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County Lines Drugs Gangs

Volume 704: debated on Monday 22 November 2021

The Prime Minister issued an instruction that we should roll up county lines, and that is exactly what we have been doing for the last two years. Since 2019, we have invested over £65 million, including over £40 million committed this year. This has already resulted in the closure of more than 1,500 lines, over 7,400 arrests and the safeguarding of more than 4,000 vulnerable adults and children.

I thank the Minister for his answer. I was very pleased, recently, that a county lines dealer who had been flooding towns across Cornwall, including Truro, with drugs was jailed for five and a half years. There is a lot more to do in Cornwall, because we are seeing an increase in the impact of county lines drugs activity and all the crimes that go with it. Can the Minister confirm that the Government are aware of the issues in Cornwall and assure me that they are committed to working with our brilliant police and crime commissioner, Alison Hernandez, and the six Cornish MPs to address the continued problems, in particular how the Government can support the wider roll-out of Project ADDER?

I am focused on the impact of drugs across the whole country, and particularly in areas such as Devon and Cornwall, where I know the chief constable, and Alison Hernandez, the police and crime commissioner, have been doing an enormous amount of work. This problem is so prevalent across the United Kingdom that every part has to work together, and I am pleased that Devon and Cornwall Police have been working closely, particularly with the Metropolitan Police and Merseyside Police, which are the two key exporting forces for drugs into my hon. Friend’s area. She might be interested to know that recently the British Transport Police, which plays a critical part in gripping the network that distributes the drugs, conducted a fixed-point pilot at Basingstoke Station. It intercepted drugs that were heading towards her constituency, and I hope she will soon feel the effects of that.

May I echo the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory)? There have been very successful disruptions to county lines in my Wiltshire constituency, and I pay tribute to Philip Wilkinson, the police and crime commissioner, and to Wiltshire Police. It is great that they can work in partnership with all the Conservative PCCs across our region, and with the Government. The challenge now is to move one level down, below the cities to the market towns and rural areas, which is where the problem with drugs really manifests itself in my area. Will the Minister continue the efforts on county lines, and ensure real support for local efforts at disruption, not just at regional level?

My hon. Friend is exactly right, and as my constituency neighbour he feels the same impact on our rural towns and villages as I do. He is right: as I said earlier, this is such a comprehensive problem that market towns and villages must work with large urban areas, and we have to grip the transport network in between. Particularly key is that we aim to take out those who perpetrate this “business” while sitting in the comfort of their homes in a city. The great development in our effort against county lines has been the ability of the police in Liverpool, west midlands and London—the three big exporting areas—to find those guys and take them out.