such as is practised occasionally. There may be something in it; but day centres bring delinquents together and in our experience contacts are thus built up which may lead to groups in the future.

My Lords, what I have said is a fraction of what we as a family could contribute. But I will repeat Virgil's words, "Facilis est descensus Averno". I wonder whether television could do anything to continue to press that upon the young.

3.49 p.m.

Lord Perry of Walton

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich painted a graphic picture of the drug scene and I can add only that it has been confirmed to me over the past few weeks from many sources ranging from senior medical men to recovered addicts. All share in the recognition of the almost epidemic spread of heroin misuse. All share in the knowledge that most misusers misuse more than one drug. All share in the belief that misuse is more of a sickness than a sign of moral weakness; and all share in the opinion that facilities for coping are woefully inadequate. They do not agree at all about what are the best facilities. Many dedicated altruists, doing yeoman work in the field, are convinced that their method is best; yet none can produce chapter and verse or scientific evidence to support that belief.

But there is one message that I think one most emphasise and that does come through. Although the problems are very difficult and complex, the outlook is not hopeless. There will no doubt always be failures and those who reject treatment, but just yesterday I was told of a private residential treatment centre which admitted only the small number of 73 addicts during 1983 and 1984. Of those, 21 discharged themselves almost all within the first week and of the other 52, 46 are still drug free. That is a remarkable record, and I would take it with a grain of salt. These people were highly self-selected; they came with a lot of family backing; they were people who had enough money to pay; and they were people who were better educated. But still it is a sign of hope that it is possible to get people off drugs. It needs a lot of follow-up and a lot of care from a lot of people. That is the first message.

The best source of information about the current situation is the reports of the advisory council, as other speakers have said. They both show that there is no established base-line; evidence is lacking, and the council concludes that all methods of treatment have a place at the moment and that no one method is intrinsically better than another. They are very cautious about saying that any new treatment should be tried; anything innovative is seen as risky. But things are getting very much worse than they were when the last report was written, and the last report showed that very little had been done in the two years between 1982 and 1984.

The whole tenor of the advice of the council is that all kinds of facilities should be increased and, as I said, they advocate great caution. They advocate—and this is the main point I want to make—leaving things to local institutions, and not centralised co-ordination. They are still prepared to see training left to the professional bodies, despite the fact that, as someone has said, there is an incredible dearth of people who know about the matter. It is everywhere acknowledged that local health authorities, who are short of money, as my noble friend Lord Harris said, will relegate drug users to the bottom of the heap. They are still regarded as being somehow to blame for their own misfortunes.

While I sympathise with and understand the reasons for the cautious approach of the advisory council, I am inclined to think that the time has come when a bolder approach must be risked, because the epidemic state of the problem is now such that it is hard to imagine adding to the risks. I should like to see a central initiative where a large increase of funds is earmarked centrally for the control of drug misuse and given locally only for this purpose. I should like to see a central initiative—indeed, a central control—in providing training and education. I should like to see an increased awareness among the public in general of the nature of the problem. I do not want scaremongering, but I do want balanced and dispassionate information, disseminated by as many routes as possible, including the mass media. The public are woefully ignorant.

I do not think that the Government are unaware of or indifferent to these problems, and indeed they have done something about them. I have said that the problems are very complex and the advice they get is very confused. This Motion merely calls upon the Government to intensify their efforts. I very much hope that it will be accepted in this spirit and that a real surge of activity will follow.

3.54 p.m.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, the problems inherent in the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, is moving this afternoon concern parents, doctors, magistrates, the judiciary and everyone. It is something from which none of us can escape. I recall some years ago, when my wife and I toured a mental hospital in Surrey on whose house committee I then sat prior to reorganisation, seeing a 17 year-old girl who was as white as a sheet and obviously very ill. I remember that we asked the nursing sister, "What is the prognosis for this girl?" She said, "She has about six weeks to live". That pulled us up with a jolt.

It seems to me that the most important part of this Motion is on the educational side. The schools have a major part to play. I believe that even from the primary school stage, if children can be educated, if necessary by visual means and even if it causes a shock, something can be done to bring this menace to the fore.

So far as detection is concerned, I was somewhat heartened by some figures published in yesterday's Scotsman of drugs seized by the Customs. The figure for heroin was 212 kilograms in 1983 and, in 1984, 298 kilograms. My decimal knowledge is not sufficient to transfer that into simple measure, but it throws a little shaft of light, at least, on this matter.

The Customs authorities at the airports do a marvellous job although, as has been mentioned, their staffing at present is far from adequate. Detection is a major problem, and I would submit to your Lordships that, even with increased staffing, detection remains the major problem.

What are the sources of these drugs? In the Sunday Telegraph not long ago I read an article about Colombia and the volume of drugs which comes out of that country. They do not come, possibly, directly to this country, but as I understand it they go to Miami and possibly come from Miami to here. I would ask my noble friend the Minister how much research his department has done into the sources—not only Pakistan, but perhaps the lesser known sources—of these drugs.

As I say, our hospitals have a major job to do in treating the addicts who are more seriously affected. I believe that the subject we are discussing this afternoon in all too short a time is one of major importance, and I hope that the Government will take very serious note.

3.58 p.m.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for introducing this subject this afternoon. As the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, reminded the House, I introduced a similar debate a year ago, and when I was asked by my Chief Whip to take part in this debate I at first thought that I would merely rise and ask the Government what they have done since. Then I changed my mind and decided that I would try to reiterate what I said on that occasion.

It is a fact that there is widespread addiction to heroin and cocaine and that there is plenty of heroin on the street. Two things are needed: the first is trying to prevent the heroin coming into this country and trying to prevent its being distributed. There is also the question of treating the addicts. I challenged on the last occasion the approach to treating the addicts when I said that we were too concerned with restrictions and prohibitions and not sufficiently concerned with treatment and help. Drug addiction is an illness like any other illnesses and should be treated as such. Because it is an illness like any other illnesses, it should be treated on the National Health Service by GPs. That does not mean that there should not be specialist centres, but they should be places to which GPs refer cases and from which GPs get guidance through the greater experience of the specialists in those centres.

In addition, drug addiction is one of the illnesses which require a great deal of time and patience. Therefore GPs cannot tackle too many addicts, because if a GP tries to tackle too many addicts they take over his practice. So GPs should be encouraged to take a certain number of addicts, and to work closely with the specialist centres and also with the voluntary organisations which are doing good and great work in counselling and supporting those addicts. That should be the tripod on which the treatment is based.

It will not automatically end up with lots of addicts being cured, but there will be several cures, and what is more important when an addict reaches the stage where he feels that he wants to kick the addiction, he will be able to get treatment. What happens now is this. Most addicts go through a phase where they want to kick the drug and they go to a centre. But then they are told that there is a waiting list which is sometimes of six weeks and sometimes longer. The doctor does not see that addict after that because he goes back on the street and gets his "treatment". It is not until the addict's next phase when he wants to get off that the doctor will see him. In that phase, he will again he told to go on the waiting list, and again the doctor will lose him.

However, the suggestion that I am making is that the addict will go to his GP, the GP will take him on for treatment and the GP will seek help and advice from the specialist centre and from the voluntary organisations, and something will be done. It is easier to get a drug addict off a drug than to keep him off the drug. Most of the addicts with whom I have dealt have been off drugs on several occasions, sometimes for as long as a year or more, and then they go back again.

