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Drug Interdiction (Caribbean)

Volume 454: debated on Monday 11 December 2006

15. If he will make a statement on the interdiction of narcotics by the Royal Navy in the Caribbean. (105387)

The Royal Navy makes a significant contribution to international counter-drugs operations in the Caribbean. During 2005-06, Royal Navy vessels stationed in the Caribbean were involved in the seizure of more than 14 tonnes of cocaine with a UK street value of approximately £1 billion. Royal Fleet Auxiliary Wave Ruler has been responsible for our most recent successes, seizing 2.9 tonnes of cocaine on 23 November, bringing the total haul of drugs that she has seized or destroyed over the past three months to 11 tonnes.

I congratulate the Royal Navy on that vital work. I have met a number of people involved in drug interdiction work in Latin America and the Caribbean, including our overseas drug liaison officers, who work closely with local authorities in those countries. There is no doubt that that work represents huge value in preventing drugs from arriving here. We could, however, do more. Will he urge our right hon. Friends the Home Secretary—who, I notice, is now in his place—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider providing even more resources for those overseas drug liaison officers, as I believe that that would result in more intelligence and more success for the Royal Navy in interdicting drugs?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Government always try to have a comprehensive approach to this matter, whether it is the Royal Navy, the Serious Organised Crime Agency or the drug liaison officers in the countries that are usually the source of cocaine—or part of the food chain for it—that are involved. We take the matter extremely seriously, and I think that that is why we are having more success. The figures that I gave represent about 20 per cent. of the cocaine that would be expected to arrive on Britain’s streets. That is a tremendous achievement, not just for the Royal Navy but for others. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is on the Treasury Bench now, he will have heard my hon. Friend’s question—and like all Ministers at the time of a spending review, we are always looking for ways to encourage those who have the money to be a bit more forthcoming.