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Drugs Misuse

Volume 264: debated on Wednesday 18 October 1995

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11.30 am

The fact that the House of Commons has responded to the request by many hon. Members for an Adjournment debate on the issue of drugs misuse shows that the House can respond to a situation that is causing concern in the country. If anyone in Scotland had any doubt about the scale of the drugs misuse epidemic—especially among our young people—events this summer have confirmed the seriousness of the situation. The level of concern in my constituency is unfortunately reflected in the constituencies of many of my colleagues and that concern is unique in my 13 years as an elected representative.

Deaths in the Strathclyde region directly connected to drug abuse will almost certainly reach the horrific figure of 100. The issue of drugs misuse has been pursued by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but I do not hesitate to mention my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) and for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster). I do not think that anyone would take exception to my mentioning the courage displayed by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams), who has had a lasting effect on public perceptions by taking on the violent and criminal men and women who supply the drugs to Scotland's streets.

Concern about drug misuse is expressed not only by politicians, but by a number of responsible Scottish institutions. The Glasgow Evening Times has conducted an extremely effective campaign which enabled the public to report anonymously the names of drug dealers and their areas of operation. It has been sobering and frightening for me to recognise in the newspaper's reports people and locations known to me in my constituency. I think that other hon. Members have had similar experiences.

The Scottish media have expressed concern about the drugs problem and have got behind the campaign to encourage the Scottish Office to do something about it, particularly with regard to Temazepam. The Daily Record, The Herald and The Scotsman have played an honourable role in that campaign. The immensity of the problem has also been recognised by Strathclyde police, who have launched Operation Eagle—an operation against drug dealers the size of which has never been seen before. It is aimed directly at dealers and traffickers who ply their evil trade, spreading misery, disease and despair throughout the towns and cities of Scotland. Operation Eagle was directed particularly at the Strathclyde region and it has been assisted considerably by media and public co-operation in Scotland.

Determining the exact extent of drug misuse and abuse has been difficult in the past, but, despite the lack of precise information, all indicators point to the conclusion that drugs misuse has increased substantially in the past 10 years. Scottish Office statistics suggest that the number of drug misusers nationally includes about 20,000 people who primarily inject illicit or prescribed drugs, although many other people may be involved in poly-drug abuse—the abuse of more than one substance at a time.

It is estimated that between 8,500 and 10,000 intravenous drug abusers frequent the Greater Glasgow area, which encompasses more than merely the city of Glasgow. Of particular concern is the estimate that between 33 per cent. and 40 per cent. of all young persons experiment with cannabis.

As the drugs habit must be financed, there are undoubted links between drugs and the incidence of petty crime—which may be labelled "petty" in the statistics,' but is far from petty to its victims. Drugs misuse has an enormous financial and emotional impact on family and community life and, as I have said, by the end of this year more than 100 people will have died as a result of drugs misuse.

Institutions other than those in Scotland have recognised the scale of the problem. The British Retail Consortium is involved in a project designed to produce a code of practice to assist retailers and staff to recognise signs of abuse and to advise them of the appropriate procedures to adopt when faced with that situation.

Drugs misuse is a widely recognised social issue and the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey), has done excellent work in the area. In its report published in May 1994, the Committee found that the increasing drugs problem in Scotland costs almost £1,000 million per year in drug-related crime. I do not think that anyone would suggest that the situation has improved since then. Returning to the youth aspect of the problem, one Glasgow general practitioner told the Select Committee that almost half the children from a secondary school class in his area had injected drugs. That is a frightening statistic and we all have a duty to do something about the problem.

The Scottish Office also produced a report entitled "Drugs in Scotland: Meeting the Challenge", which raised several points. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) has observed acutely, the rhetoric was fine but when it came to allocating money to finance the initiatives there was not as much as was spent in other parts of the country. I am aware that several communities in my area, such as Cambuslang, Rutherglen, Halfway, Toryglen and Castlemilk East, face serious and growing problems with drug abuse.

The local paper The Reformer, which is in a good position to gauge the severity of the situation, is leading the fight against drugs. I am delighted that the local paper has undertaken such a campaign as it shows that it recognises its responsibilities to the community in leading the fight against drug abuse in my constituency. Like all hon. Members, I have my differences with the local paper on occasion, but I have nothing but respect and admiration for the campaign that The Reformer is undertaking, which will prove a direct benefit to my constituents.

Other hon. Members who manage to catch your eye to speak in the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will cover many aspects of drug abuse and I am sure that most of them will mention Temazepam—a substance that has become the scourge of Scottish streets. Concern about Temazepam is not new. As early as 1988, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) highlighted the fact that something must be done to tighten the supply of the drug. He was a pioneer in that area.

I am glad that my hon. Friend has highlighted the fact that the use of Temazepam and Temgesics is arguably the greatest danger facing people today, particularly the young. It is particularly bad in our cities, especially the city of Glasgow. Does my hon. Friend agree that banning the prescription of those drugs is only part of the answer? Perhaps an important part of the solution would be to ban the manufacture of such drugs entirely.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments; he has outlined exactly the approach that I believe that my other hon. Friends will take.

I turn now to the Government's position with regard to the problem of drugs misuse. I do not like scoring party political points against the Government as we should all be on the same side when it comes to the problem of drugs misuse. However, my sense of good will is stretched when I consider the Government's activities in the field. I had intended to give the Government the benefit of the doubt in the debate as I understand fully the need for caution in such matters. I gave the Secretary of State for Scotland the benefit of the doubt when he announced recently the tightening of conditions for the possession of Temazepam, despite evidence that leakage from the prescription process has been shown to be not the main source of supply to drug dealers.

Just in the past few weeks police elsewhere in the United Kingdom captured a haul of Temazepam with a street value of millions of pounds. It had been obtained allegedly for export, but was actually destined for the streets of Scotland. Although it is a problem throughout the United Kingdom, one fifth of the supply of Temazepam is distributed in Scotland, which has only 10 per cent. of the population. The Scottish Office should recognise the disproportionate use of Temazepam in Scotland.

The tightening of restrictions by the Secretary of State for Scotland does nothing about the supply of Temazepam. I take no pleasure in saying that his initiative was clearly a cosmetic device to create the impression of doing something in his first few weeks in office.

