Report of the Joint Committee on European Affairs on European Aspects of the Drugs Issue: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann takes note of the report of the Joint Committee on European Affairs on European Aspects of the Drugs Issue.

I congratulate my colleagues, Deputy Gregory and Senator Ryan, the joint rapporteurs, on this report. It is encouraging for members of the committee, given their enthusiasm and dedication, that they should be given an opportunity to discuss the report in the House. It has been difficult to schedule such debates over the past few years because of time constraints. This is the fourth in a series of debates on committee reports which have been taken over a short period. That is appreciated, although there are a number of others to be debated.

As a former Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare and former member of the ministerial drugs task force, I am aware of the evolving problems related to the drugs issue. Against that background I was pleased that this report was included in the joint committee's work programme. Special provision for the drugs issue was made in the Amsterdam Treaty. In that context committee members felt that, given the increased incidence of drug abuse throughout the developed world, it was necessary and timely to take the issue on board. The committee set about its work in energetic and forthright fashion and Deputy Gregory will elaborate on that.

The committee received great co-operation from various agencies and bodies with which it held discussions. It would be easy to have a discussion for half an hour or an hour, write up a report and hope it is relevant, but intensive fieldwork, investigation and research was carried out. The report was published in January 1999 and an updated version will issue shortly – we also hope to bring that before the House.

The rapporteurs were also helped by the chairman and members of the national strategy committee on drugs, the health research board and by a presentation from former Commissioner, Padraig Flynn, who addressed a joint session of the Oireachtas Joint Committees on Health and Children and European Affairs in October 1998. I thank all the contributors for their help in the compilation of the report.

The report addresses the drugs issue in both a European context and a social and educational context. It outlines in detail the St. Gallen heroin addition programme in Switzerland, to which Deputy Gregory and others will refer. I also acknowledge the assistance given to the committee rapporteurs by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. The committee has also had discussions since the report's publication, which will be outlined in a further report. It is important that reports are updated on a regular basis because of the evolutionary nature of European legislation. They lack relevance when they are out of date.

The drugs issues comprises a number of frightening elements. It is an insidious, evasive problem which can assail all sectors of society and can pervade the entire social spectrum. A criminal element is involved which generates massive sums from the distribution of drugs. It behoves all of us to attempt to identify new methodologies to address the problem given the changing circumstances with which we are presented.

The report examines a number of them. All the methodologies that have been availed of to combat the drugs issues in terms of prevention, enforcement and treatment have been well and truly tried and tested. Some have worked while others have not but it is imperative that alternatives are examined on an ongoing basis, even on a trial basis, to ascertain what impact they may have. The report bears that out. Many of the recommendations in it are presented merely to enable the public and Members to make up their minds as to whether experimental ideas followed in other countries should be adopted. We can draw on some useful experiences but it is absolutely certain that whatever happens in regard to the drugs issue in terms of prevention, enforcement and treatment, every avenue must be examined in future to ascertain which is the most likely to succeed. I commend the report to the House.

I would like to make the following contribution on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Eoin Ryan. I welcome the debate for two reasons. First, it gives the House the opportunity to consider the report which has been prepared by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs and, second, it gives the House an opportunity to discuss our drugs policy here in Ireland. I am glad there appears to be a broad consensus on all sides of the House on the main thrust of that policy, which has developed largely from two excellent reports produced by the ministerial task force on measures to reduce the demand for drugs, as well as my party's policy document entitled A Radical Approach to Drugs and Drug Related Crime.

The Government is determined to tackle the drug problem effectively and has committed significant resources towards achieving this aim. Over £1 billion is earmarked in the national development plan to implement a range of social inclusion measures, including initiatives to respond to drug misuse.

As Deputies know, drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy are available in almost every town and young people everywhere are experimenting with them. However, in Dublin, where heroin is also available, we have the added problem of crime as drug users steal to feed their habit, as well as the spread of diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis contracted through the sharing of unclean needles.

The Government has put a comprehensive package of measures in place to tackle these problems. We have brought forward legislation to increase the powers of the Garda Síochána and other authorities to tackle organised crime and drug dealing. The Criminal Assets Bureau, in particular, is seen as an extremely effective weapon in our armoury against the drug barons. We are now denying those criminals the opportunity to enjoy the wealth they have amassed through inflicting misery on others. However, as those working with drug users know only too well, we cannot solve the problem simply by cutting off the supply of drugs. We must also put in place a range of education, awareness and other measures to prevent young people from turning to drugs in the first instance, as well as treatment and rehabilitation options for those who are already addicted.

