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Volatile Substance Abuse

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2007

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s work, and we will support his campaign on combating volatile substance abuse by young people.

Volatile substance abuse involving glue, lighter fuels and sprays kills more young people aged 10 to 16 than die from illegal drug use. Three Departments are involved in combating that nuisance—the Department of Health, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the Home Office. Does the Prime Minister share my disappointment that prior to the reshuffle, Solve It, a Kettering-based charity doing much good work on the issue, was refused a meeting with a then Education Minister? Will the Prime Minister, under his Government, facilitate a meeting with that Minister’s replacement?

Of course I will, and I apologise if that meeting did not take place; I will make sure that it does. We have published a national framework for dealing with substance abuse. The hon. Gentleman is a campaigner on the issue, and I pay tribute to Barbara Skinner, one of his constituents, who set up the charity in 1998. We are very happy to work with her, and with all people who are interested in finding better solutions, so that we can combat that terrible problem.

A proposal based on a single, unpublished academic paper and anecdotal sources was put forward yesterday that would end the hugely successful general practitioner-led drug treatment programme in my constituency. Will the Prime Minister confirm that his drug treatment policy will be based on evidence and proven success, rather than on the political prejudice of the Commission on Social Justice?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the issue. It is true that Britain has a major drug problem. It is also true that we need a new and better strategy for dealing with it, and I have already announced that we will formulate such a strategy. At the same time, Opposition Members should acknowledge that the number of people receiving help with drug rehabilitation has doubled in the past few years, and that we are attempting to help to solve a problem that has ruined the lives of many young people. If the Opposition wish to work with us on that, they must admit that the public spending that is necessary for doing that must be found, and they should resist the third fiscal rule, which would mean that they spent less, not more, in the future.