The scale of supply shows that prescription misuse is not a significant source of supply to the dealers. The main source is organised crime by hardened criminals who do not care about the physical and mental consequences of their evil trade. I am further confirmed in my cynicism about the Government's motives by yesterday's announcement by the Secretary of State for Health banning the prescription of the drug in gel capsule form from 1 January 1996. When that form of Temazepam is used for injection, it can lead to amputations.

Everyone will welcome further steps towards the Government banning the drug, but I have no doubt that the pressure exerted by my colleagues over a considerable time and the fact of today's debate forced the Government to make an announcement yesterday in an attempt to stave off public criticism. It is a sign that the Government are detached from reality when they believe that manoeuvres and devices in the House of Commons are a satisfactory response to a serious problem facing people in Scotland.

It is crazy that the restriction on prescribing Temazepam in gel form which was announced yesterday by the Secretary of State for Health will not be imposed until 1 January 1996. Although a Scottish Office Minister is replying to the debate, the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom are entitled to ask why 1 January 1996 was chosen. Is there some special reason for the delay other than the suspicion that cost is a factor in allowing people to run down stocks? How can a drug be safe on 31 December 1995 and unsafe on 1 January 1996? It is not logical or rational and arouses suspicion that the Government are not seriously interested in the problem and are more concerned with the costs both to themselves and to suppliers and manufacturers than with people's safety.

The Government will bear a heavy responsibility for what happens between now and January. The announcement by the Secretary of State for Health does nothing about the real problem, which is not the prescribing of Temazepam, but the manufacture and supply of the drug which will still find its way on to the streets of Scotland. Why will the Government not ban Temazepam? The medical world is quite clear that there are alternatives and, in the absence of any reply from the Minister, the only logical reasons can be cost or stockpile, but how can they be measured against the misery and death of a whole host of people in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom?

Many people acknowledge that society is changing. The matter was raised by the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs and there is support for a review of how drugs feature in our changing society. The Government show no sign of realising that we need a strategy with vision and have no grasp of the action required now to protect our young people who are coping with massive youth unemployment and a culture that includes the social use of drugs.

People of my disposition—and probably my generation—find it hard to understand the concept of the social use of drugs. I accept that older generations are not the best judges of younger generations. The problem has also been identified by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. Although I am on the conservative side of the debate, we owe it to society to have a clear view of where we are going and give young people proper advice. I am not much given to using dramatic language, but I have no hesitation in condemning the Government for their drift and delay which will lead directly to many deaths in Scotland.

11.44 am

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) was absolutely right when said that drugs misuse is not a party issue but one that should concern all parties. Everyone should be concerned because it is doing our nation no end of harm and we are not finding the answers that we need. Like my hon. Friend, I would like to concentrate on Temazepam, the drug that has affected my constituency most over the past few years.

It is now some two and half years since I and my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) approached the Scottish Office with our misgivings about the use and misuse of the drug in our constituencies. We were first approached by doctors at our local hospital, who were concerned about the increased number of amputations which they said was due directly to the misuse of Temazepam. The jelly form of the drug is melted down and injected straight into the veins of addicts. Unfortunately, the drug resolidifies in the veins and that leads to amputations and severe maiming.

At the time, the Scottish Office issued a directive asking health boards in Scotland to inform general practitioners about the misgivings surrounding the drug and to ask them to be careful about prescribing it. General practitioners responded to that and a voluntary ban on prescribing the capsule form of Temazepam was fairly effective. In the past three years, however, problems have increased, not only in Scotland but in the north-east of England, particularly in the Manchester area, and the misuse of Temazepam still continues.

We decided to find out why so much of the drug was on the streets if GPs in Scotland were not prescribing it. We now understand that, on paper, Britain exports more Temazepam than it manufactures. We found that difficult to understand until we realised that the drug has run out of its patent.

Temazepam is manufactured by some 10 manufacturers in the United Kingdom. Anyone can set up as a pharmaceutical wholesaler, as no particular expertise is required, and obtain export licences for particular drugs from the Department of Trade and Industry. Armed with an export licence for Temazepam, one can buy any quantity of the drug from the manufacturer. However, the system seems to be breaking down and it would appear that such licences are not being policed in the way we had hoped. Will the Minister look at that issue in particular, because the drugs are not leaving the country, but finding their way on to the back streets? They are causing abject misery the length and breadth of the country particularly among young people, although many people who were prescribed them in the first place became addicted to them.

Temazepam is really a sleeping pill, but it is also hypnotic and hallucinogenic. It is used by drug users as a downer after amphetamines have been used as uppers. Those people are addicted to more than one drug, but it is the prescribed drug that kills them. Temazepam is a real killer. It is wrecking lives and families. In Strathclyde alone, many deaths this year have been attributable to it.

During the recess, the new Secretary of State for Scotland has taken some action. Two and a half years ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) and I asked for the drug to be rescheduled, so that unless someone caught in possession of a large quantity—and I mean a large quantity; I refer not to addicts in possession of two or three capsules, but to dealers in possession of 5,000—had a prescription for that amount, he would be guilty of a criminal offence. Over the summer, Temazepam became a schedule 3 drug, and only yesterday we heard that its prescription in capsule form was to be banned.

I am afraid, however, that that action was too little, too late. It might have had some effect if it had been taken when we asked for it. The banning of the capsule may still have some effect—it may discourage some manufacturers—but I fear that the health service may not now be those manufacturers' biggest customer. Will the Minister examine the position? Who are the biggest customers? Is the industry exporting far more of the drug than is being used in the health service? If all that we suspect to the happening is indeed happening, the continuance of the manufacture of the drug is a serious problem.

The medical profession tells us that there is no longer any real use for Temazepam—that there are many alternatives, and that the banning of the drug would not constitute a loss to the profession. I am not a great believer in bans of any kind, but the further I have gone in investigating this drug, the more convinced I have become that there is no legitimate use for it and no reason for us to retain it. Not only has it caused the misery that I have described; it has led to drug wars in 'my constituency, with drug barons fighting it out on the streets for territories—very lucrative territories. The drug is manufactured at a cost of 3p a capsule, but sells on the streets for between £1.50 and £3 a capsule. It does not take a mathematician to calculate the profit margins.

