Drug Crime

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 20th April 2022.

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Photo of Robbie Moore Robbie Moore Conservative, Keighley 2:30 pm, 20th April 2022

I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention, and I do agree. We have to take a hard-line approach to those evil members of society who get involved in drug distribution and supply. However, we also need a twin-track approach, which is what the Government have provided through the plan they announced last year—I will come on to that—where we provide support to individuals who get trapped in the system and those who need it.

In my constituency, there have been many instances of drug crime over the past few months and incidents where the police have got involved. Just this morning Sergeant Dave Purcell from our local neighbourhood policing team, along with his colleagues, carried out an early-morning raid and seized cannabis seedlings from an address in the Highfield area of Keighley with an estimated street value of £130,000. That is not the first instance where that has happened; in one instance last year, six men from Keighley were arrested and five cars and £10,000 in cash were seized, as well as weapons such as CS spray and knuckledusters. A staggering 500 wraps of class A drugs were found on those individuals, which they wanted to sell to good people in my constituency who were getting trapped in the system of taking drugs.

Of course, we must also focus on drug distribution. Last year, I was contacted by two constituents who informed me that they had video evidence of one of our local taxi firms using its network to distribute drugs. I went to meet them after a surgery meeting and saw that video footage for myself before passing it on to West Yorkshire police. That illustrates that drug distribution is an organised crime that is happening right across my constituency and the wider country. On the point about taxi firms being used for drug distribution, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Peter Gibson for his Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Bill, which contains vital measures that will help restore better licensing provisions, which will operate across the country, as opposed to local authorities dealing with licensing through a siloed approach.

Those examples show that there are undeniable issues in my constituency, which are all related to drug crime. Some local factors exist, some of which are related to geographical area. Keighley is right on the periphery of West Yorkshire, bordering North Yorkshire, and on the periphery of three different local authorities. We closely border North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Calderdale, meaning that county lines drug gangs are a real challenge for my constituency. Because we border two local police areas, drug gangs can use our geographical position to get away with drug dealing undetected, or are not as easily detected, by the police. In one instance, a county lines gang was found to be using rail network links, using Keighley train station to ferry drugs across the border into Skipton.

Often, the evil leaders of supply operations exploit hapless addicts of class A drugs to ensure they have street runners to sell drugs for huge sums, in return for drugs to feed those addicts’ habits or even for a reduction in their debt for the drugs already supplied to them. Innocent people can be drawn by gangs into these bad habits from a very young age, and have their lives ruined by their involvement in this criminal activity.

Drug dealing links to other crimes: members of these gangs are often the same people who are the perpetrators of gang-related grooming and child sexual exploitation—an issue that has haunted my constituency for far too long, and one that I will continue to talk about. They blackmail their victims by exposing them to this criminal activity of drug dealing, which fuels other forms of antisocial behaviour, some of which I have already described.

Violence involving drug gangs has caused disorder and criminal damage in particular areas of Keighley, such as Westburn Avenue. We have two predominant drug gangs within Keighley, who will openly challenge and take one another on in broad daylight. Unfortunately, residents of Westburn Avenue have been exposed to that behaviour, but it is not restricted to that area: it happens in the Highfield area, the Showfield area, and the Lawkholme Lane area of Keighley as well.

That makes people afraid and puts them off coming into Keighley, which is a really good, attractive place. We want to encourage more people to come into Keighley, but we have to address some of these darker, underlying issues. In one tragic case, a man was stabbed to death after challenging a teenage drug dealer to his face about what he was trying to do—selling drugs to a 14-year-old boy. Urgent action and urgent change are needed for the sake of my town and, I am sure, the constituencies of other Members present. We need to talk about this and make sure that when announcements are made at a national level they filter down to our constituents and that our constituents then see real change being delivered at a local level.

Of course, these issues are not just restricted to urban environments; drugs are very much an issue in our rural settings as well. I represent a very urban fringe seat with some really rural parts to it, and I know that drug dealing happens in some of the remotest parts of my constituency as well.

It saddens me to say that when I was first elected to this place, one of the first constituency meetings I had was with a father who came along to tell me that his 13-year-old son had come home from school one day saying, in all innocence, “Dad, I know exactly what I want to do when I’m older,” and that was to become a drug dealer. That was not because his 13-year-old did not know the difference between right and wrong but because he thought drug dealing was something good to aspire to, because he had seen people driving around Keighley in blacked-out, fancy cars. We all know what those individuals are driving and we know where the money comes from to facilitate this activity.

That father was heartbroken that he was coming to me to raise those concerns, but that story gets to the bottom of this issue. This is about raising aspiration for communities such as the one I represent, so that we are not only taking a hard-line approach against drug dealing and providing the necessary support for those who get into the unfortunate situation of taking drugs, but ensuring, alongside all of that, that when we talk about levelling up we are raising aspirations for our constituents and their young families as well.

I was pleased to welcome the Home Secretary to Keighley only a week or so ago. I had had many conversations with her myself, and she met my local neighbourhood policing team to discuss some of the very open challenges we have on the ground. It was great for her to meet Inspector John Barker, as well as some of our police community support officers and members of the police team who are doing incredible work in Keighley.

I welcome the work the Government are doing to tackle this issue, because they want to tackle it head-on. At the end of last year, I was pleased that they unveiled a 10-year plan to clamp down completely on drug crime in our cities, towns and villages, backed by millions of pounds of investment. Of course, that involves a plan to stop the cycle of crime that is driven by addiction, to keep violence out of communities and to save lives by reducing the number of drug-related deaths and homicides.

The Government will also target the violent county lines gang-related issue, which I have already mentioned, making sure that the UK has a strategy that can be adopted by our police forces to make sure that we tackle some of the issues that exist in communities that are geographically challenged, with different police forces, different local authorities and different organisations working cross-boundary. I was also pleased to see that a new commission will be set up to rebuild drug treatment and recovery services to help those who have fallen into this dire situation.

Perhaps most importantly and most encouragingly, though, the Government will put in place a strategy that will educate children comprehensively about the dangers of getting into drugs, and that needs to happen at an early age. Interventions will happen to stop young children from getting dragged into the dangerous life of drug crime.

All the points that I have picked up on are very much to do with the Home Office, the Department for Education and, of course, the Department of Health, but what work is being done at Government level on collaboration between those three Departments, to ensure that when a national policy is announced an average constituent of mine will really feel a tangible change?