Although the report of the Joint Committee on European Affairs refers to "unacceptably long waiting lists and a grossly inadequate programme of aftercare and rehabilitation", we have made significant strides over the past few years in providing new drug programmes and services. In fairness, the committee's report was compiled a year and a half ago, so it could not have taken account of the considerable progress that has been made in responding to the drug problem in the interim. Indeed, a recent independent evaluation of the Eastern Regional Health Authority's drug services found that it had made remarkable progress in developing and expanding its range of services in a very short space of time.

The numbers in treatment in the ERHA area, for example, have risen from about 1,400 in 1996 to nearly 4,500 this year, although unfortunately we have not yet reached the stage where we have eliminated the waiting lists completely. This is basically because more and more drug users who were previously unknown to the treatment services are now presenting for treatment as our services develop and expand. That, in itself, is a positive development as the more people we can encourage into treatment the better.

Some people might argue that there may be as many as 13,000 heroin users in Dublin and that, therefore, only about one third of them are in treatment. The reality, however, is somewhat different. It must be realised that not all heroin users are ready to present for treatment at any given time. Our aim must be to make sure that when they present themselves, the services are there for them. The ERHA, in whose area the vast majority of heroin users reside, estimates that if it provides a further five or six treatment centres it will be very close to eliminating the existing waiting lists. The ERHA's drug service plan for 2000 is geared towards this aim.

It also needs to be taken into account that the report of the Joint Committee on European Affairs was prepared before the excellent work of the local drugs task forces had an opportunity to impact fully in the areas in which they operate. The task forces have made considerable progress in the three years since their establishment. As a result of initiatives developed through them, we have set up nearly 50 support and advice centres for drug users and their families. More than 4,000 drug users and 3,000 families have availed of these services. In addition, nearly 350 schools have participated in drug awareness programmes with about 6,000 school children being involved in these programmes. Some 350 teachers have received training and more than 300 youth groups have run drug prevention initiatives.

Training programmes have been delivered to 1,300 community workers, 1,200 parents and 1,300 young people outside the school setting. Over 160 resource materials, such as videos, leaflets, and brochures with drug awareness messages have been developed and disseminated in all the task force areas. This represents a significant achievement and I would like to take this opportunity to put on the record my thanks and appreciation to the State agencies and, of course, the voluntary and community groups which have brought this to fruition through their work on the task forces. In particular, I wish to thank the voluntary and community representatives who have given so generously of their time and energy.

I also wish to thank the national drugs strategy team for its excellent contribution in overseeing and supporting the work of the task forces. An independent evaluation of the local drugs task forces, undertaken in 1998, confirmed that they have been a huge success. The evaluation found that they had achieved a number of notable successes over a very short period, not least in the manner in which they have reduced the isolation and frustration previously felt by many in the communities where the drug problem is at its worst.

I am sure that the Deputies who work in these areas will have noticed a marked increase in the morale of community and voluntary drug workers since the setting up of the task forces. I am pleased to see that Deputies from all parties and Independent Members are now participating in the work of the task forces. I know that elected representatives can considerably enhance the effectiveness of the task forces through their intimate knowledge and experience of drug issues in their areas.

Like other speakers, I compliment the Joint Committee on European Affairs on the work it has done in compiling this important report. In particular, the work undertaken by Deputy Gregory and my party colleague Senator Ryan, the rapporteurs, was excellent. I compliment both of them on their efforts. The report itself is clear, concise and accessible. It contains important, up-to-date facts and figures concerning drugs across Europe. Such information is essential for an informed and objective debate.

Before speaking about the report's contents and recommendations, I wish to say a few words about the spread of illegal drug use in Ireland in recent years. I have been deeply involved in sport all my life through my association with sports clubs and the GAA in particular. I would like to think that I have a reasonable idea of the threat currently facing young people as a result of drug abuse. Illegal drugs pose a grave danger to a whole generation of Irish youth. The issue must receive priority attention from this House and from the Government.

