HC Deb 16 December 1982 vol 34 cc224-5W
Mr. McKelvey

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the death rate in Scotland among people aged 60–64 years, 65–69 years, 70–74 years, 75–79 years, 80–84 years, 85–89 years and 90 years and over for the six-month periods beginning 1 October and 1 April for each of the past three years; and how many deaths there were in each case.

Mr. John MacKay

The information is given in the following table.

commented. I regard solvent abuse as a dangerous and foolish practice, and I am most concerned to discourage it and check its spread. Hardly any of the replies to the memorandum favoured the making of solvent abuse an offence and very few suggested that there should be an offence of selling or supplying solvents. I do not therefore propose that solvent abuse or the supply of solvents should be made an offence, but I shall keep under review in the light of changing circumstances the question whether a clearer definition is required of anti-social or unlawful acts associated with solvent abuse.

A majority of respondents were of the view that the unique and distinctly Scottish institution of the children's hearings system, which enables the problems of a child to be discussed in the presence and with the participation of his parents in an informal setting, had a relevent part to play, although opinions were divided on the method by which this should be done. I am attracted to this proposition, and I am proposing to add solvent abuse to the statutory grounds on which a child may be referred to the reporter to a children's panel. The legislation which created the children's hearing system and which governs practice within it applies, of course, to Scotland only; and the action which I propose will require a small change to that legislation. I shall seek to arrange this when a suitable opportunity arises.

Valuable work in tackling solvent abuse is carried out locally by the police, teachers, doctors and nurses, social workers and other professionals and volunteer helpers. My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for health and social work visited the Acorn Street clinic in Glasgow on 27 November to see the work being done by health board staff in helping children with solvent abuse problems, and I am glad that the health board has recently agreed to provide additional funds for this clinic. Work of this kind is most effective if the agencies concerned co-ordinate their efforts: the Scottish Office issued advice in 1978 on the formation of local liaison committees: and we commend Strathclyde regional council's publication of "solvent Abuse—a Corporate Approach" which was issued earlier this year. Above all, parents have the primary responsibility and concern for their children, and should be aware of the signs of solvent abuse to look for. Professional help is available for parents locally and they should be encouraged to use it. Groups of parents can also influence local traders to exercise controls on the sale of solvents to children. I know that shops in a number of areas in Scotland have taken measures to control sales: I commend such responsible action and the willingness that retailers have shown to respond to requests from the police and groups of parents to exercise vigilance.

I am ready to assist voluntary groups who wish to establish services for solvent abusing children, and £50,000 has recently been made available to Voluntary Services, Aberdeen for a three-year project in Grampian region. I have considered whether the dangers of solvent abuse should be emphasised to schoolchildren, but I have reached the conclusion that this subject, like alcohol and drug abuse, is best studied in schools as part of a general health education programme. I remain concerned about young people over 16 who abuse solvents and will consider further what action is necessary to cope with the problem of young adults.