Drugs Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:33 am on 9th November 2001.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 9:33 am, 9th November 2001

As the law to date has been so relatively ineffective, I doubt whether it has made much difference at all, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman would agree that logic points to the need for the Proceeds of Crime Bill—to which the Liberal Democrats gave a reasonable response on Second Reading—and to the principle that attacking the profits made by the organisations that supply our communities with such substances can be a very big tool, which has been massively underused historically in this country.

We are seizing increasing amounts of class A drugs, including multi-tonne seizures of cocaine upstream. Police forces in the west midlands are piloting a project from which we will be able to develop a model for tackling the supply of drugs between the ports and the local communities. The project is funded with money confiscated from drugs traffickers.

We continue to play a leading role in the international campaign to combat the world trade in illegal drugs. We are concentrating on heroin and cocaine as the drugs that cause the greatest harm. During the year 1999–2000, we contributed some £8.5 million to overseas anti-drugs assistance.

As a major contributor to the United Nations international drugs control programme, we support alternative development projects such as those in Colombia. We are working closely with our European partners to drive forward an EU drugs strategy, and we continue to assist EU applicant countries on drugs issues.

Right hon. and hon. Members will know that Afghanistan is by far the largest single supplier of heroin. It produced 70 per cent. of the world's opium in 2000, and 90 per cent. of heroin in the United Kingdom originates there. Although it is true that the cultivation of the opium poppy all but ceased last year in Taliban-controlled areas, levels of trafficking remained high throughout that period and significant stockpiles exist. In the light of the current military situation in Afghanistan, we are keeping a close watch on changing circumstances and the possible effect on supplies of heroin to the United Kingdom. Although some people seem to think that the Taliban's decision to discontinue cultivation was due to some high motivation, there is absolutely no evidence that the amount of drugs leaving the country tailed off during the period when cultivation stopped. That may have been an exercise in getting rid of an over-extensive stockpile.