Until a decade ago illegal drugs were relatively rare in rural towns. The drugs trade was largely confined to major urban areas, with Dublin bearing the brunt of the appalling destruction heroin can wreak on working class communities. In the 1980s, I recall reading a book entitled Smack by journalists Seán Flynn and Padraic Yates. This ground-breaking publication laid bare the violence and tragedy surrounding the drugs scene in our capital city. Even today that book makes chilling reading.Since the 1980s, however, the nature of the drug trade in Ireland has changed substantially. Drugs, especially cannabis and ecstasy, are now readily available in towns across rural Ireland. The major drug gangs have spread their evil beyond the confines of major cities and every community and family must be aware and vigilant about the drugs threat. The use of illegal drugs has been a truly national issue for many years and this report is an important contribution to the debate on the way policy should respond in the face of this problem.

In addition to the use of illegal drugs, I compliment the committee on including in the report a section on the alarming increase in tobacco and alcohol use among Irish youth. It is important to recognise the horrific damage these legal drugs are inflicting on our population and I fully endorse the committee's recommendations that urge the Government to address the high levels of abuse of these two drugs among young people in particular.

Following extensive consultations with a variety of experts, the committee made a number of sensible and rational recommendations which deserve to be given urgent consideration by the House. It is right and proper that a committee of this House should examine the European context of drug abuse. Recent changes to the European treaties, especially the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties, give the European Union an increasing role in what are termed "third pillar" issues. It is now a fact of our membership of the European Union that a greater degree of co-ordination between member states in relation to justice and home affairs matters will occur over the coming years. Given these developments, the policies and practices of our European neighbours in relation to drug issues should be examined by policy makers.

The committee has made six recommendations. The first is a structural matter in relation to the manner in which we co-ordinate our national policy towards drug abuse. It is a proposal which I know has existed for a number of years and I hope the committee's endorsement of this proposal will spur the Government to action. In particular, I wholeheartedly endorse the recommendation that a sub-group on drugs in prisons be established.

Earlier this year my colleague, Deputy McManus, published a comprehensive document on health care in Irish prisons. I urge the Minister to closely examine that excellent document. Unless our prisons have a comprehensive drug rehabilitation programme, the vicious cycle of drugs, poverty and crime will never be broken.

I welcome the recent if somewhat belated announcement by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, in relation to drug courts. I urge the Government to bring a comprehensive report on the operation of that system before the House following its first 12 months in operation.

The report of the committee rightly underlines yet again the intractable link between heroin abuse and poverty. Given the experience which both Deputy Gregory and Senator Ryan have in working with severely disadvantaged communities, I hope their conclusion will convince the Government that at a time of unprecedented economic boom, the fruits of that boom should be used to launch an all-out assault on the scandal of poverty which still blights Irish society.

I also urge the Minister to accept the emphasis the committee makes in regard to tackling disadvantage at primary school level. One of the most deeply depressing interviews I ever heard on radio was with a priest from an inner city parish of Dublin a number of years ago. The priest told how, at the Christening of an infant in his parish, he knew that the child would more than likely end up a victim of drug abuse by his teenage years unless the political system woke up to the urgency of the crisis. There is a moral and political obligation on this Government and subsequent Governments to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to education and employment. Diverting extra resources to primary schools which suffer enormous disadvantage and are at the heart of communities that have borne the brunt of drug abuse for years is absolutely imperative.

I want to refer to the fifth recommendation of the committee which calls for an informed debate on cannabis use. I am totally opposed to any relaxing of the law in relation to drugs, and that includes cannabis. I have no opposition to an informed debate but I am utterly opposed to any proposal which would increase the amount of drugs available in society. That is the wrong way to approach the problem. Eradicating drug abuse, rather than regulating it, is the only sane and rational way to proceed. I compliment the committee on its report and I urge the Government to take action on foot of it.

Like previous speakers, I compliment the chairman of the European Affairs committee and the rapporteurs, Deputy Gregory and Senator Ryan, for bringing forward the report and providing us with an opportunity to debate it.

One of the first engagements the European Affairs committee had shortly after being set up was to go to Brussels to meet the Commissioner in charge of that particular portfolio who was very exercised about two issues. The first was the major problem of dealing with trafficking in drugs and in human beings. She was so exercised she was at the stage where she did not quite know what to do about it.

