HC Deb 17 January 2001 vol 361 cc283-5W
8. Gillian Merron

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what assessment she has made of the impact of the Government's anti-drugs strategy programmes aimed at children. [144205]

Marjorie Mowlam

One of our key targets is to reduce the proportion of young people under the age of 25 reporting the use of illegal drugs by 50 per cent. by 2008. To support this objective we have announced plans to increase the amount of spending on education and prevention from £63 million this year to £120 million in 2003–04.

There are already encouraging signs of progress. The most recent Ofsted survey shows that in 1999, 93 per cent. of secondary schools and 75 per cent. of primary schools had policies compared to 86 per cent. and 61 per cent. in 1997.

In addition, other research indicates a levelling off, or even a drop, in the reported use of illegal drugs by young people.

9. Angela Smith

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what progress is being made towards achieving the Government's targets on combating drug misuse. [144206]

20. Mr. Brake

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement on cross-departmental progress on reducing drug use. [144218]

Mr. Ian McCartney

The Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator published his Annual Report for 1999–2000 on 7 November 2000.

The report shows that we are making progress towards meeting the challenging targets we have set as part our 10-year anti-drugs strategy.

Most of our annual targets were met in full and we are on track to deliver published targets for 2002.

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that all Basildon schools now have a drugs policy in place—indeed, Basildon was the first area of Essex to pilot a programme of focusing school based standards funds and the efforts of the local education authority drugs adviser into one district base, in collaboration with the district drug reference group.

I am also pleased to report that Basildon enjoys strong crime reduction links, through the implementation of the Essex arrest referral schemes and drug treatment and testing orders.

17. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what account the Government's anti-drugs strategy takes of the drugs trade in Bolivia. [144215]

Marjorie Mowlam

In order to achieve our target of halving the availability of Class A drugs by 2008, the Government focus their overseas efforts on those countries which pose the greatest threat to the UK. As Bolivia is not only a producer of coca leaf but of cocaine itself, it is an important part of our drugs strategy.

We welcome the considerable efforts that the Bolivian Government have made in eradicating illicit coca and we continue to provide support to their counter-drugs efforts. Since April 1997, the UK Government have provided almost £1.2 million worth of counter-drugs assistance to Bolivia. This has included training, equipment and support to alternative development projects.

22. Mr. Watts

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what role the drug action teams are playing in the delivery of the Government's anti-drugs strategy. [144220]

Mr. Ian McCartney

Drug action teams (DATs) have a crucial role in the delivery of the national drugs strategy. They are the main mechanism for delivery on the ground and work as a local partnership of the agencies involved in tackling drugs including probation, health, education, police and local authorities. All drug action teams are required to plan and deliver an effective programme of activities in line with the national drugs strategy.

St. Helens DAT have recently separated from St. Helens and Knowsley DAT. They have developed their links with crime and disorder strategies, have established a needs assessment of young people and reviewed the services to respond to the area of need. There is partnership working between the DAT, the youth offending team and local drugs services. The arrest referral scheme has been established and the DAT are looking to strengthen communication links with community safety and social exclusion units.

23. Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will make a statement on the work of the drug and alcohol action teams. [144221]

Marjorie Mowlam

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply given earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts). As alcohol is not covered by the Government's anti-drug strategy, drug action teams are not required to co-ordinate anti-alcohol activities, although some have chosen to do so. The Department of Health is working on a national strategy to tackle alcohol misuse and a consultation document will be issued shortly. The Department will be implementing the strategy by 2004.

Mr. Baker

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what assessment she has made, as part of the Government's anti-drugs strategy, of the impact on the use of Class 1 drugs that would follow from the decriminalisation of cannabis. [144213]

Mr. Ian McCartney

The Government's policy towards all illicit drugs is based on the scientific evidence of the harm they cause. It is on the basis of this evidence that cannabis remains a controlled drug.

While the Government have therefore not made a detailed assessment of the impact of decriminalisation of cannabis on the use of Class A drugs, a number of studies have made it clear that most users of Class A drugs have previously used cannabis as well as tobacco and alcohol, and that early use of cannabis is strongly linked to drugs dependence.

The Government will continue to evaluate all new research as it becomes available.