They need that continuing counselling and support. They need that from their GP and from the other organisations that do this sort of work. I want the Government to recognise that that is the approach required and to see that resources are needed in order that that approach may be effective. I have no doubt that if that is done we can have some success.

4.3 p.m.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, I would have willingly forfeited my five minutes, instead of distributing them among noble Lords in general, had it been possible to give them to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, whose admirable speech pointed to the very heart of this matter and to precisely those things which the Government should now be doing, and which admirably reinforced the excellent speech of my noble friend Lord Harris.

I shall now come straight to my two points. First, the crucial element in this whole matter is surely law enforcement in relation to the trafficking of drugs of addiction. It is clear that the primary cause of drug addiction is the availability of addictive drugs. Were there no drugs of addiction available, it necessarily follows that there would be no drug addiction. But there are drugs of addiction available and, I am afraid, we have heard that they are now available at a price that is within the means of the most deprived, even if they have to supplement their means by crime or by becoming traffickers themselves.

There are a great many legitimate drugs in circulation for medical reasons. There are something like 5,000 different drugs, about 1,500 of which are effectively different and about 400 of those act directly on the central nervous system. There are three types. First, I would refer to the response reducers, which are drugs like barbiturates. Secondly, there are the response enhancers like the amphetamines, which did such terrible damage in the 'thirties and leading people to heroin. Thirdly, there are what I would call the experience changers, which are drugs like the opiates and which include heroin, cocaine, LSD and cannabis.

I should like to say a word about cannabis. At a time when our resources are overstretched and perhaps inadequate it would be regrettable if we squandered too much in the pursuit of cannabis. I do not say for a moment that cannabis is safe. I say that I do not know. We do not know enough about cannabis. Since the report of the Home Office Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence and that of the committee under the admirable chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, in the 'sixties, we have learned very little more about cannabis. I know people will tell me that all heroin users have at some time tried cannabis, but we must not be misled by the post hoc propter hoc argument. The relationship is statistical rather than causal.

May I explain the difference? If noble Lords went to a strip show in Soho—I do not suggest that they would—they might find the front rows occupied exclusively by middle-aged gentlemen with bald heads. That is a statistical relationship. Were it to be a causal relationship, we would say that observing naked women at close range makes the hair fall out. That is manifestly untrue. There is a statistical relationship between cannabis and heroin that we do not yet know enough about. We do know that in cannabis the molecule of the alkaloid which is active is very similar to the molecule of the alkaloid of the opiates. I think that perhaps there are grounds for anxiety; but let us at least think a little more.

That leads me to the second point that I want to make, which is in regard to research. Research in this matter is essential. As noble Lords have said, we are not going to solve this problem only by punitive measures which may be necessary, purely by law enforcement or by the kind of very necessary steps to which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice referred with regard to the assets of drug traffickers. In the end, we shall solve it only if we know a little more about the nature of drug addiction.

The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, referred to the tragedy of the drug addict in the family. He was right, and it is horrifying. One of the problems is that the family does not know which child is at risk. They came to me as a doctor—as they did for 30 or 40 years—worried about whether Johnny, who was going to Oxford, would become an addict.

But nearly always it was the child whom they were not worried about who became an addict. We must do more research so that we can find out which individual is at risk of becoming an addict and which is not, because we very often find it is unexpected.

We must remember that when we have cured a drug addict the factors in his personality which led him to become an addict, and the factors in the environment which lead to his addiction, will still remain after he has been cured. The answer to many of the problems underlined in this Motion is further research. I make this plea. We must direct much more energy and more resources to research into the nature of drug addiction, into the nature of the substances which lead to drug addiction and indeed into the factors which have led to this sensational, dramatic and terrifying increase in drug addiction in our community.

4.8 p.m.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, it is quite impossible to cover this vitally important and escalating subject in the very short time that each of us has available this afternoon. However I seek to show as briefly as I can—certainly within the five minutes—that the Government and the voluntary bodies care and are doing something about it, but I shall take only two examples both of which I personally know about. The first is a statutory centre, to which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, referred, and the second is a voluntary centre.

The first one is Phoenix House, about which I expect all noble Lords will have heard as being almost a centre of excellence for treating drug addicts. They are referred to the centre or go their voluntarily. This centre is funded entirely by Government money, through he DHSS, the Home Office, the London Boroughs Association and of course the patients' sickness benefit, which is taken and used to help them when they are in residence. There are 65 residents and there are 12 in the resettlement house. It is an 18-month programme, which they are all trying to reduce at the present time. There are 12 full-time staff and one part-time member of staff. There are also volunteers who go in as a support group to help on the psychiatric side with the drug dependent patients.

I am happy to tell your Lordships that Phoenix House now have another branch in Sheffield. They hope to open in South Tyneside in March and they are going to open another branch in Merseyside. The age group at Phoenix House was between 55 and 18; it is now between 24 and 25. The tragedy of what I have learnt in the past 24 hours is that children of 12 and 13 are coming in, hooked on heroin. That is something of which we in this Chamber and throughout the country must all take note. There are also, as noble Lords will know, day centres in London.

Merseyside is one of the worst affected areas in the whole country, presumably because of its proximity to the Liverpool docks. The new Arrow Park hospital, which I visited recently, have a drug centre going but it has existed for only the past 12 months. I must tell noble Lords and my noble friend the Minister that they desperately need funds to enlarge their clinics. They have four new patients a week; 62 per cent. of them have been referred from the courts, the courts having found them guilty of theft and the possession of drugs. A magistrate friend of mine in Merseyside said that recently a referral was made to find out how many robberies in the neighbourhood were connected with drug addiction. The answer was 80 per cent., a terribly high total. The robberies of course occurred at chemist shops to get the drugs, or parents or houses were robbed of money with which to buy the drugs.

In Merseyside, there is a very active parents' concern group which is based on two estates on the outskirts of Liverpool. There is a voluntary organisation called "Compass" which now has 12 training centres dealing with drugs and counselling. Thirty-one counsellors have been lined up to carry out these training programmes to help drug dependent people in the Heswall area.

I know I must not take up any more time, but there are two main problems to which my noble friend Lord Mancroft referred and which I must re-emphasise. First, the patients must know where to go to get help. It should be easy for them to go and get advice. Secondly, I also feel, as do other noble Lords, that, as part of community health education, the schools should initiate advice to their pupils before they leave school. I hope that some of the points that have been mentioned in the House today by noble Lords who know what they are talking about and who do care will be taken note of by the Minister.

4.14 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, this is Youth Year. What value are we putting on youth? They challenge society, they can be rebellious, they seek pleasure, they are curious, they are bored and they are unemployed. We must do far, far more.

Addiction has several problems. There is the risk of hepatitis B, a problem about which doctors, nurses and dentists are all very worried. There is the infection of thrombosis and gangrene which comes from injecting tablets. In York alone, last week, there were five cases of hepatitis B. Babies are being born addicted. They cause great problems to the staff in hospitals. Death can happen so easily for those who are addicted. Amphetamines and tranquillisers are a problem, too. So many young people who come into drug centres for treatment are mixing their drugs.

