Class A Drugs

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 15th November 2005.

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Photo of John Robertson John Robertson PPS (Dr Kim Howells, Minister of State), Foreign & Commonwealth Office 2:30 pm, 15th November 2005

What discussions he has had with the First Minister and his ministerial colleagues on the measures required to reduce the availability of class A drugs in Scotland.

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have regular discussions with Scottish Executive Ministers on a wide range of issues.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson PPS (Dr Kim Howells, Minister of State), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. He will be aware of the by-election held in my constituency in Knightswood Park last week, where Labour received 55 per cent. of the vote. One of the main issues on the doorstep was the effect that drugs are having on the community—[Interruption.] That is obviously not important to Opposition Members. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the recent article in the Sunday Mail about the Daniels family, who amassed more than £16 million through drug peddling. Will he continue to work closely with the Scottish Executive to find solutions to prevent the misery and havoc that the drug culture wreaks on our communities, and will he do something about these parasites?

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

Every hon. Member is aware of the scourge of drug consumption—it ruins the lives of addicts, the lives of their families and the lives of those who have to live among people who deal in drugs. The Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency has had some considerable success. In the first six months of 2004–05, it seized more class A drugs than during the whole of the preceding 12 months, and so far this year it has seized class A drugs with a potential street value of more than £22 million.

My hon. Friend rightly highlights the work of the Assets Recovery Agency, which takes away the assets of those suspected of drug dealing. We cannot come down too hard on these people because they ruin lives and they ruin communities.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Labour, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

Does my hon. Friend agree that one way to deal with the availability of class A drugs is to deal with demand? Everywhere I have been—Colombia and Afghanistan—the argument has been that if we were not demanding drugs, they would not be supplying them. One problem appears to be that we still use a methadone substitute for those who are addicted, but buprenorphine has been used in other countries—and in an experiment in Bassetlaw—to wean people off substitutes for heroin. Will my hon. Friend discuss that with the Scottish Executive and bring the results of that experiment to their notice, so that they might use a drug that can get people off heroin and its substitutes?

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Scotland Office

I have heard our hon. Friend John Mann speak about that initiative in his constituency. It sounds like a very exciting initiative that is worth studying. If the results are positive, I am sure that the Scottish Executive will wish to take a look at it. As for Afghanistan, the most recent findings from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime show that the production of the opium poppy, which has led to an increase in cheap heroin in the past few years, may be beginning to be reduced. Obviously, that is very welcome news indeed.