This country has made significant strides in tackling that issue, and I compliment previous Governments also in that regard. Deputy Gregory knows as well as I do about the enormous problems we had with heroin in the 1980s, which still exist, but we are now more conscious of the need to deal with those and we are devising strategies which are quite effective. The European aspect of the problem has been brought home to us by the spate of gangland murders and what would appear to be, in an incident in my constituency, a copycat murder last weekend. I compliment the Garda on the prosecution of that particular case and hope there will shortly be a successful conclusion to it.

There are a variety of initiatives in this area that are working well. Deputy Gregory and myself are members of the Finglas and Cabra drugs task forces and I am also a member of the Ballymun drugs task force. I am aware of the previous plans and also of the plans that have been prepared for the period from now until 2006 to deal with issues. Innovative programmes have been proposed and others are already in place. The youth services facilities fund has made a remarkable contribution and I compliment the Government for setting aside substantial funds to provide programmes and facilities in areas where little or nothing existed previously.

We are doing well in the areas of prevention and enforcement and I compliment the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for introducing a raft of quite draconian legislation. I heard a commentator on radio last week compliment the Government on its legislative measures in this area and calling them the best in western Europe.

Deputy Wall referred to the drug courts. I understand from the Minister that work is progressing quickly and the planning group is ready to bring forward its proposal. I look forward to that as another initiative in the area of drugs prevention. The Garda's clean streets campaigns, which are ongoing, are very effective and gardaí are engaging more seriously with local communities. They work on drugs task forces and on various community initiatives.

The level of awareness of the issue is much higher than it was previously. That has a lot to do with programmes that are being delivered through schools. The CYC in Dublin, the Dublin Youth Services Board, the National Youth Council and teachers in schools are delivering the various programmes which have been devised by the Department of Education and Science, and they are making a significant impact.

On the issue of treatment, perhaps I am speaking prematurely but in most cases we are a lot more mature now in examining the way treatment services are provided. As the Minister said in his contribution, with five or six more treatment centres in the Dublin area we will be close to reaching the majority of those in need of treatment. Many people would say we are only managing the problem. We are far from reducing the levels of abusers. Programmes are constantly being brought forward. I compliment the Finglas South and the Project West community development projects for producing an extremely user friendly drug awareness and front-line training pack, called DAFT, which I had the pleasure of launching in Finglas last week. That raises issues about a whole range of drugs and it does not pull any punches about the dangers. It refers to a major problem that we need to seriously address, namely, the major abuse of alcohol by very young children. I know that is addressed in the Intoxicating Liquor Bill but I am appalled at the level of abuse of alcohol by young people and the ready availability of alcohol, in cans or bottles, in shops. It is a major problem.

I compliment the Government on its initiative in further increasing tobacco prices. The issue of methadone maintenance is important but we mentioned in the report that it might not be the most effective intervention. Some 300,000 drug users in Europe are on this form of treatment but it is only effective when backed up by other services such as counselling, training and so on. The key priority in future years must be to develop those services. An encouraging trend is the number of people on methadone who are finding employment. The most recent evaluation by the eastern regional health authority's treatment service, to which the Minister referred, found that in some treatment centres some 40% of those on methadone are now working. There are initiatives in communities like mine where such people are now able to go on training programmes and progress to employment. Arguably the stability that methadone has brought to their lives has allowed these people to seek out employment and hold down a job in much the same manner as any person on treatment for a long-term medical condition. This proves that, provided they receive treatment and other supports necessary to their well-being, drug users can effect a full recovery and return to a full and normal life.

Many drug users in my constituency end up in Mountjoy. A vast number of them are young and, from visiting them, I know they are dragged into the drug culture there. I compliment the Minister for Justice on bringing forward proposals to have drug free areas in our prisons. It is necessary that the range of services available in the community are made available in prisons. There must be prevention so that drugs cannot be brought in, an awareness of the problem and an educational process so that when prisoners are discharged they can look forward to counselling, training and backup. My experience is that when they are discharged from prison they get back into the drug cycle. Very often when they come out of prison unfortunately they are more serious drug abusers than they were when they went to prison.

Like Deputy Wall I have a problem with the issue of cannabis. I believe it is a gateway drug. We should not move in the direction of legalising it although I do not mind having a debate on the matter. I remain to be convinced that we should legalise it. I was very impressed when we visited the Swiss project in St. Gallen where heroin is prescribed in very controlled and clinical conditions.