The regional health authorities are not doing enough. I serve on the Yorkshire Regional Health Authority and it has not done what was recommended by the 1982 report. There are 17 health districts and we do not have a regional health authority centre to organise and co-ordinate this work. We have a very good project in Bradford and this idea should be spread around the country. The project gives confidential help to parents, children, professionals and all those coming for advice. It is called the "Bridge Project". We hear throughout the country of all sorts of problems—cocaine at a party given by staff at Cambridge University; ice cream laced with heroin sold outside a school in Liverpool; and jerseys coming in impregnated with heroin and being washed out and the drugs sold.

There is need for more rehabilitation. There should be subtle advertising which will attract young people and tell them where to go—this advice comes from young people whom I know well personally. They do not know where to go. The rich can go to clinics and those sent from court can go to rehabilitation centres, but what of the others? This really is a very great problem.

We must be vigilant. The All-Party Parliamentary Committee on the Misuse of Drugs is working together. This problem of drug abuse must not become a political football. We must work together to fight together; we have a war on our hands. I was once told by a prisoner, "As long as crime pays, we shall continue to do it". We must not let this crime pay, but victims of drug trafficking must be given help.

There is so much we could say. I hope we will have another debate, because it is impossible to go into the subject in depth in such a short time. I know there are other noble Lords who want to speak and others have gone over their time. I shall ask everybody to look carefully in their communities. It is not just the Government; it is the Church, it is the teachers, it is the parents, and it is the police. Last Saturday I was at a conference in York, and the police said, "There is not a problem here". There is a problem. There is a problem in Yorkshire, in Scarborough, in York, in Harrogate, in Richmond, in Leeds, and in Bradford. One can go on; it is a problem for the whole country. We must be united and fight together.

4.18 p.m.

Lord Rodney

My Lords, at the present time, drug misusers are treated as criminals, both within the law and by society in general. A number of committees have considered the problem of drug misuse, going back as far as 1926 with the Rolleston Committee, and later on the two Brain Committees, in 1960 and 1965. All of these august bodies recommended, among other things, that addiction should be treated as an illness, and not as a mere form of vicious indulgence. In fact, the first Brain Committee went so far as to endorse the view that addiction should be regarded as an expression of mental disorder, rather than of criminal behaviour, and that the satisfactory treatment of addiction was possible only in suitable institutions. If we can accept that definition, then we should remind ourselves that the mentally handicapped are not usually committed to prison unless they are a threat to society.

At this stage, it would be as well to differentiate between those people who handle drugs to satisfy their own needs only and those who handle drugs purely for financial gain. I make it plain that I am in no way advocating soft treatment of so-called pushers; in my opinion, there is no punishment too severe for them. But in the case of addicts, society's primary object should be to help those unfortunates shake off their habit and resume a normal way of life.

I am fully aware that many drug misusers have inflicted this sickness upon themselves and that while under the influence of drugs they are in many cases extremely anti-social. But we are a caring society and should not simply consign such people to their own purgatory and lock them up in prisons when they are caught possessing drugs. This may sound somewhat idealistic. If it does, then I make no apologies—but there is also a practical side. We hear constantly of overcrowding in prisons, of how much it costs the taxpayer to keep a person in custody, and of the high percentage of first offenders who are back inside prison again within a short time of being released. Add to that the very questionable merits of committing a drug misuser to prison, and then we have a very good case for a complete rethink on how best to restrain and help these sick people.

In 1979 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs issued a report on drug dependants within the prison system in England and Wales. This stated that all those who were drug-dependent had drugs withdrawn from them during the period of their custody. On the face of it this is very reassuring, but later the report stated that the majority of dependants interviewed declared that on release they would return to their habit. Another real danger is that on release, such dependants will return to the level of dosage to which their systems adapted prior to committal. But, having been drug-free for some time, this constitutes for them a considerable overdose which in some cases has proved fatal.

Probably the most significant argument against prison committal is the lack of specialist knowledge within the prison system and the interruption committal causes to continuous treatment—which may have started before entering prison and which should certainly be continued after release.

In the end, we return to this question: are we to treat drug misusers as criminals or shall we try to help them as much as we possibly can? I recommend much greater use of the parole system, involving compulsory attendance at rehabilitation centres and drug-free residential communities. Funding will always be the main stumbling block, but if the Government are really determined to improve the situation, I am sure progress can be made.

An aggravation to the problem is that it is the responsibility of both the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Security. Evidently, with fewer prison committals, there would be a saving to the Home Office. But if the DHSS is to make available adequate residential centres, which are absolutely essential to this proposal, then they will accrue extra costs.

I urge Her Majesty's Government at least to undertake an inquiry into the feasibility of these suggestions. It may be that the recently-established inter-departmental working party under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office will have the authority to undertake such an inquiry.

4.24 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am indebted to my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich for initiating this debate. I hope that, as a result, Her Majesty's Government will be forced to take more effective steps to combat the ever-increasing illegal sale and use of drugs in this country. Your Lordships may have read last week the shocking story in the newspapers of a teenager who had an illegitimate child and who, by the age of 15, was on the streets selling her body to earn the £50 a day she needed to buy hard drugs. That was £50 a day seven days a week and 365 days a year. I hate to think how much money is being spent now.

How do young people get on to drugs? Everyone seems to have different ideas. That a bad example should be set is not very surprising when one considers the idols of the young today; a transvestite pop star, female film and television stars who have illegitimate children, and soccer and cricket stars who are often in the newspapers because of their misuse of drugs.

I have argued with young people about drug addiction. Invariably, young people of both sexes will claim that smoking cannabis is not habit-forming, does no harm and is not addictive—but, as my noble friend Lord Winstanley has said, there is some doubt about those claims. And more often than not these young people then point an accusing finger at me and say, "We may smoke pot but we do not smoke tobacco." I admit that I am a cigarette smoker and that I am addicted to cigarettes. But if one smokes cigarettes as I do, where is the downward path? Does it lead to pipes and cigars? It is said that they are less dangerous than cigarettes—so one is gravitating from a dangerous addiction to a less dangerous addiction.

What about the cannabis smoker? It is true that many young people smoke cannabis with no apparent ill effects. But all too many move on from cannabis to hard drugs. It must be difficult for a young person at school to refuse to conform. Their friends smoke cannabis, and if they do not do so then they are made to feel out of it—outsiders. And since the reasoning is that cannabis is non-habit forming and harmless, all too often they give in. Then when hard drugs come on the scene, having given in once, it is all too easy to give in again.

My noble friend Lord Harris referred to the deeply damaging growth in the traffic in heroin and cocaine. He is right about that; something must be done, and the Government must do it. They must spend more money detecting drugs being imported. They must spend more money on apprehending importers, distributors and pushers. And they must spend more money on preventive education. Finally, when such persons are apprehended, not only should they receive very long prison sentences but they and their families should be deprived of all their ill-gotten gains.

4.28 p.m.

Baroness Hornsby-Smith

My Lords, like many Members of your Lordships' House, I have torn my speech into pieces today. I am sure other noble Lords agree with me that this debate is too short for so important a subject. The spread of heroin addiction is increasingly affecting the young and destroying their physique—all too often resulting in their death.

