Drug Misuse

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at 1:44 pm on 10th November 1999.

Alert me about debates like this

Shona McIsaa:

What discussions she has held with the anti-drugs co-ordinator on the use of harm-reduction approaches to tackling drug misuse. [96780]

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

I hold regular discussions with the anti-drugs co-ordinator on all aspects of our anti-drugs policy, including the use of harm reduction programmes.

Photo of Shona McIsaac Shona McIsaac Labour, Cleethorpes

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the case of 13-year-old Leah Lawson, a Grimsby schoolgirl who died earlier this year after purchasing £10 worth of prescribed methadone? To staunch the supply of prescribed methadone on the streets, will she and the anti-drugs co-ordinator, and any other Ministers involved, consider allowing its prescription only in small amounts, and encouraging addicts to take it only on the premises?

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

I am aware of the case of Leah Lawson—an appalling tragedy: the loss of another young life owing to drugs—and of the pain that losing her when she was so young will have caused her family and friends. Clinical guidelines were drawn up in April for doctors dealing with drug misuse, which recommend more supervised consumption. As for my hon. Friend's specific point about small amounts and methadone being taken on doctors' premises, I will certainly take it up with the Department of Health.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin Conservative, Romsey

The right hon. Lady will have noticed that no fewer than six of the 26 questions tabled for today relate to drugs and their misuse. Given that prevention is better than cure, and given that the right hon. Lady is the Minister for joined-up government, will she have a word with the Secretary of State for Defence, in order to ensure that the defence commitment to stopping the flow of drugs into the western world—I refer to both troops on the ground and naval patrols—is not reduced? According to a report from the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen), naval patrols in the Virgin Islands have been reduced. I think that that gives all the wrong messages to our allies in the fight against the importation of drugs. Will the right hon. Lady pass on the necessary message?

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

It surely comes as no surprise that six out of 26 questions should be about drugs. The issue worries every Member who notes the increase in drug use and misuse of, particularly, cocaine and heroin, which destroy lives, families and communities. No one denies that it is important.

My friend Keith Hellawell, the anti-drugs co-ordinator, who does a lot of work on drugs for the Government, last week met General McCaffrey from the United States, who was on his way back from Turkey. The work across Governments to try to stem the arrival of drugs is continuing apace. I will certainly pass the hon. Gentleman's comments to the Ministry of Defence if it has not already heard his views, but I assure him that we are already concentrating on preventing the problem by stopping drugs from entering the country in the first place.

Photo of Mr Hilton Dawson Mr Hilton Dawson Labour, Lancaster and Wyre

May I welcome my right hon. Friend to her post as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster? I trust that we can look forward to her visiting the city soon, where she will receive an extremely warm welcome.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the pioneering work by nurses who are employed by the Morecambe Bay community NHS trust in Lancaster? It has seconded nurses to police stations to deal with people with drug problems at crucial times in their lives and at moments when interventions might prove particularly successful. That pioneering initiative received a Queen's nursing award only last week.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

During my first visit to Lancaster in the early new year I look forward to meeting my hon. Friend and his colleagues, as well as others in the Duchy.

I add my congratulations to the nurses on the award that they received. It is in the police stations that the problems first come to people's notice. We have to be sure that, when young people come out of jail, there are suitable alternatives and help is given to them, so that they do not just return to drugs and go back to jail. The work in police stations by nurses, social workers, probation officers and others is crucial, as is that done on all the other fronts where we have to fight the problem. The battle is not just on one front; it is about stopping drugs coming in, doing all that we can to prevent people from starting drugs and, once they are on them, getting them off them.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

I, too, wish the right hon. Lady well in her new position as Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Recently, the Home Secretary announced that he wanted mandatory testing of all arrestees for drugs without first consulting those who would have to apply that test. Police officers have warned that the plan is financially and legally unrealistic. Was the Minister consulted in advance about the proposal, as one would expect from so-called joined-up government, or is it a further example of muddle and incompetence by Ministers at the Home Office?

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

I was not in post when the proposal was first considered; whether my predecessor was consulted, I cannot say. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but it had already been proposed because, when I read all the papers that had been given to me, it was already in them. Therefore, I was not consulted, but I am sure that my predecessor was.

The drug treatment and testing order is important. As I said earlier, we must do the work to begin with to ensure that people who are on drugs get off them as quickly as possible. It is a crucial initiative.