Drugs Treatment

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 26th February 2003.

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Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw 11:30 am, 26th February 2003

How many drug addicts in treatment are (a) in residential rehabilitation, (b) on a course of methadone, (c) on a course of naltraxone and (d) on a course of buprenorphine.

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister

The latest published Department of Health statistics show that nearly 2,000 individuals were in residential rehabilitation out of a total of 118,500 people in treatment in England in 2000–01. National figures for those receiving specific drug therapies have not been collected in the past, but they will be available later in 2003 following the introduction of a new recording system. Overall, the number of drug users who presented for treatment between 2001–02 showed an 8 per cent. rise.

Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw

As the Government's updated drugs strategy states that for every £1 spent on treatment, there will be a saving of £3 in criminal justice costs, can I have the money to prove that assertion in my constituency? I promise that I will return every penny of the threefold saving to the Chancellor.

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister

It is certainly a better offer than the Chancellor is used to on such subjects. My hon. Friend has lobbied me on the subject and we are considering the areas that the service will cover. We will focus on the 30 highest basic command unit crime areas and we want to ensure the provision of a service that tracks people from the moment of arrest, when they are tested, through bail, when they are given the option of treatment, or refusal of bail, to sentencing, when, in appropriate cases, they will be offered the prospect of treatment rather than custody. Massive resources are going into that; we are increasing the funding spectacularly in the next few years to accommodate the policy. If it works in the 30 main BCU areas, we can roll it out across the country. However, I shall again consider carefully my hon. Friend's request to be included.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Opposition Whip (Commons)

In the light of the International Narcotics Control Board's report, which condemns the country's drugs policy, will the Prime Minister reconsider the reclassification of cannabis from class B to class C?

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister

We did that for the reasons that the Home Secretary set out. We have not decriminalised cannabis for reasons that my right hon. Friend explained well. Of course, there is a big debate about the matter, but it is worth bearing in mind that the priorities for many police officers in this country are hard drugs.

Photo of Jim Sheridan Jim Sheridan Labour, West Renfrewshire

My right hon. Friend will be aware, and no doubt proud, of the Government's track record on introducing legislation that provides protection for workers in the workplace—