I can take your Lordships back to 1949, when the World Health Organisation and the Social Council of United Nations recorded that only seven countries out of the then total of 82 were opposed to dispensing with heroin and urged governments to prohibit the manufacture, import and export of heroin save for scientific purposes. After an intensive investigation in the Ministry of which I was a member, the issue was raised again in a suggestion for strict licensing which was brought before your Lordships' House after a massive campaign against the banning by the BMA. After opposition in your Lordships' House, the Government conceded that the Motion had to be withdrawn. That was in 1955.

In 1958 I represented the Government at the United Nations when, on the item on the agenda concerning the international report of the narcotics committee, I had to report that we had 52 registered addicts in England and Wales and two on Scotland, and that they were all over 40. For six years I had responsibility at the Ministry for mental health. In those days it was difficult to find selected wards with more than four to six patients. The patients were nearly all middle-aged. Today they are nearly all young, and one sees the tragic effects on young lives.

We make a very big mistake when we assume that all addicts are deprived people. Too many acquire the habit away from the watchful eye of their parents while at university, college or boarding school where they would not be if they were not academically qualified. Proud of their abilities and with the exuberance of over-confident youth, they feel that they can try anything once and are often convinced that they will know when to stop. Too many get hooked and cannot stop.

I agree with everything that has been said about additional treatment and clinics, but we have to prevent addiction. It is in the field of education that we have to fight. I am appalled by the trendy attitude of teachers, dons and tutors who have said to personal friends of mine, "I could not possibly warn you that your boy was taking drugs. I would lose his confidence." If they saw that same boy drowning they would be the first to rush to his rescue. Why cannot they take the same attitude with a boy who may be killing himself with heroin? We have to work just as hard on prevention and on making the contact between parents and educationists much closer in the interests of the young whom we seek so desperately to serve and save from this lethal drug.

4.32 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I hope to keep your Lordships for not more than three minutes, I too, having heavily chopped what I intended to say. For the sake of brevity, I shall omit the customary acknowledgements to previous speakers.

It is worth pointing out that to finance adequately the sort of measures we are discussing will not be very costly as Government expenditure goes: say twice the money that has been spent already, but on an annual basis of £25 million or so. It will pay immediate dividends. It is also worth drawing attention to the billions of pounds which come from tobacco and alcohol tax revenue—finance which, incidentally, is hardly used at all by the Government to curb these addictions. I suppose one could say that the Government are showing reluctance to bite the blood-stained hand that feeds them. I ask your Lordships to think what a little extra tax on a packet of cigarettes could provide. A quick calculation that I made on figures given to me by ASH shows that one extra penny on a packet of cigarettes could produce £50 million per annum, which is more than enough to cope with all the measures which people are suggesting for combating heroin addiction.

May I deal briefly with three aspects of the strategy for coping with heroin abuse? First, the training of all professions working in this field—not only doctors, but social workers and the police—must be improved. Several other speakers have mentioned this, and it is a point made by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in its report on prevention and also in its previous report on treatment and rehabilitation. This should be done at basic course level, and there should be refresher courses. Noble Lords may be interested to know that at lunchtime today I was running a meeting for Bloomsbury general practitioners on the problem of heroin addiction.

Secondly, I understand that £2 million is proposed to be spent on a large-scale publicity campaign about the dangers of heroin addiction. I consider that this may well be counter-productive. It first needs careful evaluation on a small scale. As the report on prevention says: There is a…risk of stimulating interest where none previously existed". Research is vital—and I very much support the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, on this—looking into both prevention and the relative effects of the different methods of treatment and rehabilitation. However, the funding of research needs to be long-term, not bit by bit, making people think about drawing up plans for re-applying for their grant every year.

For example, the drug indicators project, which is attached to the University College Hospital Drug Dependency Unit and has produced most of the figures on which Home Office estimates on the prevalence of the problem in the country are based, has had to re-apply for fresh funding on several occasions during its four-year lifespan. Again, I quote from the report on prevention: The danger of short-term 'pump-priming' exercises is that they lead to a concentration on angling for funds, to a period of uncertainty followed by retraction of services, and this is clearly an inefficient use of public funds". The drug indicators project which I have mentioned has put forward an excellent plan for a future research programme to look into the relative effectiveness of different approaches to treatment and rehabilitation. I believe that it would be incredibly shortsighted of the Government if this excellent unit had to close down for lack of funds.

4.37 p.m.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has raised this important and difficult matter this afternoon. He knows a great deal about it and the different sides of the subject. In the course of the very few minutes that we have I shall speak about one side only—the supply and traffic of drugs.

I do not believe that we can clear this up by just putting more powers on the statute book. We must possibly consider more men being made available, not just policemen and customs men but devoted and skilled men from all the agencies that there may be in the country. The police are not short of powers for dealing with drugs but they are short of manpower, and the control of drug supply is very demanding on the time of the customs and the police. It involves the long drawn-out business of what they call surveillance in their jargon, and I do not think that all of us realise how much time can be spent by a squad of men following one particular line.

We have already heard mentioned this afternoon the customs and the police working together. I was disturbed when I heard that the number of customs men in this country has gone down, but it was not long ago that I thought that they were on the increase rather than the decrease. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us the position. The customs and police are important and they should be working together at our ports, where this material is imported.

I was disturbed, too, when I heard—although I am not quite sure whether it is right—something about privatisation. British Transport Police are being withdrawn from Associated British Ports, Southampton Docks, South Wales ports and the Humber ports. What can be the result of this? There must be some results. Again I hope that we may hear something this afternoon.

I turn to rural areas. I am told that the offence of holding supplies of drugs and of trafficking is on the increase in the more remote rural areas. Profits can be very large. There are certain long-established criminal elements in this country who work more regularly in the town than in the country. However, I am assured that they are waking up to the fact that very large profits are easily made in the country.

In my last few sentences I have a few ideas to put forward. In most police forces we have drug squads, but not in all. No doubt they have their reasons for organising themselves differently. I wonder whether we could not attack this drugs question on the basis of the regions, which are rather larger than the areas covered by most of our rural police forces. Then there is the decision about how many men can be employed on general duties or how many are specialists. That is a problem which is to be found in every police force.

Finally, let us keep up something which is expensive as well as important, because our police officers must travel abroad from time to time to liaise with those in other countries. I believe that has been mentioned briefly this afternoon, too. If this problem is going to be solved, it is not going to be solved by any one country, by America alone or by any individual country in Western Europe: a solution will not be provided by any one country. It is going to be provided by the efforts of many countries working together. I hope that when that happens Britain will be right in the forefront.

4.41 p.m.

Lady Saltoun

My Lords, you cannot search every person, parcel, load, ship, vehicle and aircraft coming into this country; it really would be impossible. Therefore, you have to concentrate on those which you have particular reason to suspect of carrying drugs. A very high proportion of carriers slip through the net. Therefore, I think we must turn to deterrence and to the guidelines laid down by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice in Aramah in 1983 for sentences on importers of Class A drugs: that is, seven years' imprisonment and upwards for consignments worth £100,000 or more and 12 to 14 years' imprisonment for consignments worth £1 million or more.

