I visited the United States from 7 to 14 April. I had very useful discussions with, among others, representatives of several Federal Departments and agencies. These ranged over many issues, including the forefeiture of drug traffickers' assets, American experience of the cocaine problem and international aspects.
Did my hon. Friend's visit convince him that the drugs problem, particularly with cocaine, can become considerably worse here, and shows signs of doing so, and that the various radical actions that he proposes should be taken now and not delayed until it is too late?
Since returning from the United States, I have tried to play a full part in alerting the public to the problem of the glut of cocaine available in South America and likely to be diverted from the American to the British market. Already, a considerable response has been evident, notably in the formation of two customs teams specifically to deal with cocaine. Cocaine seizures this year are much higher than they were last year. That is a measure of success, but we intend to be diligent on this vital topic.
Did the Minister examine what is happening in Florida with the treatment of misusers of drugs—cocaine in particular—who need rehabilitation? Will he discuss with the Secretary of State for Social Services the present cut in the provision of clinics for the treatment of those who, unfortunately, become addicts?
Far from there being a cut, there has been an increase in such facilities, brought about by the allocation of £11.5 million from the DHSS and the encouragement that my right hon. Friend has been giving to regional and district health authorities to develop these facilities. He is requiring them to send details of their proposals to the Department, and their responses will be published shortly so that the public can judge the adequacy of the response of each individual health district to this important problem.
I urge on my hon. Friend the importance of hitting drug traffickers where it hurts—in the pocket. To that end, can we have the hope of early legislation for forfeiture of assets and for dealing with money laundering?
These are matters of first importance, not just to my hon. Friend, but to the Government. I assure her that we are actively considering, and reaching final conclusions on, legislation to do what she requires.
By the fact that more people are taking drugs. The problem is well known throughout the Western world. As usual, the hon. Gentleman is trying to reduce the quality of what is otherwise a non-partisan debate to make spurious political points. The increase in drug-taking straddled two Governments and will not be resolved by the petty points that the hon. Gentleman delights in making.