We are publishing tomorrow a revised and updated version of the booklet, "Drug Misuse and the Young" to help education professionals to prevent and respond to drug misuse by young people. We are also funding a series of regional conferences for 14 to 19-year-olds to look at approaches and appropriate strategies to counter the harmful effects on health from drug misuse and to focus on healthy life styles.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and warmly welcome his Department's involvement in European Drug Prevention Week. It is a sad fact nowadays that drugs are increasingly available in schools, in the playground and at the school gate, and that the problem is increasingly affecting rural areas as well as inner cities and, tragically, primary as well as secondary schools. Will my hon. Friend continue to inform teachers of the problems to look out for and the steps to take early on to try to help children to avoid the dreadful scourge of drug abuse?
Indeed, and I commend to my hon. Friend and to the House the excellent booklet to be published tomorrow as it does most of what my hon. Friend asks. It is designed to help teachers and those working with young people to stop youngsters misusing drugs in any way possible. It outlines the part that the education service can play in prevention and gives specific advice, for example, on dealing with emergencies. It summarises the laws on drug abuse and provides a short factual account of the main types of drugs and their effects. I believe that it will be widely read and used and will be of great help in dealing with a most difficult and distressing problem.
Given the excellent work on drugs prevention by the health education co-ordinators, will the Minister reconsider his decision to end their grant from March 1993? If not, can he say what progress has been made on seeking joint funding with his colleagues at the Department of Health and the Home Office?
I have, of course, met representatives of the advisers and had discussions with them about the issue. I have undertaken to look into the very matter that the hon. Gentleman raises. I must stress some important aspects of which the hon. Gentleman will be aware. For instance, the funding of the initiative was always designed to be of limited duration. It was always understood that the responsibility for continuation would eventually come to rest—rightly, in my view—with the local education authorities. Since its inception great changes have taken place, not least that we now have embedded in the curriculum important elements—dealing with drugs, with substance abuse and with healthy life styles—which go a long way to dealing with the problem, so we can look forward to the future with some confidence in dealing with the whole area.
While welcoming the steps that the Department is taking in support of European Drug Prevention Week, which got off to an extremely good start with a conference this morning, may I add my emphasis to the question asked by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). When Home Office and Department of Health initiatives are given initial pump-priming finance, should not Government financial support continue while the troubles continue, as it is unlikely that local authorities will be able to find the funding to which the Minister refers?
My hon. Friend referred to the curriculum, but is he aware that the subject ranks very low in the curriculum and that individual schools will give priority to many other subjects well in advance of what he believes that the whole question of drug prevention should receive?
I am well aware of the long-standing, knowledgeable and dedicated interest that my hon. Friend takes in this whole area. He has made my right hon. Friend and me well aware of that frequently in recent months. I assure him that I acknowledge his position on the matter. I must ask him to appreciate, however, that when pump-priming money is provided and there is a clear understanding that at some stage it will have to come to an end and responsibility will have to pass on, it is not unreasonable for a Government Department to look at the matter in exactly that way. I believe that we now have sufficient experience of what has been done in the matter—and we have seen a sufficient change in circumstances and background—to justify the decision that we took, after careful consideration and with great difficulty, some time ago.
I cannot agree with my hon. Friend's view—"denigration" would be too strong a word—that somehow the position of the matter in the curriculum is a lowly one. The subject has an important and focal position in the curriculum and it is a matter to which all involved with the curriculum must give their fullest attention. That will be of great force in the years to come in helping young people in the education process to understand the nature of drugs and to help them to avoid abusing them.
Does the Minister realise that his complacency will be alarming to many parents and teachers who are seriously worried about the drugs problem? Has not his Department stopped the £5 million grant to local authorities which was specifically for drug prevention? Will the Minister reconsider that budget? Unless local authorities are properly funded, the work will not continue and more of our children will fall foul of drug and solvent abuse.
I know that you, Madam Speaker, deplore excessive repetition and I should be guilty of that if I answered the hon. Lady in exactly the same way as I answered the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone). As the hon. Lady asked exactly the same question, however, so as not to be out of order I shall not repeat the reply.