We must first consider banning the manufacture of the drug in its jelly form before, perhaps, banning it in its entirety. It could be phased out over a period if the Minister considers that a helpful option—although I must tell him that every day for which it is available poses the danger of another death: another family left motherless, or without a much-loved son or daughter. There is no longer any need for the drug in the health service; the only need seems to be that of abusers on the streets.

We are not addressing ourselves to the wider issue of drugs in general. Temazepam is no more than a drop in the ocean of that misery. Other drugs are abused much more widely; Temazepam just happens to be the drug that was abused in my area, and my area just happens to be where the bubble originally burst. The increase in the misuse of drugs over the past few years has given us all cause for concern. We need to take an overall look at the misuse of drugs, perhaps through the establishment of a royal commission, and we must be willing to accept all that such a commission has to say, although some of it may not be palatable to all of us. We must approach the matter with open minds, and ask ourselves what people mean when they talk of "social drugs".

I am of the same generation as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall), and I am not sure what is meant by "social drugs", but perhaps we should be big enough to try to understand. We should examine the long-term effects of such drugs: what are they doing to people, and what are they likely to do to them in 10 years? We should have a complete policy on drugs, covering both criminals and addicts. We are not currently addressing the problems of drug addiction. People are suffering great ill health because of their addiction and the absence of help. It is very easy for the young to take to that way of life, and very hard for them to return from it.

I congratulate Strathclyde on playing a particularly important role in controlling the misuse of drugs in Scotland. Strathclyde has been on the ball from day one—far more than any politician. It is on the front line: it knows what is happening on the streets, and is addressing the problem. But it can only deal with one side of the coin—the criminal aspect. It cannot deal with the health issues; only the Government can do that, and they can do it only by appointing a commission to examine the overall problem of the effects of drugs on society and the other crimes to which they lead. There is no doubt that drugs lead to petty and, in some instances, very serious crimes. In my constituency, they range from shoplifting, through petty burglaries and car thefts, to murder.

I ask the Minister to suggest to his colleagues that a commission be established as quickly as possible, so that we all know where we are going and have a clear purpose.

11.56 am

May I broaden the debate slightly? The subject is drug abuse generally, although my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) and for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) have spoken specifically about what is going on in Scotland. Of course I am not unaware of the problems there—who could be, after reading the newspapers?—and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North for taking such a brave stand. We know of the personal problems associated with that stand.

One of the problems with Temazepam is the fact that it is legally available, like other substances that are not banned and can be bought by kids in shops—as well as from dealers who push prescribed drugs. Last week, I visited various universities in the United States, and the subject of drug policies in both that country and the United Kingdom, and attitudes towards those policies, arose continually. As I have made clear, I take a particular stand on the matter; but there is no difference between the enforcement policies of the Government and those of the Opposition. Both parties need to rethink their position, because enforcement is not working, as the examples that we have heard today clearly show.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that Temazepam is not legally available except on prescription?

The distinction does not really constitute a difference. We all know that; what is interesting is that cannabis—a soft drug that can relieve pain—is, ludicrously, not available for doctors to prescribe. The whole drug regime is riddled with nonsense. That is why I endorse what my hon. Friends have said: we must take a careful look at this matter and stop our knee-jerk responses. We need to look at it coolly and rationally, and I believe that a royal commission is the best way forward.

Billions of dollars and pounds are being spent on both sides of the Atlantic to try to stop the drug trade, but as a result of all this expenditure, more people are now doing drugs and the drugs that they use are cheaper. That proves that enforcement policy is not working. There is no point in the police and the enforcement agencies announcing that they have captured another large supply of cannabis, heroin, crack or cocaine, and everyone applauding, while the price continues to fall on the streets because more and more drugs are coming in.

The prisons are full of people who are there for drug-related offences. Statistics in the United States—their statistics are accurate because our Home Secretary is not in charge of their prisons—show that 70 per cent. of inmates in federal and state prisons are serving time for drug-related offences of one kind or another. I suspect that if we ever had a proper look at this country's statistics, we would come up with a similar percentage.

As to health, it should be remembered that people taking soft drugs do themselves less damage than those who smoke or drink—yet the latter do not have to buy their products on prescription. Alcohol and nicotine are freely available in the shops, under licensed conditions. Imagine what would happen if any Government tried to ban them—which they should do on health grounds, instead of banning cannabis. If such a ban were attempted, the criminality of today's Glasgow would seem like a vicarage tea party compared with what would happen once the international mafia moved in with supplies.

Next comes the question of the extent to which people should be able to exercise personal choice when it comes to the recreational use of drugs. Legalisation would mean that we could start to do something about quality. One reason why kids take Temazepam and other substances is that they fall into the hands of drug pushers and dealers. There is no quality control or regulation, and neither drug enforcement nor drug education is working. The problem now is that kids have to admit that they are doing something illegal in the first place, which constitutes a disincentive to seek help. With legalisation would come control and regulation and licensing, and much more effective drug education.

I never usually intervene in Scottish debates because I am not someone who wants to end his life rather abruptly, but the fact is that this is a subject that embraces not just Scotland but the whole country. Of course the criminal activity in Glasgow is vicious and nasty, but I can tell my Scottish hon. Friends that similar things go on in the streets of London—in Hackney, Lewisham and my part of the east end murders take place all the time, as do burglaries and street crimes. Most, if not all, of these offences are drug related.

Legalisation could eliminate this criminal activity as well as bringing about some of the other benefits that I have listed. I am in favour of legalisation, or at least decriminalisation. A range of countries in the European Union are liberalising their regimes in respect of drugs, so policy across the Community is inconsistent, and that leads to drug tourism.

I echo what my Scottish hon. Friends have said; I know that they face vicious problems in Scotland and that some awful people are involved, but if we took a cool look at decriminalisation or legalisation and set up a royal commission, there would at least be an end to the knee-jerk responses of which the Government, and some Opposition Members, are guilty. We could then move forward on the basis of knowledge, not prejudice.

12.4 pm

I want to focus on the problems of Temazepam, but I certainly endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has said. This is not a peculiarly Scottish problem; drug abuse is to be found in every major city.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) on securing this debate, which shows his typical determination to represent his constituents. I want to concentrate on the problem as it affects Paisley and the west of Scotland. We have heard this morning from my hon. Friends about the problems associated with Temazepam—or jellies, as they are more commonly known on the street. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams), who has been at the forefront of the battle against Temazepam, mentioned that it is used as a downer. A common problem in many of the cities and towns of the United Kingdom is that it is also sometimes mixed with other drugs such as heroin, or with alcohol to form a cocktail for some other effect.