While I should like to see even longer sentences imposed on importers and suppliers of Class A drugs—who, after all, are indirectly guilty of premeditated multiple murder for financial gain—I bow to the wisdom and experience of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice. But the guidelines under Aramah do not touch on three points. The first point is the erosion of the sentence by remission. The second point is the abuse of sentencing by the parole system. Taken together, these points make complete nonsense of any sentence a judge may impose. I hope the Home Office will consider this carefully, because the expense involved in keeping these criminals in prison for the full length of their sentences would surely be offset by the saving in the cost of rehabilitating drug addicts, where possible, and of the human misery and crime to which drug-taking leads.

Thirdly, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, said, the guidelines make no suggestion that the property of the criminal should be sequestrated, so that he goes into prison with nothing but the clothes he stands up in and comes out with nothing but the clothes in which he went in, and so that there is no question of his coming out to enjoy the fruits of his nefarious trafficking, as he can at present. I should not be too choosy about how his property had been acquired; I should just sequestrate the whole lot.

Finally, I might add that the Government could perhaps spend less on combating cigarette smoking and more on combating hard drug addiction. I have never yet heard of anyone who went out and committed a murder as a result of smoking too many cigarettes.

4.43 p.m.

Lord Bruce-Gardyne

My Lords, I had not intended to inflict myself on your Lordships this afternoon since I did not really feel qualified to enter into the arguments about this terrifying problem. However, may I in passing just pick up a comment by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, and one by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee? I must say that I do agree with the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, that we could with advantage, perhaps, devote rather less of our resources to the pursuit of cannabis and relatively rather more of our resources to the pursuit of the hard drugs.

Similarly, in listening to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, I was reflecting that I, too, being an addict of tobacco, sometimes wonder whether, if I had to go and buy my cigarettes from a pusher, I should not thereby be more likely to be driven to what is a much more interesting proposition for the pusher—namely, the hard drugs—than I am since I can obtain my cigarettes from a legal source. Perhaps that is also a matter about which we should wonder.

The only reason I have for intervening this afternoon is that, having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, giving a trailer (if I can so describe it) on the wireless this morning of his very important debate this afternoon, I realised that in the context of this debate I was almost in the position of a convicted criminal. That is because I must freely confess that when I was a Minister responsible for Customs and Excise at the Treasury I was involved in the process of encouraging and urging the Customs and Excise to achieve greater economy of manpower. I must confess that in the context of this debate I am on the whole an unrepentant criminal in the sense that I dare to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that we need to ask ourselves whether we should in fact achieve a more effective policing of drugs on entry into the United Kingdom by a greater concentration on the uniformed force, such as he has suggested.

Certainly when I was at the Treasury responsible for Customs and Excise, from the information I was given I could not see that the modern methods of importing hard drugs into this country were likely to respond to enhanced police forces or enhanced uniformed Customs forces in either channel at Customs and Excise. When people are bringing in the drugs, as they are, in condoms in the body, or alternatively in highly sophisticated compartments in long-distance lorries and the like, there is no chance whatsoever that this is going to yield at all effectively to random searches in the green channel, or, for that matter, in the red.

Hence I believe that we were right, and I believe that the Government are right today, to concentrate the effort on the intelligence resources so that the Customs and Excise are alerted, as best they can be, to where the traffic is coming from. Frankly, I believe that we could double, treble, quadruple or multiply by ten the number of Customs and Excise officers in the green and red channels and it would not do us a bit of good. We need to have the intelligence and to concentrate the effort there. Therefore, I believe we have been absolutely right to concentrate our resources in that direction.

It is only for that reason that I dare to stand before your Lordships as a convicted criminal, in the context of this debate, for the responsibility I had, involving, as it did, some diminution in the number of Customs officers. I do not believe it affected the argument at all in the circumstances of this debate today.

4.48 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, I should much like to follow the noble Lord's most interesting and convincing speech about the necessity for intelligence, but there is not time. One proposition has arisen today upon which I want to ask the Government to come back to us. That is the perfectly clear proposition put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, that convicted drug pushers should be deprived, in some way or other, of their profits and, indeed, so far as possible, of their existing assets. I should like the Government definitely to come back to us here and say what they are doing about this proposition. It is clearly practical and it would clearly be useful.

Otherwise, I want to confine myself to one narrow part of the problem here. The greatest difficulty in doing anything to help drug dependants is that they never ask for help until it is too late. However, in one area, that of the courts and the prisons, they show up involuntarily. Ten years ago at Brixton there was a drugs unit to which everyone about whom there was any suspicion of drug-taking was automatically sent, whatever his alleged crime and wherever he was arrested. The doctor in charge when I visited the unit, I suppose 10 or 12 years ago, said he had no difficulty, as the noble Lord, Lord Rodney, said, in weaning them off drugs. In doing so, he saved them from some of the very desperate withdrawal symptoms that people who are suddenly deprived of drugs can suffer. However, as soon as they were released, they went straight back to Piccadilly and started up again. What he wanted was somewhere—a hostel I suppose—where he could send them for counselling and help in the very difficult process of breaking the habit.

A number of noble Lords have spoken about this. The unit was shut down and hostel facilities have not been provided on a scale in any way relevant to the size of the problem. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has already told the House about addicts in Chelmsford who have to go to Hackney for help. My view—I press it on the Government—is that something like the Brixton unit should be reinstated, and immediately reinstated, not only in Brixton, but at a number of other prisons as well, and some effort should be made to provide the necessary follow-up hostels area by area.

I wanted to talk at length about hostels and training of the kind that we give in NACRO but time does not allow. The Brixton unit had a further valuable function. It isolated the drug suspects from normal prison life, where I fear it is nearly as easy today to obtain hard drugs from the tobacco barons as it always has been to obtain tobacco. I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will be able to deny this. If so, I shall be very pleased. But the Prison Officers' Association's excellent report on drug abuse in prisons says that it has developed in prisons into big business, and I can well believe it.

With any problem as widespread and dangerous as my noble friend Lord Harris has shown this to be, one must tackle it wherever it shows its head. The courts, the probation service and prison are an area where it shows its head every day of the week. In my opinion, nothing adequate is being done about it. I hope that something adequate will be done.

4.52 p.m.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, in case my noble friend the Minister needs more proof of public concern about the need for extra funds to combat current drug problems, perhaps I may report on Thames Television's Telethon 1985. I was recently appointed chairman of their trust, in charge of setting up and organising this great fund-raising opportunity. The method is to present on television a star-spangled marathon entertainment over 24 hours, laced with films and statements about selected charities in Thames Television's area, after which viewers will be invited to phone in and pledge their financial support. The last such telethon was an outstanding success, and this time we mean to do all we can to make it still better.

As 1985 is International Youth Year, those who benefit will be the charities dealing with children and youth. And here I come to the reason for my intervention in this debate. Prominent among these will be charities to combat the spread of, and effect of, drugs among young people. The charities will be invited to send in details round about Easter so that they may be considered among many which are expected to stake their claim for selection. Alas, not all will be selected.

My reason, again, for intervening in the debate, is to assure my noble friend the Minister that there is no doubt in our minds that drugs abuse and the desperate need for funds to fight it is sufficiently recognised as a subject to have an absolute claim to the attention of the public and that it should be included as an object for the fund-raising programme.

