Drug Misuse

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

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Mr.DonTouhig (Islwyn):

If she will make a statement on progress towards achieving the Government's targets on combating drug misuse. [96781]

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

I am pleased to inform my hon. Friend that the Government are making good progress in meeting the targets that are outlined in their drugs strategy. For example, we have introduced the confiscated assets fund to channel money that is seized from drug traffickers back into anti-drug activity, and launched the arrest referral challenge scheme, which will provide a further£20 million over the next three years to get drug misusers into treatment. The Independent reported that drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition. We need to do all we can to deal with it.

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Labour/Co-operative, Islwyn

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new position and wish him well. I thank him for answering my question.

Statistics show that one third of all property crime in Britain is drugs related. How will the Government strategy impact on that?

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

I thank my hon. Friend for his best wishes.

The Government have set tough targets, short, medium and long term, and all Government Departments are bound by them. We must start at base camp. We must reduce the number of young people who are using heroin and cocaine. We want to reduce that number by one quarter, by 2005, and by 50 per cent., by 2008; and to reduce the level of re-offending by drugs misusers by 25 per cent., by 2005, and by 50 per cent., by 2008.

We have set ourselves those tough targets because, as I said, drug misuse is a chronic and relapsing condition. Consequently, great resources must be provided to enable individuals to deal with their own particular circumstances—their self-confidence, self-awareness and self-worth—and a range of measures must be introduced to enable people who have completed a drug misuse programme to be sure that their drug misuse has ended and that a new life is before them.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal

Has the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to read the British crime survey, which was published at the beginning of September? Does he agree with me that Mr. Hellawell was complacent in his response to that crime survey—which showed that half of all young people have used drugs, and that some drug use was increasing—when he said that he and the Government were on course to deal with drugs use?

We subscribe to the view that tough, challenging targets have been set, but none of the targets apply, or may be measured, before 2005. What action is being taken now to achieve them? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we should not think that setting targets is an achievement in itself?

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State, Cabinet Office

I disagree profoundly with the hon. Gentleman's comments about Mr. Hellawell and the Government. Perhaps I should remind him that, for 10 years, Conservative Members who served as Home Office Ministers, for example, refused to co-ordinate and regulate the security industry, in which front organisations were established to distribute and sell drugs in clubs across Britain. Consequently, at the end of this decade, not one club or pub in Britain is not at risk of drugs being sold in them, and young people who go to those clubs and pubs run the risk of drugs misuse.

We have come a long way, but we need to go further in dealing with Conservative Members' 10 years of inaction in government. That inaction put a whole generation of young people at risk from those who would sell them drugs on the streets, in pubs and clubs, and in school playgrounds. Although we have made a start, we need to do better, and there is a long way to go. We should do everything that we can to save every single life, because every life saved will mean saving one more family the trauma of losing a young person, and those young people will be able to fulfil their dreams, rather than dying before reaching maturity.

The Government are in no circumstances complacent about drug misuse, and I hope that there will be all-party consensus on dealing with it. The issue is difficult and complex, and addressing it will involve communities, individual and families. We have to do everything possible to challenge drug traffickers and to get them out of our society. We must also invest in dealing with young people who have fallen into drug misuse and cannot get out of that trap, and we must co-operate across communities, to rid them of the drugs scourge. If we take that action together—rather than making ping-pong points—we could save more young people.