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Drug Abuse

7. Helen Jones (Warrington, North): What support he is giving to parents whose children are addicted to drugs. [29853]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): Support for the parents, carers and families of young people with drug problems is a crucial part of the national drug strategy. Information about the dangers of drugs and where to get help is routinely distributed to schools, GPs' surgeries and police stations. On 27 December 2001, we launched a campaign to raise awareness of the risks of drugs and to encourage parents and carers to use the national drugs helpline on 0800 776600 for reliable and credible information on the harm that drugs cause and the support that is available. Only three weeks into the campaign, the helpline has seen a significant increase in calls of over 20 per cent.

Helen Jones: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he accept that despite the progress that has been made, many parents find that their children are taking drugs? Those parents find it difficult to access support and treatment for their children. Even if they get them into treatment, they are put back into their communities to mix with those who got them on to drugs in the first place, without any further support being available.

I urge my hon. Friend to examine closely representations made by the Footsteps project, which serves my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts), which set out the horror stories of some parents. Will he find time in his schedule to talk to parents and groups who represent children at risk, to learn what is happening at the sharp end from the users of services, rather than from those who set up the services?

Mr. Ainsworth: My hon. Friend is right; parents have severe problems dealing with those issues, and many lack the confidence to engage with their children about drugs. Studies show that there is a significant reduction in the taking of dangerous drugs by children of parents who have had the confidence to have such conversations. I am aware of the work of Footsteps in Warrington, which is

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funded by the communities against drugs fund. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware, but Warrington is due to get another three posts, funded from a variety of sources, to provide information and support to parents and carers of young people in the near future. I should be happy to receive further information from her about the problems in the area, but I wish to make her aware of that additional funding coming on stream in Warrington.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney): Does the Minister agree that former addicts are often the best people to explain the dangers of drug abuse to children? He will not be aware of it, but I was in Wood Green school in my constituency this morning, sitting at the back of the class while Energy and Vision, a group of former addicts, explained the dangers of drug abuse; they were explaining, rather than preaching. Does the Minister agree that that is the right message and the right way to communicate it? What steps will he take to encourage such voluntary bodies?

Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman's premise is right; explaining is far more effective than preaching. We will try to engage any available talent to do that. People who have managed to rehabilitate themselves after serious drug offending and drug problems are often prepared to get involved in such campaigns and offer their time. We must try to make sure that we have in place facilities to enable people to make use of that volunteering.

Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South): Does my hon. Friend accept that many voluntary organisations that are providing a wonderful counselling service for parents find themselves strapped for cash, with little money to deliver the service required? Will he ensure that adequate financial support is given to voluntary organisations that provide a worthwhile service?

Mr. Ainsworth: My hon. Friend is right; there is a problem, but there have been significant increases in the amount of money available. It takes time for services to come on stream. The Department of Health allocated an extra £5 million in 2001–02, and another £11 million in the next financial year, to provide treatment for young people with serious drug problems and support for their parents. Money is therefore becoming available but, as ever, there is much more that we could do.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Despite what the Minister said about funding, how does he explain the fact that I have a letter from the deputy chief constable of Surrey, who says that in his role in the Surrey drug action team, he found that all the promises of new money made by the Government in 2000 have subsequently been undermined? First, a totally unexpected top-slicing meant that the team immediately had to cut £80,000 from the programmes that it funded. Then, last October, the team was told that year 2 and year 3 funding was under threat. It had been promised a 70 per cent. uplift, but was told that it was likely to be no more than 20 per cent. Senior police officers trying to lead the fight against drugs for the benefit of our children are finding that there is a huge difference between the Government's rhetoric and the reality on the ground, which is cut, cut, cut.

Mr. Ainsworth: Sadly, in the short time in which I have been dealing with the hon. Gentleman, I have

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learned not to take at face value anything he says. I shall happily check what allegations have been made by his local police officer, and what allegations the hon. Gentleman has added to them, and I shall come back to him with a detailed reply. Over time, I have learned to do that.