I am sure that it is the wish of my noble friend the Minister to back up the efforts made to prevent the spread of this vicious disease and to attempt to repair the damage being done. By spending more money on this urgent crisis now, the Government can save a fortune later in hospital and social services, not to mention immeasurable distress and waste in human terms.

4.55 p.m.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, let me try to summarise the situation in five minutes and make five points, giving one minute to each. First, there is greater availability of heroin than ever before. Not long ago it was traded at £60 a gramme, half the price of two years earlier. It can now be bought by teenagers for £5 or £10 in a bag. It is the only addictive substance that has decreased sharply in value since the Government came to power. The record seizures, to which the Government may be inclined to refer, are also likely to be an indication of record sales.

The second point is that the Government are not unaware of the seriousness of the situation. They have pledged £12 million. That is over three years, expiring, I understand, at the end of this year. No doubt, the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong. I also gather that only £3 million remain unallocated. We shall therefore expect the noble Lord to give an indication of the Government's plans for future funding and its order of magnitude, which will have to be larger than the present tranche. These funds should be earmarked, as my noble friend Lord Perry has said. A writer in The Lancet said in relation to the current £12 million: It would be naïve to suppose that it will be sufficient to bring this serious problem within the coping capabilities of the services". Four million pounds a year means £100 a year per addict or £2 a week if a conservative figure of 40,000 addicts is accepted. Almost all speeches this evening have argued for more resources. In the light of these figures, I hope that the noble Lord will acknowledge that the demands are almost irresistible.

The third point is that the Government have set up an inter-departmental ministerial group on the misuse of drugs, chaired by the noble Lord's colleague, Mr. Mellor, and with participation by the Department of Education and Science, the Scottish and Welsh Offices, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, ODA and the DoE, all of which have an interest. This is clearly to be welcomed, but it is alarming to learn that the bids by health authorities and voluntary bodies for new money have been subjected to long delay. There are only two addiction units on Merseyside, I understand, and one application, for that area of all places, took 13 months to process before it was turned down. The money, I gather, is DHSS money. Can the noble Lord say more about the procedure for getting it? Can he assure the House that bureaucratic barriers will be dismantled?

The fourth point is that £2 million of the Government's £12 million is set aside, again over three years, I understand, for a prevention campaign. I gather that the Government have commissioned market research on target groups and intend next to commission advertising agents to prepare a high profile media campaign. Is this the right way to go about it when there is some evidence that this approach tends to highlight and even glamourise specific drugs and may increase abuse? I think that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, shared this worry. Would it not be better, at least in parallel, to top up the Health Education Council's limited funds to enable them to tackle the problem at the root as part of a general health education campaign in schools, youth clubs and Rotary clubs, etc., for which video films and cassettes are the most suitable vehicle?

The Health Education Council also needs money for research into the pattern and causes of addiction, and for the professional training and updating of doctors and nurses. That was a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, referred. I want to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that the Government will provide more funds for the Health Education Council. I know that they have had £100,000, but this is just a drop in the ocean. I shall listen with the greatest care to the noble Lord's answer on this point.

Finally, some have said that this should not be seen as a political debate. Indeed, there is a very real sense in which it is the concern of all of us regardless of party, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said. It would, however, be naïve to pretend that there is no political dimension. The epidemic has to be set in the context of youth unemployment. A causal connection cannot be proved, but the correlation is striking as 30 per cent. of known drug misusers are in the 16 to 24 age bracket and 60 per cent. are aged between 24 and 35.

The causes of that unemployment and how it is to be diminished belong to another debate; I seek to apportion no blame this evening. But we cannot overlook the legion of youth without work or very much hope. They are a fact that must spur the Government to take the more vigorous action for which the Motion calls. It means, of course, more manpower and more money. Obviously, we shall listen carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, but unless he can offer some substantial assurance as to the Government's intentions my noble friend may feel he should press the Motion to a Division.

5 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, what a salutary oratorical discipline your Lordships have undergone this afternoon! I shall impose upon myself exactly that same measure of discipline in order that the noble Lord the Minister may rise with an appropriate latitude of time for what I am sure will be his welcome speech. It would be churlish, even in a short speech, not to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for bringing this matter before us, and to all your Lordships who have spoken. If I may single out the contribution by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, I am sure it will not be thought to be to the detriment of any other speaker.

I think it also would be churlish not to pay tribute to the Government. It may be that some of the Members of your Lordships' House, regardless of party, have tried from time to time to put pressure upon the Government, but nevertheless it would be churlish not to pay tribute to the fact that the inter-departmental group of Ministers has been set up; that some expenditure has been set aside; that there has been an addition to one side of Customs, on their investigatory work. At this stage I would immediately want to echo what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said and what the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said about the need, as I understand it, to see that the police and the uniform branch of Customs deal with this matter adequately. It is a very important matter and it is a matter that intelligence alone cannot deal with.

At once I come on to the question of deterrence. There I, too, would feel that the contribution made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice is worthy of the greatest investigation. We are dealing with people who conspire to murder. They do it for the most sordid of motives—that is, gain—and I assure your Lordships that, if legislation is needed, those who sit with me on these Benches will support anything that can be done to take away from them that gain, and to punish them.

My first message, if I may give it, is, "Please give this priority". We are always told in this House that expenditure has calls upon it for so many worthy objectives. There could not be a worthier objective than this one, because we are fighting the cause of a generation that otherwise may suffer so devastatingly if this horrible problem of drugs is not dealt with. It has been said that nobody quite knows why there is this addiction at this time. I thought that the noble Lord who has just spoken was so right when he said that it would be common sense to believe that at least one of the causes was boredom, enforced leisure, unemployment. It may be, of course, some sort of adventure.

Having said that, and having pleaded for priority, may I plead also for propaganda? Here again I know that the Government have some intentions. I hope the Government will not be frightened of that warning which is given—that propaganda may lead to some people wanting to experiment. I can only tell your worships—I thought I was in another place! I can only tell your Lordships this: the frightening sequences of drug addiction must be shown to our youngsters, in every shape and form—on television, in the media, at schools, and everywhere else. We have got to take the chance. I hope, with others, that there will be increased expenditure on the treatment centres, which are so necessary, as my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead said, in order that the GPs can refer to them.

My last plea is this. There is now a gap (I believe my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead referred to this) in that those who, happily, are cured—temporarily cured—of drug addiction, have, because of their problems, no counselling whatsoever, be it on the question of being homeless or be it on the reasons for their original drug addiction; and so the need for money to be spent on counselling after the doctors have done their best is so very essential. I know that this House, on all sides—how right to say there are no politics in this—hopes that the Government will prevent a Division tonight by showing that they really have constructive and worthy answers to the debate so well initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Harris.

5.5 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, we are grateful for the opportunity of discussing what is a matter of the gravest importance. That it is of the gravest importance is clear from the terms of the Motion, from the number of your Lordships who have spoken to it, and from what has been said. Indeed, so many noble Lords have spoken that I cannot, within the time permitted, do as I usually do and acknowledge the points made by every noble Lord in his speech; and I shall be writing afterwards to a number of your Lordships.

