HL Deb 17 November 1997 vol 583 cc362-4

3.4 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the withdrawal of grants from the Inner London Probation Service and the East London and The City Health Authority and the ending of a temporary grant from the Department of Health will lead to the closure of Lorne House, the only residential establishment in the country which exists to care for young drug addicts and alcoholics; and, if so, whether they will take steps to prevent this.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

My Lords, Lorne House's main income comes from local authorities under the community care arrangements. The Inner London Probation Service has not withdrawn its funding, but has guaranteed Lorne House a minimum of £20,000 next financial year. Its income from probation services will be higher if additional places for offenders under probation service supervision are taken up. We hope that Lorne House will be able to continue its work, although in the end this will depend on the extent to which it can provide services which funders are satisfied are cost effective. Before I part from this reply, I personally sincerely acknowledge the long, continuing interest of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, in this important field.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's kindly remark. Will he not go a little further and accept that to allow a hostel of this kind, with the proven record that it has, simply to disappear for lack of support would make no sense at all? It would mean that a number of young people early in their lives would simply drift into the penal system. That would be a disaster for them and a huge and continuing cost for the state. I very much hope that the noble Lord will take an early opportunity to remind the Treasury that this so-called economy would result in a huge and continuing cost for the state.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, as so often on these occasions, the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, as far as I am concerned— I say nothing in parenthesis about the Treasury—is pushing at an open door in principle. Apart from the grant of £20,000, which is not negligible, the Department of Health, as I think the noble Lord will know, has given Turning Point a one-off grant of £50,000 for this financial year. That is to ensure that it continues to run Lorne House. Turning Point intends to review its operation and its structure but has not yet reported its conclusions. I dare say that your Lordships would unanimously agree that for us to make any commitment before that review is concluded would not be prudent.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, in addition to the remarkable submission made by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, with regard to this remarkable establishment, will my noble friend consider that the whole medical profession would urge Lorne House to be created if it did not already exist? Will my noble friend not lightly disband Lorne House but ensure that it can continue to carry out the remarkable work that it is undertaking?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I thought I had given an indication that the Government value the work of Lorne House. It is a unique establishment. It deals with addicts of drink, solvents and other drugs from the ages of 15 to 25. Of course we value its work. As I have indicated, we have demonstrated that value by a grant of £50,000 to Turning Point which is the parent organisation of Lorne House.

Lord Desai

My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of City Road, which is a pan-London drug intervention agency. Will the Minister bear in mind that the problem of covering the expense of drug addicts is not particular to Lorne House but is a London-wide phenomenon? Will the Government bear in mind that early and careful treatment of drug addicts saves much money later?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, that final point of the noble Lord, Lord Desai, is absolutely right. It does not just save money for the future; it also saves wasted lives and broken dreams. This general sub-text was very much in the mind of the Home Secretary when he asked the chief constable, Mr. Keith Hellawell, to undertake an overview of the present drug problems and how we deal with them in a variety of ways. I can assure your Lordships that this matter is very much in the forefront of the thinking of the Home Office.

Lord Acton

My Lords, can my noble friend say how many residential places there are at Lorne House?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I can. Lorne House has 20 beds. In 1996-97 Lorne House admitted a total of 105 male and female young persons aged between 15 and 25. The average stay is seven to eight weeks. Residents can stay for up to six months if necessary.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I hope that the Minister can clear up one point. He has referred to the £50,000 grant. That was made, was it not, by the last government?

Lord Strathclyde


Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, what concerns me now is that this worthy establishment cannot continue to exist indefinitely on a hand-to-mouth basis. It must have some long-term certainty of continuing; otherwise its work will be paralysed.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am happy to confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the donation of £50,000 preceded 1st May. But that is entirely the point of giving that grant. Turning Point is reviewing the operation. We await the results of that review; and we shall proceed in, I hope, a prudent way.