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Drug Trafficking

Volume 128: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1988

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10.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he is satisfied with the action taken against drug trafficking in the British dependencies of the Caribbean; and what action the Government are taking to facilitate international co-ordinated action against the drug trade in the Caribbean as a whole.

We have taken the lead in promoting co-operation to combat drug trafficking and strengthen drug law enforcement both in our dependencies and in independent Caribbean states. Next week we will be jointly hosting a Caribbean regional drug law enforcement conference in Barbados to discuss ways of improving co-operation further.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the big money involved in drugs can easily corrupt small countries. Is this not an area where we should co-operate urgently with our American friends?

Yes, indeed. One Caribbean Prime Minister has said to me that he regards drug traffickers as the biggest single threat to the long-term stability of his country. We are working very closely with the Americans; indeed, they are a co-host of the conference next week.

Will the Minister tell the House whether there is any truth in the story in The Times of 27 February that Sir Lynden Pindling, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, has been receiving millions of dollars from drug-smuggling cartels for laundering? Indeed, it is said that the British Turks and Caicos Islands are also being used as a major drug-trafficking area. Will he tell us whether these stories in The Times are true? Does he agree that if the United States Government did something to cut down on the market for drugs within their own country supplies would not come from the Caribbean or Latin America?

Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman is behind the game. The whole attitude that he is putting forward, of it being the fault of the consumer countries or of the producer countries, has long since passed. There was an important conference in Vienna as long ago as last June when all countries — producing countries, countries involved in trafficking and consuming countries—agreed to co-ordinate the fight against drugs. Because drugs are a common threat, we have to have a common action plan against them.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in the light of experience in the Turks and Caicos Islands, it is dangerous to give independence to small dependencies because they can easily come under the influence of the major drug barons without being able to protect themselves?

My hon. Friend is right to point to the fact that the then Chief Minister of the Turks and Caicos was convicted of a drugs offence in the United States. We have since that time strengthened the resources available in that territory against the threat of drug traffickers. I know that my hon. Friend is aware of the announcement that I made just before Christmas about our policy on independence in the remaining dependent territories.