I am afraid that, while I obviously welcome some of the hon. Lady’s pleasure at what we are doing in the plan and I recognise, as she does, the need for some action, these exchanges between us have a slightly tiresome pattern, if I may say so, which is that I announce some new initiative and the hon. Lady starts talking about the events of 12 years ago, somehow implying that we are not really doing anything at all. Even if I accepted her premise about the pattern over the last 10 years—which, for the record, I do not—it would be refreshing, would it not, if she and her party were willing to accept some culpability for the financial situation that we inherited well over a decade ago. Somebody had to sort out the finances of this country, as we had to in 1979 as well, and if we had not done that and sorted out the money side of it then, I hesitate to imagine what financial situation we would be in now.
While the hon. Lady points to the pattern of consumption, she strangely seems to forget that drug consumption now is well below the level it was in many of the years of the previous Labour Government. In fact, consumption of class A did not really start to turn in this country till about 2014, not 2011, as she pointed out. That was because the industry, as it were, or the business of drug distribution reacted as any business would: it found different products and new ways to distribute, made products cheaper and stronger, and started to exploit people in a way we had not seen before.
We commissioned Dame Carol Black to do this study. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who has just left the Chamber, commissioned it when he was the Home Secretary, because we recognised the alarm being caused in neighbourhoods, towns, cities and villages across the country, and we wanted to do something about it. That plan has now resulted in our strategy that we are publishing today, and we firmly believe it will make a big difference over the next decade.
The hon. Lady should not imagine—and I slightly take umbrage at her accusation—that we have sat on our hands more recently. As you will know, Mr Deputy Speaker, over the last two years that I have been in this job, I have dedicated myself to the Prime Minister’s command that we should roll up county lines. We have closed 1,500 deal lines, which has resulted in 7,400 arrests and, importantly, over 4,000 young people have been rescued from the clutches of those gangs. [Interruption.] I hope she, and her colleagues muttering at me, will welcome those results and, frankly, congratulate the police on manufacturing a modus operandi of dealing with these gangs that is often dismantling them permanently.
The three big exporting forces of London, West Midlands and Merseyside have seen significant investment by the Government over the last two years to deal with this problem, and as a result, we have seen big falls. If we look at a county like Norfolk, only 18 months ago it had well over 100 county lines, and the number of county lines in that county can be counted on the fingers of two hands. There have been great results across the country, and I am disappointed that the hon. Lady has not recognised that. So the idea that somehow there was some dithering on drugs is completely unfair. We have closed down a large number of deal lines, but there is still a long way to go. We think we are down to about 600 active lines now across the country, and that over the next two years, with the investment we have put in place, we will be able to drive them down even further.
The hon. Lady did ask an interesting question about the role of telecommunications companies and the use of technology. One of the things we have learned over the last two or three years is that these businesses, as it were, of distributing drugs are uniquely vulnerable because of their use of telecoms to distribute, market and communicate with their customers. We will be talking to telecommunications companies about how they can help us.
On the hon. Lady’s final accusation that this is not about levelling up, we know that the impact of drugs has been disproportionate across the country. The north-east, for example, suffers much more than any other part of England. Again, Blackpool, where we have put a Project ADDER and where we are doing significant work, has the highest number of drug deaths in England. There is a disproportionality out there, and we are determined to address it. We will start our work in those kinds of areas, and that will be a key part of our levelling-up agenda in the years to come.