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Drug Addiction

Volume 530: debated on Monday 27 June 2011

9. What recent estimate she has made of the number of people who are addicted to a class A drug. (61836)

The chaotic lives of drug addicts make it difficult for the Government to make an official estimate of the total number of people addicted to Class A drugs. However, for two drugs in this category—opiates and crack cocaine—the Government estimated in 2008-09 that there were more than 320,000 users in England. Figures for 2009-10 will be available later this year.

We know that it is difficult for the coalition partners to agree on drugs, but surely that is no excuse for their total inaction and silence on drugs policy and on tackling drugs since coming into power. When will we see some action on drugs and some drugs policy emerge from this Government?

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that he could not be more wrong in his assessment of what the coalition Government have being doing. A few months ago we published a new drugs strategy, which is looking not only at the action being taken by the police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency to apprehend those dealing drugs and importing them into the UK, but at responsibility for rehabilitation. We have a clear message that we can use payment by results, working with organisations in the private sector and in the voluntary and charitable sector, to ensure that we do not just churn drug addicts through courses that take them off drugs and then return them to the same environment where they are pressured back on to drugs, but instead that we give them a longer-lasting solution that helps them get off drugs forever.

Last week the Justice Secretary told the House that almost one tenth of people who have used heroin first did so while in prison. What actions have the Home Department’s national crime agencies taken to catch and seek to prosecute people who illegally take class A drugs into our prisons?

My hon. Friend raises a very important issue, and action is taken in two ways. The Ministry of Justice is now looking at drug-free wings in prisons, so work is being done on that, but in the Home Office we continue, through not just regional police forces but the Serious Organised Crime Agency, to fight the fight against drug dealers and those who import drugs to this country, and that fight continues.