We have also heard of the worrying trend among drug users—either because they cannot get the quantity of Temazepam that they require or because they no longer get a buzz from it—to give up swallowing the jelly capsules and instead to bust them open, heat them up, liquidise them and then inject them into the bloodstream. That is just like injecting a thrombosis—once the stuff gets into the bloodstream it has the effect of clotting the blood, and people have to have limbs amputated.

My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North mentioned the problems experienced in Paisley, Glasgow and elsewhere with territorial battles between drug barons trying to carve out their share of the market. As she said, it is a lucrative market, since the drugs can be manufactured for as little as 3p with a street value of as much as £4—certainly never less than £1. The drug barons know exactly what they are doing. They know that they are trading in human misery and they know the anguish that they are causing to families.

Sometimes hon. Members speak out and tackle these problems head on. When my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North and I did so, she and her family were subjected to death threats and went through very difficult times. Although stands have to be taken, and it is all very well saying that we will not be intimidated and will fight on, it is very worrying when families become involved. Like my hon. Friend, I pay tribute to Strathclyde police, who have been at the forefront of the battle against drugs and have done a first-class job. They were very supportive of my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North and me in difficult circumstances.

The problem of Temazepam is not new. It was raised some years ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall). Likewise, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North and I took it up with the Scottish Office some years ago. Although the Secretary of State's action this summer was welcome, it was recommended as long ago as 1993 by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, a Government-appointed body. Taking so long to act does the Government no credit; but it would be churlish not to welcome this summer's initiative, which many of us had campaigned for. It is helpful in that it has become a custodial offence to be found in possession of Temazepam without a prescription, and it introduces import and export controls.

It may seem a trifling point, but as my hon. Friends the Members for Rutherglen and for Paisley, North have said, this should not be a matter of party politics: we must all stand together on it. It was therefore disappointing, when the Secretary of State for Scotland came to Paisley to make his announcement, that he did not have the courtesy to inform the local Members of Parliament who had campaigned for these changes. We would certainly have supported his initiative. There was no need to behave in that fashion. It would have been appropriate to involve the newspapers that have campaigned so hard alongside Members of Parliament to have these changes made, particularly the Glasgow Evening Times, the Daily Record and, in my area, the Paisley Daily Express and the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, all of which have made a contribution.

As my hon. Friends have said, the ban on prescribing Temazepam is a very small step forward and is little more than gesture politics, because the basic arithmetic of the situation shows that the amount of Temazepam on our streets cannot possibly come from doctors prescribing it in surgeries. When a doctor prescribes it to a legitimate user, it will be on the basis of one capsule, or jelly, per day. A month's supply is 30 capsules. That is what an abuser uses in one day. No one will convince us that there are 30 old-age pensioners for every drug abuser in Scotland being prescribed Temazepam legitimately. The arithmetic does not add up. When we tabled questions on this subject, we found out that, curiously, Britain exports more Temazepam than it manufactures, because phantom pharmacists, the people who set themselves up as wholesalers of Temazepam, are buying it for export and circulating it on our streets.

I shall make a few points about what more can be done, because we do not want to level criticism at the Government. Like my hon. Friends who have spoken, I favour the total ban of Temazepam, on the grounds that there are alternatives. A total ban would be clear-cut and final. One of the advantages of that would be that one should not be carrying Temazepam. Failing that, let us at least have a total ban on the jelly formulation immediately.

I would like to see the tablets go, too. I believe that if Temazepam must be prescribed—I am not convinced that it needs to be—prescribe it as a solution. The equivalent of one measure of Temazepam could be put into a quarter pint of solution. It would be no hardship for anyone using it legitimately, before they go to bed at night, to drink a quarter pint of liquid, but the drug abuser is not going to drink 10 pints of the stuff to get his buzz. The advantage of prescribing it in a solution would be to make it very difficult to distribute. The drug dealers would have to go around in milk floats. We would know who they were.

I have written to the Secretary of State for Scotland and, indeed, the President of the Board of Trade, about a limit on the amount of Temazepam that is manufactured, and my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North referred to this. Why does Britain manufacture so much more Temazepam than we need? Why do we not immediately put some limit on it? If the Government insist that there has to be a supply of Temazepam, limit it to what is required legitimately.

Another area that has not been addressed is the gun laws. The amount of crime that is associated with Temazepam has shown that it is far too easy to get hold of firearms. That has to be looked at, too.

As we have discovered in Paisley, another area that needs to be addressed is adequate witness protection, because if one is going to ask people to come forward, one must remember that the people against whom they will have to give evidence are evil. They are evil drug barons making mega profits and will take action against witnesses unless they are properly protected. We know of cases that have been dropped because witnesses have pulled out at the last minute.

We must also address confiscation. If someone is convicted of dealing in drugs, the courts must act and must have the power to ensure that those people cannot come out of gaol to their ill-gotten gains.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. May I also point out that there are others who need protection, in addition to witnesses? I am referring to those people who have the courage to come forward to the police, to inform them of the activities of drug pushers. Sandra and James Coyle in Port Glasgow have been threatened with death because they had the courage, the guts, to come forward in such a way.

I endorse what my hon. Friend has said. Indeed, before I came out this morning, I saw a news bulletin on ITN about a case in London, in which someone had to give up his home and is now living in bed and breakfast accommodation because he gave evidence against someone—not a drug baron—who was prepared to threaten him with murder, and that is in an area where there is a witness protection scheme, so what hope is there in places like Strathclyde, where there is no such scheme?

We must look at the positive side, because Paisley, in particular, but also Glasgow and other areas, have had a lot of bad publicity because of this problem. I am fed up with people approaching me, often in the Lobbies, and telling me what a terrible place Paisley must be. It is still a good town and it still has an awful lot going for it. We must have the support not only to deal with the problems but to get back a positive image, and the best way in which the Government can help to do that is to give our young people hope, so they do not feel the hopelessness that encourages them to get into drugs.

We need action soon, because the longer we take, the more we talk about it in the Chamber and in the newspapers, the more warning the drug barons and the drug industry will have that they need to find alternatives. If we are to stop Temazepam and ensure that there is not an alternative ready to take its place, we need action now.