Will the Deputy propose it here?

No, I will not. It may well be possible to look at it as an intervention at some stage but we are far away from that now. We also mentioned setting up an independent body in the report. It was set up on an interim basis by Deputy Flood when he was Minister. I learned recently that the Minister of State, Deputy Ryan, is bringing forward proposals for a national drugs advisory committee. These measures and others such as further moneys for the Youth Services Fund and the expansion of models that have been proved to be successful in drug task force areas would be useful. I know there are areas outside of the drug task force areas that are in need of such interventions. I welcome the opportunity to discuss the report which, without being prejudiced, is a good one and merits attention.

I also welcome the opportunity to discuss the report. However, as has been pointed out by the chairman of the committee it is dated January 1999. The work involved in putting it together took place in 1998 and the people who came before the committee did so in that year. It is a pity the time was not available before now to have even this limited debate on the report. However, as the chairman of the Committee on European Affairs has indicated, we are committed to continuing this work and hope to have a second report ready later this year. I hope that will be debated in the House at a more appropriate time.

The report managed to escape the notice of the media. To the best of my knowledge there was not any reference to acknowledge that such reports are part of the more productive work of Members of this House. One journalist who specialises in assessing the work of Members of the Dáil admitted to me that he was not even aware of the existence of the report. That point is worth making because a great deal of valuable work is done by committees and, though it is for others to assess, I hope this report will be considered to be valuable.

We have heard only positive contributions so far and I suppose somebody must be negative. Despite the time span since the committee discussed and agreed this report, its first and principal recommendation, accepted by the Government, has not been implemented. It is not difficult to implement it. Page 31 of the report refers to the independent expert or advisory group and states:

Rapporteurs fully accept that any definitive report on specific aspects of the drugs problem is beyond the scope of the European Affairs Committee. Our role is primarily to assemble authoritative information, draw attention to deficiencies in the Irish response to the problem and raise issues which require a more informed approach. Clearly what makes our work all the more difficult is the glaring absence of any independent expert group in Ireland with the necessary expertise to provide an overview of the totality of the problem. Ireland appears to be the only EU country without such an independent advisory council. The establishment of such a group is an absolute priority if we are to develop a satisfactory policy response to the crises. Such an authoritative group could provide an informed and objective voice on the specific aspects of the drugs issue as they arise. The present and previous Governments have committed themselves to the establishment of such a group but so far have not kept that commitment. The resulting vacuum can lead to self-styled experts representing no-one, and with no apparent expertise, portraying instead purely propagandist positions. This is most harmful to the proper understanding of the drugs problem.

The second report of the Ministerial Task Force on measures to reduce the demand for drugs in May 1997 recommended the establishment of an advisory body to conduct research into the causes, effects, trends, etc. of drug misuse and to evaluate the effectiveness of different models of treatment. We strongly advise, as a matter of urgency, that an independent expert body be established. This body could then work in co-operation with the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction and Ireland might then make a more positive contribution to the development of a common European strategy on the issue.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the former Minister of State, Deputy Flood, who had responsibility for the drugs issue when we were drawing up the report. There is support for this proposal. I know the Government is actively involved but it has been actively involved in setting up this body for a considerable time. It is an urgent issue. It still has not been set up.

On a point of information, the draft proposals have been circulated to Departments and will be before Government very shortly.

I accept what the Minister says. Unfortunately we have been listening to this from a variety of ministerial sources for quite a while.

They have been circulated.

I accept that but it is painfully slow progress. I ask the Minister to speed up the process and implement it. I ask the Minister to ensure that when it is implemented it is a genuinely independent expert group with adequate representation from the voluntary community sector, in line with the spirit of partnership which has developed in response to the drugs crisis. The longer this drags on, the more urgent it becomes. Essential research is not being carried out.

In the same context, I wish to refer to the recently established Prisons Authority which has set up a steering committee on the drugs issue that has representatives of all the statutory agencies involved. So far, however, it has no representatives of the voluntary community sector. This is a serious omission. There should be no exceptions to the partnership approach. There is a vital link between the community and prison and this must be represented on the steering committee. I ask the Minister to ensure this happens. For too long we have had the incredible situation of prisoners on treatment in prison getting temporary release and being unable to access treatment outside, with the inevitable consequences. Many of these prisoners' first port of call when they leave prison is a local community project. The community link must be represented on the steering committee and I ask that this is done.