Race Relations

8. Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East): What measures he proposes to improve race relations and community cohesion. [29855]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Angela Eagle): The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 will be the biggest strengthening of the protections against racial discrimination in 30 years. The Government are working with the public sector to make it effective. On social cohesion, the Government are responding to the reports following last summer's disturbances to develop an active and inclusive vision of Britain, at both local and national level.

Mr. Luke: I welcome my hon. Friend's reply. I am sure that she welcomed, as I did, the 27 per cent. reduction in racially motivated incidents between 1995 and 1999 recorded in the British crime survey last year. Does she agree that the figure of 280,000 incidents recorded in 1999 is still too high? We should be doing all we can to encourage a multi-agency approach to ensure that this pernicious blight is banished from British society.

Angela Eagle: I agree with my hon. Friend that racially motivated attacks are absolutely unacceptable. I know that the addition of the racially aggravated element in sentencing has been one of the success stories since the Lawrence report. I hope that the recent addition of religious motives for aggravated attacks will also help to tackle that pernicious problem.

Bob Spink (Castle Point): How do the Government propose to deal with discrimination based on religion? Is the Minister aware that a Muslim sheikh has been touring the country urging followers to kill Jews, for instance?

Angela Eagle: I do not know where the hon. Gentleman was during our debates on the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, but we tried to do something about that. The House disagreed, as did the Lords. If he is now saying that he disagrees with that, and that all those on the Opposition Front Bench and in the Conservative party are having a rethink, perhaps we can consider bringing the legislation back to the House.

David Winnick (Walsall, North): Is it not a matter of deep regret that there is an allegedly Muslim priest touring Britain and promoting Nazi-type race hatred, calling for the killing of Jews and all infidels? Is not that a breach of the law on incitement to race hatred? Why are not the police taking any action? If that person has asked to live in Britain—apparently, he has applied to the Home Office—should not the response this week be, "No. Get out of the country as quickly as possible"?

Angela Eagle: I can assure my hon. Friend that the police are taking a very close look at the activities of that person. I ask my hon. Friend simply to watch this space.

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Metropolitan Police (Funding)

9. John Cryer (Hornchurch): What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the resource allocation formula for the funding of the Metropolitan police. [29856]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced the final proposals for police grant 2002–03 on 30 January. The resource allocation formula is an internal distribution mechanism for the Metropolitan police and as such is a matter for the Commissioner and the Metropolitan police authority. My hon. Friend has been involved in the consultation and will know that a revision of the original formula is still being discussed by the Metropolitan police authority.

John Cryer: Although the resource allocation formula has given a small increase in my borough, Havering, in east London, and my hon. Friend is right to say that the review is continuing, the tiny increase is not nearly enough. Havering is affected by two factors. First, the town centre of Romford has the second biggest nightclub capacity in the entire south-east of England, outside the west end. Secondly, Havering is the second biggest borough in London and has the most green belt, which brings its own problems. Those two factors bring enormous pressures to bear on the uniformed force. In my hon. Friend's discussions with the Metropolitan police authority and with the Mayor, will he draw those factors to their attention and bring pressure on them to increase the uniformed presence in Havering?

Mr. Ainsworth: My hon. Friend knows that there has been a substantial increase in recruitment to the Met. By the end of March 2003, the Metropolitan police service will have been allocated a total of 2,044 recruits from the resources of the crime fighting fund. I ask him to accept that it is very difficult for us to become involved in an internal review. It is right that there should be full consultation and that all genuine views and concerns are taken on board in deciding how exactly to place those police resources in the metropolitan area. As I said, I know that he has been involved and has represented his constituents, but I am not sure about the degree to which we should get involved from outside in the review or in the decision about where in the service those police resources need to be placed.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): Does the Minister agree that there is a trend, which is particularly evident in this year's allocation, in which funding of the police is being significantly shifted on to the council tax payer? For example, is he aware that in the Metropolitan police area, the precept per head falling on the council tax payer has increased by 141 per cent. since 1997?

Mr. Ainsworth: I am not sure that I do accept that. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the significant increases that have gone into the Metropolitan police service and others through the crime fighting fund. Obviously, matters such as the setting of the precept and the total council tax impact of any decisions are for the authority and others to decide, and not for the Government.

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