12.16 pm

I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the House and, in particular, to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) for not being here at the beginning of the debate. I have come hot foot from the Ukraine and I just could not get back earlier than I did.

I welcome this debate on drugs. We have too few debates in the House on this horrible problem. I do not apologise for intervening in what hitherto has been—from the tenor of conversations that I have heard—largely a Scottish debate, because this is not a problem confined to Scotland; it is a United Kingdom problem, and, indeed, as I found in Kiev, it is also a pan-European problem.

There are special problems in Scotland and there are horrible problems in Edinburgh, which in particular has built up a reputation for having a problem with drugs. I was glad therefore that there was a special Government White Paper on drugs in Scotland, issued broadly at the same time as the Government White Paper on tackling drugs together in the United Kingdom. At the end of the day, I am absolutely convinced that we will not solve the problems of drugs until we have vastly more health education in schools and better education of all of the people who come into contact with young people, not only teachers but parents as well. The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) was correct to mention the positive part that the media can play in this.

I shall make three comments. First, on Temazepam, I share the concerns of Opposition members. I believe that there is a very strong argument for banning it, if not completely at least in its jellied form, which makes it the easiest form of drugs to take, particularly when mixed with other drugs. I ask my hon. Friend on the Front Bench for his support on pushing that forward in Scotland and persuading English Ministers to take the same step.

Secondly, Scottish prisons. I am concerned about the introduction of compulsory drugs testing in Scottish prisons unless it is supported by necessary treatment and counselling. This should also be made available to prisoners once they are released. So often, one can encourage young prisoners to come off drugs while in prison serving their sentence, yet as soon as they return to the outside world, they are lured back into the drugs culture, because there just is not the same form and type of advice available to them outside. I have written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland about the matter, especially with regard to Scotland. I have not had a response as yet; I am not criticising my right hon. Friend because I wrote very recently. I believe, however, that this is a terribly important point.

I must react to the speech by my personal friend, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who could not resist the temptation to raise the question of legalisation in this drugs debate, as he has done in every previous drugs debate. It is just not correct to say that legalisation is being adopted in other states in Europe. In some countries, there is a lack of inclination or ability to apply the law, but the law has not been changed and the official attitude towards the law has not been changed.

It is a superficially attractive argument that one can reduce the criminality associated with drugs. I fear, however, that although legalisation might reduce criminality in the short term, it would increase health problems and health costs in the short and the long term, and it is not a route that I believe we should take. As the hon. Member for Newham, North-West knows, the Council of Europe is at this moment studying the matter. I hope that the Council will conclude, in conjunction with pressures from those, like myself, who take this view, that we should not consider legalisation in this country or in Europe generally.

12.20 pm

I will try to keep my comments as short as possible because this is a debate of such importance and we really need far more time than we have at our disposal today. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) has done us a service in securing this debate and I hope that he will go on to secure further debates because the problem will not evaporate overnight and will be with us for a long time to come.

I congratulate the heroic stand that was taken by the Paisley Members, and I especially congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) who underwent a traumatic experience when those who were making such high profits attempted to bully her. That was understandable but unforgivable. The way in which my hon. Friend stood up to that was a credit to us all.

I admire the courage of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). It takes courage to stand up in today's climate and to say that we ought to look at a problem to which the solution is not simply to weigh in with more police raids, impose stiffer sentences and clap more people in gaol. That does not cure the drugs problem.

The Select Committee on Scottish Affairs carried out an investigation into drugs and we visited America. Our eyes were really opened to the possible extent of the problem in this country. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glasgow is known as the junkie capital of Europe. The Americans know about the difficulties we have in Glasgow, in Strathclyde and throughout Scotland.

I must tell the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) that Edinburgh does not have a very bad reputation for drugs—quite the reverse. The needle exchanges were started in Edinburgh, despite opposition from the Scottish Office. It has been shown clearly that an AIDS epidemic has been prevented. The people of Edinburgh and the Lothians are to be congratulated on being the initial group on this side in the fight against drugs.

When we were in America, we were able to get figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As the hon. Member for Newham, North-West said, the Americans at least keep the figures and we were allowed to see them. In 1992, the FBI figures showed that 535,000 people were arrested for the possession, sale or manufacture of marijuana. In six cases, life sentences were imposed; I am talking about the States where life means life. That seems outrageous when one considers that there is no real evidence that marijuana is any more dangerous a substance than tobacco or alcohol.

Among those who enjoyed the whisky tasting last night in the House, there were no signs of great concern about how much whisky was being tasted and whether it would do any harm. Moderation was shown, as always, and an enjoyable evening was had. One can imagine that there would be a revolution in Scotland if we attempted to ban alcohol.

The States gives the prime example of what happens when alcohol is banned. Billions of dollars were made in a short period and the money that was stashed away is the money that backs the drug barons of today. Fortunes were made illegally during Prohibition and the money was then used to finance prostitution in Cuba and drugs throughout the world.

The figures are available in America and I will give some of them because they provide an insight into what happens if all that one does in the drugs war is to argue the case for getting the people involved off the streets and into prison. I understand why the police are, quite rightly, moving in Paisley. They had to attempt to remove the threat in an area that had begun to be run by the drug barons. They were determining who could live in peace and who could not and, in many cases, who would live and who would not. There was a spate of shootings and the position was unacceptable and intolerable.

For those who argue that the way to stop drugs is to spend more time on interdiction—prohibition—and more severe punishment, it is worth while looking at the results in the United States. There are 440,000 prisoners in local gaols and 87,000 in federal prisons. We can add to that 2.7 million people who are on probation and more than half a million on parole. The figures represent the highest proportion of the American population incarcerated in the country's entire history as well as the highest proportion incarcerated in any country in the world. There are many people in gaols in America, which are bursting at the seams. The Americans are building more gaols, yet at the same time, the FBI admits that there is more heroin on the streets of New York now than there was a decade ago. The approach has totally failed.

