Drugs Trafficking

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th May 1989.

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Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes 12:00 am, 11th May 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what amounts of money have been forfeited under the Drug Trafficking Offences Act since it came into operation.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I understand that the courts have made confiscation orders for more than £8 million since the Drug Trafficking Offences Act came into force in January 1987.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

While my right hon. Friend should be congratulated on that and on the extensions of the Act; in his bilateral agreements with other Governments, may I urge him to maximise the procedures by extending those activities nationally and internationally? In addition, may I put to him the need to apply the funds so seized to the research and special projects that are required to battle against drug misuse and drug trafficking, as was so ably pointed out in an Adjournment debate only last week by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery)?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I hope that the meeting of Ministers dealing with drugs in London next week will enable me to apply some more powerful persuasion to some of our allies and partners to pass their own legislation for confiscating assets and to reach agreement with us on that. We must try to put the resources where they are needed—for example, in adding again to the number of officers in regional crime squads. That cannot be done simply on the basis of windfall profits. The police argue—with some force—that under the present system they find it difficult to meet the cost of, for example, the foreign travel needed for some overseas investigations, or to finance the rewards that they seek to pay, and the we are looking at the ideas that they have put forward.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth , Knowsley North

Does the Home Secretary agree that it is important not only that this money be recycled to assist the police but that it is used to help voluntary agencies that provide advice and support to drug addicts?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I agree with the hon. Gentleman and I am therefore glad that spending on drug misuse services in England will have risen by £5 million from £9 million last year to £14 million this year.

Photo of Mr Fergus Montgomery Mr Fergus Montgomery , Altrincham and Sale

If the American Government can operate a system whereby the ill-gotten gains of drug smugglers are put to the good use of fighting the battle against drugs, why cannot we do that in Britain?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

That question might properly be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The answer is that we try to put the resources where they are needed and that cannot be done on the basis of the profit that happens to accrue from the legislation. For example, we have added 229 police officers to the drugs wings of regional crime squads on the basis of where we think that they are needed, and we are adding another 20 this year. It would be difficult to do that if we were operating on the windfall basis.

Photo of Mr Stuart Randall Mr Stuart Randall , Kingston upon Hull West

What new or special measures are the Government taking to control the introduction into the United Kingdom of the drug crack, which is highly addictive and is spreading exceedingly rapidly in the United States? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the reported 14 per cent. increase last year in the number of registered addicts is at least one measure of the failure of the Government's policy to combat drug abuse?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The hon. Gentleman cannot deal with the matter in that vein. Of course, he is perfectly right in that the warnings that we receive from the United States and, in particular the anxieties expressed to me in Italy and Spain in the past few months, are among the reasons why I put cocaine, with crack as its derivative, at the top of the agenda of the meeting of Ministers that I have called next week in London. We must take more action in the growing countries in Latin America, and the hon. Gentleman will know of the United Kingdom's initiative on that. We have to insist on the continuance of frontier checks at our seaports and airports after 1992 and, as the hon. Gentleman said, we have to be active within our own towns and cities. We need defence in depth in all three of those areas.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway , Ryedale

Is my right hon. Friend aware that three times as much cocaine was seized in the first three months of this year as in the whole of 1988? That demonstrates the seriousness of the drug abuse problem, but does it not also show that the enforcement agencies are being successful in tackling this serious crime?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Yes, indeed. There have been some notable operations, and some operations are going on now. My hon. Friend is right on both counts. It shows the continuing seriousness of the situation and the House might like to study the evidence given by my Department to the Select Committee on Home Affairs yesterday, which I shall be developing at the conference next week.