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Drug Trafficking

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 9 December 1987

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2.58 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they are making in co-operating with other nations in order to tackle the problem of international drug trafficking.

My Lords, we attach high priority to international co-operation in the battle against drug trafficking. We are working on many fronts to ensure a more effective response to the problem: at European level through our chairmanship of the Council of Europe's Pompidou Group; worldwide by our support for the United Nations drugs bodies; through better co-operation in the law enforcement field where our network of drug liaison officers has proved so valuable; and by increasing from £500,000 to £2 million per year in 1988–89 the Home Office programme for drug-related assistance overseas.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that full and interesting reply. What has been the effect of the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986?

My Lords, before answering that question perhaps I may pay a special tribute to my noble friend who has shown even more than her usual courage in being able to be with your Lordships today. My noble friend has set us a very great example.

My Lords, the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 set a good example world-wide of what can be done. By 2nd December, the High Court had made 140 restraint or charging orders, freezing assets of the order of £7 million. And the first confiscation orders are beginning to be made as cases work through the Crown Court, including a recent one for £163,113.

My Lords, what progress is being made on the development of a robotic nose to detect drugs? I believe that the laboratory of the government chemist and British Aerospace have been working on this problem for some time.

My Lords, I understand that this is part of a wider programme for which over £13 million is being provided over a four-year period to develop and introduce technical aids such as fibrescopes and X-ray machines for scanning cargo and baggage, but on the particular point of robotic noses I think I too shall have to write to my noble friend.

My Lords, are there not some recent notable events in regard to international drug trafficking which have resulted directly from the international co-operation of which the noble Earl has spoken?

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is absolutely right. An example of the co-operation that has proved a success is the recent operation in which 208 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of £51 million were seized at Southampton, which was followed by a number of arrests in Holland. This resulted from close collaboration with the French, German and Dutch authorities.

My Lords, would not my noble friend consider it important even to give credit where credit is not due in the field of international co-operation with regard to this problem, in order to encourage further international co-operation?

My Lords, I think that credit is due for the co-operation which has already occurred, and which is a notable change in the attitudes of a number of countries that are important in this field. We will of course continue to press hard to make it even better.