Even the hard men of the drugs enforcement agency, who apply the law, said to us that much of the money spent on law enforcement last year—$24 million—was wasted and would have been better spent on education of the younger generation to save that generation. I doubt that we can save the present generation and solve their drug problems. At least, however, we must start pouring money into an education system that is understood by everyone to stop the next generation. History has shown that people look for intoxicants and that we cannot simply keep on banning them or clapping people in gaol for using them. We must educate people about the use of drugs. If people then want to pursue that path, that is up to them, but we must try to educate people out of such a path.

I agree with those who say that we should have the courage to have a royal commission. We should say that whatever the findings of that commission—I have a pretty good idea, if a logical group were to look at the case logically, what would emerge—we should take progressive steps. We should take progressive steps irrespective of how much unpopularity is shown towards us as politicians, especially when an election is pending.

12.27 pm

Like my hon. Friends, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) on initiating this much-needed debate on the misuse of drugs. As he said, many hon. Members have campaigned on the problem over a number of years. I recall that in 1981 or 1982, I accused the then Scottish Office Health Minister, Russell Fairgrieve, and the Government of being far too complacent in their attitude to the growing problem of drug misuse in Scotland.

Along with others, in 1988, I campaigned to have Buprenorphine and Temgesic brought within the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to make the supply of or the unauthorised possession of such drugs a criminal offence. The then Home Office Minister, the right hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), seemed to agree with me in a letter he sent to me in September 1988. Sad to say, however, the measure has just not worked in the way that we hoped it might. We have now reached the stage at which there is no alternative. We must ban the manufacture of these drugs now. As my hon. Friends have said, they are not necessary. They serve no useful purpose and there are more beneficial alternatives.

As well as banning those drugs we must impose the severest penalties on anyone who attempts to manufacture them after they are banned. Nothing less will suffice. Either we are serious about the problem or we are not, and if we are not we might as well give up. If we are serious let us take much more positive action than has been taken so far.

In connection with another aspect of the drug issue, I congratulate Councillor Bill Perry, convenor of Strathclyde regional council, on his excellent "Cut the Grass" campaign, which is an attempt to reduce the sale of drugs paraphernalia. It is an affront for shopkeepers and other traders openly to promote the sale of items used to encourage drug use in our communities.

I have here a reply to me from the Minister dated only five days ago. Although it is encouraging and may be a step in the right direction, it is neither clear nor positive enough, and to some extent it passes the buck to chief constables and procurators fiscal.

I suggest to the Minister that there are similarities with the situation involving solvent abuse, which was at its height in the early 1980s—although, sad to say, it is still a problem. At that time many hundreds of shopkeepers, especially small shopkeepers, were making substantial profits by selling glue to children. That problem was tackled with any degree of success only when two or three shopkeepers were successfully prosecuted and put in prison. The rest quickly got the message and either stopped selling glue altogether or made suitable arrangements to sell it in a responsible manner, only to adults who had a legitimate use for it.

If that is what it takes, I suggest that people who persist in selling paraphernalia for using, or rather abusing, drugs should be prosecuted and gaoled. It seems the only way to make them desist from those obnoxious methods. I do not believe that any trader needs to sell such items to earn a living. If that is the only way in which someone is willing to operate he should not be in business, he should be behind bars.

Like those who have spoken before me, I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Rutherglen, for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster), for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams), for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey), for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) and for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), all of whom have long-standing commitments, which have sometimes meant personal risk to themselves, to attempt to do something to tackle what is arguably the most serious problem in our communities today.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun about the need for education. In Scotland there is a great need for rehabilitation for the victims of drug abuse. My comments have been largely directed at the need to tackle those who supply or manufacture drugs, or who encourage that evil trade, not at its victims, who have my greatest sympathy. We could do a lot more in the social sense to help those people, but I have no sympathy for those who encourage, promote and profit from dealing in drugs or drug-related materials. They deserve all that is coming to them.

Either the Government are hard on crime or they are soft on it. Today they have shown neither the will nor the capacity to tackle the problem as it should be tackled. We must do our utmost to eliminate the problem of drugs as far as possible from our streets and cities throughout Scotland and the United Kingdom.

12.33 pm

I begin by congratulating my hon. Friends on their campaigning on the drugs issue over the years, especially the summer campaign that they have undertaken. I feel that the Government's ban on Temazepam is not unrelated to the political pressure that has been exerted on the subject for months and even years. Many people in Scotland share that view.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said, we are focusing on the problem in Scotland today, simply because we feel that it is especially pressing there. A study undertaken in Glasgow by the World Health Organisation in 1993 showed that there were 8,800 drug injectors there, 70 per cent. of whom were males under 25 who had been injecting for seven years. The vast majority of the injectors were unemployed, and 90 per cent. had had nothing more than temporary jobs. Most lived in deprived areas.

There is no doubt about the remarkably strong relationship between drug misuse and neighbourhoods characterised by high unemployment, low income, overcrowding and other problems. Yet there is no Government policy on how to tackle deprivation, and apparently no interest in developing one.

Operation Eagle has been mentioned. My hon. Friends and I laud and congratulate Chief Constable Leslie Sharp and others on that initiative. But we must remember that it is a 90-day campaign run by Strathclyde police. There is no money from the Scottish Office, and because there are not the resources to take it further it will terminate at the end of the 90 days.

One positive measure that the Government could announce this morning would be to pledge assistance to Strathclyde police and other police forces in Scotland with the courage and vision to undertake such initiatives in their local communities. The Minister would certainly receive hearty congratulations from the Opposition if he gave a positive commitment this morning.

The Government's approach to drugs to date has been disparate. They need a total policy. Figures from the Library show that in 1992–93 they spent £42 million trying to tackle drug misuse, but we must ask what impact that money had. The problem is ever increasing and becoming more widespread, so the Government's action can have had little impact. It is incumbent on them to rethink their policies.

A ministerial task force bulletin considered the issue of drugs, making many positive recommendations, but to date the Government have acted on few or none of them. For example, why are crisis intervention centres in Aberdeen and Dundee not established as soon as possible? Residential sites to deal with drug misuse are necessary, yet we have only 60 beds in Scotland for that purpose, while the problem increases day by day. That is inadequate. When will the Government assist local authorities to ensure that there are more residential beds?

We also need drug action teams in every area. The reform of local government provides a good opportunity for the Government to ensure that when the new authorities take over on 1 April, drug action teams are co-ordinated for every area to provide the community-based services required.