Drugs misuse sucks from its victims their health, their wealth, their happiness, and sometimes their very lives. It is not a dragon that they are chasing; it is a vampire with fangs that are poisonous. Statistics—and we cannot conduct this debate without statistics—may measure the problem but they do not begin to describe it. You cannot measure sorrow. The son or the daughter lost to the love of parents, lost to health, lost to home, perhaps lost to life, is a tragedy for a complete family; but he or she adds only one solitary figure to one year's total. The threshold of casualties, as my noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith has said, gets younger. Today we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, of 12-year-old addicts and, I understand, even pre-natal addicts. My Lords, you do not need to remind the Government that this is an urgent problem; we know.

The statistics are, we know, deeply worrying. In 1983 the number of addicts notified to the Home Office went up by 42 per cent. to 5,850. There can be dispute about how many more there are, but it is not disputed that they are many. It is too soon to give a figure for last year, but it seems likely that it has increased again; and the number of addicts who are not notified and of the misusers of other drugs, who are not required to be notified, is of course much higher still.

The Motion directs our attention only to heroin and cocaine. But we cannot look at parts of this problem in isolation. Certainly heroin and cocaine are the drugs which give the greatest concern today; but there are other addictive drugs on the streets and they also carry the seeds of misery and destruction. We cannot afford to ignore any of them, for if we ignore the lesser danger today it may become the greater—indeed, the overwhelming—danger tomorrow. My answer to this debate must therefore go wider than these two drugs.

The problem is very serious, and it shows no signs of getting less. I revert again to statistics to say that the number of new addicts notified in 1983 was 50 per cent. up on those in 1982. Customs seized a record quantity of heroin last year; the provisional figure was 298 kilos, which I think has been correctly quoted, against 212 the year before. I do not entirely accept, though I of course accept in part, that this represents a possible considerable increase in the inflow. I do believe that the measures we are now taking are resulting in a higher proportion of interceptions, for reasons to which I shall return. Nonetheless, the street price of heroin is low and its purity is high. That indicates plentiful supplies. This is a problem that does indeed call (as does the Motion) for vigorous action.

The present Home Secretary recognised drugs misuse as a major issue as soon as he took office. It is a complex problem that cannot be taken on by a single department. The Home Office is the lead department because it is responsible for the police and that is why I am at the Dispatch Box this afternoon. But I speak for many colleagues, and my noble friend Lord Mancroft pointed to this as a possible source of confusion. The Treasury is responsible for Customs and Excise; Education is responsible for schools; Health and Social Security is responsible for the medical and welfare services. All these departments, too, are crucially involved. So are their Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland equivalents; and so, in the international field, are the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the overseas development administration. That can lead to difficulty and I shall draw the attention of my honourable friends to the difficulties which my noble friend Lord Mancroft suggested arose from this situation.

I come to my first point. In 1984, the Government set up a new ministerial group, chaired by my honourable friend Mr. David Mellor, to bring together all the Government agencies concerned with drug abuse and to develop policy. The group has five objectives. The first of these goes beyond the terms of the Motion and I shall return to it briefly at the end. The remainder are to strengthen controls on drugs produced and prescribed in this country; to increase the effectiveness of policing; to reinforce deterrence; and to improve prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. I shall summarise what we are doing under those headings starting briefly with the work to strengthen controls on drugs produced and prescribed in this country.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has acted swiftly, on the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, to subject dipipanone to the same restrictions on prescribing as heroin and cocaine. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has set up an expert medical working group to consider whether we can, and should, extend the same licensing requirement to all opioid drugs.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has acted equally decisively to check irresponsible prescribing. Three directions were issued against doctors in 1983 and four last year. Four weeks ago we brought an order into force bringing barbiturates and certain other drugs under the tight control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; and, in view of the grave damage that can be done by drugs stolen from places where they are kept in quantity, we are examining carefully the advisory council's recommendations on the security of controlled drugs in pharmacies and hospitals.

These measures will significantly increase our control of drugs produced and prescribed in this country. But as the Motion recognises, home produced drugs are not, at the moment, the greatest threat with which we have to cope. It directs our attention particularly to others and to what we do about them once they have arrived in this country. That brings me to the police.

By 1st January this year every police force in England and Wales had established its own specialist drug squad. There are now some 1,000 police officers in regional crime squads and in drugs squads with a major commitment to investigation of drug related crime. Dealing with this sort of crime is a specific task in the terms of reference of regional crime squads. They form a highly specialised network of experienced detectives, trained especially in surveillance skills. Unlike ordinary units operating within a single force, their structure enables them to cross the boundaries between one police force and another and as drugs trafficking networks spread across the country, their contribution is a vital one. They now spend nearly half their time on drug-related crime.

The attention of individual police forces has also been deliberately focused upon drug abuse by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary. In his statement of strategy for 1985, published on 17th January, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, will be interested to know that the Commissioner made it clear that drug offences are one of the six types of criminal offences specially listed for priority in detection work by the Metropolitan Police. No doubt he will deploy his forces, which have been considerably increased in recent years, in an appropriate way: that is for him.

We face a rapidly changing problem; and in rapidly changing circumstances, traditional responses and traditional organisational structures from which they come are not always the best or the most efficient. We must not rely uncritically on what we have thought to be good enough in the past. Last April therefore the Association of Chief Police Officers set up a committee to review their existing arrangements and to see whether the police are now organised in the best way for drugs operations. They are after the top end of the drug market and that is, very often, a regional matter. But they are also looking closely at the organisation at force level and will be reporting progress in April when the Association of Chief Police Officers holds its next national drugs conference.

These measures make a heightening of police alertness and efficiency in the drugs field. They are in addition to the massive expansion of police strength and resources, and the thorough modernisation of police powers which have occupied the Government since 1979 and which render local police forces increasingly effective against petty local pushers.

The third limb of our policy is deterrence. Catching a drug trafficker or pusher is an important deterrent, but it does not suffice alone. Deterrence also depends on punishing him when you have caught him. That is why my right honourable friend the Home Secretary decided to restrict severely the granting of parole for people sentenced to more than five years in prison for trafficking in drugs—a decision for which I remember the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, criticised him very severely at the time. But like my noble friend Lord Rodney, we believe that there is a distinction between the trafficker and his victim. These traffickers are the criminals who have brought upon countless innocent people the dreadful degradation and misery of addiction. I believe that my right honourable friend marked the real feelings of society when he made that decision.

The most lethal drugs are Class "A", and I believe that we again marked the real feelings of society when we decided last October that we should, for further deterrence, increase the maximum penalty for trafficking in these drugs—which include the heroin and cocaine which appear in the Motion—from 14 years to life imprisonment. My honourable friend Mr. Keith Raffan has now introduced a Bill in another place to give effect to that intention. Even if they know that they may first be caught and then be gaoled for a long time, determined traffickers will still, as noble Lords have said, push their wares if they believe that afterwards they will enjoy the rich spoils of their trade. How warmly I echo what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, has said in this regard. My right honourable friend has therefore announced that he intends to introduce legislation in this Parliament which will deprive them of the proceeds of their crimes. Those three steps will together constitute a massive increase in our deterrent policy.