I thank those who participated or assisted in the production of this report, which, at the time of its publication, was a useful document and a mechanism whereby key personnel in the drugs area were able to highlight important aspects of the problem of concern to them. My biggest disappointment has been my inability to convince the Department of Education and Science that educational resources in disadvantaged areas are of the utmost importance if we are to respond adequately to the heroin crisis which stems from social exclusion. There is still no specific strategy to target additional educational resources into designated drugs task force areas, especially at primary level. On the many occasions I raised this issue with the former Minister for Education and Science I was unable to get the message through – perhaps it was a deficiency on my part.

The only significant step taken in recent years was the introduction of the Breaking the Cycle scheme by the previous Government – this was introduced in far too few schools and only in junior classes. I do not have time to read into the record pages 23 to 25 of this report which deal briefly with social and educational disadvantage. I recently visited St. Joseph's national school in East Wall, in the north inner city drugs task force area, which is facing the loss of a teacher because the number of pupils has decreased slightly. As a result, some classes will have 37 children. This is in the docklands area where we are told there are great opportunities and there is a need for education and training. I hate being negative on this issue but when I see that, I think very little has changed. I ask the Minister to raise this at the special Cabinet sub-committee on social inclusion which develops strategies to deal with social exclusion. If teachers continue to be taken from disadvantaged inner city schools like this, we will never resolve the problem of social exclusion or the heroin problem which stems from it.

The current strategy on the drugs crisis began in the aftermath of the murder of Veronica Guerin, which was preceded by a series of gangland murders. Recent months have seen a similar and increasing series of gangland murders, to which Deputy Pat Carey referred.

Deputy, your time is concluded.

I do not have time to deal with all the issues, including the controversial heroin prescription centre in St. Gallen in Switzerland. Perhaps I will deal with that on another occasion.

I thank the Minister and my colleagues for their participation in the debate. All Members referred to the concerns of those who have been afflicted by drugs and those who have been involved in the drugs issue. I will briefly deal with the Amsterdam and Swiss experiments which have been referred to by experts on all sides in the past few years. Both of these experiments unfortunately failed, the Swiss one on the basis that it was overly liberalised. It had to come to an end because it was abused and visitors converged on the area to participate and avail of the liberal regime which applied there. This was replaced by the St. Gallen experiment where the medical and educational authorities and the police took control, brought people into a programme and continued to give them a methadone type of treatment but with the hard drugs to which they were previously accustomed. This experiment is ongoing and the jury is still out. The Amsterdam experiment was the most liberalised and virtually everything was allowed. The jury came in on that a considerable time ago.

Various methods will be identified as a means of attempting to deal with the problem. This means that innovative methodology will have to be used. This must be done as we have to try everything. Education in the context of prevention was referred to by numerous speakers. The purpose of educating the young is to get them away from reliance on drugs and point out the dangers. This is very difficult in areas of serious deprivation where the drugs scene is all around them. Peer pressure is greater when young people are involved in drugs. A young person needs considerable support to break away from this. There must be incentives to do this and I hope these are being provided.

Members also mentioned prevention and enforcement. This is undertaken by cutting off the supply as far as possible. There is an argument that liberalisation and legalisation will resolve the problem. This did not happen in the Swiss or Dutch experiments, the reverse was the case. We must think about eliminating as far as possible the operations of the racketeers and drug barons who have been operating here, with horrendous consequences, for many years. I compliment the gardaí and other agencies for their work which is effective now that some pressure has been brought to bear. As Deputy Carey said, recently there has been a spate of what appears to be tit-for-tat killings which is worrying, to say the least. Serious consideration must be given to air and sea surveillance because this country is noted for the ports and havens into which it is relatively easy to smuggle large consignments of drugs. We must put more of an effort into this, especially since we have more coast to look after than any other EU country, with the exception of our neighbours, the UK.

On the effectiveness of treatment programmes, we can only do our best with the resources, facilities and the most modern technology and ideas available. There should also be an ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of any treatments – cold turkey, methadone or any other – to ensure they are up to date and effective.

Question put and agreed to.