The Secretary of State has made many noises about law and order and drugs over the past few months, and he has mentioned mandatory drug testing. I have in my possession a letter from the Medical Research Council bearing out some of what the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) said, and 37 consultants have written to the Secretary of State expressing concern about the consequences of the announcement on 1 September that there will be mandatory drug testing in Scottish prisons.

The consultants are worried because that would compromise the future of the innovative, widely disseminated, successful public health initiatives pioneered to date in the Scottish Prison Service, and would divert scarce resources away from the expansion and evaluation of drugs education and rehabilitation initiatives that are so critical in preventing future outbreaks of blood-borne virus infections in prisons, the effect of which on recidivism should be thoroughly assessed.

The Secretary of State made a glib statement on 1 September. He has not consulted anyone and has failed to understand the problem. As a result, the problem could become worse.

The Minister should take the information from the Medical Research Council and those working in the Prison Service back to the Secretary of State. We have a common goal of ensuring that our prisons are drug free, but the Secretary of State's proposal may not the best way of achieving that.

We cannot forget that the Secretary of State for Scotland was a Home Office Minister when the Whitemoor and Parkhurst escapes took place. I wrote to the Library to ask how many prison escapes took place when the present Secretary of State for Scotland was a Minister at the Home Office. I received a faxed reply this morning, saying
"The Prison Service seems a little sensitive at the moment and I have been passed round several officials so far. The sixth of these has promised to get back to me but I cannot, I am afraid, guarantee when this will be."
Six officials at the Home Office were contacted, yet none has got back with the information.

The Learmont report was published on Monday, and paragraph 3.85 on page 93 states:
"As an example of the Director General's over-commitment to these matters, a full day's interview with the Inquiry was disturbed on a number of occasions because Ministers required his advice. At a lower level, one of the Operational Directors said that the size of the daily press cuttings on the Prison Service was an informal `performance indicator' for the Service, not least because defensive briefings had to be provided for Ministers on every press story."
It is my information that Mr. Lewis was called away three times from the Learmont inquiry on the instructions of the present Secretary of State for Scotland. Can we trust the man who has the law and order and home affairs brief in Scotland when it appears that, for his own naked political purposes, he has been interfering with the work of the Director General of the Prison Service?

I am having a little difficulty in relating this matter to the misuse of drugs.

I shall try to help you on that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The present Secretary of State for Scotland was previously a Minister at the Home Office, and he says that law and order is his number one issue. My colleagues' message this morning is that drug misuse in Scotland is an issue for the entire community. I want the present Secretary of State to use the law and order and home affairs brief in Scotland not for his own narrow political purposes but for the entire community. My colleagues have echoed that point this morning.

Drug misuse must be tackled, but the Government do not have a policy on deprivation to assist in that process. I suggest to the Minister that if this issue is left unchallenged there will be widespread and unacceptable consequences. Young people will be corrupted and families alienated—that is happening now—but further fear and disruption will be brought to our communities. Our public health service will be undermined and services will be over-burdened.

If we do not tackle drug misuse coherently in our communities, the consequences will be regrettable to say the least. The Government must recognise that it is a social problem and that it must be addressed at national and local levels. Nothing less than personal, communal and cultural change is required, and we want the Government to play their part in this very important exercise.

12.43 pm

The hon. Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) is to be strongly congratulated on her courage, and it is outrageous that she should have received threats from any source. I endorse the support of the whole House for her principled and courageous stand in warning young people of the dangers of drugs, and she is supported by us all.

A lot of important points have been made in the debate, but I must say to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) that we do not see the legalisation of cannabis as a way forward, as we believe that that would be a fundamentally flawed approach. Such legislation would lead to greater misuse and would harm individuals and society. We take this view because cannabis is not a harmless substance. It distorts perceptions and can affect driving, and legislation would send out the wrong signals. The Government have emphatically ruled it out, as did the Scottish Affairs Select Committee.

I should point out to the Minister that the Select Committee ruled it out by one vote.

One vote is all that is required in the House of Commons—especially in the present climate—but I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. The majority on the Select Committee opposed it. The Government are emphatically against legalisation that would lead to the thin end of the wedge and get more youngsters hooked on drugs. We are opposed to that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) and the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) raised the subject of mandatory drug testing. The Secretary of State announced on 31 August that a programme of mandatory drug tests would be introduced in Scottish prisons under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This is intended to complement the constructive work being done in drug treatment reduction programmes and drug prevention and education work in prisons. Edinburgh and Corton Vale prisons will be the pilot prisons, and the first phase of testing will begin early in 1996. I am glad to confirm that both prisons have in place strong drug treatment and support programmes. Following the pilot phase, random drug testing will be phased in across the prison estate.

The hon. Members for Paisley, North and for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) were right to compliment the police on Operation Eagle, and I shall return to the issue of resources. One important point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes was that the media have a part to play. At Edinburgh castle the other evening, editors from various Scottish newspapers were addressed by the Secretary of State. He said that whether or not editors disagreed with Government policy, there was one way in which they could be of substantial assistance—by warning young people of the dangers of taking drugs. My right hon. Friend went out of his way to congratulate the Glasgow Evening Times which, he said, had not always been known for its support for the Government. That is very important, and the media have an invaluable role to play in that connection.

Drug misuse is one of the greatest challenges that we face in Scotland today. It blights young lives, worries parents, takes the lives of young people who should be in their prime and leads to drug-related violence and other crime in our cities and towns. It provides the basis for huge profits made by unscrupulous drug dealers whose sole aim is to profit from the misery and despair of others.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) was right to focus on Strathclyde and he reflected the concerns of other hon. Members. I should like to mention briefly some of the actions that the Government are taking. New guidelines have been drawn up on good practice on substitute prescribing. The community drug problem service approach holds out the best prospect of reducing drug deaths by drawing misusers into treatment services. The drug crisis centre in Glasgow, which I visited recently, has performed a valuable and effective role since it was set up, and I wholeheartedly welcome that.

The hon. Member for Paisley, North rightly raised the question of tightening import and export controls. Rescheduling Temazepam tightens security requirements at pharmacies, and also tightens import and export controls by requiring licences. It is now unlawful to possess Temazepam without prescription. We believe that the police can more effectively tackle dealers, and the ban on gel-filled capsules announced yesterday will also help.

