Drugs Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:33 am on 9th November 2001.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 9:33 am, 9th November 2001

If the Home Secretary had simply said, "That's it; I have decided to reclassify cannabis," the hon. Gentleman would have been the first to complain. However, my right hon. Friend asked the ACMD to look at the matter and it will make a decision after that consideration, to which Opposition Members, along with everybody else, are entitled to contribute.

All prisons in England and Wales now provide counselling, assessment, referral, advice and through-care services, which create a care plan to meet the needs of the great majority of prisoners during their time in prison. More than 37,000 assessments were undertaken in 2000–01. Detoxification programmes are available in all local and remand prisons in England and Wales, and more than 32,000 prisoners entered detox in 2000–01. There has been a significant fall, from 24.4 per cent. in 1996–97 to 12.4 per cent. in 2000–01, in the number of positive drug tests in prisons under mandatory drugs-testing procedures.

Drugs misuse is a threat not only to individuals but to whole communities, because of the antisocial behaviour, crime and fear of crime that it can generate. We are therefore concerned not only to educate and treat individuals, but to empower and strengthen local communities in their efforts to tackle those problems. Our efforts are aimed particularly at those communities where deprivation is most acute and drugs use most firmly entrenched. In tackling drugs misuse in those areas, we seek to integrate action into neighbourhood renewal programmes.

The creation of the drugs prevention advisory service means that local drug action teams, who are at the forefront of local action to reduce drugs problems, can now access a range of expert services developed and provided in response to their specific needs. Through the confiscated assets fund we are supporting a number of projects aimed at providing a bridge between the end of treatment and access to the labour market.

In the March Budget we also provided additional financial support for the Employment Service, to enable it to identify and help claimants with a drugs problem, and to help ex-users to re-enter the labour market once they have successfully completed a course of treatment. I should also highlight an innovative prison-led project that will pilot five post-release hostels for short-term prisoners with a history of drug-driven offending. The hostels will provide intensive support through the crucial period of the first few months after release.

Action to disrupt the supply of illegal drugs remains a high priority. The Proceeds of Crime Bill will enable us to seize more cash from the criminals, threatening directly the profits that motivate the trade. We are bringing together law enforcement and other agencies in a concerted attack on the drugs trade, and we have put in place a comprehensive joint agency strategy to tackle heroin and cocaine supply from the source in countries abroad to the United Kingdom's streets.