In the context of deterrence, I should say that when we have got the offender into prison, the problem is not at an end. I say that for the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and others gave. I am concerned that drugs do get smuggled into prisons. In order to assess the problem accurately, we have issued new and tighter directions for the reporting of drug incidents and we now have much better intelligence about what is going on. For detection, we find that the trained dogs that we have are exceedingly effective in locating the drugs. We are increasing the establishment of those from 28 to 40. All 40 should be at work by the middle of next month. By March we shall have six or eight more in reserve. In addition to the dog searches carried out at the request of individual prison governors, we are also shortly starting a separate programme of searches of all dispersal prisons.

We are also preparing at the prison service college a completely new drugs training package specifically for the prison service. I expect it to be issued to all establishments by next summer. The training we already provide in the prison service about drugs is also being revised.

The prime targets for the police are the trafficker and the pusher. The prime targets for the pusher are the gullible and the weak. For that reason they are particularly apt to prey upon the young and we must put the young on their guard. This brings me to education.

The responsibility for providing education rests with the local education authorities. The first step, therefore, has been to establish what their practices are in these matters. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education has accordingly commissioned from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools a survey of policy and practice in over 400 schools and colleges of education. The results have come recently to hand, together with those of the department's own soundings of the local authorities, and the product of market research commissioned jointly by that department and the Department of Health and Social Security. This is a large and important body of work and will form the basis of further actions that my right honourable friend is at present planning.

The market research undertaken was principally in order to establish possible strategies and target groups for a major education and information campaign aimed at parents and young people. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, suggested that something of this kind was needed. In the light of their findings the Government have now appointed an advertising agency to develop proposals for a media campaign. We expect to announce further details next month. I can tell my noble friend Lord Auckland that we shall also be issuing advice leaflets to parents. The Department of Education and Science is also sending a circular to local education authorities inviting them to co-ordinate their efforts locally with other statutory services. We are there dealing with the possibility of confusion at the other end of the administrative pyramid.

However effective our policies may be, we shall continue to have a drug dependency problem and a drug problem generally for a long time to come. Therefore, I agree that we must provide a service for the victims.

I turn to the Department of Health and Social Security. When we debated this subject last year, my noble friend Lady Trumpington spoke of the £6 million which was then being provided by the department to help local projects get off the ground—projects of various kinds to which noble Lords have referred. Since that debate this sum has been increased by stages until it now stands at £10 million. No fewer than 90 projects have so far been approved for grants to a value of £6,700,000. The department's initiative was over-subscribed and that is why decisions on some desirable applications have taken some time to process. Some of the good projects for which applications have been received will be considered for funding from the additional £3 million to be made available. The guidelines of good clinical practice, which have been issued by the Department of Health and Social Security, direct themselves to the problems outlined by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, and others. They are guidelines in good clinical practice in the treatment of drug misuse and were recently issued to all doctors to encourage general practitioners to treat addicts, and to general psychiatrists to advise and assist general practitioners in treating addicts.

Health services are provided by the regional health authorities. In June my right honourable friend the Secretary of State sent a circular to these authorities underlining the priority that he wished them to give to drugs matters. This required them to report back by the end of last month on the extent of the problem in their areas and their preliminary plans for tackling it. All the replies have now been received. The department is following up all these replies and urgently seeking information not yet provided. Ministers will then give careful consideration to the fully developed plans due at the end of March. Where plans seem inadequate they will pursue the matter with the authorities concerned, as they are responsible for the provision of health services for drug misusers.

Your Lordships will notice how often I am saying that we are seized of a problem, are working on it and will deploy the answer shortly. Let me remind the House that scarcely a single gramme of heroin or cocaine has its origin in this country. Virtually all of it comes from abroad, and so do other dangerous drugs. It is vital that we intercept and destroy it as it arrives and that, where we can, we stop it arriving at all.

Your Lordships probably already know that the number of specialist drugs investigators has risen by no less than 75 per cent. since 1979. In addition to that, last October my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced both that 60 temporary preventive posts were to be made permanent and that 100 new posts were to be created in 1985–86 specifically to combat drug smuggling. The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, has understood the problems that we are tackling, and my noble friend Lord Bruce-Gardyne has very aptly summed it up and explained it. These new posts, for reasons which the noble Lady and the noble Lord have given, will be used to reinforce the move away from static controls towards more mobile and flexible enforcement and improved intelligence gathering and targeting, which I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, are far more effective against the increasingly sophisticated drug smugglers, against whom we are operating with increasing success.

This specialisation and this increase in Customs' manpower is a considerable reinforcement of the outward defences of this country. But we have to stop the enemy before he gets here. We are not fighting this problem alone; we are not inside a ring fence. We are part of a worldwide community of nations facing it together. The first of the five aims of our policy group takes us beyond the target area of the Motion, because without that aim your Lordships will get a lopsided view of what we are doing about drugs.

Not only do we play an active part in the work of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which oversees the operation of the United Nations conventions and develops international strategy against drug misuse, but we are also active members of the Pompidou Group of 15 European states. In September my honourable friend David Mellor attended a ministerial meeting of the group in Paris which agreed to carry forward a programme under British chairmanship for three years, including studies of the role of the criminal justice system in responding to the problems of drug misusers, methods of depriving drug traffickers of the proceeds of their crimes, on which we shall obviously lead, and ways of reaching young people at risk.

I shall leave out some detail but I shall say this. Our concern includes all dangerous drugs. We have therefore agreed to ratify the 1971 convention on psychotropic substances. In April we pledged a further £1 million to the United Nations fund for drug abuse control to help with the eradication of opium poppy-growing in Pakistan, where we have also helped to finance the strengthening of law enforcement agencies. We have sent expert advisers to several countries under the auspices of the United Nations or under bilateral arrangements. We have established postings of a Customs officer to Karachi and a police officer to the Hague. Those efforts have not been without results. I understand that Turkey has completely eradicated the illegal growth of opium poppies. Pakistan is reckoned to have reduced opium production from 800 tonnes in 1979 to under 60 in 1983, and a massive campaign is now under way against cocaine production in Colombia.

Of course I shall draw your Lordships' valuable and important views and expertise to the attention of all my right honourable and honourable friends. In conclusion and in short, I would support this Motion even if it went further than it does. It bids us do what we are already bent on doing. But it only bids us do it at home—and we are already doing it abroad as well.

5.29 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, briefly, I should like to thank all those who have participated in the debate and who have spoken in difficult conditions where speeches have had to be limited to what in normal circumstances would be an unreasonable length. Secondly, I think that the House has been very nearly unanimous in the views which it has expressed this evening as regards the Government. Given the fact that there has been this element of unanimity, and given the fact that people have not been able to speak at length, as they would be able to in normal circumstances, we shall not press this Motion tonight.

However, having said that, I should like to make just two brief comments. First, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that in his speech this evening he has offered the House precisely nothing. He has not announced any new expenditure of public money to deal with what is probably the most alarming single problem in the area of criminal justice policy in this country. I think that that is a matter of deep regret on all sides of the House.

All I would say in conclusion is that if in fact we see within the next few months that there is not a dramatic change in expenditure priorities in this area so far as the Government are concerned, we shall come back to it on a Motion of a very different character. I do not propose to press this tonight, and therefore, with the leave of the House, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Noble Lords


The Deputy Speaker (Lord Alport)

The Question is, That this Motion be agreed to? As many as are of that opinion will say, Content? … To the contrary, Not-content? … The Contents have it.

Motion agreed to.