Guidelines on good practice at raves and other dance events are nearing completion and will be issued shortly, and two new packages have been issued recently to schools on drug education. Drug prevention education is now incorporated in the health education curriculum. It is vital to get the message across to youngsters at the earliest age.

I must deal with Temazepam and some of the points made in the debate.

The Minister mentioned the need to educate school children. What new proposals has he for giving support and assistance to the families of young drug abusers and misusers? Those families undergo considerable distress because of their youngsters' habits and badly need support.

The hon. Gentleman asks what role the social work department can perform. He is married to a social worker, whom I have met on numerous occasions. Resources of £40 million are being made available throughout the range of programmes. We want a strongly co-ordinated approach, which will deal with the matter. If the hon. Gentleman has any constructive suggestions on the subject, I will be glad to receive them.

May I take an extreme example of drug-related deaths, and I have met parents who have been through these extremely unfortunate circumstances? The procurators fiscal in Glasgow have introduced a procedure of discussing the circumstances surrounding such deaths with close relatives. Common-sense advice is issued directly to injecting drug misusers on how to avoid dangerous situations and practices associated with injecting drug misuse. We believe that the new and improved system of recording drug deaths introduced in June will help but, of course, we are aiming for prevention.

The hon. Member for Rutherglen asked why 1 January had been chosen. I can explain that simply. There is a need for existing prescriptions to be dispensed. The 1 January date also gives general practitioners time to review and to prescribe alternative forms of Temazepam or other drugs.

Let me make clear to the House the extent of the problem with legal prescriptions. The information is available only for England and we must make it available for Scotland as well. Temazepam prescriptions in England decreased from 6.9 million in 1992 to 6.3 million in 1994 and continued to decrease in the first two quarters of 1995. The voluntary bans in Scotland have significantly reduced the level of prescribing and medical prescribing committees on health boards are carrying out a further review. The results will be made public in due course. That gives us an idea of the scale of the problem.

The hon. Members for Paisley, North and for Paisley, South mentioned drugs finding their way on to the streets of Scotland. Import and export licensing, in rescheduling measures, will tighten security and reduce leakage into the criminal fraternity, as will tighter new security measures. I am happy to have a dialogue with the hon. Members. It is my aim as well as theirs to ensure that Paisley, which has a fine history and which I have often visited, can be looked on with confidence for the future for inward investment and other possibilities that may arise.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South asked about illegal supplies. I said that we must deal with bogus exporters, who divert the drug to illicit home markets. The new licensing procedure will deal with that. The hon. Member has written to the President of the Board of Trade about the new controls and I have no doubt that he will receive a comprehensive reply.

I was asked about a total ban on Temazepam. As I said, it is widely prescribed legitimately and has been licensed for many years. There is not the same serious danger with merely taking the tablets as with injecting the drug. I am glad that, since the first note was drafted, the correct information has come in and I can inform hon. Members that in Scotland there are 880,000 prescriptions for Temazepam in all its forms. We believe that banning the drug in gel form will assist.

I was asked about drugs equipment paraphernalia. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) introduced an extremely important Bill on glue sniffing—a related subject. I agree that we must consider that matter closely. Legislation is available to enable us to prosecute traders, but it is sometimes difficult to do so as the articles concerned can ostensibly be valid and legal for other purposes. For example, pipes can be used as an ornament or for smoking non-prohibited substances.

Strathclyde police are being consulted to find out whether they believe that any aspects of existing law should be strengthened. It is for each drug action team to consider whether any further action could be taken to influence traders.

I mentioned resources of £40 million and, of that sum, £10 million was for drug-related activities alone and a further £8 million was for Strathclyde.

Strong sanctions are available against those who misuse drugs. The Criminal Justice Act 1987 empowers the courts to confiscate the funds or property of those convicted of dealing in drugs. The rescheduling of Temazepam will make possession an offence, with a penalty that includes a maximum of two years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. The penalty for supplying is a maximum of five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.

We have to go flat out against the drug dealers, but at the same time must have a strong educational, health and social work programme in place to deal with the youngsters who are most unfortunately affected and afflicted by this scourge.

The report of the drug task force provided an excellent framework for positive action to tackle drug misuse in Scotland and priority is being given to implementing its recommendations as quickly as possible. Drug action teams have been established and will have a major role in combating drug misuse at local level. The task force drew on many expert talents from the fields of health, education, police, social work, the voluntary sector and other areas, in producing its report last October.

More than 60 recommendations were made and the report was widely recognised as providing a thorough and informed picture of drug misuse in Scotland. We are well ahead in implementing the valuable recommendations, many of which have had a bearing on the points mentioned this morning.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way: as ever, he is generous in these matters. He mentioned the drug task force report. How much are the Government allocating in extra resources to those initiatives?

Resources this year amount to about £40 million. When the annual expenditure round takes place, we shall give top priority to issues affecting law and order, which this one undoubtedly does. We will be looking particularly closely at that problem. As the hon. Member will appreciate, the Secretary of State will make a full statement on the public expenditure survey to Parliament before Christmas.

I was asked whether there should be a royal commission. The difficulty is that such commissions take a very long time and the task force has already dealt comprehensively with the issues. Its recommendations are being implemented fully and quickly.

The hon. Member for Dumbarton asked what we were doing in areas of deprivation. Some £86 million is being made available in urban aid alone to such areas, which are being assisted in a variety of different ways. Drug taking is not restricted to areas of deprivation, although it can and does occur there. We have to take the necessary action.

The task force report recognised that there was no simple answer and that the issue had to be tackled on a number of fronts. The report emphasised the absolute importance of fully co-ordinated action against drug misuse.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) will confirm that the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs came to exactly the same conclusion and we intend to act strongly upon it.

The hon. Gentleman says that he is proud. The two studies were simultaneous but they came to the same conclusion and that is why we are right to do everything in our power to implement that conclusion.

This year we made the record sum of nearly £24 million available to health boards to tackle drug misuse and HIV-AIDS. Initial allocations total some £22.5 million, of which almost £10 million is committed to drug-related activities. Our whole aim is to concentrate on prevention and we see education as playing an absolutely key role in that connection, supported, for those unfortunate people who have become addicted, with effective services. We need to target the services and respond to the individual needs of each user.

I recently had the privilege to see the Glasgow drug problem service and I believe that it offers a good and effective combination—