HC Deb 31 March 1994 vol 240 cc947-8W
Mr. Tony Lloyd

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he makes of the effectiveness of his strategy to control illegal drugs; and if he will make a statement on that strategy.

Mr. Maclean

[holding answer 30 March 1994]: The Government's strategic framework for tackling drug misuse involves simultaneous action on the following fronts.

Educating our children on the dangers of drug misuse is a vital element. The national curriculum requires schools to teach aspects of health education, including aspects of drug misuse, and the National Curriculum Council has issued detailed guidance on health education to help schools plan comprehensive programmes for all pupils aged five to 16.

The Government are committed to ensuring that, both through the national curriculum and otherwise, schools will continue to equip young people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that they need to promote their immediate and long-term good health.

Education is being backed up by anti-drugs publicity. Since 1985 the Department of Health has spent increasing amounts on national drug prevention, information and public education campaigns. Some £5 million is being spent in 1993–94 and independent evaluation has shown that the campaigns have succeeded in raising awareness of the problem.

There have also been innovative developments in the drugs prevention field. The drugs prevention initiative was launched in 1989 as a partnership between Government and the community to promote the prevention of drug misuse. Teams are now operating in 20 locations to mobilise local communities to stop young people and others at risk from drug taking and help them realise the harmful consequences. Many successful schemes are in place—the initiative has been involved in the funding of over 900 projects.

All this project work is being evaluated—some by independent researchers—and the impact of the initiative as a whole is being assessed to determine the effectiveness of its approach and to encourage the widespread adoption of good practice.

The collective experience of the work of the 20 teams in their local community is being pulled together. This will provide valuable information about the kinds of approaches which can be effective in drugs prevention, and the factors which influence their effectiveness, on which future action can be based.

Effective treatment and rehabilitation facilities for drug misusers are in place with £31 million allocated for drugs services in England and Wales in 1993–94.

In addition to all these measures for reducing the demand for drugs considerable effort is also being put in to reducing the supply through effective enforcement action. Police and customs continue to work hard to reduce the supply of drugs into the country with notable successes —recent seizures include 260 kg of cocaine in December and a consignment of 100 kg of cannabis in the London area.

We have made tough penalties available to the courts for use against drug traffickers—including up to life imprisonment for dealing in drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

United Kingdom laws for getting at the profits of drugs smugglers are among the toughest in the world. Legislation introduced in 1986 enables the courts to deprive drug traffickers of their profits and makes laundering of drugs money a criminal offence. Legislation has been strengthened, most recently in the Criminal Justice Act 1993. By the end of 1992 it is estimated that the courts had ordered the confiscation of drug trafficking proceeds totalling some £42.5 million.

All this comes together in a comprehensive anti-drugs strategy involving 10 Government Departments spending over £500 million a year. We have recognised the need, however, to review our strategy to ensure that the policies we are pursuing are correctly identified and are co-ordinated effectively. To this end, the establishment of the central drugs co-ordination unit was announced last December. One of the unit's main tasks is to work closely with Government Departments to ensure that drugs policies are planned, developed and implemented within a clear strategic framework. The unit's immediate task is to review our strategy on drugs and make recommendations for its improvement.